*As I go into the final installment of my journey of becoming a doula, I want to thank you for reading these stories. I believe that women can do so much good by sharing their birth stories with their children, friends, family, and even strangers. Birth stories have the power to heal and to shape the minds of future birthers. I hope that my stories have encouraged and inspired someone to tell their story and speak their truth.
So there I was, in the lobby of the hospital becoming my I-am-woman-hear-me-roar self. The nurse looked up at me as if coming out of an over-worked fog and said with wide eyes, “Oh. Okay, ma'am.” She got up from her seat to come around and open the door to the maternity wing. I was walked into the closest triage room so they could check my progress. My husband and I knew the routine so we walked right in and took our places. He walked around the bed to lay the bags down and I climbed onto the bed and took everything off except my sports bra. I was in my unfettered zone; there were no rules of decency or proper etiquette that could contradict my primal, birth brain.
Squatting on the bed felt best so I kept that position while the triage nurse strapped on my blood pressure cuff and external fetal monitors. She inserted the hep lock into my left hand, just in case I needed anything intravenously. She walked back over to her computer cart and began her litany of questions. My doctor had been called in and was obviously not happy with me. I had not only refused the cesarean a week ago, but now I was refusing the antibiotics for a 7-week-old positive GBS (group B streptococcus) test. I made the choice to deny the antibiotic, being fully informed of all the necessary information surrounding GBS testing. My doctor, with her arms folded in front of her chest, called me “dangerous and risky” and left promptly in a very unprofessional mood. She had another patient scheduled in surgery and preferred that environment, away from me.
When my nurse checked my dilation, I was a 9.5 with a small cervical lip, meaning I was nearly there...nearly done with the 3 days of opening and positioning contractions. The nurse sped up her questions and put in a call to the nurse’s station, requesting that a doctor come soon, along with the team of nurses and the delivery cart. The moment that she got off the phone a mighty contraction came, releasing my bag of waters. It felt like such a great relief. When the contraction ended, I told her my water broke, knowing (but forgetting to tell her) that when my waters break the baby is not too far behind. I should have added that bit of knowledge.
Soon the room was filled with people all coming to do their hospital jobs. There is a nurse who sets up the cart with delivery supplies. Another nurse sets up the baby warmer and prepares all the blankets and tools they will need for the baby. An additional nurse or two usually come in to assist with anything that might be needed, depending on how many nurses are available at the time. Then the doctor arrives and suits up in sterile clothes while the nurse who has been with the laboring woman fills him/her in on what’s happened so far. It’s such a flurry to witness. But when you’re the pregnant woman, you don’t really register the activity. As long as you feel safe with everyone in the room, your focus stays on your body and the task at hand.
With the release of waters, the staff wanted me to switch to a semi-reclining position so that they could have good access to the main event. Most doctors are trained against catching a baby while the mother is squatting since it gives them almost no visibility. Most midwives are trained in receiving a baby from any position that the laboring woman wants to be in. I laid back and caught my breath while they repositioned the head portion of the bed. My doctor was still in surgery so the on-call doctor, a short Asian man, came in. He was calm and looked happy to be there. He was a man of few words and didn’t try to take over what my body needed no help doing. Contractions with the urge to push came within 10 minutes of the room being prepped and after about 4 or 5 pushes, I exclaimed, “Oh thank God!” and met my third daughter, 90 minutes after arriving to the hospital.
I handled this birth really well with no complications, but my daughter was having a bit of a tough time taking some deep breaths. In the end, after a 24-hour stay in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), we found that she had some fluid in her lungs but showed no signs of pneumonia or any other infection. I assume the fluid was leftover amniotic fluid that did not get fully dispelled during the rapid second stage (pushing). Once in my postpartum recovery room, I took some time to myself, knowing that my husband was with my daughter. I ate breakfast, took a shower, began my pumping routine, and even journalled about the birth experience. I pumped breast milk for that first 24 hours and they gave it to her via a tube inside her mouth. My husband came to see me in the afternoon and we went together, me in a wheelchair, up to the NICU floor so I could see my baby. She was beautiful and content and loving her pacifier. Once she was able to breath room air, I could nurse and hold her.
Recovery was so much easier this time. I spent the first day mostly separated from her, and I felt really good about it. I felt confident in all the decisions I had made. I knew what I wanted and needed. When my doctor came in to visit me the second day after the birth, her arms were still crossed in front of her. Did she feel threatened by me or just have a strong need to restrain herself? Either way, she told me the tests all came back clear and that the baby “seemed to be doing fine.” Her bedside manner was inappropriate and I didn’t really care. I came to the hospital to have a baby and that part was done. Two weeks after returning home, I received a letter in the mail from my obstetrician, informing me that after my 6-week postpartum visit, I would need to find another doctor for my care. She did not want to see me again. After reading the letter, I laughed to myself, not surprised.
Generally, when people speak up and go against the mainstream way of thinking, they find the road to be a little more desolate. I didn’t mind it, though. It felt refreshing. After all this experience with birth and settings and providers, I knew who I was and I knew my opinions. This clear-headed and determined way of thinking has seeped into my life and career as a doula. I don’t sugar-coat much, if anything. I won’t tell you everything is fine if it’s not. I believe honesty is the best thing in every situation. I believe wholeheartedly in both the ability of a woman’s body to deliver a baby, and the ability of a woman’s body to need medical help for a myriad of reasons. I believe that support in childbirth is everything. When a woman feels safe, she is relaxed. And when there is no tension, pain is felt less. When a woman is surrounded by supportive information and is reminded of her power to think and to decide, she becomes an empowered woman. I believe in the healing properties of a gentle brush of the forehead or a tight squeeze of the hips. I believe in eye contact and telling a woman that she is strong, capable, and doing this all beautifully. I support childbirth in whatever form it takes. I am a birth doula.