This is part 14 of our Birth & Parenting Series.
Part 1 (Thoughts From a Mother of Four) is here, part 2 (Mother of Seven Shares Her Empowering Birth Stories) is here, part 3 (First-Time Mother of Twins) is here, part 4 (How First-Time Parents Braved a Placental Abruption) is here, part 5 (Childbirth Collective Doula Film Premiere) is here, part 6 (First-Time Mama Bravely Faces Transverse Baby & C-Section) is here, part 7 (Homeschooling Mama Shares Her Path to Schooling) is here, part 8 (First-Time Papa’s Perspective on Birth Center Birth) is here, part 9 (Mama’s First-Time Birth and Faith in Women’s Bodies) is here, part 10 (Unmedicated Birth for First-Time Parents) is here, part 11 (Followup on Little V’s Traumatic Birth) is here, part 12 (Beautiful Little Girl Passes Away After Long Battle) is here, and part 13 (Our Daughter’s Birth Story) is here.
This first time mama, Katie, planned for an unmedicated labor, and after 25 hours of labor, even though her son was turned, she avoided a C-section with a very attentive and talented health care team. Her husband and mother were fantastic supports and they all held out for the most natural birth possible considering their son’s position. It’s inspiring and amazing that women are so tough, and that a support team can make such a big difference!
Nell: Tell me a little bit about your beautiful child.
Katie: At this point we only have one child. He is wonderful! Vinton is almost 7 months old and is growing like a weed. I enjoy watching him soak in the world everyday. He is learning daily and I get a front row seat to watch this miracle take place.
Nell: When you first started to think about labor & delivery, how did you envision it going?
Katie: I have been thinking about labor for years. I have always known that I wanted to be a mom. In knowing that I knew I would have to go through labor. But, when I first became pregnant I started to look at it in a whole different light. I started to see it not as something in the distant future, but as something that was coming in just a few short months. As the days grew closer to the actual birth I came up with my ideal birth plan. We live in a town with lots of friends and relatives, so they became part of my plan. I told my husband that I was comfortable with family being in the room until it was time to push and then only he and my mom were allowed to stay. And after that I thought it would take about an hours worth of pushing and we would be holding the newest member of our family. I was going to do it with no drugs or outside help. We were seeing a midwife instead of a doctor and she was on board with our natural-as-possible plan.
Nell: What were the biggest fears you had about labor?
Katie: My biggest fear about labor was the unknown amount of pain that I would be in. Since we were going to give it our best to be natural there was going to be a lot of pain in my future and I didn’t know how I was going to handle it. I had never been in a situation where I was truly in pain, so I didn’t know how I was going to react to being in pain. I was also afraid that I was going to have to have a caesarian. I had not only never been in pain before but I had never had surgery either. So with two large unknowns in my future one of them was for sure going to become a reality.
Nell: Did people tell you horror stories or share their experiences when you wished they wouldn’t?
Katie: When people see a pregnant woman they feel the need to relive their experiences. I don’t know if they get sentimental or if they feel like they need to warn the new parent about possibilities of what may be in their future. There were many times I was standing in line at the grocery store and the sweetest little grandma would be standing behind me and tell me how horrible childbirth was and that having a baby is the hardest thing you will ever do in your life. I took everything that people told me with a gain of salt. I knew everyone had different experiences with birth and babies and I knew I would have my own story at the end of it. No one will ever have the same story I have or go through exactly what I went through.
Nell: Did people offer helpful suggestions for coping with labor pain? Did they give their unsolicited opinion on the option you had chosen?
Katie: When people asked about my plans for our birth and I told them we were going to try to do it without medication most people told me I was crazy! They said that medications were there for a reason and that they would make the pain go away. Other people gave really helpful suggestions that I forgot while I was actually in labor. My body took over and I pretty much did whatever I felt like.
Nell: How did your care provider prep you for your delivery options?
