I love these birth stories. I love that the mom found the beauty and joy in BOTH of her births even though they were so different. And I love that I know this mom! I got to meet her when she became a teacher with Birth Boot Camp. You should take her class if you are in Washington!
|Photos by Kathrine Demidow (My favorite!)|
Baby 1 - Sam
I was 25 when I had my first son. We had trouble getting pregnant, but after 2 years, our 4th attempt at IUI worked, and we were finally pregnant. We took the standard class that the hospital offered, a few sessions that didn't tell me much that I didn't already know. I was so excited at becoming a mother, but I was really scared of labor. All I heard were stories about how much it hurt and how afterwards it was "like hamburger down there." Not exactly inspiring or encouraging. My birth plan was basically to try and do it without medication, but I fully acknowledged that I had no idea what my pain threshold is since I've never really had any painful experiences. The most physical pain I'd ever felt before that was probably getting my tattoos.
My due date was May 2, and the day before I was feeling really nervous. I was ready to meet my son, but one thing I did know was that I did not want to be induced. I really wanted labor to come on naturally. I was feeling unsettled about my doctor appointment the next day because I knew the subject would come up. That night, my husband gave me the choice of going for a walk outside around our apartment complex or of sex to try and get things going. I chose the latter because the idea of a walk was just too much! We're both night owls and ended up going to sleep around 1 am.
At 3:30 am I woke up and as soon as I was awake, I realized that I'd been awakened by my water breaking. I sat up in bed and made my husband go and get me a towel. I went into the bathroom and the fluid was clear, and after that I was leaking fluid slowly, and gushing a bit during contractions. At first, I didn't even realize that what I was feeling were contractions. It took three or four crampy feelings exactly 20 minutes apart for me to realize what was happening. I did not have any contractions or Braxton Hicks at all before I actually went into labor. I was so excited, and even though I was tired, I liked the dark and quiet of the morning. I called the hospital and they told me that I should come in since my water had broken but that I could shower and have something to eat first, no rush. I was too excited to shower, but we took our time getting ready. The drive to the hospital was nice, no cars on the street and everything was very quiet and still in the early morning.
We walked into labor and delivery around 5 am. I had filled out the paperwork ahead of time, so we got right into a room. At that point, my contractions were about 6 minutes apart. The nurses told me that depending on my progress they would probably want to start pitocin around 9:30 (6 hours into my labor). I put on a gown and robe and walked the halls, leaning on the railings when I had contractions. My Mom and sister arrived around 6.
As the contractions got stronger and harder, I started to re-think my ideas about having a natural labor. Around 7:30, my doctor came in and did my first check and found that I was 6 cm dilated. It was really convenient that my doctor's practice was located in the hospital, so it was very easy for him to come down and check on me. After that, my contractions continued getting longer and more difficult, but spaced out more. I know now that is something that happens to some people, and doesn't necessarily mean progress is slowing, but I did not know that at the time. Around 10 am, my doctor told me that we could either keep waiting or we could use pitocin and move things along. This is where my journey completely diverges from my current opinions. I know now that the pitocin was not necessary, but I wasn't informed or empowered to make that choice at the time.
I did know that pitocin can make contractions come on fast and hard, so I told them I wanted an epidural before they started the pitocin drip. I got my epidural and they started the drip sometime between 10:30 and 11:30. Around noon, my friend/photographer arrived as well as my stepdad. At 12:20 they checked me again and I was still only 6-7 cm dilated. At that point, the nurses suggested that we kick everyone out and try to rest. The hospital I was at was very quiet and calm, and I had the overhead lights off with natural light streaming through floor to ceiling windows. I listened to Sarah McLachlan and went to sleep.
