Baby M’s Birth Story

I was 37 weeks pregnant with my first child. I was mentally preparing for labor, doula on stand-by, Ina May Gaskin by my bed, well-thumbed. I allowed only empowering birth stories to be shared with me. And I absolutely, completely, totally did not want my big sister at my birth. I love her dearly, but we are not always on the same page in this book of life. I wanted the whole bowl of granola: candles, birthing tub, yoga breath. She wanted her pain meds chilled on ice, awaiting her arrival at the hospital. And she worries, my god, how she worries. Nope, I wanted nothing to do with THAT KIND OF NEGATIVE ENERGY anywhere near my child’s birth.

So instead, I invited her and my niece and nephew to come up that weekend to celebrate her birthday, rub my belly and feel like she’d gotten quality time with her future niece or nephew. Then I would gently let her know I needed to be around calming, affirming friends who understood and supported my desires for natural childbirth. We had a wonderful day together and in the evening, we headed out to celebrate my sister with sushi.

On the way out of the restaurant, I went to use the bathroom but to my horror and embarrassment, I didn’t make it. I’d peed on the bathroom floor. Oh shit. I kind of mopped it up with a bunch of TP and skedaddled out of there. We got home at 9 and said our good nights. I went up to my bathroom again and missed again. But this time it gushed. I looked at that pool of water on the floor. Water. Broken water. Oh shit. J and I looked at each other, took a deep breath and grabbed the stack of birthing books. You know, to study. We figured this could be a long wait. First births are always long, right?

By 10 pm, contractions had begun. So much for studying.

Jake went downstairs to let my sister know what was going on. Remember the sister I did not, under any circumstances, want to have at my birth? She was in my living room timing my contractions on her cell phone and biting her fingernails off one at a time.

By 11 pm, contractions were 2 minutes apart consistently. Our doula, with her own newborn in tow, arrived shortly after 11 and helped get me settled in the tub and showed J how to press my pelvis together which he did faithfully during every contraction throughout the rest of the labor. It was about an hour later when I threw up the sushi dinner. Things were moving fast.

I cannot honestly remember a lot of the next couple of hours, I was deep in laborland, contracting every couple of minutes. I would stand for every one of them, and then kneel back in the tub again. I do remember “surfacing” a couple of times to holler about how much this hurt and then retreating again to that deep, watery place. I remember too, feeling all the phases of labor sweeping over me, cold, then hot, getting to that place where I didn’t think I could take it any longer.

At that point, around 2:30 a.m., our doula suggested we go immediately if we were going to make it to the hospital. In a panic Jake threw stuff into the “Packed bag” that we hadn’t yet bothered to pack (weeks to go still, right?) and we sent the whole crazy train – doula, crying baby, moaning pregnant lady and frantic husband – down the stairs to the cold night outside. My sister was in the living room, wide awake, looking panicked too. She had been timing my contractions from downstairs, wondering why the hell we hadn’t left for the hospital hours ago but too nervous to come upstairs and get involved. Niece and nephew were fast asleep in the sunroom, oblivious to the mayhem.

At this point, I felt the need to push, so I had to Breathe. Really. Deeply. Every time the contraction came. So there I was in the backseat, trying to stand, huffing through my contractions. The baby, 10 weeks old and hating the carseat, was screaming hysterically next to me. I tried to comfort us both while our doula and J navigated their way at warpspeed to the hospital. Upon arrival, a security guard accompanied us to the labor ward, with stops every minute, it seemed, so I could lean against a wall, moan loudly and bleed all over the floor. Needless to say, we bypassed triage and went straight to a delivery room where I came down on my hands and knees and started to push immediately.

But something didn’t feel right. The midwife measured my cervix (I hadn’t wanted us to measure it previously) and I was only 6cm dilated. So this was a problem. Simply put, when my water broke, the baby’s head descended into the birth canal a little crookedly so was pressing on my cervix, hence the need to push. But my cervix still had lots of work to do so for the next couple of hours, I had to breathe through every contraction. Every two minutes, when my body screamed “PUSH” I had to just breathe it out my mouth.

