Wednesday, July 23, 2008

My Birth Story

Disclaimer:
Childbirth is a very personal process. Many things influence the approach to and experience of giving birth, including culture, religion, country of origin and residence, available healthcare, socioeconomic status, level of education, personal experiences, and health considerations, just to name a few. I am not making a judgement call about the various ways in which children are brought into the world. When the words "natural childbirth" are used, it is merely for connivence as it is means, in the American lexicon, childbirth without pain relief and/or other intervention, I do not wish to imply that any other type of birth is somehow unnatural. This is my story.

When I was pregnant, lots of people had advice and stories to share with me. Some of what they said was helpful and useful, but often I had to separate the wheat from the chaff. Generally, that was not problematic, but there was one area in which the advice and stories often seemed to take a negative spin and finding wheat was nearly impossible. Of the many people I spoke to, of all the stories that I was told, I heard less than 5 positive birth stories. It would seem that having a baby is challengingly wonderful, pregnancy is often beautiful, but childbirth is awful, hell, terrible, and hands down the worst thing a woman will ever experience. Everyone has heard numerous horror stories about childbirth, and few, if any, positive ones. I did have one friend that had to have an emergency C-section, and refused to tell me the story until after my baby was born, I really appreciated that. Generally though, most people were not that considerate, and though the best thing for a first time mother was to inform her of all the worst case scenarios. Perhaps helpful to some new moms, but often frustrating for me.

For various personal reasons, including a dislike of hospitals, my preference for a holistic approach to healthcare, the usefulness of webMD and google, my own personal beliefs, and an allergy to aspirin, I wanted as few interventions as possible during childbirth. I would have been perfectly fine with a home birth, but that was not an option. I have not taken pain medication for anything in well over a decade, and to me an epidural (the most common form of pain relief) sounded like crack. Seriously, I can't even drink coffee without getting the jitters, the thought of an epidural, which is a narcotic, was actually scary. But when I informed others, including my doctor, of my desire for a natural childbirth, I was often told things like "Many first time mothers want to do it natural, don't feel bad if you change your mind." "An epidural is HEAVEN." "It's so much easier with an epidural." Not encouraging or optimistic. I wanted to hear something that would give me hope that I could achieve this goal. So, being a nerd, I went to the internet and the library for help. I knew that not everyone got an epidural, and I wanted to hear from those women. I read books, and blogs, and anything I could get my hands on. I wasn't able to take a childbirth class, so I prepared myself as best as I could. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I also knew that it was possible. Armed with information, strategies and some coping techniques, I went into labor.

Actually, I'd been having contractions and intense pelvic pressure for about two weeks. I was focusing all of my energy on NOT going into labor, as my husband had not arrived. I hoped and prayed, and tried my best to will my body not to go into labor. I wasn't sure how effective my methods would be, and I knew that at a certain point there would be no stopping labor, but I gave it all I had. So, I dealt with contractions and pelvic pressure for two weeks, while my family kept my spirits up and a smile on my face. My husband arrived on Saturday night. I couldn't sleep, and he kept asking if I was okay. I was okay, but restless and having contractions. I had been having contractions for a while already, and these felt like the previous ones, so I didn't think anything of it. We went to Walmart on Sunday afternoon, and at about 1:00 my water broke. In the store! I had read that only a small percentage of women experience their water breaking while out in public, and when it does happen it is usually a trickle and not a gush because the babies head acts like a cork. Well, I gushed! I thought, "Great, of course I'm one of the 2% of women who experience this." We left Walmart, with my husband walking behind me to sort of hide the fact that my pants were completely soaked . . . partially because it was a little embarrassing, but mostly because I wanted to avoid causing a commotion or stir. (I could just see someone trying to convince me to call an ambulance, scared that I would have the baby in the frozen food aisle). So, we went home, and after some strong urging from my mother, I called the midwife. Of course, she said that I had to come to the hospital, because my water had broken. I was not happy. My plan was to labor at home as long as possible, and now I had to go to the hospital and be stuck in bed, on monitors, with people poking and prodding and stalling my labor. Argh! The upside was that my body and baby had held out until my husband arrived, and I was quite happy about that. I decided that staying at home was not worth the potential risks, and got myself ready. At about 2:30-3:00, I was admitted, and hooked up to the fetal monitor. I was only 36 weeks, so an IV was started with antibiotics. I wasn't happy about the IV, but I decided to be positive. As I laughed and joked my way through centimeters 4-6, the nurses seemed a little surprised. According to the monitor, I was having intense contractions, but my behavior did not line up with what the monitor said. I could feel the contractions, I informed them, but I was doing okay. Although strong, my contractions were irregular. The nurse came in to check on me, and started changing my IV. I looked up, and realized that she had hung an additional bag. I asked what it was, and she said Pitocin. NO! I am not a fan of Pitocin and was trying to avoid it. After I explained to her that I prefer to be an informed patient (no giving me meds without talking to me first), I decided not to argue about the Poticin. She said that because my contractions were irregular, they wanted to give me a low dose to help make them more regular. I was already having strong contractions, and making them more regular would only help labor progress faster. From what I learned about Pitocin, I wondered if they also wanted to see me squirm. I held up okay as the contractions got more intense, breathing through them and talking in between. Then, when I was about 8 centimeters, they were so hard and fast there was no "in-between". I used the birthing ball for a while, until I felt like sitting was irritating. Then I crouched on all fours on the bed. When the nurse came in and saw me like that, she adjusted the bed so the top half was higher than the bottom half, and the bed was supporting my body weight (instead of me supporting myself). It was wonderful. I did have a "Bridezilla"-like moment, when I yelled at my husband (who was on the phone with his parents) "I am in labor. This is not a social hour. GET OUT!" Sorry babe, the extra noise was irritating. The next time the midwife checked, she said, "Let me know when you are ready to push." I think I was already ready, because about 5 minutes later I was asking my mother (who was also my wonderful doula) "How do you know when you are ready? Do you only want to push during the contractions or in between?" Then I realized that during the contractions I was bearing down. So, I pushed the call button. "Yes, how may I help you?", responded the sweet male voice on the other end. "I WANNA PUSH". "Okay," the sweet voice responded, "I'll let your midwife know." 

