I am very excited to share a new story in our ongoing series of Local Birth Stories: Beth’s beautiful story of the birth of her daughter, M., at a local hospital.
You can read more from Beth on living simply, food, life, beauty, motherhood, and religion at her blog, Etc. Whatever.
A note from Williamsburg Mothering: Williamsburg Mothering is a secular blog, not affiliated with any system of religious belief or non-belief. For many women, faith is an important part of their lives and of their journey to birth. For many others, it is not. No matter our spiritual beliefs, however, we can all appreciate, learn from, and find inspiration in each others’ stories! Birth is universal.
And now, without further ado:
THE BIRTH OF BABY GIRL M.
I’ve been wanting to share the birth story of my daughter for sometime and realized as I near her turning 2 months, I should before I forget the details! Before I can share her story, I need to share my son’s birth story as well. I want to emphasize how thankful I am for both my children, and how God has blessed each of my births, but that the birth of my daughter was so different from that of my son. My purpose for sharing my story is to 1) give glory to God and 2) help you realize it is okay to choose how you give birth, but to encourage and empower anyone if they so choose and desire to have a natural childbirth.
When I was pregnant with my son, I was familiar with natural childbirth and thought I might like to explore this option from the main-stream medicated births. A friend of mine, who had three kids at the time, explained to me the Bradley Method and I was super excited to learn this method in going through natural childbirth. My husband was very supportive of this, and we read a lot and took a few classes from a lady at our church. As I went into labor, a week after my due date, I was confident that I could do this! But as hours and hours went by, I became more and more tired and when we arrived at the hospital, we were assigned a nurse who was not very sympathetic to our desires. She would touch, move, and try to perform tests on me all in the middle of contractions with made them hurt all that much more. When she left the room, I felt like a champ, breathing through my contractions, but then she came into the room, moved my bed in the middle of a contraction ( I have no idea why?!?), and I started hyperventilating. With these distractions and the constant reminder of the drugs available to me, I couldn’t take it any longer and asked for an epidural. Everything progressed quite quickly after that, and I was so thankful A was born a healthy baby boy at 8 lbs 12 oz!
When I become pregnant with my second child, I knew I wanted to try this whole natural child birth thing again, even though everything did turn out fine with my son. I really desired that least medical intervention necessary and allow my body to do what God has designed it to do. As I was talking with a friend of mine, she recommended I try working with a doula this time, as she had done with the birth of her son. I loved the idea and contacted a local doula, and began meeting with her. Although I still had my doubts if I really could do this, the encouragement from her and my husband convinced me that I could! I did struggle through why I really wanted to have a natural childbirth. Did I want to have one just so I could say that I had done it? No. I prayed that the Lord would be glorified through this birth, no matter what happened. As we worked with our doula, I also read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth which was so encouraging and helpful. I also read some really encouraging words over at Passionate Homemaking and mediated on several verses as I prepared for natural childbirth.
As I neared the end of pregnancy, I was convinced that I was going to come early, but no such luck! Every week at my doctor’s check-up, they tried to be encouraging saying I was maybe a half a centimeter dilated, so, basically not at all! My due date came and went and I began praying that I would go into labor naturally and not have to be induced.
Early in the morning, at 41 weeks, I awoke around 1:30 am to some stronger contractions than I had had before. I started watching the clock and they seemed to be about 10 minutes apart, but then I would have some contractions I barely felt at all. I figured I would go back to sleep and they would stop if this wasn’t real labor, or that I would try to get as much sleep as possible if it was the real thing!
I finally got up around 7, and the contractions were still stronger, but only every other one, or every third one. I told my husband that I still wanted to go to church, but as we got ready to go, it was clear that these contractions were stronger and that we probably shouldn’t go to church. My in-laws came over and took our son to church with them, so my husband and I could have a quiet morning. We went for a walk and by the time we came back, my contractions were consistently stronger, but still 6 to 10 minutes apart. In between contractions, we played games and laughed and talked-clearly early labor! What I noticed was so much different between this birth and my son’s, was that I was so much more relaxed and wasn’t so focused on breathing during these early contractions. But as I would stop to go through these contractions I pictured a wave, and allowed the contractions to ebb and flow. I thought about how my cervix was dilating, and how through each contraction, I was one contraction closer to meeting my baby girl. I also meditated on the scripture I had prepared before.
