This is the story of my third baby’s entry into the world, and how I gained respect for myself again. Evening, November 5, 2002: My membranes ruptured at nearly 38 weeks pregnant with my son Mathew. I wanted our birth to be natural and drug free, as this is what I had read what was best for mom and baby: to let your body do its thing during labor and childbirth. As soon as I arrived at the hospital I was on their clock. 1st intervention: Pitocin after an hour. Then more Pitocin and more monitoring. He was born the morning of November 7th, via ‘emergency’ caesarean. My recovery lasted weeks. (I finally started to have feeling in my lower abdomen around the time Matt turned 2 years old). He was weak, and bruised, and stayed at the hospital for a week for observation. Feeling as if I had already failed in providing a safe environment and a good start, I died a little inside then.
Morning, November 27, 2008: Contractions start at 40 weeks 5 days gestation with my daughter, six years later. I didn’t have much support. I received a lot of negativity from numerous people about my decision during my pregnancy. But I was hell-bent on having the birth women were intended to give their children. I was not going to take shit from anyone. When I felt ready to go in, my husband knew not to let me sign the surgery consent form. I go in to the hospital, and I automatically deny the surgery. The pressure’s on, along with comments of “you’re going to end up with a dead baby”, “you need to be quiet, you’re going to upset the other women in labor”, and “you need this IV and cervical check, stop squirming”, and “the anesthesiologist wants to send you to Spokane because he has to stay up here for you, away from other patients that need him”. My husband was scared and he had the bullying turned on him. He didn’t want to see me in pain. I was so vulnerable. I gave up, and gave in. And I died more. I feel they took part of my soul with the epidural insertion, along with my dignity. There was nothing left in me to care for my child, or myself. I was just a shell, walking around withthis vacant look in my eyes. Physically I healed slowly. I wasn’t strong as I had initially believed about myself, and most people let me know it.
At 1ish AM, December 1st, 2011: I am 40 weeks 5 days with my 3rd child, unknown sex. I have had consistent prodromal labor for what seemed like months (was more like a week, 10 days maybe),getting more intense each session. This one contraction woke me up. I went to the bathroom, walked around, chugged a glass of water. They kept coming. Meditative breathing techniques came in handy.
I was having back labor pains. Those are the worst! I woke Jon up in between a couple, told him I was going to get in the bath tub. He came in with me, and timed them. He called our midwife, Kristin. We were now in rush mode: him waking up the kids and shoving toothbrushes and phone chargers in the suitcase, I leaning over the side of the bed with each wave, and attempting to put pants on in between. We had a potentially long drive ahead of us.
When I found out I was pregnant with Jameson, I probably turned purple trying to not slip into a panic attack. I could not go through what I had before. I could not deprive my kids of their mother again. I would not. Jon and I discussed our options, and decided. We called the 1st midwife. Due to a couple technicalities, not health related, she was unable to take me on. The next midwife was at least 2 hours away. We decided to see if we could find an OB that would promise no pressure.
At about 5 months pregnant I had the worst appointment ever. I found that the OB I had chosen had gone on maternity leave herself until January. The other OB I saw at this appointment said I was stupid for wanting a natural birth after 2 surgeries. He ‘didn’t know of any studies anywhere regarding how successful they are, and frankly couldn’t see one done’. He actually believed that lying to me would make me comply with scheduling a surgery. Like women make decisions like this blindly. Dumbass. I never went to that office again.
I had emailed the 1st midwife and begged her for help. Jon and I had discussed unassisted birth, as a last resort, but I still needed the care and support. She gave my number to Kristin, a midwife a few hours away that was willing to talk with me to see what she could do. I am so thankful for her. We got my anxiety under control, my nutrition on a better track, supplemented by vitamins that made a world of difference. I was urged to do some sort of modified exercise.I was also given resources on birth and vaginal births after caesarean. My light-headedness stopped, I had more energy and could concentrate better. My outlook on this new addition changed to positive anticipation from dread.
