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My girl: The birth of Catherine Unmedicated

My girl: The birth of Catherine

"Time had no meaning during this whole ordeal."

Long before I got pregnant, I knew that when it came time for me to labor and deliver this hypothetical child, I would be getting an epidural. I didn’t want to have to experience the pain associated with child birth. It was going to be too much for me to handle.

But somewhere along the way, David recommended that I should watch The Business of Being Born. I 100 percent brushed it off. I’m not crunchy or granola. I’m not the type of person who was going to give birth in a bathtub. I wanted the reassurance that the bright lights and antiseptic atmosphere bring.

The first trimester passed fairly uneventfully (thank goodness). I didn’t have morning sickness, and wasn’t too tired. And I don’t even know when it was, but on an online baby discussion board, I again read about this movie called The Business of Being Born.

I came home and watched it one evening while David was out. It was incredibly eye-opening. This was the first time I’d heard of Ina May Gaskin. The first time I’d heard of a doula. The first time I thought maybe I don’t need to have an epidural. Women have been having babies for centuries, millennia even. I can do this (and David was right about the film).

David never needed convincing. It was me. He always knew that I could do whatever I wanted as long as I convinced myself I could do it. Watching this documentary encouraged me to try. We researched options. I talked to my doctors. They told me to make sure that I was educated on all the interventions that might have to happen in order to make sure momma and baby stay healthy. I was aware. I was also certain that my body could deliver this baby and do what it was made to do and not need any help. However naive that thought may have been.

Once we knew for certain that I was going to attempt to have a natural labor and delivery, we decided to take a second step in ensuring that actually happen. We hired a doula. Alissa helped us write our birth plan. We talked about all the things that we wanted and the things we didn’t want. Which intervention is more okay than another intervention. It’s scary to think that any of the prospective interventions discussed could become a reality.

As the pregnancy progressed, I was more certain than ever that we’d made the right decision. When people would say that I’d change my mind when I felt my first contraction, I said that they may be right and we won’t know until we get there. When people would tell me I was crazy for not getting the epidural, I’d simply tell them that all the women before us that didn’t have any choice did OK, so I would do OK, too. (I do want to put a note in here to recognize how far we’ve come in mother/baby survival rates with the advent of modern medicine, so do know that I’m not knocking interventions.)

Not too many people think that a woman is in her right mind these days for choosing to experience childbirth without interventions when those options are made readily available to her.

My due date of September 25th came and went. I was scheduled to go back to the doctor on October 2nd. I texted Alissa and told her I was a little disappointed so she sent me a parsley smoothie recipe that is rumored to help you go into labor. The 48 hour window for the smoothie to work came and went. According to rumors, I should have gone into labor on Saturday the 28th. I was texting Alissa that day and decided that it must not have tricked my body into thinking that it was ready. I didn’t want to make it to the doctor on October 2nd because I knew they were going to start talking induction. Yet another intervention that I wanted to make sure did not happen for my childbirth experience. Saturday night I went to bed a little defeated. I hadn’t dropped. I hadn’t lost my mucous plug. I hadn’t experienced any pre-labor signs that many women claim they experience.

Sunday morning, the 29th, I woke up to pee (of course) at 7 a.m. and was going to go back to bed for a little bit. While sitting there I felt a twinge of discomfort. I knew that I was in labor. I laid back down in bed and tried to go back to sleep but was just too excited to do so. I woke David up and told him that I thought I was in labor, which made him too excited to go back to sleep, so we just started our day. I texted Alissa to let her know I was in labor and to find out what I needed to do next as far as staying in touch with her. After we were ready, we went to Gourmet’s Market for a great breakfast and then to the grocery store. I still can’t believe we went grocery shopping when I was in labor. Not active labor, but labor nonetheless.

We were home by around 11 a.m. and finally decided to tell my mom that I was in labor. She drove up from Smyrna and got there around 2:00 p.m. Our day consisted of walking up and down the road and around the cul-de-sac, doing cat-cows, rocking back and forth on the exercise ball, and trying to rest. I took a bath while waiting for mom to get there and it turns out that may have actually slowed my labor down, but it was OK because I got to finish my Nicholas Sparks book and relax. When mom arrived, she made us some soup for lunch. Later on I got a hankering for some corn bread, so she made some of that, too. Having a mom around when you are in labor to cook whatever you want is something I would strongly recommend.

We told my doctor that we wanted to labor at home as long as possible. According to our birthing class, we didn’t need to go to the hospital until my contractions were 4 minutes apart, lasting a full minute, and it had been that way for an hour. That was our plan—go to the hospital when 4-1-1 happened.

My contractions were no closer than 10-12 minutes apart for most of the day. Mom went to check into her hotel room and left me and David to rest. I would lie down in bed and try to sleep between contractions. Around 10:00 p.m. in the evening the intensity and duration of my contractions increased. This is where my memory starts to get a little fuzzy, but there are a few things I remember pretty clearly. Alissa told me to face backwards on the toilet to labor, so I spent a decent amount of time looking at the wall in my bathroom while I sat on the toilet. I also remember getting on my hands and knees in the bed, or on the chair, or on the floor to help me get through my contractions.

I guess it was around 12:30 a.m. or 1:00 a.m. that I told David to text Alissa that she needed to come on over to the house because things were really starting to pick up and I wanted her there to rub my back and do the amazing things that doulas do with their loving doula hands. While waiting for Alissa to arrive, we switched around between bathrooms, lying down in the bed “relaxing”, and the chair in the living room. I tried to get as comfortable as possible. There is one distinct moment in my mind where I’m facing backwards on the chair and a contraction hits me. I screamed out to David that I couldn’t do this anymore and we needed to go to the hospital NOW because I was done. That’s when we said hello to transition!

