Please give a brief description of yourself, and what number baby/birth you’re sharing with us.
My name is Meredith. I live in Austin and have been married for four years. I am sharing my first birth to my son, Bayrd Gabriel.
What was your due date, and what was your baby’s birth date?
My due date was December 14, 2011 and amazingly, I gave birth to Bayrd on my due date! I definitely was mentally prepared to go late because everyone told me I probably would as it was my first birth.
What was your baby’s name, weight and length?
Bayrd Gabriel Griffin, 8 lb. 9 0z., 23 inches! (Although 2 inches were attributed to his LARGE cone-head that scared us! Days later, he was down to 21 inches).
Please give a brief synopsis of your birth.
I was very fearful during my entire pregnancy and birth. I had miscarried before Bayrd at 11 1/2 weeks. My husband and I were afraid I would not be able to carry another child. I had spotting all during my first trimester with Bayrd, and at my 20-week ultrasound, I was referred to a high-risk doctor. I was told that my son showed a strong marker for a chromosomal abnormality. From that point on, my husband and I were fearful that our son would have Down Syndrome or some other chromosomal issue. We opted out of amniocentesis because of involved risks.
I wanted a natural labor, but was also interested in using a hospital. This was partly due to medical costs and insurance, but also because we have several friends who had good experiences with a practice that has both OBs and midwives who work together. I also had the support and presence of my long-time friend and doula, Lindsey Bell.
My first contraction was Tuesday, December 13 at 2 a.m. and Bayrd was born around 10 p.m. on Wednesday, December 14. I was in labor for over 40 hours and pushed for 2 1/2 hours. Bayrd was posterior and I had extremely intense back labor. I spent most of my labor either on my birth ball with my back to the hot shower or lying on the bed with my husband or doula pushing on my back as hard as they could. I only dilated a centimeter or two after laboring for about a day, so my doctor (I had a few doctors because I went through a shift change!) encouraged me to get a little Pitocin and have an Epidural in order to avoid a c-section. My hospital experience was very positive. No one pressured me to use drugs, like I thought might happen. I felt the decision to use drugs was my own. The nursing staff was incredibly emotionally supportive and kind to me as well.
What did you do to prepare for your labor and birth? Did it help?
I attended a Hypnobirthing class with my husband, met with my doula numerous times, went to prenatal yoga every week of my second and third trimesters, took daily walks, prayed, went to therapy, spent time talking with my husband and friends, read everything I could get my hands onto including Ina May’s writings and the Birthing from Within book. I think I benefitted most from talking with friends who had experienced labor. I also did a fair amount of journaling and looked deeper into the female archetype and how it might give me strength to birth.
What did you like about your birth experience, if anything?
I liked listening to my Hypnobirthing relaxation CD, I liked the lavender oil my doula used to relax me, I loved the shower and wish that I could have been able to use a birthing tub, I liked using my birthing ball. Most of all, I liked having my husband there with me, supporting me the entire time. I loved the moments leading to pushing spent with him, especially when he let me know he was afraid too, but that something beautiful was about to happen. I loved how my son latched on immediately and was extremely interested in breastfeeding.
What did you not like about your birth experience, if anything?
The extreme back pain, the way I allowed fear to really dictate my experience, and the fact that I used drugs, although I am learning to give myself some grace.
What surprised you about your contractions/labor?
The intense back pain! Okay, have I mentioned that enough? Also, that pushing felt like 5 minutes because so much progress was being made compared to hours of contractions. Also, that I was not able to birth naturally, as I am someone who enjoys physical challenges.
In reflection, would you do anything differently, either before the birth, during or after?
Even though I believe I did the best I could, I wish I had been more peaceful about the whole process. I had early breastfeeding issues, and I wish I had seen a lactation consultant earlier than I did because she was incredibly helpful and breastfeeding got tremendously better once I saw her. I regret getting so many ultrasounds because they just increased my anxiety. No good came from them. I believe prenatal care can sometimes be “too” good these days. There are so many factors outside of our control when it comes to pregnancy and birth (or life, in general). Many times, we just have to stand by and wait to see how things go.
What do you remember the most about your birth?
The support of my husband and doula. Also, the excitement of our friends and families and my mother’s selflessness the first week of Bayrd’s life.
How was your birth experience different from what you imagined it to be?
Birth was way more painful than I could have ever imagined. Promise I’m not a wimp! Also, I didn’t expect it to take so long!
What were your immediate emotions about yourself and or your birth experience after the birth?
I yelled across the room as Bayrd was being examined, “Does he have Down Syndrome? What is wrong with his head?” I wanted answers. When they told me that everything looked good, I felt relief and thankfulness. I felt like I could finally enjoy my baby.
How would you describe your recovery?
I started walking pretty soon thereafter and started running and doing yoga again after 6 weeks. The first month after birth was painful as I had a second degree tear and other issues. Again, this part was more painful than I thought it would be. Also, I still looked pretty pregnant for a while, which I know is natural, but interesting when I look back at pictures. However, I felt like a completely different person at the time – much lighter
How has your perspective of your birth experience changed since the first week of having your baby?
I can now see my mind-body connection vividly. I know that it took me so long to birth Bayrd because the truth was that I did not want to know the whether or not my son would be normal and healthy. I was not ready for the inevitable.
Did you learn anything about yourself through this experience?
I learned that although I am strong, I am just a human with little control over my life. Although this may sound scary, it isn’t. It assures me that what is important is practicing patience and peace. It gives me freedom. I am thankful for the many gifts and mercies I am given daily and do not want to take them for granted. I could have easily had a baby with a disability, or no baby at all. So many are denied a healthy baby. When I have a hard day with Bayrd, I remember the fact that he is a healthy and happy baby. It makes those days easier.
If you could recommend a certain type of childbirth experience, based on your own experiences, what would you recommend to other women and why?
I believe it depends on the quality of services available and the woman’s preferences. I was able to find a practice that understood my desire for a non-medicated birth, so it was a good fit for me. It depends on the woman and what she wants. Next time I might try to use a birthing center, if possible.
Any further thoughts, comments or advice you would like to share?
I think pregnancy and birth is a wonderful time to work on your relationship with your partner (if that is applicable to you). I cherish the ways that I grew as an individual and the ways my marriage grew. Also, take advantage the help people offer you! You will regret it when you try to be polite and say, “Oh, I’m fine” when you secretly know you need lots of help.