For the first half of my pregnancy, I saw an OB for my prenatal care. As this baby was a, uh, happy surprise, at first I just made an appointment with my mom’s OB — the guy who actually delivered me and my younger sister. And, at first, I liked him. We had our first ultrasound at 7 weeks, saw that little flicker of a beating heart, and made an appointment to come back at 10 weeks. During those 3 weeks, I started thinking about what kind of birth I wanted for this baby. I had heard that epidurals crossed the placenta and I didn’t want my baby to be drugged and drowzy after he or she was born, but I didn’t think there was another way. My cousin had her second daughter without an epidural, in a water birth. I messaged her on Facebook and she said that she would do it again in a heartbeart. I started reading up on water birth and other natural pain management methods and decided to ask my OB about it at the 10 week appointment.
His response was less than encouraging. He dismissed water birth as “a fad”, said that the birth tubs went unused at many hospitals, said that there was no medical benefit for either the mother or the baby. I went away from the appointment dissatisfied with his response. Everything I had read (and I tend to read a lot about subjects I am interested in) made a water birth sound so peaceful, so calm, so natural. Why was he so dismissive or even hostile toward the idea? It was then that I began looking for another model of care.
Through a divinely-ordained series of events, I found a certified nurse midwife and a birth center about 45 minutes from where we were living at the time. After much prayer and research, I convinced my husband to take a tour of the facility. He wasn’t sure, but agreed to do the tour with me. I am so glad we did! We fell in love with the birth center; it was basically a bed and breaskfast where you came home with a baby (minus breakfast…but you get the idea). And the midwife was wonderful. I instantly felt at ease with her. I didn’t feel like I would have to fight for what I wanted all the time like I did with the OB.
We decided to switch to the midwife practice, deliver at the birth center, and signed up for Bradley classes. Our journey toward a natural birth had begun.
I was due Saturday, January 17, 2009. Saturday dawned and I was hugely pregnant (gaining 85 lbs will do that, thanks Brewer Diet and no exercise!), miserable, and overly emotional. We went to Meijer and I cried in the cereal aisle. People kept texting and Facebooking me asking if I was in labor or experiencing contractions. Of course I was not. That night we watched a movie (ironically, Knocked Up) and I started having what felt like Braxton-Hicks. I didn’t bother timing them or anything like that because I had been having Braxton-Hicks for weeks. We went to bed around 11. At some point the contractions changed. They felt different than I had felt before, but were not painful yet. I got up at 2am to use the bathroom. When I threw my huge body out of bed I felt a little trickle, but figured I had just completely lost control of my bladder. I peed and then felt a huge gush of water. My water had broken! I wasn’t going to be pregnant forever! I called for my husband and he called the midwife. She told us to try to get some rest, and to call her when the contractions were 5 minutes apart. Well, I tried to get some sleep but it seemed tha after my water had broken the contractions picked up. I needed Tim to help coach me through them. We called the midwife back an hour later. I tried to relax through contractions as Tim scurried to pack up the car and things. We finally left for the birth center at around 6:30am, arriving at around 7.
My mom and sister arrived a little later, and I just chatted with everyone for another hour. Andrea checked me and I was 3.5 cm and 90% effaced. Not bad, considering I had been fully closed and only 50% effaced a few days before at my last prenatal appointment. I really wanted to get in the birth tub but the midwife said I needed to progress further first. My mom and sister went to get some breakfast while Tim and I hopped (okay, lumbered) in the shower. He sprayed hot water on my back which felt so good. We stayed in there until the hot water ran out. Then I labored on the birth ball for a while because my back was killing me and rocking my hips felt good. I didn’t know it, but my little guy was posterior, causing me to have back labor.
Things start to get blurry at this point. I had Tim, my mom and sister all pray for me. I was getting really tired and the contractions were getting more intense. After what seemed like forever I was able to get in the birth tub. Oh, it was wonderful. I was able to really let go, relax, and just let my body do what it needed to do to open up. I was even able to sleep between contractions. I could have stayed in there forever, but after 2 hours or so the midwife said I needed to get out because my labor was stalling a bit and the contractions were slowing down.
I labored on my hands and knees on the bed for a while, trying to get that baby to flip. At some point I started to feel like pushing. Pushing was the hardest part. Relaxing through contractions was easy; now I had to be an active participant in my labor. I was scared and unsure. Ah, transition. I asked people to please kill me, to take me to the hospital and cut the child from my uterus. I kept asking Tim if he loved me.
