A Woman’s Mission to Normalize Birth in the Hospital: A Birth Story

Where and how we brought Zoe into this world stemmed from our previous birth experiences, so here’s a quick summary of the births of Aubrey, Lauren and Sasha:

birth #1, 2002, Virginia – induced at 36w4d because of suspected IUGR. A labor full of interventions (just about everything except a c-sec), and, as it turns out, I grow small babies. Aubrey Ellen was 4lbs 8oz, 17.5 inches long, and spent ZERO days in the NICU. I will never know if my induction was truly necessary, and I am thankful for that!

birth #2, 2006, Wisconsin – midwife-attended hospital water birth. The most euphoric experience of my life – I would relive that birth a thousand times if I could. Lauren Elizabeth was 5lbs 15oz, 19 inches long, born 11 days before her ‘edd.’

birth #3, 2009, Texas – intentional homebirth, unintentionally unassisted. I thought it was pretty cool that just Andy and I were there when Sasha Lorraine graced us with her presence, but Andy had a moment of freaking out. 6lbs, 19.5 inches long, born 9 days before her ‘edd.’

And now Zoe’s story…

I found a midwife I really, really liked (Sasha’s midwife is not currently practicing as she’s taking care of her own baby). And Andy and I were discussing another home birth or a birth center birth. But I woke up in the middle of the night about 20 weeks along with an overwhelming feeling that this baby needed to be born in the hospital. Intuitively I knew that both baby and I were fine. That my need to be there had nothing to do with the health or well-being of either one of us. There would be a person (or several) that needed to be in my life. For me to learn something from them, for them to learn something from me… some combination of something.

I really felt like this had something to do with living in a rather conservative community where hospital births are often very managed. Please know that I have no problem with a woman choosing to have a managed labor, but this was more about people knowing that a natural birth CAN happen, that it is okay to let nature do it’s thing, that it is okay to simply watch and listen to a laboring woman. And since I trust my body, know what it can do, and have done it 3 previous times, I knew that I could have as natural of a birth as I wanted, that I would not consent to procedures unless they were truly necessary.

So I found an ob/gyn that seemed pretty receptive to my desire to have a natural birth in the hospital. While she always told me that she would like me to do just one ultrasound, take the GBS test, etc., she never pushed, and she respected that I didn’t want the doppler used. (I did consent to the doppler on two occasions – my first appointment with her at 20 weeks, and again in labor just long enough for the nurses to hear the heart beat.) My doctor actually was pretty paranoid that I wouldn’t make it to the hospital in time, and gave me some umbilical cord clamps and a bulb syringe, just in case.

So I wrote up my birth plan, which mostly said, “I do not want x. I do not want y. Do not offer z.” I assumed my doc would take issue with some things, but she and a charge nurse both thought my plan was okay. At this point I was really feeling so glad that it looked like I would have no problem being supported to birth this baby as *I* needed to.

Labor began slowly on a Monday evening. Things were not really intense or consistent, but these contractions were no longer braxton hicks, either. By Tuesday midday, things had picked up just enough that I decided I’d rather be at the hospital than at home. Still not too intense, but progressing.

In triage I did not consent to the 20 minute Non-Stress Test, and the triage nurse and the resident on call really didn’t know what to do with me. There was only one L&D room available, and the charge nurse absolutely refused to consider admitting me without the NST. No room to negotiate with her. I was on the phone with my doc (who was across the complex seeing other patients), who had tried to talk with the charge nurse to see what we could work out, while this poor triage nurse and resident are standing there, not knowing what to do. We never did see that charge nurse that refused to admit me. But anyway, while all this stress was circling around us, my body stopped laboring. No surprise, but initially very frustrating!

Wednesday at lunch time I had an awesome mother blessing with some amazing friends of mine, and I was still having these non-braxton-hicks, not- consistent-and-not-long-enough contractions  Picked up the girls from school. Took one to dance class, where contractions picked up a bit, but I was hesitant to say anything to hubby about it because of the previous day. While eating dinner (sloppy joes) I told him and the girls that maybe tonight would be the night. Everyone put on comfy clothes, brushed teeth, etc. but instead of going to bed, we drove to the hospital.

This time the triage nurse (a different one from the day before) didn’t bat an eye at my refusing the NST (first sign that it was okay for my body to stop laboring yesterday – loving, caring SUPPORTIVE staff on shift today!!!). I was asked about my birth plan – something no one had mentioned the day before! I consented to one quick vaginal exam from the resident on call. I really didn’t want an exam, but after the previous day, I needed someone else to confirm that I was really in labor this time. The nurse and doc were so kind in talking with me about why I didn’t feel comfortable with the vaginal exam, and they proceeded to work together to take individually packaged, sterile gloves out of their own package right in front of me, so I knew exactly how sterile things were.

I was 4 cm dilated – far enough along to be admitted. This was shortly after 11pm. Andy and Kathryn, my friends there to take care of the girls as needed, took turns rubbing my lower back through contractions. My nurse Carly was barely in my room at all (I’m pretty sure my birth plan was kind of intimidating), but I was her only patient, so I told her that she could certainly be in my room as much as she wanted. At that point she hung out with us a bit more.

