My natural birth story

This is the story of my daughter’s birth.


Sleeping had become increasingly difficult during the last weeks of my pregnancy. My bladder had been reduced to a pea sized pocket as visible on the ultrasound, thanks to the baby’s head pressing against it. I would wake up multiple times during the night to use the bathroom and sometimes it was nearly impossible to get back to sleep, I would be wide awake in the middle of the night. The doctor attributed it to hormones and I was glad to know that it wasn’t just me. I wasn’t going crazy. 
Shortly before 4:30 am on January 20, 2010, I woke up and knew that sleep was going to be difficult to find. Suddenly, and only since you could hear a pin drop in our quiet bedroom, I heard the faintest “pop.” So faint that I wasn’t sure I heard it at all. But it was followed by a small gush of clear fluid in my underpants and I became immediately suspicious. There was another small gush followed by a few spots of blood. At this point I wasn’t sure if it was my mucous plug, my water breaking, or none of the above. But I was also noticing some very light period-like cramps, low and unlike the Braxton-Hicks (or “practice”) contractions. James stirred in the bed and I told him that “something’s happening,” but that he could go back to sleep since it would probably be hours before I progressed (if at all). I called my doctor and was advised to go into the office when it opened at 8 am to be checked to see if my water had broken. 
Neither James or I could go back to sleep. I fixed my favorite breakfast of oatmeal, almond butter and banana with the intention of stocking up on energy before the big event. Meanwhile, the “cramps” were increasing in intensity and frequency and I was continuing to bleed, which made me nervous. I finally accepted that these were contractions and not cramps, and they were coming awfully frequently. So, I timed them. They were not following any pattern at all, sometimes I had a break of 5 minutes and sometimes I had a break of 1 minute. But they weren’t 10 minutes apart or more, like they’re supposed to be during pre-labor. This was my first clue that things were happening quickly. I told James that he should start getting ready after all.
I called the doctor again and she asked if I wanted to go to Triage. I said YES. I finished packing my bag (I had started packing, but figured that I would save the rest for pre-labor, assuming that I would have plenty of time and would need something to distract myself), leaning over the bed during contractions, which were now too difficult to power through and continue with regular activity. They needed my attention, and my husband’s attention as he applied acupressure to my back. 
I called Lacey, my doula, on the way to the hospital (Swedish First Hill) and told her that I wasn’t sure if she should come yet, but to be on call. We arrived at the hospital shortly before 6:30 am. I had imagined that James and I would park the car together because I wouldn’t want to be left alone. But the pain was too much and I didn’t want to be in the car for one minute longer. As soon as we pulled up to the hospital, I jumped out and headed up to Triage. The nurse strapped two monitors on my belly, one to monitor the baby’s heart rate and one to monitor contractions. She checked my cervix and announced that I was dilated to 3 1/2 centimeters. Still in disbelief, I asked if that meant I was in active labor and she assured me I was. Relief swept over me, since the pain was intense and I couldn’t imagine what active labor would be like if I was still only in pre-labor. Not surprisingly, I was shocked that pre-labor had come and gone in less than two hours. Pre-labor for first-time moms is generally quite long. My cousin had given birth to her baby 8 weeks earlier and her pre-labor had lasted days. It seemed surreal, my baby was on her way. 
The bleeding was still making me nervous, but the nurse was not worried at all. She said it was completely normal and not an amount to cause concern. I tried to relax. We were waiting to be transferred to a birthing suite, which took longer than normal because there was a shift change for the nurses. James called my parents and Lacey, alerting the troops that I was in labor. We continued with the acupressure during contractions and I tried to get comfortable in the tiny curtained-off space in the Triage room. I was anxious to be moved to the birthing suite so that I could relax, sit on the birthing ball, or soak in the tub. Out of nowhere, I felt extremely nauseous and announced that I might throw up. One second later, the vomit came and James just barely caught it with the trash can. I’ve never gone from feeling nauseous to throwing up that quickly. 
