Thank so much for showing interest in my story. I hope you can find a piece of yourself in this somewhere. I’m going to be as honest and open as possible in what I share!
Most people write down their story or aspects of it relatively soon after the birth. I’ve waited almost two years to write about the birth of my daughter. On some level I wasn’t able to write about it until now. It’s not an exaggeration for me to say that the experience changed me forever, and I truly needed some distance from it in order to write with any amount of clarity.
Leading up to the birth, I was what you might describe as a “model” pregnant lady. I ate an incredible fresh, organic food directly from our garden and local farms, exercised daily, listened to a relaxation tape religiously, and generally prepared for natural birth as if it were an Olympic event. I researched and read everything from the Bradley method to Hypnobirthing. I took every opportunity to ask my mother, a doula who has helped hundreds of woman, any question I could think of.
My husband Jon and I decided to have the baby at a hospital a half hour away from our house with a nurse midwife present. Procedure and restrictions vary from hospital to hospital, so I took a lot of time with my birth plan. You can read it here if you are interested.
My ultimate goal was to have a natural, pain free birth. Yes, you read that right, I used “natural” and “pain free” in the same sentence. Early in my pregnancy, I got really into a technique called Hypnobirthing. I was amazed to find that many women reported having peaceful, pain free births using the Hypno method. It emphasizes breathing, partner-guided instruction, using imagery and putting yourself in a somewhat hypnotic state while laboring and delivering. Don’t believe it you say? Just go pop some corn, head to YouTube and watch a few.
The Pre-Game Warm Up
One thing that I wish I had talked to someone about is how disconnected I felt from the baby for a good portion of the pregnancy. People talk about it like it’s normal, but really looking back there were so many things I could have done to establish a deeper connection. It was really a symptom of a bigger issue which was that I was withdrawing from a lot of people in my life without really realizing it.
During the last trimester, I stopped going most places that weren’t within like a five mile radius from the house. It was something that would get even worse after my daughter was born. Reading this back it does sound depressing, but I just want to give you an honest account. The good news was that physically I felt strong and determined all the way up to the day of the birth. Also, I had a ton of support available to me throughout my birth if I had been more willing to take advantage of it.
A Note On Castor Oil Induction
One day before my official due date, I decided to take one capful of castor oil to induce labor. Now I know some of you will judge me for this action. Why as a natural birth advocate would I do that? Why didn’t I just simply wait and let nature takes its course? Plus, isn’t it dangerous? Ok, I have a very complicated response to some of these questions.
The main reason I did it because every fiber in my being was telling me it was time. So yes, I am pulling the mother’s instinct card. However, I have to be honest and temper this card with another reality, I did not feel like myself. I was HUGE, hot, and making decisions inside of the box that was my head at that point.
Further proof of my isolation was that I didn’t tell anyone else that I was going to take the castor oil. Strange because my mom had been my confidant the entire time, not to mention she was part of my health care team. I think at the time I was worried she’d try to talk me out of it, but obviously she would have just supported me if I really felt it was for the best.
Historically speaking, Castor oil has been safely used by thousands if not millions of woman to induce labor. Although there have been claims made, there has been no complete study linking castor oil to increased instances of meconium (babies defecating in utero). I started contractions on September 14, 2012 3:00 pm – the day after I took the Castor oil. Contractions stayed pretty minor throughout the rest of that day, and I spent most of it weeding and harvesting in the garden. At around 8:00 pm that night I tried to get some sleep and was woken up by stronger contractions at 10:30 pm. I went into the side bedroom and timed my contractions for the next five hours. When the contractions were five min apart, I woke my husband up.
Looking back, it seems strange to me that I didn’t get anyone up sooner. I think it was just one more clue that I was really so far within myself at that point. It’s different for everyone, and I am definitely one of those people that would prefer to do a lot of the early laboring alone. However, I now believe that for me, it would have been invaluable to have someone there as the contractions deepened. There is a syncing up and tuning in that happens with your birth support team during labor. I never gave my mom or husband the chance to really get into that rhythm before we left.
To The Bat Mobile!
At around 5:00 am, my contractions were four and a half minutes a part – we agreed it was time to head to the hospital. To a lot of people that may seem too late to leave, but I wanted to labor in the comfort of my own home for as long as possible – plus I felt completely safe. By the time we got there and they checked me, I was five centimeters dilated and 80% effaced. They hooked me up to a monitor to get an initial reading. This hospital was great in that I wasn’t required to stay hooked up to the monitor constantly. It was absolutely essential for me to be on my hands and knees during every contraction, and the monitor would have slowed down my birth and magnified my pain significantly.
It was around this point that I was told my midwife would not be able to make it to my delivery and that a doctor from the hospital would be overseeing instead. This really threw me because I had worked with my midwife the entire time and to not have her there affected my mental state. Still they said the doctor was very experienced and familiar with my birth plan.
