Birth & Parenting Series (10): Unmedicated Birth for First-Time Parents
Part 1 (Thoughts From a Mother of Four) is here, part 2 (Mother of Seven Shares Her Empowering Birth Stories) is here, part 3 (First-Time Mother of Twins) is here, part 4 (How First-Time Parents Braved a Placental Abruption) is here, part 5 (Childbirth Collective Doula Film Premiere) is here, part 6 (First-Time Mama Bravely Faces Transverse Baby & C-Section) is here, part 7 (Homeschooling Mama Shares Her Path to Schooling) is here, part 8 (First-Time Papa’s Perspective on Birth Center Birth) is here, and part 9 (Mama’s First-Time Birth and Faith in Women’s Bodies) is here.
My sister, Molly W, chose to plan for an unmedicated birth in a metropolitan area where everything about birth was very medicated. She, her husband, and her doula worked hard to make her birth experience the best it could be–and as medicine-free as possible. Talk about determination! The ending is a cliff-hanger, but I promise to give you the rest of the story next week.
How Little V Came into This World
My pregnancy made its grand finale in the sweltering months of August in New York City. I had ceased taking the train to work at that point, indulging in the luxury of the local Mexican car service. At two weeks to go, I left work a little early on a Friday, feeling out of sorts.
I had been having lots of benign contractions in the weeks leading up and I could not stand sitting at a desk another minute. Of course, I couldn’t stand standing or laying down either. I recall wondering how I would ever get through the next two weeks. Turns out that was my last work day for the next few months.
We were dog-sitting our favorite pup Milo that weekend and I swear he sensed the time had come. He would hardly leave my side all day Saturday. Even though I felt very restless, we were planning a BBQ for the evening. By the time 5pm rolled around, I started timing contractions and they were 6 minutes apart. No way we were entertaining that night.
We had been preparing for an unmedicated birth with as little intervention as possible. My wonderful doula was hours away, and managed to arrive around 8. I started to feel very excited to meet our daughter. I thought about her with every contraction. I experienced something called hip labor, which I had never heard of. Each contraction sent shooting pain through my hip joints. With my husband supporting me, my doula applied counter-pressure to my hips and virtually erased the pain factor. We did this until 3 in the morning when my contractions came close to 3 minutes apart.
I had some severe nausea and my midwife told us to come in to the upper east side hospital. Just before getting into the Mexican car service, my water broke, saving the poor man’s upholstery. I vaguely remember counting through each contraction in the car. Everything intensified greatly and it seemed we were driving 100 miles per hour through the empty streets.
I was admitted through the ER, where I was strapped (continuous monitor and IV fluids) to a hard bed, and all sorts of uncomfortable things ensued: I was sick over the side of the bed, wracked with contractions my doula and husband could not assist with, peppered with questions by interns (why did they need to ask me my level of education at that moment?), and given an internal exam by the attending physician who roundly declared I was only 2cm dialated, 90% effaced.
Now they typically don’t even admit ladies until they are at 3cm. But I obviously wasn’t going home. At some merciful juncture my midwife arrived and wheeled me into L & D. All my dreams of squatting on the birthball, chanting mantras of calm blue ocean, while being massaged with essential oils went the down the drain. It never really occurred to me to ask for medication even though I was basically immobile from my admission til V’s arrival.
The next time my midwife examined me (about an hour following my disappointing 2cm dialation), I was at 7 cm. Now I have a theory that I was actually much farther along the first time around, but like any mammal in the wild, I undialated in such a harsh and stressful environment. Nothing like the birthing process to remind us of our very primal selves.
I remember being sick in one of those handy kidney shaped bowls, extremely powerful contractions and an encroaching urge to push, even though I was not yet completely dialated.
Okay, let’s get accurate on the “urge to push” nomenclature. That makes it sound like you’re running a hurdles race in high school track and your coach is urging you to push through to the finish line. Wrongo. This pushing is happening with or without your breathy support. At least mine was.
I was instructed to pant (what?) as if that single sandbag could stop the tsunami. When I was finally checked again, not only was I fully dialated, V’s little head was halfway down my birth canal. I pushed along with my contractions for about 40 minutes–directed pushing mind you, which I will not be doing again as I believe it caused my tearing, howsoever minor–and at 7:45am on August 21, 2010, Vivian O’Connor was born.
Only she wasn’t breathing. Her skin was blue, eyes wide open. The greatest moment in my life quickly turned into a period of extreme stress and anguish. I will share her story post birth in another post.