I went into a place deep inside myself where I envisioned a long, long road and I was on my road bike. Every contraction was a steep hill and I comforted myself with the thought that I could coast for a couple of minutes at the top. I spent more time in the tub and then, when I reached 9cm, we moved to the bedroom. Finally, the midwife was able to push the last little lip of cervix out of the way and I was ready to get this baby out. We worked together, baby and I, for 45 minutes. I would push hard and then rest for a little and then push again. I was on fire and honestly terrified of being broken in two by the pain and pressure. I had a hard time trusting myself in that moment and it was the wisdom and kindness of our doula and midwife that got me through it. Slowly, the head emerged, facing the wrong way. J was there and saw the baby watching him in a truly surreal moment.

Then, around 6:30 a.m. the baby slipped into the world and we met our son for the first time. I remember being exhausted and finally being able to focus on the little human that was now here with us. He was quiet and robust, I was starving. At 8, my sister and her children showed up to the hospital. She just hugged me and told me I was a warrior, that she was amazed I had done this and that she would have been too scared to trust the process. She kissed and nuzzled her nephew and watching the two of them, I felt the anxiety melt away. Something bigger than us had conspired to bring us through this together as sisters and I was suddenly so grateful that she had been there after all.

Baby M

We grew a little together that day, when my son came into the world.

– HS

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Simon’s Birth Story

My birth story with Simon has some similarities, but was overall totally different than Isaac. My pregnancy with Simon was mostly uneventful, unless you count all of the events and activity of caring for a toddler while pregnant. I had some more physical pains while pregnant with Simon, I knew he was going to be a bigger baby; I could feel it and could see how much bigger I was getting. Simon was incredibly active in the womb. He rolled and kicked so early and fiercely, my belly looked like waves of activity and the kicks would actually startle me with pain (so very much unlike Isaac in the womb).

Simon was due October 22nd, 2009. On October 8th, I was 38 weeks along. Dr. Jenny checked me earlier that week and I as 3cm dilated and 75% effaced. This was similar to what had happened with Isaac so I didn’t really think much of it. That night I started having regular contractions around 9pm as I was going to bed. They were about 6-7 minutes apart and eventually moved to 4 minutes apart and I was starting to have to focus on breathing through them a bit. We picked up the bat phone around 11:45pm or so and called my mom to come down from Appleton to be with Isaac. Rick was busy getting our stuff together, which we had not really done yet because I really didn’t think I would go into labor this early.

Well, it turned out to be a false alarm. By the time my mom made the two hour trip (in 1.5 hours) my contractions had stopped and all signs of labor had disappeared. Disappointed, we all went to bed. The next morning I went to another OB appointment where I found that I was now 4cm dilated and 80% effaced. She stripped my membranes, which did nothing and I decided to stop working that day. I didn’t want to make the same mistake of not enjoying the last bit of pregnancy since we had already decided this would be our last. I also REALLY wanted a natural birth with no pitocin, no epidural, no IV.

So I went home and for the next two weeks, I rested, watched movies, had special time with just Isaac, went for long walks and ate ice cream. At my 40-week appointment I was one day past my due date, still 4 cm and Simon had dropped into 0 station. My OB, Dr. Jenny, said she couldn’t believe I was not in labor. I was basically in early labor, having contractions (like I did with Isaac), but they were again ineffective. Dr. Jenny said she was on call at the hospital the next day and that I could come in and she would break my water if I wanted. I told her I only wanted to do this if she was really, really confident that I wouldn’t need pitocin. She reassured me enough that I decided to go for it. My mom came down again from Appleton and we got everything ready for Isaac and for the hospital that night.

The next morning at 6:30am, Rick and I ate some peanut butter toast for breakfast, gave Isaac a huge hug and a kiss and left for Meriter Hospital. We arrived at L&D and it was really quiet. They admitted me, took us to our room. We had called our doula the night before to let her know and she met us at the hospital around 7:45am. We were originally going to have Hannah be our doula again, but she was out of town, so her back-up Patsy came instead. At 8:45am the resident did an ultrasound to confirm that Simon was head down and anterior, which he was. 9am, Dr. Jenny came in and broke my water. Rick was taking a poll of the hospital staff about how big Simon would be. Dr. Jenny felt my belly and guessed that he would be 8lbs 3oz. My labor RN guess the same.

