Monday, February 7, 2011

My First Baby's Birth Story: The Heavens Sent Us R

Before we left for the hospital

I have always wanted children. Somehow, by the time I was 29, I still didn’t have any. I had an overwhelming urge to have a baby. So, after convincing my husband that it would be a fabulous idea to add a child to our household, I stopped taking my birth control and got pregnant.
I found out on 07/04/2008, the day my cousin’s little girl was born. I had been having bad cramps the entire week and was sure I was getting my period. I was so sad about not being pregnant, I cried and cried. I took a total of three pregnancy tests during that week, convinced that I must have a bun in the oven, but they were all negative. The girls at work were so sweet, trying to cheer me up. I felt like I was never going to have a baby. On the morning of the 4th, after hearing the news of my cousin’s baby arriving, I was lying in bed and felt really strange. As if there was something inside of me. Something was different and I still hadn’t gotten my period. So, when my husband went to Walmart to buy something we needed for the party later that day, I took another pregnancy test. (I wanted to wait until he was out of the house because he thought I was crazy taking all of these tests) It was positive! I swear, I was in shock. I called Andy and told him the news over the phone- not the way I had planned to tell my husband I was expecting, but I wanted him to get more pregnancy tests. He did and they were all positive. I really was pregnant and I was so excited! I think I was hyperventilating on and off for the first hour after seeing that pink line…
The first half of the pregnancy was harder than I expected. I was really sick during the first 20 weeks, steadily losing weight. After that, I was able to gain weight and feel like a normal person again. I think I enjoyed being pregnant, until the last month when my baby was up so high that I could hardly breathe anymore. The usual discomforts of bearing a child.
I knew almost nothing about giving birth and I tried to keep it that way. When I was 18 I had attended my friend’s labor, which lasted only around three hours, and I hoped my labor would be just as quick. Andy and I attended a birth preparation class at the hospital. It was fun and I learned a lot, but not nearly enough to equip me with all the necessary tools to feel confident about having a baby. Quite frankly, I was terrified, but I kept telling myself that a birth without drugs must be possible, since this was what women were designed to do.
My contractions started at 12:30 in the morning on 03/06, a day before my due date. I had been having very regular Braxton-Hicks for weeks and was already dilated 2cm. My doctor had swept my membranes that morning, a procedure that was uncomfortable, but not too awful. The contractions started around 7 minutes apart and where quite irregular at first. I woke Andy to let him know what was going on. I don’t think he really even heard me- he went right back to sleep. The lady teaching the birthing class had recommended staying home as long as possible, so I was determined to do so. I should have just gone back to sleep- the contractions were uncomfortable, not too painful- but I was too excited. So I took a warm bath. And walked around the house. Then I woke Andy and we took my dog for a walk around the neighborhood. The contractions were coming more frequently, about every five minutes. I was so anxious and excited, I was dying to get to the hospital. So, at 4:30am, we headed out to have a baby.

When we got to the hospital, they did all the standard things- monitor the contractions and baby’s heart rate, make me change into a hospital gown, etc. They decided to admit me and hooked me up to an IV with fluids. Even though I knew that I wouldn’t be able to move around anymore, I just did what they said was best. The doctor came after having monitored the contractions for a while and told me that they needed to put me on a Pitocin drip because my contractions weren’t regular enough. I refused at first, but agreed after some persuasion and the promise that they would keep it at a minimum dose. Then they broke my water. I wasn’t thinking and forgot to go to the bathroom before they did this, so shortly after I had to get up to go. The water was everywhere- all over the floor, in my shoes, just everywhere. And then the real pain began. I felt like I was spiraling out of control, being sucked into a funnel cloud of pain. I remember watching TV when we first arrived and being super excited about U2 coming on later that morning. I tried desperately to focus on the upcoming performance, but I couldn’t even watch it when it finally came on. I was in excruciating pain and I got completely lost in it. Instead of breathing through them, I was thrashing around in the bed like a helpless injured animal. I thought I couldn’t get through it. Despite my resolution to have a drug free birth, at around 9am I begged for an epidural. I was so exhausted from not having slept and the pain. The final straw was when they checked my progression and I had only dilated to 4cm in almost nine hours. Andy went to get the nurse.
The anesthesiologist came and administered the epidural. I felt guilty, but was so grateful for the relief of my pain. I told the doctor that I loved him… At this point my entire plan of having a somewhat natural labor were out the window. I was strapped to the bed, just waiting to be able to hold my baby. They increased the Pitocin. I could still feel the contractions- just without the pain- and worked with them as well as I could. My entire body trembled, I couldn’t get warm- a side effect from the epidural, as I later found out.  My mother-in-law arrived for support. At around 10:30am, the doctor checked my progression. I was at 6cm. Our dog was home alone and had been for a while, so I asked my husband to drive home (about 40 minutes away) and walk the dog. He was reluctant, but went. After he had gone, the doctor came back in, asking where my husband was. I told her I had sent him home. You should have seen her face! She must have thought I was insane. She asked me to call him back immediately because I would be able to push soon. Nurses were coming in to prep the room. I was confused- I was still 4cm away. So, I decided not to call Andy back. However, his mother thought it best to give him a call and he came rushing back. Thank God he did because before he got back the doctor checked me again and I was fully dilated, ready to push.
I was terrified! During the transitional phase, I had a break from the contractions. I talked to my mother-in-law about how scared I was of pushing. What if I wasn’t able to do it right? She encouraged me, telling me that the actual pushing felt great- this was finally something I could actively do to get my baby here. I was still trembling terribly, from exhaustion, cold, and fear. My husband arrived just as the final preparations were underway. It was time to have a baby.
I started pushing just like they told me to, my husband holding one leg, my mother-in-law the other. I pushed and pushed. It was extremely hard work. It’s like having to run a marathon without having had any training. My husband kept saying “I see the head, I see the head!” I thought he meant the baby was almost crowning, but I couldn’t feel the head coming down at all. They started pushing on my belly and maneuvering me around to get the baby to come down. It made me terribly nauseous and irritated. One of the nurses told me that I needed Oxygen while putting a mask over my face. It stank and made me feel like throwing up, so I kept taking it back off. This nurse was not particularly nice and kept putting it back on my face. The doctor looked concerned and told me she was going to have to use the vacuum to “help me” during my pushes because there was no progress. I agreed to this final intervention that I didn’t really want. What was I supposed to do? You’re so helpless in this situation. With the help of the vacuum, R finally came down. I was able to feel her soft head crowning. It was very unreal. The pressure of the crowning head was incredible. I pushed with all my might to get it out. The head emerged and I was asked not to push anymore. I didn’t have to- the rest of my baby slid right out with the next contraction. It was an indescribable feeling! It was unbelievably wonderful and I felt like superwoman! They brought me my beautiful daughter- the most amazing being I had ever laid eyes on. She was perfect in every way. I was overwhelmed with joy. I couldn’t believe that I had produced such a miracle- sometimes I still can’t. R was born at 12:10pm, weighing 7lbs 7oz. She had dark hair and very blue eyes.

