FTM, Birth Center Birth- With No Birth Classes!
Love this birth story and how mom ends it with a big "screw you" to those who doubted her! Hilarious. Also- I love that she trusted her body, and was able to recognize how her perception of birth changed as she learned more. A great story!
(Side note: I started this story the day after Lanie was born and almost 6 months later am still adding and perfecting it because I want as many details as possible. As a result sometimes it may be in present tense and sometimes in past tense. Oh well)
On July 22, 2010 a daughter was born, and so was a Mother. That Mother is me. I suppose the story of our daughter’s birth really begins with my own birth 29 years ago. When I was a teenager and first understood the story of my coming into this world, it horrified me. I couldn’t help but wonder why a woman would ever get pregnant and put herself through such a bloody terrifying experience. The images in my brain when my mom told me of seeing her reflection in the sterile metal equipment as she was cut open and I was tugged from her tummy, never left me. I always pictured myself with kids someday but if the stories I heard were the only way kids were coming earthside, I didn’t think I could do it. Thankfully the common stories are not the only way children are born but I did not know that until after I was pregnant… and still scared of how that baby was getting out.
When I was about 30 weeks pregnant my back was bothering me, so I went to a chiropractor/doula recommended by a friend. She asked me if I had any birth trauma. Being that this pregnancy was my first, I said no. When I told her I was born via c-section she commented that it was funny I had said I had no birth trauma. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that my own birth could be my birth trauma. But of course it was… it shaped my feelings and my fear about pregnancy, labor and delivery forever. The story of my journey earthside made me not want to ever have children in some ways. I’m sure my mother had no idea how it affected me and neither did I for many years. Thank God for the people in my life that led me to books and stories of natural childbirth. As I read those kinds of stories I felt more peaceful about birth and felt that THAT was the way children were meant to be born. Of course it is, it’s the way women have been doing it forever.
I was still getting my prenatal care at the Pendleton hospital and planning on trying a natural birth—I say “trying” because I felt that I would be forced to get an epidural at some point while at a hospital, or given drugs to augment labor. At 33 weeks or so Nick and I went for a tour of L&D and I left with a sense of total doom and near tears. I told Nick there was no way I was having our baby there even if I had to “accidentally” leave the house too late and birth the baby at our own home. That seemed less scary to me than going to the hospital, I literally had images of being strapped down and forced to have drugs I didn’t want, working with mean nurses and not being allowed to eat or drink. Once when I asked my CNM what would happen if I wanted to eat during labor, she responded with “you won’t want to.” That is not an answer and my gut told me to get out of there! On top of that, even though I had been seeing her my whole pregnancy, she was going on vacation for the whole month of July so there was no chance she’d be there when I went into labor.
It all just felt wrong and was everything I had feared long before I was pregnant. I looked into a home birth but it was too expensive and not covered, so I found a birth center in San Diego. They didn’t even have the option of pain relief drugs so I knew I could not be forced into something I didn’t want. They only accept new mamas up to 36 weeks and I was two days away so I made up my mind just in time (although until that baby was born, I figured I still had time to figure out how to get “my” way).
My first appointment was awesome with the exception of the midwife pushing birth classes. I didn’t want to take any and I felt she didn’t have the confidence in me if I didn’t. The way the birth center works is there are 5 midwives and you end up meeting and being seen by each one of them but you get the on call one the day of labor. I was fine with that with the exception of the first MW who I felt wasn’t trusting in me, but they each spent a considerable amount of time with me. The best news was that my blood pressure immediately went down from my hospital appointments and they helped me with natural ways to keep it low. I knew I was in the right place. My fear about labor and delivery was gone to be replaced by pure confidence in my body, my baby and myself. Thankfully I also had supportive people immediately surrounding me that thought I was crazy at first but really listened to me and I think I thought them a thing or two!
