When I was about halfway through my pregnancy, I stumbled upon a movie on Netflix called, “The Business of Being Born.” Before seeing that film, I really didn’t have any ideas about what I wanted while I was in labor and frankly, I didn’t really care. I was terrified of the whole process and was really not looking forward to going through it. After watching “The Business of Being Born”, I started to read everything I could about natural childbirth. I read about childbirth classes and decided that the Bradley Method was the best option for me. Shortly after completing our Bradley classes, my husband and I decided we needed to hire a doula. We found Niki Johnson and also asked my mother-in-law to be at our birth. With a supportive birth team, including my OB, a good birth plan, and plenty of knowledge, we went into our hospital birth feeling confident that we could achieve a natural birth experience.
At around 7:30am on Thursday, September 4th 2008, I woke up just in time to grab a towel and run to the bathroom as my water broke. I immediately called my husband, William, who was living in Aberdeen for work at the time. He had been sleeping, but I woke him with a jolt when I said, "My water broke." He responded, "Okay, I'm on my way" and promptly hung up on me. I then called my doula, Niki, to let her know, and she instructed me to shower and eat something and call her back in an hour. I walked down the hall and woke up my father, who I was living with while William was away. I had to poke him to wake him up and when I said "My water broke," he tore off his CPAP mask and sat up in his bed – I think he nearly had a heart attack. I told him it was okay and that we didn't have to go anywhere just yet. Then I called my mom who was on her way into work. She was very excited and told me to keep her posted. I then took my doula's advice and got into the shower and tried to have some breakfast.
My contractions started almost immediately after my water broke, but they were manageable and I was able to walk around and talk through them. However, it did take me awhile to finish breakfast as it was difficult to eat through the contractions. After breakfast, I called Niki back, and she suggested swaying back and forth during contractions while using a counter as support. I went straight into the bathroom and started swaying. By this time, it was close to nine o'clock. We were expecting carpet cleaners at the house that morning – most of the furniture was moved into the kitchen and our three cats were locked in the basement. The cleaners ended up being late, and I’m thankful they were. The sounds of my dad’s pet cockatiel and the cats trying to escape from the basement were already driving me crazy. I was worried about what I would do when the cleaners got there. I started to feel nauseous. I put my hair up and got down on my knees over the toilet. Nothing. I went back to swaying. When Niki arrived, my contractions were three minutes apart and lasted 45 seconds to one minute. She immediately suggested that we head to the hospital. I hadn't finished packing my hospital bag and hadn't put much thought into what I put into it. She helped me ready the last few things and we were on our way.
I rode with Niki to the hospital in her van while my dad followed in his car. I ended up sitting on my knees with my head and arms hanging over the backseat. We were sent straight to triage where I was hooked up to monitors and a doctor checked my cervix. I was 90% effaced and 2 cm dilated. William and his mother walked into the room just as I finally threw up. Afterward, I felt better and the contractions were easier to manage. Around this time, I realized that I did not want to be touched or spoken to during a contraction. At the same time, I didn’t want William to go very far. All he could do was stand there and hold my hands as I swayed through the contractions. Shortly, we were moved into a labor and delivery room. I really wanted to get into the bathtub. I went to the bathroom when we got to the delivery room, but I had to wait on the tub as they strapped some monitors to my belly to check the baby's heart rate and my contractions. After that, I was able to get into the tub and it felt absolutely amazing!
I labored in the tub as long as I could, but I was starting to get really hot. William stayed with me the whole time, pouring hot water over my belly and encouraging me between contractions. Niki came into the bathroom to let us know that she had another client in labor and that she was starting to push. Niki left and her backup, Carrie, came to take her place. At one point, I felt a few contractions that seemed to be pushing for me. I told Carrie and she let the nurse know. I got out of the tub and had to lay flat on my back on the bed so the nurse could check my cervix. She said I was 3 to 4 cm dilated, which everyone else said was good. This was not what I wanted to hear – I wanted to push. I was in and out of the tub throughout labor and spent time sitting upright on the bed and on my knees with my arms hanging over the back of the bed. Occasionally, I would have to lie down so the nurses could check my cervix or put my monitors back on to check on the baby. I had to go through a few contractions lying flat on my back, which was absolutely miserable. Carrie suggested that I make sounds during contractions because the low vibrations could help open up my cervix. I moaned through most of my contractions after that.
The contractions were growing very strong and my body was pushing more and more each time. I kept asking if I could start pushing, but I was never dilated enough. At 4:06, I was 5cm dilated. Not long after, I was told that I was at 9 cm. My doctor came in at that point. She told me I needed to get through a few more contractions to open my cervix up before I could push. Everyone kept telling me to breathe through the contractions and not to push, but it was almost impossible. My doctor checked my cervix again and then told me to push against her fingers. She managed to move the last little lip of cervix over the baby's head and then I was actually ready to start pushing. Only 40 minutes had passed since I measured 5cm.
In my birth plan, I had asked for a mirror so I could see the baby's head crown. When I was told I could push, a large mirror was pushed to the end of the bed and I was able to watch myself push the baby out. At this point, the room was completely full of people. The nurse who had been there through my labor, more nurses, my doctor, William, both doulas, my dad and William's mom were all crowded around my bed and everyone was encouraging me and telling me what a great job I was doing. I ended up on my side with Carrie holding up my right leg and Niki bracing my left leg against her thigh. William's mom was behind me wiping my forehead with a wet washcloth and reminding me to put my chin down when I pushed (I kept looking up at the mirror). William was getting washed up and putting gloves on so he could catch the baby and my dad was sitting next to me with a cup of water for me to drink from between pushes.
I pushed for about 20 minutes and once the baby's head was out, it only took one more push to for the rest of her to come. At 5:03pm, Lucy Josephine Anderson was born. She was bright red and literally kicking and screaming the second she came into the world. Thanks to our wonderful OB, William caught her and was immediately surrounded by nurses trying to clean her, clamp her cord and show him how to cut it. He told them all that we wanted to wait until the umbilical cord had stopped pulsing before we clamped and cut it. William gave Lucy to me and I was able to hold her to my chest right away, skin-to-skin. A nurse asked if I wanted some Pitocin to help me deliver the placenta, but I said that I wanted to try breastfeeding instead. Right away, I had a nurse on either side of me pushing on my belly to help me deliver the placenta. Everyone was telling me to concentrate on my baby, but it was so painful that I really couldn't concentrate on her, let alone breastfeeding, until the placenta was out. Once I had delivered the placenta, a nurse immediately stuck me with a syringe and gave me a shot of Pitocin to help my uterus contract. Every few minutes after that, someone would come and push on my stomach to make sure my uterus was contracting and that I wasn't losing too much blood. I had a small, two-degree tear and my doctor gave me a couple of stitches. We declined all newborn procedures, including eye ointment and the Vitamin K shot. Lucy had absolutely zero health issues after she was born and never had to be treated for any complications, including jaundice.
I was alert and able to eat and breastfeed within the first hour after the birth. Breastfeeding was a challenge the first night, but I had a wonderful nurse who helped me get Lucy latched on right and it's been a breeze since then. My father, who had been extremely skeptical of my natural birth plan, still tells me almost 3 years later how proud he is that I did it and cannot say enough good things about doulas. One of his first comments after Lucy was born was, “The doula was definitely worth the money.”
By Caitlin Anderson