baby N: a birth story

dear world,

this is the story of N’s birth. my experience with her was so different from that with V that i feel like it’s ok to share. after V was born, i had a very hard time reading or hearing other people’s birth stories. i felt like each mother who carried her baby to term had a normal birth and mine was not normal. now, i know that each birth is different just like each mother experiences labor and delivery differently. here is my experience:

my contractions started around 1:30am. after weeks of braxton hicks contractions and wondering if i would ever be able to tell the real, productive contractions from practice ones, i stayed in bed for a while at once hoping they would go away and hoping they would get stronger. it felt like cramps and i drifted between awake and asleep feeling excited, tired, not hopeful and hopeful all at the same time.

my doctor told me i wouldn’t accidentally sleep through labor and around 3am i realized that i was probably going to have a baby pretty soon. i went downstairs to time the contractions and also send some emails. in my awake/asleep state i realized i had a bunch of loose ends to tie up at work.

i woke my husband around 3:30am. he asked me what i wanted to do. it’s remarkably difficult to know when to say, yes, i think we should go to the hospital now. he took a shower and i called my mom to come stay with my daughter. i could tell my husband thought we should wait at home a while before we went to the hospital. he didn’t want to get there and be sent home. he asked me again how long i wanted to labor at home, but i figured we should probably get moving. the contractions were strong, but manageable if i breathed through them and relaxed. they lasted about a minute each.

we got to the hospital sometime around 4:30am or 4:45am. riding in the car was really uncomfortable. i couldn’t find a place to sit and every bump we went over brought more attention to my middle. in the triage room, the nurse  put me on the monitor and checked my cervix. i was 3-4 centimeters dilated. people kept coming in and asking me questions and by now i couldn’t answer them while i was having a contraction.

when the nurse came back in she told me they were going to admit me and asked if i wanted my epidural now. i answered, no, i think i’m going to wait. which surprised me. what i didn’t say was, no, i don’t want an epidural. or no, i’m not going to have drugs today if i can avoid it. fortunately, my husband was able to say that instead. we agreed that his job was to help me not have drugs. he did great.

my nurses were amazing. after we got to the birthing room, nurse angela did her admitting stuff- put me on the monitor, asked me questions. understood when i couldn’t answer her and told me to relax my shoulders instead of telling me to take drugs. she asked me if i planned on breastfeeding and my husband answered for me which she seemed pretty funny in the middle of the night. she brought me a birthing ball and mats for me to be on the floor. she gave us directions to walk around the maternity floor (both the long walk and the short walk). she said i didn’t have to be on the monitor except for once an hour and i was free to move around as much as i wanted. so we took a walk.

as we were on the way back from the long walk circuit, i had to stop. i put my head on my hands on the wall and breathed through the contraction, but that was really hard to do. my back hurt more each time and slow breathing was not enough to keep my focus. we went back to the room. i put the mats on the floor and tried to labor on my hands and knees. that was terrible. i felt ok until a contraction started and then my back hurt and my front hurt and i lost my focus and couldn’t breathe and i couldn’t get out of the position until it was over and i didn’t know what to do next.

i got up and laid on the bed on my side, but that didn’t help. i felt like i couldn’t do it. how on earth was i going to be able to push this baby out if i felt like this? i didn’t know what to do or how to move or how to relax. my husband, to his very great credit, pulled out our resources including some hand written notes from his mother, and suggested sitting on the ball with my head up on a tall stool. it was the only way i could lengthen my back and open my hips enough at the same time to be able to focus on my breath again.

i feel like i stayed in this position a long time. i don’t actually know how long because i lost all sense of time. i closed my eyes and i turned totally into my body. i could feel the instant another contraction was going to start. i felt tight about 4 inches below my belly button and the tightness spread from that point up and around my body.  i took a cleansing breath, breathed fast through the contraction and slowed after the peak, then ended with a cleansing breath again. my husband pressed his hands on my shoulders which helped me focus on a part of my body that didn’t hurt. (i originally asked him to push on my lower back, but that just accentuated the pain and did not help at all.) he did  such a good job- i only told him to shut up twice. he did everything he could to be helpful and most of the time it helped. he talked to me for the entire duration of each contraction. i don’t know why this helped, but it did. i didn’t listen much to what he was saying, but it helped to hear him talking.

after a while, i had to pee and sitting on the toilet was another position that worked really well for me. i stayed there way longer than i needed to. i won’t say it was comfortable, but i could certainly manage the pain better.

our nurses changed shifts at 7am and nurse debra checked me again and i was almost completely dilated. the last position i labored in before i started pushing was on my knees with my arms over the back of the bed, like facing backwards over a sofa. i don’t remember being there long, but they said i was. my doctor had arrived and she and the nurses stayed in the room from this time until the baby came.

the only times i felt like i couldn’t make it through a contraction was when i missed the start and suddenly found myself in the middle of it. if i didn’t focus the whole way through it was really hard to know that it would end. the nurses, my husband and my doctor were all so supportive, but it’s hard to hear them in the grip of a contraction.

i didn’t have a serious urge to push. my doctor suggested that i might feel better if i started pushing. it actually took me a couple tries to figure out how. i didn’t open my hips enough. i couldn’t figure out how to hold my breath and curl my body. and then suddenly i started making progress and i couldn’t stop.

i shut my eyes and focused on my body and pushing the baby out. i could hear the nurses and my doctor and my husband talking, but it was in the background. finally, with each contraction, i could push and literally feel the baby moving through my body. right before she was born, she lodged herself so far down the birth canal that i knew she had to come out the next time, but the next contraction took forever to arrive. i just laid there, holding her and waiting to be able to meet her. and then the contraction started, i pushed and pushed and suddenly there she was. i opened my eyes and they put my new baby girl on my chest all covered in goo and i forgot everything that i just went through when she appeared.

i felt so proud of myself for giving birth. i don’t know how long i pushed and i don’t know what all happened in the room around me. i remember hearing the nurses being surprised that i didn’t have an epidural. nurse debbie came in later to help and said that she’s seen women with an epidural have a harder time than i did. they were impressed by how focused and calm i was and haven’t seen many people handle themselves the way i did. i felt like they were proud of me, too.

baby N was born at 8:05am friday september 9th. my husband cut the cord which somehow i missed and the doctor took care of me and cleaned me up. i managed to have a baby the old fashioned way and have never done anything else as powerful or difficult or wonderful in my life.

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