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My birth made me realize that a woman's empowerment can vary between her births


When I found out I was expecting my fourth baby, I knew it was a given that I'd have a natural, out of hospital birth. This was just how I birthed. Sure, I had my first two in the hospital, but they were planned to be unmedicated and we were successful in that plan.

 With my first, I did not really know anything about birth and just figured that since an epidural had been invented, women should get an epidural. Once I was introduced to the idea of natural birth by my best friend (a new midwife), I dug deeper and decided it was for me. My own mom had had two natural births, as she decided she wanted to feel her children being born. My mother in law had had two natural births, as she decided she could do it without the epidural and had also heard horror stories about epidurals gone wrong. I thought about it and decided if gazillions of women could birth naturally, so could I, and I was going to do it, 110%. My first labor ended up being 24 hours long (12 hours active) and it was by far the hardest, most painful thing I'd ever done. I didnt think I could do it, but I never asked for the epidural. I did it, even though I thought I could never make it through. Afterwards I felt incredibly empowered. I could do anything. My natural birth was my biggest, most special accomplishment, mostly because I set my mind to it and did it. When I was expecting my second, I felt even more empowered. I did it the first time. Yes, it was very hard. But it could be easier, I could be in power, and have an amazing, peaceful birth. I read Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Natural Childbirth. This book is a must to someone who is putting their mind towards natural childbirth! It made me feel so empowered, ready, and excited for my second child's birth (surprise gender). Heading into the hospital this time around, I was so much more in control. I used the shower and mind techniques. I ended up being pretty much silent until transition, but then I lost control again. I had my second beautiful baby girl and was very proud of myself for managing to stay calm for most of it. When I was expecting my third a short time later, I decided I would definitely birth at the birthing clinic. I decided to find out the gender and it was our third girl. I labored at night with her like I did the other two. At the birthing clinic, I was checked and labored in the tub which was incredible. I practiced mind techniques like counting through  contractions, and essentially managed through a silent birth which was my goal. She was born in 2.5 hours in the water and it was amazing. My most dreamy, beautiful birth experience.  With my fourth, I knew I would birth at the clinic again. I wasnt scared, I was excited to get to experience this again. I am a birth crazed individual and spend all my free time reading birth stories and researching birth and pregnancy. However, once I hit about 32 weeks, the anxiety started to set in. I did have a lot of birth anxiety with my third (related to the pain), but I remembered it as exhaustion related. Basically, I was SO tired from parenting two small children, working and being pregnant that I really valued my comfort and rest time so I didnt feel like having discomfort. It was the same the fourth time, plus one more small child, and a lot of false labor. Each day that passed I got more anxious, and I felt strongly that I wanted to go into labor this time around in the morning instead of at night. I had labored all night with my first three.  The morning of 39 weeks and 6 days gestation (January 23, 2018), I awoke around 3:30 with period like cramps. I had had false labor for weeks (with all my babies) so I waited it out. I had been wishing the day before that I would not go into labor for a couple days because we were getting a major snowstorm, which was ongoing at this point. When my husband's alarm went off at 4:45 am for work, I told him he would not be going to work today, but that it was no rush because I wasnt seriously uncomfortable and everything was manageable. I told him several times that i did not feel like having a baby today and just wanted to rest. He had a shower, I had a shower next, and put my hair up in a tight bun because I had hired a birth photographer this time around. I needed someone to capture my beautiful natural birth since I was so passionate about it! Afterwards, we woke up the kids who had been excited to stay at Granny's for 2 days when the baby came. My oldest (5) got ready excitedly, while my second (3) reverted to one of her never ending morning tantrums. It lasted the entire time we got ready to go and I felt my already fragile confidence continue to waive. We did two drop offs for the kids and continued the drive to the clinic on freshly snow covered roads. I had already organized for my midwife to meet us there, and my birth photographer said she would leave once we got to the clinic. The whole way I whimpered to my husband that I wasnt in the right frame of mind to do this...I was physically and emotionally tired from never getting any rest with the other three kids. I eventually told him I might just get the epidural at the hospital. He said that he would not judge me if I did, and he would support me, but he knew I could do it and that I would be disappointed in myself if I got the epidural. I cried more because I felt like I was stuck in between a rock and a hard place.  