Bear with me…this is long.
35 weeks into pregnancy, we decided to switch hospitals. I know…crazy right? At the time it seemed crazy to me also, but I am SO incredibly thankful that we did. Towards the end of pregnancy I’d been doing tons of research about childbirth and natural birth versus birth with interventions and pain management, and different natural ways to manage pain. When we began bringing these things up to our current OB, we started getting many answers that didn’t sit right with us, about birth time limits, interventions we would surely end up with, constant monitoring, no food/drink during labor, etc. We hadn’t decided to switch 100% until our doula told us that basically according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) everything our old OB had said was total crap. And not only that, if we switched to Davis, the C-section rate was significantly lower, in fact one of the lowest in California. A few phone calls later, we were set up to switch.
It was late Monday night February 17th when I went into labor. Chris had “told” Clare that she needed to come on Monday because he knew he’d have the next few days after that off. Apparently, she listened to Daddy because around 11pm I started having what I thought were contractions, then a gush of fluid that I thought was my water breaking. When I told Chris, we had a moment of excitement, which reminded me so much of the day I got the positive pregnancy test. Excitement with a hint of panic rushed over me. Was this really IT? I think my nervous system started to overload a little because I got a little shaky. We decided to call Nataly and see what she thought. We all knew it was pretty early and that the best thing would be to try and sleep some. We also called my mom and let her know that we thought this might be it, so she could prepare to drive up from Fresno.
In vain, we tried to get a little bit of rest. I’d say we were lucky if it was two hours. When we woke up the second time, the contractions hadn’t stopped. We called the birth center, mainly because of the concern that my water had broken. They wanted to see us. Chris made sure we had all of the bags packed and grabbed the last minute items on my list. I can picture him running around checking off the list, it still very dark outside. I made sure I took a shower, and we made our way to Davis. It was around 5am at this point, so luckily there wasn’t any traffic, but being in the car with contractions was not a fun experience.
Once we got to the hospital, the put us in the antepartum room for testing. This was when I realized laboring on a hospital bed is awful. I don’t know why women do it, and why doctors encourage it. They needed to get a heart rate read out for 20 minutes. They checked to see if my water had broken, and eventually our midwife, Jessica checked me for dilation – which was incredibly painful. I was very thankful that this was one of only 3 cervical checks throughout my whole labor. However, we were a little discouraged to find out that I was only 3 CM dilated and 80-90% effaced. The midwives explained that I needed to finish effacing before my body could dilate the rest of the way. The test came back showing that my water didn’t actually break. Apparently sometimes you can have a little blister of fluid on the outside of the amniotic sac that can burst first. Anyway, they knew that I wanted minimal interventions as possible, so they opted to send us back home. Chris took me in the bathroom and I cried. I didn’t want to go all the way home. Getting in a car sounded horrible. Little did I know how much more intense it would all get when we headed back that night.
We arrived home around 10am and right as we pulled up to the house, our doula Nataly and my mom both pulled up as well. My whole team was there to help. Every woman should have a doula. Seriously. She had so many wonderful ways to help progress labor, coping mechanisms to get through contractions and distractions. We walked 3 times around the block. We squatted. We watched Love Actually and Gilmore Girls because I needed to watch something I didn’t have to focus on. (and I literally know Love Actually and Gilmore Girls by heart.) We baked cookies for the nurses at the hospital. We bounced on the birth ball. We used the awesome, lifesaver rebozo scarf, as pictured on Chris below. She even gave me a back massage with this orange essential oil to help labor. She took all kinds of wonderful pictures. I never would’ve thought that I’d want pictures of myself in labor, but they are such a wonderful keepsake that I will now be able to show Clare someday!
On our third walk, it was getting dark out and the contractions were getting markedly more intense and closer together. They all commented that I was definitely walking more “pregnant-like” at this point, bowlegged. Even with how hard the contractions had gotten, Chris was still amazed at how in between each one, I still walked along talking like nothing was wrong. When we got home we called the hospital and were told to wait an hour to make sure that pace continued as it was. Chris helped me take a shower and get dressed. A feat in itself between contractions. They all made sure everything was packed. At this time, I was getting emotional, I was scared to be heading to the hospital the second time, because it made it more real. I cried through the next few contractions, hugged my Bertie cat and told him we’d be back with his new sister.
