by Jessica Williams, Birth Center Mama
I have been going to The Birth Center for my gynecological care for years. When I found out I was pregnant, it seemed logical that I would plan to have my child there as well. I liked the philosophy that childbirth is a natural process and I trusted my body to know how to do it. I was basically prepared to go all natural. I listened to hypno-birthing CDs, practiced meditation, and took the childbirth class offered at the center. I liked that I would get to go home after giving birth and not be stuck in a hospital bed. But I also knew that there was no guarantee of a birth center or vaginal delivery, so I tried to keep an open mind. I thought that having the right attitude going in would go a long way. In fact, my husband was stuck at work the day we talked about hospital transfer in class and I thought “that’s okay. We probably won’t end up needing to go there.”
My son’s due date was September 4. Everyone said, “with your first child, you’ll probably go late.” I’m a teacher, so I thought that there was a good chance I would at least get a week of school in before having to start my maternity leave. August 22 was the first day back for teachers and the only day I ended up making it in before starting my leave. On August 23, I was woken at 3:00 AM by what felt like menstrual cramps. I had experienced this a couple of other nights. I figured they were Braxton Hicks contractions and did not think much of them at first. Then my water broke. It wasn’t a huge gush like you see on TV, but I was pretty sure I was in labor and was confident enough to call The Birth Center. I talked to Sarah Grace who said the best thing to do is try to get some sleep. The contractions quickly got more intense and more defined, so sleep did not happen. I labored at home for about four more hours before going to The Birth Center.
Sarah Updegraft was there when I arrived and I remember telling her that I did not expect it to be so intense so soon. I knew labor would be painful. What I hoped was that if I breathed deeply and stayed relaxed that it would be tolerable. What I did not expect is how the contractions would take over my whole body. Each contraction made my body feel as though it wanted to expel something, but couldn’t. I felt an intense amount of pressure in addition to pain. Mid-morning, Sarah checked my dilation and I was at 6 cm. That was encouraging! She thought that I was getting close to the pushing phase. With any luck we would have a baby by lunch time or shortly after. Even though I was experiencing intense pain, I was hopeful. Sarah and my husband, Bill, were both by my side almost the whole time and they were extremely encouraging and supportive. Unfortunately, the dilation stopped and Sarah said that we may have to go to the hospital. I wanted to give this natural birth a good try and was reluctant to leave, but I also wanted some relief. As a compromise, I asked for Stadol, a narcotic, while we waited to see what my body would do. It didn’t take the pain away, but I was able to relax and even doze off in between contractions. Around 3:00 PM, the Stadol started to wear off and we made the decision to go to the hospital. How did I make it through the car ride? More Stadol.
Sarah drove me to the hospital and even suggested getting an epidural there so that I could rest and hopefully push after jump starting my labor with some Pitocin. I was still hopeful for a vaginal birth, but also eager to be done with labor. I felt like I was supposed to be excited about meeting my baby, but the intensity of labor made it difficult to get excited about anything, which made me feel guilty. Everything that happened when I first got to the hospital is a little bit of a blur, but I remember getting into the room fairly quickly. The epidural did not come as fast as I was hoping. In fact, while I was waiting, I remember them saying that the anesthesiologist was giving an epidural to another patient and I asked, “How long has she been in labor?” After 13 hours of contractions, I finally got my epidural and some relief. I could still feel the pressure, particularly in my back, but I was finally able to relax a bit.
When I met Dr. Powell, the obstetrician on call, I felt at ease with her. She did mention the possibility of a C-section, which I did not want to hear, but she even put my mind at ease about that a bit. Sarah stayed with me for awhile, which was great because she was able to continue to encourage and talk with me about my options. Also, being in the hospital allowed me to donate cord blood, which I felt good about. I tried to relax, even tried to nap, and let the Pitocin work its magic. I never dilated any further and my contractions weakened. Dr. Powell recommended a C-section around dinnertime, but she was willing to give me more time, which I took. Eventually the back labor got very painful again, so I was ready to make a decision. My healthy baby boy was born at 11:14 pm via Cesarean. It was very different from the birth I had imagined. I did not want to be a hospital patient and I was sad that I was unable to pull him directly on my chest after birth. I do remember the moment he was pulled out because I could hear him cry, which made me tear up as well. He was finally here! He was very healthy and I was healthy, so I tried to stay focused on that.
Instead of going home the same day as delivery, they kept me in the hospital for four nights. (They threw in an extra night because of high blood pressure.) Although part of me was anxious to get home and start our new life, there was something that felt very safe about being in the hospital as I was recovering and trying to fathom the responsibility of parenthood. I was pretty disappointed that the birth did not go as I had hoped though. Attending the new moms group at The Birth Center has helped me tremendously. After hearing a variety of birth stories, it sounds like many peoples’ did not go as planned. Other moms found themselves in situations that sounded much more unpleasant than mine. Now I try to focus on the fact that I have a beautiful and healthy baby boy and I have gotten to the point where it does not matter to me how he entered the world.