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The (Almost) Completely Drug-Free, But Not Pain-Free Birth of My Daughter

October 21, 2011

I woke up that Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m., wondering why I was waking up at that time on a Sunday morning.  I got up and turned on the DVD player.  I had been re-watching X-Men the night before, and I had been too sleepy to finish it, turning it off with about an hour left in the movie.  So, I finished watching X-Men again, and got up to turn off the DVD player.  I hit the button to stop it, and then the power button to turn it off.  When I turned around and headed back to the futon/bed/couch I had been lounging on to watch the movie, that’s when it happened…at pretty much exactly 8:30 (the time will be significant later on) that morning (I remember looking at the clock), my water broke.

I had been told that you wouldn’t necessarily have one of those movie experiences where it looked like the bottom of a bucket of water fell out.  I had been told that some women just trickled for days, and that some, in fact, never had their water break.  Some women are lucky enough to deliver the baby, water and placenta intact and all.  I say lucky, because that is what is most healthy for the baby…for the baby to have that nutritious environment of water surrounding them all the way up until they are born and enter the earth.  This is what I wanted for my baby, because it is what is best for the baby.  But that’s just not how it happened for me.  The way my water broke, it was, very much, like it was in a movie…I had a very similar experience to that.  Now, I won’t say that it was gushing necessarily, per se, but there was quite a bit of water falling to the floor.  And other stuff, which is natural for the whole “water breaking” thing, but I won’t go into too much detail about that so as not to gross anyone out too much.  But there definitely was not any trickling, and unfortunately, I did not have any water left by the time my baby was delivered.

As soon as my water broke, I got into my car and rode to the Woman’s Birth and Wellness Center, which is where I had planned to have my baby.  From the time I knew I was going to have a baby on, I had decided I wanted to do an all-natural birth…no drugs were going to be involved.  I found out about this Woman’s Birth and Wellness Center through some classes I was taking, and from that point on, I was determined to have my baby there.  When I got there, they told me to go home — I was only at one centimeter, relax, and take a shower, because it could be a long time before I had my baby, and might end up being a long night.  Night?  It was 9:30 in the morning (at least…by that time.  I lived about an hour from the center).  So I got back in the car and rode all the way back home the hour.  At home, I busied myself with packing my stuff for the Center (I packed enough stuff that you would’ve thought I was moving in — a lot of people pack less for a whole week’s trip somewhere).  But I wanted to be prepared and I also wanted to be surrounded by the comforts of home when I gave birth.  To give you an idea of the excessive amount of stuff I packed, I had my laptop packed (of course), I had this picture which had a light behind it (one of those light-motion pictures) and emitted comforting sounds (the sounds of the ocean), I had five CD’s with relaxation sounds on them.  Those sounds I had also put on the laptop (this was one of the most important part of all of the things I took…these sounds).  I had a CD player, just in case.  I had an ipod also with the sounds loaded on it, of course.  I had a pillow which plugged into either the laptop, the CD Player, or the Ipod and emitted these sounds.  I had clothes and a blanket for the baby, of course.  I remembered the car seat this time, of course (I had forgotten it the first time, but this time I remembered it).  I remember having some other stuff including towels, a change of clothes, snacks, etc., but I don’t remember much else of what I had, I just remember that it was a lot.  It was also completely not logical, having all of this stuff, but don’t try to reason with a pregnant woman who is about to have her baby!

After being sure to pack all of my stuff, I took a shower and made some of what they call “laborade”.  Now…Laborade is something similar to gatorade, but it is all-natural and has no sugar.  I was determined that I was going to drink this stuff and like it, and I was determined to do everything “right”, by not drinking or eating anything else, and especially not anything that had that “bad” stuff in it.  I ended up throwing out this Laborade and not drinking it because it was NASTY and I simply couldn’t stomach it.

