Archive for the 'Birth Story' Category

The Business of Being Born

November 29th, 2007 by MamaBear

There is a new documentary out, by director Abby Epstein and executive producer Ricki Lake. It’s called “The Business of Being Born.” It explores homebirth and hospital births, and how hospital births have become big business. The film is currently showing in limited venues across the country (and even in Australia!). I was heartened to discover that here in Texas, there is one screening scheduled for December 10 in San Antonio. I was even more thrilled to discover that it’s FREE! I am hoping to make it to that free screening, and I’m hoping others in the area will join me to watch it. If you live in Texas anywhere near San Antonio, come on over.

There’s also another screening in Texas, near Houston (Webster, TX is about 30 minutes away from Houston), so if you’re in Texas and can’t make it to the San Antonio one, go to the one there. It’s not free, but the movie is worth paying money for, imo. If there weren’t a screening in San Antonio already, I’d probably make the 4 hour drive and pay the $25 for it (it includes food!).

Here’s a trailer of “The Business of Being Born:”

Now you want to watch it, right? :) Find upcoming screenings for your hometown.

ETA:  Women’s Health News blog wrote a review on “The Business of Being Born.”  Check it out.  :)

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Caring for the Post-Partum Woman (A Long-Overdue Rant, Rated PG-13)

September 7th, 2007 by MamaBear

When I was post-partum, which, for those of you who don’t know what that is, means “just pushed a baby out your hoo-ha,” what I wanted more than anything was for someone to care for me. From all the conversations I’ve had with other women who have experienced the exquisite delight that is caring for one’s own beaten body, one’s new baby, one’s spouse, one’s household, and one’s other various duties simultaneously the first month after giving birth, I think this desire is resoundingly universal. Post-partum women want to be cared for.

A lot of people think they know what that means. Many people erroneously believe that when a woman who’s just given birth says, “I just want someone to take care of me,” she means, “Take care of my baby.” Well, I hate to break it to these people, but that’s not what she means. When she says, “I just want someone to take care of me, she literally means, “I just want someone to take care of ME.” (emphasis added for clarity)

So, how does one go about this…this…”care of The Post-Partum?” (”The Post-Partum,” I know, sounds like a description for a legion of zombies in a horror movie… The really scary part is that if you were to amass together a large enough group of post-partum women, the resemblance to this would be striking.)

I don’t want to generalize too much, so instead of saying how all post-partum women wish to be cared for, I’ll just share with you what I wanted when I was post-partum. (”I” statements can be very empowering, or so I have heard.)

Without further ado, here’s my personal diatribe wish list, in no particular order, for the post-partum period (the “you” in it is whoever has the temerity to attempt to fulfill my wishes):