I guess Alissa got to the house around 1:30 a.m. I had just thrown up so I knew I was getting really close to needing to be at the hospital. We left the house at around 1:45 a.m. after David scrambled to get all the bags, pillows, electronics, etc. ready to go. He was on the phone with the doctor’s office telling them we were coming in and driving down the interstate at a very respectable 65 miles per hour. Apparently it is quite difficult to carry on a conversation with a nurse on the phone while your wife is experiencing contractions and moaning at incredibly loud decibels. We were parked around 2:00 a.m. and while David and Alissa grabbed the gear, I headed down the steps of the parking garage.

I’m so thankful that it was the middle of the night because I had three or four contractions on our (long) walk to labor and delivery. (And, this is just a side note for the architects that design labor and delivery wards – please put triage at the front of the ward right beside the elevators. Not at the very back of the hallway. Signed, a mother in active labor.) We got to triage and they said that they weren’t sure that they were even going to be able to admit me because they didn’t know if I was actually in labor. [Insert eye roll and sarcastic comment here]. They did admit me though, because, as I could have told them, I was in active labor.

When the triage nurse was finally able to check me, I was 6 centimeters dilated. I asked not to be told what my progress was because I didn’t want to be disappointed if I hadn’t been as far along as I thought. I was in so much pain and having a very difficult time focusing on my contractions while we were in triage. They gave me some kind of medicine that helped relax me just a bit. I was able to get into a mind frame to deal with the contractions better. I was squeezing David’s hand with each contraction and at one point I put his knuckle in between my teeth to bite down, but before I bit him I realized what I was going to do and removed his knuckle from my teeth. That was the only time in my entire labor that I nearly did something hurtful.

We were in triage for 2 hours. I didn’t know it was that long because at that point in the morning my contractions were incredibly regular and very strong. I remember them telling me that my doctor was in surgery and wouldn’t be able to be with me for a while and that they couldn’t move me until there were rooms available. When a room finally did become available, they gave me two options to get to it: I could walk or I could be put on a bed and wheeled. In my delirious state of mind I thought walking would be a good idea. I think that it would have been fine if the room hadn’t been by the elevators, you know, on the complete opposite end of the labor and delivery ward. Oh well. I walked and had contractions the whole way there. It was a long, slow walk.

We are finally in the room. I’m in the bed, hooked up to the monitors, and not really free to move around a whole lot. I try a few different positions, but the fetal monitor keeps slipping around and I don’t know if they just finally gave up on it or if they were somehow able to get it to stay on me in the correct position. Dr. Jones came in to check me and I was 9 centimeters. Again, I didn’t want to know because I didn’t want to be discouraged but, I’d progressed 3 centimeters in 2 hours!

I don’t really recall the timeframe of being in the room a whole lot at this point (four and a half months later), but the time seemed to move really quickly for me. I remember that they told me I could start pushing and it took me a good while to figure out how to push properly. Lying on my back wasn’t very comfortable so I pushed on my right side with my left leg in the air supported by the nurse and Alissa. I was able to hold onto the handrails and really squeeze that and moan and push. I didn’t need to hurt David’s hand any longer.  When I wasn’t pushing I remember Alissa speaking in a very calm, soothing voice and rubbing my back. That’s all I remember of her—her soothing voice and hands.

Time had no meaning during this whole ordeal. I’d feel a contraction and push. Contraction then push. Contraction then push. At one point they told me I needed to flip back onto my back and all of a sudden Dr. Jones was in the room putting on her baby catching clothes. I think I remember saying something about it already being time or something like that. I think I needed to relearn how to push just a little from changing positions, but I finally got it all figured out. Dr. Jones was really wonderful and at one point when I wasn’t having a contraction, she talked to me in a calm voice. She told me that pretty soon I was going to feel like my body was going to be splitting in two and that it was perfectly normal and that I didn’t need to stop, but I needed to push through the pain. I don’t think that I ever felt like I was splitting in two, but I know that I made a very declarative statement that I was done and I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t push another time. I’m sure that is when Catherine was crowning.

catherine2

After me stating very matter of factly that I was through with this whole labor and delivery thing, Dr. Jones looked at me and said that I could do it, and that I was almost done. She was right. In just a few more pushes (has anyone ever pushed so hard in their life as in the moment their child is crowning?) there was relief from pressure and all of sudden there was a tiny, vernix covered, crying child lying on my chest. Catherine was born at 6:42 a.m. I didn’t count fingers and toes. I looked to make sure she was a girl when the nurse asked. I didn’t think that it was possible that this 6 pound, 10 ounce baby was just inside me. I do remember saying something to the effect of that now. I looked at David and couldn’t believe that we had just gone through this together. I may have labored and delivered Catherine, but he went through it with me.

Dr. Jones delivered the placenta (which literally just slides on out), sutured up my small, normal, first time mom tear, and was gone. Her shift was over. She never thought that she’d be the one delivering my baby. I surprised her with how quickly I progressed. She was gone and I was surrounded by nurses, my husband, and my doula. The nurses were doing what nurses do, David was watching his two girls, and Alissa was documenting our first moments together as a new family. Catherine stayed on my chest for an hour and a half. I got up and walked to the restroom when Catherine was weighed and measured.

Not only am I happy that I was able to walk in such a short time after delivering my child, I’m thrilled that I got to feel everything. I got to see and feel my body do its best, finest, most superb work ever. Never have I been more proud to say “look at my body and all it can do.” This imperfect body, that I have a hard time loving, has done the most amazing thing a body can do—it gave me my girl!

Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to birthstory@pnmag.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!