From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I wanted to have a medication free birth experience. It wasn't about showing how tough I could be, or being more of a woman. I wanted to do this for myself, to fully experience the birth of my first child, and to feel connected to millions of women who had done it this way before me. Here is my personal story of Isa's arrival.
In the early hours of March 14, 2013, I woke up with mild period-like cramping in my lower abdomen. I knew this meant the birth of my daughter was on the horizon. I went back to sleep, and as my husband left for work that morning I told him I was pretty sure she would be making an arrival that day or the next. We kissed goodbye and as he left out the front door I smiled at the fact that this moment was our as last as a newly married couple.
My contractions grew stronger as the day progressed, and I tried to keep my meals light and drink a lot of water. My mom eventually came over in the early afternoon, followed by my sister. I sat on a birthing ball in my pajamas and breathed through my contractions that were rapidly growing more intense and slowly getting closer together. As four o'clock in the afternoon rolled around, my family and I discussed if I should worry about heading to the hospital that was about twenty five minutes away because traffic was about to start piling up on the freeway. I wanted to stay at home as long as possible to avoid unnecessary medical interventions at the hospital. I sent a text message to my husband to let him know I was about to leave home and head to labor and delivery.
My mom, sister, and my pregnant belly and I headed down the freeway to the hospital. It felt so surreal. I was convinced I would be pregnant forever, and this day would never actually come. Now that it was here, all the fear I tried so hard not to feel all these months leading up to her birth, started to creep into my mind. Would I achieve a natural birth? Was I strong enough? Was I prepared enough? Should I have hired a doula? Millions of these questions swirled throughout my brain between contractions.
I anticipated having to disagree with nurses and midwives, and having to stand up for the kind of birth experience I wanted so badly. I surprised myself when the fear overwhelmed me and I went so easily with what they recommended. I asked to be out of bed and off of the monitor to walk around or sit on the ball, since that made the contractions at least bearable. Being confined to the bed was making me feel out of control of the pain. The nurse and midwife both said my blood pressure was getting too high, and in turn my baby's heart rate was starting to skyrocket. I was also severely dehydrated and they started me on an IV, where I eventually went through close to three bags of fluid. I was infused with worry, confusion, and panic for my unborn baby. I wasn't sure if it was better to say I'd like to "wait and hour" for more monitoring or just go with their suggestions. I talked it over with my husband and my mom, and we agreed to go with the advice of the midwife.
After ten hours of labor, and four centimeters dilated, I gave in to the pain. I got an epidural. I don't know if I was more terrified of the needle, the pain, the medication being delivered to my baby and I, or the sharp sting of disappointment I felt in myself for not being able to complete this birth medication free. Holding the hands of the nurse, crying, and trying not to move while the epidural was given, was an incredibly intense moment for me. The pain finally subsided, and I told my husband how sorry I was for loosing strength. He was overwhelmingly supportive and kind, everything I already knew he was. Then, came the Pitocin. This was just another thing I had previously stated to myself I would not have, and there I was accepting without hesitation.
"Mike, hold her foot here and her thigh there. Joy, on your next contraction curl over your belly and push until the count of ten. Ready?"
The next thing I knew the delivery room seemed full of people. Nurses getting supplies, two midwives below me, my husband, mom, sister, and a plethora of others getting things ready for Isa's arrival. I pushed for the last time and I heard, "Joy, open your eyes. Here is your baby!" I opened my eyes and saw my daughter being born from my body. Her head, shoulders, body, and legs came from under me to lying on my bare chest. She was warm, wet, and every bit of beautiful I had imagined her to be. I sobbed into my oxygen mask and held her body near mine. In the midst of the most marvelous moment of my life, my mom cut her cord. Suddenly, Mike and I went from a newly married couple of ten months, to a family of three. I have never felt more complete in my entire life.
What did I learn from this experience?
1. Having a healthy baby is ALL that matters.
2. An epidural isn't the end of the world. After it was all said and done, it didn’t make me less of a woman.
3. At first, I felt like I wasn't as strong as I thought I was before. Then, I realized I was as strong as I needed to be, as I could have been, and I had a beautiful healthy baby.
4. Plan for the unexpected.