Katie: Our midwife listened to us. I think that was one of the best things about choosing a midwife to assist! We told her what we wanted, a non-medicated natural birth, and she did everything in her power to help us make decisions to achieve this. We did also talk about what would happen if this was not possible just so if our ideal birth didn’t happen, we had talked about a different option beforehand and she knew what our desires were if our ideal birth didn’t happen.
Nell: What did you plan on ahead of time for delivery, i.e., caesarian, vaginal delivery, epidural, unmedicated.
Katie: Our plan for birth was an unmedicated vaginal delivery. But, as they say, tell God your plans! The only other plans we had were that my husband was to be the one to tell me if we had a boy or girl and that the baby was to come straight to my chest after the birth!
Nell: What ended up happening during labor? Can you describe it for us?
Katie: I should probably ask my husband about the birth process! He probably remembers it better than I do, but I will tell you how I remember it! I had been having contractions every seven minutes for a little over a week. We went to see the midwife on Thursday afternoon and she put me on bedrest for the weekend and told us to come back on Monday morning for another appointment. Little did we know that she had sent our file to the hospital thinking that there was no way this baby would wait until Monday to come. Well, Monday came and we showed up for the appointment. She told us that since my blood pressure was a little high we were going to have daily appointments until either the baby came or they decided to induce. Which, would probably be the next day, and if we thought we were ready, caster oil works well as for a natural induction.
Well, I took my tablespoon of caster oil at 5pm that night. We had dinner and right after we ate I went to the bathroom. I was about a step away from the toilet and my water BROKE! Now, I have heard that some people trickle when their water breaks but mine was like Niagra Falls! I was very happy that I was at home! I called Brian back to the bathroom and told him it was time! We got our bag together and put lots of towels under me and we went to the hospital. The worst part of our hospital experience was checking in. The receptionist was very rude! They brought me a wheelchair, and just left it with us. So, Brian ended up wheeling me up to labor and delivery. When we got up there the sweet nurse asked if this was our first child. We said it was and that my water had broken. She must be used to people thinking their water was broken and then it wasn’t because she told us we would see if we were really in labor or not. When I stood up from the chair and my water was literally running down my leg to the floor she laughed and said “Yep! You’re not leaving here without a baby!” I think that’s when it really hit that we were going into the hospital a family of two and leaving a family of three!
The first six hours or so were actually not too bad. I was breathing through contractions, walking the halls, and laughing with Brian and my mom. There are some really fun pictures of us at 2 am! Then at about 2:30 the nurse came in and said how impressed she was with how I was doing. Right after that the contractions started to get really hard. I was sitting on the birthing ball and every time I would have a contraction my husband would have to lift me off it and sway until it went away. This lasted for about four hours. He really got a workout in that night!
Our midwife wasn’t at the hospital until about 8 the next morning. So she came in and checked on me. She took the IV out, got me some breakfast (about half a piece of dry toast and some applesauce), and let me take a shower. The shower was awesome! If there was an option of a waterbirth in our town I would have done it. The warm water running down my back relaxed all my muscles and it relaxed me. I was in the shower for a few hours and then I felt like it was time to push. The nurses and midwife got ready to catch this baby that everyone thought was coming. I ended up pushing for a few hours, I don’t really remember how long, and in so many different positions. I pushed on my hands and knees, on my back, on both sides, even sitting on the toilet. And we didn’t end up with a baby. This is when I started getting into a mental pain spiral. I was having really bad back contractions because the baby was turned wrong and I mentally couldn’t deal with it.
With all the pain they decided that something needed to be done. I ended up with four shots of saline in my lower back. Those stung like the dickens! And it didn’t help the pain at all. At about 3 that afternoon when the saline didn’t work and I was so tense that my body was stopping the baby from dropping we knew something else had to be done. Brian went out and talked in the hall with the midwife and nurses. They made the recommendation of getting a spinal block. It was supposed to give between four to six hours of numbing from the waist down. This would allow my body to not fight the contractions and to let them do their job of pushing the baby down. I got the shot at 4 that afternoon and I was on cloud 9. Everyone that had been in the waiting room got to come in and talk to us, Brian and my mom got to eat a little lunch, and I got to relax without pain for a little while and renew my strength for what was to come.
