I decided even before conceiving my first child that I wanted a drug-free birthing experience. I knew it was better for the baby, and I wanted to experience the "birth high" I had heard about. So when I realized I was pregnant, I chose a practice of several midwives with a back-up MD with the goal of having a drug-free hospital birth.
During my pregnancy, I had mild first-trimester nausea and constant heartburn in the third trimester, but other than that I felt healthy and energetic. I went to a prenatal water aerobics class twice a week, and my husband and I went through the 12-week Bradley method training. I never felt like I was ready to "get this thing out." I loved being pregnant.
My last day of work was on a Friday and I knew I was going to stay home full-time after I had the baby. I also figured I would be late, because my mother was late with all four of her children. So I thought I had a week to get the house in order before my mother arrived. My baby had other plans.
The following Tuesday, on the night of a full moon, my husband Jim and I went to bed. I woke up to go to the bathroom at 11:50 p.m. Then I woke again ten minutes later and I thought I might be in labor. Jim woke and asked what was up. I told him, and said I was going back to bed and he should, too.
When the alarm went off for Jim to go to work, he called in to say he wouldn't be there. We called my mom and said, "Sorry, you're going to miss it!" She was disappointed but excited. In retrospect, I'm glad she wasn't there. I feel she might have tried to manage my labor, when that was Jim's job, which he did well.
My contractions were still around eight minutes apart, so I hung out, watched TV, laid in the Bradley relaxation position, and spent two hours in the tub. We called the midwives and they said to let them know when we were heading to the hospital when contractions were three minutes apart (the hospital is just five minutes from our house). Jim made some soup and I kept laboring. The contractions were painful, but nothing we couldn't handle together. When they didn't get closer than six minutes apart for six hours, I wandered around the house. We watched a movie. We were bored. We decided to go to the hospital at 10:30 p.m. for a change of scenery.
We checked into the hospital and the nurse sent me to the bathroom to provide a urine sample and to change into the hospital gown. While I was in the bathroom, I could hear the nurse telling Jim all the things we couldn't have that were in our birth plan. This made me mad that we couldn't do what we planned and what our midwives had approved, and I was also mad to be hearing this negative information from the nurse.
I sat on the bed and they checked the baby's heartbeat and the one midwife I had never met arrived and checked me for dilation. I told her not to tell me because I didn't want to be disappointed if it wasn't enough. She asked, "How much would be enough?" I said, maybe an eight. She said, "How about a five?" This made me mad too, because I didn't want to know and because I was only a five. They left us alone to rest and continue to labor. At about 4:00 a.m., I got into the shower with contractions intensifying. The midwife came back, made me get out of the shower (I was liking her less and less), and looked at my urine sample I was finally able to produce. It was bright yellow, a sign of dehydration. I was given an IV, an intervention I didn't want, and advised to have my water broken to allow the baby to move down. I consented, weighing the consequences of going on like this for more hours versus a more difficult but shorter labor.
Upon breaking my water, they discovered that there must have been a slow leak, and that meconium was thoroughly infused throughout the fluid. In retrospect, this had probably been true since I first went into labor. I had experienced yellowish mucus with each contraction, but I figured it was just urine leaking.
Then I had more unwanted interventions. They set up an amnio wash, to further dilute the meconium around the baby. They attached an internal monitor (one thing I really didn't want) because they couldn't find the baby on the belt monitor. But now we were making progress.
I don't remember feeling the urge to push. At 6:00 a.m. they told me to push on the next contraction and so I did. The bad midwife had to leave (I was so happy) and one I'd had several appointments with and liked came to take her place. She made me hold my own legs back, which I didn't like, but it was very effective and I got the hang of pushing with a couple tries. I pushed at my own pace, with no annoying counting. I had a mirror to watch my baby crowning, which was amazing and terrifying at the same time. I was thinking, "Wow, there it is! Oh my gosh, how is it ever going to fit?!" But then the urge really did kick in and I pushed against my fears.
I touched my baby's head when I could and was very encouraged. I was surprised when her head emerged with a "pop” and the midwife told me to stop pushing but my baby slid out anyway. Jim said, "It's a girl!" I was so relieved. I had pushed for 45 minutes. She was not put on my chest and I regret that very much. I was told to touch her hand before they took her across the room to the warmer. I don't remember hearing her first cry, but I do remember saying, "Oh Jim, it's a girl! Oh, my God!" It was just an overwhelming experience.
I began to hemorrhage and needed Pitocin and external pressure to stop the bleeding. This was the worst part because I didn't have my baby and I was in pain. They brought me over her footprints but I couldn't see her. Finally, they brought me my baby, already cleaned and wrapped in a blanket. I didn't even think to unwrap her and count her fingers and toes! She weighed seven pounds, two ounces and was 20-1/2 inches long. We turned on the video camera and taped our new family. We toasted her birthday with orange juice in our wedding toasting glasses and I tried unsuccessfully to nurse her.
An hour later, Grace was taken to the nursery and I went to the bathroom, and was wheeled to my room. We got a private room so Jim could stay overnight, which meant the baby could room in, too. However, I didn't even see Grace for the next three hours because she had to be checked by the pediatrician. After I had eaten breakfast and made a bunch of phone calls, I was ready to have her back. Jim came back and reported she'd had a bath and liked having her hair washed. I sent him to get her but he came back and said she wasn't ready yet. I told him to go and not come back until he had my baby! He had seen her far longer than I had.
I was not impressed with the hospital. The nurses were always interrupting, trying to get me to send Grace to the nursery. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking, my baby needs to eat!
I had difficulty breastfeeding, so much so that Grace had to be hospitalized for dehydration when she was four days old. I blame the hospital she was born in because of the lack of lactation help. The hospital she was in for dehydration had excellent lactation consultants that encouraged me to keep trying. After a week, she finally got the latch-on down, and at 18 months old is still a vigorous nursling.
We are expecting again. This time, we are going to plan a home birth so we can both spend those first precious hours with our baby, as a family. I did get my natural birth, and I'm confident in my ability to do it again, hopefully with far fewer interventions!