Posts Tagged ‘birth story’

My Pregnancy: Week 39

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Week 39And just like that our world was never the same again. What a strange feeling to go to sleep knowing the next day you’ll wake up and have a baby. We’ve wondered for months if she will look like a sumo wrestler like I did at birth (she was actually our smallest babe) or if she’d have the blue eyes that are so rare in my family (so far, yes). Trying to put words to the birth of a child…our sweet child.

I remember waiting. We arrived at the hospital at 5:30. The house was so quiet as we dropped our boys off at grandma and papa’s the night before. We were mostly quiet and still, just like the morning. For everyone there, the doctors and nurses, we were just part of their routine. She arrived just short of three hours later. There was a lot of paperwork, questions, and monitoring. I soaked up the last time I would hear her heart beating on the monitor, the last little kicks before I’d feel them in my arms.

I felt nervous and alone. I warned the anesthesiologist that at my last birth I was so lightheaded on the table from lying on my back that they gave me medication to stabilize my blood pressure. This time it happened again, and our heart rates dropped low. I saw my OBGYN’s eyes watching the monitor, watching the nurse as she prepped my belly. I felt about to pass out as I saw him fanning the antiseptic to speed its process. He began the procedure as they hurriedly finished draping me, around the time medicine started kicking in, my blood pressure stabilized, and my husband joined me.

I remember the anticipation. Per my request, hubby kept me distracted with stories of his students and fellow teachers. He talked about rudimentary things and I asked a question or two but I was quite aware of the pressure, tugging, and quiet talking of the doctors at my midsection. She gave them trouble coming out, several people pushed on my belly before they used the vacuum to deliver her in the midst of more amniotic fluid than anticipated. At this point hubby and I sat quietly in awe, waiting for that sweet tiny cry in the silence, because what else can you do as your child arrives in this world?

I remember desperately wanting to know her.  We hoped to have the doctor show her to us before anything else, but given the circumstances they took her straight to the incubator to be checked out. Hubby saw her, took pictures. I finally spoke up, as he was captivated, reminding him I wanted to know too. He brought over the camera and I that’s how I caught my first glimpse of my girl. Perfect.

I felt complete. She quickly arrived at my head, bundled up but every bit of beautiful. Her alert but glazed eyes penetrated to my heart. The rest of the room disappeared until I heard the pediatrician ask to take a picture.  There she lay in my husband’s arms, the finishing touch to our family. Instantly it felt a bit like she’d always been there. Even still, remembering life before her is hazy unless I really think about it.

I felt calm, almost at home (as much as possible in a hospital on an operating table). As hubby went with baby toward the recovery area just a few feet away, I spoke with the doctor I’d come to know over two pregnancies’ time. He explained what he was doing as he sewed me up but I basically already knew. This was my third time on this table. The nurses were familiar, the routine calming, as all the literal and figurative loose ends were tied up and I wheeled into recovery and babe was brought to my naked chest to nurse. Her long fingers and stretched out toes!

I remember looking over at hubby and smiling. Our world was never the same again.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four, and a newborn girl! She looks forward to sleeping again in about 18 years.

My Pregnancy: Week 37

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

One subject I’ve not shied away from is my experience with two cesarean births and this birth planned the same. I don’t want to make light of the seriousness of major surgery,Week 37 but I find myself sharing pieces of my story because I see the shame surrounding cesareans, and I don’t think that benefits expectant mamas or those who have experienced the operating table for birth. It took time to be at peace with that first cesarean birth.

I was induced based on borderline high blood pressure and a “trace” of protein in my urine. It was the day before a major holiday during America’s longest holiday season. Though I originally opted for a natural birth plan, 6 hours in I had an epidural. My labor never progressed. After 19 hours my child remained at negative three station (very high), my cervix dilated only to 3 cm, and I developed a fever while baby’s heart rate began to decelerate. A borderline emergency cesarean birth resulted. Baby went to NICU and I saw him 18 hours later (and for about a minute after delivery).