I headed back the hour to the Woman’s Birth and Wellness Center.  It was about lunchtime by that time…a later lunch, like 2 or so.  So it has been 5 hours since my water broke, and I had started having contractions, or at least sensations, but at that time, I still had no idea what true labor contractions were like.  Someone had told me they were like menstrual cramps, but since I don’t (usually) get menstrual cramps, I had really no point of reference, whatsoever.  I was in the early stages of labor, which I would find out later, was really absolutely nothing compared to the later stages.  At that point, I was still thinking…I can do this.  This isn’t so bad.  I was still excited, and still looking forward to it, and still thinking…”maybe this labor thing isn’t so bad afterall”.

When I got back to the Center, they told me I had only dialated another centimeter…I was only at two centimters by that time, so they still wouldn’t admit me or let me stay there.  I left some of my stuff there, picked out my room (which ended up being a nice carolina blue room) and left.

The Center I gave birth in was a set of apartment homes that had been re-made into this Woman’s Birth and Wellness Center.  I know in one of the apartments, Yoga was taught, but I am pretty sure there was a part as well where people lived and were residential.  There were some other businesses, but I think the main one there was the Woman’s Birth and Wellness Center.

So, anyway, I left from the center and went to grab some lunch.  I tried to eat light.  I had been told it might be a good idea to eat light or not at all, because of what would be going on, but I was starving and needed my energy, and there was no way I would’ve been able to go without eating.  Honestly, I really expected to have my baby later that night.  Or maybe not so much later, but I really thought she would be coming that evening at some point.  I remember the place I ate at being Ham’s, because there was one there that was convenient, and they had some food there that sounded good to me and like something I would want to eat.

At one point I went back to the center, but I still was not ready to have the baby, nor had I dialated that much.  Now, sometimes, women who are pregnant have certain fears that may seem weird or odd to others.  I think it is something about the biochemical reactions going on in your body, and some of the hormones and other chemicals, but you do get weird ideas and/or have weird fears.  One of my greatest fears was either that the baby was just going to fall out of me and/or I was going to have her somewhere where I would have nothing but total strangers surrounding me, or completely by myself, or people around who were not necessarily strangers, but did not know what they were doing.  I wanted at least a midwife there.  One of my fears about having the baby somewhere other than the Center was that the baby wouldn’t get what she needed right off, and damage would be done to her.  So I didn’t want any of that happening.  So that was why I was going back to the Center and trying to get admitted so frequently.  I had no idea how hard I was going to actually have to push to get the baby out.

So, anyway, the Center told me then, again, that they would not admit me.  So I ended up going to a nearby hotel to wait it out, telling the people at the front desk that I probably would not be staying the whole night, but just needed a place to chill in the meantime.  After checking into the hotel, I went to eat again, supper, because I was starving.  I tried to eat really light at one of those trendy heatlhy places…I think I remember having a sandwich and fries that were supposed to be cooked light and healthier for you, but I could be remember that completely wrong.  After that, I got this sudden craving for icecream and satisfied that craving, having an icecream.  I felt bad about it, but it was one of those pregnant woman cravings that simply can’t be denied.  My mom called during that time, but I didn’t tell her I was experiencing somewhat passive labor, because of the way I had decided to have my baby, I didn’t need her stressing me out.  She is the type of person who surrounds herself with drama and anxiety, and I did not need that while having my baby.  Then I returned to the hotel.  During this time, I was chilling, listening to my relaxing music, and trying to nap/sleep.  There was a woman at the hotel who appeared to be a hooker/prostitute who was there with a man, but I guess that’s pretty irrelevant.  I walked around outside the hotel a little bit, and got my picture taken, kind of like some last minute pictures to commemorate the last moments of me being pregnant, and the moments before the baby was born.  One of the reasons for all of this walking (around the hotel and around town), was that I had been told that walking helps to progress the labor.  I wanted a 100% completely drug-free birth, and so I didn’t even want to be given the medications you are sometimes given when you are in a hospital to hurry the birth along.  The contractions started coming more often, and they were more painful.  I tried to stand it as long as I could, and I remember developing this sensation like I had to go to the bathroom (which I later learned was normal, and sometimes meant you were getting ready to give birth) often, and going to the bathroom, but not being able to pass anything.  I thought I was constipated, and was afraid I was going to have a bowel movement when I gave birth, which is what I am told happens to some women.

