Friday, September 19, 2008

My First Drug-free Birth!

In honor of my oldest daughter's birthday, January 19th, I am reposting her birth story:

I am back to the topic of birth. Things have been hectic here. I've been writing this in my head, but I knew I needed a significant time block to sit down and type it out. Which means you need a good chunk of time to read this!

So here I am, geared up and ready to have baby number 2, knowing I am doing this different from the first time around. I knew a number of people who had had great births (yes, Alisa was one of them) with a group of midwives about 30 minutes away, so that's where I went.

A word of advice: when you are seeking out your birth attendant, be sure that who you are asking had the kind of birth that you are shooting for. For example, you are wanting to have an unmedicated birth and your neighbor insists that her OB is the absolute best. Before scheduling that appointment, find out about her birth. Did she have an "emergency" c-section? Did she want the drugs? Did her doctor want her to have the drugs? There are many birthing philosophies out there -- be sure yours matches up with your birth attendant. You might try asking friends and family first that had the kind of birth you are after.

First of all, meeting with a female practitioner was so much better than a male. Why do men even go into this profession? Think about it. It's creepy, really.

The majority of the midwives I met with knew the power of birthing and what that meant in a woman's life. They supported natural, normal birth. They spent time talking with me about my first birth and the journey that had led me to their door. They were interested in what kind of birth I was hoping for this time around. I felt so in control of my situation, but this was largely because I was taking control -- not trusting someone else make my decisions for me.

We enrolled in a lengthy class and learned so much valuable information. We "packed our bags," I like to say, for birth. We learned about the process of normal birth. All pregnant women and their husbands should know this information! It eliminates the fear. I understood how my body would work in labor and what to expect. I learned, and so did David, what to do in labor and how I could work with my body to help my baby make her way into the world without the effects of medication.

David and I would practice all sorts of exercises and relaxation. We tracked what I ate in order to get the protein I needed (80-100 grams a day). This process brought us closer together and caused us to focus on the new baby, which can be difficult with a 2-year-old running around.

I was due January 22, 1999. She was born on the 19th. If you have been reading this blog chronologically, you know what started my first labor -- intercourse and nipple stimulation. Well, guess what started this labor? Just a side note: nipple stimulation causes the release of oxytocin in the mother, which is what causes the uterus to contract. It crosses a blood-brain barrier, so her body also releases endorphins to help her deal with the contractions. When a woman has pitocin in labor, that is a synthetic form of oxytocin. It forces the uterus to contract and because it cannot cross the blood-brain barrier, there are no natural endorphins to help the mother deal with that pain. This is why pitocin-induced contractions are so much harder to cope with. When labor is allowed to start naturally, the body is very kind. Usually, contractions build gradually in intensity and frequency, and like I just mentioned, there are those wonderful endorphins. Baby will also respond better to natural contractions, like a massage, squeezing the fluid gradually from her lungs, preparing her to breathe on her own.

When you read about nipple stimulation in most books, they will tell you how dangerous this is and that you shouldn't do it unless you are hooked up to a monitor in the hospital. And yet, they are more than willing to pump you full of the synthetic drug. If it were dangerous, do you think our body would perform this way? Of course not. There is a phrase that I like to use in class: "The same thing that got you into this is the same thing that will get you out." Nipple stimulation is a part of that process. It is a natural labor inducer. If your body and baby are not ready, you will not start labor and will proceed with the evening's activities. (So if that is not working, why would you allow a doctor to pump you with pitocin? You are twice as likely to have a c-section because you and your baby weren't ready!) And if you are ready, you likely will not be finishing what you started, as was the case with us.

Contractions did start very intense. Let me back up here for a minute. Remember Dr. Wolsey's comments to me about the vaginal exam I'd had the day before I was due with the first baby? I was not dilating or effacing and it was devastating. Vaginal exams do absolutely nothing but put you on an emotional roller coaster. They are pointless. They tell you nothing about when she will start labor. (I talk extensively about this in class.) Despite this common knowledge, it is common practice, and even the midwives could not believe I didn't want to be checked! I must admit, it was hard to say no, but I was not traveling down that road again. I knew my body knew what to do, no matter what Dr. Wolsey had told me!

