As I sit down to write this, my sweet baby boy is 5 days old (posting at 3 weeks). It has taken me this long to be able to process and come to terms with everything that happened during the last few days of my pregnancy, labor and delivery and the first few days postpartum. Now that I have, I want to share that journey with you, in hopes that I can help other Mommas and Mommas-to-be.
When my husband and I found out we were pregnant, I was dead-set on having an epidural during labor. After a tailbone injury many years ago and a spine doctor telling me it was going to break again during labor, I hadn’t really given it a second thought. That and labor terrified me, so if I had the choice of whether or not I could experience it with less pain, I was going to opt for less pain. Or so I thought.
The Bradley Method
My LWBF partner in crime, Holly Alexander, had highly recommended my husband and I take the Bradley Method childbirth classes. Bradley Method classes are also known as Husband-Coached Childbirth classes and focus on natural childbirth. I spent a few months debating on whether or not to take the classes, because I knew that if I did, I would end up wanting to go natural. After much discussion—and a conversation with the instructor where I explained that me taking these classes was in no way me committing to actually going sans epidural in the end—we ended up deciding to go forward with them. I knew that they would teach us what I would experience during labor and delivery, and being so health-conscious and Type A, it was important to me that I know what was happening to my body in order to best handle the situation.
We went to our first class, and it was awful. I cried the entire way home. It was overwhelming and uncomfortable. The lady’s house smelled like cat pee. I couldn’t breathe. When the instructor asked the class (approximately 8 couples) who was going to go natural, every woman raised their hand. Except for me. I talked to a coworker whose wife was a Bradley Instructor for years. He strongly encouraged me to find a different instructor, one that would be a better fit for me. Now in panic mode because most classes were full, I called an instructor closer to our home and during a time slot that was a better fit for us too. She had one opening.
We went to our first class and it was a completely different experience. It was fantastic. The instructor was personable, down to earth, and also happened to be a Group X instructor, so we immediately had things in common. The other couples in the class were warm and welcoming. This was a much better fit.
When we discovered I had a bun in the oven, I was actually without an OB-GYN. I had fired my last one because he rudely told me that I probably wouldn’t be able to conceive without medical intervention. You can read that story here. So I called friends, got recommendations and interviewed SEVERAL doctors trying to find the right one. I ended up switching care providers twice before finally deciding on who would deliver our baby. Or so I thought. (Are you seeing the pattern here?)
In the Bradley Method classes, many topics are covered, some of which discuss the chain of events (also referred to as the domino effect) that tend to occur when delivering at a hospital. There are so many rules, regulations, hand-tying and other things that happen in hospitals that make having a natural childbirth there nearly impossible. Typically, once you get to the hospital, you’re on the clock. Not progressing fast enough or Doctors are ready for shift change? You get pitocin. Got pitocin? Well, in a hospital they don’t start you on a slow drip, they’ll crank your dosage up to get you contracting and get that baby out. Good luck enduring that sans epidural. So now you have an epidural. But wait, they’ll need to insert a catheter first. un-anesthetized. Baby is posterior? You get a c-section. Oh did you want a say in this? Sorry about your luck.
All this sounded awful to me, and I wanted no part of it. The problem is, if you ask your care provider if they are “okay” with you going natural, they will probably tell you that they are. What happens in the delivery room, however, is another story. I was so appalled by the lip service I got when talking to care providers. It wasn’t until I dove much deeper that I found out that the likelihood of my care provider being on board with me going natural was slim to none. So it was time to switch care providers AGAIN. I was now 7 months pregnant and again, in panic mode. Fortunately, my doula (a doula is a birth coach, also our Bradley instructor), pointed me in the direction of a midwife. Midwives believe that pregnancy and birth are normal life processes and they seek to eliminate or minimize unnecessary interventions. Well, shoot, this is right up my alley!
The Birth Plan
My husband and I met with the recommended midwife and she was fabulous. We were perfectly happy with her and felt confident in our decision. She also had two doctors who backed her up, should anything “go wrong” and she had privileges to deliver at a natural-friendly hospital, which we wanted. Despite the risks we were taking delivering at a hospital (domino effect of medical interventions), this was our first birth, and we didn’t feel comfortable at a birthing center, which is where most midwives deliver. The hospital we selected was unlike others in that they are very “natural-friendly”, so we felt confident that our birth plan would be followed barring any medical emergencies.
