I’m finally writing it! …And hopefully coming out of a very interesting bit of writer’s block. The past 10 weeks have been a whirlwind of learning & emotions… truthfully, though, the most beautiful 10 weeks of my life. I am feeling GREAT… surprised at how fast I’ve healed physically after pushing a 9lb baby out after two days of labor! So here it is, my birth story… it’s a bit long but I hope it inspires or educates you in some way…
My due date was February 14, 2015. I went two weeks and four days past this day before my midwife said we needed to move things along. She did an ultrasound and said my placenta was calcifying a bit and my amniotic fluid looked low. Of course I wanted to deliver a healthy baby and avoid complications, so I trusted her judgment with the idea of induction. This also meant accepting that my birth experience was going to be very different than I had hoped.
I dreamed of having a natural water birth with no drugs… I read two books while pregnant that changed my view completely on childbirth: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth (Ina May Gaskin) and Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way (Susan McCutcheon). If you are pregnant or trying to conceive, I highly recommend reading these books! They helped me realize what my body is capable of, empowered me to do what my body was made to do, helped me understand that birth is not an event that needs medical intervention (in most cases), and that it also does not have to be a fearful, scary experience like many women have had (usually in hospitals). I specifically chose a hospital that was a 40-minute drive from my house because of its excellent midwives and support of natural birth. I was excited to birth my son naturally and spent my entire pregnancy meditating on this & preparing myself as best I could for the positive, enjoyable birth experience I knew was possible…
So when the moment came that I was faced with my biggest nightmare – being induced – I got really emotional but agreed to it. It was truly the last thing I wanted, but I trusted my midwife. First, I agreed to having a cervical balloon, a more “natural” way of inducing labor (as opposed to Pitocin). This is basically two small water balloons – one is inserted inside the uterus and one outside, the one on the outside pulls the inside one down, forcing the cervix to dilate. Though there was nothing “natural” about this to me, I figured it was worth a shot because 1) it would give my body a chance to go into labor on its own and 2) possibly avoid being induced with Pitocin. Essentially the balloon is supposed to bring on contractions and, if it dilates the cervix to 4cm, it falls out on its own and ideally the body continues laboring on its own… So my midwife inserted the balloon at the hospital at 6pm on Monday, March 3rd, and sent me home. The balloon was extremely uncomfortable and I started having contractions immediately which built in intensity for 4-5 hours and continued through the night. I was able to fall asleep for about five hours. The next morning, I woke up to mild contractions (I almost couldn’t feel them), and the balloon had not fallen out (talk about not being able to fully relax – it felt like a HUMONGOUS tampon with two huge 12-inch plastic tubes hanging down as strings). I went back to the hospital to have it removed at 5pm. My midwife checked my cervix and I was 3cm dilated! Woohoo. Got sent home again (having mild contractions) and they wanted me back the next morning at 6am to be induced with Pitocin (which I still felt on the fence about). I got home, took a long walk with Carlos, had a glass of wine and took a hot bath… when I was in the bath I had a conversation with Julian and suddenly my mucous plug came out in the bathtub & I knew my body was going into labor. Yay! Contractions got stronger through the night, and we got up early to head to the hospital (Carlos, my Dad, & my doula).
Once at the hospital, I decided to labor on my own because I believed my body was ready. I walked the halls of the hospital, tried different positions & massage with my doula, leaned on Carlos & labored in the hospital room for a total of nine hours. At 3pm, I was only at 4cm. This is when I agreed to Pitocin. I think if I were at home laboring it would have progressed faster because I would have been more relaxed. If there is anything I would like you to take from this story, it is validation that hospitals make it harder to relax while in labor. No matter how hard I tried to get in my own zone, there was an undeniable element of pressure from simply being in the hospital and also an inability to completely relax with nurses and staff coming in and out of my personal space. After all, let’s be real… there’s no place like home.
I am actually surprised at how well I handled the Pitocin for as long as I did… having to walk around with a tall metal poll containing machines and bags of fluid pumping shit into me to make my uterus contract attached to me for eight hours… Yes, eight hours I labored with Pitocin with the intention of still having a water birth, as I was told this was possible! Well, at about 9pm the contractions got so intense that I started to cry… I think my body was going into some level of shock. There were no breaks between contractions and they were excruciatingly painful. In my heart I knew these contractions were unnatural, brought on by a synthetic hormone, and that had I let my body go into labor on its own, it would not have been the same type of pain.