At 1:15 I was awakened by an oxygen mask being placed over my mouth and nose. In retrospect I have no idea why that was necessary. They told me that the baby's heart rate was sporadic, and upon doing an internal exam they said that the reason was because it was time to push - I was 10 cm and ready to go. We called my family back to the room and around 1:30 I started pushing. Because of the epidural, I was on my back on the bed. There were no stirrups, so I was holding my legs as I pushed. The lights were still out, and I did very little talking. I was not in pain, but did feel an urge to push and a lot of pressure. My family was there to encourage me, but I didn't need them to talk to me, just be in the room with me to help bring our baby into the world.
After 1 hour and 40 minutes of pushing, Samuel Denn was born. He weighed 7 lbs 6 oz, was 20 inches long, and had the fullest head of white blonde hair I'd ever seen. They placed him immediately on my chest and let him stay while I birthed the placenta.
We stayed in the hospital overnight, and were unsuccessful with breastfeeding. I found out later that I had a litany of medical issues including insulin resistance, PCOS, high testosterone and hypothyroidism that affected my ability to get pregnant and to produce milk. I tried many things, but never got more than a few drops out of either breast. My doctor had never checked my breasts while I was pregnant, or told me that the size and placement or the fact that there was not an increase in size might not be good signs. I never had any idea that some women could not breastfeed, or had low production, or any of that. We went home the next day, and I was shocked at how easy my recovery was. My muscles were sore and tired, but I felt fairly good. None of the vagina horror stories I'd heard held true in any way, and things went back to normal fairly quickly. My only complication was a labial adhesion (basically my labia was fused together) which was solved with some local anesthetic and my doctor pulling, then followed with progesterone cream. I fully believe this was just another sign of my body's pretty dysfunctional and undiagnosed hormone issues.
In the three and a half years between having Sam and getting pregnant with our second, I became a bit of a birth junkie. I HAD felt empowered by my birth, amazed that I'd done that. In reading more information and other people's birth stories, though, I came to realize that there were other choices. I read a lot of birth blogs, and then I watched "The Business of Being Born." I was hooked. I was incensed. I hated that I'd been so afraid of labor and birth when it should have been something to look forward to. I hate that we don't educate young women as to ALL of the choices available to them when it comes to birth. I hate how our country seems to view all of this as a medical condition, and I hate that people think they need a doctor when in many cases a midwife is more than enough support.
Baby 2 - Danny
As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to do things very differently. I asked a long time family friend who is a hypnobirthing instructor and doula for a recommendation, and I hired a midwife. We took hypnobirthing classes. I watched tons of videos on YouTube and read hundreds of birth stories - all positive, all empowering and amazing. I couldn't wait for my birth, to really feel the power of doing it myself this time. I trusted my body. At 30 weeks I realized I was not comfortable with my midwife. I am generally very confrontation-phobic, and I have often sat back and just accepted something because it was easier and I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. This time, I didn't. I realized that I absolutely did not want someone attending my birth who I was not comfortable with. It would have been setting myself up for discomfort and problems during labor. Luckily, I found another midwife I'd heard good things about who had room to take me, and as soon as I met her I was 100% happy with my decision. I connected with her in a way I hadn't with the first woman. We planned to have the baby at our local birth center, about 20 minutes from our home. I thought about a home birth, but we were living in a house owned by my father in law and I knew the only place we'd be able to set up a pool would have been in the kitchen, and I really wanted to be able to be in the water, and didn't want to have my baby in the kitchen. We were also 25 minutes from the hospital, and I felt more comfortable being closer just in case.
My due date was on Mother's Day, May 9, just 7 days after my older son turned 4 years old. It came and went. I was unhappy and uncomfortable. I had been having some practice contractions in the evenings, usually for about an hour and 8 or so minutes apart, then they'd stop until the next night.
On May 10, I woke up got Sam ready for preschool. I went out to Thai food for lunch (my husband plotting to feed me spicy foods) and then shopped for my husband's birthday presents since his birthday was the next day. Pretty early in the day I started having a few contractions - about one or two every hour. They were very spaced out and not very intense, but it was something different to be having them throughout the day instead of just in the evening. I was hoping that this was a good sign. I met Sam at the bus after school around 4:00 and we played outside until Justin got home around 7:00 after dealing with filing a police report because his car had been broken into at work. Since he'd had a bad day, I decided he should open his birthday presents early, so he did that and he and Sam had some cake.
