Birth story

"If you're not sure if you're in labour, get into a warm bath, and wait half an hour."

That's what I did the morning of April 29th.  At 4:45 I woke up with cramps and an urge to go to the bathroom.  So as quietly and gracefully as possible with a basketball belly, I rolled/crawled/slumped out of bed and to the bathroom.  I returned to bed but only slept for half an hour before waking and wondering.

So I ate an apple (banana?) and started the bath.  That's how our labour began (I think Baby gets to be included as an active participant, since it is she who did all sorts of acrobatics and contortionism to enter this world).  At 6 AM, my bath camp was ready: candles, Bible reading plan, kindle, hot bath.  I read my Bible until I could no longer concentrate through the contractions.  I did my own water aerobics - swaying, rocking, changing positions, keeping my lower abdomen in the water to alleviate the pain.   The husband (Kaja) awoke later and around 9 AM he brought me my phone, and I began timing contractions.

I still wasn't totally sure that it was labour and I told Kaja he could go to work in his car (rather than by bike as he'd done the previous day) and I'd call.  Perhaps he knew better than I did that it was labour, and it was he that called into work.  In my journal, I noted the following about this time in the labour:
I wanted mainly warm, dark, and silent.  So I guess it makes sense that I never made a birth CD after all.  I couldn't imagine sound that I wanted, including K's sounds--normal things like hand-grinding coffee or listening to a short video [on his phone].  I was quite brisk with him and as birth came closer I became more assertive/aggressive.  I had nearly no patience by the time we got to the hospital at 13:00.
It's funny how time didn't have much substance during the contractions.  I was just experiencing them one at a time, and though I pushed a button on my phone at the start and stop of each contraction, I mostly was just experiencing the physical phenomenon that was happening.  I was also occasionally "brisk" with my husband as I urged him to be quiet; every little sound disturbed me.  I waited as long as possible to go to the hospital.  Contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and around a minute long each when I finally told my husband we were going.  It was a struggle to get dressed and to even speak.  When we got to the hospital, I did manage to gripe at my husband that he should have just dropped me off at the door.

Yet despite my mounting aggression, up to this point, I was happy with the experience.  It's what followed that is hard for me to write about in an appropriate tone while communicating both my gratefulness for having given birth to a healthy daughter as well as my disappointment with the hospital experience.  I suppose I'll just revert to what I wrote when it was fresh in my mind the day after.

[Immediately after arrival] they put me on a monitor like they had on my usual appointments.   Two women were there for normal check-ups.  I must have horrified them--especially when I took of the electronic monitors and ran for the sink to vomit (I'd already vomited once at home--and I did once more in the birthing room).  [The hospital staff then] ushered me to the elevator.  I refused the wheelchair.  When they checked dilation, I was about 8-9 cm dilated.  I was happy to reach my room.  Finally quiet.  No one requesting forms or asking questions.  I immediately sat on the birth ball, then soon went to the shower--I asked K to join me in the shower with the birth ball.  He was so supportive.  He kept his calm with me and played a nice (as in protective) daddy bear to my mommy bear.  We refused the IV x many times and refused pitocin, and refused breaking the water.  I was practically pushing when I arrived.  I don't know why they wanted to speed it up.

The birth assistant was great, advising me to lay on my side, giving me a grip bar when she saw me kneeling on the bed.  As it escalated to pushing, I was in a different world.  My eyes were closed and I still probably couldn't identify the people there.  They were yelling at me [in Czech] to push against my natural rhythms and telling me to hold my exhale and push with it.  They annoyed me to no end, especially since Mr. Doctor was putting his fingers into the birth canal all the time.

This is the time I got LOUD.  I was moaning and grunting and swaying and moving as much as they would allow.  I think writhing is a better word.  I was shocked when they already had me push.  More shocked to see my big blue-purple baby and still more shocked to see how quickly they cut the umbilical cord.  Though they only gave me a couple minutes of contact before rolling her away, when they came back, we found they'd respected the wishes in our birth plan [concerning her].

Yet the doctor who [had] looked at the birth plan with me [on a previous appointment] did not respect it:

  • I had an episiotomy (I can live with that)
  • they cut the cord immediately [and did not let it finish pulsing] (my biggest issue)
  • they directed my pushing (I acted contrary to my nature)
  • and they repeatedly offered me things I didn't want (pitocin, an IV)
I was willing to get the antibiotic [because of my testing positive for Group B Strep], but I think that was an issue of time. . . I was stitched up after the birth--I feel like there were a million stitches--and the doctor said in two weeks they'd be absorbed.

The time after the birth seemed to go much longer than the 10 hours of labour.  (Yes, 10 hours for my first child. Not bad, I'd say.)  She was born 1 hour and 45 minutes after we arrived.  So after the agonizing admission, which included plenty of people all around me blabbering in Czech and asking me to fill in forms in between my screams . . . yes, after all of that, plus moving to another part of the hospital and getting my first check, it was probably just another hour or so till she was born.  But after the birth, they took her. 

Both she and I were about 35 degrees Celcius/95 degrees Fahrenheit.  (Frankly, that's not to odd for me, and naturally her temperature would match mine.)  Also they were concerned for her breathing.  I sent Kaja to go with Ella, while I lay on my back, shaking with cold and being stitched up by the very doctor who had disregarded my birth wishes/plan.

Those were the hardest moments.  After giving a natural vaginal birth, I was alone, shaking, bleeding, and being stabbed by a needle.  No long minutes gazing at my baby, giving her cuddles and feeling a rush of oxytocin while watching that (not-so-tiny) baby bob her head up and down until she found her future milk supply.  

Kaja came back before Ella did, and he was a great comfort to me.  One of the first things he said was that for the next birth we should go to the hospital more known for it's support of natural birth, and we'd better bring a doula with us.


  1. Chair, thanks so much for sharing your birth experience. I'm in awe at both the rawness and beauty of it, including the vulnerability about the disappointing aspects and uncooperative doctor. I miss you often, and I'm so appreciative that I can read the details of your experience - at risk of sounding overly sentimental, it makes me feel a bit closer to you and your sweet family :)

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  3. Douglas are THE BEST. So are midwives. My first birth in hospital was a similar story. Hospital OB/Gyns too often bully mothers, IMHO. Doulas and midwives 4ever.


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