"They allowed my husband and I an entire hour of alone time before
even weighing our precious son."
My birth story didn't go exactly as I had planned: I had prepared for a midwife assisted, natural, hospital birth. I ended up having a doctor-assisted, hospital birth with an epidural. But I can honestly say that I had a wonderful experience.
RJ (my husband) and I live a fairly "natural" lifestyle. We both surf and run, we shop for organic foods, grow our own garden, and keep chickens. I didn't eat any sugar my entire first trimester and regularly took probiotics. Along those same lines RJ really wanted me to labor and deliver our son at one of the local birthing centers. There are two midwife ran centers in our area and one of them in particular is very highly recommended. However, a friend of mine had recently had a terrifying experience at the birthing center which resulted in her having an emergency c-section. Her experience, along with my own natural fears (Who among us isn't freaked out about contractions? All our lives we hear about how terribly painful they are and yet no one can adequately describe them. I'll be honest, I was a bit freaked out!) I decided that I would rather have my first child at a hospital and then consider a birth center or home birth for subsequent children.
However, I knew that I wanted to have a natural childbirth. And I knew that if I wanted to go natural in a hospital I would need to be my own advocate. So I met with a friend who is a NICU nurse at the hospital I would be delivering at, and had her give me the scoop on all the different doctors and midwives in the area. I highly recommend doing this! She was extremely helpful and through her recommendation I found a fantastic local doctor/midwife team. My OB is the best baby doctor in town. He has the highest rate of natural births, he is excellent at turning a breech baby and he has delivered two of my friend baby's breech, but he has no bedside manner. Some people thought I was crazy to deal with his abrupt nature and lacking social skills, but I figured I would rather have a vaginal hospital birth than sweet pillow talk during monthly visits with a midwife. And sure enough, I was particularly grateful for his expertise when my baby was breech at 37 weeks. Rather than immediately schedule my c-section he instructed me on a variety of poses to do at home and recommended a chiropractor to help the baby flip, and it worked! RJ and I also took child birthing classes from a local doula. We enjoyed her classes because they focused on Bradley techniques for natural labor, however, she also informed us about c-sections. I appreciated her wisdom in spending time educating us on the reasons when a c-section really is or is not necessary, what questions to ask the doctors and nurses before going into a c-section, how to avoid a c-section, and what to expect during and after if you have to have a c-section. Being prepared for all scenarios felt very empowering.
I finally went into labor on April 14th (2 days after my due date) at midnight. RJ and I were in bed sleeping. He had a terrible case of the stomach flu and had spent the better part of the evening in the bathroom, so when I woke up to pee and my plug came out I didn't want to wake him. I knew I needed to go back to sleep, but just that morning my midwife had told me I was still shut-up-tight and not to expect much action yet, so I was exciting things were finally happening. Just an hour or so later my water broke, and the contractions started immediately. They were strong, painful, and concentrated in my back. I didn't want to wake my sick husband so I paced the living room by myself until my mom showed up at 6am. By the time mom came the contractions were a steady 7-8 minutes apart and painful. I felt as though a machete was being hacked into my back and the only thing that help relieve the pain was counter pressure. I would stand with my forehead against the wall deeply moaning while a family member pushed into my lower back with their fists - I had bruises for weeks.
Finally the contractions were 5 minutes apart and we went to the hospital. (Next time: I will stay home longer.) At this point I had been in consistent, painful labor for 10 hours. When I got there the nurses immediately wanted to hook me up to a monitor and keep me there, but my husband insisted that I only be monitored once per hour rather than continuously. They put up a bit of a fight but they eventually conceded. I was so thankful RJ had taken the time to educate himself too rather than just leave it all up to me.
When I arrived at the hospital I was only 4 centimeters. Having labored for so long already I was pretty disappointed. (Next time: I won't let them tell me how far along I am. It messes with your head.) I was even more disappointed when I learned an emergency was going to keep my doctor AND my midwife away and unable to assist me throughout the entire experience. Immediately I knew we need the nurses to understand exactly what type of birth I wanted. RJ pulled the head nurse aside and calmly explained to her that I desperately wanted a natural, vaginal birth. At first she seemed skeptical because I was a first-time mom and first-timers always have longer births, but by being clear, concise, and very polite my husband won her over and from there on out she was fantastic. She helped me change positions, get into the shower, use the birth ball during monitoring, etc. Then after 14 hours of back labor when I started crying for drugs she actually tried to keep me going naturally. She encouraged me to continue on with my plan, focus on the baby, try a new position, etc. I continued demanding drugs. I finally lost all composure and sobbed at my husband to get me an epidural. He got the nurse and she made me look her straight in the eye and ask for it before she called it in. An hour later I was resting and feeling much, much better. My epidural had what they call a "hole". There was a small section of my back that still felt almost everything. In a way I liked it because I could feel that my body was still working to get my baby out. Although you wouldn't know it considering I was still only 4 centimeters dilated! The nursing staff came in and said the doctor wanted to start me on pitocin. Then they actually asked me if that was okay. Bless them! Although I was also initially again pitocin everything had changed. I had endured 15 hours of continuous back labor and seen little "results". I was desperate to see my baby and I agreed to start the drug. I should have known better.
30 minutes later a group of doctors and nurses came rushing into my room. They quickly strapped a gas mask on my face and pushed my family members aside. The pitocin had put the baby into distress. Again, my fantastic nurse immediately assured me that a c-section was the last possible scenario and helped calm me down. After the emergency moment had passed they took me off the pitocin. The on-call doctor came in to again assure me that a vaginal birth was his preference, as well as mine, and he would continue to do whatever he needed to avoid a c-section.
Eight long hours later I was finally dilated to ten centimeters and ready to push. It had been 22 hours since my water broke and all I wanted to do was see my baby. Unfortunately, I still had to push for an entire hour. But I actually have very fond memories of pushing. My entire family (husband, sister, mom and dad) were in the room. The nurses were encouraging and helpful, and the atmosphere exuberant. And the most surprising thing of all, the doctor actually stayed in the room for almost forty-five minutes patiently waiting to catch the baby. He never made me feel rushed or nervous about getting things done quickly. He was calm and professional and totally supportive.
. My beautiful, blond-hair boy was born shortly after midnight on April 15th - sharing a birthday with the aunt who watched his arrival. My husband cut the cord, my mom and dad cried, and the fantastic hospital staff immediately put my sweet little man on my chest. Then they cleared out of the way, cleaned me up, and didn't disturb us for over an hour. They allowed my husband and I an entire hour of alone time before even weighing our precious son. They didn't bat an eye when I told them I didn't want him receiving any shots and they assisted in teaching me how to nurse.
I didn't have a perfect birth. There are things I will do differently next time (if there is a next time. Adoption is my new birth story - we are Ethiopia bound). But I love our birth story, Landon and mine. It's the story of our start, our beginning - his little life and my journey into motherhood. In two years I've learned that motherhood is a bumpy, twisty ride full or unexpected surprises. I had to learn to go with the punches from the very onset. Landon's birth didn't go exactly the way I had initially hoped, but both of us were blessed to start this journey with a fantastic support system - hospital staff included.