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.
Please give a brief description of yourself, and what number baby/birth you’re sharing with us.
My name is Emily. I am 28 years old (was 27 when my baby was born), and this was my first birth. My husband Chris and I live in central CT.
What was your due date, and what was your baby’s birth date?
I was due on March 29, 2011, but Benjamin was born March 18, 2011 (11 days early).
What was your baby’s name, weight and length?
Benjamin James, 6 lbs. 14 oz., 20.5 inches
Please give a brief synopsis of your birth.
I’m not sure I can be brief, but I’ll try. :) When I was 38 weeks pregnant, I was told by my OB that I would have to be induced. My BP had been steadily creeping up for weeks, and a repeat 24-hour urine test showed high protein levels. I was crushed, because I had been planning to have a natural birth and was concerned that the induction would get in the way of that. I checked in to the hospital on Wednesday 3/16/11 at about 5 PM to start my induction. I had dinner, and then the Cervadil was placed. At the time, I was not dilated or effaced. The next morning (Thursday 3/17), the Cervadil was removed and Pitocin started. The Pitocin was definitely causing me to have contractions, but at first I just felt them as tightening and they were not painful. Because of my high BP and an overly conservative doctor, I was not allowed to walk around or do much of anything to help get things going. The nurse told me I was lucky not to be on magnesium. I was allowed to sit on a birthing ball and at one point, my contractions were 2 minutes apart and beginning to become more painful. Then I changed positions and the contractions became less powerful.
At 5 PM, a midwife from my practice came on rotation. She let me walk around for a while to see if that would help. At around 7, she checked me– my first internal exam since the morning. I was only 1 cm dilated and hadn’t made much progress. She decided to turn off the Pitocin so I could eat dinner and get some sleep. She inserted another Cervadil for the night.
At 4 AM on Fri 3/18, I woke up feeling what I would describe as cramping. I called the nurse and let her know. She put me back on the monitor for a little while, and found that I was having some contractions on my own, but nothing noteworthy. I tried to go back to sleep, but the pain was escalating. My husband woke up and was trying to help me through the pain. I kept saying things like “I can’t do this”… the pain was relentless. My midwife came in and suggested that the pain I was feeling was from the Cervadil. She said we could take it out, but she wanted to keep it in for a while longer since it was clearly working. I was desperate for some rest since I figured labor had still not begun and I had a long day ahead, so she gave me a 1 hour dose of Stadol.
The medicine allowed me to get some rest, though it didn’t do much to take the edge off the pain. At 7 AM, it was finally time to remove the Cervadil. The nurse was preparing my bag of Pitocin. The midwife did an internal and exclaimed, “You’re 6 cm!!” The nurse laughed and said “Well, I guess you won’t be needing the Pitocin anymore!” I remember being so excited to know that all of the discomfort I had been feeling had actually been labor! I knew that from that point forward I could do it without any pain meds. The midwife asked if I’d like to use the tub, and I said yes. While it was being filled, I started feeling a lot of pressure. I got up to use the bathroom, and realized my water was leaking. At about 8:30 AM, we headed to the tub.
As soon as I got in, I felt instant relief. I had this sense of calm, knowing that I was actually going to get the natural birth I had wanted. Before long, I felt the urge to push. The midwife checked me and I was 9 cm. She said I could push if she could break my water, so I consented. I started pushing as a nurse prepared the tub room for our birth. Another nurse was using a doppler to find the baby’s heartbeat. Suddenly, the mood in the room changed.
His heart rate was dangerously low after each contraction. I was rushed out of the tub, into a wheelchair and back into my room, where a doctor arrived with a vacuum. I was surrounded by nurses who were hurriedly trying to re-insert my hep-lock, putting on the monitors, and holding an oxygen mask over my face. Within minutes, the baby was out. The cord was wrapped around his neck, but thankfully he was perfectly healthy and fine! He was born at 9:36 AM, only about 6 hours after I had woken up with contractions. I ended up with a partial 3rd degree tear, probably caused by the quick vacuum delivery.
What did you do to prepare for your labor and birth? Did it help?
My husband and I took a Bradley method course. I am so thankful we did. Mainly, I think it helped make my husband a more active participant in the birth, and made him more comfortable with everything that went on. It’s a good thing, because I had quite the roller coaster of a birth experience. If it wasn’t for Bradley, I think my husband would have been traumatized! I am also thankful for Bradley because it helped me to write a great birth plan, which was respected by my doctors and nurses (whenever possible, at least).
What did you like about your birth experience, if anything?
I am so thankful that I was able to avoid an epidural and a C-section despite being induced. That was a big fear of mine. My birth experience wasn’t perfect, but when I think about all of the ways things could have happened differently, I feel very lucky that it all turned out the way it did.
What did you not like about your birth experience, if anything?
Sometimes I feel sad that I didn’t get to experience labor the way most people do… waiting for it to happen spontaneously, laboring at home, etc. Of course, I also really wish that I could have delivered in the tub, as I was so close to doing. Even though I had originally been planning to only use the tub for pain relief and relaxation during labor, delivering in there just felt right. However, I know that the safest thing for my baby was to get him out quickly, so I’m glad things worked out like they did.
What surprised you about your contractions/labor?
I’ve always suffered from severe menstrual cramps. When I woke up in the middle of the night with “cramps” it never occurred to me that I might be in labor. Especially since I had felt Pitocin contractions, and this felt nothing like that! I guess I just always expected the pain to be different and more severe than my worst menstrual cramps, but it really wasn’t. I thought the pushing contractions were the most uncomfortable– not really painful, but just a really bizarre feeling. It was strange to feel my body pushing without me having any control over it!
