I have three wonderful children. Through each birth experience I have grown as a person & have quite literally gone from mainstream to attachment parenting as a result.
During my first pregnancy, I some close friends who had all taken Bradley childbirth classes & they shared their positive experiences with me. At the time I was teaching high school, and the mother of one of my students was the Bradley instructor at our hospital so we took the class. My husband & I enjoyed our classes & looked forward to a perfect birth experience. Little did we know what was on the horizon! In retrospect, I should have been much more insistent & demanding with the medical staff but at the time, I allowed myself to be dominated by my OB. My husband & I practice NFP and we had brought in my chart to show the doctor the exact date of conception. We were told that it did not coincide with the date on "wheel" (based on a 28-day cycle which I have never had in my life!). When the OB's due date came & went, they began to talk about induction because she thought my baby would "get too big" in utero. I asked to wait until my due date which was based on the date of conception. My due date came & went & they talked about induction again because I was two weeks over the OB's due date. We were literally pushed into the induction with threats about baby's health, etc. We agreed & went in early one morning for the prostaglandin gel treatment. Nothing - no dilation to speak off. Next step - the OB said they would give me a little help with something called pitocin. Couldn't reach my Bradley instructor to ask for her advice so we agreed because the doctor made it sound like a walk in the park. No one told us that I would be placed on a monitor in bed with an IV in my arm. I was not allowed to walk to help stimulate labor. They kept turning up the pit level because nothing was happening. I spent almost 16 excruciating hours on maximum doses of pitocin with no pain medication until about the 12th or 13th hour when my Bradley instructor who had finally been told that I needed her arrived. We went through pain visualizations & finally she told me that in this situation I did not need to be a martyr. They gave me something to "take the edge off" the pain. Then a few hours later they gave me an epidural. At hour 17, they turned off the pitocin because they began to worry that the baby was becoming "stressed." They tried to take a scalp blood sample to check the baby's pH levels. The OB couldn't get a good enough sample. At hour 31, she asked me to starting trying to push. I couldn't feel when to push because of the epidural. I pushed for an hour on their demands. Baby's condition was rapidly deteriorating (wouldn't yours after this ordeal??) & so at hour 32, the OB told me she needed to peform a c-section to save my baby's life. My husband was allowed to suit up & be present for the section thank goodness. I saw nothing but the blue drape over my stomach. No mirror on the ceiling, nothing. My son was born, handed to my husband who briefly was allowed to let me have a quick glance & then he was whisked off to NICU because of breathing difficulties. The OB closed my incision & I was sent to recovery to wonder about my baby's fate. My husband kept running back & forth between NICU and recovery to let me know what was happening. While baby Christopher was in NICU, the nurses began to bottle feed him despite the fact that my chart clearly said "mom planning to nurse." I was not allowed out of bed for 24 hours after delivery but as soon as I could, I made my way to NICU to start nursing him. He refused to nurse, preferring the bottle which did not require any effort. They had put the IV line hastily into his scalp so he made quite a picture in his isolette. Everyone told me to be happy I had a healthy baby. I was supremely happy & grateful for that but I was also upset at the way I had been treated. I was able to pump for about six weeks & added mother's milk to his formula.
