3 Reasons I Chose a Hospital Birth for my Eighth Baby

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The necessaries: Please note that I’m not a doctor, midwife, nurse, or anybody else remotely qualified to give you medical advice. Always consult a health professional regarding any medical or health decisions. No information on this site should be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. K? Good.

I’m a natural birth enthusiast. Have been ever since I got (literally) yelled at by my OB almost 18 years ago for wondering if I really needed an IV. I never went back.

The reader who valiantly wades through all my birth stories will notice a recurring theme – over the years, I never felt fully satisfied with my birth venue. Most of my births occurred in the hospital, under care of a midwife. In those years, I would consider home birth, or a birth center birth, and for various reasons (often financial) always ended up at the hospital.

Then, at long last, I decided to have my seventh baby at a birth center. I batted around having her at home, especially as it was financially viable at that time, and the midwives at the birth center we chose also provided services for home birth. But I ended up opting for the center out of logistical concerns – with a large brood and a small house, I knew that my privacy was at risk if I stayed home, and I am not the type to want my kids present at birth. I get very private when in labor, and I also want to be free to yell all I want with no one to frighten. Sure, I could have sent them all to their grandparents’ house – but did I really want to arrange that? At the time, it was a 50 minute drive, and there were six kids, two of whom were capable of babysitting without adult help.

Given my history of precipitous birth, and also the decent chance that all this might happen at 2 am, I took the simpler route – leave the kids at home, and go to the birth center.

But, while my birth center birth went just fine, there were some things about it that I didn’t love.

Getting There

The birth center is closed at night; when you need to come in, you call your midwife, she’ll evaluate over the phone, and meet you there if it seems warranted.

It’s a sensible plan, and probably the only one that they can practically do, not being busy enough to warrant staffing it at night.

But, if the midwife was delayed or didn’t think my always-quirky labor signs warranted getting checked, I would have a problem. I couldn’t just show up in advanced labor and get whisked away like I could at the ER. Anybody can have a crazy fast birth, but with a previous history, it’s not at all unlikely for me to have another.

This worked out all right, but the stress of fretting about it was real.

Medical Emergencies

This is a tough, tough topic, and one that I have held different opinions on over time. I think where you come down on this is overall going to be extremely individual and personal – and I think that is exactly how it should be.

There’s two basic factors, here:

1. Birth is natural and normal.

The female body is designed to carry and deliver babies, and the vast majority of the time, this goes smoothly. It’s been argued (and argued very well) that being in a hospital leads to unnecessary interventions which increase, rather than decrease, risk. For a really well-done and moving documentary from the home birth point of view, I highly recommend The Business of Being Born. I find this argument compelling, and it drove my birthing mindset for most of my childbearing years. It’s still a topic very close to my heart, with important implications in Western medicine.

2. Birth is a major medical event with specific risks and potential for life-threatening emergencies.

Stuff happens in labor. Most of the time, especially for low-risk moms, everything goes just fine. Most of the rest of the time, anything that does happen can be detected early enough to transfer to a hospital for care.

But very rarely, things happen too fast to wait for transfer or paramedics. Honestly, my opinion here has been deeply affected by the death of a mother a couple of years ago in an online community of mine; she was birthing at home and suffered an amniotic fluid embolism. They rushed her to the hospital at the first sign of trouble, but she didn’t survive. A good website on this complication (run by a survivor, I believe) can be found at AFE Foundation. Of course, being in the hospital might not have saved her – but her chances would have been better.

So really, we all have to strike a balance of the two sides:

Birth is natural and normal, but it is also a major physical event with specific risks and potential for life-threatening emergencies.

That’s not earth-shattering. It’s what the vast majority of people actually think, but that can get lost in the politics of birth. Us natural-minded moms don’t like to scare other moms. It’s not good for a laboring mom to be scared of all the stuff that probably won’t happen, so we (rightly) focus on the positive and the safe.

More medically minded folks, though, worry that too little fear will lead moms to unknowingly take foolish risks. It’s important to take those concerns seriously, not dismiss them out of hand.

When parents and caregivers acknowledge that balance between the normal and the hazardous, that’s when there is a solid foundation to build sane birth practices upon.

Tweet: When parents and caregivers acknowledge that balance between the normal and the hazardous, that’s when there is a solid foundation to build sane birth practices upon.

