Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Tucson, AZ
My redemption birth
I don't really know anyone here, but I wanted to post my birth story anyway. Hope you enjoy
To fully understand why Vís birth was so important to me and my family, I need to explain a bit about our experience with Hís birth. It took months after H was born before I even began to realize that I had been negatively impacted by the way his birth happened. It wasnít an overwhelming realization, but more of a gradual understanding that the way things had happened were just not right. The physical interventions during both my prenatal care and during my labor and delivery were not the only things that started to bother me, but my lack of true understanding of what the birth process would (or COULD) be like I found upsetting as well. All through my pregnancy with H, everyone was very kind and excited. My family was expecting a traditional pregnancy with all the formal tests, screens, and OB/GYN visits as well as a typical hospital delivery. I was happy to oblige. I went to the nicest OB/GYN on the planet and followed the course that I was led down. I am an educated person, but had no problem handing over all of my care and the well-being of my baby to my Dr. In all, I had NINE ultrasounds with H, countless vials of blood drawn, and a glucose and protein screening at EVERY appt. even though I wasnít a high risk patient.
Cut to the end of my pregnancy, and I was electively induced at 39 weeks. The induction was uncomfortable, and very hard to get started. After being on Cytotec for 12 hours, I had only dilated 1 cm. It was pretty clear that my body was not ready to be in labor, but we trudged on. Once she was able to, my Dr. broke my water and I was given a strong dose of Pitocin to start my contractions. My contractions came on STRONG, and by the time I hit 2 cm I was begging for an epidural. I got the epidural, and basically spent the rest of my labor on my back letting the Pitocin do the work. 14 hours later, the epidural wore off and I was ready to start pushing. I was strongly discouraged from moving into any position other than suppine (on my back) while I was pushing. After two hours, I had had enough of listening to the nurse, and DEMANDED to be allowed to push in a different position. Since we were making little progress, she reluctantly agreed. After moving into a position that felt right for me, H was crowning within ONE push. They forced me to move back onto my back for the rest of the delivery. H came out, Zach cut the cord, and after a minute of lying on my chest he was whisked away for all the postnatal tests and a bath. My poor newborn cried THE ENTIRE TIME they were doing this. But having just given birth and being exhausted, and also being someone who avoids confrontation when possible, I said nothing. Instead I just died a little on the inside having other people poking and prodding and of all things BATHING my child (completely unnecessary) while he cried and cried to be held by me. When they were finally done (and after an overly complicated and ridiculously thorough explanation from the nurse about how to give him a bath when we got home) I FINALLY got to hold him and nurse him for the first time. It was well after midnight by this time, and I was dying to get out of there and up to couplet care where we could have some alone time.
Once we were moved to our room, we were interrupted a minimum of every 1-2 hours around the clock by someone coming into our room (without knocking). Chaplains, nurses, orderlyís, Dr.ís, cafeteria people, photographers, lactation consultants, etc) were on us non-stop the entire two days we were there. I like to make the joke that the mentality there was ďTry to get some sleep, Iíll be back in 20 minutes to wake you up and take your blood pressure!Ē Itís silly but thatís how both Zach and I felt while we were there. Upon discharge, our adventure at home would prove to be even more of a challenge.
H had a dairy allergy until just this year. We did not know at the time that his allergy was so strong that even though he was being nursed, he was still getting some dairy protein from the milk I was ingesting. This made him unbearably cranky and unhappy. It took 4 long months for us to figure out that this allergy was the cause of most of his issues. Add to this a congenital cataract (that the hospital staff did not even notice), and constant ear infections, and you have a recipe for a miserable first few months of life for him and a heart wrenching experience for Zach and I as new parents. These issues set him back developmentally by about 6 months, and it took until his second birthday before he was back where he should have been. H is an absolute joy now. I could not ask for a kinder, smarter, or sillier 3 year old boy and I love him with all my being. I know that not all of the problems that we experienced those first few months of his life were the result of the birth experience or my prenatal care, but I couldnít help but wonder if it was possible that had I had different care things could have been different, or if we might be even closer than we are now if our birth experience had been more positive.
