My daughter is six months already! I thought I’d have this posted earlier, but then I realized how much work a baby is :)
Going home from work on Tuesday, June 15th, I called my mom. I just felt this strong desire to tell her how much I appreciate her and how much I love her. My mom was a single mom for most of my childhood. She has been so supportive of me throughout my life. She even paid for my Hypnobabies course! When I cried on the phone (grateful tears for her sacrifices throughout my life and hopeful tears that I could be such a good mom), she asked, “Are you having symptoms of labor?” I had only been feeling a bit nauseated and uncomfortable while sitting but not felt like I’d any pressure waves yet. But my mom knew something was up.
Then my water broke at about 1am. I was asleep next to my husband and felt a gush all of a sudden. I hopped up to the bathroom…very excited. I brought a towel back to the bed. I knew we were in for a long day, so I tried to sleep but couldn’t. Ben noticed and asked me if I was okay. “You’re not going to work today,” I told him, “my water broke.” He said, “I think you should really try to sleep.” I wasn’t having pressure waves yet, so it should have been easier for me to sleep…but I was too excited. I sat in the living room for a while and read from a novel (American Gods by Neil Gaiman).
I dozed on and off until Ben woke up again soon after sunrise. We decided to go to the grocery store to get supplies before going to the hospital. By this time, I was having regular pressure waves (every 6 minutes or so). I was in “center” and still very comfortable.
When we got to the hospital, I was sure that they would be surprised at how far along I was. But triage was not a good place for me. You don’t really need a bubble of peace for this part, since everything turned out alright. It was just a place of saying “no” to a lot of interventions.
First, the midwife in triage did not believe that my water had broken. So they did a swab test twice. And they called in a doctor to do an ultrasound to measure the fluid level. They saw that I was having pressure waves, but they measured me as only 1cm dilated. This doctor just happened to be the same doctor who saw me once at the midwife practice (because the midwives and doctors were “cross-training”) and at that visit had tried to convince me that my baby was measuring too small (baby turned out to be 8lbs 10oz!) and that I should go back on the anti-anxiety drugs that I had weaned-off of early in the pregnancy because I wanted my daughter to be drug-free. She suggested this at 30-some weeks! At that point, I wouldn’t see any benefit since the drug takes time to build to effective levels. Needless to say, I didn’t have a lot of confidence in her.
When they finally decided that my water had broken, they told me that I would be admitted. At this point, Ben and I just really wanted to get to the room so we could focus and be quiet together. Before we left triage, the midwife there told me that the doctor would want to start pitocin since my water had been broken for so long (about 8 hours at that point). A second midwife (the one who would be following us “on the floor”) introduced herself and interjected, “but you want a water birth, and you can’t have that with pitocin since because you have to be continuously monitored. Maybe you want to try another drug that will augment labor. It is inserted rather than put into an IV.” She was talking about Cytotec. I was angry that they would be pushing this. I don’t remember exactly what Ben said, but it was something about how we would want to hear the benefits and risks of that when the time came for us to decide but that the time wasn’t now. We just really wanted to get back to the room to do the birth our way.
All this time, I had been receiving IV fluids because the baby’s heart rate was elevated. I drained three bags of fluid in the time we were in triage, so it does seem like I was dehydrated. At the same time, I felt like the medical staff were using the baby’s heart rate as emotional leverage to get us to consider interventions. I was definitely feeling the pressure to do what is right for the baby, and they kept pointing to the monitor when we discussed this. Because of my Hypnobabies training, I was confident that an intervention-free birth would be better for my baby, so I was able to resist this emotional blackmail. Having my husband there and informed about the issue made me feel more confident about this, too. Finally, the baby’s heart rate improved to the point that the medical staff were comfortable in getting us out of triage and to the room. The “floor midwife” told us that the doctor (not the triage doctor but the one on the floor) was willing to let us do our thing until 6pm. At that point, they would want to see significant progress.
We got back to the room and started our CD (the one that the partners listen to early on but that pregnant women aren’t supposed to listen to until birthing day) Editors note: Easy First Stage. We walked around a lot. Ben got some lunch at one point. I was still very comfortable but feeling the pressure of time. Pressure waves got a lot stronger, and we tried to focus on the fact that this was bringing our baby closer. At one point, my mom arrived during a pressure wave, when my switch was off. I opened my eyes to see her sitting on the couch (at this point I was sitting on my side on the bed). I was so happy to see her. We walked the hall once with her, and she watched as Ben held me during my pressure waves. Later, she told Ben’s mom how proud she was of the way we worked together and how much she appreciated Ben’s support of me.
Mom didn’t stay in the room long. She went out to the waiting room and sent Ben’s folks back. I think it was at this point that I puked. It was sort of embarrassing. I had just eaten a little from a turkey sandwich, and I got kind of scared of eating for a few hours. However, I puked again (after not having any food for a while), and took this as a sign that it wasn’t the food making me sick (something I knew already on an intellectual level).