Local, individual caregivers and local hospital policies, naturally, have a huge impact on safe birthing decisions. I have been blessed with caregivers and hospitals which were overall very forward thinking and friendly to principles of natural childbirth and newborn care, which certainly influences my inclination to take advantage of the safety net there. That isn’t the case everywhere – depending on the medical climate where you live, there may be so much unnecessary intervention that it would drive a moderate mama like me back home for fear of cascading interference in my birth.

(Of course, if you can’t decide, I recommend the hospital elevator. All the safety of having a doctor nearby, none of the unnecessary interventions.) (Um, that’s not medical advice. Always consult your physician before giving birth in an elevator, please.)

Postpartum and Newborn Care

A lot of natural birth minded mamas consider early discharge to be a big advantage of a birthing center. It turns out I didn’t like that. I missed being cared for by nurses, and came to appreciate how reassuring that care can be. Without having nurses tracking our vitals, I worried constantly about Emily in the first few days – was her color alright? Does she feel a little warm? A little cool? Do I need to take her temperature? Infection in a newborn can be disastrous, and hours matter. I worried more about myself, too – about infection, hemorrhage, blood clots. I was used to being monitored for those things while I enjoyed my baby, not worrying about them myself.

Does this offset the additional risk of infection that might come with a hospital stay? Well, that’s the big question, isn’t it, and I’m sure not going to be able to put an end to the debate. Unfortunately, the answer probably largely depends on the bias, experiences, and background of who you ask. It also depends on your hospital. If you are satisfied with the practices and safety record of your hospital, that’s different than ending up in a crowded ward with poor ratings. 


Home birth, hospital birth, freestanding birthing center…all those options have great things to recommend them and some scary stuff to run you off, because birth. It’s one of those wild cards life hands us, and there’s no knowing exactly how it’s going to go.

I have had good experiences over the years with midwife-attended hospital births. I have usually felt free enough from overmedicalization and unnecessary interventions. A good midwife can really help with this. I’m sure I’ve been lucky.

That’s my experience. I don’t know if I’ll have any more babies, but if I do I will be faced with answering these questions all over again, as the medical culture here in North Carolina is quite different than in Utah.

If you like this post, you may also like my eight birth stories.

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Birth Story #8 – Timothy – posterior hospital birth

For Timothy’s birth, we decided to go back to the hospital. That’s a whole story in itself, but suffice it to say that I surprised myself and decided that I didn’t want another birth center birth, and I also didn’t want the home birth I had long thought of. I was happiest in the hospital. We found a good midwife practice and decided to have him at the small community hospital just up the street from our house.

The birth – now, Timothy has always been a little unpredictable, and very spunky. He showed these qualities early – before he was even born.

The day before he was due, nothing exciting was happening as far as labor. As a grand multipara (I like that term better than “that lady with a boatload of kids”), I get a lot of pre-labor, which usually progresses very gradually into a couple weeks of prodromal labor, and then finally, mercifully, into the real thing. That night, I was still slogging through the prodromal phase.

Timothy, though – this kid wasn’t having it. The usual puttery, going-nowhere-much contractions had been going on for a while now, and I guess he was done. So, that night before the due date, right as I was getting ready for bed, he suddenly squirmed and gave one strong kick. I yelped in pain and surprise – even before I realized that he had gone and broken my water. I was startled, and a little panicked to get to the hospital – the only other time my water broke outside the hospital, the baby came so fast we didn’t make itI also couldn’t help being a little sad that he’d chosen bedtime to get the party started. My last full night of sleep whisked away, just like that.

Well, we didn’t hang around. Our teenagers were already home to babysit, so we just grabbed our stuff and left. I remember noticing the perfectly full moon in a clear spring sky as we pulled away from the house.

We were at the hospital about half an hour after The Kick, and grateful to be there before anything much was happening. Some vague contractions were starting up, but nothing strong. We got checked in, and with some difficulty convinced the nurses that I really was sure my membranes really had ruptured. Their skepticism confused me – this was not a slow leak, folks. This was not an easy event to misinterpret, even were this my first rodeo. On my eighth…haven’t I maybe earned the right to just be believed when I say I’m sure my water broke?

Anyway, the midwife soon arrived, and contractions picked up. And as they did, I developed a deep ache in my back which filled me with a sense of dread. I knew immediately what it meant – the baby was posterior. I had been through posterior birth once before, and it was by far the hardest, longest, and most painful birth I have experienced. He had not been in a posterior position earlier that week when the midwife had checked him, but he sure was now. I had to immediately adjust my expectations for this birth – as soon as the water broke, I had assumed he was coming fast. With his poor positioning, it wasn’t going to be that way.

