I was fortunate to have an amazing natural birth experience with my first-born, despite being stuck in a tiny fairly rural hospital in Mississippi. My Canadian OB-GYN was the only one in town who would let me labor without an IV, and while she arrived to catch the baby leaving me to rely heavily on my two doulas-in-training and a few clueless nurses, my daughter was born after 15 hours of extremely painful back labor.
With my son’s birth, we were living in a large metropolitan area, so I sought out my “dream” birthing scenario: a midwife with a freestanding birthing center. However, thanks to an extremely tight budget and insurance that would only pay for a hospital birth, I wasn’t able to have the birth center experience. But my visits with my midwife, the relationship with my doula, and an extremely supportive hospital staff made my son’s birth just as wonderful.
That is all two hours of the time I was actually laboring at the hospital.
The day prior to having my son, I left my morning bathroom visit feeling as though I was leaking fluid. After a late afternoon midwife visit, I learned that all was well and I went home with fingers crossed that I wouldn’t make it to four days past my due date.
Later that evening I started experiencing regular contractions and at around 2am, I was awoken by my water breaking — what an amazing release of pressure. I paged the midwife who instructed me to head straight to the hospital. During our visits we had discussed my stopping at the birth center to labor there before heading to the hospital, but she also knew that with having a long painful back labor the first time around (thanks to my daughter’s posterior positioning), I might not have a good sense of how far along my labor was due to the difference in pain. So, I called my doula and headed to the hospital.
Being the casual 2nd-time parents that we were, my husband and I didn’t do a trial run to the hospital and ended up getting lost. Frantic as my contractions started getting stronger and closer together, and my back started to cramp, we finally found someone who could give us directions.
After checking in and learning I was about 5 cm dilated, my doula helped me relax through the contractions, which were almost pleasant compared to the shooting and stabbing back pains I had with my daughter. I felt as though my cervix was actually working for me, and while it was a bit uncomfortable, it was nowhere near as unbearable as I had experienced before.
At around 4:45am, I remember thinking “I should go to the bathroom, that might help me move along” thanks to my Bradley classes a few years back. When I returned, I labored through about three contractions standing up and then felt like I had to poop.
I mentioned it to my doula quite hesitantly, because with a posterior labor, you ALWAYS feel like you have to poop thanks to the pressure from the baby’s head. So, I didn’t know what was happening. She went to get the midwife and after she checked me, I learned that I was indeed fully dilated.
I instantly burst into tears, overcome with emotion — not only due to the how fast I had progressed, but also because I just didn’t feel “ready” to push. Clearly, pushing was not my favorite part of the laboring process. I know that some women find it liberating to be able to do “something” except lay there and relax.
So, after being reassured that my emotions were typical, I pushed. Unlike pushing with my daughter were I had been fighting and laboring for so long, with my son, I felt as though I couldn’t do it. I moaned and screamed and pushed with all my might, knowing in my head (and expressing it verbally) that I didn’t think I could do it.
Yes. I was the stereotypical laboring woman who says she can’t do it.
But I figured, I had better do it quickly because I most certainly could not have done it for more than 15 minutes.
And 10 minutes later, my son was born. Pink, beautiful, and big.
I owe a deep amount of thanks to the support from my “dream team:” My husband, doula, and midwife — all of whom reassured me that it was unlikely I would have another posterior presentation and that my experience would be extremely different.
Of course, absolutely nothing is guaranteed. But I do know that I had the distinct feeling that I would be able to do this one more time, had I wanted the opportunity. And so it shall be this October 2008.
[This post was written by Kristen Chase.]