I had the hardest time deciding which of my three birth stories I wanted to write about first. They are all unique and special in their own way. After thinking about it for a couple months, I decided I should start at the beginning… a very good place to start… (cue Sound of Music) And, if you just LOVE birth stories, you can binge to your heart’s delight at my friend Suzanne’s blog The Glorious Mundane’s Birth Story page.
When I was pregnant with my oldest son, Clayton, I really wanted a natural birth. I’m a natural girl, I’ve done marathons, I’ve backpacked thousands of miles, I knew I could do it. However, in my naivety, I made my biggest mistake. I chose our local hospital.
I did not think that the place I decided to give birth made a difference. I thought all hospitals were the same, all nurses and doctors were the same, and the only variable in the equation was me. Now, over 8 years later, I cannot believe I was so naive, but that was where I was.
I was thrilled when I found out we were pregnant with our first and quickly looked into OB/GYNs in the area that delivered at the only hospital closer than 45 minutes to our house. I chose an older man with lots of experience who looked a lot like my childhood doctor. He was actually very sweet – and he proved to be the best decision I made for my delivery.
As my due date approached, I registered with the hospital, took a birthing class with my husband, and prepared our home for the arrival of our little one. The one thing I wanted to avoid at all costs with this delivery was being induced (and, of course, a C-section). I had heard that Pitocin (the drug used to induce labor) made labor extremely painful and I was not sure if I would be successful with a natural childbirth under those circumstances.
Just after midnight, on the morning of my due date, my water broke. I didn’t wake up my husband and tried to get some sleep – which was pretty much impossible as all I could think about was the immanent arrival of our son. Would he be born by morning? By noon? Surely by the evening he would be here. How prompt of him to come on his due date!
Well, by morning, nothing much had happened. And I knew the hospital had given specific instructions to call them and come in the minute my water broke. However, I also knew that if labor did not start soon, they would induce me – my very worst fear! I wasn’t going in just yet…
So we spent the morning walking, several miles, trying to get things moving. I started to have steady contractions, but they really didn’t hurt. They came every 20 minutes, then every 10 minutes, and finally they were closer than 5 minutes. Still they did not hurt much (I know now it was only very early labor), but about 8 pm we decided to go into the hospital.
When we checked in, I was immediately scolded by the staff for not checking in the night before – but that was just the beginning of them getting to deal with my stubbornness. I was 2.5 cm – which was something since I was only ½ cm dilated when I was at my doctor’s office the day before. However, I was immediately told I HAD to be induced. It was the hospital policy when water had been broken for so long with no active labor. We stalled for a couple hours, but I was not allowed to return home and my labor (as minor as it had been) had completely stalled when I got to the hospital, so I got an IV and Pitocin, as well as a monitor – all things I absolutely did not want!
Labor then started – and it hurt – a lot! But I worked through the pain and 4 hours later asked to be checked again. I had to be at least a 6, right? Nope – still at 2.5 cm dilated. They turned down the Pitocin some and gave me something to help me sleep and rest – since it was obvious this was going to take some time. The medicine only made me sick, but I did get a little rest. Early in the morning, they turned up the Pitocin again and I continued to fight through the contractions, knowing that each one was bringing me closer to meeting my son – except they weren’t. My body continued to fight the Pitocin, although it started to dilate some. After 16 hours of induction, I gave in. I was only 5 cm dilated and I just couldn’t take the pain that led nowhere anymore. I asked for an epidural and finally got it at 4 pm.
Things went smoother after that because I could no longer feel the pain, but my body still would not cooperate. I had slowly reached 7 cm, but had stalled again. At 8 pm, the nurses came in and told me that I needed to have a C-section. I was devastated. I had just been laboring for almost 2 days – I had fought through 16 hours of pain with Pitocin, and now I would have to have a C-section?
So I argued with them.
“Was the baby in trouble?”
No, not yet – but he could be at any time. They made me feel guilty and like a bad mom for even suggesting that I did not need a C-section. According to them, I was putting my baby at risk by not complying immediately.
So I asked to see my doctor. I was in tears and devastated, but I trusted him more than the nurses (who worked for the overcrowded hospital that I was still taking up room in). He came in, calmly talked to me and my husband, listened to my fears, and told me – no, I did not have to have a C-section at this point. Then he left the room to fight it out with the nurses.
Then we started to pray. And my mom and sister who were with us got on the phone to get everyone else to pray. We prayed that my body would open up, that our baby boy would be born safely, that God would give our doctor wisdom. And I tried to prepare my heart in the case that I would need to have an emergency C-section after all.
Two hours later, my doctor came to check on me again. And praise God, I was finally 10 cm and could push! It took two hours of pushing, as well as help from an episiotomy (which I also did not want, but figured it was better than a C-section), and a vaccuum, but finally, just after midnight, Clayton arrived.
He was perfect! Ten fingers, ten toes… two beautiful blue eyes. A little rosebud mouth. He was laid on my chest and we were able to try to breastfeed immediately. He had a hard time with that because he was really groggy from my epidural still, but nevertheless, I was in love!
Just over 12 hours later we were bringing him home. (Another thing I got to fight the nurses over.) But I was sick of that hospital, we were both given clean bills of health, and I was ready to be home.
Clayton’s birth taught me so much – not just because it made me a mother for the first time, but also because it taught me what I did NOT want to be part of my future births. But, despite the unexpected twists and the fighting with hospital staff, I had the outcome I wanted – a healthy happy baby boy!
The one thing that I want anyone wanting a natural labor to take away from this story is that the hospital you choose, and the birthing practices of that hospital, makes a difference. I naively thought it did not, I thought that I was the only variable in the equation, but that is just not the case, So, no matter what type of birth experience you want, make sure to choose the place you will be giving birth very intentionally. Do your research, because every hospital is NOT the same. (Okay.. End rant…)