Anyway, it was about midnight, 12:00 a.m., when I thought the contractions were substantial and that I was FINALLY ready to have this baby!  I returned to the Center, and they finally accepted me and let me set up shop, but they didn’t really want to.  I was at that time, only at four centimeters.  So my labor was not progressing very quickly, to say the least.  At the Center, they had these huge garden tubs you could take a bath in and relax in, at least before giving birth, and so that some women who chose to could have a water birth.  I had decided early on, for several reasons, that I was going to have a water birth.  Anyway, I got in the tub a couple of times throughout the night.  I tried to sleep in between and through the conrtractions, but it was hard and they were very painful by that point.  It was so painful, I remember I couldn’t help but make noise as they were coming.  I had seen births in videos prior to this where the women made no sound and “breathed the baby out”, but it became apparent by this time that this was not a luxury I was going to have.  It was so painful, there was no way I could have prevented sounds from coming from my mouth, and it would probably have been even more painful had I tried.

It was at this point that, had I been at a hospital, I probably would’ve been agreeable to pain medications…even possibly, and epidural.  Even though I had decided not to…this was very painful.  I had previously considered myself to be very tolerant to pain, and had been through many painful things…some without really being affected too much by the pain, so I really had thought I could do this.  But this was definitely a different type of pain.  I even considered asking them to allow me to go to the hospital and abandon my plans for a medication-free birth, because I was  in so much pain, but I did not do that.  It was quite awhile after that, probably about the second time that I was in the tub, that they got me out of the tub and told me I was too relaxed, and my labor had started going backwards instead of progressing.  I had stopped having contractions…my body had somehow stopped the contractions, and I guess somewhat had shut down.  So they wanted me to get it started again.

Hours later, they checked me again, and I was at this time only at five centemeters.  Which is half of what you need to be at (they would ideally like you to be at ten centimeters when you give birth.  They’ll take nine or a little over nine up to ten, but they would like you to be at ten.)  They had me try to go outside and walk, but quite frankly, I couldn’t do it.  It was just too painful.  So they checked me again, and I had really made no progress.

So this is the part where I have to put an (almost) in front of “completely drugfree birthing”…because it was at this moment that they offered me 50 mg of morphine.  Even as much pain as I was in, I considered not taking it.  They highly recommended I take it,and said it woudn’t really kill the pain, but would relax my muscles.  they also said that if I didn’t give birth within 24 hours after my water had broken, I would have to be taken to the hospital and possibly have a medical procedure in order to give birth, and that was what I was trying to avoid.  They said that if I did not accept the morphine, this would probably happen (that I would have to go to the hospital).  So I accepted the morphine.  And sure enough, it did nothing for the pain, really.  And it had worn off, for sure, by the time I actually gave birth.  This was just so my muscles would relax enough to get me to the point to where I would be able to give birth naturally.