So when contractions started with such intensity, I was surprised. And scared. This was the beginning of labor. What happened to my early labor phase? I showed immediate signs of quick dilation -- shaking being the one I remember the most. I laid down under the covers and was thinking through the contractions. It was midnight, same as last time I started labor, 2 1/2 years earlier.

We had asked Alisa to be at this birth with us. David asked if I wanted him to call her and I said yes. I just couldn't believe how hard it was starting. I was freaking out a bit, wondering if I would be able to do it after all.

I had read so much about the use of water in labor. It's been called "the midwife's epidural." I got in the shower, and while standing there, rotating my hips, recalled everything I'd learned and prepared for. I was ready! I was determined to do this!

We didn't stay at the house more than a couple of hours. I remember eating a banana during that time. I wanted to have energy, but I remember I didn't have much of an appetite. Again, more of a late labor sign. I wasn't talking much and was very serious.

David drove the car (very slowly) and it was raining. It wasn't even very cold which was odd for Utah in January. I remember worrying a lot about being cold in labor because I am a shiverer. Have you ever tried to relax while you are cold and shivering?

A funny side note about the drive to the hospital: right before we got there, Alisa reached over me (we were both in the back seat) and locked the door. I had my eyes closed, very focused on what I was doing. I could not resist opening my eyes to see why she had done that. There was a guy in the middle of the road waving what appeared to be a gun. It was about 2:30 a.m. My husband said he would have run the guy over if he would have tried anything. Fortunately, he did not.

The midwife, Susan, literally met us at the door and helped us to our room. I had the 20-minute monitoring strip, which was no fun. I kept asking when I could take it off so I could get in the water. My vaginal exam told me I was dilated to a 7 and 90% effaced! That was so awesome! I was doing it!

I really used the lack of sleep to my advantage with this labor. I had my eyes closed nearly the entire labor and really was falling asleep between contractions. I was so relaxed between contractions, I just "forced" myself to stay that way and not tense up when a new contraction would start. When I would tense, it was nearly impossible to gain control again during that contraction. I learned pretty quick that it paid off to stay relaxed and not fight the contractions.

I spent a lot of time in the bath. Alisa and David kept me drinking lots of water and orange juice. (I, in class, usually don't recommend a lot of OJ during labor, just after the birth.)

Our nurse was so supportive of unmedicated birth and expressed disappointed in the amount of women not having natural birth. She was so encouraging, like a big sister.

Our midwife was so laid back. She knew that there was no worries. She knew I was handling it fine. I had good support. I remember my friend, Janet, had told me that she had used "sounding" as a way to handle contractions. (My son says I sound like a ghost when I do it, if that gives you any idea of what it sounds like.) This is an incredible, easy tool to use. It keeps your breathing steady and deep. Baby is getting good oxygen because you are taking good deep breaths and letting it go, audibly. I don't think I could get through labor without this technique.

I remember at one point, David was sitting behind me applying counter-pressure to my back (terrible back labor) and I was sounding out the contractions. Susan was sitting in a chair sleeping, or so I thought, and she said, "Donna, you sound so good. Keep doing exactly what you are doing." I cannot begin to tell you what this did for me as a laboring woman! Deep inside, I knew what I sounded like, but I really couldn't help it. I felt slightly self-conscious. Let's face it, we don't make noises like this everyday! She gave me the confidence and freedom to keep doing what was working for me, no matter how ridiculous I sounded! Thank you, Susan!

During this labor, I remember only thinking and focusing on the contraction that I was doing. I never thought of the next one. This is huge! It's the reason I was able to sleep and relax during contractions. I also recalled Martha Sears's comment about relaxing "like you are 11 months pregnant." This, too, was very useful.

At one point, the midwife checked dilation and found that I was a 9. She said the bag of waters was bulging and asked if she could break my water. I told her no. I didn't want any intervention. The cervix also had a lip, or rim, and so she pushed it out of the way. This was very painful, but I felt immediate relief.

I remember going to the bathroom and while I was there, I grunted at the peak of a contraction. It was totally involuntary and everyone knew the baby was descending. I went to the bed and continued to labor on hands and knees because of the back labor. After a short period, I started to say that I had to poop. Everyone was excited (!!) and the midwife said that was the baby. Although I had learned in class that the sensation is exactly the same, I was in total denial. Why wasn't anyone helping me off this bed to go to the bathroom?!

