Birth Stories: Samuel

Valerie, of Atlanta Mom of Three,  found me through my dear friend Mary Susan’s blog, Oh Bless Your Heart  and volunteered to share her birth story. This is her third birth and her first all natural, unmedicated birth. I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to share her story!  This is from her blog post about his birth which can be found here. She wrote it as a letter to Samuel.

Want to share a birth story? Click on the “want to share your birth story” text to the right! I fervently believe that sharing narratives about birth demystifies and normalizes it, empowering women to make educated choices as a result. Now, without further ado, Valerie:

My little baby is turning ONE tomorrow!! And so I have, of course, been thinking about his birth. His was my first all natural childbirth. With Maggie and Joshua I had an epidural (as well as pain meds with Maggie). I knew I didn’t want to go that route again. By the time I felt Samuel kick for the first time (around 17 weeks), I had read and researched enough to know that I wanted to have him without medical interference or pain management of any kind. And wasn’t I smart to do it with my third baby (since he was bound to come fast)? ;)

I wrote this to him a few days after we got home from the hospital.

On Thursday morning at 10:30 I had my 39 week visit with Katie, one of my midwives. She offered to sweep my membranes and we both felt that it couldn’t hurt, since it would really only “send me over” if my body was truly ready. She checked my cervix first and found that I had dilated since last week from 3cm to 4cm- I was so excited! She did the sweep and we crossed our fingers.
We got back home at noon and I hadn’t felt anything but a few braxton hicks. I had lunch and did some things around the house. At 2:15 I reclined on the sofa and took about a 45 minute nap. I woke up to a moderately painful contraction, which gave me a tiny bit of hope that maybe something was going to happen. For the next little while I stayed on the couch having these contractions. Because of all the braxton hicks I’d had this pregnancy, I wasn’t timing them, just observing. Short– I knew they were too short to be labor contractions. Too close together too soon– labor contractions are supposed to get closer together over time. Manageable– No way were these intense labor pains, more like strong menstrual cramps.
At 3:30, I started timing them. They were indeed short: 30-35 seconds long, and 3-5 minutes apart. I decided that I would call your Aunt Natalie just to be on the safe side since they weren’t letting up no matter what position I got into, and they were still hurting. I asked her if she would come over for dinner, that way she’d be here to stay with your brother and sister if we did need to go to the hospital or just have a nice visit if we didn’t (I still felt unlikely at this point, but I couldn’t ignore the nagging feeling I had that I make sure she came over anyway). She said she could be over by 5:00.
When I got off the phone I called your Daddy. I didn’t want to get him too excited so I didn’t say anything about the contractions or about my sister coming over. He said he was on his way home from work. Oh my goodness, I was so relieved!
My contractions were still the same, short and close together. I didn’t know what to do at this point. Should I take it easy or do some walking? I posted this question on my due date club message board, but as soon as I posted it, I realized I didn’t want to wait for responses. So I popped in my Leslie Sansone power walking dvd and started walking! I fast walked (plus sidestepped, knee-lifted, and kicked), with remote in hand. Every 3 minutes I had to pause it, sit on the couch and breathe through the contraction. Total, I exercised for 21 minutes at which point I had to stop because it was getting too intense (This took me a little over 40 minutes to do because of all the breaks).
Daddy got home and I told him what was going on, so he took a shower and got ready in the event that things progressed. Natalie arrived and by this time I was hurting worse with each contraction, and they were more like 45 seconds long. On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being the most painful), they were like a 4.5. At 5:30 she left to pick up dinner for the four of them. While she was gone the pain picked up significantly. By 6:00 I was squatting/kneeling while hanging my arms from the kitchen counter and semi-moaning through the pain, which was now about a 6 on the pain scale. She got back and they all ate. I had two small pieces of buttered french bread , because now I knew for sure that I was in labor and I would need the energy. At 6:10 the contractions were so intense that I was instructing Daddy to load the car and “We need to leave NOW!!” I called the doctor’s after hours number and told them quickly what was going on. We kissed your brother and sister goodbye and I assured them that this was not a false alarm and I would soon have you-their new little brother!
When we got in the car at 6:20, one of the midwives called me back and I told her we were on our way to the hospital. She heard me have a contraction while on the phone and I’m sure it was very evident that I was really laboring. The ride to the hospital was both short and long; short because I was so distracted by the contractions (which were now only a minute or two apart and about a 7 on the pain scale), and long because I felt like things were happening too fast and I just wanted to be there instead of giving birth in the car! The last few contractions that I had before getting there actually made me begin to cry when they were done. That was a weird sensation because I didn’t feel sad. I guess it was an overwhelmed cry.
When we arrived at the hospital I knew for a fact that I couldn’t walk (and I have NEVER felt that before) so Daddy pulls up to the door, runs in and comes back out with a wheelchair. He gets me out, helps me into the wheelchair and goes to park the car. As soon as he pulled away, another contraction hit hard and I had to brace myself with the arms of the wheelchair and moan/deep breathe through it. Well, when it ends I look up and see a man, looking very concerned walking toward me from a group of four people (all equally looking freaked out). I then realize how it must look: dropped off in full-blown labor, and the guy drives away! Haha. So he comes over and asks me if I’m ok and and I say “No, I’m in labor, but I will be ok. My husband has just gone to park the car.” He looks at me like he’s wondering if it’s true! Well, here comes Daddy walking toward us and I see relief on the man’s face. Lol
Daddy quickly takes me into the hospital and we turn the corner to where the ALWAYS empty elevators are. But there are, like, seven people standing there waiting for it! What?! The elevator doors open and everyone gets on. There is one spot left. As we are walking toward the door to get on too, a woman with a cart of some sort starts to walk faster toward it (as if to beat us there!) Daddy goes “Sorry lady, woman in labor here!” and gets us on instead. Go Stephen!
While going up three floors, I have another contraction in a FULL elevator. If I hadn’t been hurting so much (an 8 at this point on the pain scale) I might have been embarrased-but I assure you, I was not.
So we get to the maternity floor. Doors open and I kid you not, it was full of people when it is normally very light. I am STARED at and then, of course, another giant contraction! It was like the parting of the Red Sea in there with nearly every person watching us go by! Lol
We get to the nurses station and they very quickly put us in our room which had been prepared since the midwife called about us coming in advance. I get changed into a gown, and she checks me (in between contractions) and I am 8cm dilated! No wonder the pain is an 8, right?! My arm band says we got there at 7:09 pm. I let them hook me up to the monitors but I couldn’t stay on my back for long because it was just too intense and I needed to feel like I had some control. They put the squat bar on the bed for me and I was able to kneel on the bed and grip the bar (and hang on it between contractions). The contractions were now very, very close together and a 9 on the pain scale. I started having the very real thought that “I cannot do this!” Which, I then remembered reading means you are almost done!! So after each one, I would think it and then I would remember that I AM doing it and that I’m almost done. At 7:30 she checks me again and I am a 9 with an anterior lip (meaning just a tiny bit more of the cervix needs to go). I stayed in the position I was in at the bar for about ten more minutes and then I start feeling the need to push . I ask her to check me again because I want to push, but do it safely. She checks and tells me to go ahead. I waited until the next contraction and pushed. Your head came down fast and it really burned, but as soon as the contraction ended, you went back in a little bit. I pushed one more time in that position, but then my legs were feeling really uncomfortable and everyone helped me onto my side. This felt much better. I grabbed the sidebar to brace myself and with the next few contractions, I pushed. I was making progress. A few more and then my water broke. Then the doctor encouraged me to push again with the next one but to continue holding the push for longer if I could. So that’s exactly what I did. I gave it everything I had and out came your head! She had to manuever one of your shoulders a little but then she asked me to push again. The rest of you came out! You were born at 8:08 pm- 59 minutes after arriving at the hospital.
The doctor placed you on me immediately following the birth. You was an 8/9 using the afterbirth rating system they go by. They suctioned your mouth and nose and you began to cry loudly. Daddy cut the cord. After holding you for a few minutes more, a nurse checked you over in the baby warmer with Daddy standing right there with you. I delivered the placenta (wow! was that thing big!) I had requested no episiotomy in my birth plan, and I did end up tearing; she said it was a second degree tear, so I had to get stitches. When she was finished with me, and the baby nurse was finished as well, I was handed little Samuel Frederick. You weighed 7lbs12oz and measured 20 inches long. I nursed you for the first time and it went great; you latched right on.
All in all, it couldn’t have gone much better. The timing of Daddy and Aunt Natalie being there was perfect! My labor and delivery was very intense but I am so happy that I was able to have the natural childbirth that I wanted, and you were brought into the world with no drugs whatsoever. The only thing I wish could have been different is that we had been there in time for me to receive antiobiotics for the GBS. Because we weren’t there in time, you and I had to stay for two days instead of one. But, on the other hand, it was very nice to spend so much of my time at home where I was free to move how I needed to without any interference while laboring.