Now that I was in labour, we were driving to our midwife. She couldn't come to me, but I could sure as hell go to her. During the drive, my 9 year old son slept. My 3 year old daughter talked. NWPR classical music was on the radio until we lost signal and couldn’t find it again. After that, silence. My husband drove and timed my contractions. I breathed through the quiet times, breathed and talked myself through the contractions, cluthing pillows or the dash. It was a 2-3 hour drive, approximately 180 miles. It sure didn’t feel like it was that long. My contractions were consistently 4 minutes apart. Baby was turned in a way to cause back pain. That was the worst part, besides having to make do with sitting up.
I kept chanting through my contractions: “I’m ok, I’m ok, I’m ok...” Jon would say, “You’re doing great,” and I would reply half the time irritably with “I KNOW...” It seemed to be the mantra of the whole incident. In the back of my mind, I was still worried something would happen and I would fail. I couldn’t fail.
We made it with no incident, between 3:30 and 4 AM. Kristin helped me inside, and then helped get kids situated. Lorri, the second midwife, helped me relax and move the baby by modified child’s pose, enough relief off my back. The tub was up and getting filled. I got my blood pressure taken, and fetal heart monitoring was done periodically by Doppler. I started losing the mucous plug about this time (obviously an indicator I was actually in labor). Kids were situated upstairs; Jon helped me by letting me hold onto him and talking with the midwives about what had happened so far. He also talked with me at this point, though I was not very talkative.
The tub was great. The warmth helped soothe, and the water helped lift some weight pressure off of my pelvis. At some point I just groaned in ecstacy: "I feel like I'm on druuuugs..." (Your body makes tons of oxytocin during labor). Apparently I was pretty funny. I was more comfortable during this time leaning over the edge of the tub on my knees. A few times I lost concentration and was unable to handle a contraction; either Kristin or Lorri was there to help me get back on track. Jon never left my side. Ella, my daughter, came down periodically to see what was going on. Matt, my son, stayed upstairs playing video games. I was worried that he would not go through it well, but he handled me screaming at the end. He didn’t care to be a witness to the dirty work though.
We could tell I was moving into the pushing stage when contractions slowed and came with more pressure. I feel like I dozed in between, alternating sips of water and juice. At one point I just started with this screaming that felt like it came from the very fiber of my being. I don’t know where it came from or who at the time. And oh God, it felt so good to let it all go. After that I felt detached but aware of what I was doing. Each wave came and went. The pressure became so intense. I kept trying to move around to get more comfortable. The head was moving down further and further, and I could feel everything.
During this time I remember sobbing a little, saying “I can’t do this” over and over. I’m not sure to what context I was talking for; I knew I still didn’t want to actually give up. Looking back I wonder if I was just getting impatient.
My body pushed a bit and out came a tiny head. At least I thought it was! What I had actually pushed out was a little bit of the amniotic sac. The flow of fluid in and out was the weirdest feeling! I thought constantly, ok, it just ruptured, it just had to have! It never did. Each time he moved downward fluid would flow back up, making room for his head.
I felt enormous pressure on my rectum. I felt the urge to push. I don’t think it was me that pushed. My body just did it on its own. I felt like I wanted to deliberately do something, but I couldn’t.I kept thinking, "This is taking too long!". I want to say it took 2 to 3 pushes for the head to completely descend out and replace the sac. I felt every little ridge of his face and head. I wouldn’t say it was excruciating, but it definitely was something new.
He stayed a few minutes that way, his head in the sac underwater. Lorri asked if I wanted Jon to catch our baby. I moved from my knees to reclining in the water. A contraction came, but nothing. Another, and I willed baby to come. Holy crap! Shoulders, chest, arms, bum, legs, feet! That push and he shot out of his warmth towards his father. I openmy eyes, and watch in daze as this other living part of me became separate, at full speed. Membranes ruptured at this time.