Rick and I walked the halls a bit, but I immediately felt the contractions pick up and a lot of pressure. Back in our room, I decided to labor on the birth ball, which worked great for me. My first really painful contraction was at 10am. I was having some back labor and Patsy and Rick provided counter pressure and massage which worked great!! I was really in control of my breathing and was so happy to be managing the labor pains.

Rick was amazing; he stayed so calm and provided so much support, physical and otherwise. Patsy helped me listen to my body and do what was most comfortable, which ended up being on the ball, leaning forward onto the bed. We made plans for me to get into the tub, but all of a sudden I decided to get up on the bed. I was having a lot of back labor still, so being on all fours was the best in terms of comfort. Dr. Jenny came in at 11:30am to check me and I was 8cm. After she checked me, I kind of lost it a bit. I started having crazy, transition contractions and then just started pushing. Dr. Jenny came back 15 minutes later and I was 10cm. I continued to push for a couple of minutes, but Simon’s heart rate was not recovering after each contraction.

This is where my memory is very foggy. I don’t really remember how it happened, but all of the sudden I was on my back and they were getting the vacuum suction ready. At 12:00pm the vacuum was in place and I was told that I got 3 pushes otherwise a c-section would be in order. This was more than enough motivation for me. One push with the vacuum and Simon was out. At some point during labor Simon had flipped because he came out sunny-side up, which explains my crazy back labor.

12:05pm on October 24th, 2009, 8lbs 3oz (just as predicted!).

NG and Simon

He wasn’t crying at first and I looked up and saw that the NICU team was in my room waiting in case there was a problem. I started to freak out a little and I remember asking over and over if he was okay. They finally put him on my chest and he cried the biggest cry. His little hands grabbed on to my chest and as I snuggled him he settled down.

Baby Simon

He was just perfect! Because of the vacuum and my initial freak out, I didn’t let them take Simon from me for almost 2 hours. We snuggled, nursed and got to know each other. From my first painful contraction to his birth was 2 hours and 5 minutes. I was so happy to have been able to have this kind of birth. It was important to me and I was on a birth high afterwards. My two births were very different and I learned a lot about myself through both of these amazing experiences.

–        NG

Isaac’s Birth Story

[Editor’s note: I’m so thankful PW shared her birth stories of Ben and Petra. Today, another mama shares a birth story of her firstborn. Want to share yours? Post below and we’ll get in touch. – MD]

In the 39th week of my first pregnancy, I was tired.  I was tired of being pregnant, tired of being hot, and tired of waiting. It was the end of August 2007.  We had been trying to have a baby for several years and we were so close and I couldn’t have been more impatient.  If I could, I would go back and whisper in my own ear that I should enjoy the sweetness of this waiting.  It is cliche, but the past almost 4 years have flown by and in some ways I regret not relishing those last moments of being pregnant with my first born.

My uterus had been described by my OB as irritable, which my husband, Rick, found hilarious and instead called it my pissy uterus.  All this really meant is that I had a lot of contractions, starting around 18 weeks.  The were never serious or cause for real concern, but they became more annoying the further along I got and anything would set them off.  Too tired, too much exercise, not enough water, laughing…really anything.

That last week, my 39th, the contractions continued, but they were getting stronger and more regular.   I lost my mucus plug at work on Wednesday, August 22, which just happens to be Rick’s birthday. I really thought I was going to go into labor that night.  We went out to dinner to celebrate and I ate very spicy Thai food to bring on labor. Of course nothing happened.

The next day I had an OB appointment and I was 4cm dilated and something like 80% effaced. They hooked me up to the monitor and I was having regular contractions, but they were not painful so we were sent home to wait.  We decided to take a long walk, eat, rest and get things ready to go. I had called my doula, Hannah, and she suggested we keep ourselves busy, but also rest if possible.