Thank you again, Valerie, for sharing your birth story. I am so glad that Samuel came when he did and that you and he fared well!

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Moms, you have rights!

Hello, all! It’s been awhile. I wanted to write a quick note to say this blog is still active and I’m going to post more birth stories and resources very soon!

I wanted to address something I see in a lot of birth stories. In our society, women are largely brought up to please others. In addition, we are also often raised to follow what people in authority say without questioning or saying “no.”

Moms, I am here to say that you have the right to say “no.” You can say no to your doctor, your husband/partner, your mother in law, your mom, anyone who tries to direct your birth in a way you do not want. YOU are the momma here.

You have the right to ask for space. If you don’t want someone in the room with you, send them away. As I have said before to pregnant women, you are the most important one. You are two (or more!) people together. You are a sacred vessel. You are the most important. If feelings are hurt, you can work it out after the baby is here.

You have the right to be informed. You can research the heck out of things. Get second and third opinions. Get access to your tests and labs. Ask your OB or midwife questions. Get answers from others. Go to childbirth classes. Read books. Practice comfort measures. Your knowledge beforehand can be your biggest strength.

You have the right to change care providers. For serious. If you feel your needs are not best met by your current OB or midwife, you can get a new one. In fact, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your baby is make sure you and your care provider are on the same page. As I go forth in my training as a doula, I’ll write a post about interviewing and choosing a care provider.

You have the right to seek the wisdom of others. Part of the reason I want to post birth stories — good, bad, indifferent– is to look at common threads. Stories give us power. We can say “Well, this is something they did that worked.” we can also say “Well, this is something I definitely don’t want to try.” Many people seem to think keeping women in the dark about this topic — because it can be scary — is the best way to go. I think further mystifying birth in order to protect women actually has the opposite effect. We share our strength when we share our stories. We take these narratives in as a part of ourselves. We learn from them. And they make us powerful.

Most of all, remember that you are your own best advocate. YOU know exactly what you want. YOU know when you are uncomfortable with proceedings. YOU are the sacred vessel here, remember?

Birth Stories: Rachel

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!