In reflection, would you do anything differently, either before the birth, during or after?
It would be easy for me to say that, in retrospect, I should have asked for an internal exam when I woke up with the “cramps” (which were actually contractions) in the middle of the night. If I had done that and learned that I was actually in active labor, I probably would not have asked for the Stadol. However, the midwife and nurses were just leading me to believe that I was cramping from the Cervadil, so I didn’t question that. Maybe if I had listened to my body more, things would have been different… but I had never been in labor before, and I thought maybe I had seriously underestimated how painful it would be.
What do you remember the most about your birth?
A few things. I remember getting that internal exam and finding out that I was 6 cm dilated. I felt so completely elated to know that all that pain had a purpose, and that my body had figured out what to do on its own! I also remember the sense of calm I had in the tub, thinking that this was where and how my baby would be born, and feeling so proud of myself for being at the pushing stage and not being hooked up to any IVs or monitors. Finally, I remember being on the bed when the baby was crowning. There was so much chaos in the room, and they were just trying to get him out quickly… but I made a point to stop and reflect and feel every second of him actually coming out and being born. Yes, it was painful, but I am so glad I didn’t have an epidural, because it is amazing to feel your baby being born. I also remember my husband telling me that it was a boy (the gender was a surprise).
How was your birth experience different from what you imagined it to be?
Originally, I thought I’d be one of those women who goes way past their due date and that it would be a race against the clock to get labor going before having to be induced. I never expected to be induced before my due date.
Once I did have to be induced, I didn’t have much hope that I’d be able to have any kind of natural birth. So I was really happy that things ended up working out.
What were your immediate emotions about yourself and or your birth experience after the birth?
I felt a sense of accomplishment that I had done it without an epidural. Despite the complications at the end and having to have an emergency vacuum delivery, I felt like things went a lot better than they could have. I felt thankful that I hadn’t ended up with a C-section. Most of all, I was relieved that the baby was okay and that he had arrived safe and sound. In the end, that was all that mattered. I was overcome with love for him from the moment he was born. I know people always say that this will happen, but I didn’t believe it until my son was born. From the moment I saw him, I was instantly in love.
How would you describe your recovery?
The day he was born, I felt great. That is one positive side effect of not having an epidural. I was up and out of bed within a couple of hours of him being born. I think the adrenaline kept me from feeling too much pain that first day. The next couple of days I felt uncomfortable when I sat directly on my bottom. I had a 3rd degree tear, and I was told that my recovery would be more painful because of it. The nurses tried to give me Percocet, but I didn’t like the way it made me feel. I stuck with the Motrin, which only helped a little. The first week home from the hospital, I was definitely still feeling quite sore on my bottom. It hurt to sit down, especially on hard surfaces, and it hurt to use the bathroom. I got a lot of relief from the cold pads that they had at the hospital. I brought some home with me as well.
How has your perspective of your birth experience changed in the last year since the first week of having Benjamin?
Now that he is about to turn a year old, I think I am starting to feel more nostalgic about his birth, our time in the hospital, and those first few weeks at home. I think I am remembering them as a lot easier and more enjoyable than I found them to be at the time. At the time, I was sleep deprived, in pain, and just generally feeling very overwhelmed, but it is easy now to look back on the happier parts of it all and to romanticize it as an exciting and beautiful time in our lives.
Did you learn anything about yourself through this experience?
Yes. I learned that I am strong enough to have a natural birth. I always hoped that I’d be able to do it, but there was a part of me that worried that I couldn’t. I also learned that I need to trust my instincts and listen to my body.
If you could recommend a certain type of childbirth experience, based on your own experiences, what would you recommend to other women and why?
I highly recommend taking the Bradley Method course. Yes, it does emphasize the idea of natural birth, but beyond that, it teaches couples to be aware of all of their options, to know the risks and the benefits, to ask questions of the medical professionals, and to advocate for themselves. Sadly, I think that they are many women today who blindly follow their doctor’s advice without really knowing what their options are, or even that they have options. The Bradley course helps to show women that they always have a choice… and helps teach their husbands to advocate on their behalf when they are in labor and are having trouble voicing their thoughts and feelings.
It would be hypocritical of me to advocate for an all natural birth, since between the Cervadil, Pitocin, and Stadol, I didn’t get the fully natural experience. However, having experienced several sides– unmedicated and medicated, induction and spontaneous labor… I can say that the most “pleasant” for me was being unmedicated, in labor on my own, and not hooked up to anything. As I said earlier, I am so thankful that I was able to have a completely unmedicated delivery. Obviously sometimes interventions are necessary, but if you have a choice, natural birth is definitely an option that more women should at least consider.
Any further thoughts, comments or advice you would like to share?
I also wanted to mention a few things that happened shortly after my son was born. For one, he was given to me almost immediately for skin-to-skin to warm him up right after delivery. I held him the whole time I was being stitched up (which seemed to take forever!). A lactation consultant came in within the first hour of his birth and helped me to get him latched on. It was great to have that support and help in the beginning, and to establish the breastfeeding relationship early on. Also, our hospital encouraged rooming-in. For the 2 days we were in the hospital after Ben’s birth, he only left our room for a few minutes for some shots and a weigh-in. I thought it was wonderful to have him in the room with us to establish that bond from the very beginning.
- The Birth Interview Project | Simone’s Surprise Unassisted Homebirth (thejoyofthis.com)
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- The Birth Interview Project | Jody’s Homebirth (thejoyofthis.com)