Birth Stories and Poems

Birth Day
By Trisha L

Six months have come and gone since my sweet baby came to be
Time enough, you’d think, for me to move on and be free.
But the pain of all I went through sits within me like a weight
And I cry and I am angry, and sometimes I even hate.

I cannot stop reliving it, the fear and all the pain
When I try to talk about it, I get looks like I’m insane.
But the books teach natural birthing, to let nature take its course
To just let the mother birth her child….there is no need to force.

Books written twenty years ago with proof that less is more
And still we give birth blindly, never knowing what’s in store.
I checked in so excited, the picture of good health
And I walked out cut and broken, a shadow of my former self.

They put an IV in my arm, they said it was the rules
And though it hurt, I let them, just like a passive fool.
Next they stuck their fingers in me “to see just where you are”
Then they pumped me full of drugs because “you’re really not that far.”

They dressed me in uncomfortable clothes, they said I couldn’t leave
Then they ripped apart my birth plan and all that I believed.
When the drug-induced contractions came, the pain was just too much
Next came the epidural, then I was numb to any touch.

Each time they touched my body, they took part of my dream
And they never even blinked, as cruel as that may seem.
They made me push for hours, but didn’t feed me for two days
And when she didn’t come, they tried to pull her out their way.

But I was so exhausted that I couldn’t lift my head
I no longer cared who saw me lying there with my legs spread.
Before I could say “yes” or “no” they said that it was time
And I knew that this experience was never really mine.

I couldn’t keep from shaking as they wheeled me in the room
And they talked of their vacations as they pulled her from my womb.
I only got a glance before they took my child away
And I won’t forget that emptiness until my dying day.

It was many hours later when they wheeled her to my bed
But where had they been keeping her? What had she been fed?
After days of being jabbed at, bullied, and kept up all night
I needed to escape, and if I had to, I would fight.

I went home in a stupor, couldn’t even stand up straight
I simply couldn’t understand how this could be my fate.
After weeks of sadness and regret and pain I couldn’t face
I realized that I should have stayed at home, where I was safe.

My daughter was a victim, and I was a victim, too
If only I had stood up strong for all I’d read and knew.
But there is no going back now, it’s over and it’s done
And they’ll never know what they did wrong, so in a way, they’ve won.

I wanted an experience to sustain me through the years
And instead I got a nightmare that has only brought me tears.
And yes, I have my daughter and she’s healthy and she’s whole
But they took the joy that was my right and robbed me, heart and soul.

So now each time I shower and I look down at my scar
I think of how our doctors haven’t really come that far.
The power and control that they have taken from us all
Will someday turn around and it will lead to their downfall.

They have no right to handle us or to take our dreams away
No right to touch our babies or to rob us of our say.
They only have the right to do what we allow them to
So we must stand up for ourselves and all that we believe is true.

We have every right to look at them and say a loud, strong “no”
We have a right to be informed, we have the right to go.
Let’s demand that we be treated kindly and humane
Let’s be smart when they insist that we should numb the pain.

For one thing leads to another, they must think that we are dumb
They blame us, but it’s their fault, and now our time has come.
We are built to birth our babies, we were meant to do the dance
Just follow what your body says and give yourself a chance.

Let’s all take back what used to be our own, God-given right
To have our babies naturally by the will of our own might. 

By Trisha L 

She walked in the room with her bags in her hands
Looking fresh, even though it was late
I watched her set up with such meaningful purpose
Aware of the calm she creates.

I knew when she got there that all would be well
Through my pain, she would help me be strong
For this was my moment, and now I would call
On the trust we had built all along.

There were moments when I needed guidance
When I felt that I couldn’t go on
It was then that her steady assurance
Was the rock that my soul leaned upon.

She never imposed on my body
Frequent checks simply didn’t exist
Unlike doctors, who make births about them
She was there just to simply assist.

When my daughter was born, her hands caught her
She lovingly gave her to me
And if a more beautiful moment existed
I can’t think of what it might be.

My daughter was treated with love and respect
Her first touches were gentle and sweet
The birth that I had with this baby
Has made me more whole and complete.

I rested in bed with my daughter
While she busied herself in the room
She cleaned up and made it so easy
For our lives to just simply resume.

In my wildest dreams, I could never have thought
That a birth could be so calm and healing
Whenever my mind takes me back to that night
I am filled with a wonderful feeling.

I wish I could shout from the rooftops
Tell my story again and again
I would tell everyone, have your babies at home
With a midwife, who so many call “friend”.

You may never know how important you are
Or how much the world needs what you do
I for one would just like so say “thank you”
To her….who makes wishes come true.

