Sam's Birth Story

In looking back through my birthday letters to my boys this year, I realized that I hadn't yet posted their birth stories on this blog.  In honor of each of their birthdays this year, I'll post each of their birth stories here.  This is re-posted from the Born in Bellingham blog I ran for a while, so I originally wrote it around 5 years ago, using some of my original telling and adding a few additional details.

I was 25 when I had my first son. We had trouble getting pregnant, but after 2 years, our 4th attempt at IUI worked, and we were finally pregnant. We took the standard class that the hospital offered, a few sessions that didn't tell me much that I didn't already know. I was so excited at becoming a mother, but I was really scared of labor. All I heard were stories about how much it hurt and how afterwards it was "like hamburger down there." Not exactly inspiring or encouraging. My birth plan was basically to try and do it without medication, but I fully acknowledged that I had no idea what my pain threshold is since I've never really had any painful experiences. The most physical pain I'd ever felt before that was probably getting my tattoos.

My due date was May 2, and the day before I was feeling really nervous. I was ready to meet my son, but one thing I did know was that I did not want to be induced. I really wanted labor to come on naturally. I was feeling unsettled about my doctor appointment the next day because I knew the subject would come up. That night, my husband gave me the choice of going for a walk outside around our apartment complex or of sex to try and get things going. I chose the latter because the idea of a walk was just too much! We're both night owls and ended up going to sleep around 1 am.

At 3:30 am I woke up and as soon as I was awake, I realized that I'd been awakened by my water breaking. I sat up in bed and made my husband go and get me a towel. I went into the bathroom and the fluid was clear, and after that I was leaking fluid slowly, and gushing a bit during contractions. At first, I didn't even realize that what I was feeling were contractions. It took three or four crampy feelings exactly 20 minutes apart for me to realize what was happening. I did not have any contractions or Braxton Hicks at all before I actually went into labor.

I was so excited, and even though I was tired, I liked the dark and quiet of the morning. I called the hospital and they told me that I should come in since my water had broken but that I could shower and have something to eat first, no rush. I was too excited to shower, but we took our time getting ready. The drive to the hospital was nice, no cars on the street and everything was very quiet and still in the early morning. We walked into labor and delivery around 5 am. I had filled out the paperwork ahead of time, so we got right into a room. At that point, my contractions were about 6 minutes apart.

The nurses told me that depending on my progress they would probably want to start pitocin around 9:30 (6 hours into my labor). I put on a gown and robe and walked the halls, leaning on the railings when I had contractions. My Mom and sister arrived around 6. As the contractions got stronger and harder, I started to re-think my ideas about having a natural labor. Around 7:30, my doctor came in and did my first check and found that I was 6 cm dilated. It was really convenient that my doctor's practice was located in the hospital, so it was very easy for him to come down and check on me. After that, my contractions continued getting longer and more difficult, but spaced out more. I know now that is something that happens to some people, and doesn't necessarily mean progress is slowing, but I did not know that at the time.

Around 10 am, my doctor told me that we could either keep waiting or we could use pitocin and move things along. This is where my journey completely diverges from my current opinions. I know now that the pitocin was not necessary, but I wasn't informed or empowered to make that choice at the time. I did know that pitocin can make contractions come on fast and hard, so I told them I wanted an epidural before they started the pitocin drip. I got my epidural and they started the drip sometime between 10:30 and 11:30. Around noon, my friend/photographer arrived as well as my stepdad. At 12:20 they checked me again and I was still only 6-7 cm dilated. At that point, the nurses suggested that we kick everyone out and try to rest. The hospital I was at was very quiet and calm, and I had the overhead lights off with natural light streaming through floor to ceiling windows. I listened to Sarah McLachlan and went to sleep.

At 1:15 I was awakened by an oxygen mask being placed over my mouth and nose. In retrospect I have no idea why that was necessary. They told me that the baby's heart rate was sporadic, and upon doing an internal exam they said that the reason was because it was time to push - I was 10 cm and ready to go! We called my family back to the room and around 1:30 I started pushing.

Because of the epidural, I was on my back on the bed. There were no stirrups, so I was holding my legs as I pushed. The lights were still out, and I did very little talking. My husband made jokes about it being a 'silent birth' ala Scientology since Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes were all over the news at that time.  I was not in pain, but did feel an urge to push and a lot of pressure. My family was there to encourage me, but I didn't need them to talk to me, just be in the room with me to help bring our baby into the world.

After 1 hour and 40 minutes of pushing, Samuel Denn was born. He weighted 7 lbs 6 oz, was 20 inches long, and had the fullest head of white blonde hair I'd ever seen. They placed him immediately on my chest and let him stay while I birthed the placenta.

We stayed in the hospital overnight, and were unsuccessful with breastfeeding. I found out later that I had a litany of medical issues including insulin resistance, PCOS, high testosterone and hypothyroidism that affected my ability to get pregnant and to produce milk. I tried many things, but never got more than a few drops out of either breast. My doctor had never checked my breasts while I was pregnant, or told me that the size and placement or the fact that there was not an increase in size might not be good signs. I never had any idea that some women could not breastfeed, or had low production, or any of that.

We went home the next day, and I was shocked at how easy my recovery was. My muscles were sore and tired, but I felt fairly good. None of the vagina horror stories I'd heard held true in any way, and things went back to normal fairly quickly. Even though I have different ideas now about birth in general, I am happy that I had such a good hospital experience with my first birth!