But, thankfully, neither was it to be a repeat of Alex’s 24-hour labor. The next couple of hours were hard, trying any and every position and comfort measure in the book to encourage him to come down. I spent a lot of time on hands and knees. I do wish I had had a labor tub like I had at the birth center with Emily – I am sure it would have helped immensely. He finally arrived, strong and healthy, only 5 minutes before his due date and about 3 hours after he “kickstarted” his own labor. This was pretty short, for a posterior labor.KODAK Digital Still Camera

So, I learned that not every posterior birth has to be as long and difficult as mine had been; there are so many variables, you just never know. I am sure it helped that we discovered his position early on, and it also helped that I had told the midwife beforehand that I was really afraid of posterior birth because of a previous birth. She did a great job of taking a proactive role in positioning and encouragement, which makes all the difference.

That’s one reason I love midwives; she was there the whole time, using positioning, counterpressure, and doubtless things I never noticed, or have forgotten. Some births I have needed that, and some I haven’t – but you never know until you are in the middle of it.

Finally, if you find yourself facing a posterior birth, don’t despair! My midwife pointed me to Spinning Babies, which is a fabulous resource on fetal positioning. The best way to cope with posterior labor is to be prepared, and be sure your caregiver is prepared as well. Also, for this as well as any birth, if you don’t have a midwife, you should consider finding a good doula. A professional level of labor support really can make such a huge difference, especially if you are faced with difficulties. You can do it!

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Birth Story #1: Erin

As anyone who has known me very long can probably attest, I am deeply interested in the subject of childbirth; particularly natural childbirth.  Get me in the same room with another mom with the same bent and we will talk till the wee hours of the morning.  Been there and done it! 😉

I thought a good way to lay the foundation for the childbirth  section of my blog would be to give my birth stories.  Some are more interesting than others – with #4 being unequivocally the most interesting of all – but they all are, of course, deeply a part of who I am now, and have all informed my own philosophy of birth.  So without further ado…#1, 1999.

Erin’s birth story has to start way before birth.  I found out I was pregnant with her just before my 21st birthday; I was in college and had been married for 2 months.  I hadn’t really planned on getting pregnant yet – we had not, at that time, yet come to the conclusion that under most circumstances babies should be welcomed, not avoided.  So, it was all a big surprise to me – which just seems pretty funny all these years and babies later.

I had never learned anything about labor and birth, and had never given the subject any thought – so I did what “everybody else” seemed to do, and rang up the nearest OB clinic.  There I went for eight months of my pregnancy, during which time I read and studied about pregnancy and birth tirelessly.  Around month eight, it was final: I was a firmly convinced natural birth fanatic.  I was then, and remain today, absolutely convinced that, barring complications, natural birth is by far the safest and healthiest route for baby’s entrance into the world.  So I trotted trustingly into my OB’s office next visit, and mentioned that I didn’t think I wanted a routine IV.  This started a dreadful scene in which the OB became more and more upset by my views, to the point of literally shouting at me in the office.  It was terrible…and I walked out, never to return.  Eight months pregnant, I started from scratch to find a new provider, this time a local, natural birth friendly midwife.

It’s funny, though – it is the mistakes I made after that point that taught me the most important lessons for future births.  My biggest mistake (after choosing a random OB out of the phone book) was in not having a birth plan.  I didn’t think it was necessary; I knew what I wanted, my husband knew, and we talked it over with the midwife, and we were all good.  However, there was a hitch – the midwife had a partner, whom I never met, until – sure enough – she was the one on call when I went into labor.  Now, not meeting my midwife’s partner was another mistake I would not care to repeat.  I ended up with a midwife I had never met, overseeing my hospital birth, with no birth plan.  (Brilliant, O Childbirth Fanatic…)  My labor was pretty textbook for a first labor – on the fast side.  It was 11 hours from start to finish, with about an hour of pushing.  I did have my natural birth, in terms of being unmedicated and mostly free to move how I chose – but I ended up on a monitor much more than necessary, and even had an internal monitor placed toward the end, for no real reason that I was ever informed of.  I would never have consented to this without being informed of the justification, but I was not asked, and it was placed before I had any idea what was going on.  I also tore pretty badly, probably due to poor positioning and lack of proper support.