So, anyway, I slept on and off through the rest of the night in between and through the contractions (as much as I possibly could…I didn’t really sleep, nor did I get good quality sleep, but tried as much as possible).  I “woke up” at about 8:30 or so the next morning.  Of course, I was in extreme pain at this time, but it was contractions, coming and going and such.  Obviously I wanted to get this whole ordeal over with, and I was actually over that 24 hour mark.  But since I was close to giving birth, they didn’t mention me going to the hospital at that point.  I am sure if I weren’t as close as I were, they probably would’ve been more amenable to the idea.  They checked me again, and I was at around eight centimeters or so at that point.  They encouraged me to take a shower, and I agreed and did.  I got in the shower.  I told them I felt like I was constipated and needed to go to the bathroom really bad, and they told me that it was the baby I was feeling and that meant that I was getting ready to give birth.  Then, they showed me these deep lunge things you could do to help the labor along.  And boy, do I wish they had showed me that earlier, because I would’ve been doing those all night if I had known how well they worked and that they would get the ordeal over with faster.  Anyway, I got in the shower, and one of the midwives ran the water for the garden tub for the water birth.  I was doing the lunges and making the birthing noises, because it hurt, but I was just so determined to do this…to give birth to the baby.  I told her it hurt, and had her check, and she was giving me progress updates, said the lunging was working, and I was getting close (this was all taking place when I was in the shower).  And she said the harder and faster I did it, the more it would progress the labor on and allow me to have the baby.  So I remember bearing down and doing them really hard and fast, and then having her come and check in the middle of it.  And she said I was over nine centimeters…nine and some, and so that was fine, it was time to have the baby!  I never got to ten centimeters.

But I was thrilled.  Yay.  Time to have the baby.  Time to get this whole ordeal over with!  So, they ran the water for the tub.  I tried to continue doing the lunges, to help the baby along.  Was able to get in the tub and in the water.  When I got in the tub, they told me to push.  And I pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed.  And screamed.  And pushed some more.  The most incredible pain came to me.  I felt something emerge, and I really thought the whole head had come through.  And then they said that the baby was crowning.  Crowning?  After all that pushing and all that pain, and the baby was only crowning?  They could only see her head? 

So they told me to push some more, and to push harder, so I tried this.  I remember getting so warn out doing this, I would have to take breaks between the pushing.  I also remember thinking, this baby does not want to be born.  So I pushed, and pushed, and pushed, and pushed some more, and then, I felt like I was ripping into, and felt some more emerging, and again, the most incredible pain, ever.  And sucessfully, there was the baby’s head.  Finally!  I remember looking at the midwife, and saying, out loud.  “I can not do this.  I am just going to have to leave her there like she is”.  I am serious.  That I said this.  I’m not sure how serious I was about actually doing that, but I really did say that to the midwife.  I remember the midwife telling me that I was going to have to push and birth the baby the rest of the way out (it seemed like she was doing it in a panicky voice, and it was possible, of course, that she was looking at me like I was from outer space, but I don’t remember noticing that too much).  So I remembered bearing down and just really pushing as hard as I could.  I remember feeling that time, like I had really ripped into.  Had I been told that, I would have believed it, because that is what I felt like. 

And then, there was my baby!  And, of course, I pushed the rest of the birth stuff out, but that’s not really relevant.  The important part is…there was my baby!  They put my baby girl on my chest, right after they took her from me, straight from where she had been birthed, and put her right on my chest.  I remembered a particular line from “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” whenever he heard the children singing that said “the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day”, and at that moment, when I looked into the eyes of my baby girl, I physically felt like my heart grew ten times the size it had previously been.  I was filled with all of this love for another human being that I never thought I had, and I was completely overwhelmed by it…but it was a good thing.  I remember the very first thing I ever said to her was “Hey, Baby…don’t cry”, as I put my hand on her small back, while she lay atop me, because she was starting to cry a little bit.  I remember the midwives saying, “NO!!!  You want her to cry.  Crying’s good for her at this point…it clears out her lungs.”  So I remember looking at my new little baby girl and saying to her, “ok, you can cry now.”  And of course, she obeyed my orders and started crying.  and so began this wonderful relationship between me and my daughter where she respects and obeys what I say, and does what I tell her to do.  I am told they go through a stage where they stop doing that, but we haven’t reached that stage (thank goodness!)

