"Women's strongest feelings [in terms of their birthings], positive and negative, focus on the way they were treated by their caregivers." Annie Kennedy & Penny Simkin
I've been trying to think about how I want to word all of these emotions I feel inside. It's hard to put into words just how I feel, but I'm going to try. I think sharing our experiences can help so many people and I want to help as many women as I can. Birth is something I am extremely passionate about and I have experienced a whole slew of birth scenarios. What I want to talk about are those first few moments after birth. Those moments are so life changing for me in different ways.
With Michael, I didn't have a preference on anything at my birth and I certainly had no idea what a birth plan was. I had read dozens of books about birth and looking back, they all said the same stuff. Having a medical background, I had decided to let them do whatever they wanted, and that was wrong. I regret not having a preference or a plan of any kind. My birth went completely off course and after 4 hours of pushing, a 104 degree fever and 22 hours of labor, I had a c-section. And don't get me wrong, he was NOT positioned in the birth canal right, but they should have done more to help me get him to turn. They allowed me to push for 4 hours and the baby was never in a position to come out that way. I wasted so much energy pushing and by the time he was engaged properly, I was exhausted. My OB was not there the entire time and I had a nurse that barely spoke to me. Looking back, I'm angry I wasn't supported more. I gladly signed my c-section consent. I was exhausted, had a fever and was puking like crazy. I was done. I wanted to meet my little boy. And there was nothing little about him. As soon as my OB pulled him out she said, "oh mama, there was no way you would have had the energy to get him out. You have no stomach fat, this is all baby! He's huge!." Later she told me he was also the longest baby she had delivered(22 inches). At the time I didn't care that half a dozen people got to touch him before me. As soon as I heard him cry, I burst into tears. And when I finally got to hold him, I cried even harder. I don't want this story to make anyone think this birth was not emotional for me. It was. It was all I knew. I wasn't disappointed at all and even to this day, I'm not disappointed. This is how he had to be born. Could it have been prevented? I think so. Even still, it was my son's birthday and I only want to celebrate that day. Here is a picture of my first time ever holding my little guy:
He made me a mother. When I held him, I cried. Then I passed straight out in recovery and didn't see him for hours and hours. I didn't care either. They took him from me so many times and I never even thought twice. I did feel kind of detached from the whole scenario. Like I said, I let them do whatever they wanted. I had no preference. I wish I had taken a clear side on things I wanted. I think that is my only regret.
Skip forward a little over 2 years to Violet's birthday. Her big day was a huge surprise. I went to an OB appointment and was complaining about throwing up all morning and having contractions, but my scheduled c-section wasn't for another week and I wasn't due for two more weeks. My OB thought I had a stomach bug that was making me contract, so she sent me for IV fluids. Jon and Michael were banned from triage because they wouldn't let little ones in there. I had no way of getting a hold of him and lo and behold, I was in labor. They checked me and I was a 4, then an hour later I was a 5. They gave me terbutaline to try and stop my labor, it didn't work. We were having a baby! I needed to get a hold of my husband. After 4 hours, he told them he needed to know what was going on and he walked back just as they were telling me we were going to go have our c-section. So yes, I was having an elective repeat c-section. Just talking about this makes me want to smack myself in the face, but hindsight is 20/20 and when you know better, you do better. They had convinced me that Violet was going to be as big as Michael and she was also face up like he was. I had convinced myself that a c-section would be easier than going through an entire day of labor and then having a c-section. When I went into labor on my own and I was 5 cms, I should have told them I wanted to try for a vbac, but I didn't. They had me in that OR just as soon as someone could get there to watch Michael. When I was getting my spinal I remember wondering if I was making the right choice, but I just wanted to meet her. I was done being pregnant and I used that as a reason to just agree to the c-section and be done, finally. Once again, I think it comes down to feeling supported. I had zero connection with my OB and she wasn't even the one who delivered me, a woman I never met did. I felt completely detached from this situation as well. All I knew was I wanted my baby girl. It took them forever to get her out, they even had to use the vacuum. I felt SO much pressure and I kept wondering why she wasn't out yet. It seemed like it took so much longer to get her out than it did Michael. And it was longer. Her arm was up by her face and the cord was wrapped around her neck and arm. They told me I would have ended up with an emergency c-section had I tried to vbac. Even now I wonder if they told me that to make me feel better. Either way, as soon as I heard her cry, I bawled. And I knew I wanted her right away. We were unprepared for her birth and luckily my grandma had brought a disposable camera. Here is my first moment with my first baby girl:
This time I kind of minded that so many people got to touch my brand new baby before I did. And it was after Violet's birth that something really changed in me. I knew if we had another child that I didn't want another c-section. I also knew this would be a challenge. I wanted to feel supported and cared about. I wanted my voice to be heard. The thing is, I had to find my voice first. These people aren't mind readers. I had to speak up and that meant figuring out what it was I wanted. So I researched like mad. I joined ICAN and tons of mom groups online. I learned facts and heard opinions and read story after story. I felt incredibly empowered and I knew what I wanted for baby #3.