  • Don’t touch my baby. Just… don’t. Don’t ask to touch the baby, either. Also, don’t ask why I don’t want you touching the baby. Furthermore, I don’t care if it’s irrational. Some things just are. It’s my baby, so deal with it gracefully. And! …No guilting me for not letting you hold my baby either. Your attitude about this is supposed to reflect absolute understanding and sensitivity. I want to hear you say, with complete sincerity (no sarcasm, or I will personally claw your face off with my filthy post-partum fingernails), “Of course I wouldn’t even consider taking your beautiful, gorgeous, perfect baby from you. I totally understand how strong your biological urge and need is right now to keep your baby close. It’s so important for bonding and getting breastfeeding properly established, and I wouldn’t dream of trying to short-circuit that with my own selfish desire to hold a new baby, or for any other stupid reason, stupid being defined at your discretion.” I’m glad we have an understanding.
  • I want food. Good food. Give it to me!! Not something from a fast-food restaurant, either, and certainly nothing with partially hydrogenated oils in it. I want something home-cooked, USDA certified organic, made with lactogenic herbs and foregoing the use of anti-lactogeni… You know what? It might be a good idea for you to read Mother Food from cover-to-cover before preparing me a meal. I have, and I insist that you learn about galactagogues so that I don’t have to keep explaining to you what I can and can’t eat. Once you bring me my meal, which should actually be equivalent to at least 2.5 normal meals in portion size (or I will put a gypsy curse on you and your family), you will cut up all my food into bite-sized pieces for me so that I don’t have to. And then you will lovingly feed it to me as I concentrate on figuring out how to breastfeed my new baby. You shall do this every day — more than once a day, if need be — for at least a month, possibly longer.
  • While we’re on the subject of breastfeeding, I would really like you to bring me an experienced, sensitive, knowledgeable, non-judgmental, woman-friendly person to show me how to breastfeed, and I’d like her to show up the instant I need her, preferably well before the first feeding, and not when my child is already so frustrated with the effort of eating that he/she completely refuses to come near my breasts. This woman need not be a lactation consultant, because that title unfortunately does not guarantee competency, but she certainly can be. She would preferably have a baby of her own of a similar age to mine and she will show me with her baby how she does it. This person will also magically know exactly how to fix all my breastfeeding problems and additionally, will imbue me with this knowledge (and magic) in less than a week. This person is allowed to touch my baby, but only for the purposes of aiding me with breastfeeding.
  • I need water. Lots of water. Bring me glass after glass of water, filtered. The water doesn’t need ice, but — oh heck, I might as well go all out — It needs ice. Not ice cubes, either; I want that deliciously fun crushed ice, the kind that gets pulverized almost instantly when you hold it firmly between your molars, but not the kind that feels glassy and sharp. I want continuous free refills of this iced, purified water left at my bedside, with a bendy straw, and I want you to bus all used dirty dishes and glasses away as soon as I’m done with them, without me asking. Also once you’ve taken all the dirty dishes to the kitchen, wash them, dry them, and put them away for me, as I don’t think I’ll be up for that task anytime soon.
  • Unless you’re a disease-free, drug-free lactating mother with a good milk supply, don’t offer to feed my baby for me. However, even if you are a disease-free, drug-free lactating mother with a good milk supply, there is no guarantee I will let you feed my baby. Please refer to the “hands-off the baby” policy outlined above.
  • Under no circumstances is anyone to tell me to feed my baby formula or to “just give the baby a bottle.” You don’t want to know what will happen to you, and all of your descendants, if you should try to defy this wish.
  • If after weighing the baby and accounting for poopy and wet diapers, it is determined that the baby isn’t getting enough milk, and after I’ve done everything reasonably within my power to increase my milk supply and deemed that it still isn’t enough for the baby, wash your hands and fill my Lact-Aids for me with donated breastmilk or formula and, only if you are extremely knowledgeable and experienced in this, help me latch the baby on while I wear one.
  • Tell me what a great job I’m doing, and what an excellent mother I am, even if it’s clear that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing and I just put the diaper on the baby inside-out. And backwards.
  • Encourage me to rest with my baby. Help me learn how to latch the baby on while lying down. Help me learn how to consistently get a good latch, and not a shallow one that will soon turn my nipples into raw ground chuck.
  • When you see that I’m using cloth diapers and that the diaper pail is looking full, say, “Hey, let me throw those in the wash for you,” and then do it. Do it like I would, and make sure you don’t ruin any of my diapers. It’s not likely, but if you do ruin any of them, get me equivalent replacements, pronto, without me asking. Also, when the diapers are done, throw a load of regular laundry in the washing machine too. The dirty clothes and linens will probably have piled up since the birth, and I don’t really have the extra energy reserves to do laundry right now.
  • Remind me gently when I need to take all my 30+ daily pills (pain medication, iron tablet, laxative, prenatal vitamin, calcium, galactagogue, galactagogue, galactagogue, omega-3 oils, other supplements, etc.), galactagogue tinctures, and any other necessary medication (salves, ointments, unguents, etc. if applicable), throughout the day. Also, make sure to keep my supplies of witch hazel pads, clean panties, ice-pack sanitary napkins, and ordinary sanitary napkins refreshed.
  • You know what else needs attention? The bathroom. I’ll bet, what with all the bleeding I’ve been doing, that it’s not at its “freshest.” So, if you would, please scrub it down for me: toilet, tub, sink, floors…take out the trash… Just… everything. It all needs attention, which I don’t have the energy to give right now since I’m focused on (1) learning to keep my new baby alive with my breasts and (2) trying to mend my torn body back to health.
  • I was lucky enough to not have needed a cesarean, but if I’d had a C-section, I’d also want someone to: clean, dress, and monitor my wound (several times a day), help me get out of (and back into) bed whenever I needed it, and keep the baby’s diaper changed for me so that I can concentrate fully on breastfeeding while recovering from my surgery (the “hands-off-the-baby” policy makes an exception for this situation as well). Also, if I’m too weak to hold my baby, please put the baby to my breast for me. In this and all Mama Bear postpartum situations, let’s pretend formula and baby bottles don’t exist. This means you and I work hard and do what we can to keep the baby nursing as often and as much as possible from my breasts, even if I am not conscious. Capisce?
