Birth And Nursing Taught Me To Love My Body- A Birth Story
There are a lot of little interesting tidbits in this birth story; an unplanned hospital birth, some unwanted Pitocin, and an unexpected episiotomy. What I love though is that this mom is still overjoyed at her experience. But even more than that, I adore that her birthing and nurturing experience as a mother taught her how amazing and powerful her body is.
That is simply TRUE. We are powerful and birth can teach us this.
The Birth Story of Jack William
About halfway through my pregnancy, I found a copy of Spiritual Midwifery at a used bookstore. After reading it cover to cover, this became my pregnancy bible. Ina May Gaskin’s knowledge and birth stories were so inspiring and amazing to me. I watched The Business of Being Born and read everything I could get my hands on about natural childbirth.
I learned that my body and baby knew exactly what they were doing and that giving birth was a completely natural process that- in healthy, uncomplicated circumstances- didn’t need medical intervention. I knew that I didn’t want to bring my baby into the world in a hospital. The minute my husband and I walked into The Midwife Center for an orientation class, I knew it was where I wanted our son to be born.
The peace I felt in that building was indescribable- I knew that I had made the right choice in turning my prenatal care over to the midwives. The first time I met Kara, I liked her instantly and hoped she’d be on call when I went into labor. Every other midwife I saw during my pregnancy was awesome too- such kind women who truly care about each mom-to-be. As Jack grew inside me and the day we would finally meet him drew nearer, I grew more excited and joyful about bringing him earthside in a natural and gentle way.
On Wednesday August 18th, I woke up around 2 a.m. to pee and I noticed that I was having light, but REAL contractions. They were different from the cramps, twinges and pressure I’d been feeling over the previous week (my body had definitely been giving me the signals that it was gearing up for labor). I just knew it wouldn’t be long before we’d meet our little Jack!
The contractions continued pretty regularly but were mild, so I spent the day getting some things done and waiting for the feelings to grow stronger. I walked on the trail at our local park (like I did every day), went to Giant Eagle to be sure we had everything we needed at home for after Jack’s birth, went to TJ Maxx, cleaned the house, made sure the laundry was done and waited for those uterine surges to grow stronger.
Jake, my husband, came home around 4 p.m. to hang out with me. Then we went for a ride in the jeep to Starbucks for frappuchinos and stopped at empty property next door to us for a little mildly bumpy four wheeling. This didn’t work to bring on stronger contractions either. As I made us a dinner of egg and cheese English muffins, I continued to feel the same mild contractions that were maybe around 5 or 6 minutes apart.
Later that evening, I decided to take a shower and wait for my sweet baby boy to let me know he was ready. Not long after, I noticed some clear discharge but I chalked it up to the same “pregnancy juices” I had going on all week. I certainly didn’t think my water had broken. Around 10 p.m., I called The Midwife Center to check in and let them know that active labor was imminent. We live about 45 minutes away from the Strip District and I wanted to be sure we’d make it there in time. Kara returned my call- she was at Mercy with another woman in labor. I told her about the day and described how my contractions were progressing.
At first, she said I should try to get some sleep and call to check in at 7 a.m. But after we talked, Kara must have thought twice about the “leakage” and consulted with Lori. They decided that I should go to Mercy so Kara could check the fluid- if it was amniotic fluid and my water was broken for over 24 hours, there’s a risk of infection… and no birth center birth. Jake and I packed up the car with our bags and my birth ball and headed downtown (the carseat was also installed and ready).
I honestly thought for sure we’d return home that night to sleep in our bed. We arrived at Mercy around midnight and Kara met us on the labor and delivery floor. The nurse hooked me up to a fetal monitor to keep watch of Jack’s heartbeat and Kara took a sample of the fluid. After waiting for what seemed like forever, she came back and told us that yes, it was amniotic fluid. Kara took us out of the room to show us what it looked like under the microscope. Amazing- amniotic fluid looks just like frost crystals.