Christmas day 2011. After a stressful semester back at school full-time for me, I was looking forward to winter break, and especially a relaxed Christmas at home with Zach and H. We got up and made some coffee and watched H open his presents. Halfway through opening presents, I had to use the bathroom. I still donít know why, but for some reason I was compelled to use up the last pregnancy test I had because I was a few days late. Being late is not at all unusual for me, but I guess I just thought since I had to go, I may as well use it up. I went and there it was: A second line. I couldnít believe it. I was very excited and thrilled to be finding out on Christmas day (what a present!). I showed Zach who, of course, thought I was joking. It took almost twenty full minutes for me to convince him that I wasnít pulling a prank, and I was actually pregnant. I called my parents and Zachís parents, but no one was answering the phone. So the first people we actually got to share the news with were my brother and his wife.
Even though this pregnancy brought a lot of questions (How would we handle becoming a family of four? How would H cope? Whatís going to happen with my schooling now?) there was one thing I knew for sure: This pregnancy would be NOTHING like my last one. The next day I got online and found the only freestanding birth center in Tucson and read up on the midwives there. Iíll admit I had some reservations about doing things differently. Even though I had done a lot of research about natural childbirth, and felt convinced it was the direction I was meant to go in, It was a little unnerving doing something that no one I was close to had ever done before. At my first appointment with a midwife, Cece, all my reservations were put to rest. My first appointment lasted an entire hour. She obtained a thorough history of my first pregnancy and labor, and she answered every question I had about how things would be different delivering at the birth center versus a hospital. I left ecstatic and excited at the chance to do things better this time, armed with more knowledge and confident that I was working with people who wanted the same thing I did: a healthy, happy baby delivered in the most intervention-free way possible. They set a due date for September 3, 2012; Labor day!
One of the biggest obstacles I thought I would face in this choice was my mom. My mother comes from a strong medical background and as an assistant surgeon, she assists in C-sections almost daily. When I told her my plan for my pregnancy this time around she had some concerns. Luckily, I was able to convince her that I would be in good hands, and after having her watch ďThe Business of Being BornĒ with me, she was as excited as I was. She even started discussing some natural childbirth ideas with her OB/GYN surgeons (which I thought was awesome!). One of the most reassuring moments I had in my pregnancy was when my mom told me, ďThis is going to be really hard, and a big challenge. But if anyone can do it, you can.Ē In fact I came to get the sense that my friends and family (while they didnít always understand my choice to have an unmedicated birth) were really rooting for me to do it. Since I donít know anyone who has even attempted to do things this way, I felt a bit like I was blazing a trail and this made me even more determined to prove it can be done, and done safely.
My pregnancy went very smoothly. I had more symptoms in the early weeks with V than I did with H, but for the most part it was very manageable. I also had a strong feeling in the beginning that it would be a girl. I felt so strongly about this, that I bought some girly cloth diapers, and made some girly burp cloths! I found out at one of my early ultrasounds that there were two gestational sacs, but that one of them was empty. This was a bit of sad news for us, but the other sac was developing well, and growing right on track. Around the 10 week mark, I lost that strong feeling that it was a girl, and began to feel that it was a boy. This was confirmed at our 20 week anatomy scan (we actually had a gender reveal party to share the news with everyone). I was so excited to have another boy, and for H to have a brother!
In order to give me the best chance possible at an unmedicated birth, Zach and I enrolled in Bradley childbirth classes. I loved the classes, and Zach learned a lot more about what he could do to help me during labor. I feel these classes were instrumental to giving us the mental preparedness to have a natural birth, and I loved how the focus was on the husband coaching his wife.