We wrapped the rebozo scarf around the handle in the passenger’s seat so that I could grab onto it during contractions, and at 8pm we were off to Davis again. I played my birth playlist in the car. (In my last few weeks of pregnancy I had made 10 hours of music into a playlist. It wasn’t used all that much during labor but it was still helpful, especially in the car) I would pick some phrase out of each song and just chant that over and over to get through a contraction, holding onto the scarf for deal life with one hand and Chris’s hand with the other. And I cried. A lot. Rascal Flatt’s “My Wish” was one of the songs that came on, and all the emotions of what I wished for my new little daughter came out, Paul Simon’s “Father and Daughter” came on and I cried because my dad couldn’t be there. Finally, we made it to the hospital.
This time we were put straight into the birthing room with the tub. Our goal all day had been to get me dilated enough to the point where I could get into the tub. Back onto the 20-minute monitor I went. Again, I couldn’t believe that most women have to deal with that crap their entire labor. It was annoying enough while I had it on. But at least this time they let me stand. At this point, everything was all more intense and I had started to get to the place where I was probably not “all there.” It was like there was a haze over the room, helped by the fact that the lights were kept low. I would chant “60 seconds” over and over again during a contraction because I had remembered being told that was how long they lasted. My doula said I had it harder than most women, because of the terrible pain the contractions were causing in my thighs. My legs would literally Charlie horse during every contraction towards the later stages. Davis is wonderful, and if we have more kids, I wouldn’t deliver anywhere else. The light in the room were low, they had some of those fake candles around the tub. I didn’t even need to have an IV. Just drank lots and lots of water thanks to Chris, my mom and Nataly. I also had the most wonderful nurse, Joy, who was able to relax my legs just the slightest bit and offered the sweetest encouragement. Later in the pushing stages, I remember her saying to me “This is going to be pain unlike anything else you’ve ever felt, but remember, you can do this and you’re going to have the birth experience you wanted.” You don’t find nurses like this at every hospital.
After the 20 minutes of monitoring was done, they decided to check my cervix again. Joy checked it this time…and we were surprised to find out, I was only 4 cm! After laboring all day, almost 24 hours of labor only 1 cm more?? But I was 100% effaced, which everyone reassured me was really the biggest part of the work, as was getting from 0-4. The rest would come faster now. But this was definitely a blow. I cried and kept saying how I just wanted to get in the tub. (Usually you wait till 5-6cm for the tub) I knew from all the tons of childbirth books I read that the second part usually came much faster, but I was definitely still discouraged. Chris and Nataly later told me they thought this would come the time that they’d have to distract me from wanting an epidural. But honestly, during the entire labor it never crossed my mind to even ask for one. And Davis, being the awesome hospital it is, never offered or pressured one.
Next, we did some laboring on the toilet, but things kept getting more intense and I just really wanted to get in the tub. At some point our midwife gave the okay for us to move to the tub. Thank god, I thought! But it turned out that the tub wasn’t exactly the magic pain relief I was hoping it would be. One, because they could only get it so hot, so as not to hurt baby and two because I am tall and it didn’t feel deep enough. But, even without the magic pain relief, it did relax my cervix enough to go from 4 to 9 cm in just a few hours. Nataly said they call the tub the midwife’s epidural.
It was hard to get into a good position particularly because my thighs would just give out whenever I tried to put weight on them again. I would hang onto Chris with the rebozo for dear life and then collapse again, thrashing around in the tub. I laughed later when I saw how wrecked my pre-labor manicure and pedicure were from all of the thrashing. I can only imagine what the sounds coming out of me sounded like. But at that point I was so far in “Laborland” as Birthing from Within calls it, it didn’t matter. You really do go to another place at that part of labor. Apparently at some point I tried to bite Chris’s hand? I also know I hurt his hand squeezing it at one point, because he pulled it away and for that whole contraction I just said “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
I love this picture, because you can see our midwife in the background just kind of watching over the whole scene like “Yep, this is how it’s suppose to go.”
Then the puking started.
I hate throwing up. I hate it more than I hate pain. But I knew that it was a probability and I remembered Nataly saying that it almost counted for two contractions for what it did to move the baby down. That helped me cope a little bit. I think this was the place where I started saying “It’s gonna end, It’s gonna end, It’s gonna end” during contractions. In between I started to say “I can’t” and “I don’t think I can do it.” It helped that the midwives’ response was always “You’re doing it.”
