Avista is my second daughter but my first hypnobirthing baby. To demonstrate the night and day experiences between her birth and my first daughter, Indeka’s, I’ll give you a brief account of my first birthing experience. Labour began on my due date around 11 pm when my water broke. I was admitted to the hospital around midnight, since my water had broken and they wanted to monitor me. I dozed on and off through the night since I wasn’t feeling much for contractions yet. In the morning, my husband and the nurse helped me to walk around the unit, take bathroom breaks and sit in the tub. Around noon, the doctor told me I wasn’t progressing fast enough and they recommended starting me on pitocin (or whatever the equivalent was). I didn’t know what that was, but trusted the doctor and agreed to the IV. They kept increasing the dose when I still wasn’t progressing fast enough until eventually the contractions were so hard and painful that I asked for an epidural. That made everything better, or so I thought. At least I couldn’t feel the pain anymore. But they still kept increasing the pitocin. Around 6 o’clock, the nurse instructed me to start pushing. I couldn’t feel anything below my breasts so pushing was difficult, I couldn’t feel the muscles that I needed to use. I pushed for 3.5 hours until she was born at 9:41 pm, 5 lbs 13 oz, 19 inches long, assisted by a vacuum. The cord was wrapped around her neck, she wasn’t breathing properly, she was an odd shade of blue and they rushed her to the NICU. I had such bad tears that I required a lot of stitches and couldn’t go to the NICU until around 11 to see her but didn’t get to hold her until the next day. Then I was told that she had a high white blood cell count which could be a sign of infection, so she would have to remain in the NICU for at least a week. I spent 2 days in the hospital before I asked to go home. As soon as we got into our house, I just laid down on the couch and cried. I was overcome with worry, fear, and guilt. I spent much of my time at the hospital with her but every time I left, I cried for my baby who had to stay behind. I felt like I had done something wrong, that I had already failed as a mother, and that it was my fault that my baby had to stay in the NICU. Even after she was pronounced healthy, no infection, just a traumatic birth (no kidding!) and we got to take her home, I looked back at the whole experience as a negative. I was very apprehensive about having another.
Fast forward to Sunday October 11, 2009. I was 40 weeks and counting, had passed my doctor’s guess date AND the date that I thought she would arrive, so I was getting anxious to hold my new baby girl in my arms! Her big sister Indeka was also very excited about her arrival and becoming a big sister. Everyone was ready to meet her and I was ready to NOT be pregnant anymore! I gained about the same amount of weight as I did with Inde (60lbs!!) but my stomach was gigantic! I outgrew most of my pregnancy clothes and had only a few shirts and dresses and one pair of pants that were still comfortable. I was done with pregnancy and ready to be a mommy again. The day passed like any other, but around 8 o’clock I was laying down with Inde and began to feel some surges. I had been feeling practice surges since July, but these felt different. They kept coming with regularity and I just stayed in bed with Inde for an hour or so until she was asleep, breathing through the surges and imagining my body opening up, softening and bringing my baby to me. I got up around 9:30 and told my husband, who was ill, that our baby was coming soon! Since he wasn’t feeling well and this was just the beginning, I told him to go to bed and get some sleep. I went back out to the living room and sat on my yoga ball, rocking and breathing through the surges as they got closer and more intense. I had been listening to the relaxation CDs every night at bedtime and fell asleep listening to them. I put one of them on as I rocked on my ball, crouched against my couch and breathed, imagining my baby coming to me. I was so excited and nervous but also calm and in control. It was lovely.
I began timing the surges around midnight and by 2:30 am they were coming every 3-4 minutes and were getting more intense. I called my mom because she was going to come watch Inde while Roy and I went to the hospital. My little sister answered the phone and nearly shattered my eardrum with her happy shriek “Are you having a baby tonight?!?” My mom and sister arrived just before 3 to find me still on my yoga ball, gently rocking, breathing deeply through the surges. When my mom found out how close the surges were, she told me to immediately get to the hospital! I knew I still had plenty of time, but I woke Roy up and told him that things were moving along and we should maybe go to the hospital soon. He woke right up then, illness forgotten and rushed around getting dressed and throwing things together to take with us. We got to the car, made it a block and realized we’d forgotten my purse with all the important information in it. We zipped around the block, him driving unnecessarily fast, and he ran back inside. I waited, breathing and imagining my body opening like a flower. He jumped back in the car and drove as fast as he could to the hospital, which normally is a 6-8 minute drive. We made it in 3, thankfully not getting pulled over for crazy driving.
Once we got upstairs, the nurses told me I was 7 cm dilated and showed me to my room. The new unit is fantastic!! Such an improvement over the old. I gave my birthing plan to my nurse, who was absolutely amazing and so supportive, and asked for a birthing ball. My husband set up the CD played and put my CDs on. I alternated between the ball, the bath and the bed for the next 6 hours. After that, I found that being in the tub made my surges really intense and preferred to be on my hands and knees on the bed or in some position on the ball. I think I may have invented a few new poses, although I can’t remember them now! I just went with what my body felt was right, always imagining a flower blooming, and whatever helped me breathe through each surge. So many times I wanted to cave and get an epidural, but I always remembered the terrible sciatic pain that came after my first delivery and just focused on getting through each surge to the next one. Also, I was so determined this time to have a baby without drugs or assistance. The memory of that was so depressing that I couldn’t face that possibility and instead turned that determination into strength. I also began talking to Avi (we had already decided on her name), saying her name, trying to coax her out, telling her how much we loved her and wanted to hold her.