During one Bradley class, we all created a generalized birth plan. We had little yellow strips of laminated paper that each had a short phrase on it. Things like “the use of pitocin”, “use of forceps/vacuum” and “access to water” were all things that were discussed, and we ranked them in order from most to least important. Our class’ birth plan looked something like this. It was strange discussing the order of things like the use of pitocin because I knew I REALLY didn’t want that, I just assumed I wouldn’t have to cross that bridge. My husband and I then went home and wrote up our own birth plan that we would share with our midwife and the nurse staff at the hospital. It looked something like this:
Melissa Villamizar Birth Plan
Thank you so much for your help with the birth of our first child! We are extremely grateful! Please direct all questions to my husband, Juan, so that I can focus solely on my labor.
• Water Birth—Would like access to the tub.
• No intervention—Would like a drug-free birth, please do not offer me pain medication. I would like to progress naturally, without the use of pitocin.
• No mention of visitors—Visitors will be welcome a few hours after birth so that we may bond with our new child.
• No separation—At least Juan or Melissa with baby at all times.
• Delay cord clamping
• Dark/dimly lit and quiet room—Please refrain from conversation.
• Bath—Use patient’s bath products on baby, be cautious of eyes, product is NOT tear-free.
• Save Placenta—We will be having a funeral home pick up our placenta, as we would like to encapsulate it.
• Minimal interruption—from nurse staff and visitors. Only enter room when Melissa is awake.
• No Vitamin K, No Hep B, No Circumcision
Thank you all so very much! 🙂
Ready For Baby
We had everything ready to go by about 37/38 weeks. The birth plan was complete, bags were packed, we had been practicing our relaxation techniques as much as possible, etc. I was ready for the baby…sort of. A baby’s normal gestation period is anywhere from 37-42 weeks. I hadn’t really thought about carrying to 42 weeks, I figured our perfect little angel would come at or around his due date. Our midwife estimated that would be the case, so we had no reason to think otherwise. I was quite disappointed when my estimated due date, August 27th, came and went. But hey, that’s okay—first time moms tend to carry until 41 weeks. Especially those with boys. Then 41 weeks come and went. Once again, I’m entering panic mode.
My midwife would only let me carry until 42 weeks. At this point, I was scheduled for an induction at 5am on September 10th. An induction. With the use of PITOCIN. I had devoted so much time and energy to these Bradley Classes and to preparing myself mentally and physically for a natural labor. To think that I might be robbed of the opportunity to experience spontaneous labor and a natural childbirth was making me sick to my stomach. I had a healthy pregnancy. I have a healthy baby. What is wrong with my body? I had a meltdown on Saturday afternoon. This wasn’t fair. Why is this happening to me? I cried to my husband and told him that at this point I couldn’t remain positive that our son would come prior to the induction date. Mentally, I needed to start shifting my mindset and preparing myself for the induction. I needed to be okay with the way my baby was going to enter this world, and this shift in thinking was going to take a lot of work.
Where is This Baby?
I tried everything possible to induce labor. On Saturday afternoon I saw a massage therapist for a CST massage (cranial sacral therapy). She was totally awesome and a little strange, making it even better. She had seen me for all of 20 seconds before asking me if I had ever had an injury to my sacrum. Crap. She did some feeling around, some energy work, etc. and spoke to the baby a bit. She said the baby is having trouble engaging because my tailbone was in the way. As weird as all of it was, I believed every word. I tried not to stress. She moved my tailbone with firm pressure, and I could feel the baby snuggle down lower and begin to engage, which was pretty cool. It was a great session but unfortunately, by Sunday, my tailbone had shifted back to it’s incorrect position and the baby was once again posterior. Ugh. Sunday I went for my second round of acupuncture, which went well. The acupuncturist told me it was a great session, that my body was much more open and receptive to the treatment. He felt the baby was ready and that I was right around the corner. However, I didn’t get too excited, as I had been hearing this for weeks now.
I took a bath that night, the first bath the entire pregnancy. I lit some candles and I prayed. I knew that God had a plan for me and for the baby’s arrival, I just didn’t know what it was. I told him that whatever the plan was, I was okay with it, and I trusted that he would bring the baby here safely. I went to bed in tears, clutching one of my old stuffed animals and one of the baby’s onesies.
Is This It?
After everything we tried to induce labor, I think all God and the baby really needed me to do was let go. I woke up at 2:15am Monday morning with what felt like terrible menstrual cramps. Was this it? I attempted to go back to sleep, but it was impossible. I knew it had the potential to be a long day, so I grabbed a banana to help get my energy up. I waited a few hours and texted my doula and midwife. The midwife was not going to be able to make the birth due to a family emergency. I wasn’t panicking, but my doula expressed her concern. She asked me about getting a back up midwife to do the delivery instead of the back up doctors. I wasn’t really sure how to handle the situation, so I didn’t do anything. I was really focused on the strong contractions I was having. Knowing my husband would need as much sleep as possible, I waited a few more hours until my his alarm went off. I walked into the bedroom and let him know he wasn’t going to make it to work today. Gosh I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long—to be able to tell him I was in labor! Needless to say, he was excited!
