I originally wrote this months and months ago, shortly after my nipples stopped bleeding and Layla settled into the rhythm that I’m sure ultimately saved her life (from sleep deprived ME).
I hesitated. I have been asked by a lot of people why I chose to birth Layla in the way that I chose, all the way from the earth crunchy hippies who asked WHY would I NOT birth at HOME(?!?!?!!!) to the “old style” raised friends of mine who called me nuts for wanting a drug free labor and even accused me of “trying to be a hero”… right, because I don’t have enough on my plate already with this unplanned SECOND pregnancy and the mountain of medical debt it ensued. No, let me add “IMPRESSING YOU” to the list. *dramaticeyeroll*.
So be warned, this is a birth story. And it is long winded (as birth stories are). So for the squeamish or currently pregnant and scared shitless, you are warned.
A little backstory… I delivered my son at 18 yrs old. Barely. I went through my pregnancy with the same concerns that present themselves to every expecting mother and THEN some. I was also ashamed and felt like I had something to prove. Both feelings stayed with me for YEARS after this experience (and I still struggle with them from time to time).
My mother, hippie at heart, had a natural labor with both me and my younger brother. She swore by the Bradley Method and I, being a huge momma’s girl, wanted to make her proud.
But I was also a squeamish 18 yr old girl…
So I did what a lot of young mother’s to be do. I read books. I looked at pictures. I even youtubed a few natural births feeling that when the time came I could grit my teeth and push through it “just like Mom did”. How completely INSANELY wrong I was…
My water broke. We rushed to hospital. Contractions didn’t start IMMEDIATELY, so I was given the devil drug of modern medicine (pitocin). Corwin was posterior, my back was on FIRE. I spent nearly my entire labor on my back because… wait, isn’t that the way they do it in the movies? And we’re going on 12 hours here, isn’t the baby supposed to pop out after, like, 1? Needless to say, my labor progressed very slowly, the “natural drug the body already produces” (I’m not kidding, they said it just like that) was completely RUINING my self-control, and around the 14 hour mark I asked for relief.
Demerol. BAD. I went from being in uncontrollable pain to being in uncontrollable pain I was WAKING UP to.
Yes. Imagine falling asleep, dreaming, and waking up every few minutes having to REMEMBER that in fact no, you are not being ripped apart… you are in labor and have been for hours. YAY. I got the epidural and proceeded to sleep off that crap. Epidural didn’t work as expected, felt myself rip in places a girl never wants to imagine, and then WOW…. everything disappears. They placed this beautiful alien like creäture on my belly and I realized TRULY for the first time (and in a way I think you can only experience when you’ve become a parent) that there was really more to the world than myself. My egocentricity melted away in a mirage of fear, awe, love, and shock. We had a short stint with breastfeeding, which I ultimately failed in due to insecurity and naïvety. In all, I felt like a part of a process and not the mother of this baby… I went to the hospital, got drugged, and they handed me a drugged up baby I was responsible for teaching how to eat MYSELF. I didn’t feel like I GAVE BIRTH to MY baby. As I have previously stated, I felt like I failed long before I even began.
And then there was Layla…
I spent the better part of my labor with Layla at home playing with her brother. I studied religiously in my Bradley Classes and attended each one. I felt ready. I felt educated.
I knew labor was close for that whole week, got teased RELENTLESSLY by rather painful contractions on multiple occasions, but remained stubbornly and unhappily whaleish. I had a “show” earlier in the day but knew labor could still be days away, so I tried my best to enjoy myself with Corwin. He had just come back from being gone the month of July with his paternal grandmother so he was as desperate for my attention as I was to give it to him. I contracted off and on that whole day and alternated between my exercise ball, the floor, the couch, and pacing the living room while making animal sounds (the fun kind, not the pain kind) and playing games with Corwin. I was, for the most part, blissfully oblivious to the possibility that labor was starting. After all, I had spent all week going “what if?!” and decided THAT DAY to just let that go. It’s not like the baby would pop out without me knowing it was coming… so I let myself enjoy my day with my boy and only took breaks when I needed to recenter myself.
Then contractions became more intense, and I became acutely aware that I was entering active labor.I texted my sperm donor early in the evening to let him know that night could be the real deal (I didn’t know he didn’t even have his phone on him… more on that later). Corwin and I played outside with sidewalk chalk as long as I could stand it before I needed to go inside and get some rest. We watched cartoons the rest of the evening while contractions were coming in around every 6 to 7 minutes with me needing to take a break with talking to Corwin to focus on my breathing. He was completely unaware of any discomfort I was feeling and I took this as a sign I was doing a decent job.
