Confessions of Cultural Heretics

"When the whole world is running headlong towards the precipice, one who walks in the opposite direction is looked on as being crazy." T.S. Elliot

The Birth of Our Children Part I

This post is the first of two that describes the birth of our two sons.  While both were natural births, our first born was a hospital birth, while our new born was a home birth. We hope that the two experiences will shed some light our approach to childbirth.

All but one of my mother’s eight children were born before their due dates, so when I was pregnant with my first born, I just assumed that I would follow in the same pattern. The closer my due date approached, the more I began to worry about induction and other threats to my dream of having a natural birth with midwives.

On my due date, I went in to the midwives’ office so they could monitor my vitals and the baby’s heartbeat.  Everything checked out fine, and since the contractions I had were few and far between, I went home. That evening I was particularly tired and went to bed early, hoping sleep would come easily. Around 2am I woke to strong contractions. Although they were tolerable, they were too frequent for me to fall back to sleep, so I decided to wake Brian, who had taken to sleeping on the air mattress in the spare room due to my loud snoring which developed in late pregnancy.  Gently, I shook him and told him I needed help timing my contractions. Looking at the time, he said “are you sure?”  It had been such a long wait, I think he found it hard to believe that the baby had finally decided to come.

The contractions were averaging 4-6 minutes apart and were 60-90 seconds in duration. So much for starting short and slow. We called the midwife and she said we could go into the hospital or wait a little while, depending on how I felt. As my mom was going to be coming in for the birth and staying with us to help me with the baby, I suggested that we change the sheets on the air mattress and then see how it went. By the time we were done, the contractions were coming stronger and I decided it was time to head to the hospital. We gathered our bags and I dialed my Mom to let her know it was time and that we’d let her know when we were admitted.

We reached the maternity ward around 3:30 am and I was hooked up to a fetal monitor to record my contractions.  They continued in their duration and space and I was completely effaced and one cm dilated. I informed the nurse that I wanted one of the rooms with the birth tubs, but was told that both of the rooms were occupied and that the maternity floor was quite full due to six inductions that morning. It seemed like poor planning to me, but  we were grateful to get the last room after about an hour of walking the halls and slow dancing. The contractions were long and hard and I became sick, so I had to stay on top of my liquids in order to avoid dehydration and the need for an IV. The hospital staff notified the midwives and Irma came in around 8 am-the start of her shift. She checked me  and I had progressed to 3 cm. She suggested I get in the shower to help me relax. I found the water very soothing and stayed there for an hour, getting through the contractions by vocalizing and stamping my feet and hitting the walls with my hands in rhythm with Brian massaging my back. My back pain was increasing and I had to constantly have heat and pressure on it-keeping Brian busy alternating my hot packs between contractions. I was very tired and became worried I would run out of stamina before the end. Around 10 am she checked me again and I was still at 3cm and the baby was posterior, accounting for my severe back labor and intense, rapid contractions. Greatly discouraged,  I asked Irma about my pain relief options and what I could do to get things moving. Finally, I decided to wait another hour or so and follow the recommendations of position changes to see if things would pick up again before resorting to any interventions. We also took the clock down in the room at Irma’s suggestion so I wouldn’t become focused on the passage of time. Brian coached me actively through every contraction, reminding me to relax and open my hips while joining me in my vocalizing and feet stamping. We hit the shower again and I decided against being checked again-I had found my focus and I didn’t want to lose it. A little before noon,  they checked me and I had progressed to 8 cm! I was relieved, but my contractions were coming on top of each other and the pressure was becoming severe from my unbroken water. They had me turn on my right side to coax the baby out of the posterior position. Irma had warned me it would be very uncomfortable. She was right, but it was also effective. Brian had to leave during this time to get some things from the car,  but Irma stayed with me, massaging my back with oil to help me through transition.

When he returned, Brian called my mom to update her on my progress while she drove to Toledo. While they were talking, my water broke and I told him to get off! I was very close and having trouble staying on top of the thunderous contractions as they racked my body. Brian had to remind me to keep my moans low and controlled so as to avoid hyperventilation. He encouraged me and cheered me on, helping me to stay focused on this awesome task. Suddenly, I knew I needed to push, and the nurses encouraged me to start giving little pushes. Irma came back in the room and suddenly, they were positioning me to bear down and bring this baby into the world! It was all happening so fast and the power that came forth from my body along with the contractions was unbelievable. I heaved with all my might and was so focused that I had to be reminded to look in the mirror as the baby’s head crowned.  The midwife had me blow off some contractions as my pushes were so powerful and she didn’t want me to tear. Weeks before , I had been reading a book of birth stories and the women talked about the guttural sounds which they were shocked to hear come from them as it came to the pushing stage. I too had this experience, amazed by how barbaric I sounded, but too involved in the process to care.  I felt the intense burning ,or the “ring of fire” as they described it in birth class, as the head crowned and was delivered. One final push brought forth the shoulders and then the rest of the baby slipped into the hands of the midwife as if coated with Vaseline.

Someone exclaimed “the baby’s out” to my disbelief, and I watched as they sucked the fluid from the baby’s mouth with a bulb syringe.  “The baby’s not crying” I worried, but Irma assured me it was fine and then I heard the most beautiful noise I’ve ever heard-the first crackled cry of my new baby. The baby was placed on my chest within seconds and our eyes met-oh how bewildered those eyes looked! All I could say was “hi baby, I’m your Mom” over and over. Brian leaned over us and said “it’s a boy, hi Joseph”. Up to this point I hadn’t even thought to look or ask what gender the baby was. We had a boy! We were finally meeting the little one we had talked to for the past 9 months face to face! Oh, what joy and amazement, looking down at our son. My love for my husband intensified in that shared experience, to a level I had never imagined as we gazed with pride and admiration on Joseph, the manifestation of our love, now made visible to the world.

-Johanna-

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One thought on “The Birth of Our Children Part I

  1. so beautiful, johanna 🙂

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