Looking back at my daughter’s birth, I had a lot of guilt and regret. I feel like I was bullied into using Pitocin, and it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I didn’t get the birth experience that I wanted or that she deserved. It was an unmedicated hospital birth, as I had planned, but the Pitocin made the contractions nearly impossible to breathe through. It was a fairly traumatic experience. I knew that I wanted, needed, something better the next time around.
My plans for my son’s birth mirrored my plans for my daughter’s, however this time I felt better prepared, more determined, and more educated. I found an amazing midwife that I actually felt comfortable with. And the more I talked to her about my goals, my fears, and the ways in which my daughter’s birth have marked me, the more confident and excited I became.
My goal all along was to let baby boy come when he was ready. The shear amount of women who get induced at 39 weeks is alarming to me. I wanted something more, and my son deserved it. So the idea of induction never crossed my mind. Pitocin is great when necessary, don’t get me wrong. Induction is needed sometimes, and there is nothing wrong with that. But for me, I needed a healing birth experience to help me get past my scars from my daughter’s birth.
With our upcoming move, and my husband’s new job start date quickly approaching, I started to get worried about whether we would make our deadline. In a perfect world, I would gladly, albeit uncomfortably, stay pregnant as long as my midwife would safely allow. However, as I hit 39 weeks, the reality of Chris leaving in a few weeks really hit me and I realized that if we wanted him to have any time with us after the birth, I would not be able to go past 40 weeks.
At my 39 week appointment I tearfully discussed options with my midwife. She was amazing in that she understood our situation and thoroughly listened as I just sat and cried at the idea of needing to be induced, but realizing that we just didn’t have the time to let baby boy decide. What I didn’t know was that induction didn’t necessarily equal Pitocin. As she explained other options such as a Foley balloon to dilate the cervix to 7 cm, and a cream that softens the cervix, I felt a little relief in knowing that we were all on the same page with Pitocin being my absolute last resort.
At this time I was 2 cm and about 70% effaced. She explained that she could strip my membranes but that I was right on the cusp of whether it would work or not. I had her go ahead and we scheduled to be induced on August 19th, at 40 weeks.
I had read about having membranes stripped and there were mixed reviews. About half the women who talked about having it done said it was mildly uncomfortable, while the other half said it was extremely painful. Me being the big baby that I am, found it to be extremely painful. I went home that night hoping and praying that it would get things going. But alas, nothing.
The whole next week we went on walks and I tried to stay hydrated in preparation for the big day. Every night I went to bed hoping, praying, and wishing for labor to start on it’s own, but the only thing that happened was the same Braxton Hicks contractions I had been experiencing for the past month.
I had my 40 week appointment on Thursday. I had her check my progress. There was none. So we left the clinic realizing that I would be induced the very next morning. The next few hours were filled with mixed emotions. I was completely excited to meet my baby boy, not knowing how to process the end of my daughter being my only, and filled with sadness in being induced. Again, this is not to say that induction isn’t great when it’s completely necessary. But this was just the beginning of a series of probabilities that I would not get the birth experience I needed and desired.
I went to bed Thursday night feeling like a kid leaving for Disneyland the next day, and couldn’t sleep. By the time I finally did fall asleep, I woke up needing to go to the bathroom. Our appointment was scheduled for 7 am, which meant I needed to be up and getting ready by 6 am. I knew that if I got up I wouldn’t fall back asleep but I really needed to go. I spent about three hours tossing and turning and waiting for each contraction to turn into something real. I finally fell asleep again about a half hour before my alarm went off.
I got out of bed at 6 am on Friday August 19th, to call and make sure they had a room for me. When they said they did, we proceeded to get ready. I had delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and blackberries. We grabbed our bags, said goodbye to a tearful baby girl, and we were on our way!
I had noticed starting around when my alarm first went off at 5:45 that I had been having relatively consistent contractions; about ten minutes apart and extremely mild. When we arrived at the hospital, they set us up in our room and hooked me up to the fetal monitor to track baby boy’s heart rate. They told us that our midwife would arrive in about an hour. So we settled in and watched the Olympics.
Since I was feeling contractions, I decided to keep an eye on the monitor and noticed that they were consistent. They weren’t at all painful, though, so I figured there was no way I had gone into labor on my own. However, they had gotten closer together by the time the midwife arrived.
