Heather, a second time mother, shares her experience of an unmedicated birth at Licking Memorial (Newark, Ohio) with a certified nurse midwife. I was her family's doula, as well as birth photographer. Here is an inspiring birth story in honor of Mother's Day.
I have two adorable baby boys with completely different birth stories. I wanted to have a low intervention, un-medicated birth with my first pregnancy, however, once I arrived at the hospital I felt like I didn’t have a voice. It wasn’t long before the nurses were telling me that they had to start Pitocin to “speed up labor”. This made contractions extremely painful and even though I had held off on pain meds for several hours, I began begging for an epidural. This time around I was determined to not let that happen again. I researched and researched about how to have a natural birth and the reoccurring suggestion was to hire a doula. So that’s what I decided to do!
My pregnancy went very smoothly and before I knew it, it was September! On September 5th (8 days before my estimated due date) around 4:30 am, my husband Anthony had woken up to go to work. As he was getting ready I started having contractions. They were pretty consistent but not very painful so I decided to lie back down and he reluctantly left for work. It was his fifth day at his new job so he decided he would go ahead and go to work and just leave when I texted him that my contractions were getting stronger. If you know my husband, you know that he was barely out of the driveway before texting me, “How are your contractions? Are you sure I should go to work?” and then called me two minutes later asking the same questions. My contractions were still consistent and being home alone with our 21 month old, Landon, was intimidating so Anthony turned around to come back home after being almost half way to work. Once he got home, I texted my doula, Jenn, to give her a heads up. She immediately responded and reassured me that it sounded like I was in labor and that I was going to have my baby that day! I decided I’d better get out of bed, do last minute packing and cleaning, and then shower.
Just as my contractions were starting to get closer together and more uncomfortable, Jenn arrived to assist me. I was so relieved when she showed up because Landon had woken up and Anthony was busy caring for him. I was having a lot of back labor, so Jenn suggested the TENS unit, which helped tremendously. For the next couple hours she encouraged me to change positions. By 10 am, my contractions were strong enough that I had to breath through them but about an hour later, labor had slowed down a lot. While it was nice to have a break from contractions, I was frustrated because I just wanted to have my baby and I felt like I was backtracking!
Jenn decided to go grab some lunch until my contractions got stronger again and I needed her support. While she was gone, I relaxed in the shower and then bounced on my birth ball. I felt very discouraged. If I was truly in labor why were my contractions now 9+ minutes apart? But by 2:10 pm, my contractions were much stronger and just a couple minutes apart. I was relieved when Jenn arrived again to help me through the back pain. My mother-in-law arrived shortly after to stay with Landon, Anthony ate a sandwich, and we gathered all of our bags to go to the hospital. As I headed out the door, I thought Anthony was right behind me. He was probably giving my mother-in-law last minute instructions but it seemed like an eternity between the time I headed outside to get in the car and us actually leaving.
The hospital is only about 3 minutes from our house but contractions while riding in the car are the worst and I couldn’t wait to get to the hospital. By 3:30 pm, I was admitted to a labor & delivery room and a cervical check confirmed that I was 5 cm dilated and 80% effaced. For a split second I was disappointed that I was only at 5 cm, but Jenn reassured me that I was doing great and everything was going as planned. From about 4:35-5:15 pm, in order to make it through each contraction I leaned into the bed while standing, with Anthony supporting me & praying for me, and Jenn putting pressure on my lower back, in addition to the stinging pulses of the TENS unit, which ironically felt amazing during labor. My legs eventually got tired so I sat on the birth ball for a few minutes before the nurse checked my progress again. I was so happy when she said that I was at 8 cm with a bulging bag of water but I knew transition was coming so I got into the shower.
Water therapy was something that I was really looking forward to. The hot water felt amazing on my back. I was only in the shower for about 30 minutes before my water broke and I immediately felt the urge to push! Jenn rushed out of the room to get the nurses and midwife. Anthony helped me get out the shower and dried me off. I knew I needed to get into the bed but contractions only felt manageable when I was hunched over so I ended up in the bed on my hands and knees. My midwife immediately entered the room and confirmed I was at 10 cm and ready to push!
I was nervous to push. With Landon I had gotten the epidural and by the time I was laying back down in bed getting ready to get a catheter, I felt the urge to push. Although the epidural hadn’t completely kicked in, I wasn’t able to feel anything while pushing. Luckily I only pushed for about 10 minutes and he was born! But this time, here I was without any pain meds, having always heard of “the ring of fire”, I was scared to push. With encouragement from Anthony and my midwife, I remained on my hands and knees to deliver the baby’s head. Surprisingly, it didn’t hurt to push. The baby’s head was out but then the tone of my midwife’s voice changed, saying, “we have to get this baby out NOW!”
I heard what she said but it didn’t fully register how serious she was. Unbeknownst to me, the baby’s umbilical cord was tightly wrapped around his neck twice. (Ironically, at one of our ultrasounds a couple weeks prior to this, we saw him holding onto his umbilical cord. The technician said that babies like playing with them since it’s the only thing they have in there with them.) To quickly and efficiently get the baby out, I had to turn on my side with one leg lifted up. Everything happened so fast and before I knew it baby was here! At 6:26 pm, Chandler Matthew was born and nothing else mattered in that moment. He was absolutely perfect. As I gazed at his beautiful face that was resting on my chest, I could not believe that I had actually done it! I knew I didn’t need Pitocin, I knew I didn’t need an epidural. But the proof was finally here! My body did exactly what it was designed to do and I couldn’t have been more proud of myself.
The nurses quickly took Chandler from me to monitor his oxygen levels, which eventually stayed high enough for them to not worry too much. We were so thankful he was healthy, despite bruising on his face from the umbilical cord issue. Because the nurses had been focusing on his oxygen levels, it took them a little while to measure and weigh Chandler. Right before they put him on the scale, one of them asked how much my other son weighed at birth. I told them that Landon was only 6 lbs., 3 oz. and she replied, “I think this baby is at least a pound larger!” Well, we were all in shock when the scale revealed that he was a whopping 9 lbs. 0 oz. and measured 21 in. long! I feel very blessed that my birth plan went exactly as I wanted and know that I couldn’t have done it without Jenn. She was such a wonderful addition to my birth team and will hopefully be present for any future births I have.