Birthing Children, Part One

Well, here it is... the first of three "about my labors" posts I've been hinting at.

Starting out as a young pregnant woman, I was pretty intense about wanting to have all-natural deliveries. No induction, no epidural, no episiotomy, no c-section, nurse right after delivery, etc. ;-) Perhaps you can already see where this is going. Best laid plans and all that...

A little less than 6 years ago, my co-worker had the (audacity?) brutal honesty to tell me I looked as big as a house. And, to be honest, I really did (still, it was rude of him to tell me that, don't ya think?).

We were so broke back then that I had, in my largest stage of pregnancy, run into a Ross discount store and hoped for a good deal on something that would be appropriate to wear to the office. (I had only worn suits prior to being pregnant.) What did I find but a big, purple, big-flower-printed dress? For a ridiculously low price. And nothing else that even came CLOSE to fitting or being appropriate for office-wear in June in Washington, D.C. So, we got the purple dress. I felt like Barney. I hated that dress. Anyway, I really was big. And so was the baby I was carrying, and though I didn't know it at the time, he wouldn't be coming out until I was even bigger.

Back to the labor story. I, being the natural-focused momma that I was, tried everything from driving bumpy roads, to walking like a maniac at all hours of night, to eating strange foods, to "doing what we had done to get him in there, to get him out." ;) Still, 10 days post-due-date, no baby.

So. I was scheduled to be induced the next day, when my water broke at a little after midnight. I called the hospital, and they said that I didn't need to come in until my contractions got bad or 8am, whichever came first. At 6:30, being the eager young mom, after not sleeping hardly at all, we drove to the hospital with virtually no contractions.

Mrs. All-Natural's compromise #1:

Well, by 1 o'clock in the afternoon, I still wasn't having any contractions. This is problematic, of course, because infection could begin to set in if you don't have a baby within 24 hours of your water breaking. So, I said, "OK, give me the pitocin. But only on the lowest setting."

Mrs. All-Natural's compromise #2:
Around 5pm or so, I asked my husband to ask for the anesthesiologist, that it was time for an epidural. He did all that I'd asked-- asking me if I was sure, trying to give me back rubs, etc., but in the end, I ended up with that huge needle in my back and spent the rest of the evening sleeping between contractions that seemed to be progressing far too slowly.

By 12:30 AM, I was finally dilated to a ten, but I couldn't. feel. anything. Dad-blasted epidural. They kept telling me to lift my torso up off the bed so they could do that fancy mechanically-miraculous change from the normal hospital bed to the delivery bed with those terrible foot stirrups. And I was trying, by golly. But I apparently wasn't even up an inch off of the bed. Did I mention that getting an epidural was a terrible decision? Somehow, between me, Doug, and the nurse, we lifted me up enough for them to do the bed transformation.

A little after 1 AM, he arrived.

First surprise: it's a HE! We have a son!!! :-) (We had opted not to find out his gender, which made for a fun post-delivery surprise.)

Second surprise: he didn't start crying. They're suctioning and whispering. Something's wrong. He aspirated (breathed in) meconium (the first bowel movement, which was passed while in utero rather than once he was out of the womb). After more than a minute, he started crying-- phew. I got to hold him for something like 15 seconds before they whisked him away, giving me a whole extra dose of the epidural because apparently I'm bleeding and passing too many clots, and suddenly I'm alone, confused, in and out of consciousness, with the doctor stitching me up for what seemed like hours, because I'd had a serious tear.

Hours later, around 4 or 5AM, I finally woke up (they really must've knocked me out) to learn that my son (who weighed a hefty 9 pounds, 2 ounces by the way) is in the NICU (newborn ICU), has all kinds of tubes coming out of his face, and oh yeah, "he could die" from this. Way to break it to me, Nurse Ratched. I know, medical lawsuits and all that, but seriously-- have you ever heard of a bedside manner?!

The emotional fog and pressure in those hours were (still to this day) the worst I've ever experienced.

In an effort to DO something, I start pumping milk, in hopes that I could still go on to breastfeed, but goodness-- it's been HOURS since the delivery-- is it even going to be possible to nurse him?, I wonder. I learn that they will go ahead and feed him whatever I can produce, but that if I can't produce a certain amount, they will begin formula feeding him after x amount of ounces. Have I told you how much I was determined to do everything all-natural?

