Tuesday, February 15, 2011

from home birth to c-section

It was two and half years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was coming to believe that I was going to be pregnant forever with Burrito.  She was over a week late.  I wanted to have the longest possible maternity leave with the new baby, so even past my due date, I was still on the clock.  I had led church services the morning I went into labor, even though Burrito was overdue. 

As a side note, let me say that it was interesting preaching and leading liturgy while pregnant.  Early on, my terror was that I would succumb to morning sickness at the smaller country church where there was literally NOWHERE TO GO if I needed to throw up.  We’re talking a one room sanctuary with a small fellowship hall in the basement.  I was lucky though; I never threw up from morning sickness, though I felt nauseated for a long time.

Later on, as my pregnancy reached 37 weeks and onward, I began to be terrified that my water would break in the middle of leading services.  It was small comfort to think that not every woman has her water break at the start of labor.  It happens at different times for different women, some right before the baby is delivered.  In preparation, Poise pads were my friend.  I don’t know if they would have actually kept me from an embarrassing “balloon burst” or not, but it gave me a bit of comfort to think they might.

In the end, I was at home that Sunday afternoon when I went into labor.  Interestingly enough, my water did break at the beginning of labor, right after the bloody show.  I was pretty excited!  At long last, after all the waiting, Burrito was going to be born!

In North Dakota, where we lived, there was one small town hospital that still delivered babies 15 minutes away from us.  But this hospital had only male doctors and I have never liked having a male doctor, especially for more personal matters.  Due to the fact that the small town hospital might at times have trouble assembling a surgical team as quickly as needed, most women drove the 75 minutes or more to Grand Forks to have their babies at the larger hospital.  I was unable to find a doctor there that I was comfortable with, and besides, 75 MINUTES IN LABOR???  Are you serious?  Not to mention that driving that far while in labor was probably not the safest thing in the world either.

So, since Burrito had to get out of me sometime, preferably without my husband and I alone delivering her, we began to look at other options.  Options that surprised even me.  I began to think seriously about home birth.

I am a person that likes certainty, control (let’s be honest!), everything to fall into place nicely.  So you’d think I would be drawn to have my baby at a hospital, where everything is in a neatly controlled medical environment.  But the more reading I began to do about the way the typical hospital handles birth, the more I began to worry. 

I learned that I would do better in labor by being able to move around, by being able to have light snacks and beverages to buoy up my strength, by being able to use a birthing pool to help ease the pain of labor.  I learned that lying flat on my back on a bed was not the ideal birthing position, but that positions like “squatting” that women around the world have used for birth forever are actually the best.  I learned that I would do better if my husband and I would be allowed to work through the labor together.  The big city hospital did not want to offer me any of these things.  In fact, if I read things right after meeting with their doctor, birthing Burrito there would move me straight through the Pitocin—Hard labor—Need for pain medication—Stalled labor—Need for c-section cycle.  I just didn’t want that.  I wanted to have the experience of labor.  I wanted to do this thing that God had built my body to do.  I wanted to do it the way God intended it to work. 

So we found a midwife.  She was a very knowledgeable woman, with a caring heart and also a Christian.  It was nice to be able to relate to my health care provider on a faith level.  But she covered a wide geographic area as a midwife.  She had no back-up provider, although she did have a couple of doulas who sometimes assisted her.  And as I came to find out, she was accident prone.  She broke her ankle shortly before Burrito was due and had to have surgery. 

In the end, when I went into labor with Burrito, she was close by and was able to bring doulas with her.  But I do believe things would have gone better if she had had a back-up midwife as she was pretty tired from a recent surgery and the doulas did most of the work throughout the labor.  As knowledgeable and loving as my midwife was, I would definitely look for a midwife who has a back-up provider if I ever attempted a home birth in the future.

I was in labor for two days.  The first day went quite well.  I found that the techniques I had learned for managing pain, such as moving around, swaying, holding onto my husband, and especially, using the birthing pool, were very helpful.  The number one tip I had learned was that when I leaned into the pain, I could manage it far better than if I resisted it.  And it worked well.  I won’t say it was “comfortable,” but I felt quite in control of the pain, with the help of my husband and the women who came to assist.

However, a ways into the birthing process, I was told that I was probably far enough along that I could push when I felt the urge.   I was getting a bit tired of waiting and I worried that the women who were assisting me would be frustrated that I was taking so long (they weren’t), so I decided I would start pushing.  It was premature.  I should not have started pushing yet because I did not feel that undeniable urge that the books I had read had promised I would feel.  It did come later, so I was able to feel the difference.  But by then, I was so exhausted from pushing before my time, that I simply could not make the progress I needed to.  I pushed for hours and hours.  You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how long I pushed.  Still, I am a stubborn person and I didn’t want to give up.  Surely, I was close enough.  And Burrito did not seem to be in any distress.  But the contractions were coming hard and fast…less than a minute apart, if I remember right.  I couldn’t even lay down to rest without being thrust into another one.  I had not slept for two nights and I had never worked so hard in my life.  I was spent.

I remember the moment I finally gave in and admitted I needed help...

...to be continued...


  1. I would love to talk to you sometime about the birth experience differnces between #1 and #2. They truly were different and a huge difference is the attitude of the mother.
    I really should write about Ella's birth some time. I have written about Ian's but not hers and it was soooo much better, easier, calmer, and less painful.
    I was never the homebirth type and I did the reading. My husband is also a paramedic and he pretty much forbid it. I respect that. I was seconds away from a c-section with Ian. I pushed for close to 3 hours. The O.R. staff was getting ready for me to be brought down.
    I look forward to reading part 2. Every birth story is different. But when that baby comes, the shared story of your family becomes very rich.
    Peace to you.

  2. Thanks, Lucinda...that's reassuring to hear that things can go much better with the second birth. Part of the anxiety with a first birth of course is that you have literally no idea what it is like...I'm much less worried about labor and delivery in the future, even given the difficult labor I had.


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