Meagan’s Birth Story

I can’t really tell my daughter’s birth story without touching a little on my son’s. A quick summary: I had planned a natural childbirth in a hospital with a CNM. A few days after my due date, my water broke with no contractions following. I stayed home for approximately 12 hours and eventually went into the hospital after receiving numerous calls from the Nurse-Midwife on duty “encouraging” me to come in and be monitored (aka the gentle dead baby card). I went in, they induced me, I was told by this medwife that I was losing my mind and I NEEDED an epidural…cascade of interventions…35ish hours later I am fully dilated and can feel the urge to push. I push for approximately 4 hours, an episiotomy is cut and the vacuum extractor is attempted, the OR is prepped and I get wheeled in for surgery. Anesthesia wore off before I was stapled up, my son wasn’t breathing, and I blacked out from the pain. It was days before I was able to hold or nurse him, and we weren’t able to bring him home until he was 1 week old.

Traumatized. Depressed. Bitter.

Fast forward 15 months and we find out I am pregnant with number two. I was thrilled. I knew I wanted a VBAC. I knew I was going to get my VBAC. I just needed to figure out how. I wanted a homebirth, my husband did not.  We eventually came to agreement and decided to homebirth.  I truly loved this pregnancy. I enjoyed it as a process and not just the final “product”. The evening of 40+5 weeks pregnant, I stood up to go to the bathroom and I felt a gush. It was the same gush I had felt when my water broke with my son. Once the excitement calmed down, I put in my call to the midwife. My water broke, no foul smells or strange colors, and no contractions. I gathered all of my birth supplies and went to bed. I slept beautifully, waking every so often with strong, but short contractions. My best friend drove in late that night to be near (we had asked her to be present at the birth for support and to take pictures). She stayed for a few short hours, sleeping on the sofa, and left early in the morning to head back home. I was so sad to see her go, and I really wanted her with me at the birth. After she left, my husband, son and I headed up to our local family restaurant for breakfast. The local old ladies were in shock that I was out and about. A few were concerned as to why I wasn’t at the hospital, and the others patted me on the back and congratulated me for having my baby at home (most of them were born at home). We stopped at the grocery store for some yummy labor food and drinks. My friend talked her boss into letting her leave work and take the rest of the weekend off to be with me. She was back at our house by 1pm. What an amazing friend! My day continued like any other day. Contractions were anywhere from 7-15 minutes apart. We enjoyed the beautiful, hot summer day and took advantage of the cooler air down by the river to hike this baby out.

Labor picked up that night while I attempted sleep, but once morning came, it fizzled back to 7-10 minute contractions. I was starting to get frustrated with myself. Part of me knew that it was my own mind preventing this from happening, the other part feared that my body didn’t know how to have a baby (especially because it was forced the first time). Our midwife wanted to come out to check on me and baby, and I wanted the reassurance that everything was okay. It was the hottest day of the year and we don’t have air-conditioning, so we decided to run my son out to Grandma’s house so that he didn’t have to sit in the sweltering heat. I had been craving a clean kitchen floor and my broom was MIA, so on our adventure I decided to stop at Target and pick up a broom and another small fan to keep the house a little cooler. At Target I experienced my first real, real contraction. I fell into my husband’s arms in front of the fan wall. The sensation took my breath away and I had to moan low and deep to get through it. It felt like it lasted for 5 hours. I grabbed the first fan I saw and ran out the door to get home. I was sure this was it.

We met the midwife at our house and as soon as I saw her, everything stopped. Not a single contraction for a LONG time. I felt like such a fool. She picked my brain and really got my emotions flowing to try to unblock me. She gave me an herbal tincture to help me get some rest. After she left, I drank a beer and went to bed.

I slept hard and felt like I had been sleeping for hours when the first contraction woke me up. I jumped on my hands and knees and rocked back and forth, growling. As soon as it ended, I went right back to sleep for what felt like a long time again. The next one was even stronger and just didn’t want to end. I resumed the same position and growled my way through it. I called for someone because these were so intense. My friend came in the room to tell me that they were every 20 minutes and lasting 60-90 seconds. I tried to go back to sleep again, but the next one told me that I was done sleeping. I stood up and tried to put on my “birth outfit” I had picked out for this day. I couldn’t even wrap the scarf around my breasts. I knew for sure that this was it and there was no going back. I called my midwife to let her know, and she immediately knew that it was time because I couldn’t get more than a sentence out without falling against the wall with another rush. She wanted me to get on my hands and knees and put my chest to the floor to allow the baby to rotate into a favorable position….yea right. That was the most intense, uncomfortable, painful position I could possibly be in. Baby was going to have to figure out her position all by herself, because there was no way I was spending another moment like that.

I called my sister. I’m not sure why I called her. I think something told me that she would make this go away. Make it end. Something. She didn’t. But, she did give me the best advice I had received. “Relax. It won’t make the pain go away, but it will make it go faster. Just ride the waves.” I got off the phone feeling in control again.