I thought it was so cool of Kara to show us. We went back to the triage room to discuss what to do from there. The issue was that we had no way to really determine when my water had broken. That fact, along with a couple dips in Jack’s heart-rate (which was otherwise nice and strong) caused Kara some concern. She consulted with the doctor the midwives work with at Mercy and told us that she really felt it was time for this baby to be born.
It wouldn’t be smart for us to go home and wait for labor to progress when the risk of infection was there. In those moments, I was 100% crushed. I really did not want to have our baby in that hospital. I felt like all of the preparation and work I’d done over my pregnancy was for nothing and it was a really depressing half hour or so for me. Kara left Jake and I to talk and I cried and felt horrible for a little while.
Then I realized that we had to do what was best for Jack and no matter where he was born, he was coming to us! Kara’s assurance that Jack’s birth would still be beautiful and special and Jake’s support were what helped me accept that we would be having our baby in the hospital. Not what I had envisioned. I had known things could go differently than what I had planned, but it was a total shock to me in those moments as we sat under the glaring fluorescent lights.
Around 1:30 a.m., Kara took us to a labor and delivery room.
It had a bathroom, a bed, a chair and a sink…and florescent lights, which I immediately asked Jake to turn off. Jake went back to the car for our stuff and the nurse hooked up the fetal monitor. Much to my dismay, Kara and the doctor wanted me on a pitocin drip to progress my labor. I very adamantly didn’t want this, but they felt that things weren’t really picking up and Jack needed to come out of there- no one wanted to risk infection. It was what it was. The nurse started the pitocin and Jake returned.
We were left alone to relax and wait for the contractions to intensify. Kara estimated that Jack would probably be born the next afternoon. Jake and I talked and he eventually drifted off to sleep. Me- not so much. I was still having the surges that began almost 24 hours previously so every time I’d get close to falling asleep, I’d feel that intense surge that started in my lower back and washed through my body like a tidal wave.
The fact that I was stuck in a terribly uncomfortable bed with a monitor strapped to my (very large) belly and an IV in my right arm, made these feelings so much more uncomfortable than they really were. I so wanted to get out of that bed to move around and use my birth ball! It felt completely unnatural to be lying on my back. But there I was and I had to make the best of it. I breathed through the contractions and tried to stay relaxed.
That pitocin hit me like a freight train- it didn’t take long at all for the contractions to grow in intensity and frequency. Around 6 a.m. during a contraction, my body knew it was time to push. My uterus and baby Jack were doing their job and beginning the process of birth! Without my brain having any part of the action, my body was pushing! I told Jake to call Kara- it was definitely time.
The contractions were so close together and so intense- the word that came to mind was “hardcore”. Kara came in and saw that this was it! The feelings were so powerful that I was grunting and being way more vocal than I had expected. By that point, I really crushed Jake’s hand and arm bone as I clung to him through the intensity.
Kara started setting up the “delivery stuff” and we prepared to meet our little man! At 7 a.m., there was a shift change. Kara needed to be with a woman who was about to have a c-section, so Lori (a midwife I hadn’t met yet) would be “catching” Jack. I remember when she came into the room and introduced herself- she was very warm and kind.
I told her it was nice to meet her but I couldn’t really chat- things were very intense and it was finally time for Jack to make his grand entrance. Jake kept asking if he could do anything for me and I remember telling him to just not ask me any questions. The nurse Henrietta (who was fantastic) was on my right, Jake on my left, and Lori was front and center.
They gently coached me to push as each contraction came on, working with my body to move the baby down. In all my pre-labor preparations, I knew I wanted to “breathe the baby down” but it wasn’t just as simple as that- I really needed to PUSH him down, using all my breath and strength. It was the most exhausting, hard work I’ve ever done, but Lori, Jake and Henrietta really coached me along to do the work I needed to do.
I silently listened to what they told me to do and did it while grunting loudly. This experience was, in a word, primitive- deep, throaty noises emerged from me while I spread my knees and legs and worked harder than ever with each contraction to help Jack down the birth canal. Lori could see the head and told Jake to look- he says the first thing he saw of Jack was some of his dark hair flopping out! So our boy had hair! Lori put a big mirror at the foot of the bed and told me to look- I needed Jake to put my glasses on me so I could see.