So – all things considered, it was a good birth, and it achieved its end: a strong healthy baby.  It could have been better if I had been just a bit more proactive about things, and avoided those two big mistakes.

Birth Story #2 – Anna

My second birth was quite different from my first one.  I had everything I had learned in my first pregnancy under my belt, and I was ready to go.  I was also in a new city, and needed to locate a new midwife.  I was careful to interview her at the beginning, making sure we would be on the same page about things that were important to me.  There was no partner midwife in the picture this time, and I made sure to write up a birth plan and talk about it with my new midwife – whose name was Toni.  This was to be another midwife attended hospital birth; that’s what I’ve done with all my births, and have been pretty happy with it.  I have often thought of going for a home birth…I always say, with each baby, that I’m going to do it this time.  But, for a variety of reasons, I never have. These days, while I would still consider a home birth under the right circumstances, I am pretty content with the hospital.  I have a good midwife, and an excellent hospital which is very baby and mom friendly, and actually assumes a natural approach unless otherwise indicated.  That, and the room service brings the most interesting and tasty meals in…not that I recommend you choose a birthing location based on who’s got the best food.  Sure doesn’t hurt, though…

Anyway, my labor with Anna started at 5 am – precisely the same time as it had begun with Erin.  This time, though, the contractions were wildly irregular and erratic, going from strong and close together to very weak and up to 20 minutes apart, or even more.  I spent most of that day wondering whether I was really in labor or not!  (As it turns out, this is a trick my body really enjoys pulling on me.  More in future birth stories…)  I called the midwife, who suggested I eat and take a nap, and see what happened.

So, I napped, and I walked, and hung around, till around 4pm, when another confused call to the midwife led to my deciding to go in to her office and get checked, before she went home for the day.  As it turned out, though I was cheerful, chatty, and starting to really be pretty sure that this was not to be the big day…I was dilated to 8 (yes, 8) centimeters!!  The nurses were shocked – I neglected to tell them I had already been checked, and they admitted me thinking I was really early in my labor.  When I finally thought to mention it I inspired a flurry of activity to gather all the birth paraphernalia…which got to sit there looking lonely, for quite a few more hours.

It ended up taking until midnight for Anna to make her debut – those were some very long hours, in between.  The birth really couldn’t have been much better, though – the only lesson I took away to improve for next time was to pay more attention to my emotional signs of labor.  I may have been way dilated, but I was still emotionally in early labor.  Understanding that would have helped me not be shocked and dismayed at how much farther I still had to go.  But knowing my midwife better, and having a solid birth plan, went a long way to helping me have another good, natural labor and birth.  Most of all, though, I am thankful to God for everything going so smoothly with no major complications.  I have been extraordinarily blessed in that with all my babies, and I do not ever want to take that for granted!

Birth Story #3 – Rebecca – Faster than the Doctor and in the Caul

With Miss Becca, the story starts a few weeks before birth…

I was eight months pregnant and hanging out with my four and six year old daughters outside our apartment.  We played (well, as I recall I was pretty stationary about it!) for a while, and then one of then remembered a toy that was urgently needed for the game.  Not wanting to get up and waddle inside myself, I asked my oldest to run in after it.

No sooner was she out of sight than I heard her screaming like mad – a truly panic-stricken scream that set off all my mommy-alarms.  I had no idea whether she was hurt, or if someone was trying to take her, or what – but I jumped up and ran as fast as I could go to rescue her, without a care to the protests of my heavily pregnant body.  I found her just inside the door – the inner door of our apartment building was very heavy and swung itself shut, and she had gotten her fingers trapped by the door.  It didn’t turn out to be too big a deal for her; her fingers were sore but otherwise ok.

My dash across the yard was not without its price, though.  By the time I got her back to the apartment to examine her fingers, the adrenaline had more or less worn off, and I began to hurt.  Very soon, I hurt so much I could barely walk.  The motion of my uninhibited sprint had damaged one of the ligaments that support the womb, and it was around a week before I could walk very well again.  I was nervous about how this might affect my labor, but as my due date approached, the ligament pain disappeared entirely, and I relaxed.

Fast forward – The week I was due, I got sick with a fever.  I stayed in bed for several days; then, one morning I woke up feeling terrible.  I was still feverish, I was sick to my stomach, and the ligament pain returned and became severe.  I had no signs of labor, but I was worried by the fever especially, so I called my doctor to get her advice.  My symptoms led her to think there might be a problem with the placenta, so I called Mark, who headed home from work (almost an hour commute, at the time).  I also called Grandma, who came to take me to the hospital and keep the girls.