Bed time came and we snuggled on my bed to watch Godzilla. By the end of the movie, laying on my back was a no-go and I knew if I stayed in bed that the concentrated effort on my breathing and the pain being on my back was causing could make Corwin wake up and I definitely didn’t want to scare him.
I hopped in the shower, did my visualizations, and relaxed…. Oh my, how I relaxed. I can’t tell you how long I was in that shower, but I “got there”… that place where you become so fixated at the task at hand, so CALMLY, that you let time melt and the only thing that exists in this whole world is you and the task at hand. At some point the water turned cold and I went downstairs to call Myk.
The moment I left that shower my labor jumped into overdrive. It was 2 am. My hands got clammy, and I got nervous. I was further than I wanted to be at this point… Myk was still at work and I hadn’t heard from him in hours. I called. I called again. I called AGAIN. Finally, after a call to my mother to tell her it was time for me to go to the hospital and I couldn’t get a hold of Myk, he picked up on the last try. He had left his phone in the managers office (yup, the day before my due date; give him crap for it if you know him :-p). He left immediately and arrived as I was pacing the living room, breathing, eyes closed.
My mom arrived and after a short dialogue (promptly ended by my “Alright, cool, baby, yeah, Can we please GO NOW?!) we left. I remember toying with the idea of how embarrassing it would be to arrive at the hospital and to only have gas. Then a crippling contraction came out of nowhere and I was certain this was the real deal.
At check in, I began to get impatient. I was staring at the clock, watching the seconds and minutes tick by, answering every annoying question that sounded just like the previous (isn’t this what I registered online to avoid?!), increasingly aware that my contractions were coming in at every 3 minutes. By the end of this, 20 minutes after arriving, I was feeling what I had felt my entire labor with Corwin. That intense pain. This time, however, it was a slow, steady, and manageable progression. It wasn’t my WHOLE LABOR.
A man come up to me with a wheelchair and I thought I might cry if he made me sit in it… no way. I walked to the elevator, and then waddled to labor and delivery, and ever-so-carefully plopped myself on the bed…
Oh that bed… This was when things sucked. I got checked and was discovered to be at 9 centimeters (and I will NEVER forget the look on that nurses’ face… ha!) It wouldn’t have been nearly as bad after this point but, oh no, I needed to be monitored. And then I wasn’t allowed to stand because they were afraid the baby would fall out (no really, I’m serious). Then I was waiting for the doctor… Waiting, waiting, waiting…. Even more painful than pushing the baby out was having to force my body to WAIT on that dang doctor! We ultimately gave up and the CNM on duty caught the baby, with the Dr walking in LITERALLY a minute later asking “Did I miss the show?”… ya think?
But to be totally honest, it was perfect. I labored at home with my positive, happy son. He was the perfect distraction and the perfect motivation to keep me moving, keep on going. I didn’t have people poking, prodding, scaring, intimidating, or in any other way, MESSING WITH ME. My labor was exactly what it should have been- private, calm… quiet. And in the shower, it became a reunion between myself as an individual and my body as a woman. I felt READY. And while things got painful at the hospital, and WHOA did they get painful, I wouldn’t have changed a single thing. There is nothing more empowering than learning to trust your body to do what it is designed to do and being rewarded for it.
I healed in half the time I did with Corwin. I was (lightly) working out in 3 weeks. I had very, very little postnatal bleeding. And while we struggled with breastfeeding (thrush, staph, oh god that’s a whole other entry…), we figured it out because I *trusted* myself.
THAT is why I didn’t want the drugs, the interventions, the augmentations. I didn’t do it to prove anything to anyone else, I didn’t do it for pride. I did it because I wanted to give my baby the best possible start *I* believed in based on my prior experience. I wanted to get to know myself… I wanted to learn to trust my instincts. What I didn’t realize is that I should have been trusting them all along.
I am definitely more confident this time around with the whole “mommy” thing. It could be from having had a kid before. It could be from that indescribably enlightening experience. It is probably a little of both. But if I were to choose 1000 natural births or one more medicated birth, I would choose the natural births all the way because for ME and MY experience with it, it was perfect.
Props to you if you stuck it out through this. Layla is going to need to eat soon :-).