I decided to jump in the shower to see if it would ease the intensity. It did. I began to panic. I thought it had stopped labor again and I just didn’t want to do this anymore. I turned off the water feeling defeated, only to fall against the shower wall with an even stronger one. What? Really? These get stronger??? I got out of the shower and sat on the toilet. Once I hit the toilet it was all over. I lost all sense of reality. I was pretty sure my life was over. I couldn’t get off the toilet and no one could pull me off of it. I was stuck with continuous contractions. One after another. After another. Holy moly! Someone get me off of here! I’m not sure how or when it happened, but I eventually got to the side of my bed on the floor. I knelt with my body resting on the bed. At that final moment when I thought I was dead and I would never see another person, I felt the warm hand of my midwife on my back. I knew at that very second, that everything was going to be okay. I think I yelled a few more times about how I just wanted to make it all go away, and then I screamed that I had to pee…and poop….oh shit, push. I have to push!!!

I literally felt my baby completely move down inside of me. It was AMAZING!!!! I have no other words to describe it. It was soooooooo intense and out of this world.  I didn’t want to move from where I was at, but no one, and I mean no one, would have been able to catch the baby in the tiny little corner I had backed myself in so I was helped up onto the bed. I leaned on my yoga ball to help support me (I was on my hands and knees), and I began to push.

They tried to get me on the bed nicely, and then they forced me. My yoga ball was thrown underneath my chest (I was on my hands and knees), and I began to push. I HATED it. Everytime I felt another urge to push I would yell, “I can’t do this anymore!!!” Finally my midwife asked me to change my words. “Instead of saying you can’t do this, why don’t you say you can do this?” Hmmm. What a concept. But I didn’t believe I could. So I started saying, “YOU can do this”. And then pushing got easier. And then my words changed to, “WE can do this”. At that point, pushing was the best experience of my life. I was working with my baby. And it felt….good. Like, really good. Pleasurable.

I felt my baby move down. I felt that ring of fire…whoa. I panted and breathed and did everything to get through that ring of fire. And then I pushed for the final time. I felt the biggest sense of relief and my husband caught our baby and handed her to me. She came out pink and crying and perfect. I didn’t know her sex and I didn’t care. I DID IT!!! And that was all that mattered. Eventually my mother-in-law (oh yea, did I mention that in all of this craziness, my son and MIL showed up? Lol) asked if it was a boy or a girl. I knew from day one that I was having a boy. I said a boy, picked up the blanket to prove it, and there was my daughter’s perfect yoni. Oh my goodness! A daughter!

I was so excited to birth my placenta. I love placentas and the amazing things they do. It was a beautiful placenta.

I stayed in bed nursing my daughter with the cord still attached. When we finally cut the cord, she spent some quality time with her Daddy. I hopped in the shower and cleaned up. When I got out, my midwife dried me off and helped me dress. I felt like a goddess. Right back in bed, I ate and drank like a queen and held my baby non-stop.

It was perfect. I couldn’t have had a better birth experience. It was triumphant and joyous, and exactly what I needed to heal from my previous birth experience.

Monica’s Birth Story

I am a mother and I have two children and two birth experiences.  The first occurred over 3 years ago and was the worst experience of my life.  My son was born in a local hospital via cesarean section and the entire episode was tragic and changed my life forever.  My daughter – born just over eight months ago – was a different story.  She was a VBAC, born at home, and the best experience of my life.

I spent a lifetime waiting to have a child, and the vision I imagined was of an experience filled with love and joy.  It was definitely worth waiting a lifetime for – or so I thought.  I had a flawless pregnancy and a flawless labor… until I arrived at the hospital.  I did all the things I thought were right; I got a reputable doctor, attended Lamaze, and (of course) read “What To Expect When You’re Expecting.”  I had total faith in the system.

I went into labor Sunday morning and went to the hospital Monday afternoon.  I was dilated 10 cm when I arrived, and I felt there would be no time for unnecessary interventions.  Instead, I was put under the “care” of a cold dictator of a nurse and subjected to a string of standard operating procedures of a “high tech” birth.  I was put in bed on my back, overdosed with Demerol, suffered a hospital personnel-induced neck injury and herniated disc in the lower back.  Finally, I was put under and given a cesarean section Monday night.  My last thought before going under was the hope that I would die during surgery so I would not have to face the humiliation of the entire degrading experience.  My husband was not allowed in the operating room during the procedure — we were both alone.

Hours later, when I came to I was a medical mess.  I made three trips to the emergency room my first four days after the birth.  I suffered headaches from the neck injury that took my eyesight and speech away.  I had a CT scan, wore a neck brace, and was heavily medicated.  I had shooting pains down both legs, and ended up requiring major surgery on my lower back.  It took eighteen months to totally recover medically and physically from having my baby, but my emotional recovery was a different story.

It wasn’t long before the feelings of being violated, humiliated, and overwhelming guilt set in.  I knew something had gone wrong, and struggled to figure out how it all had gotten out of control.  The birth experience of my son was the lowest point of my life… I never knew my heart could be filled with so much sadness.  My medical and emotional health were in a terrible state, and my marriage and family life was beginning to fall apart.  Thank God for my baby boy who gave me a reason to go on.