It took me about an hour to figure out how to push. I wasn’t really sure how to work with my body, but eventually I figured it out. While pushing on my hands and knees there was another big gush of water and the midwife said that I moved the baby down considerably. He had turned! It was only 45 minutes of pushing after that until he was out. I really don’t even remember the “ring of fire.” Everything was pretty numb from pressure by that point. Also, amnesia. One final push and his head was out, then the midwife flipped him because his shoulder was stuck, and his shoulder slid out. I did tear a little, 2nd degree. I pushed for 2 hours and 45 minutes.
That’s a little longer than average for a first-time mom. Why did I push for so long? Did I mention he was 9 lbs 4.5 oz?! Yeah, he was huge! (Well, as my midwife Barb said, whether the baby is 6 lbs or 10 lbs, they all feel big coming out). I am so thankful that the Lord lead us to the birth center and the midwife model of care. In a hospital setting, I would have been sectioned for sure. Number one, he was posterior — had I had the epidural and been unable to labor in different positions, I would not have been able to get him to turn. Number two, he was big — some OBs flat-out refuse to let women deliver babies bigger than 9 lbs vaginally. Number three, I pushed for longer than 2 hours — and the biggest enemy of laboring women in hospitals is the clock. They simply run out of time.
My midwife and the birth attendants supported me and loved me, and most importantly, gave me time to labor. I never felt pressured or like I was on the clock. They simply had faith that my baby would be born.
And he was. Samuel Ezra was born at 4:42pm, after 15 hours of labor. I will never forget feeling him slip out of me and seeing him for the first time. He was so big and healthy and alert. Time seemed to slow down and I just took him in. I loved him instantly.
Although his birth experience was exactly what we had hoped for, I was disappointed in the hours immediately after he was born. The nurse sort of halfway tried to get him to latch on, but I had flat nipples and he was sleepy and so she just took him away to be weighed and whatnot while I got stitched up, and said that we’d try again later (we didn’t). I was so out of it and tired but I wish I had the presence of mind to ask everyone to just leave the three of us (Tim, Sam, and I) alone for an hour and to see if Sam would self-attach. As it was, we ended up leaving the birth center 6 hours after he was born and going home having never latched him on. My mom didn’t breastfeed, so she wasn’t really able to help with hands-on help (although she was supportive) and of course, Tim and I knew nothing. So Sam lost a lot of weight and my supply dropped because he basically didn’t eat for the first 4 days of his life. Oops. I look at pictures of him from then and feel horrible. He looked so…well, hungry. Thank the Lord that in a moment of desperation I googled “lactation consultants + Anderson, IN” and Jennifer’s name came up. She is the LC at Saint John’s, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that if were not for her help and support, Sam and I would not be breastfeeding. We had many, many obstacles to overcome and someday I’ll write about them, but that’s a post in and of itself.
The birth center also sent us home with a “breastfeeding support kit” from those staunch breastfeeding supporters, Enfamil. (That was tongue-in-cheek, if you couldn’t tell). I was a lot less crunchy than I am now back then, but I think had I known then what I know now I would have politely but firmly told them precisely where they could put that “breastfeeding support kit.” (Disclaimer: I don’t care if you choose to formula-feed. That is not the point I am making. I am simply irritated at companies exploiting mothers and babies for a profit. Disclaimer over).
I say all that to say this: I think I would deliver at Expectations (the birth center) again but I would want to talk with the midwife about the unhelpful nurse who took Sam away too quickly, and the formula samples. I really feel that taking Sam away so quickly interfered with our bonding. And, for a natural-family-living, crunchy birth center place, it really surprised me that they would hand out formula samples, as they have been proven the undermine the breastfeeding relationship during it’s most vulnerable time. A bottle seems so easy and convenient when you’ve been trying to get a sleepy (or, alternatively, a screaming) newborn to latch on for 30 minutes and you’re all pstpartum-y and crying and your boobs hurt and you’re so tired you just want to die and you feel like you got hit by a bus because you just pushed a kid out.
And, I’d post pictures of his birth for dramatic effect, but 98% of them are not fit for public consumption as I was nekked. Sorry.