And So It Begins…
The contractions started off lasting about 45 seconds with 5-7 minutes in between them. They quickly jumped to 2 minutes apart, or anytime I tried to change positions. By 8:30am, I started throwing up (I never vomit, so this was a huge indication that this was for real), and we decided it was time to go to the hospital. My doula met us there, and assumed I was in transition. I figured I was too. Sadly, I was only dilated to a 1.5. Oh dear, this is going to be a LONG day (and night…)!
I believe I was on all fours on the hospital bed when one of the back up doctors came into the room. I think I scared him. He mentioned to my birth team that I was definitely a “midwife’s patient” and that he was going to call in a back up midwife for me. THANK HEAVENS. The back-up midwife was truly the most amazing midwife ever. I felt very blessed. Everything does happen for a reason!
My Sneaky Birth Team
I labored in and out of the tub (a small indoor pool looking thing that was set up for a water birth), in various positions and places throughout the hospital. Nothing was providing any relief at all. I was having terrible back pain and it was absolutely unbearable. I think it was about 2 pm when I asked for an epidural. I couldn’t believe I was asking for it, but I also knew I couldn’t continue like this. This pain was unimaginable and I just couldn’t fathom it getting any worse and actually pushing a child out. My birth team put me off, asking me if I could go another 20 minutes. I said yes, and it turned into an hour. We repeated this for several hours. However, a few hours later, I was deadly serious when asking for the epidural. I was in so much pain I would have rather have been dead. At this point this whole birth thing meant nothing to me any more and I just wanted it to be over. I was so severely dehydrated, in so much pain and so defeated, that I just didn’t care. Please give me the epidural. My birth team said I would need two bags of IV fluids prior to the epidural. Fine, hook me up, let’s go.
My oh-so-tricky birth team apparently set the IV drip to the slowest possible setting. It took hours to get two bags of fluids in me. I found out later that they could have given them to me in as little as 20 minutes, but again, were trying to stall me from getting the epidural. Have I mentioned yet what a fantastic team I had? Even if I didn’t feel that way at the time. Thankfully, I didn’t have enough energy to put up a real fight, so they got their way. I was on only a few hours of sleep, no food (so much for that banana) and we’re 15 hours into labor with a posterior baby who is not at all interested in making his grand entrance into this world.
My Husband, My Rock
The IV finally finishes and I ask again for the epidural. Each time I ask for it, they look at my husband to make the final call. Thank God he knows me so well. He knew that I was serious in asking for it, but that deep down that’s not what I really wanted. I am so incredibly proud of him for being able to do this and to be by my side this entire time. I couldn’t have done this without him. Still asking for the epidural, they tell me the anesthesiologist is stuck in traffic. Seriously? Fine. But let’s discuss other options because I cannot go on like this. They say they can give me a low dose of pain meds to take the edge off, or I can wait for the epidural. As natural and anti-medicine as I am, it was tough for me to decide that I wanted pain meds at that point. Luckily they would wear off before the baby’s arrival, and this was one of those cases where the benefits outweighed the risks. I decided to go for it. It was a good thing I did.
I ended up taking a 3 hour nap, waking up for the contractions and falling back to sleep. During some of the contractions, my midwife would shake my hips back and forth trying to get the baby down. Talk about painful! Eventually, the pain meds wore off and once again I was back to asking for the epidural. The team kept telling me the pain meds needed to wear off and I kept asking. My doula finally looked me in the eyes and said, “Melissa, if you get an epidural, they will catheterize you. They will likely need to use pitocin since the epidural will slow things down. Do you still want an epidural?” I reply, “Can they give me the epidural before they cath me?” My doula: “You don’t get a choice, it’s whoever shows up first.” Having had a catheter once, about 25 years ago and being scarred for life, I knew I did not want a catheter. Fine. No epidural. This sucks.
Time For Some Exercise
After the nap, the team got me up and wanted me to walk laps around the hospital to help use gravity to get things moving again. Walking through contractions = not fun. I was complaining about how much my back hurt during our super fun walk, when my doula looked at me and asked me why my back hurt. Confused, I answered, “Um, because of my baby?” She told me to start repeating “that’s my baby” instead of “my back hurts.” Apparently shifting my focus on something positive, like my almost-born child, was instrumental in my labor progress. I walked for about an hour before I tell them I will walk no more. We get back to the room and we check my dilation progress. I’m at a 6.
