I was due to have my second baby girl on August 9, 2011. On July 18, I made the official choice to have a natural birth. I was 37 weeks pregnant. I knew I wanted things to be different this time so I began educating and preparing myself. After talking a whole lot about this topic with my sister-in-law, Angela, (who has done natural birth 3 times) she recommended a doula and with the help of some wonderful people I found Angie and Robynne. Both of them came to my home a few times. We got to know each other better and I learned some things that we would be doing on the big day. I fell in love with both of these ladies and couldn’t wait for my birthing time to begin. During this time I also found out about Hypnobabies. It sounded pretty neat, so I got all the home study material and dove right in. I read the entire course book which educated me on so many different things and also started listening to the CD tracks to learn deep relaxation. I didn’t know how well this would work for me since you’re supposed to start the program pretty early in the pregnancy, but when I was falling asleep while listening to the tracks, I knew it was doing something.
August 9th came and went. For 3 weeks I had been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions every evening that would get stronger over time but never got a regular pattern. I was getting pretty frustrated at this point because I was over 40 weeks. And then I was 41 weeks. At my previous office visits I was dilated 3 cm and effaced 80%. At 41+3, I had my membranes stripped for the second time hoping something would finally happen. It was so important to me to go into labor on my own and I tried really hard to avoid induction. However, when nothing was working to get it going, I just couldn’t go on any longer. Being pregnant in the heat of the summer really took a toll on me. I was always hot, uncomfortable and could barely walk from swollen feet. I had a miscarriage only two weeks before getting pregnant this time and from the beginning of that pregnancy to the end of this one, I had pretty much been pregnant for 11 months! I was so ready to have my body back for myself. So after much consideration, I agreed to have labor induced.
The day of the induction came at 42+1 and much to my surprise of still being pregnant, off to the hospital we went. We arrived at 8:30am. My doctor had gone out of town and I was scheduled with a complete jerk. I chose to have my water broken rather than having Pitocin administered to get labor going. My birth plan consisted of things that were very important to me; no IV, intermittent monitoring, labor in any position I wanted, baby immediately put on my chest and no pain meds to name a few. But despite my doctor approving my birth plan and keeping it in my file, this new Dr. refused to do what I wanted. He phoned my room shortly after we arrived and it turned out to be the worst conversation I’ve ever had with someone. His bed side manner was awful. He told me he didn’t realize that I had the plan I did and that if he was going to work with me, I had to do it his way…which was Pitocin and an IV probably to have him home by dinnertime. When I refused and tried to stick to the plan I so much wanted, he told me I could leave and come back 4 days later (which would have put me at 43 weeks) to have my own doctor do it. I thought it a little funny since my own doctor admitted she didn’t like seeing her patients go to 42 weeks and many doctors won’t even let you get anywhere near 42 weeks and now all of a sudden I was free to go all the way to 43 weeks! I should mention that I don’t believe that an OB should “let” you do anything. This is my body, my baby and an OB is my “employee”. If I would have felt comfortable waiting it out longer, I would have gone above and beyond 42 weeks (as long as baby was still doing ok) regardless what my OB says I have to do. I couldn’t believe the way this doctor was treating me on one of the most important and special days of my life. After hanging up the phone on him I burst into tears. It took a while for me to be able to calm down enough to tell Dale (husband) and my mom what just happened. It was about 10:00am when we “fired” him and the wonderful charge nurse of L&D worked to find a doctor who would be willing to take me as a patient. I actually got to choose who I wanted and chose Dr. Barney. I knew him because he delivered two of my siblings and my mom really likes him.
At 10:40am he agreed to work with me. I had originally refused a hep lock that my doctor agreed to, but had to get one anyway. A student nurse finally got it in after one failed attempt, but not without spewing my blood all over my hand and bed (which made me pretty queasy), and giving me a lovely bruise first. I forgave her…but only because she and the other nurse assigned to me were the most amazing nurses I could have asked for and I was so very grateful for that after the emotional roller coaster the jerk doctor put me through. My water was finally released at 11:37am. It felt so strange! I felt a pop as it happened and then sat up in bed where I proceeded to drain fluid for the next 20 minutes. Dilation was still at 3 cm, 80% effaced, baby at -1 station; same as my previous office visits. When I felt like most of the fluid was out, Dale and I started walking the halls. The contractions picked up a pattern pretty quick and were lasting 30 seconds every 2-3 minutes. I was so relieved that my body was doing what it was supposed to since the doctor wanted me on Pitocin if I didn’t progress within 6 hours, which later somehow changed to 4 hours (after 4 hours I hadn’t progressed much and the doctor would call to get updates frequently. Thankfully, my awesome nurses who were both very supportive of my natural plan told him I was more progressed than I really was). I continued to just hang out in my room with Dale and my mom, pacing back and forth, sitting on a birth ball and swaying my hips back and forth with Dale’s arms around me with every contraction. Eventually I got pretty hungry and had Dale sneak in the best hot dog I’d ever eaten in my life. After finishing off with a delicious chocolate chip cookie (we also brought them for all the nurses and that totally scored points with them!) and some cherries, I felt energized to keep laboring, happy and satisfied.