  • If my baby fusses, don’t automatically assume that he/she is starving. Instead, reassure me that my milk will come in if it hasn’t yet and that billions of women before me have breastfed successfully even though their milk didn’t come in for days after the baby was born. Remind me that colostrum is the only thing my baby needs in his/her digestive system in the first few days, that it is perfect in quantity and substance for his/her tiny, marble-sized sensitive newborn stomach, and that I produce enough of it to meet my baby’s needs. Also, remind me that the baby is still within normal weight range if he/she takes two full weeks after birth to get back up to birth weight (as long as the baby is urinating and defecating properly and also shows no signs of dehydration).
  • Remind me to feed my baby with my own breasts every hour, on the hour, to help establish a good milk supply. Gently encourage me to wake the baby with this much frequency, if need be, round the clock until my milk supply becomes well-established. This takes some finesse and good judgment, and I can modify this request as many times as I want, so as not to exhaust myself nor the baby. It is because of this that I need to be encouraged to lie-in with the baby, to stay all day (and all night) in bed with him/her if need be, because establishing a milk supply can be very exhausting, especially with a precarious milk supply situation.
  • It should go without saying that I want my baby with me, in my arms, from the instant he/she is born to forever. It makes no sense to separate me from my child, none at all, for any reason other than for a grave life-threatening emergency. “Washing off” the baby is not a grave emergency, and neither is “observation” nor is “hospital policy.” Kangaroo care isn’t just for preemies. All babies like it, and I think all babies should have it. Babies aren’t born expecting a cold incubator or bassinet, nor do they expect to be fed with anything other than a breast. Babies, when they are born, expect to be held by their mothers and breastfed. If their mother is not available, they still expect to be held by someone, so if I’m not available to hold my baby, give the baby to my husband, teach him how to hold the baby if he’s not sure how, because he’s the father and he has way more right to hold his own child than even the highest-paid hospital worker there is. If my baby’s father is not available, the baby should still be held by someone who cares for him/her, has no contagious diseases, and can properly hold a baby (preferably a loving adult relative), until I am able to hold my child… That is, unless everyone’s arms are occupied or unable to hold the baby. If that happens, then, as a case of last resort, the baby should be put in a bassinet or incubator. (I’m still confused, though, as to why the bassinet is the first choice in hospitals, and not kangaroo care. Kangaroo care is better for the babies and cheaper for the hospitals, so why is it not the dominant medical paradigm’s first choice whenever possible?! …Don’t answer that; I can warrant a few guesses.) I feel that bassinets/incubators (and formula, i.e. artificial feeding) should be the option of last resort, only to be used when no better option is available or possible, but I guess that’s just way too much to ask of most hospitals in the United States.
  • Unless I am dead, if you want to feed my baby, put the baby to my breast, even if I am passed out unconscious. If you don’t want to do it yourself, teach my husband how to put the baby to my breast. Whatever you do, don’t feed my baby with a bottle, and definitely not formula.
  • Don’t even think about giving my baby a pacifier
  • Take care of any other household duties for me, child care of older children, pet care, plant care, lawn care, and guest-care, etc. Ward off obnoxious, clueless, oblivious-to-the-needs-of-postpartum-women guests as needed. Tell them that I said to fuck off, especially if they show up without food for me and even moreso if they are showing up just to see/ogle/touch/hold the baby. If they expect to be catered to by me while I’m recovering from having just had a baby tear out of my body, as in, “I’d like a glass of water,” that sort of thing… Ask them if they’d like some of my lochia in their water. I cannot guarantee, because I’m recovering from a pretty physically traumatic event, as outwardly ordinary as it may appear to them, that I’ll have the wherewithal, between caring for my newly born infant and my own pain-wracked body, to remember to wash my hands after using the bathroom and before preparing their glass of water. After you inform them of this fact, then I’d like you to call the cops and report them as intruders. Seriously. I don’t want people like that in my house. Also, even though you could get them their water, I’d rather have you take care of me, and not cater to able-bodied, ungrateful, oblivious houseguests that, frankly, could get their own damn water on their own time and don’t deserve the privilege of meeting my baby or even stepping foot in my house.
  • Listen to me when I want to talk about, well, …anything. Listen with your whole heart and mind, and nod in all the right places with genuine (not feigned) sincerity and interest. Tell me what you think, too. Share with me, without judgment or criticism, what you feel. Keep the lines of communication open.
  • Don’t patronize me by telling me that I must be suffering from post-partum depression because I sob from the depths of my soul at unpredictable intervals. It is normal to cry at the life-changing event of having a baby, to acknowledge that the unbelievably perfect and beautiful angel in my arms is a complete miracle of the universe, and to be awed and humbled and completely taken by surprise at the sheer incredibleness of this life-altering realization. It is to be expected that I sob at the terrifying reality that this exquisite creature has been entrusted to me, and that I am now in charge of his/her life and well-being, forever. Trying to minimize this emotional upheaval and necessary mental/emotional processing by telling me there’s something wrong with me that needs to be medicated out is unconscionable. If watching me cry and experience the natural range of human emotion (which includes sadness, anger, and even — *gasp*rage) makes you uncomfortable, do me a favor and put another load of laundry in the wash for me or go out and get me some more food. If you can’t do that, at the very least practice what you preach and take a pill that will make you not care how emotional I get. That alone would do heaps more for me (and my baby) than paying lip-service to the knee-jerk response of “getting help” for PPD the PhRMA way. You want to know what real help for a postpartum Mama Bear looks like? Re-read this list.
  • You know what else? If you were to actually fulfill all of the above recommendations for me, I think the probability of true postpartum depression entering my postpartum world would be next to nil. Just FYI.
  • Let’s see… What else can you do for me? A foot massage every once in a while would be nice, too. But I wouldn’t want to overburden you. Looks like you’ve got enough on your plate.

