Just a warning, this is long. But I need to say everything, I found this very therapeutic…
Growing up I was witness to 3 birthing experiences, My mom, my sister and my cat.
I was 7. I awoke to find the family cat birthing her kittens at the foot of my bed. I remember feeling special that she chose to be with me for such an amazing event. She had already birthed two of her kittens before I awoke and I watched her birth 3 more. She was so calm, letting her body do the work for her. She cleaned her kittens faces and bodies one by one and I watched as her kittens nursed.
I was 13 when my mother gave birth to my sister Trish. My mom had natural births for me and my two other siblings but Trish was a difficult pregnancy. She was in the hospital for 5 out of the 9 months and was induced a week early. She decided to get the epidural as well. I remember her doing a jigsaw puzzle and saying “why didn’t I get the drugs for the rest of you?” My youngest sister was born at 7lbs 10oz, small in comparison to me at 10lbs 9 oz, and would not latch at all. My mom decided it was formula feeding for this little lady.
Finally I witnessed my sister birth Alex, Her water broke at 2am January 30, 2010. She immediately made her way to the hospital and got the epidural as soon as she got there. It was exactly as you see it in the movies. Nurses checking how dilated she was every hour, bringing her ice chips and popsicles, laboring on her back and eventually pushing the same way, screaming the whole time. I held her leg as she pushed, watched Alex emerge into this world. I cried as I cut the umbilical cord. The light of my life was born at 10:30 am weighing 7lbs 14oz. He had trouble latching as well, he was destined to be a formula baby too.
Throughout the labors of my sister and mother I couldn’t help but think back to my cat so many years earlier. Why did birthing and nursing have to be so difficult for us but it was so simple for her? Were we not mammals too? I knew I wanted something different for my birth.
When I became pregnant I looked into several natural birthing methods and I chose to use hypnobirthing. I decided on a midwife and planned to birth at the birthing center. I remember sitting in my class while they were discussing advocating for yourself against unnecessary interventions and thinking “I don’t need this, I have a midwife, I’ll be at the birthing center.” Now I wished I had paid more attention.
My water broke at 2am May 14th. I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. My contractions hadn’t started but they had to soon right? Both my sister and my mother had short labors so I wasn’t worried. I went to my midwife in the morning. I was a fingertip dilated and still not having regular contractions. I went to the chiropractor. She gave me an adjustment and a few holistic “potions” to get things started. I did every trick in the book, spicy food, castor oil, walking. My contractions started at 3pm and were coming every 5 minutes. I did my scripts, moved when I needed to. I breathed through every contraction imagining the tide coming in on a beach in the Caribbean. I labored for 6 hours at home and felt like it may be time to return to the midwife by 9pm. We arrived and to my surprise I was STILL a fingertip dilated. She told me that if I didn’t progress by morning she would have to induce me and I would have to birth at the hospital. Suddenly the fear rushed in and that’s when the pain started. For the first time I felt unprepared and it was terrifying.
I went home again feeling defeated. I tried the same methods that were just working for me but I couldn’t get calm again. I had already been awake for 20 hours and there was no possible way of sleeping now. I breathed through the pain for 7 more hours then met my midwife at the hospital at 4am.
This time I wasn’t surprised when she said I hadn’t progressed. I knew fear could do that to you. At 7am we started the pitocin. The pain magnified 10 fold. I felt like I was dying. I insisted I get in the tub immediately. The nurse told me I couldn’t because it could stop the labor again. I begged. I pleaded. I yelled. I’m sure I looked like something out of the exorcist because finally she allowed me into the tub. It was instant relief. I was finally relaxed again. I was able to breathe through my contractions and nap a little. That was until they increased my pitocin an hour later. Every increase of the drug I felt like my body was rejecting it. the pain doubled or tripled. Every time I felt like I could handle it, it was time to increase the dose. I couldn’t catch up any more. I tried everything I had learned, I changed positions, I walked, I leaned on my husband for support. But it was now 36 hours since my water broke and I felt drained. That’s when I asked for the epidural.
I felt defeated again. I felt the relief of the drug then sobbed myself to sleep. I was mourning the loss of my ideal birth experience.
Henry was born vaginally at 12:12 am on May 16th, after 2 hours of pushing and 46 hours after my water had broken. He was 8lbs 7oz and 20inches. He was born with a fever and was whisked away to the NICU. He also had trouble latching but I will save my breastfeeding story for another day. All in all the birth was my nightmare come to life, minus the fact that I escaped a C-section. It’s been three months but I still feel a sense of loss from it. I know I should be happy. I have a happy, healthy and very large baby in my arms (17 lbs at 3 months!). Finally after these past 13 weeks I’m ready to let it all out. I’m ready to let it go. I did the best I could in the moment and I’ve learned a lot from the experience. It is true that everything happens for a reason, and because of my birth story I now know that I want to become a doula. I want to help women live out their ideal births, because it doesn’t have to be like the movies.