As the fog lifted, and I began pumping, it seemed that the NICU nurses thought *they* were his mother. It was all I could do to make them allow me to be the one to feed him my breastmilk in a bottle, through the little arm holes in the side of the bassinette he had to stay in (with oxygen-regulated air). It was all I could do to convince the doctors not to supplement with formula in the three days following his birth. It was all I could do to talk them into letting him nurse once he came out from the bassinette and could breathe natural air. I lamented to Doug many times in those early days that I feared he would be more bonded to the "stupid nurses" (sorry if you're a nurse, that's just how I felt in those highly emotional days) than he would be to me.

Now, that seems silly to me, but at that time, it seemed like such a legitimate concern.

Thankfully, the hospital had one room that was available for families to stay in, free of charge, if they had a baby in the NICU, and thankfully, for the seven days he was in the NICU, no one else requested the room, so we were able to stay for the duration of his stay. I lived and slept across the hall from him, nursing him round the clock on their schedule (as a sidenote, I'm generally a routine-feeding mom... but it's funny how anti-scheduling many mommies on the internet tend to be, and yet these NICU nurses were WAY rigid about feedings... more than I ever would have been at home).

Anyway, I had to wake up every 3 hours on the dot and feed him, or else they were going to immediately give him formula. I knew if there was any way my milk supply would ever match his needs, supplementation at this stage in the game was not an option. So though I am an *EXTREMELY* heavy sleeper, I managed to wake up every 3 hours so that they wouldn't give him formula. (And sometimes, I would walk in just in the nick of time to keep the snippety nurse from thrusting a bottle of formula into his mouth... they were serious about the every-3-h0urs thing.)

I should say, however, that I'm so thankful for one amazingly wonderful nurse, Dorothy, who never made me feel threatened. All the rest of them tended to be snide towards me and resented that I had to do things differently (by not just letting them use their formula and get on with feedings), but this one nurse was just so gentle and encouraging. She praised me as a mother, encouraged me in nursing him, and was such a breath of fresh air. I'm still SO grateful for that precious older woman and her gentle ways of dealing with me at the most difficult emotional time of my life.

We suffered through that week with the (mostly) rigid nurses, the harsh doctors, and -far more sadly- not getting to hold our son until the third day, and not getting to nurse him until the fourth day. And we made it. We went home with him, fully released in good health on the seventh day, and I went on to nurse him for over a year. And now, he's in Kindergarten, he's almost 6, and he is such a joy to us!

It all seems like a story from long-ago, but I can still feel every emotion when I stop to put myself back in that place and time. So that, friends, was my first labor & delivery experience, and it definitely affected how my next two would go. I'll share more about those next time.

(Because this is such a long story, I'm separating it from the other two stories, but the other two aren't near as eventful or lengthy as this one... so, if you made it this far, I'm amazed... and I can just promise that the other two stories won't be near as long.)


Jaime said...

I read the whole thing.... and can I say I'm almost surprised you've continued to have children!! :)

Giving birth is definitely one of those things I didn't really understand until I had done it. And then I didn't know how hard babies really were until my second was born. (I'd thought #1 was plenty hard, but #2 set me straight!)

Amanda said...

Thank you so much for sharing. :)

EllaJac said...

Wow, Jess, what an experience! I'm with you on the whole, "surprise, I'm a giant baby!" thing; thought my first would be a nice 7 lbs - she was 9 lb 5 oz! Hope your next 2 (and the one upcoming!) are much easier experiences. My third (9 lb 6) I had at home, a very 'herbal' experience, and even my tear healed better than the previous stitched ones! Praying for you and baby Silas. What a great name!

Sheila said...

Thanks for sharing, Jess! I will pray for this next labor/delivery, etc.
God Bless!
Sheila (mom to 5 + 1 being knit!)

Rachel said...

Wow.....I'm a week overdue, and scheduled for an inducation on Monday. I wanted to do things naturally too, and have been very worried. Reading your story made me feel much better.

Denise said...