Throughout the night and morning, my husband massaged me, read our scripts, gave me water and did whatever I asked to help me birth our daughter. Despite being somewhat unsure of himself, he was fantastic! I couldn’t ask for a better partner. Around 10 am I felt a large gush of fluid and was so excited that it finally happened. Unfortunately, there was meconium in the fluid, so the nurse called in the team to take care of her once she was born. My doctor’s alternate was on call and the nurse paged her to let her know Avi was coming. I had been feeling the urge to breathe her down for some time now and could feel that she was close, so I kept up the breathing and also used my stomach muscles to help move her down. When the doctor told me to push, I kept breathing and noticed I was also moaning, almost growling from what I remember, but I didn’t even care about the noises. They were helping me bring my baby into the world! A few more breaths and Avista Cathryn was born at 10:37 am. She was 7 lbs 7 oz, 21 inches long and had a head full of beautiful dark hair and big blue eyes. Her initial Apgar score was low, but once the team cleaned her airways, it was nearly perfect and we were left alone with just the doctor waiting for the after birth and my amazing nurse, who my husband and I are convinced saved my life a few minutes later. As a bonus, I had no tears and required no stitches!!! YAY! I was in such a good mood, on such a wonderful natural high and I felt great! Tired and slightly sore but happy and excited more than anything. I was ecstatic that I had pulled off my natural birth!
** Reader beware, this is not for squeamish stomachs or easily scared pregnant women (I’m among that group and wouldn’t want to hear this story while I was pregnant). This is where my wonderful story takes a wrong turn. The placenta was taking a long time to release and the doctor kept tugging the cord to test it. I was so wrapped up in my baby that I didn’t pay enough attention to what she (the doctor) was doing. When she said the placenta was ready, I passed Avista to Roy and began pushing, ready to just be done and bond with my daughter! The doctor pulled on the cord and after a couple of pushes, she told me to push harder and I responded that I couldn’t, it felt like she was pulling my ovaries out. She told me in an irritated tone that I was almost done and could push again. Finally the placenta was out but there was something weird attached to it. The doctor didn’t know what it was, she thought maybe it was a bunch of tumors, but my amazing, wonderful nurse recognized it as my uterus, turned inside out and definitely not in my body, and immediately paged a surgeon. If not for her, I don’t know what would have happened to me. It was a blur of motion, the surgeon arrived with a team of people and shoved my uterus back into my body, her arm covered in blood past her elbow when she stepped back. My amazing nurse was there for me the whole time, holding my hand as I squeezed it with all my strength and fought to keep from climbing the wall behind me. It was awful, I would rather have gone through another 12 hours of labour and delivered another baby than experience this. I didn’t want to frighten my husband or my newborn with any crying so I used my breathing and relaxation techniques to keep as calm and quiet as possible (Roy later told me that the only time I said anything through it all was “OW!” when the surgeon put my uterus back in my body). I was rushed to the OR so fast that my bed bounced painfully off of doorways and I had to get an IV (I hate needles! Especially IVs!) and they put me under right away. I woke up just before noon and was informed that everything had been replaced and I would be fine. My wonderful nurse was there with me and helped me to eat some ice chips and called Roy to let him know I was awake. He had been left alone in the delivery room with Avi. A nurse had told him he would be informed of my condition but no one came back. He was alone and confused with our newborn daughter. I was thankful that they got to stay together at least. With hindsight, I clearly remember Marie telling us in hypnobirthing class how important it is to not pull on the umbilical cord to assist placenta delivery. Now I know exactly how terrible that is and wish I would have paid more attention to what the doctor was doing.
Thankfully, I was able to bond with Avi as soon as I was transferred to my room (and she had spent most of the intervening time bonding with her daddy, only going to the nursery for about half an hour after I woke up and before she was brought to my room). She spent the whole day with me and got to meet her family when my parents and sisters brought her big sister to the hospital. She was taken to the nursery that night so that I could get some rest, but the nurse brought her back soon after because she was crying too much and seemed hungry. I fed her, she fell asleep and I called the nurse to take her back to the nursery. Soon after, the nurse was back, telling me in an irritated tone that I had to feed her more, then briskly wrapped her up and handed her to me. Even though I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed yet without help and wasn’t supposed to be left alone with my baby, I didn’t call anyone to take Avi back to the nursery that night. She stayed with me because I didn’t want over-worked nurses being impatient with my newborn who only wanted her mommy. Avi slept with me in my hospital bed that first night and in my big comfy bed at home every night after that for the first year of her life. I asked to leave the hospital the next day, and although the doctors were reluctant to let me go due to low iron, I insisted that we would feel much better at home and we were discharged that afternoon. I’m sure that if everything had gone well after her birth, we would have gone home the previous afternoon.
As grateful as I am to hospitals, doctors and nurses for their excellent care in emergencies, I am saddened by their medical
approach to birth and their tendency to rush through the process. I was the healthiest, lowest risk pregnant woman for both pregnancies, but after having my uterus yanked out, I was told that any subsequent pregnancies would be high risk, I would likely be on bed rest for much of the pregnancy and would likely require a C-section. All due to a doctor’s impatience. Thankfully I had only planned on having two children and now that I have my wonderful daughters and my perfect hypnobirthing birth, I am content. Despite the scare, I wouldn’t trade my hypnobirthing experience for anything. The doctors and nurses all commented on how well I had done with my breathing and how calm I was through delivery. It was the birth I had wanted and I was so proud of it! I was so happy that I got to avoid drugs and Avi was alert and content from the moment she was born.
Thank you, Marie, for everything! For all of your support, wisdom, encouragement and knowledge, I am incredibly grateful.
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