This was originally posted on my old blog www.cyntheology.com
During my first pregnancy, there were a lot of birthy things I didn’t know about. In fact, except for knowing which part of me the baby comes out of, I was pretty ignorant of what actually happens during childbirth. I took a doctor-knows-best approach. It ended up being a highly managed experience with many interventions. A lot of decisions were made about what to do to me during labor, but none of those decisions were made by me. Except for the wonderfully beautiful baby I gave birth to, I found the whole labor process (and weeks recovery) pretty awful.
19 years after my first pregnancy, I found myself expecting again. If my first pregnancy was a lesson in what not to do, I was determined this time was going to be completely different. I was going to be informed. I was going to be part of all birthing decisions. I was going to be empowered.
I spent a lot of time on the internet reading about pregnancy and childbirth. In my quest for some magic bullet, I came across many women who hired doulas. The reasons these women hired doulas varied, some wanted a VBAC, others wanted completely natural. Whatever their reasons, they had one thing in common, they had nothing but wonderful things to say about their doula.
Doulas are professional labor coaches. They do not actually deliver babies. Instead they provide physical and emotional support during pregnancy and labor. They are a wealth of pregnancy and birthing information. I learned that labor doulas are not always the same as postpartum doulas, although some fill both roles.
As I read more about doulas I became convinced this was the right path for me. I’m not sure what my SO thought about doulas in the beginning but he knew how anxious I was feeling and supported me in whatever I wanted.
I looked at a lot of bios online, talked to several on the phone, but when we met with Johanna of Loving Hands Doula Care something just clicked. All the doulas we talked were wonderful and very experienced. Beyond her extensive resume, I can’t tell you exactly what it was that clicked with us. Maybe it was her calming demeanor or the quiet yet confident way she spoke, we just knew we found the right person for us.
When I told a couple of friends we had hired a doula for labor, they asked “well what about the dad? Won’t he be there?”. Ummm yes of course he is going to be there. The doula is not there to replace him, in fact Johanna talked a lot about how she helps dads be more involved with the birth. In other words she isn’t just my labor coach, she is also his labor coach.
My birth plan or lack thereof didn’t change. Because of my previous bad experience I was really only against having one of the pain medications like Stadol. Other than that my birth plan was still to not have one.
I wasn’t for or against an epidural.
I wasn’t for or against natural child birth.
I wasn’t for or against anything!
I simply wanted to take the “wait and see how I am feeling” approach.
I’ll spare a lot of the labor details, but when it came to the actual labor and birth, everything went a lot smoother than I could have anticipated. Yes I was induced. Yes I did have pitocin and yes I eventually had the doctor break my water. I was fine with the decisions that were made, because they were all extensively discussed. My SO and I understood the pros and cons for each decision. Everything was also done in a way that allowed my body significant time to adjust, so it had a more natural progression.
I spent a lot of time walking the halls of the maternity ward. My SO and doula walked with me: rubbing my back, helping me focus through my contractions, and helping me keep my anxiety down in between contractions.
Being in labor is like riding a roller-coaster. There are calm moments followed by scary moments. It seems like each drop is worse than the previous one. Also like a roller-coaster, there is no getting off until the ride is over.
When I wasn’t doing laps, I was trying to find the right position. I tried sitting on a ball, the bed, a chair, standing, laying, anything. Everyone would ask me if I was comfortable and I would laugh, because nothing about being in labor was comfortable. Still there were some positions that were better than others.
One of the places I was most comfortable was in the large tub they had. I was very surprised I would like it as much as I did, especially after all the dolphin jokes I made about the tub, however after weeks of feeling heavy and unable to move, it was nice to be buoyant. It really took the pressure off my back and was very relaxing. This is also where labor really took off.
It went very quickly from “ok I can breathe through this” to “OMG I think I’m dying”. After several rounds of intense contractions, I started to ask for something, an epidural, pain meds, anything. In my gut I knew it was too late, but that sure as hell didn’t stop me from asking. My SO and doula were trying to keep me focused, but I could feel the panic bubbling up inside me, from the sheer intensity of the contractions. The nurse came, checked my progress, and said I needed to get back in the bed, like right now.
To be honest the rest is a blur. I definitely felt like I was “in the zone”.
My primary doctor was in the operating room so the on-call doctor (I had only met her once) had to be called in. She arrived with only enough time to wash her hands before it was time to start pushing. Seven hours after they started the pitocin and three pushes later, Little Miss Sunshine cried “hello” to the world.
To say I was in shock would be an understatement. It took me a few minutes of having her on my chest to realize I was done. That shock quickly gave into tears as I held this perfect little person in my arms. I don’t remember the rest of the activity in the delivery room. All I remember is staring at the squishy little face staring back at me.
I have never said that I have a high tolerance of pain, in fact I cried when they put the IV in my arm. Still, somehow I managed to give birth without any pain medication.
Going natural I had the freedom to move around as much as I wanted, but let’s be honest the last 20-30 minutes were pretty brutal. Still I was able to take a shower and walk out of the delivery room, just two hours after giving birth. My recovery was also pretty easy.
Will I do it again?
I’ve been asked this several times and the answer is, I don’t know. We are planning on having another baby and yes I do plan on having a doula (hopefully Johanna) present.
The only regret I have is not enough pictures during labor. I also don’t have a delivery room, family photo with Johanna in it. She was, after all, a huge part of Little Miss Sunshine’s birth story.
I feel more confident in trusting and listening to my body. I feel strangely proud of myself for having a natural childbirth. Honestly I always thought I was too big a wuss to ever endure a natural birth.
When it comes time to have the next baby, I think I will approach it just like I did this one. I will not have a plan. I will just take things as they come.