The story of my natural birth with my second daughter Emma is one that I think of as a challenge and one of hard work. After Emma was born I had over-analyzed our birthing experience and had even sat with my doctor to go over all of the points that I found did not work, or made the experience difficult. My doctor had reassured me that she had thought it went quite well. Although I have come to terms with it and looking back now, don’t really think it was such a big deal that it didn’t go according to plan, I still feel unsatisfied with my lack of preparation and the miscommunication with my labouring nurse.
My birthing story with my older daughter Alyssa seemed like a fairytale. I was insisting on having a natural labour and birth and did just that. We had taken a prenatal course, were well prepared ahead of time, had a dream team of support which included, both sets of parents, an awesome nurse and intern-doctor, and of course my husband who was my rock throughout the whole entire experience. With Alyssa, my labour started three days prior to my due date, when my water broke, and I had only laboured for 7 hours after arriving at the hospital. I was so happy with how everything had gone according to plan, that I was quite sure it would be the same with my second labour and birth. This was not the case.
As my second pregnancy was coming to an end, almost everyone I knew had told me that my labour and delivery would be a breeze. In fact, I was so convinced that Emma was just going to fall out, that I was even paranoid about the drive to the hospital, and since this was after all our second baby, we didn’t think about taking another prenatal course or even attempting to do any prep work ahead of time. We decided to wing it.
I believe my labour had begun three weeks prior to the actual event. I started to have contraction one per hour each day. Some of these were so painful and bad that they had driven us to go to the hospital twice with false alarms. At that point I was so exhausted and so badly had wanted the baby out that I wasn’t thinking logically about signs of labour. And then my due date came, and I was still pregnant. The most frustrating part of all was having everyone I could possibly think of calling me daily to ask if I was still pregnant, and being almost embarrassed to say, yes.
On the third day passed my due date, as frustrated as I was, I had decided to accept the fact that I was late, when I had my first real sign of labour, I had a bloody show. This was awesome, because I knew that it was just a matter of time, and the next day I began to experience cramps. These were not like the cramps I had been experiencing for the last 3 weeks prior, these were soft and short and felt more like period cramps. I had called my husband Michael and told him that this was real labour and we drove to the hospital at once, which I wish we didn’t do, but I was just so ready to have this baby, that I didn’t take the time to think about this.
We had arrived at the hospital at 3:30PM only to discover that I was only 3 cm dilated. I was still okay with that because that meant that I would get admitted, but there was no delivery room available, and so we spent several hours sitting in the visitors room. I had quickly started doing my rounds around the hospital floor, taking in each contraction and preparing for the next one. I had a tens unit attached to my back and would use it to fight each contraction. After several hours, we were finally given an actual delivery room. And this is when we met our labouring nurse. Because I had such an amazing and understanding nurse the first time around, I was excepting the same sort of thing the second time around, but was quickly disappointed. The first thing the nurse did was attach me to the monitors, despite the fact that I had mentioned to her that I had already had a stress test, and needed to be mobile since I was having a natural birth. The next thing she wanted was to attach me to an IV pole, since I had needed antibiotics, again leaving me immobile.
Well, I had no intention of lying in bed or being attached to anything. The first thing I had asked for is for her to give me a walking IV that would prevent me from having a pole attached. She reluctantly agreed, but still wanted to have me lying in bed for 20 minutes in 15 minute intervals. This was not going to fly. I called in my intern-doctor and told her to insist that she do intermittent monitoring. Although she made a fuss over this again, she had agreed to do it after the inter-doctor insisted that this was okay.
Having freedom to be mobile, made me feel in control. I was also lucky to have lots of support with me at the hospital. My parents and brother were there, along with my brother in-law and his girlfriend, all who had helped me during my labour. Getting from 3cm to 5cm took lots of hours, and everyone took turns taking walks with me and talking with me, making this experience as comfortable as possible. After 11PM however, I had sent my brother in-law home, but my parents insisted they would stay with me for the rest, I was not progressing as I had expected.
By 3 am, I had become restless, and called the intern-doctor and made the decision for her to break my water after almost 12 hours of labouring. A half an hour after my water was broken, I was walking with my father when suddenly I was no longer able to have a conversation with him. The contractions were getting harder to deal with. My dad called my mom and Michael to take over. We ended up in the delivery room, where I wasn’t really sure of what I needed to do anymore, for the pain became a harder struggle.