As we were guided to our birthing suite, Lacey arrived. I didn’t know it was possible to get from West Seattle (where she lives) to First Hill so quickly. Labor was in full swing and I was finding that rocking back and forth was really helpful, I tried the birth ball for a minute but it was too big for me and difficult to stay on (should have brought mine from home). I rocked in the rocking chair through several contractions while I contemplated and discussed with my “support team” whether I should get in the tub now or later. I wanted and needed the hydrotherapy to manage the pain, but we were concerned that it would slow down the labor process since it was so early in the game. If you wait until you’re really in the throws of labor (dilated to 5-6 cm), there is no slowing it down. I chose not to wait since I was in so much pain, and I’m glad that I listened to my body. The nurse didn’t want to check my cervix at that point to see if I was already dilated to 5 cm (they try to check it as little as possible to avoid infection, not to mention the discomfort that it causes the already very uncomfortable laboring woman), but as it turned out, nothing was going to slow down my labor. 
Contractions were coming either 2-3 minutes apart, or sometimes, right on top of one another with little break in between. The stereo played my birthing mix playlist, which I had created a few weeks prior, continued to build upon up until the day before, and burned onto a CD during pre-labor at home. Lacey got out the essential oils for  aromatherapy, which was quite lovely. In between contractions, I managed to bring myself to such a state of relaxation that I was nearly falling asleep. I can remember praying for longer breaks, but they just kept coming. Lacey guided me into vocal breathing (deep inhale followed by a long, throaty exhale), which was effective as something to focus my attention on. Eventually, every contraction made me feel like I could not go on any longer. But during the break, I would re-charge and I knew that I had to keep going without any medication. James and Lacey faithfully sat next to the bath tub, encouraging and coaching me along. 
I couldn’t tell you how long I was in the tub, since time is irrelevant in labor land. But I would guess about 45 minutes to an hour. I decided to get out because I was shaking uncontrollably and could no longer bother being wet. The pain was so excruciating that all I could do was lie on my side on the bed. Relaxation between contractions was no longer possible. Not only was I violently shaking, but the pain did not stop when the contraction stopped, it lingered like a dull cramp. Little did I know that by this point, I was entering transition and getting very close to having a baby. This was when I started getting scared. I didn’t know how much longer I was going to be able to get through these contractions, I felt like I was about to die. I cried, I swore, and I wanted to give up. But there was no stopping, no turning back. Nothing could stop the pain except for finishing the race…or giving into the epidural. Now, I understand why the medication rate at Swedish is 80-90%. I had been fully committed to a natural birth since day one of my pregnancy, so there was no way that I could actually go through with an epidural, nor would my husband and my doula allow me to, no matter how badly I wanted it. And oh, I wanted it. I don’t know what I would have done without my support team. 
I knew that the transition phase of labor (when you are transitioning from active labor to pushing) would be the most difficult, and that it was during this phase that even the women most committed to a natural birth would scream for the epidural. And by that point, it is usually too late to get one. I wish I had known that transition was happening as it would have been so much more bearable to have the end in sight, but it is impossible to know. Especially in my case since my labor moved so incredibly fast. Here is what birthingnaturally.net has to say about transition:
You will recognize transition by the desire to give up. This is when women claim they just can’t do it anymore. Most women begin to doubt their ability to go on, and may seem to forget that they are in labor to give birth to a baby. This is also the time in labor when most women ask for something to help them with the pain. 
I got through each contraction during transition by practicing patterned breathing – pant, pant, blow. It was at this point that the hospital staff insisted on giving me an IV to prevent dehydration. I do NOT like IV’s (I had a bad experience with an IV at just 6 years old) and it was in my birth plan that I wanted to avoid one unless completely necessary. I feel like I could have just as easily drank a glass of water to rehydrate, but at the time, I did not care and I did not have the energy to resist. I found out later that it’s pretty difficult to avoid having an IV if you are to give birth in a hospital, since they want to be prepared for any possible scenario. I will never know if the extra hydration helped during those last minutes of labor, but I suppose that it didn’t hurt.
