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 always reflect the values of the blog author.
I met Tracey in April of 2011, when she attended the childbirth classes that I helped teach in Denton, TX. I’ll always remember Tracey’s class because I was due with Noah any moment, and it was a lot of fun to be right there in the thick of pregnancy with all of the moms attending the classes. The other thing that makes Tracey and her class special is the way in which every mom from that class has stayed connected and a part of each other’s life. Which, I’ll just throw my two cents in here – is just one more reason to take part in a childbirth education class – the friendships you’ll make!
Please give a brief description of yourself, and what number baby/birth you’re sharing with us.
I’m Tracey Johnson, wife of Guy Johnson and one of 3 daughters to Shelley Bridges. My family is originally from Arkansas, but I call Texas home now. I recently quit my job to become a full-time mom and it was definitely the best (and scariest) decision of my life! This is the first baby for me; little baby Olivia (Olive) Carol Johnson.
What was your due date, and what was your baby’s birth date?
My due date was June 10th, 2011 (same as our 1 year anniversary) and Olive’s actual birth date was June 8th.
What was Olive’s weight and length?
She was 8 lbs 11oz and 20.5 in long.
Please give a brief, one paragraph synopsis of your birth.
After a lot of false labor and preparation, I was so ready to birth my baby and in the way that I wanted … all drug-free at Inanna Birth and Women’s Care. I went into labor around 2:30 pm on June 7th, just a few days before my due date. Once my contractions reached 4 minutes apart for over an hour, I called Betty (my midwife) at Inanna and went in. Silly me, I went in way too early, because I was still only 2 cm dilated, so we went for a walk. Still no significant progress, so she sent me home with Ambien to help me rest. After the horror of the Ambien haze and active labor had reached its peak, we went back and I was 6 cm. That quickly jumped up to 9.5 cm after a 3 hour stint in the warm bathtub. I got out once I felt the urge to bear down. Unfortunately, Olive’s head was stuck on the last bit of cervix that wouldn’t get out of the way! Luckily, Betty and Lynne were very experienced and had Guy push against my belly from the side while they maneuvered her head. It worked and after some good pushing, her head emerged without anything more than a tiny laceration. Here is my favorite part: I reached down and pulled my baby out! Welcome to the world, Olive!
What did you do to prepare for your labor and birth? Did it help?
To prepare for my labor, I was doing A LOT of squats. Per Joy’s advice, I never sat on the couch and opted for the exercise ball, instead, to keep Olive facing my back. I was drinking Red Raspberry Leaf tea like a crazy person and taking Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) to soften my cervix. I know for a fact those squats were so helpful in not only strengthening the muscles I would need, but I believe they also helped to move her down through my pelvis. As for the EPO, I’m really not sure if that was effective but I was 70% effaced by 38 weeks, so it could have been a contributing factor. I had quite a bit of postpartum bleeding even beyond 6-weeks, so I can’t really attest to the effectiveness of the tea, either. Oh, and I was trying to make love as much as possible, which is hard when you are feeling bloated and less than sexy. I’m sure it wasn’t real motivating for him either when I would proposition him with “I need those prostaglandins!” and a crazed look in my eye.
What did you like about your birth experience, if anything?
The very best part of my labor, without a doubt, was when Betty let me pull my baby out! I was just thinking, “Are you insane? Um…ok!” It was just perfect, like the clouds parted and everything was so sparkly and magical. That Oxytocin rush is no joke. Truly, it was a moment I will never forget.
What did you not like about your birth experience, if anything?
Ugh, I did not appreciate the Ambien experience. I do think the rest was needed, but next time I will try something either less potent, or so potent that it really knocks me out.
Another thing I really didn’t like was something that I haven’t really talked about with anyone before, after I had Olive. I was trying desperately to get her to latch onto my breast, and we were both getting really frustrated. I just had this amazing birth that I worked so hard to prepare for, it didn’t even occur to me that I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. Olive was crying so much, I’m not sure if we even attempted the pump, but we decided to give her a bit of formula and I regret it to this day. This was the start of a 4 month struggle to restart our breastfeeding relationship. Luckily, she is nursing like a little champion today.
What surprised you about your contractions/labor?
I knew that the contractions would have to get to the point of unbearable before I would push the baby out, but I had nothing to compare it to, so it caught me off guard. Also, I didn’t realize that my memory of labor would be so hazy afterwards! It was really a big blur. I guess that’s a good thing ;)
In reflection, would you do anything differently, either before the birth, during or after?
Um, this question makes me nervous! I would probably not go to the Birth Center quite so soon, and I could do without the Ambien. But if I changed anything, it might not have been the same experience at all! Even with the mistakes I had made, they contributed to the most rewarding experience in my life, which I wouldn’t give up for anything.
What do you remember the most about your birth?
The most memorable part of my birth was when Guy and I went for a walk, hoping to speed up my labor. We walked hand-in-hand up and down University Drive, stopping occasionally for a contraction, and laughing about the whole thing. We talked about how excited we were to finally meet our little girl, and how everything was about to change for us. It was a pleasant chance to step off the “labor train” and just appreciate the experience we were living together.
How was your birth experience different from what you imagined it to be?
I will be honest, it wasn’t a whole lot different than I had expected. I guess I was lucky enough to actually get the positive birth experience that I set out to have, and that in itself was a bit unexpected. Of course, there were a few things I didn’t see coming, like how I would completely lose my mind in transition (I really don’t remember it) or how my cervix wouldn’t let Olive’s head through for a long time. But the overall experience was just as I imagined it, challenging and so very special.
What were your immediate emotions about yourself and or your birth experience after the birth?
I immediately felt emotionally spent. I was so grateful for the amazing women who educated and really prepared me for just about everything and I was grateful for the birth experience itself, but giving birth forces you to face all possible emotions in a short amount of time. I just wanted to enjoy my baby, my reward.
How would you describe your recovery?
Um, I would describe my recovery as less than ideal. I had a lot of bleeding, so I was placed on antibiotics. Then, because of Olive’s tongue tie, we were both constantly battling thrush, which was worsened by the antibiotics. As if that weren’t enough, I had a case of mastitis, which was very painful and required another round of antibiotics. All the while, we were struggling to build my milk supply with her poor latch and my battered nipples. Not a fun time.
How has your perspective of your birth experience with Olive changed in the last 6 months since the first week of having her?
After getting past the initial shock of postpartum, I can look back on my experience with an overwhelming sense of pride and accomplishment.
Did you learn anything about yourself through this experience?
I learned that I’m stronger than I thought I was, both physically and mentally.
Would you recommend having a natural childbirth or medicated childbirth to other women?
I would wholeheartedly and emphatically encourage other women to research natural childbirth. I had no idea why women would want a natural childbirth at all until I actually heard from those mothers who did it and fully understood the benefits. I believe that it is the safest way to give birth (for uncomplicated pregnancies), and although it can be hard, it is also very rewarding for mother and baby.
Any further thoughts, comments or advice you would like to share?
Natural childbirth is something that you need to commit to. I would encourage any woman who wants to “try” for natural childbirth to do more than “try,” but really commit. There are many things you need to prepare for. While it might not go the way you planned, there are controllable variables that are your responsibility, like researching the doctor you choose, reading reviews for the hospital or birth center, and educating yourself on the birth process. That goes for natural or medicated childbirth.