Wednesday, January 27, 2010


First off, I hate that the word "natural" is used to describe a non-medicated birth. It just seems like it's co-opting a universal but often vague word to describe something that is actually very specific. Plus, as someone who had anything but a "natural" conception, it seems silly to start assigning words like that to any part of the process. So, I'll work on a better semantic descriptor, but in the meanwhile, let me tell you about the apprentice doula who was better than drugs.

I had a doula for the birth of my daughter. That was back in the dark ages of the 90s, when it was harder to find people on the internet. I wanted a doula because my husband gets nauseous at the sight of blood - I knew he would be of no use to me. I didn't want my mother there, because, well - I've written about my mother before. I wanted to have someone supportive and knowledgeable and calm by my side, and I figured I'd have to hire someone. But it was hard to find a recommendation - there were some lists at the hospital and a national organization that gave our names in the area. Finally I decided to use the woman that also taught a pre-natal class at the hospital - I figured that at least she had some relationship with the staff.

She was fine. I think she knew what she was doing and her class was informative. I didn't feel an instant connection with her, but I respected her level of experience and she seemed like a caring person. After we hired her, she asked if she could bring a doula trainee with her to my birth. The trainees had to attend a certain number of births as part of their program, and she said it would be to my benefit to have an extra person helping me. I figured it would be to my benefit to have an extra person helping her, so that she could concentrate on me, so I said sure.

It was the best decision I could possibly have made. The apprentice was exactly what I would have wanted in a doula if I could have figured out exactly what all the options were. She was calm, she knew when to distract me from a mild contraction, she knew when to do accupressure massage for a stronger one. She would tell me stories about being a new mother (she had two young children) while we were in the early phase, and then later she would rub my feet while the nurses watched my contractions on the monitor and made a big fuss over how intense they were. Honestly, all I could feel was the best foot rub I had ever had.

I had a long early labor - almost 24 hours at home (easy, very mild contractions - not even as bad as a period) and then about 12 hours at the hospital. The doulas were there for maybe ten hours. I think the first part of the day was fairly easy, some contractions and a lot of walking around the courtyards. I have low blood pressure normally, and lying down for a long time tends to make it even lower so we tried to keep moving. Plus, walking is supposed to help move labor along, and I was obviously on the long, slow plan. After a while the nurses had me stay on the L&D floor because I was so dilated. I remember suddenly feeling like I had to lie down, and the apprentice doula put me on my side and began doing counter-pressure massage on my lower back.

Just as I was thinking, hmmm, this labor thing isn't so bad, the other doula came back with a nurse and said she thought I was ready. The nurse checked, and suddenly there were people flying in and carts being pushed around and they were telling me that the doctor wasn't there yet and I needed to wait. I was fully dilated. The apprentice doula kept rubbing my back and then she whispered that I had gone through "transtition" - the worst part of labor - in 8 minutes, and that if I wanted to push I shouldn't worry about the doctor. She told me that my nurse had been a midwife for 20 years in Australia, and that she was perfectly capable of delivering a baby.

I remember thinking that I was glad for the nurse-midwife, but that I really wasn't worried about waiting for the doctor anyway. I mean, L&D nurses knew what to do, right? I was in this perfect zone from the counter-pressure massage, and I was going to just stay there. Suddenly the nurses were yelling for a resident. I just decided to go with the pushing feeling, and the apprentice was guiding me into a better position and then my doctor showed up and before she could get her gloves on my daughter was born. We have photos of Dr. D waving at the camera with her hands all bloody.

Afterwards, things were so easy. We just got wheeled to our room (now that hospital has labor-delivery-postpartum rooms, but at the time there were separate areas for the before and after). I had never gotten to a point where I desperately needed an epidural. I had felt like I was in charge of my own experience. I could tell that everything was fine. I was so glad that I had the chance to feel what childbirth was like without being in terrifying pain. And I don't know if any of that would have happened without the apprentice doula.

So, that's my experience with "natural" (substitute your own phrase here) childbirth. I would sum it up by saying it's really not bad if you have the right kind of labor - and don't rely on your husband to get you through it, of course.

Afterwards I found out that long slow labors almost always slow down with an epidural, and then need pitocin to pick back up again. Labors that are naturally long and slow suffer the most complications from pitocin, with decreased fetal heartrate, retained placenta and maternal hemorrhage topping the list. Um, yikes!

Some people have drastic, incredibly painful labors and can't imagine going through the whole thing without an epidural. My most "all-natural" friend went into the hospital swearing she would never stoop to anesthesia, and was screaming for medication after a few hours. She had a hard fast labor and it was just too much for her. So, I get it. And if I have a different kind of labor this time I am totally open to needing the drugs. After all, it was less than a month ago that I was willing to kiss the nurse who put morphine into my IV.