My midwife came to check on me and I told her, after attempting to ease the pain by sitting on an exercise ball in the shower with Carlos holding the shower head beating on my lower back (which still didn’t make it feel better), that I couldn’t do this anymore… I needed the Pitocin to be turned off. It was unbearable. She checked me and I was still only at 4cm… WOW, right? So she gave me the option of turning off the Pitocin, getting some sleep and starting it back up in the morning, or having an epidural and keeping the process going until the baby comes. I chose the epidural because there was no way I was reliving this again the next day… I felt it was time for Julian to come out. So I had the epidural (which was also a scary experience… squeezing Carlos’ hands, still feeling intense contractions and trying to hold still while they stuck the needle in my back). I was very grateful for the pain relief that followed shortly, but the epidural was still nothing like I had imagined… I thought it would be heaven but it was far from that for me… stuck laying on my back, with a catheter in my urethra so I would pee automatically into a bag… so weird! My midwife broke my water once the epidural was in place. This is when things really got going, thank God. The nurse had to come in and turn me every 20-30 minutes so I was slightly laying on one side. I tried so hard to get some sleep but just couldn’t. The Pitocin was still running and I could faintly feel pressure from the contractions. The nurse reminded me the epidural was only supposed to take away 50% of the pain. Once the lights were turned low and my Dad & doula went to get some sleep in other hospital rooms, Carlos & I had an intense emotional moment together that most definitely brought us closer than we’d ever been. He is my rock, I couldn’t have done this without him… constantly reminding me how strong I was and how much he loved me… when I was doubting myself more than ever before. So, so, SO incredibly grateful for this man.
So fast forward… three hours passed & the nurse checked my cervix. I was dilated to 8cm! The Pitocin was still going and I could feel the pressure of the contractions getting stronger and stronger, even through the epidural, which was wearing off. Another hour passed and the contractions actually starting hurting again… I asked the nurse to check me because I felt like it was time, and sure enough, I was at 10cm and she had me do a “practice” push. She brought in all the equipment for me to push this baby out, and I got really excited. It was 3am when the nurse called my midwife into the room, who was sleeping down the hall, and I called in my doula & Dad as well…
The pushing stage quickly became my favorite part of this whole process. I finally felt like I could put my strong body & mind to use… it only took me 27 minutes to push Julian’s 9lb-2oz body out… and I did NOT TEAR! I was able to watch the whole thing in a mirror they put in front of me… and I felt 90% of it all because the epidural was almost worn off completely. I was so grateful for this because I was able to work with my body! This was the HARDEST most REWARDING work I have EVER done. I remember thinking, in the middle of pushing, that I couldn’t do it anymore… but there was no turning back! When there’s a baby halfway through your vagina you just have to finish the job! LOL. Carlos was the first to touch Julian… my midwife let him catch him when his head came out! It was such a beautiful moment. One more huge push and he was all the way out. Carlos brought him right onto my chest where we had immediate skin-to-skin contact for almost a full hour. Carlos cut the umbilical cord & gave Julian his first bath… Everyone in the room was tearing up and emotional while I was just exhausted and so happy my son was outside my body.
We stayed another night in the hospital and went home the next day. I had my placenta encapsulated into pill form (it gets dehydrated first and then placed in capsules). Following the directions, I took three capsules 3x day for the first week, two capsules 3x day for the second week, and then one capsule 3x week until they were gone. Because the placenta contains your own natural hormones, there are many health benefits of eating it after childbirth (which sounds crazy, but listen!): reduces postpartum “blues” or depression, boosts energy, replenishes depleted iron, lessens postnatal bleeding, has been shown to increase breastmilk production, and helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy state. Plus, an awesome fact you may not know… most all mammals eat their placentas after birthing their offpsring. I can say it did help me, because I have felt amazing this whole time & my body has been extremely resilient in returning to its pre-pregnancy state. It has been almost three months now and we are all doing WONDERFUL!
I have been wanting to share this story since it all happened, but have needed some time to process it all. I had to get over the fact that the birth didn’t go as I had imagined. I believe everything happens for a reason… that there was a reason I went through what I did with the Pitocin & epidural… I can say everything I read about it was true. And I still believe in natural childbirth (no drugs) not being as painful. I look forward still to the experience I had hoped for with Julian… I see a home birth in my future! Our bodies are INCREDIBLE… and awareness of the subject of childbirth is a must if you are pregnant or trying to conceive.
If you take anything from this story, I hope it is that you always TRUST your intuition… Do not let anyone — any doctor, nurse, family member, friend… try to sway or convince you on any topic regarding pregnancy, childbirth, or parenting. We all have different, unique stories & situations. Educate YOURSELF by reading books and articles… Meditate and listen to what resonates with YOU. And make sure you have good support, whether it’s from your family, friends, or an outside group of people who think like you – though I didn’t do birthing classes, they are a great place to meet people in the same boat! And hire a doula if you can – Afton Brown is my amazing doula and I couldn’t have done this without her!
I am so grateful for a healthy baby. That I am a Mommy now. That I have an amazing partner and father to my son. Life is good. Family over everything!
Peace, Love, & Light…