Saturday, 9 April 2011

Alice's birth story

There are things that you say out loud. And there are things that are subtly engraved in your subconscious. During my pregnancy, my doctor and my doula warned me that a strict birth plan would only lead to disappointment. Without hesitation, I told them that I knew that I could not control everything and that I was open to take different routes if necessary. I realize now that, unintentionally, I was not as honest as I wanted them to believe.

The way this adventure started threw me a little bit off guard. According to my prenatal classes, water generally doesn't break until women are well into labor. So when it happened while I was sleeping, at 3am, the first thing that came to my mind was that I finally became one of those incontinent pregnant women. I stood up half sleeping, liquid leaking all over my legs, while my dog was going crazy licking all the fluid he could get! To add to the confusion, I had zero contractions.

Once I realized that the baby was indeed coming, I called the maternity ward and my doula. They both recommended us to gather our stuff and make our way to the hospital. As we waited for our friend to arrive with his car, I said goodbye to the early labor phase I was planning to do in the comfort of my own home. We arrived at the hospital at about 4am. I only had a few very weak contractions.

As we settled in our room, my contractions intensified drastically. In less than an hour, I had 60 seconds contractions approximately 3 minutes apart and was 2 centimeters dilated. For 6 hours, determined to have a natural childbirth, I went through a whirlwind of comfort techniques: warm baths, breathing exercises, vocalizations, visualizations, etc. When everything failed, I only found a bit of comfort on the birth ball while Dan was doing pressure points on my back.

At 11am, a nurse gave me an exam. After all that pain, I was more than ready for some positive feedback. However, she told me that I was still at 2 centimeters. When she left, I went through some sort of a nervous breakdown. I was soaked wet on the birth ball, shaking, weak from vomiting, and while I was having one strong contraction, I felt like I was going to pass out.

At that point, it was clear that my body could not take it anymore but I still had to deal with some conflicting emotions. I felt like a total failure. I was going to be one of those women who are bitter about their childbirth experience. I could not look at Dan in the eyes and I didn't want to talk to my doula. I could not accept the pain anymore, I was fighting it pointlessly. I asked for an epidural at 11:30am and fell asleep as soon as the pain stopped.

When I woke up at 1pm, I had a discussion with my doula. Slowly, she convinced me that I took the right decision. Each woman and each labor is unique. I was well informed, tried many things and finally opted for an epidural. It was now time to embrace my decision and move on. I was 5 centimeters dilated.

At 3pm, I had another exam. Even with regular contractions, nothing had changed. The nurse suggested mini-drops of oxytocin but didn't put any pressure on me. She was well aware that I was still mourning my natural childbirth. I asked for an extra 30 minutes. When she came back half an hour later, she looked at me with a big smile. Il est temps de pousser! (It is time to push!). I was at 10 centimeters. That nurse is now convinced that she has special dilatation power!

To my great surprise, even with the epidural, I was still able to move my legs normally, lift my hips and feel the contractions as they arrived. My obstetrician suggested that I try a birthing stool. As I looked around me, I realized that I was not simply a woman getting ready to push out a baby by herself. I was part of a “team” and we each had specific tasks. Dan was supporting me emotionally, my doula was providing psychological guidance and the medical team was coaching me on physical aspects. Suddenly, I felt an urge to push.

Pushing the baby was the most surreal experience I have ever lived. The guilt from the epidural was gone, I felt strong, powerful and in control of what I was doing. I was so focused that at one point people got worried. Dan told me that I looked like if I was in a trance. I kept my eyes shut during the entire time and instinctively use ujjayi breathing between each contraction. I was slowly moving my head from side to side and was peacefully smiling. When it was time to push, I would arch my back, slightly lift my hips and bring all my attention to the feeling in my pelvic area. I pushed on the birthing stool during more than 1 hour. My “team” cheering up for me the entire time.

Alice was born at 5:20pm. Her eyes were wide open.

Giving birth to Alice was the most extraordinary moment of my life. Her birth didn't go according to plan but I would not change any aspects of it. I didn't become one of those women who are bitter about their childbirth experience. On the contrary, I came out of that adventure stronger and with a new level of self-respect that, hopefully, will guide me through motherhood.

24 comments:

Barbara said...

Claudia, I can't explain to you why since I don't have any babies of my own yet but reading this made me shed a few tears.
You are going to be such a wonderful mother.
Congratulations again to you and Dan.
Alice has such big beautiful eyes!

Lola said...

What a great story. It sounds to me like you knew exactly what your body needed and you had great support. Congratulations... she's beautiful.

Giselle said...

a beautiful story. i don't know you personally, but i've gotta say i'm proud of you! you really took it all in your stride, which is great. congrats!

anneemall said...

Thank you for sharing this beautiful story. Life seldom goes according to plan it seems... I think Alice really looks like a mix of Dan and you!

