The Birth Interview Project consists of 17 simple questions designed to help mothers process their birth story & share it with others. All mothers are invited to take part in this project. Born out of Joy’s desire to help women discover, process and express the feelings surrounding their birth experiences, The Birth Interview Project strives to offer a platform for mothers and readers alike to share and be heard, to search and to discover, to identify and to heal, and to exhort and remember. The views and opinions expressed here are unique to each woman who takes part in the Birth Interview Project and may not reflect the values of the blog author.
Beth’s first birth story is a hard one. The disconnect that she experienced during her labor and lack of concern that surrounded her birth leaves me with a sinking feeling in my heart. But it is the first story in a sequence of Beth’s birth stories that show her growth and empowerment in labor and birth. Beth is the mother of five beautiful children and each of their birth stories will be told through The Birth Interview Project.
I feel compelled to share with you a little about Beth before you read her story. I met Beth while I worked at Inanna Birth and Women’s Center as a birth assistant. I remember last December being called in for a birth, I quietly walked into the room thinking that I would see a mother showing the typical signs of heavy labor; to my surprise I saw Beth standing, swaying her hips back and forth, her hands resting on her belly, laughing, in mid conversation with her husband, son and midwife. Initially, I thought I was called in too early for assistance, only to find out from the midwife that Beth was 9 cms dilated and would shortly deliver her baby (in the water, a beautiful little girl, – but you’ll read that story later).
Being that I was around 30 weeks pregnant, I walked away from Beth’s birth with awe. I took her birth experience, meditated on it and allowed it to paint of picture of what birth – even my own approaching birth – could look like.
Beth soon became a friend and continues to pour encouragement into my life on a regular basis. Some people are gifted that way, and she is one of those who just oozes appreciation and validation on to you. Beyond that, I have to say, she gave me one of the best and most practical gift-basket-of-a-shower gift(s) I have ever received! Plus, I’m really glad that I have a friend who has so much experience in the mothering department. She’s raising five children between the ages of 13 and 1 – I can always go to her with my new (HELP, WHAT DO I DO NOW?) mom questions. Thank you, Beth!
I know you will enjoy reading Beth’s progression of birth stories. Here is Beth’s first interview on the birth of her son, Trey.
Please give a brief description of yourself, and what number baby/birth you’re sharing with us.
I am a mother of five sharing with you the birth of my first child, 13 years ago.
What was your due date, and what was your baby’s birth date?
EDD – April 12
Birthdate – April 2
What was Michael Atreyu’s (Trey) weight and length?
8 pounds 6 oz., 21 inches long.
Please give a brief, one paragraph synopsis of your birth.
I had been having Braxton Hicks for weeks but nothing building or growing. My water broke at 1:07 AM. We drove to the hospital where I was admitted at 3cm. I was prepped with a mandatory enema and shave. I was left alone with hard and long contractions while my husband waited in the lobby. No one went to tell him he could come in. This left me feeling abandoned and alone at such a vulnerable time. I was told I could have an epidural when I got to a five so I consoled myself with every contraction knowing that it would only be a short while before I was whisked away to a happy place where all is perfect and you feel no pain. My contractions were very effective but the nurses refused to check me for 2 hours saying that I couldn’t have progressed that far. When I threw up I was hysterical. I knew I was in transition and they wouldn’t give me an epidural now. I was right. When my husband finally convinced them to check me I was at 8cm. I was inconsolable and angry. How could they have ignored me for so long? They gave me a narcotic to calm me and my son was born 30 minutes later with 2 pushes and an unnecessary, unrequested and unapproved episiotomy. He had trouble breathing and they whisked him to the NICU. I was not allowed to touch my son for six hours and I just didn’t care. The drugs had made sure of that. From water breaking to delivery it was exactly 5 1/2 hours.
What did you do to prepare for your labor and birth? Did it help?
I was an expert on hospital births and interventions. I had read everything there was about hospital interventions and pain management options. I took the childbirth education class at the hospital. It did not help me because the hospital staff and the doctor never once listened to me or asked for my informed consent for even one intervention.
What did you like about your birth experience, if anything?
I loved my husband’s pride in my ability to give him a son. I was quite happy with the pushing phase since that is typically advertised as the hard part. It was not difficult. It was a relief to me. It felt like the only right thing to do at that moment.
What did you not like about your birth experience, if anything?
I do not like being told how to breathe. I still to this day do not like people telling me to be quiet. One of the L&D nurses insisted that I not make any noise while pushing because it reduced my effectiveness. Apparently not! I did not like being cut without consent nor the slightest warning. I didn’t like being left in recovery cold and completely alone. I didn’t like being lied to about my son’s breathing which was CLEARLY a side effect of the narcotic - which I didn’t learn about until ten years later when I read that this was one of the most common negative reactions in newborns.
What surprised you about your contractions/labor?
I was surprised at how good it felt to push.
In reflection, would you do anything differently, either before the birth, during or after?
I would never again allow myself to be given unnecessary interventions by a protocol that was built to suit the facilitators and not the guests.
What do you remember the most about your birth?
I remember the hopelessness of having my baby on my stomach and not being able to even touch him. I remember his frog-like croaks as they took him from the room. I remember looking at him through the nursery room window and not really connecting emotionally that this was my child.
How was your birth experience different from what you imagined it to be like?
I imagined caring more. The drugs hindered my desire and ability to be a mother.
What were your immediate emotions about yourself and or your birth experience after the birth?
I was proud to have delivered a child without the sitcom screaming and cursing during pushing.
How would you describe your recovery?
I recovered relatively quickly. I became addicted to the epi bottle, used it for months.
How has your perspective of your birth experience with Trey changed in the last 13 years since the first week of having him?
I am still angry as I write how my experience was marred. But I am empowered to educate everyone who will listen that it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a better way.
Did you learn anything about yourself through this experience?
I learned that I am strong enough. I don’t have to have an altered experience to complete a job I was made to excel at.
Would you recommend having a natural childbirth or medicated childbirth to other women?
I recommend with all my heart a natural childbirth experience. I have had Demerol (with #1), epidural (with #2) and unmedicated natural waterbirths (with #3-#5). I feel like someone who has lived in the darkness and walked into the light.
Any further thoughts, comments or advice you would like to share?
I am disgusted at the fact that my son was put into NICU by a drug that was administered to me much too late in order to console me for a lack of attention and care by the staff. If anyone had paid attention they would have recognized my precipitous labor and guided me toward a less traumatic result.