At 3:11pm dilation was up to a whopping 4 cm and 90% effaced. By 4:34pm nothing had changed. I know, depressing, right? For a second baby this sure was taking much longer than I expected! By 5:52pm dilation had progressed to 5 cm. Hallelujah! I was half way there! I had no sense of time by this point. I remember being in bed, closing my eyes to focus on each contraction. It felt as if only 20-30 seconds had gone by, but my mom would time them and say that they were now lasting 50 seconds. I was very happy to hear this but also couldn’t believe it. I felt as if though I had entered another world. By this point things started to get a little more intense and that’s when Hypnobabies went out the window. I’m not going to dismiss this for future pregnancies because I know I didn’t have enough time to practice and really get it down. However, what it did do for me was boost my confidence in knowing that I was in control, my body was designed to birth, my baby knew just what to do and the more powerful the contractions would get, the closer I was to holding my sweet baby.
At 5:30pm I was ready for additional support and told Angie (doula) to come. She arrived at 6:30pm and began filling the tub while baby was being monitored. I was in bed shivering and couldn’t wait to get in. At 7:15pm, I got the ok from the student nurse and got in. The hot water felt incredible and instantly relaxed me. A shift change brought a new nurse who told us I wasn’t allowed in the tub after my water had been broken. When I heard this, my heart dropped because there was no way I was getting out of that soothing tub. Angie talked to nurse Wendy about this and she asked the charge nurse. It was no problem after all and I was so relieved! Wendy turned out to be another super incredible nurse that I was blessed with that day. Dale poured warm water over my belly with every contraction and I really had to focus on breathing deep. I remember feeling so awesome when a contraction would end. It was powerful, but felt good.
At 7:50pm, Robynne (my 2nd doula) arrived. I was really enjoying the tub but at 8:40 got out to be checked. Dilation was at 6+/7 cm. I spent some time standing on the side of the bed and sitting on the ball. At 9:10 labor increased in intensity and I had all hands on me for comfort and support. Angie and Robynne did awesome work by putting counter pressure on my back, squeezing my hips together and massaging my back. I got in the tub again at 9:25 and had some pretty powerful contractions. It was hard for my mom to watch her baby going through something like this. I had to keep telling her I was ok. I was feeling some rectal pressure at this time but was afraid to say anything because I didn’t want to get out of the tub (I was only able to labor in the tub. I couldn’t birth in it, although I really wanted to). Angie could tell something was different because my breathing and tone of voice would change. I had to get out and at 9:50 I was checked and dilation was at 8 cm and baby at zero station. I labored some more on the ball where I experienced a lot more rectal pressure and had some involuntary pushing. I think this is also where I might have entered transition because I suddenly got the biggest urge to throw up, although I never did...probably a good thing since the nurses would find out about that hot dog and the fact that I told them I hadn’t eaten anything since midnight the night before was a complete lie. I got a much needed break when a few contractions lowered in intensity and I was able to quietly breathe through them, as opposed to the very vocal breathing that I had been doing. I don’t think anyone around me even knew I was having these contractions. I remember getting back on the bed, probably to be monitored or checked when I all of a sudden wanted to call Angela (sister-in-law who got me into this) just to hear her voice for additional strength to go on. It felt great telling her that I was doing it! The strength of labor soon took over and I told Dale to hang up.
At 10:45pm I was still at 8cm but the baby had come down to +1 station. I spent some time leaning on the back of the bed but at this point any position I tried getting into felt really intense. I couldn’t relax enough to keep my legs open and with every contraction I squeezed my legs together as tight as I could to cope with the pain. I was discouraged because I didn’t have any urges to push and as hard as I tried just couldn’t relax. I swayed, I rocked, I cried. I mimicked Tarzans yell perfectly with every contraction. Angie and Robynne tried getting me into other positions but it was always so difficult to move as a hard contraction would hit every time. I tried the squat bar, but because I was so tense and couldn’t easily keep my legs apart it just plain hurt. I started to ask for something to take the edge off. I felt like I couldn’t possibly handle the pain any longer. An epidural never entered my mind and it’s not what I wanted, but I did want something to just lower the tremendous intensity I was feeling. Angie said something about it not being a good idea to put narcotics in my system so close to delivery. I wasn’t about to drug my baby after coming this far, so I went on.