Mark met us at the hospital, where I was shortly to get quite a surprise.  The nurse took my temperature – my fever was gone.  Then, when she hooked me up to the monitor to see how baby was doing, she looked at me kind of funny and said, “you’re in labor!”

How could I be in labor!?  Can you be in labor with no contractions??  But there were contractions, right there on the little monitor screen – I just couldn’t feel them.  The pain of my ligament injury was so severe that it blocked out any sensations of labor.

At this point I began to be really afraid.  I was in a lot of pain already, and it was not the ebb-and-flow of labor that I knew how to focus and cope with.  How was I going to deal with this pain as labor progressed?

Hoping for relief, I got in the bathtub.  Now, in general, I’m not big on water labor – it just doesn’t help me that much.  But this time – it was incredible!  The warm water melted away the ligament pain, and instantly I could feel my contractions.  I stayed there for just a little while, then I felt like I needed to get up and walk around.  As soon as I emerged, the contractions redoubled themselves, and I began to bleed.  A nurse suggested I return to the bed.

At that point, it gets a little blurry.  I had only been there for 45 minutes – I had only known I was in labor for 45 minutes, and now, baby was coming.  I was pushing involuntarily; my doctor was busy with a birth at another hospital, and the nurses were in a panic.  I was a little busy, but through the haze, I remember the room filling with what must have been every labor nurse on the floor, and I remember hearing them paging a doctor, any doctor, to come right away.  No one made it in time, but praise God, there were no complications.  My water never broke; she was born still in the intact membranes, caught by a very anxious labor nurse.

I always wonder what that labor would have been like if I had not damaged that ligament – but as it was, we were kind of stunned at how fast it all happened.  If we had known what would happen at the next birth, however – it would have seemed pretty normal by comparison!

Birth Story #4 – Jonathan a.k.a. “elevator boy”

Okay.  How to begin?  This is the birth story I am modestly famous for.  At least, it feels that way, because from time to time I am introduced to someone I have never met, who I find has already heard this story.  I guess I’ll tell it how I experienced it.

Once I got to baby #4, my body pretty much seemed to know what it was doing.  That was the first pregnancy I remember where I began to feel like I was in the early stages of labor for the entire final month.  I wish I knew whether this is a common thing with moms of many, or is it just me?  If you also experience this, I would really love to hear from you.  This happens in every pregnancy for me, now.  Beginning around 35 or 36 weeks, I feel “labory.”  My Braxton Hicks contractions are quite uncomfortable; I get low backache, nausea, exhaustion, emotional labor signs, the whole shebang.

And so, one morning very late in pregnancy, I got up feeling pretty unwell.  This was no great shock to me at 39 weeks along.  I was having some contractions; nothing too regular or bothersome.  Timing them revealed no pattern at all, so I fixed breakfast and went slowly about my business.  I spent a good part of the morning sitting at the table drinking tea while I let my two older girls entertain my toddler.

After a while, I was just feeling so excessively pregnant that I decided a bath might feel nice; I stayed there for quite some time. Mark came home from teaching his morning class.  When he arrived, I told him, “I don’t feel well.  I think the baby will come in the next few days.”  With that, I went to take a nap.

The nap was cut short; as I was just dozing off, I was startled back awake – my water broke.  I was amazed by this, as before it had not happened spontaneously until just before birth.  That fact also made me a little anxious to get to the hospital; I wasn’t too worried, though, as I wasn’t having any obvious contractions.  I got cleaned up and stripped the bed while Mark called his mom to let her know we wanted to head for the hospital – she would be watching our other three children.

In the half hour or so that it took for Lisa to arrive, I began to have some strong, regular contractions.  I’ve no idea how far apart they were, but I do remember lying down while I waited; I must have been starting to feel that things were moving along quickly.  We left promptly for the hospital once Lisa was there.

On the way, it became clear that I was really in labor.  Every tiny bump in the road – I think every pebble we ran over! – was agony to me.  It was a ten minute trip on smooth city roads, but it was excruciatingly long to me!  I think it was around now that my husband began to worry.  I wasn’t worried, though.  I have no idea why – I guess I was too busy!

We arrived at the hospital, and being somewhat distracted managed to park in the employee parking garage that is freestanding beside the hospital, rather than the Women’s Center parking garage which is attached to the hospital.  I hear they have improved their signage, all on my account.

