We knew that The Birth Center was the place for us to have our firstborn child before we even began trying to conceive. We made a preconception appointment with Sarah, took the tour, and fell absolutely in love. Though we were living in New Zealand at the time we made our little Elanor, we worked closely with the midwives to ensure our successful transfer of care upon our return to the States. We visualized our birth in the Yellow Room, attended all the classes (including Peggy’s incredible hypnobirthing series!), and looked forward to each and every prenatal appointment. Time and again we found out that our pregnancy was as normal as they come, and Ashley was slowly but steadily dilating, effacing, and practice contracting in anticipation of the big day.
But, sweet Ella had different plans — she was not content with just the status quo! Weeks came and went, and our due date passed. We tried nearly every trick in the book, from Kathleen’s famous long-fingered cervical sweeps to disgusting castor oil milkshakes, to get Ella to make her appearance before we hit the dreaded 42-week mark, but she’d have none of it. Despite the castor oil successfully triggering early labor, we were simply not progressing fast enough. We wound up transferring to the hospital for a non-emergency augmentation, and the waves fears and anxiety that come with the hospital system began to lap at our already frazzled, sleep-deprived minds. We knew the high odds of a Caesarean as a post-term, first-time pregnancy, and it took a significant team effort between the two of us to stay calm and focused. We put up a strong front, though, and as a result received many compliments on the atmosphere of our birthing room. The lights were dim, we had Pandora’s yoga station playing, the smell of lavender essential oil wafted through the air, and Quintin read scripts out of our Hypnobirthing guidebook. Converting the sterile hospital room into this realm of relaxation helped us endure the very strong Pitocin contractions for a significant period of time. In the end, though, an epidural was necessary — Ashley’s body just could not cope without the natural hormonal cascade and the ability to move around freely. Though scary, and with some initially nerve-wracking side effects (very low blood pressure, a dip in Ella’s heartrate), the epidural was relatively mild and “took the edge off” without interfering with pushing urges. It was certainly not a part of our birth plan, and something we would never do again if we could avoid it, but in the end we found a silver lining to the medication when we got to stage two.
When the “transition feeling” hit, Ashley was actually completely dilated on one side of her cervix, but still only about seven centimeters on the other. This was directly resultant from being confined to the bed, specifically laying on only one side. With a catheter, a blood pressure cuff, an IV, and an epidural drip, moving was extremely difficult, and one of Ashley’s strongest memories of this part of our birth was the frustration of being bound and unable to move. Once we flipped over, however, dilation progressed quickly and it was time to push!
Stage two for us lasted only 20 minutes and won Ashley just a single stitch. This was easily the most incredible and rewarding part of our birthing experience. The lights were low, only five of us were in the birthing suite (Ashley, Quintin, the doctor, the nurse, and Ella of course!), and we were in complete control. When the doctor told Ashley to “purple push” by holding her breath, she calmly pointed out to him that “we didn’t learn that way in hypnobirthing” and asked him to allow her to “breathe the baby down.” He complied, even pointing out how much that method made a lot of sense, especially for natural birthing and pain relief. As Ella descended, the nurse ran to get us a huge stand-up mirror so we could watch her progress down the birth path! This allowed Ashley to touch Ella’s head as it crowned. When the little squirming child was born, Ashley got to pull her up to her chest and nurse her immediately before any tests were done. Quintin’s most distinctive memory was Ashley breaking out into joyous laughter as she brought Ella up to her breast, still sopping wet from the birthing experience and smelling deliciously of amniotic fluid.
Ashley enjoyed the fact that the epidural helped her remain calm and focused, allowing her to imprint the memory of Ella’s birth moment strongly in her mind without the fear and pain of the previous Pitocin-laced 18 hours.
We both joked afterwards, though, that we feared our baby was going to be born without a skull — as Ella’s head began to appear, it was so wrinkly and blood-covered from the birth path that for a heartbeat we both thought it was her brain!
About a half-hour after Ella was born, the phone in our delivery room rang. Confused, Quintin picked it up and started chatting excitedly. He handed the phone to Ashley and said, “It’s Lindsay!” Lo and
behold, she was calling to check up on us that Wednesday night, and we got to share the news immediately with everyone working late office hours at the Birth Center. Cheers and well-wishes erupted in the background, and we even heard Katie exclaim, “Almost eight pounds?! Where was she keeping all that baby!” It brought goofy grins to our faces knowing that, even though our birth experience didn’t happen there or the way we planned, we were always loved by the incredible women at the Birth Center, and would always be a Birth Center family.
For birth center mamas (and papas) worried about a hospital experience, we have to tell you that, despite being something we had never even imagined, our labor and delivery at the hospital went as fantastically as it could’ve gone. Our nurses were there for us every step of the way, empathizing with our desire to birth as naturally as possible. Each nurse that came to our room told us time and again that they’d read our birth plan and did everything in their power to comply with it. Even the doctor was on board with our desire
for a vaginal birth once we pushed back and demanded that a C-section only be initiated in an extreme medical emergency. Did he get a little impatient with us when we went beyond his arbitrary 12-hour time limit? Yes, but once we let our voice be heard in a calm and respectful manner, he was completely behind us.
We even developed a rapport around “getting this baby out vaginally”!
As crunchy-granola, hippy-style parents, birthing in a hospital was the last thing we ever imagined, and we’re sure that if you’re reading this story, it’s probably the furthest thing from your mind as well. Take heart, though, if you find yourself birthing at the hospital – be strong in your beliefs and respectful to those who are doing their best to help you have a healthy baby, and you will find that you have exactly the birth you NEED (even if it’s not the one you want).