The birth of a child should always be a blessed event. To me, it’s the welcoming of a new life; a life designed for greatness. The power of that responsibility is mind-blowing.
It’s not all rainbows and unicorns, though. With pregnancy also comes the fear of labor and pain, worries about the health of the child, and so on. Between being a first time mom and being deeply passionate about having a holistic birth, I quickly realized there were about a million different things I needed to sort out.
It’s been said that everyone in the birthing wing of the hospital laughs hysterically when a woman shows up with her birth plan. That may be true, and I’ll completely agree that any birth plan needs to be flexible to change if needed, but it was very comforting for me to list out what was important and which boundaries I was unwilling to compromise.
Here a few things that I wrote down.
1. I wanted to give birth without pain medication but was certainly open to having back up… just in case.
2. My daughter was to be in the presence of my husband or myself at all times.
3. Everything done to my daughter needed to have our informed consent.
4. I was to be allowed to hold my daughter immediately after birth – BEFORE she taken to be weighed, measured, or cleaned off. This was extremely important to me.
It turned out that the doctor who meant the most to me and who was fully supportive of my birth plan only delivered at one hospital, which happened to be an hour north in a small mountain setting. It was perfect! I found a terrific doula, Charlotte, and began the process of preparing for birth.
Everleigh was due to arrive on January 14, 2011. As I mentioned, our hospital was a full hour away, in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains. If you live in, say, Minnesota, you know to have an emergency plan in place for inclement weather – but we live in Georgia, where even in the dead of winter you can often see people out in shorts and a tee shirt.
Not that year. Uncharacteristically, we had very cold weather, and when threats of a massive snowstorm headed our way around January 7th, a week before my due date, I started to worry.
My husband claimed the reports of a blizzard were media exaggeration, and said lovingly that I was really being a little over-dramatic when I asked on Sunday evening to go stay at my sister’s house to wait out the storm. (She lived minutes from the hospital.) We even had friends nearby offering to pay for our hotel if we would just go ahead and make the trip. ( They were afraid they would have to deliver the baby.)
My husband reluctantly agreed and we packed our bags under the assumption that it probably was nothing but a false alarm, and that we would be merrily returning home the next day. Instead, the snow came down with a fury, as you can see here:
Yep. Wouldn’t you know, it wasn’t a rumor after all!
We were snowed for the large part of the week at my sister’s house. My sister, Teryl, was determined that I go home “empty-bellied” rather than “empty-handed”, and started putting me through a series of antics supposed to bring on labor. (In retrospect, some of the crazy things she came up with were worse than the hours of actual labor!)
We kept having to remind Teryl that it could be difficult to get me to the hospital even though we were just 5 miles away. An even bigger concern for me was how to get my doula, Charlotte, to me safely. All the roads were closed and it was just not going to happen until the snow started to melt.
Finally, on Thursday, January 13, the weather broke – and so did my water. Thankfully Charlotte was able to drive the distance safely, and we labored at home for the next 10 hours; then we decided to head to the hospital. All my vital signs were great, and the baby was strong and stable.
Once I got to the hospital, my (up to that point) calm birthing process turned stressful. The hospital staff was less than thrilled to know that my water had broken and I had still stayed at home to labor. The doctor on call, (who was not my doctor of choice and who was not even physically at the hospital), ordered them to induce me, saying it was the “Standard of Care procedure” for someone who was not in full labor after their water broke.
I went into Mama Bear mode. I was fine, the baby was fine – why were they pushing me so hard to take medical action? I declined the induction and asked them to let me labor longer to help the contractions become regular.
Let me say here that the nurses were great. It was 2 AM, and they were doing everything they could to help me, despite receiving repeated instructions to induce me from the doctor who was still at his home.
When I continued to decline the order to induce, things got a little tense. As I was walking the halls past the nurse’s station, the doctor demanded that I get on the phone with him. He gave me his spiel regarding Standard of Care procedures.
I still didn’t back down. My mothering instinct had kicked in, and I knew I needed to wait and get my daughter in a better position to be born. Thank goodness for my doula, Charlotte! She gave me the support and backing I needed to be strong for my daughter.
I argued with the doctor stating clearly that it was not time to induce and telling him that I would leave the hospital if he continued to insist. The nurses and everyone nearby were amazed at my courage to face this doctor head on. Charlotte looked at me and said, “You are going to be a great mother!”