I’ll never, ever forget the amazing site of the top of our son’s dark-hair covered head! He was RIGHT there! It was thrilling. He was almost out and I was giving every bit of energy I had to these final pushes. I looked up at the ceiling and was fading in and out of consciousness. The nurse put an oxygen mask on me and then it became a total scene out of ER for a couple minutes: I was trying with all my might to pop this kid out but he was stuck- his little arm was near his head and not allowing his little body to easily slip out.
His heart rate began to drop. Between each contraction, Lori was telling me to breathe oxygen to my baby. I did my best to follow her instructions through the extreme fatigue. It became very serious when Lori announced that they needed to get the doctor and the vacuum in the room. I heard this and even saw a doctor in scrubs come in and I knew I HAD to push my boy out.
It was just like the way a mother would find the strength to lift a car off of her child if she had to. My efforts paid off and Jack moved down a little more. Then Lori used her scissors and made a small cut to widen the opening. Apparently, it wasn’t enough- she told Jake not to look (but of course he did anyway) and made the cut bigger (a fourth-degree episiotomy). Before we knew it, Jack slid out (at 7:51 a.m.)! The physical relief of the push that got him out was great. I’ll always remember the feeling of his warm, wet body on mine when Lori placed him on my chest.
It was absolutely AMAZING. His head of wet, dark hair was smashed against his little head. I remember saying “my baby, my baby” in sheer amazement, love and joy. I immediately put Jack to my breast to nurse him and he latched right on like a champ. Wow- what a bond: words really can’t even describe how amazing and instinctual it was. Jake cut the umbilical cord then I delivered the placenta (which I had encapsulated into pills for its awesome postpartum hormonal healing properties- I will do this with every baby I have!!).
Lucky for me, they called in an excellent surgeon to stitch me up- that was the painful part of the experience but I barely noticed. I lay there with my trembling legs spread as he stitched and I remember telling everyone that I felt like a laboratory frog. Jake and Jack went across the room to do the weigh-in (7 pounds, 8 ounces and 20.5 inches long) and foot prints.
I chatted with Jake across the room, asking how Jack was (he was perfect). I really wanted blue Gatorade to drink. They brought Jack back to my arms and Jake and I stared at the amazing little creature that we created. WOW. They took Jack to the nursery to assess him, which I was not happy about- I didn’t want to be away from my baby for a second!
The nurse helped me up and into a wheelchair (my first time in one) and took me to the room where we’d stay overnight. My legs totally felt like they didn’t work. Otherwise, I felt great! When the nurse wheeled me out of the L&D area, our family was waiting. I told them it was the hardest work I’d ever done with the best result ever. I remember feeling so incredibly happy, thrilled and EMPOWERED!
This was the day we became parents and I would do it all again (even the episiotomy!) in a second for our little Jack. We stayed at Mercy until noon the next day (I didn’t want to stay in that hospital at ALL and was ready to leave after a couple hours). I kept my sweet boy with me the whole time and breastfed him on cue/demand.
It was so exciting to put our son in the car and take him home with us! He looked so tiny in his car seat and I snapped a few pictures to commemorate his first car ride.
I am so grateful for midwives. These women truly care about the work they do and each woman and baby MATTERS to them. Although Jack’s birth didn’t unfold as I had planned/envisioned/hoped, it certainly was beautiful and special. The hospital was (and still is) my worst nightmare, but during the action, it didn’t matter what four walls we were within- our baby was joining us in the world.
Even though we weren’t at the birth center, I was still under the midwives’ care the entire time and they were totally there for me. The whole birth experience was amazing and it really took my relationship with my husband to a whole new level. I love my husband and I love the son that we created. The day Jack was born, we became a true family. I can’t wait to do it again
After struggling with an eating disorder and abusing my body for over a decade, being pregnant, giving birth and watching my son grow on the milk that my body makes for him have given me a respect and appreciation for my body that words can’t describe. I am truly changed and being a mom has made me whole. I have a passion for pregnancy and childbirth that I hope to use in the future to help and support other women. It’s all truly magical!