Good fortune did come to me in the form of ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network).  In this organization I found many wonderful women whose genuine concern and support helped turn my despair into determination.  They helped me heal from my cesarean and put me on the track to my successful VBAC.  I attended monthly meetings, took “BirthWorks” (childbirth education course), and read good quality books about birth and VBAC.  It was a two-and-a-half-year healing and learning process that really paid off.

Only eight short months ago my daughter was born at home.  It was the most beautiful, loving and empowering experience of my life.  her birth was wonder-ful and fulfilling.  I had a flawless pregnancy, flawless labor, and flawless delivery!  I gave birth to my child with my husband and son in attendance.  I had three Doulas, a midwife, and her assistant present.  It was a joyous occasion that has healed my heart and mended my family.  I enjoyed my baby at birth and have done so every day since.  Her birth has been the highlight of my life. 

Sometimes I still cry with sadness when I recall my son’s birth and all the horrible things that happened to me during my hospital stay.  Although the open wounds have healed, I still have the scars as reminders.  But tears also come to my eyes when I think of the beautiful people and the help I received leading to my beautiful birth experience and the happiest day of my life.

Ann’s Birth Story

I woke up on Saturday morning feeing HORRIBLE… dizzy, nauseous, seeing some spots… feeling really sick.  I just had the gut feeling that something was about to go wrong with my body.  By 3pm, I had thrown up a few times, and I thought that I might be getting preeclamptic.  I called the doctor, and he told me to go to L&D.  Once we got there, we found out I was having mild contractions and my BP was pretty elevated.  The doc wanted me to deliver ASAP, so it was either induce or have a repeat c-section.  I really, really didn’t want surgery, so I cautiously chose to be induced.  The doc stripped my membranes, and I was 1 cm dilated and 25% effaced… not favorable, so I knew the odds were stacked against me.

Pitocin was started at 9pm, and almost immediately I got into a good contraction pattern.  I was feeling really good, and handling the contractions well.  They got to 2-3 minutes apart and 1 minute long by 1 am, so we called our doula.  She helped me through the night, and I was still feeling really confident when the doctor came back at 7 am to check me.  Ten hours of labor, and I was only 2 cms dilated.  Disappointed but not devastated, we continued on.

My BP was erratic, and the nurse was insisting that I lay down.  It was soooo much harder to cope while lying down and I kept defying her and sitting up.  (I LOVED sitting up in that big bed… it felt like my birthing throne!).  At 10:30 the new doc on-call came in and told the nurse to start the Mag Sulfate drip.  I refused, and the nurse was shocked that I’d refuse an “order” from a doctor!  The doctor finally came in and we discussed my options.  He was really reasonable, but strongly suggested that I start the Mag.  I asked to be reassessed in half an hour, and he grudgingly agreed.  I quietly listened to my HypnoBirthing CD, but the following BP reading was through the roof, so I took the drip, which also came with an extremely painful foley catheter insertion.  I was crying and very upset, because this was the exact path my previous birth followed… one intervention after another, leading to a cesarean section.

At this point, labor changed.  I was crying, and I couldn’t move to cope with the contractions.  Every time I would try to breathe down through the contraction, I felt a stabbing pain from the catheter.  It was TORTURE.  (We learned a few days later that I had an ovarian cyst that burst during labor, most likely when the cath was inserted.)  After about an hour of severe pain, I said I couldn’t do it anymore and asked to be checked an get an epidural.  I’ll never forget when I said “I can’t do it”, my doula said “You CAN do it, but do you WANT to do it anymore?”  My response was “I can’t do it AND I don’t WANT to do it”.

I figured my natural birth was a forgone conclusion anyway, so I might was well be drugged-up.  The doc checked me, and I was now 4 cm so we went ahead with the epidural.  The doctor checked again right after the epidural was inserted, and I was 5 cm, so things were looking up.

The epidural was really well done, as I could still feel quite a bit down low in my crotch but very little in my belly.  I talked myself into an attitude adjustment at this point, and said I was just going to ride it out.  About an hour and half after getting the epidural, I told my doula that I find of felt like pushing.  She said that it was probably just the baby moving down a bit.  But then I got the shakes, and she said I might be going into transition.  A few minutes later, I was feeling a ton of pressure, so we called in the nurse.

Much to everyone’s surprise, I was complete and the bag was bulging!  The doc was called in, and he broke my waters and asked me to bear down.  When I did, the baby moved quite a bit, so the doc jumped up and got everyone moving.  I was SOOOOOO HAPPY!

A few minutes later, I wanted to push, so I did.  The baby moved down more, and it was so cool.  (Even though I pushed for two hours with my first baby, I never felt her move at all).  The doctor came back and my husband and my doula held my legs while I pushed.  No ideal, but I wanted to get the baby out any way I could and I didn’t have any more fight in me to go against the nurse’s directions one more time.  The baby started to crown, and I reached down and felt her head… I was going to do this!!!

