You might think someone who is a childbirth educator would only have amazing, wonderful birth experiences to tell about. Well, not so much. Many of us got interested in natural birth because of some of our birth experiences. Here is the story of my first birth, Baby A, whose birth was wonderful but the getting there was rough!
I found out I was pregnant in February of 2006. I had just finished college a few months before, and my husband was graduating soon. We were very excited! I wasn’t sure how long it would take to conceive, and to our surprise, we were pregnant the first month. I wasn’t sure who to choose for my prenatal care, so I had my husband ask around at work. I got the name of an OB from several women who give him rave reviews. (Much after the fact, I found out all these women had C-sections. That would have been good to know, but I didn’t think to ask.) This was great, right? All these women love him, it’s good enough for me. I could only hope to be accepted as a patient! Well, Doctor Wonderful did accept me as a patient, and I excitedly awaited my first appointment. While there, I noticed I was one of countless women being herded into the waiting area. This guy and his partners must be SO popular, thank goodness they took me. They must be popular for a reason! My name was finally called, and I was taken back to an exam room where a nurse took my vitals. Dr. Wonderful swooped in for literally maybe 2.5 minutes, which was the first time I was able to hear the baby’s heartbeat. I was ecstatic, but that was short lived. The doctor then left, and the nurse returned with a stack of papers and a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I was to review the papers and then next time, I could ask questions if I had any. In and out in no time. Wow. What just happened?
Anyway, like a good student, I went home and began looking over my book (which by the way, is one of the most worthless pregnancy books ever in my opinion) and the papers I was given. I remember seeing in capital letters the words: SOME WOMEN DO NOT NEED EPISIOTOMIES, BUT MOST OF THEM DO. (My husband now lovingly refers to Dr. Wonderful as Edward Scissorhands.)
Then I looked up what exactly an episiotomy entailed. Um, no thanks. Each appointment was roughly the same. I had mixed emotions because I loved hearing the baby’s heartbeat and getting reassured that the pregnancy was going well, but I did not feel comfortable with my doctor. At the same time, I had a couple of friends pregnant as well. They chose a care provider near them, about an hour and a half away from us. As we were talking one day, I realized they weren’t seeing an OB. They were seeing a midwife. Huh? What? Who does that? Amish? Hippies? But as they talked, they went on and on about how they loved going to their appointments, which lasted 2 hours each and included childbirth education class. They were very well educated on what was going to happen, the normal birth process, etc. I’ll admit it. I was a little jealous. I was not having the kind of wonderful pregnancy experience they were having. But there? It was 1.5 hours away. I decided to take a day and go check out the birth center and midwife that my friends were raving about. As soon as I stepped into the office, I could understand why. I immediately felt at ease with the midwife and doula (I didn’t know what a doula was at that time) who greeted me. After talking with them, I knew I wanted to transfer care. I didn’t care that it was going to mean a lot of driving. For me, it was worth it, even though people told me I was nuts. I called my current Dr. Wonderful and told them to send my records to my midwife. They did so, and didn’t give me any flack about it. (Some women seem very worried about ‘breaking up’ with their doctor for another care provider. I promise you, it’s not a big deal. They will probably not miss you, and they are certainly not going to cry about it. It’s not a divorce, it’s business.) Anyway, I was about 20 weeks when I transferred to my midwife. I attended my first class/appointment soon thereafter, and I knew I had made the right choice. I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of my prenatal care there. I was educated about birth, nutrition, breastfeeding, labor….and since I had information, I actually had questions. I was never made to feel like my questions were stupid or an inconvenience. I was made to realize this was MY birth, and I had a responsibility to take care of myself if I wanted to have a natural, out of hospital birth. My midwife fully expected me to read the materials before the next class and participate in the activities and discussions. She wouldn’t force anyone to do it, but reminded us that she wouldn’t be giving birth for us. She was attending OUR birth, not delivering our babies. We would be birthing our babies. She highly suggested we prepare ourselves as best we could and offered tons of options that I never knew I had. It was there that I learned what a doula was, and told my husband (who due to work couldn’t attend most of my prenatal appointments) that I wanted to hire one. Best decision ever. She is still a friend to this day.
