Friday, May 29, 2009

A Better Birth

I reflect on Parks' birth fairly frequently.  Not every day, but definitely a few times a month.  After all, it was probably the most life changing event to happen thus far in my life.  I think through everything, the start of labor, my surprise when after 10 hours of labor we weren't even at the hospital, my arrival to the hospital and the birth of my first son.  Overall, I was happy with my first birth experience, but I am already looking forward to a better birth next time.   There were a few things I was set on with Parks.  I definitely wanted a natural birth with no pain medications and I wanted to have him close to me after the birth and all that.  I wanted to see a midwife but she was booked so I ended up with Dr. Wolanski.  I wanted to deliver at Martha Jefferson which I knew to be a pretty progressive hospital in terms of how they treat childbirth.

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.


christa said...

wow - I did not know this whole story. Will you be my Doula when the time comes??

Megan said...

I didn't know the whole story either, I am sorry you had such a bad experience. I watched Saved by the Bell when I was in labor, I loved me some epidural :)

The Hansens said...

I totally agree with you that our society has major issues with the way we threat the birthing process. My mom had my my youngest brother with a midwife because she was sick of being pressured to have c-sections. The midwife allowed our entire family to be there, which I know was really speical for my parents. I know that my mom greatly prefered her experience with the midwife versus a hospital. She didn't have a water birth but she sat in a jacuzzi until she was ready to push. I really hope to use a midwife when Jon and I have kids.

LindseyStrickland said...

I was really impressed by the nurses at Martha Jefferson. I don't know if they assigned me the nurses that were particularly supportive of natural birth or it was just luck. The first nurse gently redirected me when I asked about an epidural and I swear got me past the looong pause at 9cm. The second nurse was a Scottish midwife who reminded me of Super Nanny. I have no memory of the doctor, but Daniel said he came to check on me a few times. I'm glad there are some good options in Va Beach! Not sure what I'll do next time...but I'm open to meds ;)

Jaime said...

I'm glad someone other than me is thinking about birth right now! Ha! :) I appreciate your zeal for a holistic approach, siesta. My dignity in labor is reduced to making sure my roots get done before hand.

You also sound ready for that better birth. How close will they be?!

esther lee said...

I couldn't even get through reading this (I will go back and finish!) because I am sooo excited! Even though I am nowhere NEAR being preggers, I've been researching (A LOT) about home births, have a handful of friends that have had really great experiences with it but am excited to see that DePaul has such a great midwifery team. My mom had three out of her four at DePaul and she was able to do the Leboyer bath with each of us and was also able to use her Lamaze. Wow. Didn't realize I get so passionate about this. Now to finish reading.

Anonymous said...

You know, I've had three girls...and you'd THINK I would have gotten it down by #3. If I had to do it all over again, I would have done it naturally...OUT of the hospital. I had to laugh when you wrote about laying down to give birth...I had SUCH a hard time with that...I kept asking the staff if I could just stand or squat (you should have seen the looks!)