Anyway, I figured it would be easier to find a doula today. Anybody who wants to be found has a good internet footprint, and it only makes sense that doulas would make sure they can be googled. So, I typed the name of the apprentice doula into the search bar and - voila! She's a midwife now, but she will work as a hospital doula in high-risk cases. I have high hopes for another great experience with her, and if I have the same kind of labor I'll be glad to go through a little pain to avoid more serious complications. (If I have the hard, fast, incredibly painful kind of labor, I'll be glad that I'm in a hospital with an anesthesiologist right there.)

And, in case you were wondering, I don't think I'll be going in for an emergency low-fluid C-section any time soon. Since I've been on bedrest my AFI has gone up to 14. I saw my OB this morning and she said that as long as I keep resting and glugging liquids she doesn't think I have any more risk than anybody else of an early birth. So, yay! I am allowed to do a little bit of light activity, but other than that I have to stay horizontal as much as possible. As long as it's working, I won't complain too much!


Gwynn said...

What a blissful birth experience!! (I'm jealous.)

And YAAAAY on the elevated fluid level!!

lastchanceivf said...

Your birth experience sounds like a dream come true! I have always dreamed of a natural childbirth, and of course all my fertile friends say that I'm crazy--but maybe it is this intense desire to take back some control since I have had zippo control in the getting pregnant part.

Oh wait...I'm still not pregnant! I guess a girl can keep dreaming, right?

I hope your next birth is as wonderful and smooth as your first. I'm so glad the fluid levels have returned to normal!

Jules a.k.a. Julie said...

Thanks for sharing your birth story and what foresight you had to recognize that you needed assistance from other than your DH! I, too, wish you as smooth and wonderful a birth with your son.

I am so excited that your fluid levels are normal again. That is so encouraging and such awesome, awesome news! Yay, Lorraine! :-)

Christina said...

What a great birth story!

Your right, BTW, about the Pitocin--my second birth was Pitocin induced because my water broke and I had all those complications you described--it's an awful drug. My first birth was "natural" (aka drug free) and was fantastic. Hope your next birth goes just as well again!

peesticksandstones said...

I really enjoyed reading your birth experience. Infertility totally robbed my confidence with regards to doing anything "natural", so I never even dreamed of attempting that. But considering my own labor actually ended up coming on fairly easily and went pretty quickly/smoothly (culminating in an epidural, however), I do have some curiosity about if I could've done it naturally.

Maybe next time... dare I dream? I recall (pre-birth) that I believed I would totally not be able to breastfeed, given my reproductively "broken" body. But here in am, nursing away still at 7 months. It does feel good to get to experience these things afterall, that's for darn sure.

PJ said...

Glad your fluids are good!

I don't get "natural". Sometimes I watch them on A Baby Story or Birth Day, and it just makes me cringe. I know I'll be screamin' for the drugs if I even get to do a vaginal birth.

Less pain. :)

RoseAG said...

That's great that your stats are improving!

My second child was born with much less fanfare than the first. Let's hope that holds for you too.

So you'll have the same doula you had with your daughter? That's wonderful. Maybe your husband will surprise you - with professional support lined up you won't have to bet on it.

Does the pre-baby bed rest change your post-baby re-entry to work plans?

Best When Used By said...

Hey, I think your fluid level is even higher than mine now! Great!

I love your doula story! Almost makes me want one - the idea of massage and gentle, guiding hands sounds perfect. I know my DH will do his best, but even now when I try to get him to massage my shoulders, he starts whining about his sore thumbs after about 30 seconds! Well, I hope you have the same wonderful experience the second time around!

PaleMother said...

Popping back late to say ... I am happy dancing over that lovely fluid level. Keep up the good work. Whew!

Hope you are surviving/have survived The Business Trip reasonably well? Been thinking of you there on the couch.

Your doula sounds like ... some kind of childbirth goddess in disguise. Will she take you on again this time?! Think how much even more wonderful she must be now after that much more experience!

Hopefully the L&D Gods will smile on you ... you deserve that ... and you will be granted a repeat.

Have you ever checked out Hypnobirthing? There are two methods ... Marie Mongan and Hypnobabies. I know a lot of people that found that helpful ... although I've been flamed for mentioning it before. It's just one of those things it doesn't hurt to have in your hip pocket, just in case. JMO.

Anonymous said...

That is the most lovely birth story I've ever heard - almost makes me wish I could re-do my c-section! But water under the bridge, so to speak.

Glad your fluid is back up, and you found the doula again. Would love to meet someone like that - they should have "doulas" to help you get through the IVF hell. I would love someone to give me a massage right now!

Kami said...

It sounds like a great birth experience. I hope it will go so smoothly this time.

Great news on the fluid levels too!

Anonymous said...

wow, i hope my birth is as fantastic as yours sounds like it was! i expect mine to be quite a bit more painful and am already planning for an epidural, especially considering the other stuff i've got going on, but your story gives me a little hope because i am SO freaked out!

Holly said...

Amen on the doula! I LOVED my Doula, my husband, bless his heart, turned into a " I don't know what the hell I am doing" husband the minute we got to the hospital after laboring at home for 16 hours. Even WITH the 12 weeks of Bradley classes.

Doulas rock!

Glad the fluid is up! YAY YAY!