I met Sarah through the childbirth classes that she and her husband attended. I will never forget how Sarah’s husband, Glenn, arrived alone to the first class of the six-week course. I thought it was so sweet that although Sarah wasn’t able to attend, Glenn still chose to come, and not only that, furiously took notes for his wife throughout the evening. I hoped right then that I could work with them as their doula. You can imagine how thrilled I was when Sarah and Glenn approached me to serve as their birth doula. It was a deep privilege to witness Sarah labor so beautifully at the birth center and with gracious surrender, after many long hours of labor, transfer to the hospital, to ultimately bravely birth her beautiful daughter on the operating room table. I think you may find, as you read this interview, that you connect with the gentle richness Sarah’s heart possesses.
Please give a brief description of yourself, and what number baby/birth you’re sharing with us:
I am 28 years old and have been married four years. I am a speech language pathologist by training but currently enjoying my time as a stay at home mom. I love Jesus, my family, good friends and good food. This was my first birth.
What was your due date, and what was your baby’s birth date?
Violet was due October 20th and was born October 26th.
What was Violet’s weight and length?
8 lb 11 oz and 21 inches long.
Please give us a brief, one paragraph, synopsis of your birth:
Even before my pregnancy I knew I wanted to give birth in a more natural setting and without medications, so I choose to have my baby at a birthing center. I started having contractions on 4 PM on a Monday, 5 days post due date. I was in contact with my doula and we made the decision to meet at the birth center around 10 PM. I was 2-3 cm dilated when I arrived and progressed slowly throughout the night using the ball, rocking chair, sleeping between contractions, squatting, and in the bath. My water was broken around 5 AM and at that point I was 5-6 cm, but the baby was not dropping as hoped because of being in OP position. By noon, I was about 9 cm dilated, but the baby still too high. The midwife recommended I to transfer to the hospital to get an epidural in hopes the pain relief would help me to relax and the baby to drop. After the transfer, I received the epidural rather quickly as well as pitocin and too many wires and probes to remember. Twenty six hours into labor I was 10 cm dilated, but the baby had not dropped enough. The doctor said it was my choice to wait longer or to go to c-section. I was not sure what to do but after talking to my husband and doula I decided it was best to go to c-section. My doctor allowed my doula to join my husband and I in the surgery room and I gave birth to an 8 lb 11 oz baby girl at 8:01 pm on a Tuesday evening.
What did you do to prepare for your labor and birth? Did it help?
I read four or five books about natural birth and educated myself on the topic before deciding to try for a natural birth. I also took a six-week class offered by the midwives at my birthing center based on the Birthing from Within book and other resources. We also had two in home classes with our doula. It helped calm my nerves and gave me confidence that I was capable of natural birth and dealing with the pain. It definitely helped.
What did you like about your birth experience, if anything?
I really liked the atmosphere at the birthing center. My doula had set up candles and had music and it was calm and dim and my husband and I were able to share some sweet moments together as I labored. I also loved having a doula. She was able to help my husband in so many ways because the pressure to help me wasn’t all on him. She helped me through nearly every contraction for almost an entire day and had so many wonderful things for me to help me through my labor; a heating pad, food, lip balm, massages, but most importantly being a calm and experienced presence with us. I also liked waiting to find out the sex of the baby. Even after so many hours of labor and the disappointment of the c-section I was so excited to find out I had a little girl.
What did you not like about your birth experience, if anything?
The interventions and settings I had hoped to avoid.
What surprised you about your contractions/labor?
Contractions were pretty much what I expected since I had read so many descriptions and women’s stories about labor in Ina May Gaskin’s book, Guide to Childbirth. In labor I expected a lot of pain and there was, but there was also something very rhythmic and gracious about the gradual progression and intensity of natural labor. I felt like I was in touch with my daughter and her progression towards life. As soon as I received the epidural I was grateful for the relief of pain but I also felt as though I had been removed from the equation of my daughter’s birth.
In reflection, would you do anything differently, either before the birth, during or after?
I guess I would have paid more attention to the baby’s positioning and know different techniques for turning her to a more favorable position. I am told my baby’s position was the main issue in my labor not ending up natural, so that would be what I would change. I also question whether I should have waited longer before going to c-section to see if she would have dropped more. Maybe if I had to do it over again I would have waited longer.
What do you remember the most about your birth?
My husband announcing the sex of our daughter (he said, “It’s a girl, it’s Violet!”) and how excited I was to see what she looked like. He told me she had strawberry blonde hair before I had seen her and I thought he was kidding since I have dark brown hair (He wasn’t, and I still look like I am her nanny).
How was your labor and or birth experience different from what you imagined it to be?
I imagined it would be natural and I would be home hours after giving birth. To be in the hospital and recovering from surgery was not part of my imagined birth experience.
What were your immediate emotions about yourself/birth experience after the birth?
I was very disappointed and angry that I wasn’t able to give birth naturally at the birthing center. I was sure I had done something wrong and wanted to know what it was. It took me many months to work through those feelings and I still am emotional about it as I write this. At the same time I was so happy to be a mom and to meet my daughter. It was a mixture of emotions and very overwhelming.
How would you describe your recovery?
Not great! I had issues with my incision, it had to be drained a few weeks after the birth. I was in a lot of pain the three weeks following the birth, still on pain meds, and couldn’t even stand up straight. I had pain at the incision site for 4-5 months. I also had irregular bleeding for that amount of time that the doctors could never figure out. I had side effects with my intestines from the surgery/pain meds that I have dealt with throughout the last year. I still am very sensitive where my scar is located and it puffs out quite a bit like it is still inflamed and is irritated if I wear tight-fitting pants. From the site of the epidural I have occasional pain. If I turn a certain way I get a sharp pain where the epidural was placed.
How has your perspective of your birth experience with Violet changed in the last 13 months since the first week of having Violet?
I am definitely more at peace about having the c-section. I still wish it had been different but I have to trust that God planned it that way for a reason. I have been able to help a number of my friends deal with their emotions after they have had to go through a c-section. That has felt like a sweet gift.
Did you learn anything about yourself through this experience?
I can’t control everything. I was stronger than I thought, I didn’t have a major freak out like I thought I would.
Would you recommend (natural/medicated) childbirth to other women?
Besides the pushing/delivery, I feel I was able to experience both a natural and medicated birth. I still recommend a natural birth to anyone who is open to the idea. I feel like if you have even a hint of an interest there is a reason and you should explore your options. I have a strong desire to have a natural childbirth in a birthing center or at home if I have any other children in the future.
Further comments or thoughts or advice:
Invest in a doula! I can’t imagine my birth without my doula present and with us at the hospital and encouraging me even through the surgery. She helped me figure out how to nurse my daughter for the first time and checked in with us at the hospital the next day and came to our house to help with breastfeeding. I wish I could have exchanged my doctors pay for my doulas pay. She was invaluable to me and my husband.