Editor’s note: We believe that all birth stories and all birth experiences matter. This post is part of an ongoing series of birth stories submitted by readers and fellow bloggers, featuring a diverse range of women and their birth experiences. Today Bethany is sharing the story of her doula-attended hospital birth and how she felt empowered to make the choices that were right for her. If you would like to share your own birth story, please visit this post to learn how. ~Olivia
I had a rocky start to my pregnancy, as I surprisingly got pregnant with an IUD. I also was spotting, my hormones weren’t doubling, and the baby measured small on my initial ultrasound. It was a very emotional time – I went from not expecting to have a baby to desperately wanting this baby. Thankfully, each subsequent ultrasound confirmed that our baby was growing as she should! I quickly came to learn that this baby had a mind of her own and did things in her own time.
I did a lot of research while I was pregnant on how I wanted to give birth. Since I had an OBGYN, I knew I would be delivering at a hospital and I decided that I wanted the extra support that a doula would provide. My birth plan was to have as much of a natural birth and as little interventions as possible. Knowing that I could only control so much during my labour, the biggest proponent of my birth plan was to go with the flow and strive for my choices but accept that I may need interventions for mine or my baby’s health.
I was due February 24, 2016 and I started to have irregular contractions on February 28. They began to become more regular on February 29th, but alas, a leap year baby was not meant to be! By 3am on March 1, my contractions were getting much more intense and lasting longer. At 7am, I got up to go to the washroom and my water broke. We called our doula and decided to head to the hospital, as my contractions were about 4-5 minutes apart. I was assessed at the hospital and I was 3cm dilated. They recommended I walk around the hospital, as I wasn’t dilated enough yet to be admitted.
My mother arrived at the hospital and her, my husband, my doula and myself walked around the hospital for another 2 hours. My “walking posse” (as I liked to call them) and I walked and walked and then walked some more around the hospital, with me stopping to hold the hand rails for each contraction. By 1pm, we returned to the Birthing Unit for assessment and I was 4cm dilated.
The resident doctor told me I could be admitted if I wished and began explaining that I would likely be given Pitocin to speed things up. I was confused as to why they would suggest that, as my water had only broken at 7am that morning. I was so conflicted because my contractions were pretty strong by this point and I was so sick of walking around the hospital and having no privacy to get through my contractions. My doula reminded me that my chances of having interventions would increase if I was admitted at 4cm. So I decided to labour it out some more before being admitted.
Luckily, we discovered the early labour lounge on the birthing floor was empty. It was this small room with a few couches with an attached bathroom, so we took it over! I was starting to experience some back labour, so my doula showed me a position I could get into on the couch with one leg up to encourage the baby to turn. During each contraction, I had my support team there, giving me words of encouragement and holding my hand. I remember feeling like a rock star and thinking, I can totally do this! Like the newbie I was, little did I know that those contractions were nowhere near the strength they’d become.
By 5pm, I was 5cm dilated and ready to be admitted. I got a room with a Jacuzzi and I was so excited to get in that warm tub for my contractions. But it turned out that I just couldn’t get comfortable in there! I was experiencing back labour again and the sheer force of each contraction felt like it was never going to end. By 8pm, I was throwing up and I was feeling pressure on my lower pelvis. My doula thought I was perhaps transitioning into the pushing stage and so we asked the nurse to check me again. When she told me that I was still 5cm dilated, I was devastated. I honestly didn’t know how I could keep going and I broke down in tears, with the sheer exhaustion sweeping over me.
I decided then that I needed pain medication to keep going and I opted for an epidural. I had to wait until 9pm for the anesthesiologist to come, which seemed like an eternity, and I had to hold perfectly still through my contractions as he put the epidural in. Somehow, I held it together and the epidural went in on the first attempt. I finally felt some relief and I was able to relax a bit.
By 10pm, I was having the urge to push at every contraction but was told to resist pushing, as I likely was not dilated to 10cm yet. The urge to push kept getting stronger so my doula asked that I be checked again. Turns out, I was 10cm but the baby wasn’t in the correct position to come out yet. I got up onto my legs (which I could luckily still feel!) and held one of them over a birthing ball to try and help the baby turn, like we had done in the early labour lounge. By 10:30, I really couldn’t hold back from pushing any longer. They took a look and the baby had turned and they told me I could try a practice push. After one push, they immediately called the OBGYN on call as our little girl was coming fast!
After a total of 8 pushes, at 11:12pm, our little baby Eliana was born! They immediately put her on my chest and I couldn’t believe she was here. Both my husband and I were crying as we got our first look at our little girl. After a few minutes, they clamped the cord, which my husband got to cut. She immediately took to my breast and started breastfeeding.
Looking back on it now, I really do feel like I had a wonderful birth experience. I felt empowered to make the choices I felt were right for me and my choices were respected by the hospital staff. Getting the epidural helped me relax enough to dilate the rest of the way from 5cm to 10cm in just an hour! I’m proud of myself for labouring almost the entire way with no pain medication but also knowing my limit. I had such a supportive team with me and hiring our doula was also one of the best decisions I’ve made. While our little girl may have been a surprise, she’s the best gift we ever could have asked for!