At about 6 I started to feel the contractions again and Brian called in the midwife. They decided it was time to push again! While I was pushing my hormones were raging. Sometime in all of this I remember looking up and saying that I needed to be naked, I could no longer keep the gown on, so it came off. I pushed from 6 until about 7:30 when I started to say that I could do it, but I needed a little help. It had already been over 24 hours since my water had broken and we needed to talk options. Apparently the doctor who was on call and sitting in the next room did not like to see people go over 24 hours with broken water and would have taken me in for a cesarean right away. The amazing midwife and nurses knew I didn’t want that so they came up with a different plan. They told us they were going to call the doctor that had been on the night before. He is really good with forceps and they were going to ask if he would be willing to come in and try and turn the baby before we did a cesarean. He was willing and lives close to the hospital so they knew it would be about 10 minutes and he would be in our room.
The transformation of the room happened so fast. The nurses got everything ready for this doctor. From changing the bed to putting out the right size gloves and gown, everything was ready when he walked in the door. From the minute he walked in the door it was operation get baby out. He was fast and very efficient. He put on his gloves and very calmly started getting ready to turn the baby. He talked us through everything that he was doing and made us feel like we were part of the procedure. I got an episiotomy so the forceps would fit and then he said to let him know when the next contraction was coming so we could start.
Well, it happened right then. I told him it was starting; he put in the forceps and on the next contraction turned the baby. Then I remember being told to stop pushing. So I did. That was long enough for him to get the forceps off and with the next contraction our baby came! At 8:16 pm, 25 hours and one minute after my water broke, our world changed forever.
The euphoria that I felt the second the baby was out was like nothing I had ever experienced! All the pain was instantly gone! Brian looked down and then turned to me and said some of the most beautiful words I had ever heard “You just gave birth to our son! We have a son! Vinton Auro is here!” Brian cut the cord and then Vinton was placed on my chest. Brian was crying and kept saying how beautiful I was and how amazing our son is. I couldn’t stop smiling and kissing them both. I got to breastfeed him for the first time before he was even measured or weighed which was such a beautiful experience. Sometime during the birthing process Brian and I made a bet on how much we thought the baby would weigh. We bet a gourmet meal cooked by the loser and a nice bottle of wine over the weight of the baby. Brian said something over 8 pounds and I said 7 pound 14 ounces. After they took Vinton off my chest and measured his length and head circumference they put him on the scale and wouldn’t you know that he was exactly 7 pounds and 14 ounces! I called his weight exactly. At this point my mom left the room and told everyone in the waiting room that he was here! We had a boy!
Our new family of three had a little time to ourselves as the doctor stitched me up and Brian got to hold our son. Then I put on clothes and everyone from the waiting room got to come in and meet our baby! Brian got to hand off his son to his parents, which was amazing to watch. There was an overpowering feeling of love and happiness as family and friends came in to meet our little man. He was held by his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, wonderful friends and even a great aunt in the first hour of his life.
Nell: What surprised you about the process? What was less difficult and what was more difficult than you had imagined?
Katie: The most difficult thing for me was how ill-prepared I was mentally for what I went through. I don’t know why I did this, but I had mentally prepared for about 12 hours of labor after my water broke. For some reason that is what I had in my mind and that is what I KNEW I could get through. After I had been in labor and in pain for 16 hours or so mentally I didn’t know what to do, I wasn’t prepared to be there, I thought I would have my baby in my arms at that point. I also wasn’t prepared to not know what I wanted at certain points. There were points where one minute I wanted Brian to be rubbing my back and the next minute I didn’t want him to touch me at all. I was not sure of what would help relieve pain from minute to minute and I felt kind of like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and I was changing back and forth so much that I had no idea what was going to make me feel better.