Susan checked me again and said that the baby was "right there" and if she broke my water, I'd have the baby immediately. I, at this point, said ok. She tried several times to break it -- usually a simple process -- but she said the bag was so thick. She said I must have eaten great protein. Yea!

She was right. My daughter was born eight minutes later, at 5:04 a.m. I gave birth on my side. I have this fantasy that I am this quiet birther -- that my babies enter this world in a dimly lit room that is quiet and peaceful. I finally came to terms with this on the 4th birth, that I am not a quiet birther. I am vocal. But I am a very vocal person, so it makes sense that I would sound it out. AND THAT'S OK. I felt so bad about this for so long. I always tell my classes that it is OK to be a vocal birther. Our midwife, Barbara Pepper, with our 4th birth, encouraged me to sound it out, like an animal. That felt so good, so right.

I didn't tear, but felt like I had. Women are always so afraid of the possibility of tearing. It does sound awful, doesn't it? The reality is, even if you don't (about a 50/50 chance), you will think you did. When the skin stretches, it burns. This is a very intense, but extremely short period -- usually a contraction or two.

My daughter was immediately placed on my chest -- oh my goodness, she had so much black hair! (Our son was completely blond.) I was so emotional. I DID IT! Even as I type this, my eyes are welling up with tears, remembering that moment. Everything I had been afraid of before -- for what? This was amazing! Shortly after she was born, I remember saying, "I can't wait to do that again." Even when we watch the last 3 births, this birth is the most emotional. She weighed 7 lb. 2 oz., a whole pound more than our first baby. Dr. Wolsey told me that I would probably never give birth to a baby weighing more that 7 pounds. We booed him in the delivery room when she was weighed!

We were incredibly prepared. We started off so great with this baby. Confident in ourselves and our baby. She was gorgeous -- still is! We named her after her great-grandmother, who I am certain was smiling down on her, probably sad to see her go, and yet excited for her to experience this life.

If I could do this, anyone could do this! This is why I teach Birth Boot Camp, so that all women can have this experience. It's not about pain at all. It's about doing what God has given you the gift to do. I believe that He wants us to use the powers of birth and not numb them with pain medication. The body works together so beautifully, that is, until we intervene with the natural process.

If you are thinking about having an unmedicated birth, do it! Surround yourself with positive people who believe in you and the power of your body to give birth! Boo to all the naysayers who tell you that you can't do it. You can!


Lena said...

Yay! Great job- and I'm jealous!

Sarah said...

Hurray, Donna! I love that feeling of thinking you can't scale that wall of birth and then DOING IT on your own! I like the picture of being 11 mo. prego for relaxation. It reminds me of what Barb told me w/baby #2 about the importance of not just contracting, but releasing Kegel muscles. "Make sure the 'elevator' stops at every floor and don't forget to go to the basement!"

Sonia said...

You are seriously sooo inspiring! No wonder you're you decided to teach the Bradley method! I can tell just by your descriptions how much you genuinely care about woman and really want everyone to experience what you experienced! Bravo! I have got to get together with you and have a chat.

Judy said...

Hi Donna,

I love reading your blog!!! You should publish a're an excellent writer!!!

I love the part about GreatGrandma Vena being so proud of Vena & missing her. That was so sweet.

Love You, Judy

Kate's mommy said...

Great birth story Donna! Thank you for sharing!

Scott and Hannah Reasoner said...

What an incredible birth story, so inspiring!

motherly prosody said...

I loved reading this, even though I've heard you tell the story before. I have 3 friends all learning the Bradley method because of your blog! Keep doing what you're doing...oh...and I can't wait to do it again too!!!

Donna Ryan said...

Jen, I know I've got one friend registered in class -- where are the other 2?! Next class starts Nov. 7

Krista Eger said...

Great story!
It always surprises me when I hear things like this happening in Utah haha! I thought you were from Texas :D. I guess working at a Utah hospital it just feels like everyone has the medicalized birth here. What was your midwife's last name?