All in all, that about sums up my postpartum rant wishlist… This is what I would want, truly want (if I’m going to be brutally, tactlessly honest), during the postpartum period. It doesn’t have to be all from one person either. I’m guessing that in the ideal situation, a postpartum woman would have this kind of care and protection from a combination of sources: a supportive group of mothers, compassionate relatives, reliable friends, a loving spouse, competent health care workers, and/or paid help. I can’t speak for any other women, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if most women who’ve given birth would have wanted at least some of what’s on the above list. I also, sadly, wouldn’t be surprised to hear that too many women don’t get any of the right kind of help when they’re at their most vulnerable.

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My Hospital Birth Experience: Part 5

August 17th, 2007 by MamaBear

Read Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

This next part is where I get a little upset. It bothers me more than the cattle-prodding, more than the invasive checks, more than the vomit-pushing, more than the subsequent exhaustion and all the pain combined.

It’s this:

A nurse took our baby from my husband “for observation” in the nursery. My baby was born completely healthy (thank goodness!) and had already been given a preliminary examination which determined she was A-O.K. (Whew!), so there was no medical necessity for the separation.

My husband tried to intervene and asked, “How long will she be gone?” He even tried to take her back from the nurse, but she held the baby away from him and said something to the effect of, “We’ll give her right back. We promise.” The nurse (not the labor nurse, who was awesome) made an obnoxious little giggle at her own joke. I think at this point I may have protested some, but I can’t really remember because of all the drugs and pain, aching desire to slip into a coma, and the general feeling that my husband was taking care of the situation.

Before I knew what was happening, my daughter was whisked away “for observation” for an unspecified amount of time. At the time, everyone attending us made it seem like she’d be gone for, at most, 20-30 minutes… Like she would be taken to the nursery, given a quick once-over, and then handed right back. I think this is another reason why we didn’t fight any harder than we did to keep her from being taken. It didn’t help matters that we were both dead tired. Well, I was dead tired and in quite a bit of pain. My husband, who got to nap intermittently throughout the day and night, got to eat whatever he wanted, whenever, and experienced everything in all its comfortably distant, third-party, painless glory, was also “tired.” I think, though, that his “tired” was the sort of tired you might feel after pulling a semi-all-nighter at an exciting slumber party, whereas my “exhausted, ravenously hungry, and in incomparable pain, not to mention, possibly traumatized” “tired” was more like what you’d feel after… well, after laboring for 24 hours and pushing a baby out your grumpelstiltsken.

I remember saying, though, that from the moment the nurse had her in her arms to take her away, over and over again, “Please bring me my daughter.” I didn’t care if she was covered in vernix and goo. I couldn’t have cared less if they never gave her a bath. All I wanted to do was establish breastfeeding with her after my stitches were done and I could finally get off my back. I remember their vague and ultimately meaningless promise, “We’ll give her right back.” And then she was gone, taken I-don’t-know-where to be with I-don’t-know-who and done I-don’t-know-what to.

