I was inspired by this post by MckMama of My Charming Kids, to share my own Bradley Birth story. Thank God, my experience was much less traumatic than MckMama’s! During my pregnancy with Camilla, we drove an hour and a half each way, every week for twelve weeks to learn the Bradley Method of Husband Coached Childbirth. Not only that–our OB practice was so intrusive that I switched to a different doctor and hospital at 34 weeks. But that is a story for another day. After Camilla’s birth, even Todd agreed with me that driving so far for intensive Bradley classes was worth it. Here is the story I emailed to our classmates shortly after our first little miracle entered the world on October 3, 2006.
Warning: it is a birth story, so, you know, there’s a lot of info and it’s not all pretty.
On Monday afternoon, around 2:15, my water broke. I had hoped not to start labor this way because our doctor had told us to come right in to the hospital if my water broke. I wanted to be able to labor at home for as long as possible. But I called Todd at work, gathered our stuff together and waited till he got home. We got to the hospital a little after 3. And, thank God, I was already having regular contractions. They weren’t too bad yet, and I think I would have been happier walking the halls at this point, but the doctor on call wanted me to stay in bed on the EFM until she got there to check me. I also had to receive antibiotics through an IV b/c I was positive for Group B Strep. But I had been told that once the antibiotics were administered, I could have the IV removed and just leave the Hep lock in place. After the first dose, that’s what happened, and I was able to get up and move around if I wanted to. They wanted to monitor me 20 minutes out of each hour—but that was hard b/c in order to get a good tracing, I had to be on my back, which was the most uncomfortable position ever. I spent a lot of time on the toilet, and some sitting in a rocking chair. But the doctor told me my cervix was starting to swell, so she wanted me to lie down. Todd was great about massage and reminding me to relax through each contraction, but backing off with massage later on when I did not want to be touched. The hardest thing for me was relaxing. I knew that it felt better if I relaxed and let go through each contraction, but it took tremendous concentration to do that and it was NOT my instinct in spite of all our practice. My contractions were never very far apart, so I kept wondering if I was in transition, but figured it would probably get a lot worse. Around 7 pm or so, the doctor came and checked me, telling me I was 4 centimeters. I’d only increased one cm in a few hours of hard labor. It was a little discouraging, but I knew what we had learned about the Natural Alignment Plateau and it was progress. Still, when the doctor came back and checked me again, she told me I was maybe 5 cm and she wanted us to think about Pitocin. We said we’d let her know. After she left, we told the nurse we just wanted to wait on the Pitocin for a while, so she relayed that to the doctor and Todd got out the Clary Sage and put it on a towel close to my face. Either my body was just ready to kick into high gear or Clary Sage works wonders, and of course God answers prayer. Soon I felt what I thought was the Ferguson reflex, and Todd went to get the nurse. While he was gone, I said, “Please, God, I don’t know how much longer I can do this!” When the nurse checked me, I was 8 cm, and I knew I could do it. I went quickly to 9 and then just had a lip of cervix. I think the nurse ended up pushing the lip of cervix back over the baby’s head while I started pushing. Pushing was much better, b/c I felt like I was doing something—I could more actively affect our progress. And both Todd and the nurse were great cheerleaders. It was exhausting, though, (especially at 12:30 am) and I think the nurse sensed this. She said she could get the doctor to assist if I wanted—was I opposed to a vacuum extractor? Of course I was—I guess she hadn’t memorized our birth plan! But the word vacuum gave me adrenalin like you wouldn’t believe! I was going to push that baby out! And I did! Well, we did. I could never have done it without Todd there—and the nurse doing perineal massage. I’m sure that, and our massage in preparation, kept my perineum intact. I only needed two small stitches. But back to the birth moment—the cord was tight around our baby’s neck, so the doctor had to cut it before delivering the body. That moment of feeling our baby slip into the world was amazing—I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. It was 1:21 am on Tuesday, October 3rd (eleven hours after my water broke). I touched the baby right away, but they kept suctioning her. And they let me hold her for just a few seconds, wrapped in a towel (which I didn’t really want), before they took her to the isolette to suction her some more—and more, and more, and give her oxygen. They said she took a big gulp of fluid on the way out. But Todd and I kept talking to her—and finally they gave her to me. I got to try nursing for a few minutes before they took her again to measure her. The doctor had a really hard time getting the placenta out b/c my cervix clamped down too soon. And then I lost a lot of blood. And I’d had a temperature this whole time (I had an IV for the whole pushing stage to try to help with that). So while they were measuring the baby, I started to feel really lightheaded, and I told the nurse, who ran for the other nurse. I woke up with Todd and the nurses around me. This happened a couple times. My white blood count was really high, so in addition to the loss of blood I was fighting off an infection. I honestly couldn’t move—they gave me antibiotics and I just lay in bed for what seemed like forever, unable to even hold my baby. Around 5:30 am I felt a lot better and that’s when I finally got to spend time with our precious little Camilla. She is so beautiful! And we were really happy, all in all, with the birth experience. The aftermath was a bit grueling, but we both felt the Bradley classes helped us so much with the whole process. And I was so happy to have birthed naturally. I’m sure having a comparatively short labor and a smaller baby (6lbs. 15oz., 19.5 inches) helped with that, but it was exhilarating to know we had accomplished what we hoped and prayed for. Now we’re happily home—just enjoying our little blessing from above. She is so precious—and Todd and I are both in love with her.
I failed to mention in that account that during the four hours following Camilla’s birth, during which I passed out numerous times, I really thought I might die. Now it seems silly, because here I am and I’m obviously very healthy. I’m so thankful for that. Also, I loved the doctor who caught Camilla–she was awesome. I didn’t know it at the time, but she is a Christian too and goes to a church similar to ours. So we ended up seeing her from time to time after Camilla was born. Even though we may have differed on a few little details during labor, she was supportive and a kindred spirit. Last time I saw her, she and I were bemoaning the lack of childbirth options in our area–and then she up and moved to Texas a few months later! How dare she! God knows, we need supportive OBs! So that’s the story. I really could, maybe should, go into more detail . . . but there are more important things calling for my attention. Like a snuggle with Todd.