At the same time, I hear “oh no, Wow”, or something to that effect. Kristin had taken off from my side and Lorri’s arm shot in the water. The umbilical cord had ruptured completely, spilling blood into the water and from baby. Jon had already brought baby to me, and though there was this emergency, the product of my labor was in my arms- not taken to another place to be suctioned, scrubbed, wrapped, poked. Kristin got the cord secured. She had the oxygen tank on as well. Lorrie was holding the rest of the cord to ensure it didn’t go back inside me. Baby was pale, and not breathing as well as he should have due to the blood loss. I kept talking to him, though I wasn’t sure what to say. He kept coughing, upping a gob from his lungs each time. We did have to suction him.
It was decided that Jon should take him to work the crud out of his lungs while labor finished in the tub. As soon as the placenta was done (pains felt duller, and the birth was like a squishy baby mass), I was able to get up and out of the tub and into a robe- not wheeled to another completely separate lace down the hall to recovery. As I walked-walked!- into the rest of the room toward the bed, I got to see Jon, bare-chested with baby in his arms with the oxygen tube facing him. He coughed and a huge gob came out. His face darkened at least 3 shades immediately. Whew. Jon brought him back to me and I got to work on helping him adjust. His cry was bliss. (This is essentially similar to what a newborn in a hospital has to go through: look up benefits of delayed cord clamping). I was still in a daze through this entire time, thanks to my natural hormones.
We were able to have our first breastfeeding session within that first hour. He stayed on me, chest to chest, 95% of the time after he left Jon. Lights were still dim, quiet, Lorri and Kristin going about their business, kids and Jon at our side taking and oohing. His initial newborn check was done in bed right beside me. So in awe of what I just did, and that he was here with me. We were exhausted. So ecstatically exhausted.
I had a ‘barely’ 2nd degree tear that required a few stitches. This was probably caused by my body involuntarily pushing him out. Other than that, I had a few scratches that felt like paper cuts. Postpartum pain was handled with comfrey compresses, arnica, rest, and hydration. No overkill pain meds that made me puke or break out in hives. I didn’t need anything else.
Jameson Luke was born at 8:48 AM, approximately 7-8 hours of labor, approximately a half hour of actively pushing, in water. He was a surprise gender, 21 inches long, and 8 pounds, 5 ounces. He was the largest out of my 3 total children born. His birth was everything I had hoped it would be, outside of the cord shredding.
The cord issue was something that couldn’t be avoided. There was no obvious cause for this happening, but there are a few theories. Could have been the force he was born with, a weak spot in the cord, etc. It obviously could be taken care of by midwives outside of a hospital setting, for which I am grateful they are trained so well. Jameson has had no effects to the temporary loss of blood and oxygen, though he missed the benefits of them.
I have so many things I am thankful for with this postpartum recovery. I am thankful for no IV’s, tubes, or monitors. I am thankful I was able to walk after, and the only ‘out-of-itness’ I felt was due to my own hormones and not anesthesia. I remember everything from his first days. I don’t feel violated. I feel my baby was treated delicately, as infants should. I had support during pregnancy and labor. I am still enjoying the benefits of proper postpartum care now. Breastfeeding has been more of a joy and bonding opportunity than something I used to dread (thrush, engorgement, mastitis, inadequate coaching of latch, depression). My overall mental health is positive, though I do get weepy when I’ve had very limited sleep. I am still worried ifI’m going to end up having postpartum depression, but if I do, I am positive I will not endure the severity of last time.
The bottom line: Jameson’s birth was healing. I have healed physically and mostly emotionally; some scars will take years to process. I am no longer as bitter toward the maternal care system, and those that told me to ‘suck it up’. I would still like to say ‘middle finger up to the man’ though. For that I am able to truly focus on my children and family, and myself. I am a better parent for this, and we have all already benefited. I exceeded my goal in so many ways, and for that I am grateful for the lengths many are willing to go to help a woman succeed in her most desperate time. I would do it again in a heartbeat.