I did a lot of research on where to have our baby before Tim & I got pregnant. I wanted to give birth at home because the hospital setting made me feel pressured to do what they wanted, but what I wanted was a medication-free pregnancy and delivery. I knew I would have to defend my choices when they differed from hospital routine. I wanted Emily’s birth to be about our new family and not a medical procedure. Tim needed a professional setting because we did not know what to expect and the risk involved in home birth made him uncomfortable. After touring 4 hospitals and meeting with The Birth Center’s RN, Janet, we decided The Birth Center was the perfect middle ground for us. As soon as we got pregnant we called The Birth Center for an appointment and Janet to take the Bradley method childbirth classes she taught.
I love my midwife, Ruth. We spent at least 30 minutes with her each appointment so I felt very comfortable with her and she explained the answers to all my questions so I could understand why. When we learned I had gestational diabetes she gave me a chance to control my blood sugar with diet and exercise instead of transferring my care to a doctor. I believe, with my test results, a doctor would have put me on medication without giving me that chance. This would have been very disappointing for me. I took this opportunity seriously by walking briskly for 20 minutes after each meal (at least 3 times a day), testing my sugars 4 times a day, drastically changing my diet, and logging everything for review. It took some time for us to find the right diet for me. I ended up with a diet of only protein for breakfast, protein with just a few carbs for lunch (usually a sandwich), an apple and cheese stick for snack, a protein-only dinner, and a cheese stick before bed. I drank only water or crystal light. The timing of meals also played a part. Such a change in diet was very difficult at times but my 20 lb weight loss made the gestational diabetes a blessing in disguise. I weighted less at 32 weeks pregnant than I did when I got pregnant.
At 40 weeks, I was 2 cm dilated and Ruth, Tim and I began trying to induce naturally. We tried manually opening my cervix, walking, sex, nipple stimulation, blue cohosh, black cohosh, evening primrose oil, foley bulb, cotton root bark, red raspberry leaf tea, acupressure, and massage. After all this, I was still 2 cm dilated. We waited until the last minute to try castor oil.understand why. At 42 weeks, December 17th, I was scheduled for induction at UC Davis. I took castor oil in eggnog on December 15th at 9 am. At 10:45 am labor began. The effects of castor oil were not painful like I expected but the contractions were. I spent most of the morning and mid-day on my bed in the sunlight petting the cat and listening to relaxing music. Tim timed contractions at 3 to 4 minutes apart lasting 30-45 seconds each. I spent the evening on the couch focusing on the contractions more. I preferred to walk or stand because my left hip felt the most pain. I liked when Tim put steady pressure on my hip. I had pizza for dinner. Tim’s mom came over to help. At night, Tim and I walked up the block. I began needing to hang on him during contractions. Steady pressure no longer felt good. I liked a feather touch on my neck and shoulders.
At 8 pm, I started getting the shivers even though I wasn’t that cold so I went upstairs to take a warm bath where I laid on my sides. My contractions changed in the tub. They were 5 minutes apart lasting 1 ½ minutes or longer and became incredibly intense. We called Ruth and she told us what additional signs to look for. I called her back 1 hour later with the signs and we left for The Birth Center at 11 pm. By this time I did not want to be touched at all and moving would trigger another contraction. I felt every single bump in the road. It helped that my mother-in-law announced which exits we were passing as she drove so I knew how much longer I had to hold on. Tim and Chris (my mother-in-law) said they couldn’t guess how far along in labor I was because I was handling labor so well using the Bradley method. I had to be close because the pressure in my bottom made it hard to sit in the car. I knew if I wasn’t at least 4 cm we’d be going to the hospital for drugs because I couldn’t handle that much pain for much longer.
When we got to The Birth Center I was 8 cm! I leaned against a counter or slow danced with Tim for about ½ an hour then I began feeling the urge to push. I kept saying that I couldn’t do it anymore. At this point the only thing I cared about was what Ruth said. She said to lie down on the bed so the pressure would be less. I held the bar of the headboard with on hand for contractions and hugged a pillow with the other for between contractions. Then it was time to labor down. I was reminded every time I wanted to push to pretend to blow out candles instead. I imagined a birthday cake with 50 candles and I would try to blow them all out with one breath. This was hard work because the urge to push was almost uncontrollable. This lasted only 10-15 minutes but it felt much longer to me.
Now I could push. Now I had some control. The pressure was still intense and I could only push during contractions so I had to feel my belly to know when a contraction was coming and going. I learned how to push in childbirth classes but when the time came I forgot everything and followed my instincts. This is why coaching was necessary. I pushed for about ½ an hour. Emily’s head came out in the bag of waters which didn’t break. Ruth said to stop pushing. She needed to break the bag before the rest of Emily came out. After the bag was broken it took one more push and there she was. It was the sweetest cry I’ve ever heard. I looked down but all I could see was my belly jiggling like a waterbed mattress. She was placed on my chest, my husband cut the umbilical cord, and before I knew it the room was cleared so the three of us could have time to bond. It was 1 am on December 16th. Half an hour later Emily’s grandma came in to meet her and take pictures. More time passed and it was time for Emily’s first exam where we learned she was 7 lbs 6 oz and 21 inches long. We left The Birth Center around 5 am.
I want to have all of our future children’s births medication-free and I hope those births are as great an experience as Emily’s. I appreciate Jen and Amy at The Birth Center for their encouragement and support. I appreciate Ruth, Janet, and Chris for being my guides and inspiration. Without them I would have a totally different story. Most of all, I appreciate my husband, Tim, for giving me the freedom to experience this womanly rite of passage how I wanted. This wouldn’t have been possible without him …in more ways than one. Ruth, Tim, and I worked hard to stay low-risk during my pregnancy despite gestational diabetes and being 15 days past due so that I could deliver Emily medication-free at The Birth Center. It was worth it because having the awesome experience of Emily’s birth to dream about whenever I want is priceless. I wouldn’t change a thing.