Dr. M (the on-call doc) and Carly (these were not the same ones from triage, but equally cool) were very respectful of my plan. Hospital protocol really, really wants that NST on file (actually, the hospital wants 20 minutes of monitoring each hour – a bit excessive in my opinion), and since the triage nurse let me slip in without it (Oh, I love that lady!), Carly asked me about it. I kindly refused. Then Dr. M asked me about it, reminding me that my doc and I had discussed it. I very nicely said something to the effect of, “Yes, we discussed it, and I was never comfortable with it.” I think Dr. M tried to get me to consent 3 different times, and I honestly wasn’t bothered by this. I know that there’s a bunch of CYA in the medical field, she was doing her job. What finally got her to stop trying to convince me was when she said, “So we’ll write on your chart that you are refusing the NST?” and I replied with a confident “Yes.” Pretty sure she wasn’t expecting that.

When things began getting really intense I suggested that Kathryn and the girls go for a walk. When they got back to the room I was on my hands and knees, about ready to push. Aubrey came on in to be there, Lauren and Sasha walked with Kathryn a bit more. When I felt like I was about to have to push, I had Carly get Dr. M. My water broke, gushing out onto Andy’s feet, as he was right behind me, constantly rubbing my lower back. At this point with Sasha, I could feel her head, but I wasn’t feeling Zoe’s head, so I had a moment of freak-out – even though we knew she was head down. But Dr. M said the baby was crowning, and let me know that I could push when I was ready. (Something I knew, but it was nice that she phrased it the way she did.) I breathed through another contraction and then began pushing. I know I didn’t push very many times, but this pushing phase was longer than any of my other births. My others each kinda flew out once pushing began.

Out baby came into Dr. M’s awaiting arms at 11:59pm on November 16, 2011, and someone – Dr. M or Carly??? announced that baby was a girl. Of course, girls are our specialty!

We quickly got settled so that I was no longer on my hands and knees, and I held Zoe Ruth – who had yet to make a peep, and who promptly fell asleep curled up on my chest. She had no problems breathing, and was only slightly bothered when Carly suctioned her. Zoe slept and nursed and cuddled with me for over an hour before we cut her cord and I delivered the placenta (with help from Dr. M – my body had not yet decided to push it out, but I was ready!). We got the placenta all bagged up and in our cooler bag for Andy to take home.

Carly massaged my abdomen a handful of times over the next two hours, and she was pretty aggressive – a first for me – but wow, has that helped recovery!

6lbs 1 oz – my biggest baby! And 19.5 inches long.

After Andy, the girls and Kathryn left, I showered and got moved to recovery. Because I declined the GBS test (did you know that your body can change from being GBS+ to GBS- and vice versa so quickly that it’s really not a true measure of your GBS status at labor?) the pediatricians on staff wanted to monitor Zoe for 48 hours. I decided that staying an extra day was a better bet than dosing Zoe up with antibiotics unnecessarily, so I enjoyed watching cheesy Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel for a day.

With the exception of the charge nurse that we never met that Tuesday, every person we dealt with was very respectful of our wishes as to our care.

I had some amazing conversations with my assorted nurses about natural birth, extended breastfeeding, schooling choices, etc. and one awesome conversation with a hospital volunteer about vaccinations.

I will never know if my choice to have Zoe in the hospital will have made any impact on anyone besides me, but I now know that I CAN stand up for myself and my wishes, and that I can do so while in intense situations. That being said, if a 5th child is in the cards for us (don’t think so, but I’ve learned to never say never!), we’d plan on a home birth.

The placenta that Andy brought home – we encapsulated it. Ancient Chinese medicine. I know it seems pretty unusual, but the benefits are wonderful. A faster recovery from labor and delivery, baby blues and ppd greatly reduced, increased energy. I am feeling great!

Oh, and a funny little aside – I’ve only had my care provider attend one of my births. Lauren’s midwife was there. Aubrey, Sasha and Zoe didn’t care who attended their births.

*Thank you Rachel for sharing your incredible journey with Birth Without Fear readers! ~Mrs. BWF


    • Kelsay Bratton

      This kind of hospital birth is totally doable, just research your doctors and know your hospital’s policies. I was so nervous I would be met with resistance, but my hospital birth was wonderful. The nursing staff was so kind and supported every decision I made.

  • Laci

    AWESOME story, so much braver than I . I never ever want to go to the hospital again after 3 C’s. not unless I don’t want a natural birth anyways. Hospitals around here wont allow VBAC’s, not that i mind, a terrible experience. Love this story sounds like a gal i’d love to meet!

  • Kathryn

    Love your birth story! I would have given anything to have had read BWF when I has pregnant with my 2 kids, so encouraging and positive!

  • Patti

    Great story. I too speak up for myself when necessary. Both medical professionals and the people they serve need to remember we have the right as long as we are conscious to refuse “treatment”

  • Renske

    Great story. I loved the fact that you refused the antibiotics. It scares and astounds me how easy in the US people take loads of antibiotics (and use antibacterial soap all the time and are obsessed with hygiene in general, it seems), and I wouldn’t be surprised if the high amount of auto-immune diseases in the US has a lot to do with people having such a high load of antibiotics during their lives.
    I do hope though that your discussion with the volunteer about vaccinations means that you do give them to your children… Herd immunity is very very important, especially to those that aren’t receptive to vaccines / are ill already / are too young to be vaccinated.

    • Susan

      There’s actually more speculation that the high amount of vaccination in the U.S. cause the high amount of auto-immune disorders, not antibiotic usage. Herd immunity is not real. And it is HER choice to not vaccinate if she doesn’t want to. I, for one, having a child who was vaccine-injured, hope she does not. But either way, it is none of my business.

  • Tatha

    You are so much more patient than I am. I prepared myself well for a natural hospital birth for my second, but I really resented having to focus on standing up for myself and my birth plan rather that just being allowed to be left alone to birth how I wanted. I know I CAN like you said, but this time I’m just staying home with a midwife so I don’t have to.

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