The team has me in various positions, and finally while squatting, some of my water breaks. (My apologies if this is too much information. If that’s the case you should have stopped reading a while ago!) In an effort not to alarm me, the birth team hides the fact that there is meconium present when the first bag of water breaks. The team kicks it into high gear to get this baby out. I get checked again and I’m at an 8, with a really soft cervix. The midwife asks if I mind if she manually breaks my second bag of water and dilates me to a 10. I couldn’t care less what she does at this point, please let’s just end this! I get to a 10 and they want me to change positions again. We head to the bathroom, which I’m dreading, because my contractions seem so much more painful when I’m in there! I’m sitting on the toilet and pushing with everything I’ve got. It’s so scary, because you’re being coached to push as hard as you can, but it hurts, and you’re scared about how much more it is going to hurt. They tell me it won’t hurt anymore, and I admit they were right. At some point you just “max out” on pain! I’m pushing for what seems like forever, I don’t understand why this baby hasn’t arrived yet. So many people filled my head with unrealistic expectations the entire pregnancy, one of which was “you’re so fit, you’re only going to have to push twice and he’ll be out!”. Um, yeah, for the record, that’s total crap. Being fit has nothing to do with how many times you’re going to have to push until your baby arrives. Especially a POSTERIOR baby with an inverted/deviated tailbone in the way. I’m pushing with everything I have, trying to remember that I stayed fit during pregnancy and that should pay off at some point, but I’m nervous, wondering how much longer I will have to push, because I don’t have much or any fuel left in the tank.
This Is Finally It
I kept asking my birth team how much longer this would take (as if they knew). My Type A personality needed some sort of tool to measure this whole process by. They keep telling me “I’m close.” After what I’ve experienced the last 22 hours, I don’t believe anything they say at this point. They are pretty intent on me getting this baby out quickly, and I hear someone mention that they’re going to call NICU. I try to stay focused but can’t comprehend why they would have to call the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in! What’s wrong with my baby?! They tell me that there’s meconium present, so when I push him out, they’re going to have to cut the cord right away and take him so that they can suction the meconium out of his lungs, ears, etc. That makes me want to cry but I have no energy or fluids for that matter, to even produce tears at this point.
My husband had been holding me from behind, so he came around the front side of me to watch our son being born. It wasn’t until I was able to see my husband’s face light up with excitement that I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I reached down and could feel the baby’s head. Finally! I stood up, pushed a few more times, and then…it was…indeed…FINALLY OVER!
After a brutal 22 hours of labor, our beautiful baby boy was here. I was in a complete state of shock. He was perfectly healthy and I actually did survive. I can say with 100% certainty that it is because of my husband, doula, midwife and nurse staff at Baylor McKinney that I was able to deliver this baby without an epidural.
As I sit here and tell this story, I feel proud. But it took me several days and several long conversations with my birth team in order to see myself as strong. I was traumatized by the experience and all I could focus on was the fact that I quit, asking for an epidural. I felt like I let myself and my team down. I felt the energy in the room shift when I asked for the epidural and I imagined everyone throwing in the towel. But they didn’t, and for that I am so grateful. My team reminded me that one of the most important steps in this whole process is putting the people in place that will help you be successful. Fortunately, a combination of my husband and I actively searching out care providers that would help us have the birth we wanted and of course, God being on our side, made that possible.
Had the back-up Doctors delivered our baby, I most likely would have ended up with a c-section. Thinking about that now scares me, but it also makes me incredibly happy, because we were able to change things.
I’ve been asked over and over if I would do it again. At 3 weeks postpartum, I can finally say yeah, I probably will. It’s a conditional yes, however. If my tailbone gets fixed, I will do it again. And I will pray my butt off for an easier labor! And definitely, no more than 2 kids. 🙂
If you made it to the end of this post, congratulations, I know it was lengthy. I want to thank everyone that supported me throughout this pregnancy, labor and delivery and let my husband know just how much he means to me. He completed me in a way I never knew was possible. I’m documenting this journey because I want to help other people that might have questions about natural childbirth. Even after a tough labor, I still highly recommend everyone aspire to do it. Natural childbirth is a woman’s birth right and too many times it is taken away from us. We are all capable of doing it and medical interventions should be saved for when they are really, truly necessary.
For those women that weren’t able to have the birth they wanted, I am praying for you. I pray that you can find peace and find comfort in the fact that your beautiful child is here on Earth, just the way he/she was meant to be. People say it doesn’t matter how your baby gets here, as long as he/she is healthy. But to those that worked hard for a birth they wanted, it is still a traumatizing experience, and I pray for peace for all of the Moms out there.
Peace, love and strength,