This past month since coming on board with NaturallyBorn.net has been wonderful. I have gotten to know so many strong mothers who are all very different, but who share the same goal: to have a more natural mothering style.
Sixteen years ago I could have been any of these first-time mamas’ posting their worried and nervous questions. I was 23 when we found out we were pregnant.
We had been married for three months. We were shocked. We were frightened. We were excited. I honestly had expected it to take a lot longer.
Both my mother and grandmother took many years to get pregnant the first time. We had health insurance, but no maternity coverage. We were dirt poor and in love.
We lived far from family, and my husband worked long hours as a graduate student. I really had no mother friends. I did get to know other women who had just had her third baby a year earlier and was a Mom/Baby nurse at one of the area hospitals before he was born.
She pointed me to an OB. I slowly began to bond with several other first-time pregnant women from church. Our conversations went something like this: “Are you going to go drug-free?”
“I hope so”
“Are you going to breastfeed?”
“I hope so”.
This was pre-internet. My only pregnancy book was “What to Expect When You’re Expecting”. We were too poor to even afford the $40 that the prepared childbirth class at the hospital cost.
A well-meaning friend fronted the cost for us to attend an Ezzo Prepration for Parenting class at the local Methodist church. That was my breastfeeding education.
I checked out a Lamaze video from the library and I sat in my living room, terrified, as I watched three “natural” births. I was really scared about how this baby was going to come out of me.
The first time I showed up at the hospital, believing I was in labor, was a letdown. A busy nurse checked my cervix, hooked me up to the monitors, and let me sit for an hour.
And then she sent me home. I still remember walking down that hallway, still pregnant. I was so embarrassed. I felt like a birth failure.
The next night I did go into labor. We showed up at that same hospital at about 3 am. I had a nicer nurse, her name was Jackie. (funny…six kids and I remember all of the nurses who were by my side!).
I’m pretty sure she was laughing at me and placing bets at the nurse’s station. You see, I was adamant that I wanted no drugs.
But when she got the IV out, I asked if it was going to hurt. At 1:02 PM that day, after a doctor shift change, but the same nurse, we welcomed an 8-pound 11-ounce son into the world.
I did end up with medication. . .nubain in my IV. I felt like a cheater. BUT, I was healthy, and so was my baby.
That kid nursed like a champ, in spite of the Ezzo training. Turns out, I suck at scheduling babies. At 13 months I weaned him. I thought that was what moms were supposed to do. (It hurt like the Dickens!)
Two years after our first was born, I found myself pregnant again. We were in another state, in another graduate school and we lived in married student housing. It was wonderful!
There were pregnant moms and nursing women and bottle babies and kids everywhere! We women would sit around and talk about birth, pregnancy, and our bodies.
It was while I was there that learned the stark reality that one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. One night, at about 6 weeks prengant, I began to bleed. I did not have a doctor yet, and the ER that I phoned did not sound hopeful, but I went in anyway.
That ER visit was my only ER visit for myself ever. It was scary. They were kind enough, and then they called in the OB on call.
He was older, nearing retirement, friendly, respectful, and kind. He sent me home with pain medication and hope for next time. The baby passed on its own, and on a follow-up visit, he assured me that what happened was sad, and normal, and he was sure he’d see me again soon.
And he did. Three months later, we concieved again, and this kind doctor, at 10 weeks, listened for a heartbeat, just in case, we could catch it. And when we heard it, he smiled at me and said “We’re going to have a baby!”. I cried, and I think he might have as well.
I was nervous the whole pregnancy, but he was reassuring. I had high blood pressure readings near the end, but he was cautious without freaking out.
He assured me that unless he was ill, or on vacation, he’d deliver the baby. And, he assured me that if he was not there, his son would be. . .he had just joined the practice. After the doctor shuffling that occurred with my first baby, this was a relief.
During appointments, I spoke at length with my doctor about delivering naturally. He never once blinked an eye. For all I knew, he only delivered women med free.
At 41 weeks to the day, I went into labor. I arrived at the hospital around noon. My doctor was about an hour away at his remote clinic, so his son was waiting at the hospital, on deck if needed. The nurses and hospital were nothing but cooperative about my wishes for a natural birth.
I agreed to a heparin lock, so that IV access was available quickly (that was a good thing). My nurse (Sue) thought it was so cool that I wanted to deliver naturally.