After I felt her head and knew this was going to happen, my doctor said to me, “OK, last chance for a c-section!”… I had no words, so I just flipped him the bird!! :o)  The nurses almost fell on the floor laughing so hard, and the doctor took the gesture in stride!  Very funny.

A few minutes later, the doctor told the nurse to put a receiving blanket on my belly for me to catch the baby.  The nurse said, “But that’s against policy” and the doc responded, “Not today!”  I gave a few more pushes, and her head was out… then my wonderful doctor yelled, “Reach down, reach down”… so I reached down, grabbed my baby under her arms, and pulled her up onto me!  OH MY GOD!!  It was the coolest moment ever!  I just couldn’t believe I did it, and that I got to be the first one to hold her.  Total joy!!

Kelly’s Birth Story

My birth story is a wonderful one.  I had wonderful support from all my ICAN friends and family which made up for my lack of support from the doctor’s office.  I was two weeks overdue, and very anxious, excited, and scared for labor to start.  Thank goodness for ICAN and all the education they provided on labor support and their reading material.

I asked my close ICAN friend to be my monitrice to support me.  My plan was simple:  I was going to stay at home until I was pushing, and arrive at the hospital at the last possible minute so they would not have time to touch me with things I did not want.  My doctor did not agree with my birth plan, and unfortunately, I could not switch doctor’s due to our insurance.  My husband and I were not ready to try home birth either.  So, in order to avoid another cesarean, we felt we had no choice but to stick to our birth plan and make it happen!

There were times I was scared – all the “what if’s”, etc. – but when true labor finally hit (after a week of “early” labor), I was ready and prepared.  My friend arrived at 1:15 am and immediately told my sister to run a bath.  We used the relaxation of the water, pressure points, cool compresses, gravity, a heating pad and a lot of love to help me through.  Once I accepted the pain and worked with my body, things really changed.  Whatever was happening, my support system was helping through it to have the natural, pure birth I so dreamed of.

I left my house at 5:00 am when I was completely dilated and feeling the urge to push.  When we arrived at the hospital (less than a 5 minute drive), my monitrice took right over with the warm compresses and telling me to push only when I felt the urge (the nurse was telling me otherwise).  Then it was really happening – I saw the excitement on my husband’s face… I felt her half-born head and I felt the awesome burning and stinging of my perineum.  Out came her head, her shoulders, and then her whole self!  What a miracle!

My doctor missed the delivery (of course) and the house doctor on-call was great.  He did not touch me until he read my birth plan, and he was happy and supportive… he shook my hand and said “congratulations!”  I did it!!!  She’s beautiful!!  She weighed 9 lbs. 2 oz. and I still rejoice in the fact that she was a VBAC!  I firmly believe it would not have happened without my wonderful, wonderful monitrice-friend, my loving husband and mother and all the prayers and cheer from my ICAN teammates.  Thank you all for touching my life in such a beautiful way!

Karen’s Birth Story – What Not to Do

As my only son grew older, I realized I have never written his birth story for an ICAN newsletter as so many of us have.  The reason for this is because my birth ended up in a Cesarean, and our birth stories tend to be ones of joy, success, and triumph.  Now, ultimately every birth is a triumph of life.  But I thought, “Who wants to hear a sad story of a C-section that perhaps didn’t have to be?  We want to hear the stories of how birth should be!”  However, it occurred to me that perhaps I could share a bit of my own story… with an emphasis on what not to do.  So, here are snippets of my birth story, with hope that it will come from the other direction: red flags to watch for and things to avoid while giving birth!

One of the most important things that I would advise is getting more preparation than simply taking the “classes” that your hospital offers.  I thought by taking that one-week class I would be “prepared” for birth.  Looking back, it seems to me that those classes taught me how to be a “good patient,“ and not a good birthing mother.  There are so many other resources and opportunities to prepare women to actually participate in their own births.  It’s highly likely that any class offered by a hospital is not geared to that.  If you are reading this newsletter, you already know this!

After I thought I was “prepared” for birth after my hospital class, I lied to my doctor and told her that the instructor suggested that we have a “birth plan” written.  Actually, the instructor did NOT suggest that (a red flag), but my mother (an R.N. who worked Labor & Delivery) suggested it.  I thought it would sound more “credible” if I said the instructor said it!  My doctor flew off the handle and asked me who the teacher was.  Oops, all of a sudden I couldn’t remember!  Then she told me, in no uncertain terms, that a birth plan was NOT necessary, and that she, as the expert, needed to have my trust in her expertise.  That was a huge red flag!  There are many things I could have said and done besides throwing my carefully written birth plan in the garbage can in her office.  Right then and there, I would have had a conversation about who was having the baby; she or me!

