Reflections on my first birth, written October 2, 2018
It has been almost nine years since I had my first daughter, Anaïs. She was born October 2, 2009. My first birth was my most difficult birth. It is hard to know everything going into birth because you don’t know the path you’ll take. The one biggest thing I had going into the birth was FEAR. Fear of the unknown. Fear of letting go. Fear of surrendering. This birth taught me not to be afraid. It also taught me how strong and amazing I am. Even given this, I would never do birth alone without my team. Birth is challenging and requires you to go outside of your thinking brain. I believe having a doula and my loving partner by my side were key elements to my success.
I am sharing the story of the birth of my first child written nine days after her birth. This story is written by a first time mama who had no idea that she would be a birth doula.
Anaïs' Birth Story, written October 11, 2009
For me, Anaïs' birth was not extremely painful but that doesn't mean it was not difficult. Actually, it was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. It was about managing my fears and new sensations. I could see how that might transcend into the feeling of pain for some women. The hardest thing for me to manage was the unbelievable amount of pressure in my rectum. At one point, I thought Anaïs was going to come out the back end. It was really hard for me to deal with this sensation. I really called on the help of my doula, and looked to her and to my doctor for guidance. The other really difficult part was pushing. It did not come naturally to me and I felt a bit overwhelmed having to learn how to push in the heat of the moment (I wished that I explored this before the birth). The good news is once I got it, I got it. I pushed my little princess out. At one point during the pushing stage, I was so upset when they told me to stop because I hate pausing in the middle of something, I just wanted to get it done and be over with it!!!!! It was time to meet my baby.
Ok, so the drama all started Wednesday, September 30 (2009), the day of my last yoga class. That night, I went to Labor & Delivery for observation. I was having some bleeding and passing some blood clots so they advised that I be observed. I was hoping that they would reassure me that everything was okay but in the end the doctor on duty noticed that the amniotic fluid was extremely low. Low fluid can be an indication that the placenta is not working efficiently any longer. Also with the fluid being so low the umbilical cord "could" get pinched and stop delivering fresh blood to baby. For this reason, the doctor prescribed an induction. OH LA LA!!!! Bertrand and I were surprised, we did not expect this; we were worried about bleeding. I was fearful. In the end, we compromised to stay the night for monitoring and try to get some sleep before I needed to go into labor. This was a terrible idea because I couldn't sleep comfortably in the hospital for numerous reasons: the bed sucked, the monitor sucked and the nurse came in every hour. So Bertrand and I packed our bags at 3 am and told the nurse we were leaving. We had to sign all these serious documents saying we were refusing doctors orders, blah blah blah. I was a little scared but did not feel comfortable in the hospital at that time and learned (in my Birthing From Within classes) that we need to feel safe in order to give birth. Needless to say, I did not feel safe and my contractions slowed down.
We had an appointment with my doctor the next morning (October 1) at 10:30 am. This is another reason why we decided to leave the hospital. We really wanted to talk to our doctor, I really trust her. She understands my wishes of a natural birth so if she says induction, I know it is necessary and can accept it. So after our exam she looked me in the eyes and said "yes, you need an induction". The look in her eyes was so sad. I'd been doing everything right and now this. I was okay with it. I accepted it. Bertrand and I decided to go home and eat lunch and then check into the hospital for my planned induction.
I was an ideal candidate for an induction. I was already at 4cm and 90% effaced thus I probably only needed a "whiff" to get things going. I was already having contractions since early Wednesday morning, just nothing consistent so a little Pitocin really got things moving. My induction finally started at 7pm (that's another dramatic story for another time). I was given 1ml per hour and slowly moved up to 4 ml per hour. Since things were really moving and I was transitioning in the heat of labor land, the staff decided it was ok to take me off Pitocin and the fetal monitor. Consequently, I had the ability to move around without lugging a silly IV bag.
At 9 pm, my labor was well on its way and that's when we decided to call our doula. She arrived just in time and took great care of me: massaging my hands, breathing with me, voicing (low moaning sounds), getting me in the shower. The shower was the highlight of my labor. First, I was at 7cm, so this was progress. Secondly, I moved into a state of deep relaxation. I felt so good, like I was floating. It felt similar to having laughing gas in your system (remembering my days at the dentist). While I was enjoying my natural high, my husband passed out on the couch next to the bed. Immediately I was appalled that he was sleeping but then I decided to keep enjoying my natural high. An hour passed and labor started picking up. This is when I started to feel the pressure in my rectum. We decided to get checked and I reached 8cm and the baby was at -2. We then decided to break my bag of waters to help speed things up. This surprisingly was an amazing sensation, feeling the warm water ooze out. It was also very relaxing and calming.
My doula was my rock, she keep telling me to let go and relax but it was hard. Throughout this time, I moved around on the couch, hung over the bed, on the ball, did some squats with my husband. I was making good progress so we decided it was time to call Dr Cato who personally wanted to deliver my baby. She arrived and soon after, the pushing began. This was another hard plateau. When I began pushing, I was exhausted. I lost all my might but my doula, our nurse, the doctor and my husband moved me around into many positions: squatting, on my side, bending over. I just couldn't get the pushing right. In addition, my contractions were slowing down. Reluctantly, my doula and doctor asked me if I wanted a little Pitocin. I responded, by saying, you tell me what I need to do to get my baby out. Immediately, I was hooked up to the IV and given 1 ml of Pitocin, which sent me directly into the real pushing phase. My husband noticed the beautiful pink and purple sunrise just outside the window and opened the blinds for me to see. I was so excited and realized the length of my labor at this point.
In the end, I pushed my baby out on my back, with my doula, nurse and husband holding my legs. It was in this position that things clicked for me and I was to push Anaïs out in about four or five pushes. For the last two big pushes, the nurse called my mother, and my in-laws into the room to witness the birth of their first grandchild. I was in awe to finally meet my baby who was born, October 2, at 7:31 am.
One last thought
To all future birthing mothers, I have two wishes for you: love and support. Birth, in my eyes, is a tremendous emotional journey. I hope that every mother and partner is able to experience it in an environment filled with love and support. It makes birth easier.