Learning to Trust My Instincts: One Mother's Story

I am doing a series of posts written by some of our mamas about their birth stories and what they learned from the birth experience and some of the things that didn't go just as they had planned. You can read this mama's birth story in full here and below in the post is the lessons she took from it. There is so much she learned about who to trust, where she really wanted to birth and standing up for herself and trusting her own body and intuition. These are all hard things for a mama but make all the difference in a birth. Enjoy!

"What I learned from the pregnancy and birth of my first child.

When his amniotic sac leaked at 16 weeks, I learned to trust my intuition and the words of wise women around me more than that of my doctor. I’ve heard of women in similar situations who have gone in for D&Cs after a few days when their body did not expel the baby. I refused to believe the bad report that my doctor gave and clung on to the hope from my cousin that all was not lost.

When I went into preterm labour, I learned just how necessary hospitals, doctors, nurses, paramedics, and everyone else involved in emergency care really are. I am eternally grateful to those who helped me during what was the scariest moment of my life, up until that point and even since that point. I do believe they are too involved in the care of low risk pregnancies and births, but there truly is a place for them and a role for them to serve in caring for high risk pregnancies and births. They’re great to have around during true emergencies

I also learned that yes, they are indeed human. I cannot rely on them 100%. They do make mistakes and I have to be on my toes and hopefully, between the whole team of caregivers and my hubby and I, we can catch all of the mistakes or at least the major ones. If I were to do it over again, I would have mentioned immediately to the nurse that I had the nitroglycerin patches, just to make sure she was aware.

I learned that having a reliable support person is crucial. If my hubby had not been there to stop them, they would have done the cesarean and I probably would have died on the table. My baby also would have been born a 28 week preemie and likely had problems because of it. Because of my hubby, I am still alive and our baby stayed on the inside for 13.5 more crucial weeks necessary for his development. Also, Hubby was the one that remembered that I had the patches. I was in such a fog of fear for my baby and being in a strange place that I’d totally forgotten about them. Who knows how much longer they would have been on me, putting medication into my skin before I remembered or someone found them, and what affect that would have had on me?

Also, when he left when I was in labour, I fell apart. I vowed that I would have a doula there next time around as it was left to my mom to support me on her own and while she tried (and I REALLY appreciate her efforts!) it would have been better to have another person there as well.

I learned where (at least part of) my tax money goes. It went to paying the doctors, nurses, and paramedics who helped me. It paid for my medical care and for the ambulance transfer to the other hospital. It paid for the ultrasounds to make sure he was okay and for the steroid shots for his lungs. If the labour had not stopped, it would have paid for his NICU stay. In all of that, we did not pay a single cent out of pocket for all of that health care. We would have had to declare medical bankruptcy if we’d been in the states and may have made different decisions out of fear of the cost. I am so grateful that Canada has socialized medicine and can’t understand why any country that is a first world country would not want to take care of its citizens likewise, why they would leave their pregnant women and unborn children out in the cold so to speak. It’s disgusting. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

I learned NOT to go to the hospital when contractions are 5 minutes apart! I could have saved myself many, many trips if I’d waited until they were 3 minutes or less and I couldn’t talk during or between them.

I learned to be patient with my body and my baby. Had I not been induced, I believe I would have gone into labour very soon anyways. The ease of the induction (only one pill, no pit) makes me think that. I determined during #2’s pregnancy that as long as baby and I were healthy, I would wait until 43 weeks before inducing.

I learned that dilation is just a number and has very little to do with where you actually are in your labour. I went from 3cm to 7cm in 2 hours (3-5pm). I then stayed at 7cm for 7 hours (5pm-12am) and went from 7 cm to 10 with a lip in 15 minutes. Doctors like to see 1cm per hour when realistically, very few women labour that quickly (start to finish in 9-10 hours is fast!) and most women dilate in spurts. Just because you are not dilating does not mean that progress is not being made! You could be effacing (cervix getting thinner) or baby could be moving into a better position. Sometimes labour will stop altogether and you’ll get a nice little rest for 20-60 minutes or so before it ramps up again. Don’t stress about it, just take a nap and enjoy the break!

I learned afterwards that I have the right to refuse treatment from ANYONE whom I do not like. This means mister fat-hairy-monkey fingers (who was reported afterwards by the way, as were the nurses who kept pressuring me to accept drugs). I learned that I can refuse to have students present, or at least insist that they are introduced to me and that I approve of their presence before they are allowed to be there.

I learned that there is a whole spectrum of nurses. Some are some wonderful, doula-like nurses, like Anna and Anne. Then there are some nurses who have no business being in the maternity ward, nurses who push drugs harder than a street cocaine vendor and have no respect for how God created women’s bodies.

I learned that MY dedication to my goal is directly related to my chances of achieving that goal. I can’t just say “I’d like to have a natural birth” and then leave it all to my caregivers. I have to know exactly what my goal is and what I need to do to get there and then make sure that my caregivers follow my wishes (and fire them if they don’t). This is NOT to say that if someone did not achieve their goal that they were not dedicated enough to it. I know a few women who were very dedicated to having a natural homebirth who ended up with emergency cesareans for various legitimate reasons. What I mean is, I can’t just wish for a natural birth and get it – just as an athlete cannot wish to complete a marathon, do no preparation, and expect that her support people will make up the difference. If she is truly dedicated to her goal, she will learn as much as she can about the marathon, exercise beforehand, make sure she is healthy, strong, and well-rested at the beginning of the marathon. Likewise, I took a natural childbirth class, exercised regularly, and got a good night’s sleep the night before my induction.

I learned that my body will listen to me, and my mom too. When we told my body to keep the baby in, it did. When she told my body to let the baby out, it did. Not that this will always work, but it can’t hurt!

I learned to trust my instinct and not abdicate my decisions to others. I had wanted to homebirth but let my mom talk me out of it. She said that hospitals had improved drastically since she chose to have me at home and had they been then like they are now, she would have had me in the hospital. Fair enough, that would have been her choice, however, I wish I would have stood by my wishes. I didn’t even do any research into it which I feel so silly about now because I now research EVERY minute decision when it comes to my kids.

I learned that hospitals are not a nice place to be. They’re loud, bright, cold, and strange. Nurses come in and wake you up during the night to take your vitals. There’s no way to get food at 1 am when you’ve just birthed and are absolutely starving. There are NO PILLOWS!!! Or at least not nearly enough. What they call blankets are little more than a sheet. The one redeeming quality is that my parents paid for a private room for us so we stayed in one room the entire time once we were checked in. Not having to transfer to a postpartum room was awesome.

I was surprised to learn that breastfeeding could be easy! Five took to it like a pro and I felt like he taught me how to breastfeed, he was so good at it. I was all prepared to seek out help if needed but it was unnecessary.

I was surprised how much a new baby sleeps in the first 1-2 days! It’s nearly constant. Literally just “eat, sleep, poo.” Perhaps this was related to the drugs I had during the labour though, as baby #2 slept for a few hours and then was WIDE AWAKE while I was still expecting that he’d sleep and I’d get a rest. Grr.

I learned just how crazy a sleep-deprived mama could be. I had a breakdown in the middle of a shopping mall at 2 weeks postpartum when Hubby caused a few wipes to fall out of the wipes case onto the ground. My mom went and bought me a whole new package of wipes and I felt terrible for having lost it. I always feel a lot better after I’ve caught up on sleep. It took about 6 months for me to feel like a human being again after #1 was born."