The Birth Story of My Oldest (Part 1) –
I was in labor for three hours with my first child. I know. I know some people are in labor for days. All three hours of my first birth were medical personnel making me feel like the birth was taking too long. I have no problem with medical personnel. I’m glad we have medical professionals to treat illness. However, I do not believe a healthy, normal pregnancy is an illness. After years of my own research and three additional births with a midwife, I now believe the vast majority of births could be accomplished without any complications if we allowed the bodies of women today to do what God created their bodies to do without trying to help them along with a host of unnecessary interventions. If only I had researched the matter thoroughly before my first pregnancy, I could have had the same pleasant birth experience I later had with all of my younger children. Hindsight is always 20/20. Thankfully, I learned as I lived.
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This first birth put me on a very different path for the births of my younger kids.
I thought about doing a birth story post about my son last month around the time of his birthday, but so many aspects of my son’s birth story are explained by my previous birth experience. You really need the context of my daughter’s birth to fully appreciate the night and day difference in my experience with his birth. Since my daughter (If you have been following, you will already know her as the one who was married in high school.) will be celebrating her birthday this month, I decided now would be a better time to begin the birth stories. Perhaps I’ll add my son’s story in a couple of months when he gets his drivers’ license instead. Don’t worry. I’m not uploading any of the birth videos to our YouTube channel.
It took me three births to finally be able to tell if I was in labor. I’m not kidding. I have Braxton Hicks contractions non-stop from about the fourth or fifth month to the actual labor every time. It makes it difficult to know when the contractions are real. If I had followed the guidelines about going to the hospital if the contractions are regular for more than an hour, I would have gone to the hospital every single day for the last five months of every pregnancy. It makes it difficult to sleep at all for most of a pregnancy because once the baby is kind of big, the knees and elbows are very pointy. So even though the false contractions don’t hurt in the same way as the real ones that dilate the cervix, they were quite uncomfortable as every time the uterus tightened, the knees and elbows would stab me.
As my 40th week approached with my oldest, I had been having Braxton Hicks about every five minutes for weeks. I had also been dilated to 3 cm for a couple of weeks. The baby had dropped around 37 weeks. I wouldn’t have realized the baby had dropped on my own. I was in college at the time working on an education degree. Remember I was married a few weeks after my high school graduation, so toward the end of college, we decided it was time to have a baby. Well, actually it happened because the year before my cousin had given birth to the first great-grandbaby on my dad’s side. That Christmas my dad’s sister was getting to buy all the fun baby stuff for her first grandchild, and my dad told us he needed a grandbaby before the next Christmas. While I would not trade my oldest daughter for anything, it is worth noting that college is a million times more difficult with a baby (just putting that disclaimer out there as a warning for any college students who might think it sounds like a good idea, including the before-mentioned eldest daughter who was married in high school and is now in college at this very moment). I will say it again, COLLEGE IS WAY MORE DIFFICULT WITH A BABY! Babies are not very accommodating to your homework. Fortunately, I was only a few classes away from my degree at that point.
This will be you trying to do your homework if you have a baby in college.
When I walked into my Math Methods for Elementary Educators class one Monday morning, my professor, who was a man but had several kids of his own, said, “Oh, your baby dropped over the weekend.” I had to figure out what that meant. At my next weekly appointment, I asked, and it basically means nothing. It can happen a long time before the birth. All it really meant was that walking was a lot more uncomfortable, but breathing was slightly better for me. It definitely doesn’t mean you are going into labor at any moment.
I realized too late that seeing a doctor for pregnancy is not consistent with my own philosophy of birth.
For this first pregnancy, I saw the family doctor who had been doing my sports physicals through high school. She’s a good doctor. I know she is very good at treating illness. I never actually went to her for an illness, but she was my grandma’s doctor for years, and she was absolutely wonderful with my grandma. She was kind and patient. We were all sad when she moved to another practice because she was so good with my grandma. But as stated before, I do not consider normal, healthy pregnancy and childbirth (meaning in a case where there are little or no complications) to be an illness. I did not become aware of other options until too late with my firstborn. Doctors are trained to treat pregnancy as an illness. Midwives are trained to treat birth as a natural body process. Doctors are trained to “fix” everything they see as a potential problem. Midwives are trained to let a woman’s body do what it is made to do and only intervene in cases where the body doesn’t do what it should for some reason.