Before I ever got pregnant with my third, I knew I needed to find a vbac friendly OB practice here and I did. I picked a practice at the university hospital here because of one doctor in particular. I didn't end up seeing him(until I was in preterm labor), but I saw the most amazing woman EVER as my OB. She was a 4th year resident and she didn't bat one single eye at me when I told her I wanted to VBA2C(vaginal birth after 2 c-sections). She said the guidelines had just changed to allow it and I was a perfect candidate. She was seriously a cheerleader for me my entire pregnancy. She never doubted my ability to vbac and I am almost in tears right now thinking about her. She meant the world to me and still does to this day. I dont think she realizes the impact she had on me. With Josie I went into preterm labor randomly at 32 weeks and thank goodness, they stopped it. I got to walk around 5 1/2 cms dilated for 6 weeks until Josie's birthday. That day is literally everything to me. It changed me. I have my entire birth story on my blog if you want to read it, but I'm gonna give you a short hand of it. I went in having contractions, which was nothing new, and I wasn't making any change in my cervix. Yes, I was 5 1/2 cms, but I wasn't technically in labor because it wasn't changing. They told me if I agreed to a c-section that I could stay and have my baby, otherwise I had to go home. Mind you, my OB was not there at this time. Needless to say, I got pissed off and my blood pressure skyrocketed. I knew I didn't want pitocin, but I also knew I couldn't continue on the way I was going having contractions all day every day. They decided to admit me and start pitocin because my blood pressure was too high and when I got to my room, it was normal again! They broke my water, started pitocin and gave me my epidural(from hell, which you can read about in my birth story). I eventually told them to turn my epidural off because I wouldn't be able to push. In the midst of all this, I was being attended to by some OB I had never met and then my OB came in. They had called her to tell her I was in labor and she came in! She told that OB that SHE was delivering my baby and to take a hike. I cant begin to tell you how happy I was that she was there for me.
Fast forward to pushing. The monitor wouldn't stay in place and it kept looking like Josie's heartbeat was dropping. It wasn't, but it looked that way. I was only getting a contraction every 10 minutes or so, even with turning the pitocin up. A chief OB came in and told me I had to get her out in the next contraction or I was headed for a c-section. My OB was LIVID. She was giving this doctor so much attitude and was just plain angry for me. She knew I could do it and I WAS doing it, we were just waiting on my body to contract. Because she was a 4th year resident, she had to do what this lady said. They got the vacuum out to assist me, but I wasn't having a contraction, finally I just pushed anyways and out she came with their help. I was pushing so hard and had my eyes closed. My OB told me to open my eyes and not to miss it! That moment just means everything to me. Seeing my baby still ATTACHED to me. I had never seen an umbilical cord before. The pictures of her still connected to the cord are so special to me. And then I lost it. Completely lost it. I bawled my eyes out. I was crying so much, I was shaking. Emotion took over me. I was holding my baby first! And she was beautiful and perfect and not even crying. She just stared at me. The first thing I said to my husband as she was born was to take a picture! I knew I didn't want to ever forget this. And here is my first moment with her:
I don't want to down play my first moments with Michael and Violet, because they are amazing in their own way, but this was completely different. This was how it was supposed to be. I really felt so complete. I did it! I scaled a wall I never thought I would be able to or allowed to do. And I was SUPPORTED. Finally!! Her first moments make me cry every single time I think about them. I cant help it. It's a part of me now and a part of me I am so thankful and happy to have.
