Tag Archives: hospital birth

Thoughts on my unmedicated birth 

Sam’s birth story here. Caroline’s here and here and here.20151011_041329In no way do I want to put anyone off having an unmedicated birth (by which I mean no epidural or pitocin). In fact, the recovery was so easy, and my inherent (and unempirical) resistance to pharmaceutical intervention means that were I to give birth again (which Wes says I absolutely won’t, sob) I would probably go the unmedicated route if possible.

That being said, I feel the most prevalent birth stories we here are (1) I had an unmedicated birth and it was beautiful and magical and what birth should be and (2) I had a medicated birth and it was disappointing / I’m ashamed / I’m traumatized / I feel like a failure. These stories are followed by a smattering of (3) I had a medicated birth and it went well but was nothing to write home about. I just want to add another story: (4) I had an unmedicated birth and it was fine, but I didn’t like it as much as my medicated birth.

The thing I most didn’t like was the lack of control. Towards the end my body was doing things (pushing, screaming) without me even knowing it was happening. Looking back. I feel like I acted like some crazed animal. Which is fine, it’s just not my preference. Some people love this aspect of birth – they use words like ‘primal’ and dig getting back to their raw nature. I’m actually kind of embarrassed now, and I feel awkward going back to my OB. This is even though my head tells me repeatedly that I acted like 90% of laboring / birthing women, and indeed many. many pro-unediacted birth people have told me they did exactly the same and loved it. It’s fine, I just preferred Sam’s birth where I could answer questions calmly, where I decided when to push (as I got the epidural at a full 10 cm – aside of a lip – I actually lay down for 30 minutes while complete to let the epi wear off a little before pushing),  and so on. Having my water broken by my OB with Sam was a little awkward, but it was definitely preferable in my mind to suddenly finding water all over the floor and on my legs and on the birthing ball and so on. At the time I felt bad I couldn’t help clear it up – I was even about to but I got slammed with double peak contractions, os just splashed around in my own amniotic fluid. Delightful.

Yes, I like to be in control. Yes, I have a lot of social anxiety – and sure these are the factors. I’m not saying there isn’t a reason, just that for whatever reason, an unmedicated birth was awkward to me.

I also, against traditional or prevalent dialogue, I found it in no way empowering. The short story of my birth went like this: Turn up in hospital, ask for epidural, beg for epidural, can’t get it, have to give birth without it. I understand this is super common, in fact our Bradley teaching told us that the reason it is “husband coached” childbirth is that this will happen, and you will pretty much not be able to get through it without someone stepping in and preventing pain relief (which is obviously not true, because people do it on their own all the time, but the gist is there).  Or, since the real begging for pain relief comes near the end, it’s too late anyway. So. In a nutshell, for many people, unmedicated births go something like:

I want X.

You can’t have X.

This is opposite of empowerment to me. Just to explain my definition of empowerment, it generally goes:

I want X.

Here is X.

 

Me with a medal. A day I (and my high school sports teachers) thought we would never see

Me with a medal. A day I (and my high school sports teachers) thought we would never see

Finally, I thought I would feel all proud of myself for doing this amazing feat. Sort of like how I felt after my first 10K. Time and time again birth stories finished with women saying “and I realized my strength”. Right. I screamed and wailed and wanted it to stop and my body did it’s own thing regardless. I mean, it did it very well, don’t get me wrong. But it didn’t require any mental strength or fortitude on my part. No matter how painful those contractions are, it’s not like you can turn them off and you won’t die, so you will get through them. And that baby is coming out – I am pretty sure there are almost no stories of C-sections because the mother gave up pushing (babies getting stuck is a different issue). Your body is just going to push it out whatever. So, yes, it is very cool that bodies can do this but really, just making a kiddo and having it enter the world is the cool and amazing part. I didn’t feel ‘amazingly strong’ after giving birth.

My "it's over. It's actually over" face.

My “it’s over. It’s actually over” face.

Perhaps it helps that I didn’t have any negative effects from my epidural. I could walk and squat with it, and move about. It was effective, but I was not numb. I felt the urge to push appropriately, and after the baby came out felt the same emotion as an unmedicated birth (honestly? My first thought both times was: Thank f*ck that it over. For Sam because he took so long and I was worried they would do an emergency C-section, and for Caroline because: no more pain!). And that is not everyone’s experience with an epidural, so maybe you don’t want to take the risk. And I say all this having had two amazing and faultless birth teams both times. And I could have prepared better for Caroline’s birth and prepared Wes better and we could have handled it all a bit differently (although, as I say, most unmedicated birth stories seem to be quite similar). But of course, yymv.

