Birth Story: Ryan

{second child, unmedicated hospital birth}

My second child was conceived on or around July 19th, 2014. I was 37 years old, my husband, David, 44 years old, and my daughter, Sara, 6 years old.

The first 3 months were the hardest with battling nausea, tiredness, and dwindling anxiety. By the second trimester I was ready to start thinking about the birth plan. After much thought, discussion, and research, our plan was to deliver the baby in the hospital with as little intervention as possible. We decided to hire a doula (which we didn’t do for the first child). I switched to a new OB/GYN practice at 18 weeks for several reasons: proximity to home, doctors were all female, and they had a rotating midwife. I felt more informed and in control with this pregnancy – I knew more what to expect.

Getting closer to the third trimester I had an in-depth conversation with Chantal (my doula) about pain relief during labor. How could I manage without an epidural? Could I change my mind when I got to the hospital and get the epidural if needed? Chantal reassured me that she would support me either way. I could wait and see. With my first child I was induced and had an epidural. I feared the unknown.

I was motivated to have an epidural-free birth at a hospital even though it was uncommon. I knew all the benefits and I wanted to be able to feel myself pushing and reduce the chance for a C-section. I also was determined to go into labor naturally and not be induced. So I continued to read, listen to relaxation birth CD’s, and talk to others who had unmedicated births. I had a birth plan in writing but knew it could change at any time once labor began.

At my 39 week doctor visit, I was 70% effaced, 3 cm dilated, and the obstetrician did an “aggressive sweep” of my membranes. It resulted in bloody discharge and cramping. I felt violated and emotionally unstable because the doctor did not tell me she was going to do this. I was not mentally prepared to potentially go into labor that day. As it turned out, the sweep did not result in actual labor and my body must not have been ready because things went back to normal.

On Sunday night, April 19th (40 weeks, 5 days) I wasn’t feeling tired for bed so I stayed up and got some things done. We had one more day until possible induction (on Tuesday). I started feeling mild cramping maybe around midnight. I knew something was different because I couldn’t seem to relax. I thought maybe it was just my imagination. It became a continuous cramping – didn’t seem like a contraction in which I could time it. I debated on whether to wake up Dave. I had a bowel movement.

But as the cramping continued I decided I better at least inform him. Then around 1:15am or so I called Chantal to alert her. I decided to tell her I would continue to assess the situation and call her back. The contractions seemed to be constant but also seemed to possibly be 2-3 minutes apart. That’s when we decided to wake up Sara and get in the car. We grabbed our bags, our last minute items, and called my mom as we drove to the hospital. My mom was in charge of taking care of Sara.

I called Chantal as we arrived to the hospital. In the car Sara said she couldn’t stop smiling. I continued with contractions in the car. We all went into the hospital together, I got to the desk, told them I was having contractions, and I signed some paperwork. They were already prepared for me since I was scheduled to come in on Tuesday. The time was 2:45am when I signed the initial documents. Sara was with me. Dave parked the car.

I was admitted to room 110, put on a hospital gown, and got into bed. I had to pee and in the bathroom noticed blood in the toilet. There were also drops of blood on the floor. I had to have a small bowel movement. I got into bed and was started on an IV for fluids. (would have to get 1.5 bags of fluid in me before having an epidural). Also, I was put on external fetal monitoring and had to get a recording for 30 minutes. I told one of the nurses I planned to go unmedicated and she kind of sneered and didn’t say much. I signed some more paperwork, had blood drawn for the lab, and then the nurse came in to do a vaginal check. I was 7 cm and almost 100% effaced.

I was still lying in bed when Chantal arrived to the hospital at 3:15am. She said I was doing great with being this far along. I wasn’t complaining much (yet) and was keeping my cool about me. After she arrived the contractions got stronger and she and Dave recommended changing positions and possibly getting on the ball. I love my ball so I agreed. I sat on the ball up to bedside and was able to lean onto the bed while I gently rocked or bounced. Chantal and Dave started alternating with the double hip squeeze massage. I remember keeping my breathing deep and steady.

The contractions got even more intense. I think I took at least 1-2 trips to the bathroom at this time. I wanted to pee. I was passing some gas. It was getting harder to walk and to stand. I was really shaky, my belly was so tight. I sat on the toilet for a little while but eventually I couldn’t even do that. The pain was too bad. I had to get back on the ball. At one point I tried going up into the bed and kneeling on the bed facing the elevated head. But even the kneeling position seemed to make the pain worse. I couldn’t support my own weight. So I got back on the ball.

