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“....An uplifting portrayal of several safe and healthy birth stories in comfortable, familiar settings, where women can freely move, change positions and receive focused support from professional and loved ones.”
Pam Spry, Lamaze International President, PhD, CNM, FACNM, LCCE
Dear Lexi, I am writing this on my bed as you sleep in the bassinet next to me, swaddled in pink and purple polka dots and curled up against the quilt that your great-grandmother made for you. I have put off writing about your birth because it did not go the way I had hoped and I am still coming to terms with how it all played out. This isn’t the birth story I thought I would write for you, but it is our story and it ends with you being Earthside, safe and healthy.
You were born at 1.51 am on April 28, 2012. I felt my first contraction at 4 pm on April 26 and it was unlike anything I had felt before. When I was prepared for them the contractions were manageable, but a few made me wonder if I would be able to handle them for the next ten hours or more. The contractions were 30 minutes apart at first, then closer and closer together. At 6.16 pm I messaged my doula, “Contractions feel different now. Started a couple of hours ago, still far apart, definitely painful. Like my pelvis is being squeezed or pulled apart or something.”
Then again at 11.36 pm, “Last few contractions were 6-7 minutes apart, lasting 50-70 seconds.”
I labored through the night on my hands and knees and standing up, though I did try to sleep in between, which was not possible. It felt like things were progressing the way they were supposed to. Your daddy slept some, but woke up to help me when I needed him. I started having some show around 3 am or so, and our doula came over at around 5 am. The breaks between contractions were heavenly and I was able to talk and laugh. I couldn’t cope with the contractions lying down and found standing to be the best position. Aunt Pooja came over a little while later as she was hopefully going to photograph your birth.
The next many hours passed by in a blur of contractions that would get closer together and stronger, and then space out and become less intense. My doula suspected that your head wasn’t positioned exactly where it needed to be and we tried a few different natural methods to get you moving and get things going, but I was so tired and I was no longer coping well with the contractions. And the truth was, I no longer wanted to. I wanted to scream through each contraction and I wanted all of it to stop. I knew that meant going to the hospital and getting an epidural. (Though I had received prenatal care at the hospital, I had hoped to have you at home, and I was completely unprepared to deviate from that plan.)
Before making the decision to go to the hospital I tried the bath as a last resort and hoped that it would help me cope, but it didn’t. I was done. I don’t even remember what time we finally packed up and headed to the hospital. I know it was nighttime. I tried to mentally prepare myself for all that was to come—the vaginal exam, the NST, the poking and prodding, the epidural itself.
When checked I was found to be six centimeters and my contractions were not very close together. I was asked if I definitely wanted the epidural and I did think about whether I could go on without, and decided that no, I was too tired to continue labor unmedicated. And this is where things become blurry for me. The doctor arrived at the hospital soon after I did and I think she checked me again, and then broke my bag of waters without asking me, while I was in the middle of a contraction. She said I was about 7-8 centimeters and that you had turned into a posterior position. The anesthesiologist put in the epidural, but it didn’t numb anything on my left side, and eventually had to remove it and redo it. The doctor told me I needed a Cesarean. I was exhausted out of my mind and just wanted an hour to sleep so I could think clearly again.
I finally did get some sleep, but not before artificial oxytocin was added to my IV. Even though I felt like I was losing my mind I knew where my birth was heading, had seen it happen over and over to clients and friends and students. The second time the doctor mentioned a Cesarean I was almost at the point of saying yes because the epidural no longer seemed to be working. I had this intense need to have a bowel movement and though everyone tells you that’s what it feels like to want to push, I knew I wasn’t ready to push you out; I just really needed to go to the toilet. I begged to be let up to sit on the toilet, and though the midwives did everything they could to get me upright in bed so I could try and go right there, they refused to let me out of bed. I know now that my request was about as unreasonable as they came, but in that moment I felt such desperation—if I could just go to the bathroom I would be able to get to pushing you out.
That need to poop meant I was checked again, and I was found to be complete. And then I was pushing and it was the most confusing, chaotic, difficult thing I had ever experienced. It felt horrible to push on my back, even more horrible to feel fingers inside my vagina while people yelled around me. So many people, so much noise, so much pain. I remember stirrups finally and I remember screaming and screaming for people to stop. I remember your dad and my doula screaming for me. I remember the doctor saying something about the bleeding and then telling me she had to cut me, and I screamed no…and she cut me anyway, while someone else pushed on my fundus, and then there was your head and your body and…relief.
They put you on me, but I was too stunned by the last few minutes to even really comprehend what had happened. (What I do remember clearly is that you were born anterior.) Then you were gone and again hands were in me, someone shoving Cytotec into my rectum while the doctor began stitching me up. The local anesthetic she administered did not work well and I felt so much of the suturing. I remember you were brought in to me to see for a few seconds before they took you to the nursery to be suctioned because you had swallowed meconium. I remember the doctor finally being done with the suturing and I was cleaned up and allowed to rest. I remember feeling completely violated and traumatized instead of lost in the oxytocic rush of birth.
I had lost a good amount of blood, but I didn’t understand what that meant until I was being wheeled out of the birth unit to the postpartum ward and began throwing up. The midwives couldn’t find my blood pressure—or it was too low—and I was given a bag of fluids and kept in the birth until for a few more hours. I had talked to your dad at some point and he cried on the phone and told me how sorry he was for not being able to protect me. I remember feeling glad you were not alone, that you were with your daddy.
I was finally moved to a postpartum room at 6 am and they brought you to me. You nursed beautifully right away. I had hoped to keep you with me all the time, but I couldn’t even sit up to hold you yet, and when it was time for me to walk, I couldn’t even do that because I was so light-headed. So you were in the nursery a lot that first day and came to me to nurse every few hours. A blood test revealed my hematocrit was 6 and I was given a blood transfusion.
Every day after that one was better and today you are four days old and I feel stronger physically and mentally, though I also feel like I have a lot of healing to do. I didn’t fall in love with you right away because I was so detached from my birth experience that it was all I could do to keep my head above water, but each time I hold you and each time I nurse you and each time I look at you I fall more and more in love. And your daddy is so very, very in love with you, Lexi. He almost can’t believe it himself how much he loves you already.
I learned so much from being pregnant with you and from birthing you. I still believe that a woman’s body is made to birth her baby. I believe that if I hadn’t been as tired as I was and had gone so long without sleep I would have found it in me to keep going, and you and I would have figured it out. I also know that I made the best decision I knew how to make and I accept full responsibility for it. But I know I could have been treated better, and that is something I still have to process and come to terms with.
I am so glad that you are finally here, my sweet girl. I have so much to learn still and there are moments where I am struck with overwhelming fear and panic from how completely different life will be from this moment on and how I am going to handle all of it. Then I force myself to take a breath, and then another one, and realize I only have to do this one moment at a time. I look over at you sleeping in your bassinet and I am in awe of this little person your daddy and I created, that I grew inside me for so many months, that I gave birth to.
I love you, I love you, I love you. Welcome to the world.
Debra Pascali Bonaro is the director of Orgasmic Birth and co-author of the book Orgasmic Birth, Your Guide to a Safe, Satisfying and Pleasurable Birth Experience. Debra helps birth pros and new families all over the world learn about the details of gentle birth. Visit www.debrapascalibonaro.com to join in a webinar, attend a destination workshop and learn more about natural childbirth.