Weeks went by, and the end of my pregnancy approached. I knew I wanted to go into labor naturally, but I did have a time limit in order to deliver at the birth center. The cutoff is 41 weeks, so if I went into labor after that time, I would still have a midwife attend, but I would have to go to TMC. I knew that if I wanted a natural childbirth, my easiest course would be to have my delivery be at the birth center rather than a hospital, so I did feel a bit of pressure to go into labor before I hit that 41 week mark.
The month of August I felt a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions. I felt sure I would be in labor by my due date. But my due date came and went with no real signs of labor. With the 41 week deadline approaching, I began to get a bit anxious. My midwife suggested we do an internal check at my next appt. We found I was 2 cm and 80% effaced. After a membrane stripping that was so painful it had me practically clawing the walls, she suggested that I go home, take some black cohosh and castor oil. We went to pick up H, put my parents on notice, and went out for dinner. On the ride to dinner, I began to feel some very strong contractionsónothing like the Braxton Hicks ones Iíd been feeling before. After dinner we went home and I began timing them. By 2am they were strong enough for me to call The Birth Center and speak with the midwife on call. She suggested I try to get some sleep since it was so late. I fell asleep and woke up 4 hours later. The contractions had gone away completely. I was so disappointed, but I figured there was a good reason why it hadnít progressed into active labor.
Days went by, and on the day I was 41 weeks I had an appointment. This was it, the LAST day I could deliver at The Birth Center. I saw the midwife, and we did another (painful) membrane stripping and she said the labor Iíd gone into earlier that week had done some good because I was now 3cm easily stretched to 4-5 and 90% effaced. She sent me home again with orders for castor oil and told me with absolute confidence I would be back later on in labor.
We arranged for H to go to my parentís house for the night. My mom told me it was fate because all of her cases for the next day had cancelled at the last minute so she would have the whole day free! This was a good start to our night, and I took it as a good omen. I took the castor oil when we got home. It was AWFUL. I mixed it with grape juice and to this day I cannot even stomach the smell of grape juice. But it did the job and a few hours later I was timing my contractions. I had two hours of good strong contractions 3-4 minutes apart lasting a minute. I called Sandra who was the midwife on call. She told me to keep timing and to come in when I couldnít talk through them anymore. I was excited and nervous and very ready to meet V. Annnnnd then the contractions stopped. I was pretty heartbroken and after 2 hours of nothing, I went to bed having resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to go to a hospital when the time came, and I would not be able to deliver at The Birth Center.
2AM I got a contraction so strong, I woke up out of a dead sleep. I immediately told Zach we needed to go NOW. Because it was after midnight and I was technically past the cutoff time for TBC. We called Sandra to find out if we should go to the hospital or TBC. She said we could go in to TBC and I was so relieved! My contractions were coming on very fast and very hard though (every 2-3 minutes lasting for a minute). The car ride there was uncomfortable for me, but a nightmare for Zach. Iím not used to being a passenger (I usually drive us around) so I was being a little (OK, a LOT) bossy about which route Zach should take. This was exacerbated by the fact that Zach got so frazzled he started driving the wrong way down a street into oncoming traffic! We made it to TBC alive though, and when Sandra saw me, she actually laughed because I was still timing my contractions. She told me I could stop now, and we got settled into our birthing room. The room was comfortable and soothing: A big bed, a great big birthing tub, and a private shower. Sandra checked me, and I was 5cm 100% 0 station. Woohoo, this is it!
I decided to try laboring in the tub for a while. Sitting in the warm tub was very soothing, and I loved being able to move around so easily. I was in the tub for about an hour with Zach coaching me through my contractions. After that hour, they began to get VERY intense and even though I was constantly changing positions I could not relax through any of my contractions. I knew from my Bradley classes, that this was probably transition. I also went from being fairly quiet during my contractions to being louder. The tub wasnít doing it for me anymore, so I moved out of the tub and stood up using the bed to lean on instead. This is when things got very rough.