At 11:50pm Dr. Barney checked me and then stepped aside not saying much. A minute later, in the most casual voice he says I can start pushing if I want. Since he didn’t actually say that I was complete, I thought I was probably at a 9 or still had some cervix left but could start practice pushing. Much to my surprise I was complete! Finally! At 11:55 pushing officially began and soon after it was Thursday, August 25, 16 days past my due date! Pushing was tough! I envisioned myself pushing in an upright position and breathing my baby out (I also envisioned myself being quiet…but that didn’t happen). I ended up pushing lying mostly on my back with Angie holding one leg and hand and Robynne holding the other leg and hand with Dale and mom on both sides of me. Lying on my back was pure torture. The lower the bed was laid back, the worse the pain would get. I no longer had a grip on the contractions. It felt as if I was going down a roller coaster with no safety bar to hang onto. This is the only thing that still bothers me about my birth. I’m slowly trying to get over it and know it will be different the next time (I guess this is what you get with OB’s who are so used to having their mothers pushing on their backs). I had to push hard and the combination of a contraction, starting to feel baby crown and being completely out of breath was more than I could handle. But I had to stay strong and continued pushing as hard as I could. I also had a 2nd degree tear and probably felt that at this point too. About 20 minutes later her head came out and after a few more pushes, I felt the rest of her warm body slip out. It felt incredible! Daddy got to cut the cord (unfortunately the cord was clamped right away. Delayed clamping was on my birth plan but the doctor did not look at it and by the time I remembered it and said something, it was too late. Darn it! Also another thing to change next time) and then she was put on my chest where I marveled at what I had just accomplished.
My first words were, “I did it! I did it!” It was so empowering! I held my new little girl for a few minutes and then agreed to have her put under the warmer to pink up for a bit because she was quite purple. She was weighed and measured and came in at 9 pounds 1 ounce and was 22 inches long with a head circumference of 35 cm. A few minutes later I put her to breast and she began breastfeeding like a champ! Angie asked us what we’d remember about this experience: My mom: “We all had the same dream on the same night, that this would be fast, easy and painless.” Yeah…it was the complete opposite of that. “She almost gave me a heart attack. It was better to do it myself.” It was hard for her to watch me go through what I did, but I’m grateful to her for being such an awesome support to me and never telling me to just get the epidural. Dale: “The strength and dedication Valery had. Not many women do what she just did. I’m a proud dad, again.” Me: “It was pretty cool feeling her body come out.” “The vocalizing.” I never imagined myself to be so vocal. I pictured myself to be calm and quiet. “I’m glad Dale cut the cord.” He didn’t get to do that with Miley.
1. When did you decide you wanted to deliver your baby naturally?
The thought entered my mind a lot through my pregnancy but I made the official choice when I was 37 weeks pregnant.
2. What reasons or factors went into your decision? I was induced with my first child and had an epidural simply because I was uneducated and it's the norm. Since that's how most women do it, that's the only way I knew to do it. My baby was taken from me right after delivery and I didn't get to see her for 3 hours after her birth. I believe this ruined our breastfeeding relationship and I didn't feel as strong of a bond to her as I would have liked. The whole experience also made me feel like just another patient. I knew I wanted things to be different the second time. I wanted it to be more special and I wanted that powerful bond with my baby.
3. What did you do to prepare for natural childbirth? (midwife, classes, methods, books, etc.) I read "Hypnobirthing" by Marie F. Mongan (great resource!) and the entire hypnobabies coursebook (another great resource). I also read a million natural birth stories, asked lots of questions to others who have gone through this and also joined a VERY valuable page on Facebook "Birth Without Fear".
4. What was the hardest part of your experience - before, during, or after childbirth? The hardest part before was waiting to let things happen on their own and wondering if baby was really ok this far past 40 weeks (she was great!). The hardest part during is most definitely pushing on my back. It was awful! Nothing was hard about childbirth itself after except maybe recovering from the painful hemorrhoids. I never even experienced any pain from the stitches.
5. What was most helpful to you during labor to help make pain from contractions manageable? In the early stages, swaying, being on the birth plan and having a hand to hold. During the intense time, all the things my doulas did (counter pressure on back, squeezing hips together, holding my hand), water poured on belly, DEEP breathing.
6. Is there anything you would have done differently?
I really wish I would have waited for labor to start on it's own. I guess I'm just the lucky few that will probably have babies at 42-44 weeks gestation. Also would not have pushed on my back and would have made sure before that the new doctor looked at my birth plan.
7. What did you feel were the positive benefits to your natural childbirth - were the benefits what you expected?
The benefits were beyond what I expected. My baby was born so alert and awake and just ready to be here. Because I got to have her with me immediately after birth, we developed a huge bond. Breastfeeding has been so wonderful. No one ever took her out of our room. She was literally in my arms the entire time at the hospital. Recovery the first time was 2 weeks and this time was only 1 week. I was able to walk right after delivery. The experience was better for all who were involved. The first time all there was to do was sit in a chair and wait. This time, my husband and mom were way more involved and also loved it.
8. Is natural childbirth something you recommend to other mothers, or something you'd do again? Definitely yes and yes. I've become one of those women who if I hear someone is getting an epidural or c-section for non medical reasons, I want to scream to them that there is a better way.
9. What advice do you have for other mothers interested in natural childbirth?
Knowledge is power and so is education. So many moms have told me that they could never do it without pain meds. If you are in that mind set, you are right. However when you get educated and realize how much more there is to childbirth you will WANT to do it this way. It will be exciting for you. At least that's how I felt.
To read more about Valery head to her blog