This is what ended up happening immediately after my baby was taken away and my perineum was finally stitched up: my OB disappeared, and a big burly man came in the room and put some panties on me. They were disposable fishnet panties. This wasn’t nearly as sexy as you might imagine. He placed a special cold-pack style pad in it to put between my legs to help stop the bleeding (I didn’t even know these existed before, but wow, what a great invention!). Then he gingerly dressed me in a hospital gown and placed my sore, iced ass in a wheelchair. Did I care that this strange man saw me not only naked but at my very worst? Not really. I figured it’s his job, so he probably sees a lot of bloody, loopy, fat, smelly post-partum women with stringy hair. I was just grateful he had a soft touch, despite his brawny appearance. Also: drugs. I still had a bunch of them in my system, what with my liver not working right, and they made things like modesty and social mores go right out the window. He wheeled me out of the birthing suite and into a room on the other side of the floor. What’s strange about this part is that the hospital I birthed in prides itself on having only “all-in-one” birthing suites, so I never imagined I’d be taken to another room after the birth. What’s it like in other hospitals, then? You get moved twice? Three times? More?

The dressing and transport only took about 10-15 minutes, tops. In that time they could have done an examination on my daughter, washed her up, whatever. When I arrived at my room, the big burly man helped me to get (painfully) settled in the hospital bed, and I immediately called up the nurse’s station so they’d bring me my daughter. I think they said they’d be by.

I waited and dozed off a little thinking she’d be wheeled in any minute. I still had a lot of Nubain in my system and I was utterly dead, dead, dead tired. But the anxiety of not having my daughter in the room with us kept jolting me awake. I’d spent her whole life with her living inside me, she’d been with me always, and now, after waiting for so long to finally meet her face-to-face, she was wrenched from my presence and taken to a room down a long corridor far from me when I was at my most vulnerable… It was a hollow, sickening, helpless feeling.

Whenever I’d come-to and I remembered where I was and what the situation was, I’d call the nurse’s station and ask for my daughter. I must have called them at least five times. I sent my husband there a couple of times, though he was reluctant. The hospital staff and hospital vibe made him feel uneasy. I have to admit, it’s a pretty clever operation they have at many modern hospitals, where they intimidate parents into feeling like they don’t have the right to be with their own children, or feed them the way they wish, or even to see them. I won’t use the word “kidnapping” to describe this practice, but it sure comes uncomfortably close.

Even though my hip bones felt like they’d all come painfully unglued and I was bleeding like only the postpartum can, I almost hobbled out of bed to go get her out of the nursery myself. Just as I was about to get out of bed, though, a nurse finally wheeled her in, wrapped up like a burrito and asleep in her bassinet. She was sleeping so soundly I wondered if they’d fed her, which I’d been COMPLETELY INSISTENT they NOT do. I told every single person I came across in that hospital that I was breastfeeding my baby, and was very explicit about NOT giving her anything by mouth: not formula, not water, not even a pacifier. I said this before and after she was born.

To this day, I still don’t know if those wishes were carried out.

It took the nurses over four hours to bring me my daughter. She’s a year old today (Happy Birthday, Baby Bear!), and I have yet to be separated from her for that long again.

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My Hospital Birth Experience: Part 4

August 15th, 2007 by MamaBear

Read Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

My precious, perfect newborn daughter was immediately placed on my chest. My arms could barely hold her up. I was asked to hold my beautiful eight-pound daughter with shaky, spaghetti-weak arms while trying to push out the placenta, still in the lithotomy position.

My perineum had torn. It was reportedly a second-degree tear, so, pretty average, but still. It needed stitches. I still had to deliver the placenta, though. I thought the pain would stop at this point, but it did not. The BIG BAD PAIN had stopped, thankfully, but the postpartum pain would stay for at least a month. And at that moment, my uterus was still cramping up painfully to deliver the placenta. I didn’t know it would be that painful at the time. Nobody ever talks about the pain that happens after the baby is already born. I was thinking since the worst was over (it was) that it would be relatively pain-free from that moment on. (It wasn’t.)

