3.25.2014

Lena's Birth Story: PART 1 — "A Better Way"

38 weeks pregnant

In order to tell Lena's birth story, I have to rewind to 2007 and 2009, when I gave birth to Finn and Maya. Both births were similar: long, medicated, tiring. I was hungry, and couldn't eat. I had issues with my epidural not working properly with Finn. I had a doctor who made me wait until he was well-rested the next morning before he would come into the hospital to break my water and deliver Maya. I was on a pitocin/edpidural roller coaster. I was basically put through the system. Granted, I had no real complications, and both Finn and Maya were born healthy and relatively happy (though Finn did have a distinct trace of epidural on his newborn breath).

But being in love with your newborn does not erase the memory of things gone wrong in the delivery room. I felt like I wasn't in control of my own birth. I was offered and given pain medication that I didn't really need or want at that stage in my labor. I felt pressured to make decisions. I was left alone when I wanted help, and had too much help when I wanted to be making personal choices. I was basically strapped into the bed with the monitor, numb from the waist down, and tethered to an IV. Both labors were over 24 hours long, and when Maya was born they were so concerned that she was shaky. I insisted that if I were to get some juice and a cookie, then nurse her, she'd be totally fine. Her blood sugar was just low—as was mine—after 15 hours at the hospital with no more nourishment than the IV for fluids. And guess what? As soon as Maya nursed, she was better (momma's instincts).

Wes felt especially helpless during this whole process. He basically sat in the corner asking if I needed anything until it was time to push. At least then he could hold my leg. And it was Wes that actually came to me encouraging me to look at other birthing options when it came time for another child. "There HAS to be a better way," he kept saying. And he was right.

I have some health issues that caused us to wait five whole years between Maya (the youngest), and our newest addition, Lena. So I had plenty of time to do my research. I watched ALL of the Business of Being Born videos. Life changing!! I cannot recommend those videos more highly to any mother giving birth in any scenario. They were eye opening and liberating. I recognized right away that I had been put through a series of protocols at the hospital. I was offered an early epidural (which I accepted because they made me fearful of not being able to get it when I really needed it). When that slowed labor down, I was given Pitocin. When that intensified contractions, I needed more epidural. See the cycle? Amazingly my babies never showed distress, and I was able to push each one out in 15 minutes or less. But with the amount of time spent at the hospital, I was very fortunate that I didn't end up with a C-section after going over my "allotted" amount of time you can be in labor at the hospital without a red flag going up.

Now I am not anti-hospital (nor am I anti C-section in necessary cases). Even after watching The Business of Being Born, I still wanted to deliver in the hospital. I just wanted a better birth experience. Before getting pregnant I started to read. I read every "natural birth in the hospital" book, article, blog that I could get my hands on. I read tons of birth stories that took place both in the hospital and at home. I watched videos and listened to other moms' stories about why they chose to deliver at home, in the hospital, or in a birthing center. I knew I wanted a doula (birth coach), and I knew I wanted to go medication-free. That freaked a few people out. Luckily Wes was 100% adamant that I could do it. He didn't just think I could do it, he knew I could do it. Not only that, but he knew it would be a total game changer. It would give me a chance to prove to myself that my body knew how to birth a baby safely. It would allow me to feel empowered. And it would help heal some of the scars that lingered from my previous birth experiences. My daughters would know that I had chosen something better for myself—and that every woman should be entitled to chose the birthing experience she desires.

We moved to a small town in Utah two years ago. One cool thing about being in a small town, is that the local hospital is pretty low key. I learned that they had just hired a CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) who practiced out of the hospital. !!! I was beside myself. What perfect luck. I made an appointment and went over to talk with her. She took about two hours out of her day to answer all my questions, take me on a tour, and discuss options. I told her I'd be back soon with a positive pregnancy test. :)

** Side note: The term "midwife" can make some people uncomfortable when it comes to having babies. An OB is the standard here in the U.S. which is totally fine. But I am here to tell you that midwives have been delivering babies from the beginning of time. I've had an OB. I liked my OBs. But I LOVE my midwife. She is incredibly qualified (she practiced for years out of a major Chicago hospital, and has done work in third world countries to improve birthing conditions for moms and babies). She doesn't practice with an OB (although there are doctors on-call at the hospital for things like C-sections and second opinions if she needs that). And I went the entire 9 months never seeing anyone but my midwife. My midwife also handled my necessary episiotomy and sutures. She's legit.

When I found out I was pregnant in June of last year, we'd been trying for a few months. The VERY first thing I did (after alerting my midwife and confirming the pregnancy) was find a doula. A doula is a labor coach (in simplest terms). Doulas will be rewarded a high place in heaven! They are seriously angels on earth, these women. Every laboring mother should consider having a doula by their side, even if they are getting an epidural or having a C-section. A doula acts as an advocate, a comforter, a supporter, a cheerleader, a ceritifed educator, and a superhero. My doula, Hillary, was actually one of the moms from Finn's soccer team. I mentioned in passing that I wanted a doula with my next birth, and she just happened to be one! Hillary is a wisp of a woman, gentle, and reassuring. She is endlessly positive. But don't let her willowy ways fool you—Hillary is powerful, assertive, and IN the moment. She knows her stuff. Wes and I took classes with her for a few months, and I started doing relaxation CDs called HypBirth (like Hypnobabies, or any of those hypnosis birthing programs). I had no idea how much I DIDN'T know about birth (even after two babies)! I prepared a LOT. I read. I did my relaxation, I did affirmations. I did labor simulations with coping techniques. But the biggest thing Hillary taught us was that my body could absolutely do this, and so could I! She talked me through every stage of labor, making sure I understood what would be happening throughout the whole process. The more I prepared, the more confident I felt.

I won't say I wasn't nervous to go "au naturale." My biggest problem was people asking what I would do when faced with the pain, or the enticing prospect of an epidural right down the hallway. I had to really make some personal decisions that I would not, under any circumstance, ask for drugs. I absolutely didn't want them! I went though a phase where I wouldn't allow myself to call labor painful, just intense (even though I knew it would be painful, I couldn't view it as negative pain). I wouldn't read birth stories where the moms were in too uncomfortable. I surrounded myself with positive birth ideals. I decided on the type of birth I was GOING to have. I drew up the infamous birth plan, but vowed to stay flexible. I made it clear to my midwife that if any nurse walked into my room and acted like I couldn't do this or offered me pain relief, I might lose it. My doula and midwife assured me that everyone would be on-board and supportive. And most of all, they both told me that I could do it. Women all over the world throughout time have had babies in the way I wanted to birth my baby. And now it was my turn to join them. I think one week before Lena was born all nervousness melted away. It was replaced by a deep sense of serenity. This was inevitable. I wasn't going to run scared. I was going to head into this feeling ready and excited to meet my little one!

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I go a week "over," labor sets its own course and I consider some Old Wives tales...

To see my birth plan click HERE.

And here are a few more resources:
Homebirth in the Hospital, by Stacey Marie Kerr, MD
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin
Spiritual Midwifery, by Ina May Gaskin
HypBirth
Hypnobabies

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Anne M said...

Way to go! I was always really impressed with Intermountain's support of natural childbirth. We had our first at Alta View and I felt so supported by our nurse. They helped give me confidence when I was ready to cave in.

I'm glad it went so well for you! It is super empowering, huh?

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