As most of you know, we had a Bradley birth with Little Sir – meaning we took Bradley Childbirth Classes. Bradley is a partner-assisted method of giving birth with the goal of avoiding unnecessary intervention and pain medication using comfort measures and relaxation. Bradley classes are 8 weeks of 2-3 hour classes and also cover prenatal diet and exercise, as well as infant care.
I have to admit that I don’t know much about Lamaze, but Danielle from Momotics has promoted it several times and it seems very like Bradley. Our Bradley birth actually exhibits all of Lamaze’s 6 Healthy Birth Practices.
The Lamaze organization is currently promoting a Giving Birth with Confidence Blog Carnival, where they are asking for women to submit their stories of natural childbirth. In order to help them in this effort, I am re-posting Little Sir’s birth story below, complete with pictures.
If you’ve read it before, thanks for bearing with me – and don’t forget to check out Lamaze’s awesome video on 50 Years of Childbirth Education.
Little Sir’s Natural Birth
After reading the book “Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born” by Tina Cassidy several years ago and then later seeing the film The Business of Being Born and other natural birth stories, and reading Ina May Gaskin’s book, among others, we were very focused on having a natural medication-free birth in an environment that was as home-like as possible. I admit I was too afraid of making a mess in my own home to be on board with a full-out home birth. We found The Birth and Women’s Center here in Dallas to be the best of both worlds – a midwife-run practice in an old historical house, the whole thing looks like home. And since there are few enough patients, by midway through your pregnancy, you know everyone there who might be attending your birth by name and they know you, so we knew we’d never be in the situation where strangers would be going in and out of the room all the time, disrupting labor. I would encourage you to visit their web site at www.birthcenter.net for more information and pictures of the house.
Also, for anyone who might be reading this birth story on the internets and not know me: a little background on the late stages of my pregnancy. At 32 weeks, the midwives discovered that my cervix was already starting to soften and dilate. They did not feel comfortable with this happening so early, so I was put on modified bed rest for 5 weeks. During that time, my cervix did continue to dilate and efface. I was let up off bed rest at 37 weeks, but still went past my due date! At the last prenatal checkup the Friday before his birth, my cervix was already 4 cm dilated, 100% effaced, and he had been at zero station for 3 weeks.
I had been experiencing pre-labor contractions for the previous 3-4 weeks, which was basically accomplishing what the Early Stage of labor would normally accomplish – the dilation and effacement of my cervix – only over weeks rather than a period of hours. We anticipated that this might mean that when I did go into labor, I might go directly into Active Labor, having already completed Early Stage labor.
After all the weeks of Early Labor contractions starting and stopping, and all the concern about going into pre-term labor, my due date came and went with nothing!! And believe me, we tried everything to get that labor going – I have a previous post about all the natural methods of labor induction we tried unsuccessfully. We were scheduled to have an extra sonogram later that week to determine if the baby still had enough amniotic fluid and then have my membranes swept and possibly my bag of waters broken on October 22. Even more frustrating: on my due date, all the contractions I’d been having for the last 3-4 weeks pretty much stopped and for 2 days….nothing.
Then at 2:20 AM on Tuesday, October 20, I woke up to a small gush of fluid. When I went to check, it was not mucus as I usually experienced (I had lost my mucus plug 3-4 weeks ago). This was a clear liquid with no odor and was followed by a little more. I put on some protection and went back to bed. It kept up, so I woke Christian and told him that I wondered if my water broke. Since I was Group B Strep positive, we knew that if it was amniotic fluid, then I would need to go to the birth center to be put on antibiotics very soon. So we reluctantly called Carol, the midwife on call, around 3 AM and told her we suspected my water might have broken. I was a little skeptical that it would all happen this easily after so many false starts. She said to meet her up at the birth center at 4 AM. We packed up all the birth stuff and hoped that we weren’t going to be right back home in a few hours with no baby.
I was wearing my Depends and I am very glad I was, because by the time we reached the birth center, which is only about 10-15 minutes from our house, the leakage was significant. The strip test confirmed that it was indeed amniotic fluid, so Carol put me on the antibiotic IV drip for about 30 minutes, leaving the port in so that we could do it again in 4 hours, but I wasn’t hooked up to anything. I still had absolutely no contractions so we decided to go get some breakfast and power walk around the park to get them started. We told Carol we’d be back in an hour. It was around 5 AM by then, and as we walked out onto the porch to get food, I immediately had a much more severe contraction than I’d ever had! We decided to go get food anyway, and while we were out I kept having them around 3 minutes apart. When we got back in to the birth center around 6 AM and unpacked our things, I walked around and around the room on the shag carpet barefoot through and between the contractions. Carol suggested that I just walk through as many contractions as possible to keep them going and Christian walked with me. Most of the time we might slow down and I would lean on him, but we didn’t stop much. I really found the shag carpet on my bare feet comforting for some reason. I was rating the strength of these contractions around a 6 or 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. My pre-labor contractions over the past weeks had never been above a 3 or 4. These new contractions were consistently 3 minutes apart from the time they began on the porch, consistent with Active Labor, as we had suspected – after stripping my membranes I had gone right into Active Labor.
