With all this talk of fertility and baby care — last week's podcast with Heather — I realized I haven't ever shared our birth stories with you.
Actually, I've never written them down at all! Which is sad because my children are almost 16, newly 14, and 12-1/2.
It's better late than never, right?
Before I get to the stories (which I will attempt to keep brief due to sharing three at once… yikes), I want to give some disclaimers.
First, what I share is my opinion. I am entitled to my opinions, and I certainly have them. But they're just that — my opinions. My opinions. Please don't think I'm judging anyone who feels differently or who has acted differently. I'm just sharing, not judging.
Second, I'm not a doctor or a midwife or a doula. Just a mom who's had three babies. So I can't — and am not trying to — give medical advice or pregnancy advice or birth advice.
Third, I'm not going to share doctor's names, midwife names, birthing facilities, cities, etc. I'm also not going to do the minute-by-minute play-by-play of our births because I don't remember those details any more and also I'm covering three births so it would get too long!
Finally, we didn't have a digital camera when any of the children were born so in lieu of birth photos, I'm including photos of when the kids were young. 🙂
Baby A's Birth
I was 21 when I became pregnant with A. Having been a vegetarian, I started craving meat and ate lots of Wendy's chicken nuggets. We would go on to call A “nugget” because she was probably mostly chicken nuggets! We knew nothing at the time about a nourishing pregnancy diet. To put it mildly, I wasn't eating well.
We checked out all the usual birth books and videos from the library, and my husband got pretty interested in home birthing. I, however, would have none of it. I wanted a doctor and a hospital because I was scared and not ready for doing anything outside the norm. Even so, I knew I wanted my hospital birth to be as natural as possible — i.e., no pain killers.
We moved states mid-pregnancy and had to find a new ob-gyn. He came highly recommended and voiced willingness to help us have a natural birth.
A week overdue, we consented to an induction. The post-induction hospital monitoring revealed Baby A's heart rate was cut in half during contractions. Nurses called the doctor who, over the phone, simultaneously ordered a few physical manipulations in case the cord was pinched AND a C-Section as if it was a foregone conclusion.
There was no improvement in baby's heart rate with the physical manipulations, so we signed on the dotted line, and I was prepped for a C-Section. That's when my spirit pulled out of my body and I felt like I was hovering overhead watching these shocking events. C-Section? Never in a million years did I, did we, think we would be going there. I hadn't even admitted the possibility, so it was a shock to be there.
All prepped and ready, the doctor was not yet there. Nurses had been paging him and when he finally showed up, he said, “Can't I finish my pizza?” Yes, that's what he really said. We heard it.
Okay, C-Section over, I'm in the recovery room feeling like I'd been run over by a truck, and also isolated, alone, cold, and still not back in my body yet. No baby to meet and no husband nearby.
Happily, Jeff was with Baby A. He would not leave her side.
Out of recovery, I met our first baby. I started feeling better and got back into my body.
Nursing was really hard (and stayed hard for two weeks). I hardly knew how to change a diaper, but since Jeff had taken care of lots of foster babies as a child, I received good instruction. 😉
The doctor checked on us the next day (is it normal for doctors not to see you right after delivery?) and never said a word about the C-Section or how we felt about it. He knew very well where we stood, and I'm 100% certain he was just avoiding the issue.
He did say that he had found out why a C-Section was necessary. My placenta had not developed properly. He called it vasa previa. He drew a picture of it and I still have that picture around somewhere.
Baby B's Birth
Not much later, I was pregnant with Baby B and my diet was not improved. Fast food, processed food, bad fats, sugar, you name it. However, I was ready to fight hard for a natural birth. I'm sure my husband was glad.
We started a Bradley childbirth class and within a few meetings had decided that home birth was for us. For me, it was mostly the fact that interventions lead to more interventions which tend to lead to C-Sections. I wanted to get out of that equation altogether. Plus, I wanted to stay home to give birth.
After very little searching, we found a wonderful, caring, experienced lay midwife. I'll call her J. At the time, she had helped birth 1200 babies. She considered our birth history and felt there was no reason why we couldn't try it. My parents loaned us the money to pay for her services (her rates were very reasonable).
We also had health insurance through an HMO, so I continued to go in for the checkups without telling them that we didn't plan to use their services at the end — but would if we had an emergency.
For most of my pre-natal visits at the HMO, I asked for the staff midwife (not our midwife — one on staff there) so I wouldn't have to see a doctor very often. We maybe saw a doctor twice?
One thing the HMO required for anyone who'd had a C-Section was to take a mandatory class on VBACs — Vaginal Birth After Cesarean. I understand that now VBACs aren't recommended, but they were then. And I think probably the HMO recommended them to keep their costs down?
I hated that class. It was good they encouraged ladies to consider vaginal birth (we all had the option to do whatever we wanted), but the language was so medical — anyone else hate the phrase “take the baby”? — and the recommendation to use pain medication so liberal. I guess when faced with moms who've not delivered vaginally, they think we're all mostly afraid of pain.