At some point Rick and I decided to make cookies that we would take to the hospital with us.  We didn’t have all the ingredients so Rick went out to the store.  He jokingly said on the way out the door that my water would probably break while he was gone. I, of course, thought that was ridiculous. Two minutes later I sat down on the couch and felt (and heard) a pop, followed by the sensation that I was wetting my pants. I went to the bathroom to discover that I could not stop the liquid and my water had indeed broken! That was at 7:30 pm.

Rick got home with the cookie ingredients and we called my OB and the doula again. Because my water had broken, they wanted me to come to the hospital.  We took our time because my contractions were not getting any stronger. We met our doula at L&D triage at Meriter Hospital at 9:10 pm (Thursday, August 23rd). There was a lot of intake and admission paperwork and questions. I continued to have regular but ineffective contractions. Baby looked good on the monitor, so we were encouraged to walk and be active with the hopes of getting labor going. Baby’s heart rate was monitored by Doppler every 30 minutes. I was told that if no progress was made by 6am, they would want to start pitocin to induce contractions. We walked and walked and walked and walked. We rested, ate popsicles, we walked. Bounced on the birth ball, walked, rested, walked. Repeat. My doula tried some acupressure and massage to get labor started to no avail.

6am came and so did the resident with the news that I was still only 4cm and they would start the pitocin after I was given the opportunity to shower and eat something. They started the IV at 6:30am. I rested in bed until 8:30am when the first contraction hurt. I meant to say HURT! I was up out of the bed trying to figure out how exactly I was going to deal with this pain. I even remember asking Hannah, how long we planned on doing this. I got in the tub for a while and that did help some. I was checked at 9:30 and had progressed to 5 cm, this did not impress me much as I was struggling with the pain and intensity of the contractions. The RN continued to increase my pitocin drip. By 10:45am I was not coping well, I could not control my breathing, I did not get a break between contractions and after another check I was still only 5-6cm. I was also having some involuntary pushing because the baby had descended all the way and I was having so much pressure to push without being fully dilated.

I then demanded an epidural.  This was not what I wanted, but at that point there was no other option for me. After the longest 45 minutes of my life, the epidural was placed at 11:30am, after 3 attempts (giant need pokes in my spine). They checked me again at 11:45am and I was 10cm. For those keeping track, I went from 5cm to 10cm in ONE HOUR. This explains the unbearable pain I was having and I kind of feel like a rock star progressing 5cm on pit without pain meds.

I wouldn’t chose to do that again. I had amazing pain relief with the epidural and was able to rest or “labor down” for about an hour or so while my support team ate lunch. I started to feel a lot of pressure (not pain though) and wanted to push. I was told the baby’s head was “right there” and ready to go. I started pushing at 1:20pm. This part I enjoyed. I was reasonably comfortable and the pushing was going really well. There is even a picture of me smiling while pushing.

Then the most amazing thing in my life happened, one last push and Isaac Richard Gamble was born at 1:57pm on August 24th, 2007, all 7lbs 3oz of him. He had tons of dark hair and the sweetest cry I have ever heard in my life.  He looked at my face as if to say, ‘oh there you are Mama’ and it has been true love ever since.

NG and Isaac

This was not the birth experience I had wanted or expected and for a long time struggled with parts of it.  But it was my birth and now looking back I am at peace with it. I have also come to realize that a babies birth can in some ways reflect their what their little personalities are like. My two did. Stay tuned for my second birth story.

Isaac

***Please note that while Rick is not mentioned much during this birth story it is not because he wasn’t there or wasn’t helpful.  It is because my memory of Rick during labor is not a visual one so it is kind of hard to put into writing what his experience was like.  I will say, I have tactile memories of him.  Holding my hand, holding me up, rubbing my back, calming words, helping me push, his arms around me as we held our son together for the first time, unwavering support.

–        NG

A Spin on the Sixth Sin

I am not a small-chested woman, but nearly one year ago and for a quarter of a year, I had boob envy. You could have been small chested, busty or anything in between, but if you had a certain type of boobs, I was envious, maybe even jealous.

