Thursday, July 5, 2012

My birth stories: The easy birth & The other

When I was pregnant for the first time, a new mom was talking to me and shared the story of her beautiful and happy birth. I had always thought that birthing was a negative experience that you had to go through one way or another (except for the exception of my mom who had me drugless 30 minutes after entering the hospital). This friend loaned me some books and I began asking other moms about their experiences. What I found was that, the women who went into birthing well prepared and educated with all of their options were the ones who can out HAPPY with their birth experiences even if it did match their birth plan because they were empowered. This posting is the first of several postings where actual moms share their birth stories with you.  I am the first to share, so here are the stories of my first two births:

My Second: The Easy Midwife Birth

My second birth was easy (a relative term of course) and I admit it! It was also fun and exciting! Yes I was lucky but I set myself up for success by my choices.

I went to a private practice midwife, Beverly Woodard, as soon as I found out that I was pregnant. She was so caring and wanted to know every detail of how my body responded during my first pregnancy and birth. It was the first time in my life that a medical staff treated me as though I was the person who knew my body best. I was in love with Beverly as my midwife but I really wanted a home birth and she did not do homebirths. Then we decided that we would leave NYC for the suburbs and I realized that planning a homebirth while not knowing where I was going to be living was impossible so I stuck with Beverly as my NY birthing option. She put together the pieces of the puzzle with my previous birth and the structural shape of my hips and pelvis to predict how my birth would be this time. She convinced me not to have a doula since my labor would be extremely short and she would have me run to the hospital to meet her as soon as labor started.

A day after my due date, I had an appointment and was not yet in labor. I was on a time crunch logistically because we were moving out of state in 2.5 weeks and would leave the country on vacation the following day (yes, we are crazy like that!). I needed enough time to get the baby's passport and get my body healing before embarking on the journeys. Beverly knew that my first baby had not responded well to being overdue and thought that my baby would benefit from coming out now. She stripped my membranes and sent me home with directions to take castor oil a few hours later. I would be in labor that evening hopefully after rush hour traffic since I had a long journey to the only hospital that she delivered at.

As I was home showering (5 minutes after taking the castor oil, too early for it to have kicked in!) three hours after my appointment, I started having regular contractions that were already regular at 8 minutes apart. Within about an hour they were 6 minutes apart. I dropped my toddler at a friend's house and my mom and husband drove me during rush hour from Queens, through Manhattan then over the Brooklyn Bridge to the Brooklyn hospital that I would give birth at. We passed 5 hospitals on the way there (I counted to distract myself from the back labor). Thank goodness Google Maps had the traffic feature that showed us which way had the least traffic because we had very little traffic considering that it was rush hour in New York City!

I arrived at the hospital at the same time as my midwife and was already in active labor as she was trying to take my vitals. The castor oil had started to kick in so I started laboring over the toilet. Sadly my labor was progressing so fast that they told me they would not have time to fill the birthing tub to have a water birth. The next thing I knew, I was in transition. The funny part is that I only had two transition contractions then my midwife told me it was time to push. I told her that I didn't feel like it. Another contraction came and I felt the baby crowning out of me while I was standing and having the contraction! So I waddled with help over to the bed and had to lay down with my legs up to slow the baby from coming out so I would not tear myself. I pushed during two contractions then my midwife told me to reach down and pull my baby out! It was not something that I had not envisioned doing and it was an extremely spectacular event to pull my 9-pound-sunny-side up baby out. I held my slimy baby up against my bare chest and warmed her with my body heat. She was healthy. My labor was exactly 3 hours from start to finish, I spent 1 hour in the hospital before giving birth, and I never had even an IV put in me.

This baby was completely different than my first. She was easier to breastfeed and she was easier to soothe. She did become slightly jaundice and had to spend a night under the lights. It was strange to see her under the lights but we were put in a private room and I felt like I was having a mini-vacation away from the world that I was about to return to of moving boxes, vacation suitcases, and an active toddler!

My First: The OB

My husband works at a hospital that was convenient to my job so it was an easy decision to seek an OB that was affiliated with that hospital. It is an ivy league medical training hospital with "top" OBs.  When I went for my appointments, it felt just like I was seeing a regular doctor and that was fine with me. I verbally presented my birth plan to the doctor and she was fine with me requesting everything natural (no drugs, moving free during contractions and birthing in any position).

After speaking to several moms about their births I realized that if I were to give birth at a hospital that I NEEDED a doula to be my medical advocate and to coach my husband and I. Our wonderful doula Karen Kelly (now a midwife), gave us private birth coaching to get over our unconscious, get into the present and really plan for how this birth was going to happen and what we would do after the baby was born. It was so reassuring that she would be there during the birth to remind us and help us with what to do.

During our preparation, Karen gave us homework to watch a home birth DVD. My husband was grossed out by the idea of watching the birth and on the day that we found out that I was pregnant, announced "do not ever ask me to cut the cord." I respected this. But I could not lie to Karen and not watch the video. So then it became the 45 minutes before she was supposed to arrive and we had not watched the hour long video so we compromised and watched it on double speed! It was a beautiful video and completely changed our mind about home births! My husband's every prejudgement about birth was changed and he saw it as a beautiful and natural process. Thank you Karen!

I became more and more educated and realized that my birthing hospital was ivy league and the "#1 maternity ward in NYC" but had the highest caesarian rates in the city! I did not feel comfortable switching to a midwife in my third trimester but I felt that my doula would balance the situation.

My due date came and went. Five days after my due date, my doctor sent me to the hospital for a standard post-due monitoring to make sure that my placenta was not deteriorating as they sometimes can after a due date. The monitors showed that I was having contractions that I did not feel and that the baby's heart rate was falling at the wrong time during the contractions. On my due date, five days prior I was 3 cm dilated so the doctors wanted to keep me in the hospital and give me Pitocin to speed up the birth and highly monitor the baby's heart to make sure that the baby was safe. I had read so much negative information about Pitocin that I with all my heart did not want it.  I asked for other options and the OB said that there were none (I later found out that this was a LIE). I convinced the on-staff doctor to let me be monitored for another 5 hours and eventually the heartbeat was fine again but they did not want to release me from the hospital.  My doula had arrived and during this time and we decided that there were instances in which this drug was made for and that I was a prime candidate since I was dilated enough and we did need to keep an eye on the baby's heartbeat.

So I started on Pitocin and my doula did her magic to get my contractions moving faster naturally. This allowed me to get only a low dose of Pitocin and 12 hours later to be taken off the drug.  Although I had an IV and the Pitocin for much of the time, I was able to move rather freely and labor in any position. This was probably because I was such a pain in the bottom of the medical staff that they decided at some point to leave me alone (expect for that annoying nurse who came in during transition and told me that "you do not know what real labor feels like, it has not started" because I kept refusing the epidural).

My husband and mom enjoyed massages from the doula.  The massages were also amazing for me since I was back laboring and her magic fingers (as a professional Mayan Masseuse) knew exactly where I needed them. She also was amazing to keep moving me into positions that helped me as the labor changed. From the time my active labor started until birth was 5 hours.  Twenty minutes of that was transition and I barely pushed (maybe 5 times). The baby came out sunny side up which explained all of the back labor. Without me knowing, my husband cut the cord and was thrilled to do it.

In hindsight I was thrilled to have a healthy baby girl and to have a good birth. What I would have changed was the medical staff (the OBs were really rude to me and not fond of me wanting to go natural) and more natural options than Pitocin.

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