Every birth is unique… no two are the same. The story below is my first birth and what set the foundation of my journey in becoming a doula.
Monday morning around 8 a.m. I wake up and jokingly turn to my husband. “You should call in today from work,” I say. I am 39 +5 and starting to get nervous that my mom will have to fly back home to Georgia before I have my baby. As soon as I stand up from the bed, I feel the gush. It’s game time!
My husband and I are excited and nervous as we start getting ready to head to the hospital. I am Group B Strep positive (GBS+), which means that I will need at least 4 hours (2 rounds) of antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection to our newborn. My amniotic fluids leaking isn’t ideal because it starts the timeline of labor. In other words, my midwife will want the baby to be born within a certain time after the leak, also to prevent infection. However, it’s something I can deal with, especially since I start having consistent contractions.
I eat a bowl of cheerios and we head on in. Labor is starting to get intense in the car. We arrive, park, and check in. It was at that point in triage that things start going downhill. Upon initial examination, we find that I am 3 cm dilated, basically at the cusp of getting into active labor. I will be admitted due to water breaking and my need to start antibiotics. We start discussing rooms and the need for a birthing tub when the midwife says it isn’t an option for me. Apparently, I never signed a release form at my 36-week appointment. Everyone who was close to me (including my midwives at various appointments) only heard for months how excited I was to have a waterbirth. I start to panic when my mom, the fierce mama bear that she is, steps in. “Who do we need to talk to make this happen?” she demands. After more resistance, my mom goes for it again (much to my horror and embarrassment as I hate causing conflict). “We will go to this other local birth center and transfer care today if she is not allowed to have a waterbirth,” she insists. At this point, the midwife leaves to see about our options. She returns after discussing it with the department head, and has it figured out. I sign the papers and we get to our room.
Then I notice that my contractions have stopped. (If you ever get a chance, study the physiology of stress and birth. My contractions stopping around the time of triage and the waterbirth struggle will make complete sense.)
We start the IV and do the first round of antibiotics. I try walking, napping, and going up stairs to get things moving. Not much happens. After a few hours of this, the midwife comes back in and starts bringing up the idea of Pitocin to get my contractions going again. I decline at this point as I want to give it more time. It is now dinner time and I haven’t eaten since my bowl of cheerios that morning. I am “allowed” a clear liquid dinner which consisted of some fruit, broth, Jell-o and cottage cheese. My mom and husband get Davanni’s pizza and eat it in front of me.
8 p.m. rolls around and my water has officially been broken for 12 hours and I’m still not in active labor. I consent to start Pitocin induction. With that consent, I officially lose my dream of a waterbirth. Things ramp up pretty quickly after that, and I feel confident as I begin focused breathing and swaying moves during the contractions. Then it begins to feel like a lot more work as we go into the night with no sleep or real nourishment, at least for me.
I don’t remember a ton, but I do remember getting in and out of the tub a lot and the nurse never giving me a moment alone or leaving my side. She was constantly adjusting and holding the fetal monitors in place. That drove me nuts as the monitor hurt and made the contractions worse.
Labor surprises me because I haven’t realized the power it had to bring partners together. I was anticipating the, “don’t touch me, you did this to me” yell. In this case, it is the complete opposite. I needed the touch and the words of affirmation to keep me going as I – we – work together to bring our baby earthside. I look back and remember the nervousness, excitement, and intimate moments as we sway back and forth. Despite the situation, I feel so close and connected with my husband.
Contractions keep getting stronger and coming on right on top of each other. I remember telling the nurse how tired I am and asking if I am close. She says I am still in early labor, which pisses me off, and I have a Beyonce you-must-not-know-about-me moment. Maybe I should be flattered that she thought I am still in early labor because I’m coping so well? All I want to do was sleep. So she suggests some pain meds through the IV, fentanyl and nubain, which end up being the worst thing. They make me drowsy, and combined with the contractions being at the same pace, I fall asleep and then feel violently awakened as I am thrown into the next contraction. Somehow during all of this my mantra I repeat through each contraction becomes, “fuck me.” My mom jokingly points out that was how I got to this situation in the first place.
Getting in and out of the tub stops working for me and I remember looking at my mom and husband feeling exhausted and scared. I bring up the epidural because sleep is literally the only thing I want at that moment. Having a fear of needles played an impact on how I created a birth plan. So it is such weird feeling to want something so badly and be absolutely terrified of it at the same time. I keep looking at my mom, almost wishing she could save me, when the nurse steps in front of her and me says to me, “This is your decision and no one else’s.” Feeling defeated, I tell her to call the anesthesiologist. She calls and starts the round of IV fluids needed for the epidural. Then I say, “I feel like I need to poop.” This is the first glimmer of hope I have experienced since labor started. She checks me and I’m at a 9!!!!! Suddenly I feel re-energized.
The anesthesiologist arrives and starts setting up to place the epidural. He instructs me to sit on the bed, but I can’t. I’m in so much pain that, every time I try to sit, I jump up instantly. He asks the nurse my dilation, she tells him I’m at an 8. “Uh, what?” I ask. “You said 9 before.” Kennedy, my husband, watches as she types in the chart 8.5.
I gather some courage and make the decision to not go through with the epidural. There is no way I am going to let someone stick a needle in my back when I can’t sit still for 2 seconds.
The anesthesiologist leaves and my nurse suggests the best thing she has offered all night: to get on the bed, on my hands and knees, and lean over the stability ball. Shortly after I begin to feel the need to push. She tells me to wait a bit as my midwife is in another birth. Not wanting to rush or cause damage to my perineum, I am fine with going slow and letting everything stretch slowly. I clearly begin to crown but still not saying anything. ”Ok, you can start pushing now. We will just do this together.” With my mom encouraging and Kennedy in my right ear cheering me on, I push through 2 contractions. Finally my midwife zooms in the door before the third one starts, and quickly asks if a student can join. Then with 2 more final pushes, our Esther arrives.