Our First Birth Story

I am writing this 2 and a half years after it happened. During this time I have learned so much more about the process of being processed in a hospital for an event that is treated like a disease but is not a disease. I am talking about labor and delivery at the end of a normal healthy pregnancy. Every story is completely different, but every pregnant woman is stronger than our society treats them. I know women who view themselves as being incapable of  handling pregnancy and birth without medical help. Not because they are sick, not because they are weak not because they have defective bodies; but because our American society has trained us that birth is hard and that we can’t do it unless we have a doctor checking every thing and forcing everything. I sit here typing this after the birth of my second child (My Second Birth Story) and with all the knowledge I have gained in the past 2 years and feel it is increasingly more important that all women understand their birth options and understand they are not weak or damaged or sick when they are pregnant. They are strong and beautiful and amazing and capable of so much! I am writing this blog as a means to express the often too typical birth experience many women have forced on them unnecessarily by today’s standards. Many women have stories worse (or better) then mine. Please feel free to share them! I would love to read about your experience as well.

The pregnancy with my daughter was very healthy. I worked as a zookeeper until my 39th week. I was pretty big by the end, but then again aren’t we all? I was very emotional, much more so erratic then with my second pregnancy; but physically I was fit as a fiddle.

Six months pregnant; holding Retch our education Turkey Vulture

Six months pregnant; holding Retch our education Turkey Vulture

We researched hospitals in our area, doing tours and trying to find the best fit. We did not have a lot of options, but we settled in on a hospital about 40 minutes away. They seemed the most open and liberal in the area. They had a few tubs and allowed for water labor. They were pro breastfeeding and said that they promoted immediate skin to skin contact. Plus labor and delivery and post were all in the same private room and it was a very nice hospital room. I didn’t know at the time to ask about delayed cord clamping or vaccines or tests or sugar-water or pacies or anything else hospitals “routinely” do without asking permission. We did all our birthing classes there and not much was mentioned other than actual labor and dealing with the pain. They did mention how the bed moved into various shapes to allow for “alternate” positions of birthing; as opposed to the classic hospital position with your legs in the air.

The day arrived; nearly a week late I might add, I awoke around 5 am with strong contractions. Took a long shower then woke up my husband. I was laying on the couch and we were counting contractions. As soon as they seemed to be around 5 minutes apart we headed to the hospital.

Upon arrival we were strapped into monitors and laid out on the bed and checked. I was entirely unprepared for the cervix check. He just kind of came in and was like: “Open up and my hand is trying to pull the baby out right now! Surprise!”  Turns out I was only 2 cm but my cervix was very soft and my contractions were regular. We were admitted, which included an IV (saline lock); which I didn’t know at the time that I could refuse and was told it was standard procedure. Also, the nurse who put in the IV tried 5 different times and finally put it in the side of my wrist. It was very painful and my entire arm was black and blue by the end of the hour.

I got down to the business of labor, not really knowing what I was doing. People came and went saying good luck etc etc… Every time I would seem to get into a flow of something a nurse would come in and strap me into the monitors for 30 minutes. THAT was near torture. Strapped into a bed and unable to get up. Everything was going fine they said, it was just standard procedure to monitor the moms and babies. Contractions were near unbearable during the monitoring. Finally I told the nurse I had to get up and walk around, her reply: “No, I want at least 15 more minutes.” As soon as she left the room I ripped off the monitors and got up and rocked my hips. The back labor was really getting intense. About 2 minutes after getting up my water broke. My poor husband was so funny. He had been watching TV (which he spent most of this labor doing) and turned around and panicked, pacing back and forth from me to the door and back while I kept saying “Hon just go get the nurse.” The same nurse came back in and scolded me for getting out of bed. Then made me get back into bed for more monitoring. Everything was still fine and I was still drug free.

The contractions really kicked up but I was handling them well. They still hadn’t let us into a room with a tub and finally flat-out said “We don’t transfer rooms once we admit you.” Despite telling me for hours that we could transfer “soon” so I could water labor. But I was free to use the shower. Then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere the doctor walked in and said “Your labor is taking too long. If you don’t take the pitocin we are going to discharge you.” She then turned heel and walked out.

