When I was pregnant with my first son, my mother and grandmother told me that they had given birth without any medication. They believed that I could do it like all the other women in our Russian family. I wanted to have a natural birth to make them proud of me although I did not know anything about the benefits of natural birth. I signed up and attended a Lamaze class and hired a private doula and was prepared to ask for a midwife when I was in labor as I wanted to avoid any possibility of a C-Section.
The day after my due date I was sill pregnant, and I went to see my OBGYN. She talked about inducing at 41 weeks, maybe 41.5 maximum. I asked the doctor if there were any natural ways to bring labor, and she offered to sweep my membranes. It was uncomfortable and painful but 2 days later around 5pm my water broke.
We were happy and laughing as we packed the hospital bag, got in the car and called our Doula on the way to the hospital. I was quickly admitted because of my broken water and positive GBS status. I immediately requested a midwife and an ABC (alternative birth center) room, explaining I wanted a natural birth. Because there were only 2 of those rooms, I was put on a wait list and had to labor in a regular labor room. It was very small, containing a bed, a toilet and a monitor. There was hardly room for myself, my husband and the doula. I was administered antibiotics, and after they removed the IV we walked up and down the hall together.
Five hours later I had progressed from 3 centimeters to 4 centimeters. The doctor wondered if the baby was breech or face up, and the doula told me to kneel on all fours to help baby move into a better position. Two hours later I was 6 centimeters and the ABC room was available. We excitedly moved in and I immediately got into the shower. It was wonderful and relaxing to let the warm water run over me and when the doctor checked me again I was 10 centimeters. She wanted me to start pushing. It was 3:00 am and I was hungry, tired and didn’t feel like pushing. I asked if I could lie down on the bed and rest for awhile, but the doctor did not allow me to. She said baby needed to come out as soon as possible. So I squatted on the bed and began to push.
Four hours later, I was exhausted, and no amount of encouragement seemed to help. I was now swollen from the pushing. Baby was almost crowned but I could not push him out. I finally begged the doctor to help me and asked for an episiotomy. Thirty seconds after the incision was made, my baby boy was born and placed on my chest. My total labor was 14 hours.
We had avoided a C-Section and delivered without pain medications. The doctor got tired of waiting for the placenta and my husband says he just yanked it out of me by the cord. I bled a lot after that, and felt tired and lightheaded. The nurses took my baby, measured and weighed him. 9 pounds, 1 ounce. Big and beautiful. I tried to nurse him. I was so tired and hungry.
He was calm and content and didn’t cry. Then a new nurse appeared, who spoiled the rest of our hospital experience. Harsh and unsympathetic, she took my baby from me and told me he needed food because his sugars were low. She made it sound dangerous and she scared me. I told her I had tried to nurse him, and she said it wasn’t enough. I felt so intimidated by that old nurse that I allowed her to give him a little formula. She had it in her pocket, whipped it out and fed my baby. I was exhausted and I asked her when would I be able to lay down and rest. She said “In 18 years!”. She made me feel insignificant and incapable instead of being proud of myself.
We struggled with breastfeeding for the next few days at the hospital, and each time I tried to breastfeed him, the nurses gave him formula. The Lactation consultant came only once. We tried for a few more days, then gave up. Now I felt a sense of failure and guilt. I became anxious, depressed and underwent treatment and counseling for PPD. I was afraid to take care of my baby. My sister in law (an RN) helped us hire a postpartum doula. While it was too late for the breastfeeding, she helped me learn to comfort, change, feed, and cuddle with my baby. She helped me process my hospital experience and acknowledged and validated my trauma. She gradually helped me rebuild the confidence that the hospital destroyed.
Two years later, expecting another baby boy and I had the same OBGYN. She encouraged me to have counseling. I did not want medication while pregnant so I complied with the counseling. Our postpartum doula was now a close family friend and we discussed my upcoming birth often. She agreed to attend our birth, but I definitely did not want to return to the same hospital. Every time we drove by the hospital, I got goose bumps and shuddered. Our doula suggested that I would be a good candidate for a home birth. She had her 3rd baby at home. She said “If a hospital birth was like earth, then a home birth was like heaven”. She recommended a home birth practice to us.
I was almost 20 weeks when I called and the midwives said they had room for us. We met and liked them. They were experienced, kind, calm, supportive and encouraging. I told them I was considered high risk for PPD and they assured me that with breastfeeding and a safe home environment, I should have a better postpartum experience this time. Though I worried about the upcoming labor and birth, I was no longer paralyzed by fear. I would not have to return to that dreadful hospital, or deal with obnoxious recovery nurses either.
I began to focus on preparing the my home birth. I attended the home birth classes that our midwives taught, and also hypno-birthing classes that our doula offered. We discussed birthing positions, physical aspects of birth as well as the importance of relaxation, dealing with fear, and preparing psychologically and emotionally. I continued appointments with my OBGYN. While she had no experience with home birth, and was apprehensive of my plans, she agreed that I needed a completely different experience this time.
Five days before my due date, my water broke. It was wonderful to know I did not have to grab bags and rush anywhere, just simply called the midwives. We began preparing, calling my husband’s parents to care for our older son, packed his little bag, and ate lunch. My husband showered as I felt the first contractions. We called our doula and midwives and they promised to be here soon. I was relaxed and happy, and when our doula arrived an hour later, things were very intense. She looked at me and said we should go upstairs and fill the tub. We turned on some beautiful, relaxing music. I got into my tub and as my midwives arrived, I felt the need to push. My husband sat on the rim of our tub, watching as I pushed and moaned and soon he said he could see the baby’s head crowning. My baby was born after 3 or 4 pushes and I only had a small tear. He was born 8 hours after my water broke, and my entire labor was 1 hour 45 minutes. He was pink and smooth and still had white vernix on his forehead.
We sat in our warm clear water in our bathtub and relaxed while the midwives checked baby’s vitals. When I delivered the placenta the water turned red and it was time to get into bed. My midwives prepared our bed and kept everything clean. After getting into bed, my husband clamped and cut the umbilical cord. Baby was weighed, 8lbs 6 oz and measured right by my side. Everyone congratulated me and admired the big chunky placenta and cord. I didn’t see my first placenta, but this one I saw and examined. It was carefully wrapped, placed in our freezer and eventually planted under a new rose bush.
My midwives repaired my small tear, cleaned up our bathroom and tub and washed the birth towels and receiving blankets. My husband made us grilled sandwiches that tasted great after giving birth! I was given an herbal tea to drink, and a gallon was made for me and put in our fridge. They also made an herbal ‘peri wash’ to help heal the repair.
Our midwives took amazing care of us for the next 6 weeks and made my second birth and postpartum experience completely different for us. Our postpartum doula helped us and taught me to breastfeed. I felt so happy and confident that there was no indication of the postpartum depression or even baby blues. Instead I experienced a real ‘baby moon”. I bonded very well with my second son, and I continued to breastfeed him until he was 19 months old. My homebirth midwives and doula helped me become the confident, strong, capable mother I was meant to be. They helped heal my trauma caused by the hospital birth and I will always be thankful to them for making such a difference in my life.
Vasilisa R. Amazing Mother of 2 boys and 2 girls. The beautiful Swan of her family.