Just before 8 pm, I started having some regular contractions. They felt a little more intense than my usual nightly contractions, and I started hoping that it was for real this time, but I was cautiously optimistic because I didn't want to get my hopes up only to have it not be the real thing. At 8:20, I started timing with the contraction timer on my phone. For the next hour, my contractions were 40-60 seconds long and between 7 and 12 minutes apart. I felt skeptical that this was really it because they were so far apart, and at the least thought that it would be quite a while before we'd be heading to the birth center. I was wondering if my water would break like it did with Sam, and I texted my Mom and sister that this "might be it." There was a lot of doubt in my mind about how I would know when it was "real" and how long to wait before calling people or heading to the birth center. I knew that the "rule" was 5-1-1 - contractions 5 minutes apart, a minute long, for at least an hour, so that's the guideline I had in mind in regards to calling my midwife. I later realized I was supposed to call her when they were 10 minutes apart to at least check in according to her written instructions since it was my 2nd baby, but it would not have impacted the situation in any way. At this point, my husband was getting nervous. He kept asking me how far apart the contractions were and if they were getting more painful, but I didn't seem worried so he didn't push it.
Around 9:40, a little under 2 hours into it, the contractions got closer. For about 30 minutes, they stayed around 5-7 minutes apart and a minute long. I was starting to wonder if I was a little crazy for opting for a natural birth because they were getting pretty painful. I also realized at that point that I literally had no memory of having ANY pain during my first labor despite the fact that my family told me that I was in pain, and I said I was at the time. My husband asked me if I was able to talk through the contractions since we knew that was another good indicator in terms of heading to the birthing location. At that point, I was lying on the couch on my side and was still able to talk through them. I tried listening to my hypnobirthing CD, but quickly realized that it was not going to work. I couldn't relax. I got up from the couch and turned if off, emphatically telling my husband "This is NOT going to work!" I think if my labor had been longer and I'd had more mild contractions for longer, it would have been great. If they'd been spaced out further it would have been nice to relax in between.
My husband was packing a bag for Sam so we could drop him off at a friend's on the way to the birth center and getting a few things for himself together. I walked around the house, stopping to sway and moan during contractions. I was still very calm, and my husband was moving at a medium pace. The contractions were not really regular, and weren't getting closer together and he was thinking about how long my first labor had taken.
Suddenly, around 10:15, the contractions got very hard. They were coming every 2.5 - 3.5 minutes and I was no longer able to talk or walk through them. I was vocalizing through each one, moaning and trying to keep my voice low and remember to breathe deeply instead of panting or yelling. I picked up my phone and found myself on my knees in our family room with my elbows on the couch. I called my midwife and told her that it was time and we would be there in 20 minutes. She said she would meet us there. I was sweating and felt my body working hard at that point. When we looked back later at the contraction timer, my contractions had gone from being 10-12 minutes apart to 3-5 minutes apart in less than 10 minutes.
My husband was running around the house a bit crazily now, trying to get everything in the car. At 10:25, he called my Mom and told her to meet us at the birth center, and was about to carry a sleeping Sam out to his carseat. That's when my water broke. It was a completely different experience having my water break while in hard labor, I was caught off guard by the loud pop and flood of fluid. My husband heard it from across the house and called out to ask if my water had just broken. I could barely answer him. As soon as my water broke, my contractions were one on top of the other. That's when the pressure started.
I barely remember walking to the bathroom, one room away from where I was. I sat down on the toilet, and I could hear my husband rushing around to get ready. At this point, I knew that we were not going anywhere. I could feel my body bearing down with each contraction, I was pushing and there was no stopping it. I knew there was no way I was getting in a car. At this point I was yelling during the contractions, and my husband came into the bathroom. He told me I just had to stand up and walk to the car, and I said "I can't." He thought I meant I thought I couldn't because the contractions were painful, and was getting frustrated because he didn't understand.