They had been asking if I wanted pitocin, or an epidural or any other drugs for hours, which I kept refusing. It had only been a few short hours after my water had broken and everything was going smoothly but suddenly here I was forced with a frankly ILLEGAL choice. If I had known at the time that a doctor can not come in and make a threat like that  our entire birth story would be different. I was in a panic. I had visions of giving birth on the side of the road. Here I was my first time in labor, scared already and uncertain of what was happening or how long it was supposed to happen and here are the doctors and nurses whom I trusted telling me I had to take the drugs. When in fact, after delivery and doing some research of my own, I really was not in any danger and neither was the baby. Everything was running normally and progressing just fine; albeit a little too “slow” for the hospitals time-table.

I remember a nurse rubbing my back and telling me my baby could be in distress if it stays in too long after the water breaks and I was putting my child in harm’s way if I didn’t accept the pitocin. This IS true… if the baby stays in for days (not hours) after the water breaks. THAT can harm the baby and lead to serious infection. I didn’t know that at the time. I completely trusted that the hospital had mine and my baby’s best interest at heart. I was terrified and felt like by trying to go drug free I was killing my baby. Of course I accepted the pitocin.

After that the contractions became unbearable. I couldn’t walk and breathe and rock and bounce through them anymore. I can’t recall the exact feeling now, but I remember being in excruciating pain and just wanting to sleep. They gave me some narcotic, I think it was demerol. I couldn’t tell you exactly. I do not even take tylenol for headaches, and I was especially careful what I put into myself when I was pregnant. The narcotic made me super loopy. According to hubby I would sleep but wake up screaming at each contraction. I don’t really remember. At some point I got an epidural. I don’t remember that either.

My next clear memory is waking up and feeling alert suddenly. The nurse came in to check, I was at 10 cm and could start pushing. I needed a few minutes to collect myself. I was in the bed strapped to monitors unable to move because of the epidural. Hubby was asleep next to me. I woke him up saying “It’s time it’s time! Get up!”  He grabbed my leg, and looked so scared as I am sure I looked too, and I pushed for about 15 minutes. Our daughter came out easily enough, no forceps or anything. Thank God for small miracles!

before my BP dropped suddenly...

Before my BP dropped suddenly…

She was immediately taken to the table to be cleaned weighed measured inspected poked and prodded. I didn’t get to hold her for 45 minutes. I don’t know if they delayed cord clamping but they got her over to the table so fast I doubt it. They sewed me up, as I had torn a lot, and removed the epidural. I finally got to hold her and we started to breastfeed, she latched right on. Then I passed out. My BP dropped to 60/30 and out I went. Apparently this is common with an epidural. I didn’t know that at the time either. I guess they threw some fluids in me and I had quite a recovery afterwards.

It could have been worse, this is true, but if I had educated myself more beforehand  it could have been a lot better. There was no medical reason for them to coerce me into anything, nothing was explained to me it was just told. You will do this and that’s what we say. I know they gave my daughter a pacie and shots without consulting us first. At one point when I was out my hubby told me they took her out of the room and wouldn’t let him follow. When they returned they told him everything was fine, it was just routine. We still aren’t sure what they did while she was not in the room with us. It seems like we heard that word a lot during our stay at the hospital. It’s routine. Keeping parents in the dark and doing medically unnecessary procedures to a woman in labor is routine? Thats not the kind of place I would want to be, and it doesn’t seem like it was the kind of place they represented themselves as.

I recognize hospitals around the country are getting better, as proved to me with this past birth. But I also see that not enough are changing and all too much women in this country are perfectly happy with the way things are. There is a time and a place for doctors and hospitals, even during pregnancy. Some women DO need the help to have healthy babies. Again, with my second birth we would have had a very different and probably tragic outcome if not for medical intervention. I am grateful a hospital was there when I needed it and of course, overjoyed with my wonderful little girl.  However, I say again and again and again until every woman hears it: Pregnancy is NOT a disease and you are not disabled! Keep reading every single thing you can about pregnancy. Just don’t stop reading and learning. Make informed decisions and don’t be bullied! If you feel a hospital is what you want, at least know the risks when you go thru the door. Being a parent starts at pregnancy which means the tough choices start then too.

For all future mama’s out there, good luck and welcome to the ride!

  1. May 10th, 2013

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