As most of you probably know, I didn't end up with a natural birth. My labor started at 10 pm on a Thursday night and around 12 am Jackson and I excitedly started getting our things together thinking we would be heading to the hospital in the early morning. Well, my contractions were certainly strong and very bothersome but 3 am rolled by and they were still 7-10 minutes apart. 7 am rolled by and they were 5-7 minutes apart. 10 am rolled by and they were still 5-7 minutes apart. At this point, I had been in labor for 12 hours with not much to show for it. I was completely exhausted because I hadn't gotten any sleep and to make matters worse, I had gone for two vigorous walks during this time thinking it would speed up my labor. At one point I started jogging, yes jogging! 12 pm rolled around and I broke down, crying and completely discouraged and exhausted. I was saying "I'm not going to be able to do this." Mental preparation is so important for something like this and I had prepared for an 8-12 hour labor in my mind. My mother had average length labors and I was young, fit and thought surely I fall right into the "average" category. WRONG. My mom and Jackson gave me a pep talk during my breakdown and I rallied and became very focused on getting through this and getting my baby here safely. Finally, around 2 pm the contractions had gone down to 3 minutes apart. We called the doctor. He said, in his laid-back tone that I should come to his office at 4pm. I begged for 3:30 and he complied. We headed over there and I was 5 cm. He said I could either go home or we could go the hospital and he could break my water and try to speed things up. Go home? Yeah right! I high-tailed my contracting preggo self across the street and got checked in. At 5:00 pm Dr. Wolanski broke my water and things really picked up. I got in the bathtub which was the best thing ever and the contractions got really intense, about 2 minutes apart, I had about 30 seconds of rest time in between them. I would close my eyes and lay my head on the side of the tub and do some moan sound that I never thought I would do, I even made fun of people making noises in the birth class videos, but hey, anything goes in labor! After about an hour and a half I threw up and the nurse said she thought I was in transition. Sure enough, I was 10 cm. At 7:00 pm I started pushing.
This was where things didn't go as planned. I never really felt the urge to push. I started pushing as directed and it didn't feel right to me, I felt out of sync with my contractions. I was also literally exhausted. I barely had any strength and after an hour and half of failed pushing, something had to give. Parks' hadn't moved an inch and I was shutting down. So, Wolanski ordered an epidural and pitocin. I was both relieved and upset. I had worked SO hard getting to 10 cm and pushing all that time and I felt defeated. But I also desperately needed rest so I received the epidural and some anti-nausea medication that knocked me out and I slept for an hour and a half. At 11:30 pm the doctor woke me up and said I needed to push again. Of course this time, I didn't feel anything because of the epidural so it was totally directed pushing. At 11:46 pm Parks was born. After a whopping 26 hours of labor. I was so groggy from the nausea medicine I could barely feel the joy of my son's birth. I knew in my mind that I should be crying but the tears wouldn't come. I looked at him and I remember feeling a little numb and unable to process the emotion. I never want to feel that way at another one of my children's births.
So, all that to say, I am looking forward to a better birth next time. I have found a wonderful midwife in Virginia Beach and have been seriously looking into a home birth for the next time around. Yes, you heard me...home birth. The *only* thing that makes me chicken out is the slim chance that my baby wouldn't be breathing or would need immediate medical attention. So, the answer to my problem is the DePaul Midwifery Center! Hallelujah! This hospital in Norfolk has an entire midwifery center where only midwives deliver and the atmosphere is just like a home birth. You have a room with a jacuzzi tub in the middle of it, a queen size bed, big enough for mom AND dad and all the security of knowing a hospital is right down the hall. You can even have a water birth there if you want, which I can definitely see myself doing after how much I loved the bathtub during my first labor. I am so thrilled about this I can't even tell you. I just know that if I had been with a midwife with Parks, I would have had a different birth. I would not have been going on jogs for goodness sake, I would have been laying down resting and conserving my strength. I also would not have been asked to push before I felt like I had to and the midwife probably would have waited for my body to naturally start pushing the baby down. A midwife probably would have done more to prevent any tears as well.
I have become so passionate about women knowing their options when it comes to childbirth. I have also come to the conclusion that the way we treat childbirth as a society is totally unnatural. A woman is made to feel like she is on the verge of death and strapped into a hospital bed with tubes and monitors when really childbirth is an amazing natural thing. Women were built for this task! And since when did laying down in a bed become the best way to push? It is totally not the best way to push, you are working against gravity. When I watch "Birth Day" or "A Baby Story" now sometimes I feel really sad for the way mothers are treated by the nursing staff and their doctors. They are made to feel like an inconvenience and not treated at all with the dignity and respect a laboring woman should be treated with. I am convinced a large part of childbirth is mental and emotional and when you don't have good support on those levels, it can become a traumatizing event instead of an awe-inspiring accomplishment.
I will always cherish Parks' birth. Even though it wasn't my perfect birth plan, it was special. But now that I know more about how I labor and how my body handles it, I am excited to make better choices for me the next time around. I want to enjoy this season of childbirth as the empowering experience I believe it was intended to be.