I believe Birth Stories are like dreams- they’re usually more interesting to the person who experienced them. Therefore, feel free to skim my 2 Birth Stories, but I ask you to read the my summation at the end. Let me begin with my experience almost 5 years ago with the birth of my first born. I will attempt to keep the graphic details at a minimum.
Birth #1- March 26, 2007
Looking back, I realize I went into labor around 8PM although at the time I didn’t know it. I just thought I wasn’t feeling very good, so I had some terrible canned chicken noodle soup for dinner and went to bed. Around 10PM I started timing my contractions and discovered it was the real deal. I managed to labor at home until 3AM, when my husband suggested we head to the hospital. We arrived and I labored there until 8AM when I got my epidural. I think I was about 4cm dilated at that point. After that, my labor slowed to a halt and we hung out watching bad TV rehash Anna Nicole’s death over and over. Finally, around 2PM I was fully dilated and effaced. The anesthesiologist came in and “turned down” my epidural so I could feel when to push. My epidural had been so strong, I couldn’t move my legs or feel them at all. I jokingly told him not to turn it down too much. He didn’t seem amused. Then, 2.5 hours of pushing ensued as sensation slowly creept up my legs. After about 2 hours, I could feel everything again. Not cool. I did not sign up for the natural childbirth plan. Thirty minutes of painful pushing followed when the doctor announced the baby was in distress and he needed to use the vacuum to help her out. He told me I had 3 tries with the vacuum and then I’d have to have a c-section. He then turned the epidural back on, gave me some Fentanyl and an episiotomy. Finally not in excruciating pain, I managed to push her out on the second try with the vacuum assist. It was a traumatizing experience for both my husband and I. It turned me off to having another child for years. I also had a lot of difficulty with nursing. Since I delivered so late in the evening, there were no lactation consultants around. I nursed through the night with a bad latch that left me injured. The next day, the lactation consultant hooked me up to the supplemental nursing system (a tube that runs over your breast with formula). I’m not sure why she thought that would be beneficial. I struggled for 7 long months to feed my baby whatever breast milk I had, but I never made enough for her.
Birth #2- March 3, 2012
Four years later, my husband and I finally decided to try again. I got pregnant within the first month. This pregnancy I was much more active, as evidenced by previous blog posts. I went into labor the night before my due date. Earlier in the day, I had my OB appointment where the doctor aggressively stripped my membranes. That evening I started having contractions during dinner, but figured they were more of the same false labor I’d been having all week. We went downtown for the Art Walk and I started timing my contractions. They were regular 5-7 minutes apart, but not too painful, so we came home and went to bed. Of course, I couldn’t sleep so I labored at home until 1AM when we headed into the hospital. When I arrived, it they took me straight to a room, skipping triage, as I was obviously in a lot of pain. I had the nurse call the anesthesiologist almost immediately. My doula arrived and started making the room pleasant with electric candles. A dear friend of mine is an L&D nurse and was on that evening, so she took me as her patient. Also, I got lucky enough that my doctor was on call that evening as well. These 3 people and my husband made an amazing delivery team. My epidural this time was light enough that I could still move my legs and feel them below the knee, but took the pain of the contractions away. Around 7:45AM I was fully dilated and ready to push. I had a lot of anxiety from my previous birth experience, but my nurse and doula were very reassuring and encouraging. Someone gave me the priceless suggestion to put my hand on my belly between pushing so I could feel when I was having a contraction. With all the support and encouragement, I managed to push out baby #2 a mere 40 minutes later. Both my doctor and my nurse were supposed to be off at 7AM and stayed around to assist me. For that I am eternally grateful. I sustained a small tear that the doctor quickly stitched and my baby was given to me to attempt nursing. All of the nurses and my doula helped me to get her to latch on. The lactation consultant came in later that day and another one came in the next day to make sure things were going well. They educated me and had me make an appointment in a couple days to make sure nursing was going well for me. I feel so much better informed about nursing this time and thus my milk is abundant!
I’ve been asking myself, “What made such a huge difference between my first birth and my second?” I feel the biggest factor was my delivery team. My doctor was amazing. During pregnancy, he was always supportive of my active lifestyle and reassuring that even though I was “advanced maternal age”, I needn’t worry about it. My nurse is a good friend with 10+ years of experience. Not everyone can be so lucky as to have their friend as their nurse! However, here is a factor you can control- I had a doula the second time around. Even though I was planning to have an epidural and got it shortly after I arrived at the hospital, my doula was still extremely helpful. I recommend finding a doula with as much experience as possible who’s personality meshes with yours. She was invaluable to my husband and me. Her being there allowed my husband to rest during the epidural “down time” and not feel guilty because my doula kept me company. She also coached me (along with the doctor and nurse) during pushing, so he could focus his attention on supporting me. I feel extremely grateful to these people for allowing both my husband and I to have an amazing birth experience.
Finally, what made the difference between my 2 breastfeeding experiences? This can also be attributed to the people. The lactation staff at our hospital were infinitely more helpful than at the previous hospital I delivered at. They checked on me many times during my stay and provided me with wonderful information. I felt better educated and able to understand how breastfeeding works. To ensure successful breastfeeding, I recommend becoming as educated as possible during your pregnancy and then taking advantage of any lactation services your hospital has to offer.