I got in and out of the shower and kept walking. I found that I could receive visitors best when on the birth ball and leaning over the bed. I’m a very private person, and I felt uncomfortable letting people see my “pressure wave face.” (It was a relaxed face, and having people see it made me feel vulnerable since only my husband and our teacher had been with me when I was that relaxed.) I vocalized a lot with deep hums. My older sister called from D.C. She encouraged me in my work for a natural birth.
At 6pm, I think I was at 3 or 4cm. This was satisfactory enough, since no one mentioned augmentation of labor after that. All of this time, our bedside nurse had been amazing. She kept bringing water and put the monitor on for brief moments periodically, but other than that she left us alone. The times when she arrived when I was “off”, she waited until I opened my eyes back in center. She was quiet and so respectful of our practice.
Our midwife was also wonderful. We were sad to see her go at the end of the shift. She told us that she wished she could have spent more time in the room, but that her practice had many women giving birth that night and that the others were having more interventions and thus needed more monitoring. She said that she got into midwifery in order to assist the births that were like mine, but that she spent more time managing medical births. She wished that more women could be informed and prepared for natural birth like us. Such is the life of a Certified Nurse Midwife in a hospital-based practice.
I was nervous and asked if the oncoming midwife had read our birthplan. This midwife assured us that she had, and that the oncoming midwife valued natural birth and had given birth naturally twice herself.
We met the second midwife and continued our practice, knowing that we could get in the water birth tub at 5cm. She measured me after 9pm and found that I was at 5cm. They got the tub ready. At around 10pm, I got in the tub. Ben got in with me and held me for one powerful pressure wave. When I felt the second wave in the water, I leaned forward into a squatting position and started to make a very loud guttural noise. It wasn’t like the quiet and smiling births I saw on YouTube, but it was something I felt I had to do. I think it scared Ben, since he hopped out of the tub and ran to call the midwife. She came in to check me and said, “You’re going to have the baby soon. You can push with the next contraction.” I had gone from 5cm to fully dilated in less than twenty minutes.
The midwife and the evening nurse stayed at the side of the tub. Ben stayed near my head, encouraging me and keeping the CD going. My pressure waves felt very powerful. I felt very tired. At this point, I had been awake for over twenty hours and had been feeling pressure waves all day. I was scared that I wouldn’t be strong enough. It felt so good to hear Kerry’s voice telling me that I and my baby are strong. I kept repeating this and became convinced that we could do this. My midwife also repeated to me that I and my baby are strong and that we were doing well.
Because the tub was not deep enough, I had to be in the position of lying back rather than squatting. I feel that I may have had less time in this phase if I had been able to squat. I spent more than two hours in this intense phase in the tub. My throat felt so raw the next day from the deep guttural noises I made during that time. They were like something primal…an energy pushing through me but not entirely “of” me. I tend to be a quiet person and was initially embarrassed about this. But, thinking about it since then, I realize that not everyone has a quiet birth and that these vocalizations were natural for me at this powerful time.
I was getting frustrated because the pushes did not seem to be bringing my baby closer. My midwife said, “just two more pushes” more than once…maybe for more than an hour. Finally, Ben said, “She has so much hair! Can Sarah reach down and feel her hair?” And the midwife said, “Of course!” I reached down to feel my baby’s hair and found more strength and patience. Ben said that her hair was just flowing in the tub.
At first, I regretted that my eyes were closed when my daughter was born. I felt her emerge, all the way from her head to her toes. It was 12:53am. I opened my eyes when they put her on my chest. She was so beautiful! Her eyes were open, and she seemed so alert. She didn’t cry. When Ben touched our heads, it felt like we were the only people in the whole world. I knew at that moment that my husband and I could do anything together, since we had done this together. Our midwife and nurse waited for a while to clamp the cord, since this was in the birth plan. Ben cut the cord, and I said, “now your life apart from me begins.” I was both sad and happy.
I wonder if my daughter took so long (almost 24hours from water breaking to birth) because I was such a happy pregnant woman and told everyone that I wouldn’t mind carrying her for an extra week or two. I still miss having her safely tucked in my womb, but I’m so happy to see her and watch her grow and change. I don’t regret anymore that I had my eyes closed. I think those last few moments were mostly between me and her, and that closing my eyes and vocalizing was my way of connecting to my daughter as she traveled the last bit of her birth journey.
My daughter chose her birth date to be almost on her expected date. She would have been born on the expected date if not for daylight savings time. Ben called his folks and found out that our mothers were still in the waiting room. We were surprised because we hadn’t seen them for many hours. After I delivered the placenta and got into bed, Ben called our moms to come back. I got to hold and breastfeed our beautiful girl right away. The grandmas followed us to our post-partum room and helped us get settled.
Hypnobabies gave me the information I needed for the birth I wanted. It provided Ben and me with the practice time so that we were partners with the same goal in mind when the time came to make decisions. I am so grateful for this birth experience.