Part of my blog will involve posting birth stories. These may be women who chose to have doulas, women who did not, women who had great birth experiences, and women who did not have great experiences. Part of this reason is because I believe it is cathartic for a woman to relive her birth, and part of it is because I want women to know every birth story is different and yet the same. There are so many things that can happen in birth, some good, some bad, some neither. Through the sharing of stories, though, we are empowered to look past the societal narrative to the possibility of a birth free of fear and full of strength.
So, without further ado, I’d like to share Rachel’s story. Rachel and I have known each other for a long time and I was so happy to hear she hired a doula for her birth. Take it away, Rachel!
A couple of months into my pregnancy, I started to feel the Lord leading me to the idea of a natural, unmedicated birth. The more and more I researched about it, the more I felt like the presence of a doula would help me to accomplish that goal. A big factor in having a natural birth is the length of time that you labor while at the hospital (the longer you are there, the harder it can be to avoid the temptation of an epidural). Having a doula come to your home while you are in labor is a good idea, because she can help you decide when you actually need to go to the hospital. Also, I have a history of back problems, and knew that having someone familiar with birth would be beneficial to helping me get in different positions, etc, that I might not think about in the moment. My husband also liked the idea of having someone there to reinforce his presence, and help him to know what to do.
I had my last appointment on my due date. My OB had been concerned about the size of my baby (possibly too small), and had hoped that she would have come by then. Since she had not, my doctor decided to induce the next morning. I was devastated, because being induced makes it really hard to have a natural birth (not impossible, but harder). I was 3 ½ cm dilated and 75% effaced… which is what I had been for over a week. I had been having some irregular contractions. Around 1pm that afternoon, they became consistent, and happened every 10 minutes. I was afraid to get my hopes up, because I’d had some false labor before. By 8:30 that night, they had still been coming, and were getting closer together, while lasting longer. I got in the bathtub, and my husband called the doula (Laura) to let her know. She said to let her know when I was ready for her. By 10:30 they were five minutes apart, lasting about a minute each… and getting pretty intense! We called Laura, and she was on her way. I was still in the bathtub when she arrived, and she would lean over and press on my hips during a contraction, which really helped. After awhile I got out and walked around. When a contraction came, I would lean on Adam, and Laura would stand behind me and put that pressure on my hips and lower back. We also tried being on all fours, and sitting on my bouncing ball. We alternated between those different positions (walking, all fours, and bouncing ball). She thought I could probably stay at home a little longer, but could tell we were getting anxious, so she suggested that we head to the hospital. Once there, I was checked and learned that I was 5cm dilated and fully effaced. I was a little discouraged that I hadn’t dilated more than that, but still happy that at least I was a 4 or more (otherwise, they won’t admit you). It was around 1AM at this point.
Laura was a huge advocate for me and Adam. I did not want an IV because it is harder to move around and do things naturally with an IV attached. She helped convince the nurse to just put a heplock in my hand, so that they would still have easy access in an emergency. She also got me permission to get in the shower. In there, she used the handheld shower head to put hot water pressure on my lower back, which helped tremendously!
About an hour after I was admitted, my doctor checked me and I was dilated to a 7 – which was very encouraging to me! At this point, she decided to break my water. Soon after, I started having the urge to push, but I was only at an 8, so I was told not to. If you push before your body is ready your cervix can swell, which can cause an emergency situation. However, the rest of my body was not on the same page, so having the urge to push without being “allowed” to was extremely difficult. I would say hands down, it was the most difficult part of my labor. They wanted me to lay on my side to help monitor the baby during this time. Laura tried helping my leg get into a position to push it instead of the baby, but it was still very hard and painful. This lasted about an hour. Finally the doctor checked me again, and said I could “gently” (HA!) push because I had a cervical lip. As I pushed, she corrected the lip, and finally it was time to REALLY push. At this point I was afraid, because I was tired and in a lot of pain and not sure how much longer this would all last (which is kind of scary, because not even the doctor can really know for sure!) After each push, I felt like I was going to pass out because when pushing, you hold your breath and are completely bearing down. That was not a good feeling! I pushed for about 15 minutes, and she came out! It was very surreal, and crazy! I was in shock, and so happy. The pain went instantly away just seeing her
I know, without a doubt, that I could not have done it naturally without Laura’s presence. Adam and I both agree that having her there felt like having a “middle man” between us and the staff. We didn’t have to worry about trying to put our foot down about anything (there are many things that we felt strongly about) – we just focused on getting the baby out, and trusted that she would do anything in her power to get to that point naturally. Having her come to our home while I was in labor was a huge relief. We probably would have gone to the hospital a lot sooner, and would possibly have been sent home – which would have been discouraging, and might have even slowed things down. With her, we ended up only being at the hospital for 3 hours before Olivia was born – which was amazing. She helped us feel reassured about the natural process of childbirth, and Adam felt like he was able to focus on the actual birth, instead of being stressed about minor things. He felt more calm with her there.
Hooray Rachel!!!! I love that she not only managed to avoid an induction, but also was able to deliver vaginally with a cervical lip (IT CAN BE DONE!). Check with your doula about how she will work in the birthing room. Some doulas act as vocal advocates like Rachel’s doula, and others may work more behind the scenes, talking to parents who then talk to the hospital staff. Let’s keep these stories coming!