Afterward I felt like I failed, like I was weak for asking for the epidural at all. I felt embarrassed that I was so in pain that I moaned and groaned so desperately in front of my husband (he didn’t care) until I finally received an epidural. I was alienated from the doctor from her hard bedside manner, not to mention indignant at the seemingly convenient, baseless induction to avoid the chance of my birth happening on a holiday. I felt enraged at the nurses for not trying harder to encourage nursing, instead opting to force feed my son formula (to avoid potential blood sugar issues related to a large baby). I felt despair at being so far from my son in the NICU, seemingly powerless to be there with him. Though about one month later baby became exclusively breastfed, every feeding that first month just brought back up these feelings, made more punishing by my exhaustion and hormones.

I hid all these feelings because people insisted that it didn’t matter how baby arrived, just that we were all healthy. Sure, yes. Then I felt discounted like my feelings and hopes were entirely disregarded, seemingly cancelled out by the healthy child that eventually made it to my arms. Now I somehow felt selfish to be disappointed in my experience when the doctor potentially “saved our lives,” as one said.

Healing finally came as I began to observe the culture through others’ experiences. When I saw other mamas talk of their struggles (mostly online in a cloth diaper group), I saw the pressures, the shame seething under the surface of comments. Sometimes these comments looked helpful, discouraging induction if at all possible (good advice really, but discounting of some women’s medical need for induction). The horror stories just seemed to amplify the fear and darkness surrounding cesarean birth. People regularly bring up the extra healing and risk though many mamas, I’ve learned through hearing stories and my own experience, get through the recovery with just a little extra effort.

This helped me shed the shame and feelings of less than. Time (and a change to an awesome doctor) helped me to process the many emotions of the birth, where deep down I felt an overwhelming lack of control. I had to account for myself as well. I never took the time to learn about cesarean birth. I think a lot of my feelings would have been less severe had I not been so blindsided by the unknown. I could have had a birth plan in place. I also may have opted for a C-section earlier had I realized the likelihood of my son going to the NICU due to my fever, but I never took the time to learn about why one might even need surgical birth.

I also never invested in classes for childbirth. Due to our busy schedules, I read a book on the Bradley Method but assumed that was enough. I was ill-prepared for labor. I didn’t even think to get out of the bed at any point in the six hours of labor before my epidural to move around. None of this may have mattered, but I realized I gave up much of my autonomy far before the day of induction. Certainly my doctor failed me in preparing me, but part of my healing came from an honest evaluation of what part I played in my labor experience. These things—getting up during labor, knowing about C-sections, more practice of focusing through pain, etc.—may have made no difference in the end result, but I judged myself for failing when I needed to offer myself more grace for being human.

Last, I hold out the possibility that my doctor kept baby and me safe. She and a nurse reported to me that the baby was angled into my pelvic bone instead of my cervix. It’s entirely possible that my son would have never dropped and had no chance of coming out vaginally either at all or without significant effort and risk by the doctor. In all of this I have found comfort in choosing a cesarean for my subsequent births. I face the operating room with grace and courage instead of fear and dread. It may be cold and sterile but it holds the opportunity to birth my child with just as much joy and excitement as any other variation of birth experience.

Annie is a mom of two boys, ages two and four. She enjoys the finer things in life, like compression socks and a full night’s rest.

My Birth Story: The Gladiator

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

They're Only Little OnceEditor’s Note: We are starting to include the birth stories of bloggers here as a way to show a variety of birth experiences. These stories may be graphic in description.

“Hey, honey? I think this is the real thing.”

It was 4:30 in the morning. A contraction had stirred me from sleep at 1:48, and the intensity and regularity of the following contractions made it impossible to drift back to unconsciousness. I had spent a few hours bouncing on a birthing ball, watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, noticing a bit of blood with each bathroom excursion.

“What do you need me to do?” His eyes were hardly opened, and he was snuggling our youngest in bed. The two other boys were in their room, sleeping soundly.

“Nothing. You’re fine. I don’t think we need to do anything for a few hours until someone is awake and can take the kids. I just wanted to let you know that it’s happening today.”

None of my previous three children had come on their due dates, and I smiled at the idea that my daughter was going to be as big of a stickler about punctuality as her mama. The contractions were noticeable, but not painful. My mind drifted to previous labors, with many false starts, and part of me wondered if I was overreacting, and that this was going to be one of many practice rounds.