And then there is Lawson. A completely different first experience with him. I have his birth story posted here. With Lawson I couldn't have my amazing OB. She had accepted a job in Hawaii. I cant tell you how depressed that made me. We decided to go with a midwife practice at the birth center. I wouldn't be allowed to give birth at the birth center though. I had to give birth at the hospital with the midwives. And once again, it comes down to support. I had to meet 8 different midwives in this practice. I didn't have a bond with ANY of them and this was a HUGE bummer for me. I wanted it to be like it was with my angel of an OB. I wanted them to joke around with my kids and talk to me like she did. She was my friend, she was amazing. I seriously had to mourn not having her at Lawson's birth. I've heard so many wonderful things about midwifery care, but this was not the case for me. While they were all nice, I had no bond with any of them. Even though I had a midwife with me the whole time I was in labor, I didn't feel connected with her in any way. I didn't feel like I could be me or open up. I think there is no greater time in a woman's life where she should be able to be free than in labor. Unfortunately, I felt alone in labor and his labor was something I had to conquer by myself. I was determined to have a natural birth and I did! I did it, again! His first moments were a little different though! Here is a picture of me the first time I held him:
I got everything I wanted as far as delayed cord clamping and skin to skin, but I also was bleeding a lot. I wasn't supported in my birth. I told them I didn't want to be on my back pushing, I told them I didn't want to be told when and how hard to push. I was ignored on both counts and I think that contributed to me tearing as badly as I did. I lost a lot of blood and I didn't want to feel them stitching me or messing around down there. So in that picture, I look so sad. I was so incredibly happy to have my surprise gender baby BOY and I was so proud of my body for going into labor and doing everything on it's own! But I was also scared. I wanted to be left alone with my baby, not messed with. After Lawson was born, I didn't bawl right away like with Josie. They plopped him on me and I felt relief! I was so relieved to be done. That pressure is NO joke. Then it occurred to me to find out what this baby was! I picked baby up and saw it was a boy and then I bawled my eyes out. His cry made me cry all over again and I was instantly in love just like the others. Just like with Josie, I got to hold him first. I ripped my gown up and plopped him right on my skin. I earned that glorious moment. It was different from Josie, but still amazing.
So I guess my point in writing this is my experiences have all been so different, but they have all been life changing for me. These first moments with my children are all special and are all held dearly in my heart. I'd be lying if I said I hold them all equal though. Hands down, Josie's birth was my victory. I am so thankful to God that I finally got my vbac with her. That day changed everything about me. It made me stronger for Lawson's birth. It made me research more. It made me know I could do a natural birth and I felt so empowered. Her birth opened doors for me and changed me as a woman. And I think that it all comes down to support. Those first moments all boil down to having the right support. For me, I've come to learn that I NEED to feel supported and encouraged. I need a relationship with my care provider. For me, my emotions are tied to these feelings.
If I had to give anyone any advice about birth it would be to pick the right care provider, hire a doula, fight for someone who meshes well with you. It made all the difference in the world for me having that connection versus not having it. All of my births are victories for me. They all resulted in healthy, amazing children. Each day holds a special place in my heart and each has changed me and made me grow, just in different ways. I hope to feel supported and encouraged whenever we have our 5th baby and I know I will learn more about myself with that birth to help me with my 6th. These births will continue to change me as a woman and a mother and I cant wait for those first moments.