Delivering the placenta was hurty. I know that’s not really a word, but that’s what it felt like. Like that, and like someone is pulling out your insides, because my OB pulled the umbilical cord to help deliver the placenta. If you do this, you have to be really careful not to pull too hard or too fast, but to pull firmly enough to try and detach the placenta. I hear it takes quite a bit of finesse. Thankfully my OB has decades of experience with this sort of thing, and nothing bad happened, except for more pain, which is, I guess, normal. I delivered the placenta intact, while I tried to convince my daughter to latch on to my breasts. She was more interested in learning how to process air with her lungs, which is pretty normal for just having come out of the womb, or so I’ve heard. The whole scenario felt very rushed. I wasn’t allowed to get in a good position to calm her down, so she kept crying inconsolably. Also, my noodle arms felt like they could barely lift their own weight, let alone hers.

Ideally, I would have been allowed to calm her down and then let her feed peacefully at my breast whenever she was ready. But, alas, it was not meant to be.

Someone took my baby and gave her to my husband so the suturing could get finished without distraction. He held her to his bare chest and someone draped a blanket over the both of them so she wouldn’t get cold. He was tickled pink with his brand-new baby girl! I was thrilled for us too, but at the moment all my body and mind wanted was to sleep for about two hundred years. I honestly would have been fine staying up longer, though, and had already made a mental note to myself that I’d stay up for as long as I needed to in order to bond with the baby and get breastfeeding started right.

At that point, I honestly believed that what would happen next was that as soon as the suturing was done, my husband would give the baby back to me and I’d hold her and initiate breastfeeding.

That’s not what happened, though.

Read the Fifth and final part.

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My Hospital Birth Experience: Part 3

August 14th, 2007 by MamaBear

Read Part 1 and Part 2 first.

Hours passed. They felt like days.

The nurse checked me. I had arrived: 9 cm. I remember feeling ecstatic about this, even through all the pain. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I felt like pushing, though I was told I still had a bit of a “lip” and that I shouldn’t push. The urge was pretty powerful, though, so I did a tiny bit of pushing.

I made a wonderful discovery. Pushing, though scary at first, feels good. Well, good in the way vomiting feels good when you’ve got food poisoning.

I did some more scary vomit-pushes. I tried it in different positions: squat, all-fours, side. Nothing happened; no further progress was made and I was wearing myself out. Finally my OB asked me to get in the classic lithotomy position because as she explained it, it opens up the pelvis more. I had zero energy to discuss this with her, the contradictory information from all the childbirth books I’d read over the years notwithstanding. However, she’d attended over a thousand deliveries in her OB/GYN career, so I figured she had some experience in the matter. Plus, she told me once about how she labored naturally and delivered two babies of her own. Upon remembering that, I took her advice with complete confidence.

Lithotomy position it was. Let me pause for a moment to describe what being in the lithotomy position feels like when you’re nine months pregnant and have been laboring for about 24 hours on no sleep. Strap a fifty-pound boulder to your midsection. Make sure it’s strapped very tightly so that all your organs are uncomfortably compressed. Do the treadmill/cattle prod thing for 24 hours straight. No breaks allowed, not even when you’re having an ungodly internal check or while a tiny vein in your hand is being poked for an IV. After 24 hours of strict treadmill-cattle-prodding torture, invasive internal checking, and needle-poking, you then need to lie down flat on your back with the boulder still tightly strapped to your belly, lift your knees, and wait for more electric shocks so that you may vomit-push your boulder out your vagina. Also, you’re naked and there are at least five people in the room focused entirely on your bloody, possibly poopy crotchal region.


My husband held my right leg and my dear friend Ann held my left. I waited for the next electrocution, I mean, contraction, and I pushed. It felt great and scary, like a good vomit should. Like all cathartic vomits, though, they happen in clusters. So one good push wasn’t enough. I needed to experience a few more to be done with this. I was ready. But my body wasn’t. My contractions put up a little “Be back soon!” sign on my uterus while I lay there, fuming and pushing impotently. I decided to stop pushing and reserve my energy until the next contraction. That’s what they’re there for, after all.

I remember the OB and the labor nurse (who were both awesome, especially the nurse) said, “Oh wow, she’s a good pusher!” and I clung to that like a shipwreck survivor to soggy driftwood. I also remember Ann and my husband, well, actually, everybody, saying, “Oh, I see the head! I see the head!” That alone gave me more strength than the pitocin. Thank goodness they didn’t say instead, “She’s pooping! She’s pooping!” Because I would have grabbed my feces and flung it at the lot of them.

The next contraction came, and I rode that wave for all it was worth. One more solid push and she was out! Whew! What a relief! Good thing, too, ‘cause I’m not sure I could have done that for much longer.