I should stop here.  I would like to stop here.  But I just can’t.  There is just so much more to that day than that.  And I don’t want the whole thing just to be about the pain without the celebration of life!  So, after she was born, and she was laid on my chest, I looked at her.  And in between all of those things going one, me telling her to cry, the crying, etc., when she was first laid on my chest, she actually tried to hold her head up.  And succeeded!  She was very alert also, with her little eyes wide open.  I remember looking at her and thinking what a beautiful newborn baby she made.  I had not always thought newborns were beautiful.  I had previously thought that a lot of them were kind of wrinkly, and not all that beautiful, but I remember thinking she was beautiful.  But, she was very alert, and throughout the day would be holding her head up.  I had been told that it as often that when you give a baby a natural childbirth that they are alert.  So despite all of the pain, I was still glad I had done that, because she was alert, with her eyes wide open, and holding her head up on the first day.  The midwives were astounded, and commenting to each other about how she was holding her head up, and they were calling out to each other and getting each other to come and observe my baby holding her head up.  They said that was rare.  I had close to no experience with babies, so I didn’t know.  A year later, my sister gave birth to a baby, and the baby she didn’t have didn’t hold her head up the way my daughter did on her first day until three months after she was born.  So I guess it is rare, but I didn’t know that at the time.

I finally called my mom and said something to the effect of “your granddaughter is here.”  So she and my dad drove the three hours from where they lived to come see their new granddaughter.  After getting off the phone with my mom, the midwife decided she was going to teach and train my baby how to nurse.  But there was no need.  My baby’s mouth went straight to my nipple like a magnet, and she was sucking away in no time, like an old pro.  I remember being so tired by that time.  I was outright exhausted, and thought I was going to fall asleep holding the baby with her nursing, but I did my best to stay awake.  I kept thinking…any day now, she is going to stop,and we are all going to get to sleep, but she kept nursing away.  She nursed for something like twenty minutes, and me about to fall sleep through every minute of it.  She finally had her fill and quit nursing, and I told the midwife that I was just flat out exhausted and was going to fall out any minute.  So the midwife put the baby between two pillows beside me, and I laid on the other side of her and we both slept there soundly for at least a good thirty minutes to an hour.

When my mom got there, she couldn’t believe I had gotten up and was walking around the room the same day I had given birth, just like it was any other day.  They spent time with my daughter, their grandaughter, and all of the first-day things were done…her hearing was checked, she got whatever immunizations, etc., she needed for her first day, and then, six hours after I gave birth, I was discharged from the Woman’s Birth and Wellness Center.  I rode home with my new baby, and when I got home, I climbed up twenty stairs.

My baby daughter has never been in a hospital to this day, not even the day she was born.

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2 Comments
  1. Smita Samal permalink

    Anna,

    Such a beautiful birthing story… Something like straight out of one of the natural birthing books I had read. Thanks for sharing. God bless you and your lovely daughter.

    I’ll have to share my experience some other time as a caution tale. I had always dreamt of birthing experience similar to yours. But seems like the whole universe was against it for me…:)

    • Thank you so much for reading and commenting, and also for sharing your birthing story. I’m sorry that it didn’t work out for you, to have the natural childbirth experience you had always dreamt of. I have heard of many women who have said the same thing…that they had wanted to have a natural birth experience, but it didn’t work out for them to do that. The place where I gave birth…they said that for the baby to be breach, it was more difficult to deliver, and especially naturally, but that it is possible, and they do it there all the time (deliver babies that are breach). They said that usually, it took a little longer, but it was totally and completely possible. Also, the place where I gave birth did not do ultrasounds. They just thought it was unnecessary. They treated birthing as a very natural thing, not a medical thing, and their view was that it should only become a medical thing if it was absolutely necessary, and things went horribly wrong.

      Instead of having ultrasounds done, they would feel you and for the baby’s head with their hands, and tell you based on that how the baby was oriented. A pretty good while before I gave birth, I had been told that it was highly likely that my baby was breach. I was given a lot of different suggestions and methods for getting the baby to turn around. One of those things that they told me to do was to get on my knees and put my elbows on the ground with my butt sticking up in the air, and stay that way for a little bit, and you would not believe how many nights I spent in that position! I was determined to give a natural childbirth and to make it as easy as possible on me and the baby, so I spent many hours in that position. And either it worked, or the baby wasn’t actually breach, because by the time I gave birth, the baby was not in a breach position. 🙂 Something else they told me was that some babies spent a lot of time in the breach position, and some babies are even breach right up until the very moments before they are being born, so it is possible for the baby to turn right before you give birth.