As my “due date” got closer I did grow a little worried because the birth center is only allowed to birth babies from 37-42 weeks gestation. I did NOT want to get a hospital induction so I started trying everything I had heard and read about including eating a whole pineapple, walking with one foot on the curb and one foot off as I went around the block, castor oil (will not be doing that again), spicy foods that made my tears come out but not my baby, and the occasional glass of wine to relax. I truly believe that none of these things really made a difference, babies just come when they are ready, but I had to feel like I was doing something to take control out of Mr. OB’s hands (the back-up OB who I hadn’t actually met yet, despite my trying, but would be attending me if I went over 42 weeks). I did have one NST and an ultrasound to check fluid levels after 41 weeks, both of which were fine as I knew they would be.
On Wednesday July 21, 2010 (41 weeks, 4 days gestation) at 4 a.m. I was awoken by my first contraction. I didn’t wake Nick up since there was nothing he could do and they were completely irregular. I was in disbelief actually, after waking every day for the last 11 days and being asked if today was THE day. It’s like studying for a test that keeps getting put off but I was ready to take that test! So Nick went on to work and I had contractions all day, they felt very similar to heavy menstrual cramps and I was surprised by how low they felt. I had imagined my whole belly tightening. Around 9 a.m. they stopped for a couple of hours, my Mom was here with me (and had been since the 6th anticipating baby’s arrival) so we went for a couple walks, I took a bath and did some nipple stimulation. In the bath the contractions started again, I was so thankful because I had a fear that this was “false” labor and I would pass that 42-week deadline (and damn “them” for making me feel this way!). Around 4 p.m. I decided to time them for a bit, at this point I could time them myself. Contractions were about 7-9 minutes apart lasting about a minute and making me nauseous. I told Nick no rush to come home but I didn’t think he’d be going to work the next day. I called the midwife, Ashley was on call, about 6 p.m. She had another patient in labor and by the time she called me back I had thrown up. She said to call back in two hours unless something changed. Nick got home and at 8 I called back and things were pretty much the same, contractions 7-9 minutes apart lasting about 90 seconds and I had thrown up again. The contractions were more intense but Nick putting counter pressure on my hips and me humming helped so much. I didn’t think this was too bad so far and I kept picturing my cervix opening like a flower and I kept thinking “down and out, baby, down and out” with every contraction. I couldn’t time them myself anymore and it felt nice to give in to help and just concentrate on my job.
Ashley said it was important to keep eating a little and drinking water but I didn’t feel like doing either. I had eaten well all day until about 6. Ashley said call back around 10 p.m. unless something changed. Sure enough about 9:30 or a little later, my water broke when I went to the bathroom, exactly like I’ve heard people describe it–a pop and a gush. I hollered “my water just broke.” Thankfully it was clear. Immediately the contractions started coming about 4-5 minutes apart and I threw up a few more times. To be honest, I think Nick rubbing my back added to the nausea and at one point I kind of yelled “don’t rub!” I just didn’t have the concentration or energy to be nice. I had a contraction on the phone with Ashley and she said go ahead and come to the birth center. Even though she wouldn’t usually say that until I’d had regular 4-5 minutes apart contractions for an hour, but we live about an hour away, and I think she could tell in my voice it was time to come. She said if I wasn’t at least 6 cm dilated she wouldn’t admit me but wouldn’t send us home either (I had been 2 cm at my appointment two days previous), and that she would give me an IV because of the puking and risk of dehydration. I was disappointed to hear that. The other mom was still in labor at the same time but Ashley said it would be highly unlikely that we would deliver at the same time. The other mom had been sent home.
Nick and Mom got the rest of the bag ready and a cooler for snacks, while I bent over the dining table during contractions and collected some pillows to labor with in the car. We left at 10:23 p.m.—Mom is kind of exact about these things. Apparently Nick drove pretty fast and we got there in about 30 minutes instead of the usual hour. I didn’t notice, I felt no break in contractions the whole drive and had to sit on all fours in the back seat with my face buried in the pillows and humming really loudly. I had tried to get in and ride the normal way but there was too much pressure. I kept waiting for my Mom to tell me to put my seatbelt on!