At the end of my pregnancy, I was one week “overdue” by an arbitrarily set due date.   My doctor told me, on a Thursday, if I hadn’t given birth by the weekend that she would have me induced that Monday.  I never questioned her decision or maintained that I didn’t want to be induced.  I didn’t even know I could refuse that, and waiting another week would not have been risky at all!  I went home and prayed that I would give birth so I wouldn’t have to be at the hospital at 6 a.m. Monday morning because I simply don’t function well in the morning!

Labor fortunately did start very early morning on Friday.  In fact, it started at 4:30 in the morning.  Instead of trying to go back to sleep, I jumped up and started getting things ready to go to the hospital.  Labor for a first time mother can be long.  I should have gone back to bed to rest and keep my energy up.  To make matters worse, when I woke up, I ate a whole box of Pop-Tarts.  Bad move. I should have eaten something healthier since, as it turned out, I wouldn’t be eating anything solid until the next day.  So, make sure you are well nourished and well hydrated throughout your birth!             

As I continued to labor through the early morning, I found it harder and harder to cope with the pain.  My hospital class had taught virtually nothing on dealing with labor pain.  I didn’t know different positions that would help or things that my husband could have done to help, like massage or counter pressure.  I didn’t know anything about breathing, imaging, or focusing.

Luckily, I found that a hot shower seemed to help.  However, after the hot water tank ran out, I was in trouble.  And a cold shower certainly didn’t help!  I think that one of the most important things a woman can to do take responsibility for her birth is to have an arsenal of pain coping skills and training.  To assume, “Oh, I’ll just get through it” as I did is a recipe for failure.  The worst part was feeling out of control of myself and that my body was victimizing me.  I didn’t even realize that a different mindset regarding labor pain would have helped!  So, to anyone planning for a good birth, I would advise finding ways to effectively deal with labor pain! 

Now, the fact that my husband was practically useless is not uncommon.  While some women find their partner’s help immeasurable, many women find that men are have their own “issues” going on with birth and don’t necessarily make great birthing support systems.  The second most important thing I can suggest in light of this is to get labor support!  I believe this can’t be overstated!  Your hospital nurse may be a good resource, but it is very unlikely that your nurse will be able to give you the time and support that you will need.  Even if your nurse is willing, it is highly unlikely that she will have the time on a busy maternity ward.  Doulas are your best bet simply because that is what they do; provide support.  This is important both at home and in the hospital.  If you do nothing else, I would suggest getting a doula.  I can’t imagine anyone without one at the hospital!

The hospital…oh yes, the hospital.  By about 8:00 a.m., I was coping so poorly with the pain that I saw no other option than going to the hospital.  Now, if I had better pain management skills, as I stated above, I wouldn’t have been going to the hospital at only 2 centimeters dilated.  That in itself was a problem.  I had no business going to the hospital that early, but because I couldn’t deal with the pain, I didn’t see any other option.  These things—pain management, labor support, and staying home, are interconnected.  So, when I arrived there and they admitted me, I was pretty much a birthing “sitting duck.”

I was immediately put on an IV which restricted my movement (bad idea), asked to sign a stack of paperwork that I couldn’t read (another bad idea), told it would be better if I stayed in bed because my water had already broken (bad idea), restricted from eating and drinking (bad idea) and had a nurse that was too busy to answer my buzzer (bad idea).  I refused to stay in bed and stood next to it, marching.  My husband sat in the chair, motionless.  My sister, who was supposed to be my “labor support” but actually had no real training or experience, just sat there, too.  We did that for about 3 hours.  My doctor came in once to check me during that time.  I hadn’t dilated any more than when I arrived there.  Gee, I wonder why?  I couldn’t really move around, I was hungry and thirsty, I had on an embarrassing gown with my bum hanging out, and those socks they gave me had rubber backing on the bottom that was interfering with my marching routine.  I felt alone at the same time that I was a spectacle to be watched and an object to be poked and prodded.  I wished I had stayed at home.  Certainly the cold shower was better than this!

My nurse tried to be encouraging, but she was in constant motion with several other birthing moms and could hardly stay at my bedside.  When I told my doctor I wasn’t coping with the pain, she suggested an epidural.  Nothing else.  However, I wasn’t dialed enough for it,  and she thought my labor was going too slowly, so I would need Pitocin.  Of course I submitted.  So, no pain management skills and no real labor support continued to be the demise of my birth.

Oh, the Pitocin!  I thought labor was bad before it!  Once they cranked the Pit up, I was basically a train wreck.  I was literally crying for an epidural.  Real labor pain is one thing; artificially induced labor pain is quite another!  It is still amazing to me when women say they could deal with labor on Pitocin.  I think Pitocin is to be avoided for that reason alone, let alone how it disrupts the natural birthing process.  Still not dilated enough for an epidural, my doctor “stretched” my cervix to get me a little closer to 5 centimeters so I would stop crying.