From the moment the Cytotec had been inserted into my cervix to the moment I pushed my daughter out of the birth canal, 24 hours had elapsed.

Read Part 4.

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My Hospital Birth Experience: Part 2

August 12th, 2007 by MamaBear

Read Part 1 first.

It was 6:30 am, I was 6 cm dilated, and my OB just broke my waters. I’d been in active labor for over twelve hours. Oh goody, I thought (as I lay there in agony), we’ll finally get this show on the road and I’ll get to meet my daughter. Yay!

(Long before she broke my waters, when I was in the relatively blissful state of 3 cm dilated, Dr. OB came into my room to tell me she’d run some tests and discovered that I had HELLP. Because of this, I couldn’t have an epidural or I stood a good chance of being paralyzed for life. At the time I actually said, out loud, “That’s okay ‘cause I didn’t want an epidural anyway.” I may have even smiled smugly through my puny 3 cm contractions. She gave me a knowing look and exited quickly.)

By the time I got to six centimeters dilated, I was tearfully begging for an epidural. I thought irrationally (the pain will make you do that) that maybe the nurses didn’t know about my condition and that the anesthesiologist could just run up and give me an epidural anyway, while my OB wasn’t looking. I figured we could all keep it hidden from her when she came back. If she noticed the plastic tubing sticking out from my back, I could just say, “Oh, that? That’s not a legal liability staring at you, Dr. OB. That’s just my, uh, plastic tail. You never noticed I had a tail?”

Unfortunately, I think she may have foreseen this scenario, so all my nurses were very much up-to-date on what I was and was not allowed to have. No amount of begging resulted in anyone giving me any kind of epidural.

They did give me a little intravenous Nubain, though. Nubain, for the uninitiated, is an analgesic similar to morphine. While normally I balk at the idea of someone jabbing my vein with a needle and keeping the needle in there, I totally did not mind it in this case. So, a vein in my hand was eventually located and the IV was inserted. It stung, but I’ve had much worse IVs before.

I thought this would take the pain away. I really did. It didn’t. What it did was keep the pain just as intense as before, but made me even more tired. It would have been very difficult to stay awake at all if not for all the Cytotec-induced cattle prodding contractions and the pain that came with it.

I labored on until 1 pm. They checked me again (AHHHHHH!) and I was still at 6 cm. I’d labored for seven more hours and hadn’t progressed one iota. If I hadn’t been so busy at the time, my fury alone may have resulted in somebody’s untimely demise. Probably my own.

At this point, I was begging for not only an epidural, but a spinal, a cesarean, euthanasia, anything to put an end to the agony.

So then the game plan changed. No, I couldn’t have any of those other things, but I could have pitocin. What is pitocin, you say? It’s a “labor enhancer” or synthetic oxytocin. It makes the contractions increase in intensity, if that was even possible at that point. With the little energy I had, I expressed my adamant opposition. “No! Nonononononononono!” I told them. I told them good.

When I was finished with my tantrum, I was hooked up to a pitocin drip. To the OB’s credit, she upped my Nubain, as a consolation prize.

I became very loopy, drugged and quieter but still in complete agony. The electric cattle prodding continued to intensify, and I sobbed and moaned pitifully as I lay on my side in the hospital bed. Though I’d torn off the hospital gown hours before, I was boiling hot, even as others in the room wore sweaters and wrapped hospital-issue blankets around their shoulders in the air-conditioned birthing suite. My body barely moved, yet I was doing the most arduous physical work I’d ever done in my life.

This is why they call it labor, I thought.

Part 3 here.

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My Hospital Birth Experience: Part 1

August 10th, 2007 by MamaBear

I was forty weeks pregnant, and I felt like something was wrong. Not necessarily wrong with the baby, but my body didn’t feel right. My normally petite, dainty feet looked like they belonged to the Michelin Man’s wife, my normally low blood pressure (90/60) was 145/104, and I had an excruciating, sharp pain on my right side which I later found out was my liver dying. Also, all the air felt like it was being squeezed out of my lungs, so I was having trouble breathing. I hadn’t slept well in weeks because of heartburn which would wake me up every night at random intervals, choking me on my own searing bile and gasping for breath. I tried using an incline pillow, but I’d still wake up sputtering with burned, acid-washed lungs and no sleep. So, for the last month or two of my pregnancy, I “slept” sitting up in a recliner. I’m sure that did wonders for my circulation.