Thanks for telling us your story. It must be terrible to have your control over everything taken from you, and the frightening experience of almost losing your child. My first baby was born 21years ago, and I still resent the fact that they took my daughter away for the first few hours. I'm not a tough person, but I finally demanded to see her and was horrified to find the nurses were about to give her her first feed. Fortunately I stopped them and was able to breastfeed her. As you say, who is the mother here! Such an important bonding process could have been lost for you and your child because of rigid hospital routines.
I look forward to reading your other experiences - hopefully not so traumatic!

Anonymous said...

Oh my, what a scary story!

I have been so fortunate to have two easy births.

One of my friends had a terrifying experience as her son suffered from a complication and a severe meconium aspiration that kept him in the NICU for eleven and a half weeks. She couldn't even hold him until day 47 of his life. Even after coming home from the hospital, he was on supplemental oxygen until he was about 18 months old.

They created a blog about the experience:

Laurie B

Mrs. Amy Brigham said...

I always enjoy reading birth stories and really looking forward to reading your other two, Jess.

The Special Care Nursery/NICU is a really bizarre experience, isn't it. Sean followed Peapod right after she was born, and I walked down to see her the moment I was cleaned up. I figured she would be hooked up to a machine or two, but nobody warned me that she was going to have an IV in her head. My heart about stopped when I saw that :o(

When they told me about the scheduled feeding thing, it seemed really odd at first, especially as I was planning on and did ecologically breastfeed, but Peapod wound up not being able to rouse herself for feedings due to her prematurity, so the every two hour around the clock feeding routine wound up being super important for her during the first two-three weeks. Before I had her, I always assumed babies would wake up and cry when they were hungry or needed a diaper change, but quickly learned this is not always the case.

Looking forward to your additional birth posts and praying for Baby Silas safe and soon arrival! :D

Mist said...

It was fun to hear your birth story, it is amazing how we change from our "ideals" to being only concern about the health of our precious children.

My NICU experience, 7 years ago, was totally different. Although we had a few nurses who were unkind, overall I think they are the best nurses out there. They did all they could for the health of our baby who was extremely ill and had to undergo a few surgery's during his stay. The surgeon we had was the best doctor I have ever met. He didn't have wonderful "bedside" manners, but he knew what he was doing and was incredible with our baby.

I have a friend who is living here from Brazil and she just had a baby at 29 weeks gestation. She said the same thing, that the NICU staff was incredible and there is no way her little boy would have got the care he did in America.

I am sorry your care wasn't good. I just wanted to write so that if a mama is reading and may have to go through the same thing she could here the other side. It is so scary having a baby in NICU and we can praise God for the hospital care available that our great grandparent would have loved to have had. Think of how many babies used to die as infants.

Michelle Howell said...

Thank you for sharing your very personal, amazing birth story. I love to hear about other's birth experiences. Can't wait to hear all of your others.

Kara said...

I LOVE birth stories! Sorry this was such an intense one. One fear of mine is to have a baby taken away right after and kept away from me...I think that is so hard on a new mother. And I'll just go ahead and apoligize for the nurses! I worked on the postpartum/well baby floor, occasionally in the NICU...the hormones/emotions are running high even with the most normal births, I always prayed I would be compassionate and caring to women needing some extra help and support. I'm glad to hear there was one who was nice. :) (and I the strict feeding times...nothing real "medical" there, but we have to treat feedings as any other procedure/medicine we have to give..on a schedule and if anything ever happened we have to be able to prove we did it within our allocated time frame...the nurses aren't all sold out for a scheduled feeding, promise. ;)

Praying Silas just "slips" into the "world"....

Elizabeth said...

I love it that you're sharing your birth stories. I can't wait to hear the next one, hopefully very, very soon.

Rachel said...

I just wanted to echo what Kara said. I'm a nurse, who has worked in NICU before (and no, I'm not offended!) and it's the difference between a Mom feeding her baby and a person doing their job. You might not realize how many babies one nurse has to feed, so getting off schedule can really mess up the other babies' schedules, as well as the fact that everything has to be documented, etc.