There was a sort of stunned silence after Caroline’s birth from my husband and I. It had been so quick, and so… violent is the word I would use. I honestly felt a little shocked and mad at the world. I think Wes knew, because the first thing he said when they placed Caroline on my chest was “Hey – you got the natural birth you wanted” [he uses natural… I think all births are natural and use the less loaded medicated vs. unmedicated]. And it’s all good. My kiddos are here and healthy, I don’t dwell on either birth, feel positively about very many aspects of both (especially that my teams respected my choices – now that is empowerment -, that they had very baby centered approaches and that they never ever got frustrated with me, in fact, both times they treated it like this was their only birth not the 5th of the day…) and am generally a happy camper.

I would go unmedicated again. But I wouldn’t look forward to it, like I would look forward to a medicated birth.

 

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Caroline’s birth story – pt 3

AKA “the part where I lost my freaking mind”.

Me. Losing my mind.

Me. Losing my mind.

Also – before we get to the nitty gritty, remember the recent hoopla over the guy who took selfies while his wife was delivering? Let’s just say he wasn’t the first.

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Needs no caption.

Part 1 here, and part 2 here.

I was 7 cm dilated when I got to triage, and probably about the same when they wheeled me up to a delivery room since the stress of transferring to hospital slowed things down a bit. All my months of denial about birth, and hours of denial about labor made me forget all my Bradley training and pretty much everything I knew about labor and birth, so I pretty much rocked up like one of those women who mistake an 8 month nausea-filled gestation complete with intestinal punches and kicks for “the effects of holiday eating” (and I’m really concerned about how they eat on holidays). Naive, confused and completely fecking useless.

Everyone is looking at me an laughing like there is some kind of joke going on. I don't look so amused though... Hmmmm

Everyone is looking at me and laughing like there is some kind of joke going on. I don’t look so amused though… Hmmmm

Oh, addendum: before leaving the triage room I stated “I want an epidural”.

We arrive in delivery at about 3 am and the contractions are picking up steam in terms of pain. Having slowed a bit for the jaunt to hospital (an oft-observed phenomenon) they luckily got nice and regular (read: sucky and regular) when we settled in. The nurse started preparing an IV of antibiotics for the group B strep and fluid for the epidural.

Then my OB arrived. She apprised the situation. She uttered the words “but I thought she didn’t want an epidural?” and with -I swear – a sort of disappointed look responded to “she’s changed her mind” with a shrug and an “OK then”. I wanted to punch her, really hard (even though I love her really). The only thing that saved her pretty face and my jail-free life was the knowledge that she’d be poking around the business end of my body soon, and hey, I try to be nice to people who end up there, whatever their reason is.

I gritted my teeth and told her that I couldn’t deal with the pain after all. My OB’s path to redemption began when she looked at my nurses and told them to help me with the pain. She offered me a bath which I declined mid-contraction in tears and so she suggested a yoga ball. This gave me pause. Wes said “she’s the yoga ball queen” so as a contraction ended I bitterly conceded “ok, that maybe sounds good”.

They even inserted up my IVs while I sat on the ball.

They even inserted up my IVs while I sat on the ball.

I’ll confess: it was darn good. She then got the nurse to put counter pressure on my back with the contraction and I entered his blissful phase where the contractions were pretty bearable and I got glorious pain free (completely fucking pain free) breaks for a minute or so in between but was high on the endorphins. And all with my OB was forgiven. Happy times.

No pain! Glorious pain-free moments.

No pain! Glorious pain-free moments.

That glorious state lasted for ooohh… 10 minutes at the most and then transition started. The contractions got stronger until I was flopped over the bed from my yoga ball begging my OB to look at the contraction monitor and tell me the contraction was on its way down. At some point I think they situated Wes opposite me and got him to be reassuring… Unfortunately at that point I felt intense nausea and started shriek “I’m going to vomit” and retch at his crotch. He bore it well but later confessed he was horrified. The nurses did sweet things like ask me if I liked my hair tied up, and when I said yes, they did so. They really tried to help with small comforts.

At about 3.20 I looked down and saw fluid everywhere and felt totally humiliated by it for some reason. I miserably said “I think my water broke” and the nurse looked down and said “yes” then looked at the OB and said “light meconium staining” and I remember feeling truly miserable as I thought through the pain “I am sitting, helplessly bouncing around in body fluid and poo while crying – this is the worst thing ever”.