The nurse checked me again and I was now 8 cm dilated. I was discouraged I hadn’t progressed further. The contractions became more intense. I continued to sit on my ball. I started to call for help, groan, and chant “oh, God.” I told Dave I couldn’t do this anymore. I felt like crying. I wanted to crawl out of my skin and I was ready for it to be over. Chantal had warned me of the transition phase when a person wants to give up. She knew I was progressing and getting closer. I had no concept of time. Five hours or five minutes could have passed and I wouldn’t know the difference. Chantal gave me cool washcloths for my face. Dave helped rub my back. She and Dave alternated feeding me ice chips. During labor, I remember feeling so shaky and my stomach felt so tight. During transition, contractions got closer together and more powerful. I was surprised by their intensity. I just wanted it to be over. It was too difficult to stand, walk, or change positions.

Brandy (my midwife) arrived around 5am. She reminded me to breathe. She said I was getting closer. They brought in the delivery supply table and said this was a good sign I was getting closer to seeing my baby. I asked her how much longer. I think she said not much longer – maybe 30 minutes. Brandy asked if I wanted her to break my bag of waters. I wasn’t sure. I couldn’t even think at this point. She ended up doing another check. I could barely stand as she did her examination. She accidentally broke the water since it was so close to breaking on its own. I felt a gush of fluid come out. Then immediately I felt even more intense cramping.

I don’t know if someone told me to or I just did it, but I got up onto the bed. I think they said it was time to push. Dave says he guided me to stay on all fours. I was on my knees and elbows. That came natural to me and I followed my instinct. I had no awareness or care of who was in the room or who could see me naked, etc. I lost all feeling of self-consciousness. Suddenly, I felt a strong urge to push. It just hit me like when you have a bowel movement and do not have control to stop it. I started with my first push and to my surprise (although still didn’t care what others thought) I let out an unexpected roaring animal-like groan/scream/moan. The noise was like I was saying “ahhhh” really loudly. Releasing this tension helped me push harder and confront my fears. I figured the harder I pushed, the sooner it might be over. The vocalizations helped me get through the unknown and the distress. I had about three more big pushes and then I started to feel the “crown of fire” that Chantal warned me about. It didn’t last but through a few pushes. Suddenly I thought maybe the baby was out but he was not. I still needed to push the body out. They asked if I wanted to reach down and touch the head. I did not care to at the time. I didn’t want to break my concentration. Plus, my vagina seemed like it was too far away to reach. A few more pushes and the baby was out. I’m not sure the total number of pushes – guessing around eight or so. What a relief! I eventually peeked down at the baby on the bed. I saw vernix on his skin. He was born at 5:53am Monday morning weighing 9 lbs, 6 oz and height was 21.5 in.

I was in shock about what just happened. They got me back in bed lying on my back. All the pain was gone. I couldn’t believe it was over. I did it. The baby was placed on my chest. I felt like I was in a daze.

Then Dave cut the cord (we did delayed cord clamping). Next Brandy assisted the delivery of the placenta. She tugged on the umbilical cord for awhile. She said I could try to push a little to get the placenta out. It didn’t hurt. Brandy held up the placenta to show me and it looked like a half balloon where the baby could fit right in. She then proceeded to stitch me (I had a 1st degree tear). She used a long needle to numb it. The size of the needle frightened me and it pinched a little. Chantal said she did a thorough job on the stitches.

Then I proceeded to breastfeed. The baby cried a lot after birth. I stayed in bed for a while, had vitals checked, and they continued to monitor the bleeding. Pitocin was started in my IV and I would have that for a few hours.

After the birth, I was surprised by all the blood in my bed and on the pad, and also surprised how deflated, soft, and mushy my stomach felt. I couldn’t feel any muscle.

Seeing my baby for the first time after birth was a beautiful feeling – yet difficult to express. I realized this whole thing was real. There really was a baby in there! It also brought a feeling of sadness – this pregnancy was over and our private relationship had ended. The baby belonged to me and the world now! The anticipation was now over.

I felt a huge sense of accomplishment after my second baby was born. I met my goal and I got to experience what a “natural” childbirth was like. I was very happy with my birth experience and wanted to keep replaying the events in my mind!


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