What type of boobs? Your boobs had to be irresistible to your baby.

After C was born she decided that she didn’t like nursing. Some claim it was the 44-hour labor. Some claim it was my anatomy. Some claim it was her personality. But after five lactation consultants manipulating my chest in various positions and oodles of tears, C still wouldn’t nurse.

After only one day, she was losing weight faster than the doctors wanted. Her heart was beating irregularly. She would scream or fall asleep when placed on my chest. Again, they claimed it could have been the long labor. Her doctor decided that if she didn’t learn to eat in four hours we would need to give her “supplements,” their euphemism for formula. I cried.

Four hours passed. The nurse came in with the formula. I cried. We put the bottle in C’s mouth and she downed it like a barracuda. She was hooked. But placed against me, she refused to nurse. But she gained weight and her heart beat normalized.

“This is only temporary,” crooned the nurses and lactation consultants. “It’s a confidence game,” they said.

I turned down visitors because I was trying to get C to eat. I cried. I cried sitting in the shower on the plastic bench. I cried great, large sobs because I couldn’t feed my baby.

By the time we got home we had hired a lactation consultant. The best in town. She came over for home visits and my husband and I would absorb every tidbit she gave us. We even tried the siphon system, my husband standing over me, one bottle of formula in one hand, a thin line of tubing running into C’s mouth while we tried to get her to nurse. She screamed. She fell asleep. I cried.

I pleaded. This was not how it was supposed to happen. I had already given away my dream birth when it extended days and included minor medical intervention. We sat with our birthing class and watched videos of newborns rooting on their mother’s chest, latching on and sucking happily away. We had hired a doula. I was planning on nursing for a year. I dreamed of my husband bringing our baby to my work while he took his paternity leave, so I could happily nurse her over my lunch hour.

One day after we came home we found ourselves back in the hospital for C to spend 24 hours in a light box to cure her jaundice. I took her out every 2 hours to try and nurse. She cried. I cried, looking at her through the box.

On a last resort, I tried the 24-hour cure recommended by my lactation consultant. I stayed in bed with C, with her on my chest, for 24 hours. She nursed 4 times, but I cried all day. My friend L came over and sat with me as I cried. I begged. I pleaded. I asked her to pray for C to nurse while she was traveling to various religious places in India. She got me out of bed. C never nursed that many times again.

All the while, I was determined to provide only mother’s milk for C, so I started pumping every two hours, night and day. The alarm would go off at 2, 4, 6, 8 and I would pump C’s meal for my husband to feed to her.

One friend recommended a great site, MOBI. I cried while reading it. Finally, women like me!

I begged. I pleaded. Maybe C would only want to comfort nurse. I could do that! She decided she didn’t like it. She screamed. She fell asleep. I pumped and I cried.

Meanwhile, friends were having babies. And they were nursing, sometimes with problems along the way, but their days were never divided by running home every 2 hours to hook themselves up to a pump. They happily went to coffee shops, ran errands and chatted away while I was begging and pleading for my baby to nurse. And I cried.

Then, one day, after countless tears, I made a bargain with myself. I got help. I got help to help my family. I wanted to be able to enjoy my time with C instead of begging and pleading and crying with a healthy, beautiful baby in the next room.

I stopped trying. And when I stopped trying, instead of feeling like a failure, I started to feel like I was providing for her. I was providing food and comfort for her, just not in the way I had imagined.

And slowly, my tears turned to smiles. I would still see other babies happily nursing and feel a great sadness. A loss. I never had that relationship with C.

Good things came out of this. My husband and C got to bond over bottles. I was able to devour books during my various pumping sessions. I watched entire seasons of TV on DVD. I talked to friends on the phone, that whirring and sucking sound in the background.

It took months for me to move on from the sadness of C never nursing. I don’t remember when it happened, but as I got better and she grew, I realized that this was a gift. It was an extension of my jump into the unknown. It was painful. It was challenging. It was maddening. But it was.

And now, nearly one year later, here we are.

MD & C

MD & C six months ago.

– MD

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