When Carol checked me again around 7 AM, I think I was dilated to 7 or 8 cm, and she suggested that I get into the tub. The tub was really great! I got in there around 7:30 AM, apparently that was when I went through transition, I had such strong contractions that I thought I was going to throw up breakfast, and I told Christian I couldn’t do this anymore! This is also the part where I said some curse words when I had two very strong contractions that made me rise up out of the tub. Carol came in and reminded me about all the things we learned in Bradley classes and helped me realize that when I was hit with the harder ones I was tensing up, making them worse. Christian was AWESOME about reminding me to breath and relax the whole time. At 8:30 I had to get out of the tub to get another antibiotic IV and have another check – I was 9.5 cm dilated. Sitting still for the IV was the worst!! At least I could stand up and move around within the range of the cord, and even got up to go to the bathroom with it in. I can’t imagine how someone could handle contractions of that strength when tied up to an IV and bound to a hospital bed. I am in awe of anyone who can get through those in a hospital environment!!
I sat on or near the bed for a while after the IV was removed and started to get the urge to push. Carol said this was a good idea so at or after 9 AM, they helped me into a pushing position of squatting while holding onto the bed post. I was not very good at pushing, I think I got the angle wrong! But the head did start to crown in that position, and they moved me up to the bed. We used the exact position that we learned in our Bradley class on the bed, with Christian holding one of my legs and the birth assistant holding the other. I didn’t have the strength or focus to hold my own legs adequately. Carol had a mirror for me to look at the baby’s head, but I was so focused on the pushing that I really didn’t see much. They asked if I would like to reach down and touch the head as it crowned and I said “NO! I just want it OUT!”. I have heard a description of “the ring of fire”, but to me the entire time I was pushing before the baby actually came out felt like a ring of fire. I have also heard women say that it feels so good to finally push, but to me it just felt like the worst pain EVER and I was super glad when it was over!
The total pushing time was probably 30-45 minutes and Michael Asher Bradford was born! After the midwives helped with a stuck shoulder for a minute, Christian pulled him out and put him on my chest himself.
I did end up having a little bit of an episiotomy because the lip of my cervix was thicker than anticipated, but I really did not feel it much. It took a minute for us to think to look and see if he was a boy or a girl, since we didn’t know throughout the pregnancy!
Christian was the BEST labor coach ever!! He was always encouraging me and reminding me to breathe calmly and relax. Every time I did that, it helped so much. He also recognized when I was in transition and reminded me that it wouldn’t be much longer until we met the baby. When I was pushing, he was right behind me, pushing right along with me. It was so helpful to see him concentrating just as hard as I was, and he was always there with a cool washcloth.
After the birth, they did not remove Little Sir from my chest for a hour or more – all the checks and tests were done there on my chest and I was able to breastfeed as soon as Little Sir was able to figure it out, with Christian right there the whole time.
Christian also got to weigh him, and he was 7 lbs 14 oz, 20 inches long.After I was sewn up, they drew another bath in the tub for me and I got in, and Christian brought Little Sir in and we washed him together. It was so amazing because the tub room was full of sunlight at around 11 AM in the morning and we were both there with our new baby and I wasn’t in pain or giantly huge anymore!
I really cannot say enough good things about all the ladies at the Birth & Women’s Center, they were all so amazing. Carol is the most patient person ever after all my false starts! They sure had the timing down perfectly, getting everything ready for each different stage and taking such wonderful care of us afterward. We stayed in the big bed after our bath until 4 PM, Debbie warmed the food we brought and brought it to us in bed, and Christian and Little Sir were able to nap for about an hour. I was so excited from the birth experience that I couldn’t fall asleep, but I was glad to lay there resting.
We left the birth center around 4:30 or 5 PM on Tuesday and went home, Debbie helped us out to the car and took this picture of us heading home!
We both really felt like this was an amazing and beautiful experience. I’m not going to tell you it didn’t hurt, and I’m still thinking to myself that adopting future children sounds like a more and more attractive idea, just to avoid going through that pain again!! But, I wouldn’t have wanted to do it any other way, and we feel blessed to have had the ability to meet our son in such a peaceful environment.