Because Eliana was my first child, I had no idea what to expect in her birth. I took the basic classes offered by our local hospital and planned to just see how things went. I wanted to go drug-free, but at the time she was born, I had never heard of a doula or knew we had a birth center an hour from here. I was pregnant with her for most of 2005 and at that time, the Internet hadn’t yet exploded with natural living blogs and birth stories so I didn’t even think to research there. I didn’t have many friends with babies and natural childbirth wasn’t something that was part of conversation circles I was in. I just thought I wanted to do it without drugs and I’d do my best.
The morning I went into labor, I wasn’t even sure if I was in labor, because I didn’t know what it would feel like. Everyone said I’d know, but really, I didn’t know exactly. When I started having what I thought were contractions, I called the doctor and they told me to come in and get checked. So I did. 2 cm. They told me to go home and wait until they were stronger and closer together.
We went home and watched a movie, The Island. I ate some cereal. I remember it didn’t feel so bad. When I thought it was picking up a bit, I walked around. I was anxious and bored at the same time. I wanted it to get moving.
Around 4:00 we called the doctor again and went into the hospital. They checked me and I was only 4 cm. I wasn’t really happy because it seemed like I had already been in labor for awhile. But since it was my first baby, they let me stay. Typical hospital style they hooked me up with an IV, filled out paperwork, and had me in bed.
After another two hours of regular contractions they checked me again and I was still 4 cm. Ugh! So they had me walk around the halls. I took a shower. I was feeling stronger contractions, and already having trouble breathing through them. Not having been in labor before, I thought they were getting intense. No one really helped me through them and it was Jason’s first time as a birth coach so he wasn’t totally sure what to do.
My water broke at one point and that’s when the contractions really started picking up.
After another 3 hours or so they checked me again and I was only 6 cm. I remember feeling really deflated and already tired. The nurses told me it was only going to get more intense from here and if I wanted an epidural, now was the time. The contractions had really picked up and they were much more intense than I realized they would be.
In that moment, I gave up a little. No one was encouraging me to stick it out. They all just assumed I’d get an epidural. I remember thinking how I was already so tired and the contractions just kept coming one right after another and I didn’t think I could make it on my own. So I got an epidural.
The next hour or so is very much a blur. I remember hating the feeling of getting the epidural and how even after I got it, the contractions were really intense. When they checked me again I was 7cm and I was gripping the bedrail and asking for help. They told me that I shouldn’t be feeling that much pain if I had the epidural. I was miserable and started to get a little panicky. No one was helping me breathe through them and I wasn’t sure what to do.
So they called the guy back in and gave me another epidural. Instant relief. I couldn’t believe the difference. I laid with the monitor on my belly and the nurses were watching the charts, asking if I felt the contraction. Nothing, I said. Not even pressure? they asked. Nothing.
My body pretty quickly made it through transition, me feeling absolutely nothing that was going on. I didn’t realize that this was a problem, until they checked me one last time and told me it was time to push.
The really funny thing I remember about this moment is that when I put my legs up in the stirrups, the nurses were staring at me. They commented that I had a really nice pelvis. I wasn’t sure what to do with that comment but they told me that is was great for bearing children and they have seen a lot of different pelvis’s before. It was sort of creepy how much they were complimenting my pelvis. But I will say that I didn’t have complications with any of my births. Maybe my apparently fabulous pelvis helps?
So when it came time to push, I couldn’t feel anything. I couldn’t tell if I was pushing right. I had never done it before and I was just sort of doing what I thought I should do. Plus, I couldn’t feel what my body was telling me to do. After maybe 3 pushes, they were staring at the screen again and telling me the baby’s heart rate was dropping significantly. I stared at Jason, a bit of fear gripping me. We had no issues during pregnancy, nothing until this last moment before meeting our baby.
The doctor said he was going to use the vacuum since I wasn’t pushing hard enough to get the baby out and she needed to come out quickly. So when I was contracting (they had to tell me, mind you since I couldn’t feel it), I pushed and the doctor used the vacuum. I have a vision of looking through my legs and seeing him do this, but in the moment, I didn’t really think about what it meant. I just wanted my baby out and safe.
It didn’t take long after that. Maybe 4 or 5 pushes total? It’s hard to remember that part. And I don’t remember the actual moment of her coming out. I sort of remember him holding her up, saying it was a girl. They told me the cord had been wrapped around her neck. I didn’t get to hold her right away since they wanted to check her because of how she was born. I sort of remember holding her for the first time, not sure if I should laugh or cry. She had a bit of a cone head (of course) but she was beautiful. I don’t think anything quite prepares you for seeing life you helped to create for the first time. All the emotions were there but it was a little surreal. He stitched me up (since I was cut, without being told, he just did it) and I settled in with her enjoying the first moments of her arrival.
And while I never would have pictured having a vacuum delivered baby, the doctor did “save” me from a C-section, for which I was grateful. He told me before he left that if he couldn’t get her out that way, that’s what he would have done.
So while it wasn’t my perfect birth or natural in any way, that’s how Eliana Bailey was brought into the world. She was my only baby born exactly on her due date!
One thing I remember feeling after she was born, sometime within the first 24 hours, was the strangeness of her not being in my body. You spend nine months growing and nurturing this little person who is suddenly in your arms and for just a brief moment, it feels empty in there. I didn’t have that feeling with any of the other babies. Maybe it’s a first-time mom thing?
What I learned from Eliana’s birth was that I wanted to feel more empowered the next time around. I wanted to be better prepared physically and mentally. I wanted to experience birth the way I felt it was designed to be. You can read my second birth story here.
Did your first birth go as you thought it would?