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  • Barb Kilpatrick (A Doula Client)

{Birth Story} Expect the Unexpected

Attempting a natural birth has always been important to me. With my first, it was a really long labor - 83 hours - but I persevered through it with no pain medication and no Pitocin. I hired Natural Baby Doulas and Christina and Sarah were my doulas. They were by my side the whole time, and I credit my ultimate success to their guidance and support. I was thoroughly exhausted afterwards, though, and never did get to write out the full story of my daughter’s birth and many of the details were pretty hazy. What I took away from the experience, though, was that it was the strongest and most empowered I have ever felt. So for my second, I very much wanted to travel down a similar path - just a lot shorter labor. But as Sarah told me in one of our prenatal visits, the only thing that is guaranteed is that your second pregnancy and birth will be completely different than your first.

Throughout most of this pregnancy, I had been measuring ahead – sometimes significantly (like three or four weeks ahead). So when, a little over a week before my due date, I got an ultrasound to check on growth, it showed this baby at 11 lbs. 2 oz. That changed my plans significantly. My midwives and I now agreed that we should attempt to have this baby sooner rather than later, and I was fearful that a C-section would be in my future. This news also meant that I would not be delivering at Magnolia Birth Center, which was a really big goal of mine so I had to let go of that dream. We made a plan for me to be admitted to the hospital on a Thursday night with the intent to induce and labor at the hospital all day on Friday. My midwife, Tanya, would monitor my progress and if it looked favorable, we would attempt a vaginal birth - which had its potential complications if the baby were as large as the ultrasound predicted. Once in active labor, if I was not progressing smoothly, then we would opt for a c-section. Tanya told me that in her experience if a baby is able to descend into the pelvic bones then Mama is likely to give birth vaginally with little issue. I had faith in my midwives and my doulas to support me as well as faith in my body to do its work - but I had spent the week leading up to my induction preparing myself logistically, mentally and emotionally to have a C-section. I also went into my induction with a lot of nerves about giving birth naturally and the potential for shoulder dystocia which is when the baby’s head comes out but struggles to get past the broad shoulders. And to top off all of my nerves, the night before heading to the hospital I got literally no sleep - so I was physically exhausted.

With bags packed more than we had previously planned (who knows how long early labor will be - so we brought games to play!), my husband and I headed into Women’s Hospital at 10 PM on Thursday, May 9. We fortunately had the most wonderful nurse help us transition into our stay and I got a dose of Cytotec placed vaginally with the purpose that it would stimulate contractions and help soften my cervix which was still thick and at only 1 cm. I was able to get a little rest throughout the night, and luckily the Cytotec was doing its job, so there was no need for an additional dose after the four hours of it working. In the morning, my midwife came and inserted a Foley bulb into my cervix, which is like a balloon that manually helps to dilate your cervix through contractions. After four hours, the balloon fell out (which was the strangest feeling!) and I had progressed from 1 cm to six! Soon after that, active labor should kick in and it did. It was pretty awesome that for the majority of my laboring, the contractions were not that strong. I was able to move about and only pause to calmly breathe during most of them. Sometime into active labor, Tanya checked my cervix but asked if I wanted to know the information. I said I only wanted to know if it meant we were near the end. She said I had a little ways to go before it was time to push, but that she felt the head right above the cervix which was an excellent sign that the baby had descended into the pelvis. Vaginal delivery looked good! I cried tears of joy and lost all doubt that I couldn’t do this.

I used the Birth tub for a lot of my laboring and it was extremely helpful once transition hit and the contractions became really intense. While to me, transition felt like it lasted hours, my birth team assured me that it was not very long. Maybe an hour no more than two. I vacillated between three different positions in the tub: on my knees leaning over the side, sitting down facing my husband, and sitting between his legs where he would hold my hips up in the water. I reached a point during the hardest part where, in between contractions, I looked up at my midwife and said “now I know why people say during transition that they can’t do this and they just want this baby out” - it was really hard work. Miraculously, it was right after I said that that I leaned back against my husband in the tub and on my next contraction I felt the urge to push. It was time! I felt such relief... but knew that this was going to be much more work this time around.

Between contraction smiles in the tub

Because of the possible complications, I could not deliver in the water like I did with my first - so I got onto the bed on my hands and knees. More accurately, I crouched with my face in a pillow in a combination of a child’s pose and cow pose. My husband and my doula, Christina, were on either side of my hips, pressing inward. I was squeezing my best friend’s hands. My step daughter was by my side. Both of my midwives were present and coaching my pushing. After about 30 minutes of insanely hard work - those ice chips Christina kept feeding me were heavenly - my not-so-little one came out successfully. I had to push past their belly to get them all the way out. We kept gender a surprise and so the midwives asked my husband if he wanted to announce to everyone - a little shell-shocked, he was confused at first but then said to the room - it’s a girl! After a good amount of skin to skin time, the moment had come to weigh her and she clocked in at 10 lbs. 6 oz. thank goodness she was my second child as I ended up having no tearing. The hardest part of recovery was the amount of strain I had put on my upper body, chest and back muscles while pushing. I was really sore for many days after. When it was all said and done, I was so relieved and elated that I had conquered all of my fear and doubt and trusted my team and the process and the result was another successful (mostly) natural birth.

Big baby girl

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