A couple hours passed, and I was no longer alone with my thoughts. The morning routine shifted a bit, as the two older boys stirred before my husband and youngest. I fixed them breakfast and put on a movie, then showered. When I stepped out, my husband asked me how I was doing, and if I thought he should take the kids to a friend’s house.

“I don’t know. Would you check me?”

Having worked with a couple of home birthing midwives in previous pregnancies, my husband had become skilled at checking my cervix for dilation. The contractions still weren’t painful, so I was skeptical about making the thirty-minute trip to the birthing center on a Sunday if this wasn’t the real deal.

“What? What is it?” I couldn’t read my husband’s face, and assumed that I was still at fingertip dilation.

“You’re at a seven or an eight. We have got to go!”

About an hour later, we were pulling into the birthing center parking lot, and I was acutely aware that I had only had one contraction in the past half hour. We settled into the birthing room, especially quiet in the repurposed large Victorian home, as a Sunday meant only the midwife and nurse attending my birth were present. As they took some information, I sheepishly said, “My contractions have stopped. This might have been a false alarm.”

“I checked her before we left, though. I think she’s at a seven or an eight,” my husband said to the midwife, who in turn looked a little skeptical of my husband’s cervix exploration ability while she assured me that it was completely okay if today wasn’t my baby’s birthday. I accepted her invitation to check herself, and laid back on the bed.

“Oh. Oh!” The midwife had a look of surprise. “You’re at a nine.”

Until this point, I’d had a little discomfort, but no pain. And at this point, I had no contractions.

The midwife suggested relaxing in the tub, operating under the assumption that my uterus was protesting because I felt stressed. After a while of still not contracting, she invited me to walk around. Soaking wet from the tub, and completely naked with the exception of a nude-colored nursing bra, I jumped out and started running up and down the stairs. My husband turned on my Pandora station, and I started dancing in the birthing room. I did squats and lunges, and more stairs. I used the bathroom constantly, as my previous babe had been born over the toilet, hoping for some good luck, porcelain style.

This went on for 4 hours.

Fortunately, my contractions started up again just as I received my second round of antibiotics for my group-B strep. I hopped back in the tub, willing my water to break, knowing that my daughter would come soon after. Finally, a soft pop happened, and I felt the gush of water in the tub. I was in a squatting position, holding the side of the tub, and spoke to my little girl.

“Baby, it’s just you and me. This is hard. It’s really hard. We’re in it together, and the hard stuff is doable, because we’re doing it together.” I pushed. The midwife, nurse, and my husband were in the room, but it was just me in the tub. I pushed her head into my hand, and with another little pop, her head was fully out. I laughed. “I can feel her ear!”

When the midwife saw that her head was out, she urged me, “Just one more push, right now. Just one more push to get her the rest of the way.”

“Nope,” I said. “I need a minute.”

When my body was ready, I pushed, one more time, and with just me in the tub, my little girl came out, and I pulled her up against me. She and I had done it. Together.

Her name is Emery, which means “brave and powerful.” While I do wish that for her, the truth is, she is my source of bravery and power. She is my Gladiator, and her birth was my most sacred accomplishment.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

My Birth Story: 41 Weeks

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

IMG_20120531_113708My pregnancy with my daughter was blissful. Honestly. I never had any morning sickness. I was comfortable for most of my pregnancy, my energy levels (after the first few exhausting weeks) were great, and I generally just enjoyed every minute of it. I planned on a natural childbirth in my local hospital and had every reason to think I’d get it…until I began to show signs of pre-eclampsia. Around my thirty-seventh week my blood pressure began to climb and my feet looked like tree trunks. I underwent a Non-Stress Test (NST) and a urine analysis for protein. Both tests went well and my blood pressure dropped a bit, so I was placed on reduced activity and a plan to continue NSTs every other day or so. I knew this could completely change my plans, but the fact that I was already 3cm dilated and 50 percent effaced at 37 weeks helped ease my mind.

At 38 weeks, knowing that I was growing tired of the NSTs, my OB recommended an induction. We scheduled it for the next day (Wednesday). Then I went home, spoke with my husband, listened to my heart, and canceled the induction. By then I was 80 to 90 percent effaced, walking around at 4cm dilated, and not feeling a single contraction (although the NSTs showed that I was having them). Instead of induction, I agreed to continue the NSTs every other day and they moved the induction to the end of the week, just in case any issues popped up.