Maybe we are afraid of pain, but I'll tell you what I feared the most — going under the knife again. Having a callous, uncaring doctor. Not being with my child right after she was born. Recovering from birth in a hospital room where I couldn't sleep and where people were coming in and out all the time. Someone telling me I had to walk when I'd just had my stomach cut open. Taking six weeks to feel even somewhat normal again.
So I didn't enjoy that class. 😉
Meanwhile, our midwife J came to our place frequently for in-house checkups. She was so refreshingly laid back and knowledgeable.
When I went past my due date, the HMO said I would have to be induced at a week late, no matter what. We hemmed and hawed about making the induction appointment, so they let it go for a bit. But then to appease them, we put an appointment on the books for when I was two weeks overdue (maybe it was a week and a half… I don't exactly remember).
We didn't intend to show up for it; we hoped Baby B would be born already. But she wasn't! So I called in that I couldn't make it and rescheduled for another week. And by that time, three weeks later (a day before the rescheduled induction), B was finally born. In the nick of time!
I have to say, it was fun to call in to the HMO and say, “Oops, she was born.” The nurse said, “You knew all along that you were going to do this, didn't you?” And of course I owned up to it and said yes. She kind of laughed but she kind of chided me that it was very dangerous. I was just so happy that I didn't care what she said.
How was that birth? Well, it was fast and furious. Remember we hadn't labored or given birth before. We didn't know how far labor was progressing but it seemed like I might have gone through transition — I had thrown up and it was pretty intense with contractions long and close together. I had spent most of the labor lying on my side on a futon mattress in a dark room.
We called J and said something to the effect that “things are happening and we think you should hurry”. This was during a storm, and she had quite a time getting to our house from hers (up the mountain).
By the time J arrived, Baby B was crowning BUT it was really strange because my water hadn't broken; this was one of the reasons we didn't think I was very far along at first. Instead of seeing her head, Jeff saw the bulging sack and was kind of freaked out by that. He told me to get my bottom up in the air and try not to push until J arrived. That was hard! When J got there she got the minimum things set up and then popped the sack and then I was pushing and then B was born on our bed. It was over so fast. Around 5 hours for this birth.
Then J went to the kitchen and made us scrambled eggs for breakfast and cleaned things up and we talked about what to do with the placenta (we buried it) and everything just felt so good. So right. Nursing went well from day one. (I knew what I was doing this time!)
Baby C's Birth
With every baby, I got more and more confident. Jeff had been ready to think outside the box from the beginning, but I needed more time. 😉
This time (with Baby C), we had no HMO for a fall-back but we knew we wanted J again as our midwife. She encouraged us to seek out a doctor who would be backup, just in case we ended up at the emergency room.
I called the doctor who had done my C-Section with A and he said no way, no how would he touch a home birth with a 10-foot pole. Well, he probably didn't use those words, but that was the gist.
I didn't try anyone else. We knew we could rely on the Lord. He'd been good to us so far and we put this birth in His hands, too.
Pre-natal visits were handled entirely by J. She came to our place or we went to hers. It was so laid-back and so wonderful.
Once again, I ate poorly. I guess in the scheme of things it was somewhat improved; more whole foods than processed, but still conventional everything.
This was the first pregnancy without an ultrasound so we didn't know if C would be a girl or boy. That was fun. (If we had had another child after this, we would have chosen to be surprised this same way.)
Where B's birth was fast and furious, this one was gentle yet intense (and short at 3-1/2 hours). The bathtub felt really good during contractions, and once again, transition made me throw up.
J was there in plenty of time and even brought a midwife-in-training to assist. While I labored but didn't need them, they napped or read or just hung out in the living room. When it was time to push, Jeff called them to our bedroom and C was born on our bed. We slept and napped and nursed until morning. Then the girls came home (they'd been with Gramma) and met their little brother.
The View From Here
God showed us how very much He cares for us and our children! He gave us wonderful births and healthy children, in spite of my poor diet.
Our children are so precious and we're thankful for each one and each birth. Even the C-Section. I never want A to think that I regret her birth. I don't and I couldn't. But having gone through it, I learned that I wanted to do things differently after that if I could.
Even though our children were are born relatively healthy, I'm sure my poor diet had consequences. What caused A's funky placenta? And for that matter, the next two placentas — they were similarly wonky but not quite so bad. If I had eaten a nourishing diet would they have been perfect?
If I had eaten better, would my children not have had food allergies or food sensitivities?
What about my son's eczema?
Or how my two daughters needed braces? (It's too early yet to know whether my son will.)
So yes, I do look back with great thanks — but also I wish I'd done things differently. Not only my own pregnancy care, but how I nourished them in their first years.
Having said that, I know that every day presents an opportunity to get on the right path and it's never too late!
Questions for you: What were your births like? What did you learn from them? What would you have done differently? What makes you look back on them and smile?
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