My in-laws came back with our son around lunch time, so we all grabbed a bite to eat. After lunch, my husband began putting A down for a nap and I decided to look over some of the handouts my doula had given me. I wanted to remind myself of the acronym for PAIN: P is for purposeful, A is for anticipated, I is for intermittent and N is normal. I saw another sheet in there that I had not read before about the different stages of labor. I saw for the first time that early labor can often have contractions that are strong, every other or every third, which is what I had been having. As my eyes scrolled down the page to active labor, I read the feelings column: “increased backache, growing seriousness, apprehension, uncertain if she can do it.” It was as I was reading these words I felt a complete change in my countenance and my next contraction brought me down to my knees. My husband came out from putting my son down for a nap and I was almost in tears, scared by the fast change in my mood and labor. We called my doula (we had called her earlier during early labor) and she suggested getting down on my hands and knees for the next contraction which I did while she was still on the phone. It helped a little and then she suggested trying to take a warm shower and let the water hit me on my back. I jumped in and the water did feel very nice, but after just one contraction I called my husband in and told him I really thought we needed to go to the hospital. We called ahead to the hospital and asked if we could be assigned a nurse who would enjoy working with a mother desiring a natural labor.
Several contractions later, and with a rapidly declining confidence, we made it to the car and began our long (45 min) drive to the hospital. Thankfully, the bridge we had to cross was not open, there were no trains, and we did not have to stop at too many lights! I think I had been dreading the long drive the most prior to labor, that it actually went by a lot quicker and easier than I had imagined. When we got in the car I remember something I read in Ina May’s book about keeping your mouth open and relaxed was linked to opening your cervix. I couldn’t just keep my mouth open without making a low moaning sound, and my husband encouraged me to be as loud as I needed to be.
We arrived at the hospital at 2:30 and pulled up and it was such a relief to see my doula waiting there. She helped me into the lobby as my husband parked the car and as I felt another contraction coming on, my quiet reserved self started to panic, but figuring everyone probably knew I was in labor anyhow, I leaned on an empty counter and moaned quite loudly, turning several heads! My husband joined back up with us and we made our way up to triage. As we entered the labor and delivery floor, I had mentally prepared myself for the stop in triage, but the nurses took one look, (and listen to me!) and ushered me straight to my room! I insisted that I had to use the bathroom first, and they led me straight in. I remember looking at my husband and telling them that I could not do this. I had no idea how far along I was, but that I was ready to throw in the towel with this whole natural thing!
As I changed into a gown and crawled in to the bed, they checked me and I was at 9 cm! It was the best news I had heard! Shortly I was allowed to begin pushing and gladly proceeded to do so! With every push my moaning got louder and louder, I felt strong but so weak at the same time. My eyes were closed during each contraction and push and in between two, I opened my eyes and called to God, “Lord, please help me!” And he did! My whole demeanor changed after that. In between pushes I felt so alert and awake and so part of this amazing process. My husband held up little note cards I had made with encouraging verses, the most encouraging for me was 2 Corinthians 12:9. My doula grabbed a gown and rolled it into a rope. She grabbed one end and let me pull as hard as I needed with each push. I loved working in this position! I was pushing and all of a sudden I felt a strong pop! I looked up and my doula was soaked! My bag of water had exploded all over her! I felt bad but nearly laughed out loud! I continued to push, quite strongly and loudly, and between pushes I would open my eyes to see more and more nurses in the room–I guess they wanted to see where all this noise was coming from! My husband leaned over and informed my doctor that I had tore pretty bad with my son, so my doctor leaned over and asked me to push at a medium this next push. I obliged but just then she crowned and I started to experience the ring of fire. I knew I needed to push strongly the next contraction, and two pushes later my beautiful M was born at 4:30 pm! (Only 2 hours after arriving at the hospital!) She weighed 7 lbs. 14 oz. and was absolutely perfect! Afterwards, several of the nurses thanked us for letting them see and experience our natural birth!
Looking back I remembered when meeting with my doula, she asked me what my desires for birth were. I told her I wanted a quick birth (I was in labor 19 hours with my son) and to be an active participant in the labor, not just an observer. The Lord definitely answered both of those! Although I have no regrets from my son’s birth, I am so thankful for the experience I had in delivering my daughter.
For anyone reading this, desiring a natural child birth, you can do it, and I encourage you to pursue that, especially working with a doula!
Doula: Peggy Caister, CD (DONA), of Doula on the Peninsula