This is a birth story. But actually, it’s more than that. It’s the first chapter in the story of how I discovered my passion for birth work. It’s an integral part of who I am, as most birth experiences are to the people who live them.
In the summer of 2015 I was pregnant with my first baby, due in September. It was hot, I was huge, and I was very, very ready to be done with pregnancy. I had read a little about natural birth, most of my friends were planning for or had unmedicated births, and I was seeing a midwife for my care. I somewhat expected that birth would just happen the way I wanted it to just because I wanted it.
It seemed fairly straightforward. Tell the midwife I want an unmedicated birth, go to the hospital, have the baby, come home.
I counted down the days till my due date. Then I started counting the days past my due date. I went in thinking my water had broken at 40 weeks 5 days. It hadn’t. I was sent home.
I was induced at 41 weeks 3 days, thinking that I might never go into labor on my own. I had read it wasn’t great to be induced if I didn’t need to be, but I had no support in waiting it out and I was tired.
After nearly 24 hours in the hospital, not eating or sleeping much at all, my induction was marked as “failed.” Before they could start me on another induction drug, I went into labor on my own. I was frustrated knowing that I may as well have stayed home where I could rest and eat, but at least things were finally happening.
That night my water broke, labor really got going, and the midwife helped me get into a good rhythm with the contractions. But then she said I was doing great and that she was going to go get some rest. I didn’t know how to cope alone (my husband was there, and he was wonderful, but he knew even less about birth than I did and was scared for me and the pain I was in.) I was tired and hungry, and I had no idea how much longer this was going to take, so I asked for an epidural.
The next morning a nurse told me I would have a baby by lunch. I didn’t. Instead I was told that my baby’s heart rate was declining during contractions. At some point they had hooked me up to pitocin. I have wracked my brain trying to remember if they asked my permission, or even told me they were doing it. I don’t think that they did.
As we approached the 24-hours-with-broken-water mark, my kidneys were failing, I was getting a fever, and they kept telling me my baby was showing signs of distress. Throughout, I was getting frequent vaginal checks with no warning or explanations, oxygen was being administered off and on, my epidural was wearing off suddenly, and my midwife was in and out intermittently. Frankly, I had no idea what was happening to me, and I was terrified.
Around 6pm, 46 hours after entering the hospital, I was fully dilated. My midwife asked me to push. I had no urge to do so, so she directed me through a few pushes. The whole time she had her hand inside to feel for baby’s movement. I was told my pushes were ineffective and that baby didn’t like the pressure. The midwife told me she had to get the OB on call involved.
He came in to check me and told me that he was willing to “let me” wait another hour. I did. Contractions were weak and slowing down. I hadn’t eaten in 48 hours. I had barely slept. I was told I could go to c-section then, or wait it out and risk it turning into an emergency. I chose the first option.
I was prepped for surgery, wheeled into the operating room, strapped down, and about 15 minute later I was handed a baby. A baby I couldn’t feel or hold because I was numb from the neck down. A baby I only knew was mine because they told me it was.
It took me a few weeks to recover physically. It took me months to bond with my son. It took me nearly two years to feel emotionally recovered.
When we started thinking about another baby, I started looking into birth more. I read books. I watched videos. I talked to friends. I searched blogs. Over and over, I heard about doulas.
As I learned more about doulas, I learned that not only did I want one, I learned that I wanted to be one. I had found my calling, and it was calling loudly.
I did my first official training as a doula when I was 10 weeks pregnant with my second baby. I attended my first birth at 22 weeks pregnant. It was a wonderful experience, but it also made me realize how little I still knew about physiological birth and hospital interventions. I dove deeper into learning. Like, “Bethany, shut up, you only ever talk about placentas and vaginas and perineums anymore” deep.
Then I had a VBAC at home, and my whole world shifted again. Stay tuned for Part 2!