When the anesthesiologist came in at 1:00 p.m. to administer the epidural, everything went downhill.  I remember it took a long time to get it, and it was agonizing to remain still.  There were a few brief minutes where I, gratefully, felt no pain.  And then the nurse pulled a long strip out of some beeping machine and went running out of the room, muttering about “it’s dropping to 60.”  She came back with my doctor.  My doctor took my husband into the hall.  I had no clue what was going on.

The nurse stood by the bed and pulled out more paper from that machine, and went back into the hall saying that the heart rate was stabilizing.  Heart rate!  I started freaking out, of course!  After all this, my baby is in trouble!?!?  My husband came back in and said that the doctor wanted to do an emergency cesarean because our baby was in distress.  I can’t remember if my doctor talked to me or not. My nurse was visibly frustrated when she was prepping me, muttering, “….these doctors…these doctors…”   I felt as if I were on the outside looking in at the whole drama.  I don’t know if I said or did anything, or what anyone else said or did.  It was like a bad dream.

I didn’t know that epidurals and Pitocin contribute to fetal distress during birth.  I didn’t know that fetal monitors are poor indicators of a baby’s state of being.  I didn’t know that there were other measures to see if my baby really was in distress or not.  I didn’t know that a position change or oxygen might have helped.  I didn’t know that I could have asked questions, asked for more time, or cited the strip that said he was stabilizing.  I just didn’t know.  But I certainly did what my hospital class had taught me:  I was a good and quiet patient.

Perhaps it would be easy to say that my doctor was at fault for pushing a cesarean that wasn’t necessary.  Perhaps, and many would say such was the case.  I was merely a “statistic” and more evidence of what happens in the “domino effect” of interventions.  Perhaps she was as much a “victim” as I was in attempt to reduce her own risk by “covering” herself.  After all, no doctor is sued for the C-section that was done; only the one that wasn’t, right?!  But can I “blame” my doctor for not “working with me” when I wasn’t really prepared for labor, had no means of pain management, had no real labor support, had no knowledge of any alternatives, and had no one to advocate for me?  I don’t know if I would have taken a “risk” with me either, if I were in her shoes.  On the other hand, I was discouraged from taking any responsibility from the beginning when she told me that my birth plan was “unnecessary.”  In the final analysis, I don’t know.  But the more I learn, the more I do know.

Trish B’s Birth Story

After having a surprise cesarean with my first son, Andrew (for reasons I am still unsure about), and after a beautiful home VBAC with my son Kevin, I found myself looking forward to the birth of my third child.  This experience was so different from my first two births because this time I felt at ease with myself and my choices.

I knew I could birth the baby naturally, and I was comfortable with the fact that if I needed to transport to a hospital or even have a cesarean, that it would be for the right reasons and meant to be.  I no longer had that fear of the unknown as I did with the first two experiences.  I also was completely at ease with my choice of care providers.  My midwife truly knew me, and made sure that all of my needs were met, physically and more important – emotionally.

As I look back on my first birth, there were so many signs telling me not to stay with the doctor I was with, but I was too afraid of making a change.  My doctor’s beliefs and actions were not in line with what I wanted… a natural childbirth.  By choosing a midwife that believed in me and the process of birth, it turned out to be a beautiful and spiritual experience.

On the evening of labor’s start, I sat at the kitchen table working on a lesson for my Trigonometry class.  Every so often I would get a contraction that seemed to be pulling more than my usual Braxton Hicks contractions.  I didn’t want to tell myself I was definitely in labor because if I didn’t finish my preparations, and didn’t actually have the baby, then I would be embarrassed teaching a lesson the next day not knowing what I was doing.

Once I finished my preparation, I told my husband that we may be having a baby soon and went to bed (about 10:00 pm).  I was awakened by some intense contractions around midnight.  I proceeded to call my midwife and my doula, but even then I was telling them I wasn’t sure if they should come over yet.  My midwife and doula arrived around 12:30am.  I lay in my bed on my side trying to relax through each contraction.  This was the exact position and spot I laid in every night when I went to bed.

The next thing I remember is having 2 extremely powerful contractions in a row.  I could actually feel the baby’s head move down on these contractions.  It happened so fast that my friend who was supposed to videotape wasn’t in the room yet. 

My husband grabbed the video camera and with one push the baby’s head was out. After one more push, the baby came out!  I kept asking “what is it?” but nobody would tell me.  My midwife said that it was for me to find out.  I put my hand across the baby’s bottom and said “I can’t feel anything!”  I couldn’t believe it was a girl!  She was born at 2:00 am.  I could not believe how wonderful I felt after this birth!

After just hanging out with everyone and enjoying the baby, I took a refreshing shower.  I had so much energy that I felt like I could clean the whole house (not that I would do such a thing!).  My two boys slept through the entire birth.  My parents came over in the morning around 7:00 am, woke the boys up and brought them downstairs to see their new baby sister.