I thought I had made my point clear, but within 30 minutes the doctor arrived in person, pleading his case! I held my ground and things finally shifted. I stayed calm, and in a very appreciative tone let him know that I did understand his concerns were for our safety.
I added that his care for myself and my daughter was obvious, but reiterated that it was not ok with me to rush to induce and that I was simply asking for more time to labor. I suggested that I sign something to let him off the hook legally,. He agreed and came back with a lengthy hand-written document that I gladly signed.
Finally, I could stop fighting and simply concentrate on the birth experience. At this point all of the nurses were on board to let me have a natural childbirth. My birth team consisted of my sister, my husband and my doula. They were amazing.
Everyone made themselves so available to me, and we all danced, bounced, laughed, walked and stretched for many hours. The memories I have from working to bring Everleigh to this world are priceless. I was so grateful for my decision to wait.
However, labor was still progressing slowly – too slowly. After the 8th hour of being in the hospital, I knew my energy was running low. I agreed to have the help of Pitocin. When the doctor came in, he was very pleasant and I felt we had come to terms with each other’s point of view. I asked if he could minimize the amount of Pitocin if I started to labor and he agreed. He changed the entire standard protocol to help me. WOW. What a difference in attitude.
The Pitocin kicked things into high gear. The labor came back up with force and my team was in place. Charlotte was pressing acupressure points on my sacrum; Teryl was working on my feet; and Randy held my hand, kept me aware of everything and fed me ice chips continually. We were getting through this!
My biggest concern with Pitocin was the need to have an epidural, which I really wanted to avoid. We discussed the possibility of this and decided to wait until absolutely necessary. The doctor was amazed when I reached 10cm rather quickly without any pain medication.
Finally it was time to push. (I should really have taken a class on pushing. Everyone was screaming different instructions; it was an odd experience to say the least.) After many hours of pushing, my doctor asked for a knotted sheet that I pulled on instead of grabbing my legs. Well, that worked great – she was out after only 3 tugs on the sheet! I could not help but think… “Couldn’t we have used that hours ago?”
As Charlotte congratulated me on having a successful labor without pain medication, I realized I was so focused on my daughter getting out safely I forgot all about the epidural. The power of our bodies to push through pain and focus on the important things is a miracle.
Everleigh Sage Mealor was here, and that was what mattered most. She arrived on her terms, on her due date. To my amazement I was able to hold her, feed her and love her for nearly an hour before they cleaned and weighed her. The nurses were so helpful, and having the support and education from Charlotte allowed me to make the choices I needed to make for our birth experience.
Afterward, my doctor told us that I was right in making the decisions I did. YES! He actually conceded the point, saying that if he had he done what he wanted to do, I probably would have had an emergency C-section. It was a great confirmation that my instincts about my own body were right, and his acknowledgement gave me comfort as I embarked on my new adventure of motherhood.
My daughter continues to be a blessing, and her calm, easy nature is more confirmation that my choices were right for us. My overall purpose for sharing this story is to let others know about choices. We can often get caught in the loop of “Standard of Care” and forget we have a voice…we have a choice.
I want to be clear that my method of birth is not the only “right way”. It was the right way for my daughter and ME. I had my baby as naturally as I could – but I did have her in a hospital and if something had gone very wrong I know I would have been grateful for modern medical procedures to save our lives.
Every woman’s experience is different; every woman’s needs are different; every pregnancy is unique, and every birth is unique. Having pain medication during labor doesn’t make you less of a woman or less of a mother. Having no pain medication during labor doesn’t make me an “Earth Goddess” or a Wonder Woman.
This article is a tale of MY experience, and all I want people to take away from it is that YOU are the person in charge; YOU are the one who should be making the choices. What choices you make are up to you, and I will never judge another woman for something so deeply personal. Just remember that you have the right to stand up for what YOU feel is best for YOU.
Here is a great link for resources related to pregnancy and birth for those seeking a more natural approach.
This book was written by a friend of mine and we will be interviewing her later this year. Among other things, Tracy trains childbirth educators and doula’s. My birth would have been a very different story if it was not for my amazing doula Charlotte. For more info on doula’s check out CAPPA
Head on over the photo gallery for a few pictures http://www.laramealor.com/from-lara/photo-gallery/
I would love to hear from you in the comments below. Share your story! What hard decisions did you have to make?
Let your voice be heard…
Just for the health of it!