The afterbirth came out without much effort. I had torn quite badly, so they had to sew me up. R had had her left hand pressed against her cheek when coming out, so I tore on the inside and out. At that moment, I didn’t care. They took my epidural out and I regained complete feeling fairly quickly. I held my baby. We were all in awe and so happy! The nurses and my mother-in-law helped me latch her on and she fed without much trouble for the first time in her life. The last thing the doctor said to me before ending her 24 hour shift at the hospital was: “Thank goodness you changed your mind about everything. I thought you were going to be difficult.”
Breastfeeding was really hard for me. R latched on well and drank a lot, but I had awful pain. My nipples were cracked and bleeding by the second day. At home I would cry while she fed. I was so unhappy about failing and it was so painful. After a week and a half of suffering, I finally went to see a lactation consultant. She was able to show me what I was doing wrong and help me fix it. (I was pressing on my breast, trying to help R breathe better, thereby pulling away from her while she was trying to suck in. Also, my daughter had a very strong suck…) It still hurt for about three more weeks each time R latched on, but it gradually got better. I’m very happy that I stuck with breastfeeding, it was worth it 100%.
On top of this pain came the pain of my tear. I took Motrin for over a week, but still got very little relief. Each time, as soon as the Motrin wore off I would start running a fever. After a few weeks of this I called the doctor to have her check me out again. I thought I might have a bladder infection. They took a urine sample, then sent me home with a ten day supply of antibiotics. I was reluctant to take them, afraid that R might be affected, but also was desperate to feel better. After the ten days my symptoms were still the same. I went back to the doctor. The nurse, who had been nasty to me all through my pregnancy, took me back to a room and asked me why I was there. I told her that the symptoms hadn’t gone. She said to me: “Well, you didn’t have a UTI. The urine sample didn’t show anything.” I was confused and told her that I was still in pain. She turned to me with a nasty look on her face, said: “You’re just a medical mystery, aren’t you, Vivien?”, and walked out. I started crying. I cried so hard about everything- the breastfeeding issues, the pain, the physical exhaustion. I felt defeated, a shadow of myself. The N.P. came in to examine me. Turns out I had a tear in my urethra that they had not seen and therefore they hadn’t sewn up. It was too far along in the healing process for stitches, so they sent me home with a topical analgesic. I have warned every pregnant lady I know of going to this doctor’s office. I regret not having the strength at that moment to defend myself…
The recovery was rather slow, but I did, of course, recover. I had back pain from the epidural for about six months. The area that tore remained sore for a long time. I regret having had so many medical interventions and not enough confidence in my own abilities to have the birth I wanted. I also regret not having informed myself extensively before the birth. I think I will start doula training as soon as my baby boy, now three months old, is a little older. Hopefully I will be able to help women avoid some of the things I agreed to and guide them on their way to their perfect birth experience.
Unfortunately, my second baby’s birth did not go as planned at all, despite all my information. To read E’s story, please click here.


  1. Thanks for sharing your story Vivien! :)

  2. Loved reading how Rachel arrived in this world, it's interesting that even though it's the same process all babies have a different story. The shock of the first baby positive pregnancy test is one of the things that I remember most, it's quite overwhelming to know there is a life coming your way :-)