Now, to the birth part of the story –
I had been having a difficult time walking for a couple of weeks, and knew that my hips were opening up to get ready for labor. On a Friday, my husband’s birthday, I treated myself to a massage before going out to eat and to a football game. We arrived home late, and I went to bed. Around 4:30 am, I woke up to use the restroom and I realized my water broke. Weirdest thing ever – I would take a step, gush. Another step, gush. I woke up my husband, and I called my midwife. She suggested I get some sleep, but I was too excited. She then suggested we go ahead and come to Enid, get a hotel room, and then try to rest. I’d be needing my energy for labor. I decided I was hungry and my husband whipped me up a bowl of oatmeal while I finished packing our things. We headed out around 6:30 am, called our parents, and drove to the town where the birth center was. I was sitting half naked on a towel (remember, my water was leaking), praying to God we didn’t get pulled over. How was I going to explain that without being mortified? We arrived around 8 am and checked into a hotel. I lay down for a while, but still couldn’t really sleep. I got hungry again, and called in an order to IHOP (Belgian waffle with strawberry topping and hash browns), which my mom picked up for me on her way to the hotel. She was baffled – who eats during labor? And all this? I ate every bite. Yum.
They decided since I was now full and sleepy, they would run out and get some lunch themselves while I stayed at the hotel and rested. I did for a while, and then had a weird cramp. I went to the bathroom, thinking I needed do have a bowel movement. Then 5 minutes later, it happened again. And again. I started noticing a pattern here – shortly they were only 4 minutes apart, and I realized it was the real thing. This was labor! I called mom and my husband, who had just gotten their food. They scarfed it down and headed back. By the time they arrived, my contractions were 3 minutes apart. I had what is called precipitous, or fast labor – which is not what I expected to happen! Anyway, as we got loaded up into our suburban, they contractions kept coming. I do not suggest laboring in a car if at all possible. I HAD to move around, and I am sure my husband thought I was on the verge of crawling out of the car at one point. I was holding the handles above the door and yelling at him to hurry up. Of course we hit a stinking stoplight. Ugh! Although it was only a couple of miles, it felt like forever. I had called the midwife and she was headed to the birth center, as was my doula. I beat them there and continued having contractions in the car waiting. They finally arrived, and thank goodness it was a Saturday and the birth center was closed. I literally started stripping off clothes as I came in the door. I left a trail down the hallway (keepin’ it classy, I know!) and walked out of my sweatpants into an exam room. I couldn’t even begin to get up onto an exam table, so we went straight to the ‘bedroom’ style room where I would be having the baby. I wanted to get in the water, so my doula ran the water for me. I stayed in there for a while, with her by my side and soon my doula said, “Are you pushing?” Um, yes. We moved to the bed and just a few pushes later, my daughter was born. My midwife and doula were right there the whole time, talking about how great I was doing. My husband said he wasn’t sure what all was supposed to be happening, but he couldn’t be nervous with these ladies talking calmly about how great everything was going. At 38 weeks and 1 day, spontaneous rupture of membranes at 4:30 am, contractions starting at noon, my little girl arrived around 2:15 pm. No episiotomy – no tearing. Only 2 hours and 15 minutes of active labor! My daughter was placed on my chest immediately. It truly was a wonderful birth experience! She didn’t feed right away, but did after a few hours. (She may have gotten quite the energy boost from all the food I took in right before she was born!) We were at the birth center for about 6 hours before we all left for the hotel. We stayed Saturday and Sunday night, coming home Monday. We stopped on the way home at my husband’s office to say hello and introduce our new addition, and his co-workers couldn’t believe I was walking around. (Huh?) They said I should be sitting on a pillow, and then I remembered they had referred me to Edward Scissorhands. That would explain their surprise.
I was sold on midwifery care, and knew that I would have a midwife for any future pregnancies. I was educated, empowered, and I knew I could do it. All my births would be this great, right?
Then, pregnancy #2……