Within 2 minutes, the midwife and nurses were in the room. Everyone put on gloves, they adjusted the bed and got everything ready, and I began to push. After contractions, pushing was a relief for me. I was so focused on pushing that I didn't want to do anything but push the baby. They asked if I wanted a mirror, and I said no. Then they asked if I wanted to touch his head, another no. I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing between contractions, and pushing with them. The midwife had to tell me to open my eyes, and when I did I saw his beautiful face. One last push and he was born. It was 6:55. They laid him on my chest, and allowed the cord to stop pulsing before my husband cut it. I fed him, and then they cleaned and weighed him and gave him back. After that they left us alone for some much needed family time.

All in all, I had a positive experience. Was it perfect? No. But I was prepared for some things to not go "as planned", so I didn't let those things bother me. I tried to focus on the positive, and it was effective. I did not have to take pain relief, we were both healthy, I sustained a minor (1st degree) tear (because I when she said push slowly, I said "What?" and didn't relaxing my pushing). I was in a room filled with positive, supportive women. It was a relaxing atmosphere, they allowed me to turn off the lights and labor in whatever position I was comfortable in. The midwife only checked me twice to see how dilated I was, when I first arrived, and right before I started to push. My labor was quick, only 6 hours from the time my water broke until the baby was born. The hospital staff was respectful and supportive, especially after I articulated myself. So, yes, it is possible to have a positive experience. Was labor intense? Yes. But the pain of labor is pain with a purpose, and for me it helped to keep in mind that I knew why I was pain (because my cervix was dilating, because my baby was getting ready to born) and also that it would have an end. It wasn't easy, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. Every contraction, every pain, every moment, every breath, pushed my body beyond limits never imagined, showed me even more of myself, and brought my son into the world. What is not wonderful about that?

Birthing a baby is a beautiful thing, not only because of the "reward" at the end, but also because of the amazing thing that your body does when it nurtures a life, and then brings that life into the world. Giving birth was not the easiest thing I've ever done, but afterwards, I felt like a warrior. I am calmer than I thought. I am more in control than I envisioned. I am more determined than I acknowledged. I am stronger than I ever imagined. That warrior spirit is mine.

1 comment:

Max said...

Wow that was a fast labor!!! You GO GIRL.

I thought about going natural with Tsyonne, but I couldn't deal with the pain. She was facing the wrong direction and all my labor pains were in my back. My contractions were fast and strong with no resting periods between. After about 7 hours, I was worn out and practically begged for the epidural. Now that I look back, it's funny that I forgot most of the pain!!! It's only when people ask me specific questions that I actually remember all the little painful details.

Congrats again. I am sooooo happy for you and the fam.