We recently invited our amazing community of mothers and birth advocates to be a part of our blog by submitting posts inspired by the “Avoid Unnecessary Interventions” video — and we were absolutely blown away. Each and every story was moving and beautiful, but we had to choose a winner, so …
Congratulations to Karen Reill, our contest winner and this week’s Mother’s Advocate guest blogger. Her strength, determination and wisdom led to the natural birth of her healthy and lovely daughter, Fiala.
One Tuesday morning almost two years ago, I shared an elevator ride with another woman. We had both just seen our obstetricians — mine told me I was dilated to 4 cm and in early labor. The other woman’s told her that she was dilated to 1 cm, and she excitedly said, “Now he can induce me!” I was heading home to start what would become nearly 24 hours of walking to encourage and progress labor. My approach, which at times required some concerted effort to maintain focus and not allow myself or those around me to become impatient, resulted in a birth with absolutely no medical intervention at all. The other woman ended up with a cesarean.
By 5 p.m. that evening, as long as I was active, my contractions had become more frequent: about two minutes apart. I was in no hurry to head to the hospital; I typically wait until the contractions are very strong and even painful. However, my mom, who was watching my other children, expressed concern that because this was my fifth child, if I waited until things started hurting, I might end up birthing on the kitchen floor. After dinner, my husband and I took one more walk, then headed to the hospital.
I was sent to OB triage, hooked up to the monitors to assess my contractions, and was dismayed that they slowed down to almost nothing — one contraction every 10-12 minutes. I continued to dilate, however, so the nurse suggested that I take a walk. Thus began the first of hours of trips around the hospital. As I continued to walk, I continued to dilate, then came the pain. It was actually encouraging to me, since it meant that most likely this was real labor, meaning I’d have my baby sometime soon.
From our previous conversations, my doctor knew how I felt about any induction method, including breaking my water, so he didn’t even suggest it — he just sent me out for more walking. As my husband and I become well-acquainted with each hospital corridor and nurse’s station, my labor progressed. By midnight, my contractions were really hard, more regular, and would halt the walking each time they hit.
Although my contractions were progressing, I wasn’t dilating beyond 7 cm. The nurse advised me to consider letting the doctor break my water, stating that if I had already done so, I could be nursing my baby by now. I told her, noncommittally, that I would talk with my husband and we’d pray about it, then I’d let her know.
Honestly, though everyone else was anxious for the baby to come, I wasn’t particularly. I wasn’t physically exhausted, though I had surely walked almost 10 miles in the previous 24 hours, and had been contracting hard and painfully for about six hours. I still felt like my baby should/would come when the time was right, and even though I wanted my own doctor to deliver her (I trusted that he would honor my wishes, and he was off-call in just a few short hours), I felt like God would make it all right if another doctor did the duty.
At 5:15 a.m., just before I almost consented to the doctor breaking my water, I said a prayer that labor would pick up, so I could deliver my baby and avoid any interventions. And, just like that I had four huge, painful contractions — right in a row. I knew I had crossed the line and was in transition, but during the very brief breaks between throbbing contractions, I couldn’t help but smile, because my prayer had been answered — my baby and I were going to do this on our own! I told the nurse that she needed to call the doctor (although she couldn’t believe I was ready).
At that point, it felt like time went really, really, really slowly. Part of it is a blur, and part of it I remember distinctly. To get through my past labors, I’ve had to close my eyes, go completely inside of myself, and concentrate intensely — and this one was no different.
I remember my doctor telling me I could push, but for some reason, even though I had the urge, I kept breathing/humming through the pushes, so it wasn’t having a full effect.
Then, it began to sting. My water must have broken, and I could feel Fiala in the birthing canal, which gave me immense hope, and I said twice, “She’s coming!”
I remember my doctor saying, “OK. Hold your breath and bear down hard.” For some reason, that cut through the fog, and I did it.
One push and her head came out.
The second push and she was out, up to her chest.
The third push, here she was!
I looked up at the clock on the wall, and it was 5:43 — just nine minutes after my doctor had arrived. Nine, slow-motion minutes. Nine very difficult, very focused, very painful minutes. But, still, only nine minutes. Nine minutes and three pushes.
The more I reflect on the story of Fiala Gabrielle’s birth, the more I am thankful that I was faithful to what I knew was right: That I was laboring fine, and didn’t need any interventions. I am also immensely pleased that even though I was medically considered “failure to progress,” as I stayed at 7 cm for nearly seven hours, my doctor did not pressure me to turn to interventions. I know many doctors would not have had his patience. I believe that it’s important to find an obstetrician who is willing to support you in your goals for your baby’s birth, and not try to force you to maintain the standard of dilating one centimeter every hour. And, most of all, it’s important as the laboring mother to listen to your own body. If you feel like you are laboring fine, do not give into the pressure of interventions. Let your body and baby guide you through.
Karen Reill is a pioneer of the mommy blogger movement, lover of the outdoors, birth advocate and mother of five. For more, check out her blog!