I was starting to think I couldn’t go on but I was feeling the gentle urge to push so I hoped I was nearing the end. From what I had read I assumed I was in transition but I didn’t want to be too hopeful. Mom asked how I was doing and I said something like “I f*cking hate this” and I remember saying “We should have left sooner,” although I don’t think we could have gotten out the door much faster once my water broke. Mom said “you better not have that baby in the car.” I actually was not worried even if that were to happen.
Later Nick said he was thinking about the opening of Talladega Nights where the woman has Ricky Bobby in the back seat! When we pulled up to the birth center I had no idea how I was going to get out of the car. I’m sure someone helped me and I had to back out really slowly. I went straight to a bedroom at the birth center, ripped off my pants (Nick’s sweats actually) and Ashley checked me, I was shaking uncontrollably but I expected it to happen at some point. That and the check at my appointment two days previous were my only checks. She asked if I wanted to guess how far along I was and I didn’t for fear I would guess a big number and then be disappointed. I was thinking I must be at least seven given the shaking and my feeling of not wanting to go on. I remember seeing 11:18 on the clock. THANK GOD Ashley said I was 10 cm and I think Mom heard me say something because she was yelling from the other side of the door “what’s going on?” The birth center is an old house that is not very sound proof. Once when I was there for an appointment I heard a woman in labor, which made me very glad to be laboring after business hours!
Unfortunately, the other Mom was back and in labor upstairs—and at 10 cm too—and they didn’t have enough nurses at the birth center yet… so much for “highly unlikely”. I got into the huge birthing tub with my tank top on, even though I read and heard you lose all modesty I was still feeling aware at that point. Ashley asked me to make eye contact with Nick so he could help me pant through the contractions and not push, what the hell? Maybe I had been too confident because I skipped right over that part of the books. Ashley was trying to wait for another nurse to arrive and making lots of phone calls to find one. I panted through the contractions as best I could for about 15 minutes—as I was told later, I had no concept of time. Sometimes my body just pushed and I couldn’t stop it, such a strange and awesome feeling! Then Jana and Delilah (the nurses) arrived and we could go on.
The bath made me feel so much better and in between contractions there was a period where I could rest. I even fell asleep a couple of times. Nick sat next to the tub and held my hand, helped me sit forward and lean back and kept me drinking water and emergenC. He was a great labor partner and very encouraging. I could feel the baby descending at every push and it was a relief actually, so much better than transition. I had a moment where I thought I didn’t want to keep pushing because of the pain then I realized I was stretching a little every time and only the last part of the push really hurt. I could hear the Mom upstairs screaming! I said “that sounds encouraging” and we had a laugh. Later I was told she was swearing and a bunch of stuff but I only heard her that one time.
I had to hold myself off the bottom of the tub, it hurt to put all my weight down as I leaned forward to push and I could not change positions from the regular sitting way. They kept checking me with the monitor almost without me noticing, and the nurses and Ashley were so encouraging. Someone asked me if I wanted to feel her head but I couldn’t do it from that position so on the next push I rearranged to feel. Nick also looked with a flashlight and I didn’t think he would! I had no idea how long I had been pushing nor did I care. I had a few big pushes and I was really trying not to push her out too fast so I wouldn’t tear but a part of me just wanted her out already and I could tell on that last push it was going to be the one. I thought just her head would deliver but her whole body came out in that one push and I remember saying ouch (like a long drawn out ooooowwwwwch). I felt her body slip out. Ashley had been supporting my perineum as I pushed. It was an amazing feeling of pain and relief when the baby came out. Mom said she could hear me almost sound surprised. Well it is kind of surprising to suddenly not be alone in the tub!