Since the balloon and cream were in place. I had to lay in bed for an hour. I started to get really uncomfortable because my contractions were picking up and I couldn’t move. I asked Chris to shut off the TV and turn on my labor playlist. About an hour after everything was started, the midwife came in and the three of us walked the halls. I’m not sure how long we walked or how many laps we did, but I went from being completely fine to having to take a breath during contractions. On our final lap, I had to stop and grab the bar and actually breathe. I remember the midwife telling Chris that this was a good sign. As we continued walking back to our room, I had told her that there was a lot of pressure in my low back, particularly on my right side. She said this was likely caused by the pressure of the balloon.
We made it back to the room and I had a chance to lean over the bed and to bounce/rock on the birthing ball. It was a relief to be able to move my hips through the contractions.
Three hours after the first use of the cream, the midwife did the second round. Again, I had to lay in bed for an hour so the cream would have a chance to work and I started getting really uncomfortable. Contractions were five minutes apart or less and I was needing to breathe through each one. When I was finally able to get up, I had to use the restroom and this was when the balloon came out. I was at 7 cm!
I went back to leaning over the bed and using the ball. I noticed that when I sat on the ball, I couldn’t feel the contractions any more. Since I wanted things to continue to progress, I decided I would lean over the bed where I could feel them a little more. They weren’t painful. I did need to breathe through each one but I wasn’t in any pain at all. I was afraid that things were tapering off, as I had been warned could happen, and that I would need Pitocin. When the midwife came back in to see how things were going, she wanted to push some fluids to try to space out the contractions because they were basically on top of each other. She decided to check me and I was at 8cm. We decided to break my water and then get in the birthing tub.
Sitting in the tub felt wonderful. At this point I was entering transition and things started to get painful. I remember struggling to breathe through each wave, but both the midwife and my husband were great at reminding me and talking me through each one. I sat in the tub through a handful of contractions and then I thought I felt the urge to push.
I got out of the tub and I moved to the birthing seat. It’s a really neat chair that sits on the floor and supports your legs while having a large opening so you can comfortably give birth in the squatting position. I kept feeling the urge to push and the midwife helped me to listen to my body and push as it told me. However, I couldn’t do it. She checked me there and said that there was a little bit of cervix left to dilate. It was really uncomfortable because I had the urge to push, but I couldn’t do anything. She decided to move me to the toilet so that I could try to relax. I was in full on transition phase and I asked if it was too late for pain medication. She said we would have to go to the bed to check my progress.
We moved to the bed during the next break and she checked me. All that was left was a tiny bit of cervix so it was too late for pain medication. I moved over to my hands and knees and kept feeling the urge to push so she encouraged me to push with each contraction and let my body guide me. I was pushing but felt like nothing was happening. After what felt like quite a few waves, she checked me again and I still had that small part left to dilate so she had me lay on my side for a couple contractions and then the other side for a couple. It was extremely painful because my hip wasn’t relaxing in this position so I needed to move. I got back to hands and knees for a couple contractions and tried to push, but still nothing was happening.
Finally, the midwife had the nurses set up the squatting bar and I moved into squatting position. She checked me one more time. Baby’s head had come below my cervix, giving me the urge to push, but the “lip” of cervix still had not dilated so he couldn’t turn and get his shoulders down. I was pushing as hard as I could and he wasn’t coming, so she had to push the cervix over his shoulders.
A couple more pushes and I felt his head come out. The next contraction came and I pushed two or three more times. At 2:51 pm, there he was!
As soon as he came out, they brought him up to my chest. I just kept saying his name over and over again. I couldn’t believe he was here. I kept rubbing his side and back and he wasn’t crying. They had to clamp his cord right away and I got to watch Chris cut it!
They took him over to the warming table because he was pale and not crying. He finally started crying and I held him as I delivered the placenta. I couldn’t get over how beautiful and perfect he was.
I held my sweet boy a while longer and things calmed down. After a couple hours, Chris left to go get our daughter. I couldn’t wait for her to meet her little brother. My one regret with my son’s birth, was that I missed seeing big sister’s face when she first saw him and that we didn’t get it on camera.
I remember the day after he was born, my husband and I were just sitting in our room and I told him I just felt good. I was sore, yes, exhausted, definitely, but I felt so good. As if everything was just as it should be.
My son’s birth was very different from my daughter’s but it was exactly the peaceful, healing experience that I so badly needed. I still look back in amazement at how easy it all seemed.
Birth is different for every woman and with each child. If there is one thing I’ve learned from my two very different birth experiences, it’s that birth is incredible no matter how you do it. And it changes you in the most beautiful ways.