I've never had my own children in the NICU (Thank God!) but I'm sure I'd be an emotional basket case as well. It's too bad that nurses get so used to what they do that they forget how disturbing it is to see tubes down noses and IVs in heads and don't have more compassion for the Moms. It's a hard balance to have sometimes, having compassion for people but not being too affected that it effects your ability to work.

But, I don't want to discount your feelings and experience. I wouldn't have expected you to feel any differently.

I also appreciated hearing about your experience with an epidural b/c I've never had one (I go fast, and have delivered at home) and always hear they're fantastic and sometimes I wish I could go that route, but something always holds me back. I suspect I would have a bad experience with them. I'm expecting my 4th child and have some fears about labor and delivery that I need to work through. I have never thought labor and delivery was "enjoyable" but I'm glad someone has. :)

Meagan said...

It is funny how everyone is always asking about weight for a newborn, but my experience has been that the shape is what makes the difference. Our most recent was 10lbs on the dot and it was the easiest labor and delivery so far. No tears at all! What a blessed recovery that was without the stitches.
I enjoyed hearing how all your preconceptions of birth & mothering were dashed so quickly; I had a similar experience with my first birth. It was very difficult physically and emotionally with all that happened, but I can see some of why God did all that and how it is for my good. I certainly appreciate when things go as expected so very much more now.
I hope your fourth birth is the best yet.

Johanna said...

Thanks for sharing, Jess! I also love reading people's birth stories. It sounds like we are so similar. I was *determined* to have an all natural birth with my first, but that was shattered when a sonogram 7 days past my due date estimated my precious son to be between 11 and 12 pounds! I was induced hours later, given pitocin, given an epidural against my wishes after 16 hours because I was still at a 2 and they assumed I would need a C-section. As it turns out, he was born 2 hours after the epidural and only 8lb, 14 oz. Since he was 21 3/4 inches long their measurements were way off! Birth 2 was better, but still had to be induced. I sure hope birth 3 is even a little bit more natural!

I have been praying for you as your time nears! I am looking forward to seeing that baby Silas has come!

Jessica said...

I'm glad I read this story of Ethan's birth during the end of my 2nd pregnancy... not my first. I probably would have been very scared! My first labor and delivery was probably as easy as I could have imagined (which was great since I had a horrible pregnancy, including an emergency appendectomy at 23 weeks) so I'm hopeful this one will be too. I'm two weeks behind you... so I'm hopeful that we'll have a March baby rather than an April one!

HeatherHH said...


I just came across your blog recently. Our personal demographics are similar. My dh and I are in our mid-to-late 20s and have been married for 7 1/2 years. We have 1 son (6 1/2 yo) and three daughters (4 1/2, 2 1/2, and 10 months). Congrats on your recent baby!

I did want to point out a few things quickly. The danger of infection isn't about 24 hours from when the water breaks. It's about time from the first vaginal exam, intercourse, anything that can introduce bacteria. There's no danger in waiting if no internal exam is performed, no intercourse, etc and the mother takes her temperature regularly. Most of the time labor will start by the 24 hr mark, and waiting is fine as long as no exams are performed. A lot of the other complications (baby's distress, excess bleeding, etc) quite possibly resulted from the pitocin use and the epidural (which was almost inevitable from what I've heard of pitocin-induced contractions). It's true what they say about a cascade of interventions....

My firstborn's labor also began with water breaking. I was very blessed to have contractions start very shortly thereafer so nothing worse happened other than routine antibiotics (which resulted in thrush and a yeast infection in my milk ducts that I battled for months, but that's another story). But, if contractions hadn't started, and they'd said I needed to have pitocin, I quite likely would have agreed at that point figuring they were the experts. Being confined to bed and not being allowed to eat also made labor harder and so I finally had a narcotic, which may be part of why my son was in the NICU for a couple days with a faint grunting sound to his breathing. It wasn't "mandatory," but recommended that we give additional oxygen, and if we could do it over, we'd have him kept with us, because it the procedures and getting him released were insane. It was only after this birth and researching on my own, that I came to the opinion that many practices aren't evidence-based.

Our first hospital birth was our last; the three since have been homebirths, with and without midwives.

I'm enjoying your blog, think I'll have to add you to my Bloglines feeds!