As for the video that my husband took – he forgot to hit the “record” button (the only part of the experience that was disappointing).  This past year has been so much fun with my baby girl.  My family is complete!

Thanks to ICAN for all of the support.  I owe it all to the wonderful women I have met.  They have taught me so much and helped me to believe in my God-given ability to birth my babies.

Erin’s Birth Story

My journey starts with the fact that I am a registered nurse.  I am very familiar with the “normal” labor and delivery in the United States.  I started with the main stream medical viewpoint and have been mentally stretched to the realization that birth is not a medical procedure.  This has been a very enlightening journey to say the least.  I hope this story is an encouragement to you.  This is just one example of a successful VBAC in the midst of many obstacles.       

My first pregnancy was a very complicated twin pregnancy that ended with an emergency c-section at 31 weeks.  I spent so much of my pregnancy in the hospital that I knew the nurses by their first names.  I should have named my twins Phenergan and Zofran after the antinausea drugs I had popped like candy.  I ended up with two premature NICU babies to care for while recovering from major abdominal surgery.  After battling an infected c-section incision and major blood loss, I was at home with two very sick babies.  I had no family support and a husband who was forced to work 80 hours a week.  Major postpartum depression that was undiagnosed set in.  I felt like a permanent babysitter, not a mother.  It took an entire year before the depression fog started to lift.

My next pregnancy was not as complicated with only one baby in the oven.  I trusted and accepted my doctor’s judgment to shy away from the “dangerous” VBAC.  At 37 weeks my water broke first and labor did not seem to progress very fast lying flat on my back in the hospital bed (what a shocker).  My doctor very graciously called the hospital to offer to do the c-section on his lunch break.  Unfortunately without the knowledge or support to choose otherwise, we did the c-section with an order of fries on the side.  The postpartum period was more manageable.  It was the long-term complication I didn’t expect.  Over a year later I developed scar tissue that was causing significant abdominal pain.  I ended up with more surgery to remove the scar tissue (fries were not included this time).      

I would never have realized this birthing thing could be different until I became friends with women who practically squat in a field to birth their babies.  About this time I became pregnant (don’t drink the water).  My friends were giving me information that seemed to conflict with what I had been taught in nursing school.  I decided to research this topic for myself.  I read every book I could get my hands on.  I was also introduced to ICAN and started attending their meetings.  I was shocked to find out how beneficial and safe VBACs are compared to c-sections.  It was even safe to VBAC after two c-sections!  Now I was on a mission.  I went through three OB groups to find the group with the most lenient labor and delivery parameters.  Being a nurse, I felt most comfortable using a midwife at a big university hospital.  This would give me a laid back medical professional at a facility that could handle unexpected complications.  I hired a wonderful doula who became instrumental in keeping me on the VBAC path.             

Then the day arrived.  My water broke first which gave me a 48 hour limit before a forced c-section.  Being a nurse, I have had the exaggerated fear of uterine rupture drilled into my head.  With fear getting the best of me, we headed off to the hospital very early in labor.  I fought for my right to have a heplock IV (not continuous fluids) and for intermittent fetal monitoring.  After about 24 hours of regular contractions, I was only two centimeters.  In my book this was considered progress since my cervix had never dilated at all with the other pregnancies.  Unfortunately I was facing a time limit.  Being exhausted and in significant pain, I very reluctantly decided on the epidural and pitocin route.  The baby’s heart rate dropped at one point.  With much prayer it returned to normal without any interventions.  Overall my body responded to the treatment.  Finally, I dilated to 10 and was ready to push.  Being numb and flat on my back, my work was cut out for me.  During pushing I started to feel sharp pain in my c-section incision.  I had every doctor and nurse in my room within seconds thinking my uterus was rupturing.  I felt like a circus attraction.  I am not sure if there was anyone left in the hospital who had not seen my girly business by now.  Thankfully with an ultrasound machine, we discovered the pain was from the baby’s head pressing on the incision.  After 3½ hours of pushing, they started to threaten to use the vacuum.  It made me so mad that shortly after that I pushed her out.  After 41 hours of labor, my first words to her were “Wow, it does fit out of that hole!”  I might not put that in her baby book.  Then I turned to the medical crowd and said, “Put that in your statistics book” (VBAC after 2 c-sections).  I need to mention that there were many more complications not mentioned here.  Also, the entire medical staff was pushing for the c-section every step of the way.  This was God’s delivery, not theirs!             

Even with the complications and long hours I would not trade it for the world.  Bonding with my husband and baby was wonderful.  The recovery time was much better this time.  I was even able to take care of my other children when I got home.  One expected benefit was with my husband.  This experience brought us much closer together.  He blurted out that he wanted another baby before she was even wiped off (his timing was a little off!).  I am so glad I researched my options and made proactive decisions that brought me that much closer to a successful VBAC.

Olivia’s Birth Story