She did not get to help many moms like me . At 10:02 PM, after pretty textbook labor, I delivered our big surprise! Our son was 10 lbs 15 oz.! I hardly tore. I did it completely naturally. Sue said it was the coolest thing she had ever seen. I was the hospital rock star.
I did need that IV though. I bled a lot after he was born. Enough to be alarmed, but not enough to transfuse. I had a 24-hour drip of oxytocin to help slow the bleeding. Plus, feeding 11 pounds of a very demanding newborn helped.
I was sitting up and smiling by morning and my wonderful doctor could not be more pleased. In his many years of delivering babies, mine was the second largest, and the largest naturally born baby.
I felt very self assured.
I figured if I, a rather uneducated birther, could deliver a nearly 11-pound tot drug-free, then those sissy mamas on “A Baby Story” should shut up about those 6-pound babies!
And then came my next baby. Yet another state. This time out of grad school, but living in a small town. Very small. So, when I turned up pregnant (no longer such a surprise) I asked a new friend who her OB was.
And she looked at me curiously and said, “Why do you need an OB, do you get sick during pregnancy? Most people here just use a family practice doctor. ” And she gave me the name of her (wonderful) guy.
I loved my family practice doc. Secretly I loved that since I delivered “Bobo the Fat Baby” with no drugs, nobody, I mean, nobody, ever has questioned my birthing ability. Plus, a family practice doc is not a surgeon. Therefore, no c-section.
He was pretty hands off the entire pregnancy. We had monthly heart rate checks, and the minimally required tests and all was well. That is, until I hit 41 weeks and baby failed the NST. With borderline blood pressure (always for me in pregnancy) we decided to induce.
I was terrified. My husband was terrified. By now, we did have internet. I had a Yahoo birth group that I preached natural birth to every single day . . . and here I was blithley accepting an induction.
Even my dear, sweet, slightly queasy, non earthy birthy husband asked why I was accepting an induction.
But I did.
Because the health of that baby came before my birth experience.
So yes, I did have AROM, and I did have an hour of pitocin, but baby 3 flew out of me less than two hours after labor started. Healthy, and to me, tiny. He was 8 lbs 1 oz.
I asked my nurse (Carol) what I had done to end up with a low birthweight baby. She laughed and let me know that 8 pounds were quite acceptable!
Then, two years later, in that same 50-bed community hospital, I delivered my fourth son, also at 41 weeks, a day before another induction due to continued ugly blood pressures.
My doctor sat in the room with me the entire labor (about 4 hours). My nurse (Carin) sat with her hand on my belly monitoring contactions because the monitor would not pick them up. Later I found out that my blood pressures were alarming. But, once again, I had a med-free, 8-pound, 11-ounce baby boy.
At my six-week check-up, my doc asked if I was planning on any more babies. To be honest, I was not sure, but I was leaning towards no. I was 32. I have relatively easy deliveries, but pregnancy is misarable for me.
I have morning sickness the whole time, my blood pressure is scary, and I have at least a month of annoying, sleep-stealing prodromal labor. When my doc told me he was done delivering babies, I told him I was done too . . . I was not ready to train a new guy!
Cue one more move. We’re now in a different state and a bigger city. Baby boy #4 starts preschool, so I go back to work after years at home. I’m the unit secretary in a very busy pre-surgical unit. And then, my husband talks me into one more baby.
I’m 37 and not sure I’ll get pregnant easily, so I call his bluff. Who am I kidding? I was pregnant immediately. Because of the environment, I work in, I have to announce my pregnancy much earlier than I prefer.
BUT that had a benefit. I worked with a bunch of nurses, and since I was working in pre-op, I had access to anesthesiologists. So I grilled them.
All of them. Which doctor would not freak out about me carrying to 41 weeks with a potentially 11 pound baby? They all pointed to the same guy.
But I put off that first appointment. This was NOT my first rodeo, after all. I knew that there was very little that doc was going to tell me before the second trimester. And I knew everything was well . . . I was sick as a dog.
I saw my new doc at 14 weeks. He was awesome. He did not scold me for waiting. He was impressed by my history. He had tips for keeping my BP down.
We heard a heartbeat right away. He did not consider age 37 high risk or advanced maternal age.
Then, at my routine 21-week anatomical ultrasound, we were thrown for a loop. My one more baby was two babies. Two girls, sharing one placenta, after four single boys!
My doctor was pleased, but serious when he saw me that day. He did tell me that I was now high risk. He told me he was concerned that they shared a placenta, but was reassured that they each had their own sac. My first fears were c-section and not being able to breastfeed.