Di said...

I agree with all above - you did what your body needed you to do....and the best laid plans and all that!

Alice is adorable!

oneeyedrabbit said...

Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story. I had a very similar experience. I really wanted to have a natural child birth with my first child and I had my birth plan written up. And... it just didn't happen that way. My labor stalled to the point where I could take the pain anymore and I gave in to getting an epidural. I felt the same way. Really down that I didn't get to have the birth experience that I so wanted. I also had to have pitocin administered. In all though, giving birth is an amazing experience that other people really can't understand until they go through it themselves. Take care!

New Duds said...

I got teary eyed and giggled during this post... all while feelings so proud and happy for you. thanks so much for sharing.

claire said...

claudia, you are amazing. and that wee girl is adorable. way to go mama!

Renae @ theredwren said...

This is a great birthing story, it's a good wake up call for me to realise that I need to start preparing that things may not go to plan but the outcome is still in every way as wonderful.
Thank you for sharing it with us :)

Jennifer said...

Aww, awesome stuff, Claudia. Sounds like you absolutely did the right thing to be able to enjoy (relatively speaking) your labour. Good for you!

UK lass in US said...

I'm glad that you're past any daft guilt and all that. I know first-hand that your water breaking first has a tendency to make any imagined labour go out of the window. I had wanted to stay home for as long as I could and instead my husband wouldn't even let me go home to pick up my overnight bag...

You don't get any extra points for a natural labour: your baby doesn't sleep any longer for you or do better in school. Meanwhile, you have a beautiful, healthy baby girl and probably did better at the pushing for having been able to have a rest.

Sara said...

Ah! That mad me tear up! I am very pround of you for being in control, and choosing to be patient and understanding with yourself. Awesome job!!

Shannah said...

Sweet little Alice! Look at those big beautiful eyes:)

Thank you for sharing your story Claudia. It is such an amazing and special experience. I am so happy for you and happy to be reminded of my own birth story again too.
xo

Anne Koski said...

Beautiful story and beautifully told. Thank you so much for sharing. It will help another future mama's confidence.
Congratulations!

abby try again said...

Lovely sentiments and story. Congratulations to you and thank you so much for sharing your true thoughts and feelings.

alyson said...

beautiful story Claudia! you're such a brave strong woman. thanks for sharing your story. xo

Sid. said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I think, as women and mothers, we'd all be better off if we stopped talking about "natural" births. It's bizarre to think that there's only one "natural" way to give birth and everything else is, what, unnatural? Taking drugs to help you cope with the pain and get some sleep just makes sense. It may have even saved you from needing an emergency c-section by allowing you to relax. I'm so glad you were able to make the decisions that you needed to and end up having a wonderful, beautiful birthing experience. She's gorgeous!

núria said...

I'm from Barcelona, Spain, and just started to read your blog a month ago. I'm on my 35th week of pregnancy and, as you, I'd like to have a natural chidbirth. Your story make me realize every childbirth is unique and perfect in its own way if you have the right to choose at any time. It was corageous to ask for an epidural! And your pushing was magic! Congrats to you and your "team". You inspired me alot.

mjb said...

I'm so glad you don't feel badly about the way it went - it's not worth grieving over when the point is getting to meet your beautiful new daughter! We're lucky to live in a time where we have the choice to give birth in safe ways and to have the choices to help us out. (Granted, I'm also glad you got to experience that awesome feeling of your body naturally pushing the baby out :)

Cal's mum said...

So glad to hear you're not beating yourself up about the epidural. I tried for natural and had an epi in the end too and I know if I hadn't I wouldn't have been able to fully appreciate the wonder that was the arrival of our beautiful baby boy into the world. I definitely have a lot more respect now for all mothers, especially those who go back and do it all over again, it is no easy feat.

Congratulations again to you all!

jackie said...

Congratulations Claudia! She is absolutely beautiful, and she is starting out with a momma that has experienced flexibility and wisdom - those things will do you well over the next 18+ years.

Ella said...

oh Claudia, this is just awesome! you are amazing. xoxo.

J said...

I wanted a natural childbirth too, but had to be induced when the baby was eleven days late. The Pitocin gave me minute-long contractions a minute apart, and I held out as long as I could, but I just couldn't keep up with them after awhile. I got the epidural when I was 6 cm, and it let me rest, talk with my husband, and handle the pushing when it was time. Like you, I could move my legs and feel the contractions so I knew when to push. Hardest thing I've ever done, but totally amazing. I agree with what you said about having a team--my husband, midwife, and nurse were so fantastic. Also, the trance thing--when she finally came out, I couldn't believe it. I'll remember her looking at me--a little confusedly :)--forever.

jodi said...

this is beautiful C! and welcome precious Alice....she looks like such a wise little one x