Eventually they decided to have me try something out of the tub, since my thighs were hindering me. Plus, my cervix needed to be checked again and I was starting to feel the urge to push. This is when we discovered I’d made it to 9 cm. And so fast! Then it was back to the toilet for more pushing. Pushing helped, because it really made me realize that I was getting close to the end. Apparently I pushed for almost 3 hours, but it really didn’t feel like it. The most frustrating thing about pushing is just when you’ve gotten the head feeling like it’s close to coming out, it’ll go back in. But everyone was so encouraging as I was progressing; it felt like I was at least getting somewhere. And I remember at that point when I could really feel the head moving down, I said to myself, come on baby, let’s work together and do this. And that’s honestly what it is, you and the baby working together to get her out. Another helpful part of pushing for me, was they were using the handheld doppler to check her heart rate, and I would start to hyperventilate a bit after each push, and that would cause her heart rate to slow a bit, but because I could hear it, it cued me to take a deep breath to get her more oxygen. Then it would go right back up, and it would be on to the next push.
After a while they thought I should try and switch positions since we were getting closer to the end. They wanted to move me over to the bed to try laying on my side, but as I got over there, another contraction hit, my legs collapsed and I nearly pulled Chris down trying to get through it. So then they lifted the bed up as high as it would go so that Chris could stand on one side of it and I could stand on the other and hold his hands across the bed. The last thing I remember saying to him was “I think my legs are going to collapse.” And then suddenly the pressure was gone, and she was here. I delivered her standing up and Nataly caught that last moment on camera.
And then they handed her up through my legs, and my god was she slippery! And so tiny.
And as Chris said, “You hopped up on the bed like nothing had just happened.” I had torn, but I had no idea. The adrenaline of a natural birth and the high of meeting your new baby for the first time lasted for the next few hours.
I didn’t realize how hard it would be for my mom and for especially Chris to watch me go through the pain of birth. You know it’s hard on the mom, but for the support people to see their loved one in pain…hard in a different way. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without their love and support, both physical and emotional getting me through.
We enjoyed two hours of skin to skin and bonding before any tests were done on her and before she was even weighed. We are so in love with her and I couldn’t be happier with how my childbirth went.
I am so thankful that our doula gave us all the impetus to switch to Sutter Davis at 35 weeks. If I had stayed at my first hospital, I would’ve been pumped full of Pitocin, fought for my birth plan every step of the way and in all likelihood ended up with an unnecessary C Section. There are so many misconceptions about what’s normal and healthy for mom and baby when it comes to birth. People ignorantly think longer labors cause harm to babies. The medical model of childbirth is quick to decide labor isn’t “progressing” to their churn and burn standards and decide to artificially progress it, pressure women to take epidurals, limit movement, confine women to bed and often lead to a cascade of interventions, many times ending up in C Section. I did an enormous amount of research before deciding on the birth experience I wanted and I knew I had decided that for me, personally, the risks involved with all of the above were not worth it. And while it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, I did it. It was all me who was able to deliver Clare safely into the world without the lingering effects of interventions, negative doctors dictating my experience based on their comfort level instead of mine. Completely present. I would however, never judge another woman for her childbirth choices. The key here is choice, I truly think women as a whole need to be more educated and informed about all of the options they have when it comes to birth. And there are times when intervention can be necessary for a healthy delivery, but there are so many times this is not the case. Being informed is the biggest thing. Natural Childbirth is still possible in the hospital if you have the right team and the right hospital. Thank goodness, I did. My lactation consultant even said my milk coming in less than 24 hours later was also correlated to my body being allowed to produce it’s own oxytocin versus synthetic, etc. Anyway, that’s more than I meant to write here, the rest of my thoughts on Natural Childbirth are perhaps for another blog.
But I am so happy with the birth experience that I had and so thankful for the support of Chris, my mom and our doula, Nataly. Not to mention our nurses and midwives at Davis. And now, after 29 hours of labor and many more months of preparation, we have this beautiful little girl to love.
Clare Rose Edson
Born 2/19/14 at 4:26am
6lbs, 3 oz
19 inches long