That doctor immediately set my mind at ease on both points. Baby A was already head down. As far as he was concerned, as long as A was head down we would proceed with a vaginal delivery. He also said that he delivered a lot of twins, and breastfeeding is definitely possible.
I was placed on precautionary modified bedrest at 28 weeks.
At 35 weeks, after a very fatty dinner of Christmas leftovers, I had a gall bladder attack. It put me into preterm labor.
At that point my doctor and I had a heart to heart. He told me that I was 4 cm dilated. He said I could deliver that day if I wanted. He also said that the girls would probably have about a week to 10 days in the NICU at 35 weeks gestation.
We decided to try and stop labor. I was on terbutaline for three days. It was hell, but it helped my babies grow.
At exactly 38 weeks, I was induced. My second induction. You see, I needed MY doctor to deliver those babies. The way the hospital handles doctors and calls, if I went into labor on my own on a weekend or at night, I was at the mercy of the call docs.
Now, my doctor and I had come to some agreements about vaginal birth. Those other docs did not have any understanding with me. And some were very adept surgeons. I asked to forgo the epidural from my colleagues the anesthesiologists.
They were fine with that, but pointed out that if an emergency c-section were called for, I would be put under general anesthesia. I joked with them that if I needed a c-ection, they would prefer me to be knocked out.
That induction was rough. The problem with twins is that they stretch the uterus so much that it is not as effective as it could be. I was hoping for AROM, as it worked so quickly for my first induction, but that stinky baby A was floating, and my blessed, conservative doc was not about to risk a prolapse.
So I labored on pit from 7 am to 3:30 PM. I did have nubain to try and help me relax. I could not walk. I was so big and so nauseous.
Finally, we agreed to take a risk and break my water on floaty girl. At 4:04 she was born. Then, I was given nitrous oxide as baby b’s cord prolapsed and she was positioned funny.
It is very foggy to me, but apparently, I was in enough pain to kick my doctor in the face (my husband still feels bad about that).
Then, our twin b spent 5 days in the NICU as she was born with a web over her trachea (totally fine now)! And I gave her formula while she was in there . . . so I could get her out sooner.
The nurses had to actually teach me how to give my sixth baby a bottle! She nursed fine too, but NICUs have pretty strict input/output standards, and I was understandably stressed going between both girls (I never saw them together until 5 days old!).
All this is to say, my journey towards natural birth and natural parenthood has been a journey. Homebirth has never been an option for me, either due to living situations or the queasy husband, or lack of local midwife care.
We have never given birth anywhere near a freestanding Birth Center. I’ve never taken any kind of childbirth class (though I’ve read a lot and lean towards Bradley). I’ve nursed all of my children. . .the shortest 13 months, the longest, 27.
I’ve had an amazing sling arsenal. We’ve never officially co-slept, but we’ve always seemed to bedshare from 4 am on. I love my cloth diapers.
And, I have friends that have had c-sections, formula fed, swear by Pampers, love food from little jars, sling, cosleep, breastfeed until 4, spanked, were vegans, avoided plastic, and refused to use strollers.
And, we all agreed that each of us was doing the best we could do as moms.
Ultimately, what is important is healthy kids.
How we get there is different for everyone.
I can tell a mom about my experiences. I can tell them how pitocin contractions feel different. I can tell them how short pushing was with no meds on board. But what I cannot do is the judge.
Firstly, I can’t judge, because kids can’t be unborn. We can’t call a do over. Yes, we may make mistakes, and we may choose crappy practitioners. We may have crappy nursing care. But it is done! We have to just process and move on.
Sure, I get a little jealous when I hear of a beautiful twin home birth and look at a mom holding both babies minutes after birth. It was five long days before I saw both of my girls in the same room. I don’t even rememember twin b being born.
Sure, I would have prefered to deliver somewhere other than the OR (and I secretly hoped things would go too fast and I’d deliver in my LDR room) BUT, the fact is, I delivered exactly where my babies and I needed to be.
Under other circumstances, I could have had a dead baby and even a dead me. The health of my kids is always going to come before my experience. That is what being a mom means to me!
So, moms, as we help each other out here, please remember that not everyone has a great supportive birth professional. Not everyone has access to a midwife or a doula.
Not everyone has a housing situation that would make a home birth possible or a partner who is comfortable with it. Not everyone is able to have a med-free, intervention-free birth. While that can be the ideal, or even the goal, it can never be held out as the law.
Now, go support and teach each other! Happy birthing!