Our daughter was born at 12:38 a.m. on July 22, 2010. The cord was wrapped around her neck two times and it took a second for her to cry, just long enough for me to worry. I was a little stunned that I just had a baby and Ashley had to say “you have to hold her so I can get the cord off.” Haha, duh. Ashley said she was military presentation, which means her head and neck were more extended instead of chin to chest. It’s a more difficult presentation to deliver but I had nothing to compare it to. It made her head a bit of a cone shape with a ridge across the front but it went away by the time we went home.
They put her straight in my arms and despite my past fear of small babies, I felt natural holding her. Well as natural as could be expected since I was just pregnant ten seconds before that. I sat on the edge of the tub to deliver the placenta. It felt strange to be holding the baby and have her still connected to the cord that was coming out of me. Ashley said to push when I had the urge, and I figured she meant in the next few minutes or so, but I didn’t get one so she pulled the cord just a little and I pushed anyway, the placenta came right out with a gush of blood. I was a little surprised that she seemed rushed to deliver the placenta and I would have rather not had it pulled on but it worked out fine and next time I will remember to mention that. What a mess! I mean really a mess.
Then things went a little downhill. I lost too much blood—which could have been the reason for the rush to deliver the placenta or could have been because of the rush. They gave the baby to Nick and got me into the bed to give me a shot of pitocin in the leg, it’s to help the uterus contract and slow the bleeding.
I had not emptied my bladder since before we left the house (maybe when my water broke) and Ashley said that would effect how my uterus was contracting. They helped me back to the bathroom to pee and I passed out. I woke to the nasty smell of ammonia and wondering how I could fall asleep at such a time, on the toilet no less, and then I realized what happened. It was a strange sensation; I have never passed out before. I was able to answer the questions they asked like what time Lanie had been born and I remember seeing Nick standing at the doorway. When they asked what time my baby had been born, I considered saying something like “I had a baby?!” but it didn’t seem like good timing to joke.
I really tried to pee after that but had no urge, that was the only time Ashley was stern with me saying, “if you don’t pee I will have to cath you.” It’s not like I didn’t understand I just could not pee. She hooked me to an IV since I was so dehydrated and weak (there had not been time when I first arrived and I was secretly pleased) and Ashley was very confident that she was good at IVs. I think she put in an 18 gauge to get the fluid flowing quickly and I barely felt it. It was on the inside of my hand by my thumb in a place I have never had an IV before. I had to sit on the toilet (naked now and not caring) for about half an hour to get my bearings back.
Ashley fed me some peaches. I got cold so they put a robe on me and I remember wondering why the robes and towels were white with all the blood around?! My legs were going to sleep from sitting there so long so they asked my Mom to come rub my legs. Before she was able to come do that the plan changed and even though I was still light headed Nick and Jana helped me back to bed. There was another mess when I stood up again, I can still hear that splash and apologized to Jana for getting blood on her feet but she didn’t seem to care. I still had not peed so they put a catheter in. I was OK with the needles and what not at that point, I got the actual birth that was important to me and then the interventions became more necessary to keep me healthy, but the baby was perfect and unaffected. Of course I would have rather not had any of it and been able to spend more immediate time with my baby. They massaged my uterus to help it contract, and that was not fun but after childbirth I have a new appreciation for pain. My tummy feels bruised from that.
They brought Lanie to me (although she wasn’t actually named yet) and we nursed, she latched right on. I’m not really sure how much time had passed since her birth. Nick, the baby and I relaxed in the bed, dozing in and out. I was glad we had brought our own comforter and the bed was next to a little fireplace that was keeping me perfectly toasty. I loved the firelight and heat. Grandma got to hold the baby and rock her. We had hours of skin-to-skin contact. I asked if I could get the catheter and IV out and when Ashley took the cath out it spilled on her socks! I was able to hold Lanie while Ashley stitched me up at the end of the bed, and Nick slept next to us. I ended up with multiple tears and had lots of stitches–I didn’t ask the final count. The last four stitches were optional but she said it would help with the burning through the healing process so I opted for them even though the numbing had worn off. She said it would take three shots to numb me again or just go for the stitches. I was more scared of the numbing shots before the stitches than anything else that happened that day! Ashley took about an hour and a half to stitch me, asking advice from the nurses to make sure she was not turning me into Frankenstein! It was a new experience to have so many people looking at me and discussing how to put me back together and by the end my legs were falling asleep again.