I remember saying that it hurt. After only 7 contractions that were right on top of one another - probably about 10-15 minutes on the toilet - I reached down and felt my baby's head. I said, "he's coming, he's coming right now" and my husband asked what he should do. I told him to put down towels and I got on the floor on all fours with my arms on the side of the bathtub. Justin asked again what to do, and I said "catch him." And he did.
After four pushes, the head was out, and after two more, our second baby was born in our home into his father's hands. Sam slept on the couch through almost the whole thing, only waking briefly when I screamed during the final pushes. I sat down and turned around, and Justin handed me our baby. I wrapped a towel partway around him, but honestly was a bit in shock. My husband swept his mouth out and made sure he was breathing. He looked up at me and he didn't cry, he just made a few noises, enough that I knew he was fine.
Daniel John was born at 10:55 pm on May 10, 2010. He was 8 lb 3 oz and 20 inches long. I held him in my arms and my husband rushed outside to call our midwife and the people who were headed to the birth center to tell them to come to the house. He stayed fairly calm until he started making the calls, then started to get shaky and called my Mom twice. Our midwife arrived at our home about 15 minutes after Danny was born. She looked at the placenta, which I had already birthed, and clamped his cord so that my husband could cut it. Holding him for about 30 minutes after he was born, skin-to-skin, without any interruption was amazing. Once we cut the cord, our midwife helped me up to my bed and my Mom and her husband arrived. Soon after, my stepdad and my sister also got to our house.
Our midwife weighed and measured Danny and we wrapped him up in a couple of sleep sacks and a blanket because he had gotten a little cold from when I was holding him without a blanket on him. She stuck around for an hour or two and made sure we were all okay. A couple of hours later I got up to go to the bathroom and sit so my husband could clean up the bed and get it ready for us to sleep in. Unfortunately there was a bit of a mess to clean up (one of the reasons I HADN'T planned on a home birth!), so it took a few minutes. We did have chux pads on the bed, but they were insufficient. I was feeling VERY dizzy and weak, and my Mom started to get concerned. After I sat for a few more minutes and had a couple of bowls of cereal we decided that it was just a combination of getting up from bed too soon, the adrenaline rush wearing off, and not having eaten since lunchtime. With all the commotion, my midwife forgot to remind me to eat something before trying to get up, and it didn't occur to me apparently.
I moved to the floor in the bathroom, and then when the bed was done I got up to walk across the hall back to bed. My husband helped me up, but when he turned around to get something from the bathroom I was in the hall and passed out. It was really weird, I have never passed out or fainted before and I just felt my body become SO heavy and fall to the floor, then I woke up and it just felt like it was morning and I'd woken up. I crawled over the bed and climbed up, and I felt okay. Luckily, I didn't hit anything on the way down!
Danny slept like a champ, which was nice since I didn't fall asleep until after 3:30 am and he slept for a good 5 hour chunk. We had so many other people around, he just got passed from person to person who loved him. Despite the mess, I love that I had my baby at home and just like my first birth, he was surrounded by people who love him immediately as he came into his life in the outside world. It was kind of great not to have to go to the hospital or anywhere and just be at home.
My recovery was more difficult with Danny than it was with Sam, I think because he came so quickly that my body didn't have time to adjust. I didn't have any tears or stitches, but I was just really, really sore and spent most of the first week on the couch. My stomach muscles hurt a lot until my midwife suggested binding my stomach, which I did with an elastic type back brace I happened to have in my house. After wearing it for 24 hours there was a huge difference, and she told me that in a lot of countries they do that for all women after birth.
In the end I had two very different birthing experiences. Both were wonderful in their own ways, but it never stops being fun to tell people about my unplanned, unassisted home birth! Now I encourage all women I can to educate themselves and decide what they really want - you can have the birth you want, even if sometimes it happens differently than you'd expected.
Rachael is a natural birth teacher in Washington State. You can find out more about her on her website- www.readysetbirth.com .