Since Tuesday of that week I’d been doing all the things they say to try for natural induction of labor, hoping to avoid being induced. I ate spicy things, walked, did bedroom activities, ate Chinese food. My NSTs on Wednesday and Friday went well, showing that baby was healthy, but didn’t indicate impending labor. Since the NST on Friday morning looked so good, my Dr. felt comfortable enough with my slightly increased BP to cancel the Saturday induction and allow me to continue on with monitoring. I left the clinic and treated myself to a large iced chai tea, feeling happy and very indulgent. I then decided to treat myself to a pedicure, since I really needed one and since massaging the feet was also one of those things that might help bring on labor. My nurses later commented on my cute toenails!

Unfortunately, my parents mistakenly had taken the Saturday induction for a sure thing, so they bought plane tickets and were due to arrive Sunday. All I could do was hope that my girl would show up at some point during the week they’d be there. That morning I had posted what was to be my last pregnancy photo on Facebook, with the caption “39 weeks! You can come out now baby!” Little did I know how well she would listen.

pizza before laborMy husband got home from work that afternoon and we intended to pick up the house, mow the lawn, and finish some other chores before my mom and dad arrived. We were going to do inside house things that evening, so we ordered a pizza and were goofing around. At 6:45 I performed a ridiculous “Come out baby” dance (which my husband caught on video). At 7pm we decided to hang the curtains in the nursery. I got up off the couch, walked 10 steps to the nursery door, and felt a small “pop” followed by a release of some warm fluid. It wasn’t much, but we were certain that my water had broken. The dance worked! We called the hospital, let our parents know, put the few lingering things into the hospital bag and waited for the pizza guy. My mother was adamant that I not eat, since I could get sick during labor, but I wanted that pizza!

By 8pm we were at the hospital and that’s when the fun began. While checking in I began to really feel contractions and thought I needed to use the bathroom. They let me, and although it helped a bit, the feeling that I needed to go “#2” got stronger and stronger, which was initially mortifying. The strength of the contractions also went from 0-60, pretty much instantly. For a split second, I contemplated asking for an epidural. Looking back, I only did that because I had skipped the easier contractions and went straight to strong ones, so I was scared about how much stronger they had the potential to get. Both my husband and my nurse urged me to stick to my birth plan, which set my head back into a better place.


The urge to push was so strong that I begged to be checked. My first check showed 7-8cm dilated and 100 percent effaced. One more contraction, and I was up to 8-9cm, and just one more brought me to 9.5. My fantastic nurse was making sure I didn’t push, to make sure I didn’t cause swelling that would slow the process. With her on one side and my husband with oxygen for me (the most wonderful thing they gave me!!) at the other, my doctor arrived and helped me gently push past the 9.5cm lip. Once we’d done that, it was go time. They gave me full permission to push and the urge pretty much overwhelmed me. I had my eyes closed through most of the process, lost in the crazy sensations and lost in my own head. I very much remember wondering how in the world people go through labor again and again. My daughter tended to yo-yo, so I’d push, my husband would see her and encourage me that she was coming, and then she’d slip back into her cozy world. Frustrating child, I just wanted to meet you!

Ready to leave the hospital-2

After an hour or two of pushing, my daughter was ready to join us. My amazing doctor brought me through the final pushes and then she was here. The whole process was incredible and overwhelming and I was shocked at how fast labor amnesia set in! Just minutes before I was willing her backwards, and then she was there on my chest and the memories of the pain were already hazy! She weighed 7 lbs 9 oz., was 19.5 inches long, and arrived at 11:32pm. From water break to birth, I was in labor for just 4.5 hours. In the end, I had the unmedicated labor that I had hoped for, along with fairly uninterrupted bonding time immediately following delivery.

While the day after her birth was a crazy one in its own right (a story for another time!), I honestly look back on theday my daughter was born with such love and happiness. With all of that uncertainty, all of the stress in the two weeks before her arrival, she chose to arrive on a sunny day when her momma was happy, daddy was close at hand, and family were soon to arrive to celebrate her. She chose a good day.

Kate Cunha lives in the Pacific NW with her husband and daughter. She is a strong believer in birthing without fear and hopes every woman can have a positive and supported labor experience.