The doctor came in around that time and told me I could expect a baby in about an hour and a half. I didn’t know how I could possibly last another hour and a half without passing out. And I didn’t need to, since she arrived about 30 minutes later. I didn’t even think to say anything the first time I felt the urge to push, since it seemed too early and I was in disbelief as to what I was feeling. The urge became stronger with the next contraction. Unsure, I said, “I think I am feeling the urge to push?” The nurse checked my cervix and I rejoiced in the next words, “yes, you’re dilated to 10 centimeters and we’re ready to push.” The doctor was paged back to the room and the rest happened in what felt like the blink of an eye. In reality, I pushed for about 20 minutes. Although it felt like my pelvis was splitting open, I focused on letting go and relaxing my perineal muscles. I knew that it would take a lot longer for her to get through the birth canal if I was tense. During the weeks following up to labor, I had purchased and repeatedly listened to Penny Simkin’s Relaxation for Childbirth CD in which she guides you into a deep state of relaxation by consciously releasing each body part, starting with your toes and ending with your face. She instructs you to “focus on your buttocks and perineum, your pelvic floor. This area especially needs to be relaxed during birth. You need to yield as the baby presses down the birth canal and slides out to your waiting arms. Think soft and yielding as you picture yourself giving birth.” 
James told me he could see the head, which was encouraging. The baby’s heart rate started to drop and the nurse told me I really needed to get the baby out. Reminded and inspired by my mother’s story of my own birth (The umbilical chord was tied in a knot, so when I descended down the birth canal the knot tightened and my oxygen supply diminished, sending me into distress. The midwife told my mom, “you better push this baby out NOW.” She pushed so hard that she was left with dark bruises around her eyes.), I knew I could push her out during the next contraction. I harnessed every last ounce of energy in my being and I was rewarded by the sensation of a tiny little body sliding out of my body. 
Finally, the pain was gone. I never changed positions, so I gave birth lying on my side. I sat up immediately to see where my baby had gone. The doctor was suctioning her mouth and nose. She was alive, well and squirming. Then, she was in my arms. She had round cheeks and lots of dark brown hair. I barely knew how to hold her, yet I knew that I never wanted to let her go.
Labor was the most primal event of my life. Inhibitions were out the window. I didn’t care if I was naked, groaning, moaning, crying or swearing. All I could think of was getting through the next (or current) contraction. My water broke shortly before 4:30 am and Giovanna Faith Robinson entered this world at 9:38 am, just over 5 hours later. To put that into perspective, most first time mom’s have an average active labor (not including pre-labor) of 12 hours and push for an average of 1 hour. I will attribute my unusually quick and uncomplicated labor to good luck as well as my support team (husband and doula) and my commitment to my very own “pre-birth training program.” This included prenatal yoga at least twice a week through out pregnancy and daily starting about 3 weeks before my due date, perineal massage and stretching, kegels, practicing deep relaxation, pregnancy massages, drinking 2-3 cups per day of specially formulated herbal pregnancy tea to tone and strengthen the uterus, taking 3 gel capsules per day of Evening Primrose Oil to ripen the cervix, plenty of walks, practicing acupressure with James, childbirth classes with James, and lots of reading and research about pain management, the labor process, and other women’s natural birth stories. 
I wanted to know what childbirth felt like – the pain, the agony and the joy. And now I do. Giving birth naturally was one of the most physically challenging yet empowering events of my life. I have joined the ranks of all the billions of women who have given birth since the beginning of time without the help of drugs. I recognize my incredible strength as a woman, and I am proud. Now, I will channel this strength into becoming the best mother that I can be to this precious little baby who has completely stolen my heart away. Let the journey begin…

If you or someone you know is pregnant and looking for a doula (a labor support person) in the Seattle area, I highly recommend Lacey Jenkins. Visit her website at http://www.curadoulasupport.com/.
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