I had to keep drinking and even had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to keep my energy up. I was still feeling light headed and that lasted until after we got home. Sometime around 5 a.m. they did Lanie’s exam, she was 6 lbs 7 oz (with her diaper on) and 19”, her newborn clothes were too big. She did get her vitamin K shot but we refused the eye gel and Hep B. About 6 a.m. they asked me to nurse again and about 7 Delilah said if I felt well enough we could go home in an hour.
Sure enough an hour later we packed up and headed out. They checked the safety of the car seat and gave me some papers to make sure we checked mine and Lanie’s temps and heart rate, etc. We went through McDonald’s on the way home (Nick, Mom and I) cause I was starving and were home about 10:00 a.m.. That’s less than twelve hours since we had left the house! That would have never happened at the hospital. We packed way too much stuff. I had music, heat packs, clothes, phone chargers, the computer and the video camera–we didn’t need any of it except the comforter, but you can’t predict how long labor will be so I’m still glad we were prepared. I do wish we had gotten a few pictures.
Since we’ve been home (less than 48 hours), she’s been sleeping a lot. She is calm and quiet and I can only hope that continues to some degree. She slept through her first night from 10 or so until 7 when I woke her up to nurse. She wasn’t even interested. We went to the pediatrician and she has lost 5 ounces but that’s totally normal. No one could believe that she was just born yesterday, because they thought we should still be in the hospital and couldn’t believe I was up and moving. But I am moving very slowly, today my arms and shoulders are sore from holding myself up in the tub. I am taking some Advil for the pain in the stitches. This afternoon Lanie started nursing like a champ and I think we will be on a 1-2 hour schedule and won’t be sleeping through this night. We take her back to the pediatrician in a few days for a weight check and I go to the birth center for a two-week follow up appointment. My belly feels so soft and strange, like bread dough. I’ve lost about ten pounds so far.
Overall it was a wonderful experience and I will be doing a water birth again if we are blessed with more children. I think the fact that she has been so calm has something to do with the gentle way she was brought into the world. She came just in time as I had an appointment with the hospital OB the afternoon of the 22nd and they may have tried to induce me as her due date was July 10, although I would have fought it tooth and nail. As far as I was concerned I was in the care of the birth center until 42 weeks and that wasn’t until Saturday. That was at Sharp Mary Birch hospital, not Pendleton where I was originally being seen. I would also like to mention that had I kept my care at Pendleton from the beginning I would have been induced at 41 weeks no matter what and I am sure that would have ended in a c-section and left me devastated.
The nurses and Ashley said I did great and they couldn’t believe that was my first baby and that I had not taken any childbirth classes, they said I made their job easier and I was natural at labor! They seemed surprised that they didn’t have to coach me on how to push. Who would have guessed? Actually I knew that I would know what to do and I felt confident about that through the whole labor. I was getting increasingly annoyed with the midwives trying to get me to take childbirth classes, I just couldn’t understand being told to trust my body and that it’s a natural process… but I needed a class to cope with it. That didn’t feel right to me. It was really a fast labor when you consider it was about three hours from water breaking to delivery and could have been faster if I had been pushing when I first had the urge to, and about 20.5 hours from first contraction to delivery. The Mom upstairs delivered her baby at 12:01 a.m.–pretty close to the same time!
And I’d like to say a big “screw you” to all the people who doubted me and thought I was making a terrible/dangerous/naïve/uninformed decision (which I find totally ironic)! I wouldn’t change a single detail about our daughter’s birth; I knew the three of us could do it.