Needless to say, I wanted to give birth right away, so I asked to be induced. It turned out later that I’d made the right call because, unbeknownst to anyone, I had developed HELLP syndrome, a serious and sometimes fatal condition (to both mother and child) which is only curable by giving birth. We didn’t find out about the HELLP until later, though. It pays to trust your instincts.

So my hospital birth adventure began.

At 5:30 pm or so, my OB inserted a quarter tablet of Cytotec into my cervix to help it ripen, because apparently it wasn’t ripening on its own quickly enough, though I was 1 cm dilated already. Cytotec also helps initiate contractions. I felt some mild contractions after a while, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.

After about three hours of this, I had dilated to 3 cm. I thought this was great because it hadn’t been that long, and if it kept up being this relatively pain-free with such progress, well, the baby would be out in no time.

It actually was a little more work than that.

By 6:30 am the following morning, I’d only progressed to 6 cm and I was in considerable pain. I still had all the discomforts I had before, but now I was also in full-blown labor.

For those of you who have not experienced full-blown labor, allow me to illustrate it for you with an analogy: You’re running on a treadmill. The treadmill is set to a speed that is faster than you are comfortable running. You weigh 30-50 pounds more than usual, so this running thing is even harder on you than it would normally be. You haven’t had a full-night’s rest in weeks, so you’re already very tired, and you have no choice about the speed of the treadmill. While you’re running and thinking you’re going to pass out or die from exhaustion alone, someone electrocutes you in the stomach at fairly regular intervals with an electric cattle prod. The more you get cattle-prodded, the stronger the electric shock gets. You don’t have time to recover from one electric shock before another one is administered to you.

(You do have a choice about whether or not to be on the treadmill at all. Here’s your alternative if you choose not to do the treadmill: You will be stabbed in the spine with a large scary needle that paralyzes you from the waist down, hopefully not permanently. Your belly will be sliced open in order to remove your baby from your body. This surgery will require you to be separated from your sweet baby — the same sweet baby you’ve been dying to meet for nine months as he/she gestated inside you — for several hours starting immediately after he/she is born. After your baby is out and you’re stitched (or stapled) up, you’ll have to endure painful recovery from major abdominal surgery for weeks, perhaps months, possibly incapacitating you as you re-learn how to move the lower half of your body and assimilate the delicate art of keeping your precious newborn alive.

Knowing all this, you choose the treadmill and fervently hope it all works out without ever having to go the alternate route.)

I’ve read a lot of birth stories, and before going through the experience myself, I always wondered what labor and delivery would feel like. Most stories say that labor hurts or feels like “really bad menstrual cramps.” Some describe it as an “all-consuming pain.” I told myself that if/when I’d experience it, that I’d try to put it into words as it was happening in a way that anyone, female or male, would understand. The treadmill/electrocution analogy does this fairly well. It also describes pretty much exactly what it felt like for me.

To continue with the story:

There was some indignant yelling. And moaning. And some throwing of various things, like pillows and blankets and one sweaty hospital gown. And some grabbing and impotent shaking of bedside rails. Also, some cussing, which I will not repeat here.

To try to speed things along, my OB decided to break my waters. I think she used a needle, but I’ve heard it’s more like a crochet hook. I didn’t really get a good look at what instrument she used — I had other concerns at the time — but I can tell you it was very small and thin, like a sewing needle. She broke my waters after I’d gotten checked at 6:30 am and was determined to only be at 6 centimeters.

Incidentally, “getting checked” to see how dilated you are is no walk in the park. It’s not like someone shines a flashlight up your hooch, takes a quick gander and goes, “Yup, 6 centimeters dilated.” For some reason, that’s what I used to think it was like.

It’s not. In fact, to check you, OBs and nurses don’t use their eyes at all. They use their fingers and they estimate how dilated the cervix is based on their sense of touch.

Or in my case, they use their entire arm. At least, that’s what I could discern from what it felt like and from what I could see of the (small) amount of arm that was still outside my body whenever I’d get checked. Also, I should note that “getting checked” involved a fair amount of time commitment, as well as pain and discomfort. Using one’s sense of touch isn’t nearly as fast as, say, looking at something. So each time I got checked it took maybe 2-3 minutes, which at the time felt more like 20-30. (Time perception gets pretty distorted when you’re being electrocuted in the stomach while running on a treadmill.)

Good times.

Part 2 here.

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