Because my doctor was trained to see birth as an illness, she focused more on all the potential problems than I would have preferred. I don’t blame this on her. I blame this on modern American medical schools where birth is taught as an illness instead of a natural process. Toward the end of my pregnancy, she became concerned that my baby might be large. My husband is 6’5″, and I’m at least a foot shorter than he is. I’m of small to medium build. Small to medium build women have babies every day without issues. The ability to birth is more dependent on hip structure than the overall size of the mother, so I’m not sure why the concern was so great. I took a glucose test at whatever point you take a glucose test. It was awful. The liquid made me want to puke. I sometimes pass out if I see blood or needles anyway, so getting blood drawn every hour was not pleasant. I can’t help the passing out. I’m not grossed out by the blood or needles. It’s just an involuntary reaction. My grandpa had it too. There’s a name for it, but I forget.
The doctor said I needed to see a dietician to go over the diabetic meal plan because my glucose was high. The dietician said my glucose was within the normal range. She told me they don’t normally send her patients who are within the normal range, and she wanted to know why I was there. I honestly think the doctor was just trying to keep me from growing a big baby. I followed the diabetic meal plan for the rest of the pregnancy just to be safe, but I’m still not really clear whether I had gestational diabetes or not. My blood sugar tested perfectly through all the rest of my pregnancies. The fact that this doctor was so concerned about the potential size of the baby is now hilarious to us because my second child was 11 lbs., and thankfully, I had a midwife for his birth which was virtually pain-free up until the moment he was crowning. I had zero medication during his birth, and I didn’t even need stitches with him because my body was able to labor at its own rate, but that’s a birth story for another day.
The order of events is slightly fuzzy nearly two decades later.
I wrote out this first birth story shortly after my daughter’s birth, but I have no idea where I put it, so I’m trying to recreate it here. Although my memory of each event is very clear, the order and timing of each aspect is fuzzier than it was right after, so hopefully, I can keep it mostly in the right order. I think the day of my daughter’s birth was the day of my 39th week appointment, but it might have actually been the 40th week. I did not go past the due date. I do know that, but I was pretty close to it. I had my appointment scheduled that afternoon. A phone call woke me up very early that morning. It was a principal from one of the local schools. I had been subbing on the days I didn’t have class. I had been having pretty decent contractions all through the night. He asked if I could sub that day. I told him I had an appointment with my doctor that afternoon, and I thought I might be in labor. He asked if I could sub until just noon. I told him I didn’t think that was a good idea because I really might be in labor. I tried to go back to sleep, but the constant Braxton Hicks were not really letting me.
We went to the scheduled appointment that afternoon. I was still dilated to around 3 cm, but I was more effaced. The doctor thought it was definitely getting near time. She said I might be in the early stages of labor. I think she was going to let me go home, but then she noticed some pooling. She asked if my water had been leaking. I said I didn’t really know. I knew there was some minor leaking with some of the Braxton Hicks contractions, but I thought it might be my bladder. She tested the liquid and determined it was definitely amniotic fluid. She told us we needed to go to the hospital to be induced. Knowing what I know now, I might have tried to convince her to not induce me, but at the time I didn’t know any better. It didn’t really make any difference with this one because they never got around to inducing me anyway.
We weren’t supposed to piddle around on the way to the hospital, but . . .
We told the doctor we needed to run home and get my bag and the video camera. She didn’t really think that was a good idea. She wanted us to have someone else bring it, but we told her the house was basically on the way (which is only true in a very round-about way). She also stripped my membranes at her office, since they would be inducing. That made me feel very crampy and caused a lot of spotting. She told us not to piddle around at home, and she would be at the hospital to start Pitocin as soon as her office hours were over. So we, of course, piddled around at home for a while getting everything together. Then we went to the hospital . . .
You’ll have to stay tuned for the next installment tomorrow! [The next episode is now available here.]
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My oldest daughter is now married, if you enjoyed her birth story, you may also enjoy the story of her wedding.
This Baby Book by Dr. Sears is my favorite of all I read during my first pregnancy. I have the older edition. Two of his sons are now doctors (one is a host on The Doctors) and have added their insight as well. Martha Sears is especially knowledgeable about breastfeeding.