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my first birth experience

June 13, 2011

Thinking about my new baby’s impending birth has made me reflect on the birth of my first born.  I love reading birth stories but have never written my own so I thought I would write a proper birth story, at least as I remember it four years later.

Throughout my pregnancy I read as many birth stories as I could (I especially loved Ina May Gaskin’s books) and watched tons of birthing shows on TV. I wanted to be as well informed as possible. I hired a doula in hopes that I would succeed in the natural birth I was determined to have. Overall I felt very confident and excited to give birth, almost fearless.

My last day of work was about a week and half before my due date. My job at that time was much more physical than my current position and I was lucky to be able to keep up with my standard activities without any pain or discomfort. I felt as though I could continue to work, but was looking forward to a little time to prepare for the baby and pamper myself. I had a massage scheduled for Monday, the first official day of my maternity leave.

At my 38 week appointment I was 2-3 cm, almost fully effaced, and the head was “right there.” I was excited about the progress, but none the less prepared to go past my due date as many first time mothers do. We had bought a car seat but it was still sitting in the box. I was trying to avoid the anxious misery I had seen so many other pregnant women endure at the end of their pregnancies.

After my last day of work, I felt great and amazingly calm throughout the weekend. My husband and I spent a lot of quality time together and nice weather allowed us to take some long walks around town. Sunday night I did not sleep very well. When I dragged myself out of bed on Monday morning I ate breakfast and took my dog for a 2.5 mile walk. After the walk I ran out to grab a couple essentials at the health food store and cards to write thank-you notes for my work shower.

While I was paying for the thank-you cards I felt a gush and thought to myself that it could have been my water breaking. I calmly drove home. Looking back I am amazed how I was able to stay so relaxed. When I got home I checked out the situation and changed, then immediately had another gush. I felt confident that it was my water at that point, and called my husband. I told him that “I thought I was leaking” and he immediately said “I’ll be right home.” After I hung up with him I called my doctor’s office who told me to come right in. When my husband got home we got our hospital bags, took the car seat out of the box, and put everything in the trunk.

The doctor confirmed that it was certainly my water breaking and sent me on to the hospital. On the way to the hospital I felt no contraction but did begin to get a little nervous. I cancelled my massage appointment and texted a few close friends and family to let them know my water broke and I was on my way to have a baby!

At the hospital the midwife hooked me up to see if I was having contractions and started an IV of antibiotics since I had tested positive for Group B strep. My husband called the doula, who was seemingly annoyed that we were already at the hospital, and told us to call her again in a while. I was pretty upset with her reaction and told my husband I wasn’t even sure I wanted her to be at the birth. The nurse (who was incredibly awesome) asked me what my plans were for pain, and I told her I wanted to avoid pain medication. She immediately said “No problem, I won’t ask again. If you change your mind, let me know.”

I was having some contractions but I was not feeling anything. We walked around for a while and watched TV. After the antibiotics were finished they started me on Pitocin. I had wanted to avoid Pitocin but went along with the recommendation.

Even with the Pitocin I wasn’t feeling much pain, the contractions were like mild menstrual cramps. I was checked and was at 5 cm. The Pitocin was increased and a while later my doctor said she was going to break my last pocket of waters. After that, the pain really started.

Matt called the doula when he saw me in much more pain. She was again sort of snarky and assumed that I had gotten an epidural, which I had not. Anyhow, she said she would be there soon.

While it was a long time ago now, I clearly remember relishing in the moments between contractions. The doctor and nurse were amazed that I was still laughing and smiling in between contractions. Matt loved the monitor, so he could be prepared to give me support as soon as a contraction started. I really wanted to lie on my side. My doctor kept trying to get me to move since the baby was having some decelerations, but I kept turning back to my comfortable position.

When the doula got there she asked if I brought food to “sneak” and tried to get me to get out of bed but honestly I didn’t want to do either. I was content on my side with ice chips.

A little while later I felt like I had to pee and Matt came with me. There was some blood when I peed, and the nurse and doula said that was a good sign. I went back and forth between lying on my side and the bathroom for a while. During one trip to the bathroom I told my husband that I didn’t know if I could do it without pain medication.  When I came back out the doula made her biggest contribution by repeating “as soon as you feel like you can’t do it anymore, it’s almost over.” It really was exactly what I needed to hear.

About three hours after the major pain started the doctor came in and said she wanted to check me again. I was almost complete! She told me to push a little on my next contraction to open up that last lip of cervix. The nurse started preparing for deliver and asked the doctor if she wanted the lights turned up. The doctor immediately told her to leave them low.

The doctor told me to start pushing when I felt contractions and I became so focused on the pushing process I stopped feeling contractions. I don’t remember how long I pushed for but I think it was less than 15 minutes until I heard the sweet sound of my baby boy. I exclaimed “I feel so much better now!” My boy was small (5lbs 7 oz) but absolutely perfect. The hubs cut the cord and then the babe was put back on my chest. The doula took a bunch of pictures with my camera and said goodbye. The doctor encouraged me to try nursing, and after a couple moments of finding his way my new son was nursing like a champ.  The nurse told me I did a great job and told me to call her when I decided to do it again, she’d like to be there. J

My husband was the only male in the room throughout my labor and delivery. My young female ob had most recently given birth only six months before, and the nurse and doula had multiple children as well. I was very lucky to have a wonderful medical team. I felt great after the birth; I had a tiny tear that did not even require stitches. I was offered motrin but refused and laughed that I certainly did not need anything for pain at that point.

I don’t remember delivering the placenta but I remember the doctor pushing on my stomach a lot. Unfortunately I ended up hemorrhaging a couple weeks later due to retained placenta and had an emergency d & c and ended up with second degree anemia from the blood loss.

Overall I had a good first birth experience. The post-partum hemorrhage was scary and left me extremely exhausted while caring for my newborn. I also wonder how the pain would have been different without pitocin or having that last pocket of water broken, and how much longer my labor would have been without any interventions.

This time around, I am more fearful than I was the first time, though I am hoping to conquer my fear through rereading my birth books and meditation. I am hoping to avoid all interventions this time and plan to pay more attention to the placenta delivery. I have toyed with the idea of switching practices so that I can be guaranteed that a female midwife will attend my birth. I love the two female doctors at my current practice but there is no guarantee that one of them will deliver me. The male doctors are plenty nice but I don’t think I would have the same sense of comfort and support with them at my birth.

The hospital I delivered at last time has an excellent children’s hospital, so I know I am committed to delivering there again, since everyone’s health is my first priority. There are no hospital-connected or freestanding birth centers near me, and I live too far away from a hospital to be comfortable with a home birth.

At this point I don’t think I’ll hire a doula but am not sure. I wish I knew a doula personally who I was already somewhat connected to. While my doula made some great contributions last time, I did not feel like she was an essential part of the process. However if I stick with my current practice, I may end up with a male doctor and a male nurse, in which case I may want someone who’s been there and done that in the room with me. Of course I don’t know that a male birth team would be different or worse, but I do know that I was grateful for my all female team last time.

If you made it through all of that I applaud you! If you’ve given birth, what would you do the same or differently?

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