When we got to the clinic I felt like my labor was stalling. Through teary eyes I told my best friend/midwife that I was just going to go to the hospital and get an epidural. She told me she would support me but that she knew I didnt really want to do it. We decided to have a cervical check to help me decide. My contractions hadn't actually been very difficult yet and were still a good 8 minutes apart so I figured I was maybe 4-5 centimeters dilated. I was surprised to find out I was just about 8...I didn't know how that could be. My midwife told me I would have my baby before getting the epidural at the hospital, so I would end up going there in the car and getting admitted just to end up having a baby at the hospital without an epidural anyway. Because of this, and because I was secretly afraid of the epidural anyway, and because I knew I would regret giving up my birth plan, I surrendered to myself and decided to stay (after some more tears, of course). My birth photographer and husband were both also hugely motivational and helpful to my state of mind. It was at this point that my photographer started taking photos, and I got into the tub. I labored for a while silently in there, using my counting technique again, but still not feeling empowered like my last three births. I asked to get out to get checked and I was just about at a 10. I elected to have my waters artificially ruptured (as I did at 10 cm with my previous three babies as well) and got back into the tub. It turns out that my contractions did not hurt as bad this time around, and were further apart, because my water bag was pushing down instead of the baby's head. There was meconium in the fluid which i asked about, but the midwives said it was scarce and light enough to not be a concern. Once the waters were broken, I was given the all clear to push. But I didnt really feel the urge. It felt unnatual. I pushed through two contractions and decided to get out of the tub, pee, and then push on the bed. I had a brief thought that if I went to the toilet I might have the baby on the toilet. So I checked myself while still in the tub and, sure enough, that soft little head was almost all the way down the birth canal and about to crown. I continued to push and feel like I couldn't do it. My midwife helped me recline in the tub to push. The baby's head felt much bigger than the others, but I kept pushing. When the baby's head came out, she instructed me to stop pushing, as I had a double nuchal cord (cord around the neck twice, which would likely be what caused the meconium in the fluid). I didnt stop pushing, but she removed it in an instant. I remember exclaiming "I did it! Thank you so much for convincing me to do it!" And they said "its not done yet, the body still isnt out!" My first three had bodies that didn't hurt so much, but this one requires effort and several pushes to come out. Being a surprise gender, and a baby who I was 99% was a girl due to my pregnancy being basically the same, I checked the gender as they handed me my baby. I shrieked that it was a boy over and over again, while my photographer, Emily from Lotus and Lamb Photography, captured my facial expression as well as my husband's. He ended up being 8 lbs, 13 oz and having a considerably larger head than any of my girls (still, to this day, he is such a tank).  When we settled down in bed together for our first latch, I couldn't believe how everything had actually been less painful than I expected. I also felt sad for not giving this baby the level of empowerment I had given my first three in birth, and I am still working through that guilt today at 7 months post partum.  Before having my fourth baby, I honestly just thought natural birth was just something I did. It was me. I loved it. I was involved in the birth community, and many Facebook groups, and lots of research. I never expected to be in such a head space with my fourth where I wanted out...but I was. I'm so happy and thankful I did it, and I owe that to my birth support team. Now I realize that not only is every woman is different in how she births, but every woman can feel completely different in each one of her births. The emotional state and level of empowerment are everything when it comes to birth. It is a mind game. And in order to play your best, you need to be well rested, both physically and emotionally. Looking back, I would take more time to rest, nest around the house less, and take more time off before my due date (my last day was Friday and my baby was born on Tuesday morning). Also looking back, I do remember this birth fondly. Every Baby and mother has a special birth story.