While I was transitioning, I wanted it SILENT in the room and I DID NOT want to be touched during my contractions. This made it difficult for Zach to coach me through them, but I felt like I needed to focus completely. When I could feel a contraction coming, I felt it all in my back. The best I can describe it is like there was an empty balloon inside of me and as a contraction would come on, it felt like someone was quickly inflating that balloon to be the size of a watermelon. Zach told me he could tell when a contraction was coming because I would say ďOh no, oh no, oh no, OH NOOOOO!Ē Lol. I also felt like a crazy person--a bit like Jekyll and Hyde. During my contractions I was very loud and yelling (You know that scene in An American Werewolf in London where heís changing into a werewolf for the first time? Yeah, that was me lol). Between contractions though I was completely calm and fine, just exhausted.
Transition went very quickly (thankfully) lasting maybe 15-20 minutes and before I knew it my body was pushing. It was the strangest sensation Iíd ever felt. This was nothing like with H, when I was only really pushing because I was fully dilated and being told by the nurse to push. This was like I had no choice, my body was pushing whether I wanted it to or not. Sandra had left the room and the nurse called her back in and I began actively pushing. To try to get more comfortable, I decided to get back in the tub and see if I could find some relief in the weightlessness. The tub actually worked too well, and I had no gravity working for me. So at Sandraís suggestion I reluctantly got back out and moved onto the bed.
After getting into a position that felt right, things moved very quickly. After a few pushes I began to feel the ring of fire. Sandra was very reassuring and encouraged me to keep pushing through the pressure. Vís head came out and rather than having the rest of the body slip out quickly like Hís did, he was stuck. This was a bit scary because I had to quickly move positions so they could try to maneuver his shoulders out. Sandra was very competent and handled the situation very swiftly. I was instructed to move twice into two different positions so they could get better leverage. He had about three minutes of dystocia before his shoulders finally slipped out. Finally at 4:42 am, my precious little boy was born--all 21 inches and 10 pounds with a head in the 95th percentile! He was placed on my chest immediately, and after his cord stopped pulsing Zach cut it. I had some excessive bleeding due to the size of the placenta (it takes a lot of placenta to feed a baby that big!) so I got a shot of Pitocin to help my uterus contract down faster. But other than that, I was just fine and had no damage at all, just some pain in my tailbone.
Sandra and the nurse made sure we were both stable, then left the room and allowed us some time to bond. What an amazingly different experience it was for us after V was born. When he was placed on my chest he stayed there either nursing or cuddling for almost two hours. He was calm and very alert and just so peaceful. The surge of love between us was amazing. And even as I sat there looking into his eyes and admiring my new son, I felt equally connected to H even though he wasnít there with us. It was like Vís birth somehow made our family even more connected. For me, there was no transition from a family of three to a family of four. It felt like we had been a family of four all along.
After a nap, a snack, and a quick shower, we completed our paperwork and just 6 hours after he was born, we were headed home. We called my parents and they brought H over after his nap. He was happy to see us, but was way more interested in the Jake and the Neverland Pirates Bucky ship that his new baby brother had brought for him He was pretty indifferent towards V (though Iím happy to say over the last 10 weeks he has become quite the sweet and caring big brother). V has continued to be a calm and sweet baby boy. He is hitting milestones way ahead of schedule, sleeping like a champ, and gaining weight at an amazing clip (he LOVES mommyís goods!) I am also doing very well and had almost no downtime after the birth.
If we make the decision to have more children, I will definitely choose to do things this way again. The Birth Centerís respect for me, my choices, and their treatment of my pregnancy as something normal and natural and not something that required excessive management were very important to me and made the experience as positive and healthy as it could have been. I can safely say that giving birth this way was the most physically and mentally challenging thing Iíve ever done in my life but also the most empowering. It has done a lot to heal the emotional pain and guilt I felt over the way Hís birth went. I think for me, the Maya Angelou quote ďWhen you know better, you do betterĒ really rings true. Giving birth to V in the way I did felt so right and I really believe it to be a defining moment in my life. Iím grateful every day that he is a part of our family