About two hours into active labor, I got into the birthing tub to see if it would ease some of the pain. For some reason it was just too much for me to labor in the water, and I had an overwhelming sensation to get out. I actually yelled, “I gotta get outta here!” Water can really help labor progress, and at one point I thought she was crowning. Turns out it was just the pressure from my water because as soon as I got out of the tub it broke (my water not the tub ☺).
At four hours in, I was really starting to head towards the finish line. The nurse checked me again and I was eight centimeters and almost 100% effaced. During the entire process, my team of nurses, my doula mom and my husband were incredible. The truth is you will most likely not see much of your doctor or midwife during the entire process. The nurses and birth partners are your main lifeline.
At this point my contractions were coming in waves one on top of the other. I had a little bit of break in between some of them, but not much. By now the entire notion of a pain free birth was out the window. I had a lot of back labor and with each contraction was on my hands and knees screaming. If I had been wearing blue face paint, I could have easily been mistaken for an extra in Braveheart.
I’d like to stop and say that this was only my experience. I think Hynobirthing is amazing. It dispels the culture of fear surrounding childbirth, empowers women to take control of their birth experience and has helped so many people. The reality is that you can up your odds, but what works for one woman might not work for another.
What I regret is not that I attempted using the Hynobirthing method, it’s how consumed and obsessive that my husband and I got with the idea. So much so that my own mother/doula later told me that she was afraid to tell me to “push” and provide other advice in case it conflicted with our Hyno ideas. We were so into it that at the very end Jon was actually thumbing through the book to see what guided imagery was right for that final big push. Yes sounds crazy I know, but God bless all first time Dads in that room!!
Cora The Explorer
In the minutes before my daughter was born the room was suddenly filled with people. There were about four nurses, my doctor and three interns. I’m still not quite sure why so many people came in at the end, but I know it sort of shocked me. I had to close my eyes because it was just too much stimulus seeing like seven faces beyond my raised up legs.
I could feel the baby moving down and the contractions were completely different than any I had before. My body was doing exactly what it was supposed to and when I heard all five woman say, “PUSH!” it encouraged me in those final seconds.
On September 15, 2012 at 10:00 am, five hours after we had arrived, The Wild Child was born. She came out crying, and I wanted nothing more than to give her that skin-to-skin contact and breastfeed her. But because she had meconium, they had to check her right away. Luckily they were able to do it right in the room and it only took a few minutes. Still, that was a difficult moment.
When they handed her to me, time completely stopped. Until my own death, I will most likely never experience a moment like that. I put her on my chest and she immediately started nursing strongly (it’s almost two years later and she hasn’t stopped since!)
It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over
About a half hour later the nurses checked on me. There was a lot of blood and although in most cases breastfeeding gets the uterus to contract, in my case it wasn’t working. For the next hour the nurses massaged the blood clots out and monitored me.
I continued to bleed and they tried to get me to go to the bathroom as peeing can help the uterus contract. I made it to the bathroom door and promptly fainted. At this point my doctor came in and said it was time to check my blood levels so they could get a clear idea of where I was at. In the meantime, they gave me a topical dose of Pitocin. At that point, I was pretty out of it and put myself completely in their care. My levels came back low, and I was dangerously close to requiring a blood transfusion. I was then administered a stronger dose of Pitocin intravenously.
While we were waiting, the nurses tried three times to insert a catheter. If you think childbirth is hard, try having one of those stuck in you post-partum. They never could get it, and I had to use a good ole fashioned bedpan.
Finally it started to work! The clots were lessening and everyone started to breath a little easier.
Soon after we got the good news, my doctor came in and said, “Natural birth, I should have known better and given you the Pitocin through the IV sooner. Now you’re going to have a horrible recovery time. I’ll never make that mistake again.” Her words echoed in my ears. What did natural birth have to do with it? Was she saying that because I requested minimal interventions during the birth that I was somehow responsible for what happened after birth when I was bleeding out?
There was absolutely nothing in my birth plan about my care post-delivery, and I made it crystal clear to the entire team before going into this that I trusted them, and that in the case of any emergency they should do what they felt was best. The entire time I was open and receptive to the nurses (who by the way were the ones who actually attended my birth).
My doctor had thirty years of experience and assisted literally thousands of births. I cannot believe that my birth plan and preferences stopped her from doing what she felt was right. Yet, that’s basically what she was telling me. It deflated me in the moment because I had just gone through this incredible journey, and that was what my doctor led with and dwelled on.
Also, it made me nervous for other women opting for a more natural birth in a traditional hospital setting. I think it’s important that healthcare professionals get the chance to work with more families who are interested in a holistic birth experience. These types of gaps and misunderstandings are really a product of lack of exposure and communication between those two worlds.
After three days in the hospital, we were finally sent home to heal and bond as a family. I went in those doors as one person, and came out two. It was a miracle.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share in my experience. I am open to any questions you might have about what I’ve shared or anything else on your mind. I’ll be following this up with a post about my recovery and post-partum year.
Your Wild Mamma,