I sat on the bed and closed my eyes, between my contractions, waiting for the next one, when the nurse came in. “Oh you look so tired, you should lie down and rest”. “I’m fine.” I murmured, with my eyes closed. And then she walked over and stated as an authoritarian “You should rest”, and literally pushed my head against the pillow of the bed. Since it was between contractions I went with it for a minute, and then it happened. A big god-awful contraction came through. I had jumped right off the bed in agony. Michael ran to me but seemed unsure of what to do, he seemed lost, since my labour with Alyssa was not like this at all, nor was it so painful.
My mother came to my rescue. She ran over to me and quickly began to massage my back, it felt so much better. The next contraction was even more painful. My tens unit was blasting at this point, but it no longer was helping me. The pain was pretty unbearable. Michael took my mother’s lead and would massage my back along with her. “Call the nurse back”. The nurse came back, I said I was ready for my doctor, and that it was time to push. “Oh I don’t think so. You were only at 7 cm last time.” “I don’t care. Call my doctor”. I answer rudely this time.
My intern-doctor came in and I was telling her the same thing. She also seemed skeptical. Each contraction from then on were more painful than the last. There were moments where I’d look at my mom helplessly and think, I’m not going to make it. I needed to push really bad by then, and my nurse and intern were not believing me that I was ready to go. “I’m sorry, I can’t hold on. I really gotta push” I insisted. “But your only at 8 cm.” “I DON’T CARE!!!” I yelled, and my body began to spontaneously do it. My nurse started to yell at me. At this point my doctor ran in, in her street clothes and everything. “I need to push, I need to push!” I cried, looking at her to rescue me. “I heard you” She smiled at me. “She’s only 8 cm” the intern mentioned. “Well, if she’s telling you that she needs to push, let her do it. Let see what happens.” I heard that this was usually not recommended, but my body was insisting on it. The nurse tried to argue with doctor, but I got the green light and pushed. And then it happened. Just like that, I had dilated to 10cm. My intern-doctor smiled. Later on we figured out what had happened. Emma was coming down, sunny-side up, and was kind of taking her time coming down, in the meanwhile, my really bad contractions, which I did not experience with Alyssa, were the result of back labour, of which I did not prepare for or even understood I was having.
It didn’t take long for Emma to rush out of my body after that. When my doctor had stepped out to quickly change out of her street clothes, the nurse had tried to once again have a hold of my birth, “I’m going to tell you when to push”, she insisted, looking at her monitors. I ignored her, and listened to my body. This was hard because it was telling me to push, but my nurse had me on my back because she had once again strapped me to monitors, causing pushing a difficult task. Every time I pushed with my body’s urges, my nurse would yell at me, that I was pushing at the wrong time. At one point, I was so angry with her consistently yelling at me, that I called her annoying and swung at her (I did apologize later for that). What I was angry about the most, was that I had a hard time listening to my intern-doctor’s instructions, because of the nurse, when finally, my intern yelled over the nurse what she had wanted me to hear. “Sit up and push with your whole body!”, I sat up, and did just that, and Emma came practically flying out.
My doctor, had just re-entered the room by then, almost missing my birth.
As happy as I was with finally having Emma in my arms, I was quite upset with my birth. Especially the last hour of it, as I had struggled to be in control over my birth despite what plans my nurse had for me, of which I don’t really blame her for, since she probably did not experience many natural births before. It was a very frustrating time, but an experience that I now look back at with awe. I have learned a whole lot since then, and believe that this experience, if anything has made me much stronger. A natural birth is not for everyone, but for those who do desire to have one like I had, don’t give up, believe in yourself, and trust in your body, for it was designed to give birth and knows how to do it.
I want to thank Malvina for sharing her story with us. Like I said, this was not an "ideal" birth. Malvina herself says she was not pleased with how everything happened. However, I feel that this was a very HONEST representation of birth in so many cases. Mothers fighting for the birth they want, whether they are fully supported by the staff or not.
Too often, women are pushed into changing their birth plans or going along with what the hospital staff or their doctors want instead of trusting themselves. The strength that Malvina showed in her birth is incredible and I wish more women could enter into the birthing process with this same confidence. I think that this story shows just how important it is for women to get educated about birth, to find a good support team, and most importantly believe in their body's ability to birth.
Thank you again to Malvina for sharing your amazing story of the fight for the birth YOU wanted!