The least difficult thing for me was the actual birth. The labor was hard but when I actually delivered Vinton it wasn’t very painful. They talk about the ring of fire and tearing, but I think that was the easiest part for me was when he actually came out.
I was surprised by how hungry I was after I gave birth! When I had been given my spinal block Brian and Mom each ate half a foot long Subway sandwich, after I had the baby I ate both leftover sandwiches and some dinner leftovers from the group in the waiting room! When I thought about it later I realized that I had not had a real meal in over 24 hours and I physically worked really hard so I should have been hungry!
Nell: How did your husband/partner play a supportive role in your labor? Did you have a doula or other support person present?
Katie: My husband was the best part of my labor other than getting to hold our little man after it was over! He was amazing! We talked a lot about our desires before the delivery and he listened to me and he did everything that I wanted. Since this was so new to both of us we talked about EVERY possible scenario that we could think of happening. He knew what my desires were for the birth and he was willing to help me have the birth that I wanted. There are two things he did that really stick out in my mind.
A few weeks before we had V my husband asked if there was anything that I didn’t want him to say to me during the birth. I told him that he was not allowed to tell me that I was beautiful while I was giving birth! I had seen enough TV and documentaries to know that I was not going to be beautiful and I didn’t want him to lie to me. He did very well with this until after the baby came out then he couldn’t stop smiling and telling me how beautiful I was! The second thing he did that really helped me with my labor was when I thought I couldn’t keep going and that I needed some drugs. He kicked everyone out of the room but the two of us and he looked me in the eyes and told me “Only God knows how long this is going to take. Only God knows how many contractions it will take until we get to meet our child for the first time. But what we do know is that for every contraction you have that is one less you have to go through until our baby is in our arms!” Thinking of it that way made me relax and know that I was getting closer to the end goal and these contractions were for a purpose.
I also had my mom in the room! There is no one like your own mommy when something hurts. Having her in the room the entire time I was in labor really calmed me down. Even if she was sitting in the chair in the corner just knowing she was there for me relaxed me and calmed me down.
Nell: Were there any particular palliative measures they did that you loved?
Katie: There were three things that really helped my pain levels. The first was my amazing husband! He would rub my lower back, which is where most of my pain was located, until I would tell him that it didn’t work anymore. He would stop until I wanted him to do it again. The shower was amazing, and getting my back rubbed while I was in the shower was magical. The warm water relaxed my whole body and cut the pain of the contractions significantly. And while I was sitting in the bed or laying down hot pads on my lower back worked great!
Nell: When you held your child for the first time, how did you feel?
Katie: When Vinton was placed on my chest for the first time the first feeling that came was this rush of protectiveness and love. I felt like this precious little gift was entrusted to me to fix his hurts, teach him all I know, and help mold him into the man he is going to be. I wanted to protect him from all the bad things in the world and show him that there is so much that love and good out there.
Nell: What, if anything, would you do or want differently with future children’s births?
Katie: I can’t wait to go through this again with another child and to see the differences in pregnancies and births. Other than not having a time in mind for how long it’s going to take to give birth there is not much different that I would do. I think I will do more yoga and stretching beforehand to make sure the baby is facing the right way and my body is limber and ready.
Nell: What’s your advice for other birthing mothers?
Katie: My advice to other mothers is that every birth is different. People will tell you their crazy horror stories and others will tell you that it was no problem and they were back into their pre-pregnancy jeans when they left the hospital (and they had perfect makeup the whole time because they didn’t sweat a drop). In all likelihood it will probably be somewhere in between those for you. Don’t get something in your mind so when it doesn’t happen like you think it is going to you don’t stress out. Have an idea of what you want and then things you are ok with.
Brian and I talked about how we wanted this birth to be not medicated but if we got to where there was going to be medication our choice was a spinal block instead of intravenous drugs. We had talked about all this before so Brian knew exactly what I wanted even if I couldn’t tell him at the minute the decisions needed to be made. Having an understanding and supportive birth partner really makes all the difference in the world! Get that person on your side and let them know exactly what you want before you go into labor.