      I had acid reflux later in the pregnancy, and positioning myself like this (on my knees and elbows with my butt in the air) did not help…in fact, it made it worse. But I was so determined to give my baby the birth I wanted that I sacrificed comfort to do that, and I did not take antiacids (I was afraid it would hurt the baby). So I decided to just grin and bear it and put up with the acid reflux and hope that it would go away once I gave birth.

      Another thing I did, which I am not sure if I mentioned this in the blog, is that I did hypnobirthing. That was AWESOME! I think our culture has an awful lot to learn from other cultures about things like that. Not long after I found out I was expecting, I decided to do the hypnobirthing thing, and I was one of the “least furthest along” women in my class, but I was so determined to do it. I got trained on hypnobirthing and took many classes in attempt to facilitate this process. When I was taking these classes, I heard about this guy who had to have his leg amputated…and he was out in the field, so they had NO painkillers out there. But he was able to have it done, and did not make a sound, because he had successfully hypnotized himself in order not to feel anything. It is possible to be hypnotized, or to hypnotize yourself to the extent to where it is the exact same thing as having an anesthetic, but you have to be able to do it much better than a lot of people are able, and you have to have a much stronger connection to your body than most people are able to acheive. But if you have that connection, it is exactly the same thing as going under an anesthetic, because anesthetics work on the exact same mechanism in your brain to work.

      I am really sorry and hate it that where you gave birth was not knowledgable and didn’t know about all of the different things you could do which were effective in ensuring a natural childbirth. I know that there are a lot of places like that, places that see giving birth as a highly medical thing instead of a natural thing, and I was lucky to be in an area at that specific time where I had those resources available to me. But I know there are plenty of places that don’t have things like that, and where pretty much everybody views birth as a highly medical thing. It would’ve been so easy for me to have ended up going somewhere that saw it as a highly medical thing, and for them to convince me to abandon my plans to give birth naturally, but I got lucky in having so many great resources around me. At one point, I was even willing to drive all the way up to Massachusettes in order to do the hypnobirthing thing, but luckily, I was able to find a place in my area that did it. I would definitely say I was lucky.

      And a lot of places, too, play on the fears of a woman who is expecting, and that is shameful. I don’t think they do it intentionally, I think that it’s just the way they think about it, so they kind of freak out, and then they end up freaking out the woman that they are working with as well. If they were better educated, they would probably be able to do a better job of letting women have the birthing experience they wanted to have. Honestly, when I gave birth, I was so touched and amazed at my experience, that I was very tempted to go into the field and become a midwife, or something else similar and related, so that I could help other women as well have the birthing experience they wanted.

      When you are giving birth, there are so many hospitals that have “their policies”, that you almost need an advocate on your side to work with you, and argue with the hospital and the hospital staff to almost force them to allow you to have the birthing experience you want. Because as a pregnant woman, you aren’t very well equiped to deal with the staff, as crazy as your hormones and biochemicals are, and you really shouldn’t have to deal with that when you are trying to give birth. You should be able to get to concentrate all of your energy into bringing that precious little baby onto earth. There are so many hospitals that have their own agenda, and as long as your birthing plan is agreeable with their agenda, they are fine with you, but if you go off script the least little bit, they become very uncomfortable with you, and try to get you to change your mind to be more amenable to their agenda.

      But I am glad that even though you weren’t able to have the experience you wanted in giving birth, that you were able to give birth to a wonderful and amazing little boy. It seems like you have the best relationship with your little son, and he seems awesome. Children are the greatest gift and the greatest blessing, and I am glad that you get to experience that joy. 🙂

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