Fast forward through a miscarriage to three and a half years later. We were expecting baby number two with great joy. I was 35 at the time. New OB, new outlook on delivery options. A "routine AFP screening" turned into a nightmare as they told me that my levels were abnormal & sent me to a specialist. Thankfully, the specialist was extremely kind & told me not to worry. He had seen nothing that indicated that my daughter would be anything but perfect. We waited for a week for the amnio confirmation. Meanwhile, we wrote a birth plan & told the doctor it was going to be our way this time (my first OB had been his partner but she had left the practice by that time so he had full access to my files). I suppose it also helped that I was his son's teacher at the time as well. He even agreed to let me go to my due date rather than the due date from the "magic 28-day cycle wheel." Near the end of my pregnancy, his brother (also an OB) saw me for an appointment. My usual low blood pressure had risen a bit that particular day due, no doubt, to almost having a car accident in the parking lot & racing up the stairs to my appointment. He immediately ordered a non-stress test & bio-profile & wanted to induce. When I heard the word induction, Christopher's birth experience hit me like a ton of bricks. I told the nurse that I did not want an induction at all because I wanted a VBAC not another section. My husband, who is far more forceful than I am, told them no. A reprieve was granted. My OB went on vacation for two weeks. Near the end of his vacation, I went into labor. I was in non-productive labor for about three days. I couldn't eat well or sleep well. I lost my mucous plug. I kept on having labor pains. We went to the hospital to be checked - the nurse midwife from the OB's practice decided to break my water to speed things along, saying that she was going off duty but that another midwife from the practice down the hall would be taking her place & that I would have my baby within about 12 hours she thought. In retrospect, this new midwife that we got was a gift from heaven!! She had a wonderful no-nonsence approach & believed in me. She never said "we can try for a VBAC" but rather "you're going to have this baby naturally!" The nurse who was assigned to us, however, was a different story. She had had three medicated births & could not understand why I didn't want any meds. She kept asking me if she could get me some stadol or an epidural. I had a severe case of the shakes & started to vomit. Shortly thereafter, my Bradley instructor stopped by to check on me. My husband told her that I had just thrown up & she smiled, patted my arm & told me it was almost over then! They called in the midwife & in two pushes, Victoria was born! She nursed within minutes of birth. The midwife later told me that I had experienced back labor but she didn't want to discourage me by telling me. The very next morning my OB was back from vacation & in my hospital room congratulating me on my VBAC. The nurse came in & gave my daughter a pacifier because she was crying so much. She wanted to give her a bottle but I told her I was nursing. The lactation consultant said the pacifier was okay & to continue to nurse. She never really checked Victoria's latch. Victoria only nursed for 2.5 months since the doctors said she had "failure to thrive." I now know it was due to her poor latch but at the time, I had no one to tell me that!
Fast forward nineteen months after Victoria's birth to the birth of my last child. He was a "surprise" baby as we had only planned on two but by this time, we had read enough & were moving toward attachment parenting, cloth diapers & all those other "radical" things (we live in a small conservative southern town!). We had our birth plan with a few new additions & I was relentless with the OB this time. He let me call the shots! I refused the AFP but did get the amnio for peace of mind. The OB used our due date based on the date of conception and let me go past that date with hardly a wimper or protest. Easter Sunday morning, I was up early to get the kids ready for church -- I had started to lose my mucous plug & was experiencing some labor pains which I thought were only Braxton Hicks contractions because they were not as intense as the ones I had previously with Victoria. I thought I would have the baby in a day or so but he had other ideas! We hastily called my daughter's godparents when my contractions were only 4-5 minutes apart & were growing in intensity. They picked up the kids to go to Mass and we headed for the hospital. They checked me & told me to start walking. My husband & I walked & walked & walked, pausing to let me get through the intense contractions. Hours later, my water broke & it was not clear. Because there was some meconium staining, they would not let me labor in the water as I had so wanted to do. I was put into a bed with a monitor & had visions of my first delivery. This time we had requested a nurse who had experienced natural childbirth and she was a dream to work with! Overall this was a much more positive experience since we had done our "homework" & I was prepared to have a second successful VBAC. Baby Sean was born a few hours after I was put to bed & was a healthy little boy (8 and 9 apgars!). He nursed ravenously after birth. The lactation consultant (not the same one as last time, thank goodness!) came & checked his latch several times for me & reported that he was doing fine. My mom came & spent the night with us in the hospital room. Sean nursed every hour on the hour! We have since learned that he has a hypermetabolism & is always hungry but he has been my healthiest baby yet.
If I had it to do all over again, I would have opted for a midwife or even a home birth with my first child and less intervention with the others. It has taken me several years to get over the guilt & sadness over the first "failed" birth experience but as so many have told me, at least I have a healthy little 6.5 year old boy to show for the experience!
thanks for letting me share my long experiences :-)
mommy to Christopher (2/17/95), cloth diapered Victoria (8/12/98) & cloth-diapered, breast-fed Sean Nicholas (4/23/00 -- the Easter Baby!)
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