My water breaking signaled another increase in contraction intensity and a lack of break between them such that one would start before true other ended. I think I truly lost my mind slightly because I remember the OB reminding me to breathe and I didn’t even realize I wasn’t. I also remember the pain ripping angry yells from my body at the peaks. I was lucky – transition lasted only about 15 minutes for me. I guess it was obvious to my experienced OB that I had passed through that because after 15 minutes she looked at me and very calmly said “Alexis, do you feel constant pressure yet?”. I tried to figure it out… I thought that if the pain would just recede a little I could figure out if and where and when I was feeling “pressure”. But the pain was just unending and intense and I gave up and felt useless not being able help, and said in tears “I don’t even know”.

My team was super nice about my pathetic-ness and just gave me space to do my thing; they never questioned or pushed me or intervened to assess me. They seemed to truly trust me and my body which on some level was reassuring and must have been calming because a few minutes later I looked at them with terrified eyes and said “I need to push”. Followed by “actually, thinking about it, I think I’ve been pushing for a while”.

The OB told me to get on the bed and the thought of actually balancing and putting weight on my legs was like someone asking me fly so I declared I couldn’t do it. I looked at the resident who was evidently going to actually deliver the girl and said in a measured and dangerous tone: “my epidural?”. I swear j have never seen a doctor look so scared and she mutely shook her head. That was it. I wailed “I can’t do this” as the nurses hoiked me onto the bed. Half way up I yelled out “oh, ring of fire! Ring of fire“. My nice OB said no stirrups or anything like that, just to let me get into my own position. Basically a glorious hands off approach.

Left to my own devices my body really did take over and push with the contractions at the end of transition. My mind had nothing to do with this… My body was pushing and wailing and screaming through contractions and I was completely unaware of it… It all seemed to be on autopilot and I truly felt like an animal. A couple of minutes after getting on the bed, when my OB said “try to use your energy to push down not yell out” it brought me to my senses more. I realized that I had not even realized I was yelling and needed to pull it together a but. The contractions had more or less gone and the pain was gone. So I did what any reasonable person would do at this point when faced with the prospect of reopening the door to pain and took a deep breath, looked the staff In their eyes and calmly, but firmly, re-iterated

“I can’t do this”

Everyone - everyone - joining in the effort to convince me that I could do this

Everyone – everyone – joining in the effort to convince me that I could do this

Everyone joined in this team effort to convince me I could. I was highly skeptical until my OB told me that I could, because I basically already had. Caroline was almost out – she had been pushed most of the way on the ball, and was now crowning. I should have known that from my “ring of fire” yelps, but my reason had gone. Gone. Even the crowning didn’t move me – it was when my OB said “she’s blonde” (I responded “blonde? Really? Like her brother?”) that it became real to me – my daughter was here and she had hair like her brother.

My super sexy pushing face.

My super sexy pushing face.

So I pushed. And pushed. Probably only 3 pushes or so, but it hurt. It really hurt – the contractions were like the most intense I-might-pass-out type pain. The pushing was nowhere near as painful but just deeply unpleasant – I felt like my intestines were going to fall out of my butt hole. Seriously. Like I was going to turn inside out. The level of pain was bearable… The unpleasantness held it back. My OB could tell I was holding back and put two fingers in me and pressed down stretching my entrance. I got quite cross and said “you’re hurting me!” And she said triumphantly “yes! Now push past that pain” which helped – a lot. I could focus on an area and push beyond it. A couple of pushes and I asked if I could have a break to breathe… They said yes…. Then as I started up again, the other super helpful thing my OB said was “when you get her out all this pain will go” which was a good motivator. A few more painful pushes and the nurses looked excited and said “yes! She’s here”. Her head was half way out! I asked for another break…

At this point. All the pain really really stopped. I mean, I’m not going to claim that it was comfortable having half a baby’s head out of me, but it wasn’t painful. And it was nearly 4 am and I was tired and it really did cross my mind that I just wouldn’t start pushing again. I’d nap. Have a snack. Maybe start again tomorrow. Maybe.

My team began to get a bit nervous as their wailing gnashing banshee sat there serenely peaceful, doing nothing. For all the world as if she was about to settle in with netflix and some wine… Apart from the baby half hanging out of her. They made all sorts of encouraging noises (it got to the stage where even the non-medical staff such as the clean-up lady give me huge thumbs up of encouragement). I just half closed my eyes and felt peaceful. Eventually it crossed my mind that this might not be too good for my baby and that galvanized me into one last push… And out she came. Caroline was here.

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The pain did indeed immediately end. The pediatric team had been called because of the meconium staining, but Caroline came out roaring and my OB said “as she’s crying can I hand her over?” (Love my OB!). They pediatric team obviously said yes and a sticky, gooey, poo-ey Caroline was laid on my chest while they suctioned her and did a clean up right there on my chest. I had an itty bitty first degree tear sewed up and just looked at my daughter. She was here!

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