Mark had asked me if I wanted him to pull up to the front and go get a wheelchair, but I was insistent that I didn’t want him to leave me alone. So, we parked and walked to the elevator – thinking that it would lead up to the Women’s Center lobby.  Instead, it only led to more parking garage.

While we were still confused about that…

“OH NO!”  I yelled.

“What!?” Mark answered.  “He sounds a little tense,”  I remember thinking in some calm, detached part of my head.

“He’s coming!!”

A flurry while we blocked the elevator door open with my bag to keep from going up and down.

I was down on the floor.

Some lady with a cell phone told me not to push and called the hospital for us.  I was pushing anyway; I couldn’t help it. The lady left at some point; I don’t remember when, or why.

An elderly couple walked by, stared, and kept walking when Mark waved them on.

I was conscious of the characteristic, earthy yells of a woman in hard labor echoing through the mostly deserted garage.

I knew there was no more time.  “You have to catch him,”  I said to Mark.  He had that one figured out way ahead of me.  “I know,”  was all he said.  And he did.  As the baby slid into his hands, I heard him say only, “Jonathan…”

The brief pause there always is, to realize labor is over.

Then he is in my arms.  We wrap him in a blanket from our things.  He looks fine.  I think we may have started to laugh at that point…

It wasn’t until about ten minutes later that the doctor and nurses arrived.  It turns out that Cell Phone Lady was mixed up and sent them to the parking garage on the opposite end of the hospital.  Jonathan was nursing by then.

With my permission – I was worried about him, I remember, it was a cold day – they whisked first him, and then me, off to our delivery room to get checked out, cleaned up, etc.  We were both totally fine.

My following hospital stay was lovely; I was somewhat of a celebrity, and the nurses all felt so sorry for me that they absolutely doted on me.  I have since heard that they invented a whole new code color after that, just for someone who is in distress on hospital grounds, but not in the hospital proper.  At nurse’s trainings, when they learn the code, they hear my story – at least, they did last I heard, a couple years ago. 🙂

Birth Story #5 – Alexander – a difficult labor

When I became pregnant again after the elevator birth, I knew we had some things to think about.  Much as I enjoyed the non-intervention, I did NOT wish to have another baby in the elevator, or anywhere else that babies aren’t normally born.  (Wal Mart, for example.)

I seriously considered home birth.  I’ve gone into that before, so I won’t rehash all the reasons I still chose to have a hospital birth.  They were, in this case, largely financial – my health coverage at the time covered a hospital birth 100%, and a home birth was not covered at all.

So, I went back to the same midwife I’d had for Jonathan.  We then had an unfortunate hitch, when about halfway through my pregnancy, she relocated her practice about 40 minutes away, up the canyon, instead of being practically next door.  We had to decide whether to find a new midwife at this point, or face the drive, knowing that my labors can move fast.

Trust is so important in a caregiver.  I trusted my midwife, I knew her, and I was worried to transfer care to someone who may push a more managerial approach to making sure my birth happened in the right place.  I was not willing to induce or undergo other interventions to try to time my birth.  So, we stuck with her, and made plans to zip up the canyon at the first sign of labor.  I can’t tell you how many people suggested I camp out in the hospital parking lot!

Well, one evening I began to think I was in labor.  I was having mild, irregular contractions, and I felt awful.  I had made Garlic Salted Chicken, and I pulled it out of the oven and left it on the counter for the kids to help themselves while I laid down.  I still found my labor signs confusing – as I’ve said before, I feel laborish for the whole last month, so labor is often hard to identify when it does come on.

In the end that night we decided we had better head up to the hospital and see what was up.  We left around 6 pm.  We made it to the hospital, past the elevators, and into the room…and it turns out, I was indeed in active labor.  Given my history, they scrambled around getting everything ready.  We all thought we’d see the baby in an hour or two…but hour after hour ticked by, and not much was happening.

I would have some strong contractions, and then they would just disappear.  I slept a good portion of the night, and in the morning, nothing had really changed.  The weird on-again, off-again contractions continued.  The baby was completely descended, with all the discomfort that brings.  I was terribly nauseated, and in the bathroom almost constantly.

And here, we made what I consider to easily be the biggest birthing mistake we have ever made.  We allowed the midwife to break my water, around 11am.  She thought it would stimulate a more effective labor, and probably end in a quick delivery.

It did not.

I learned later that I had many symptoms of posterior labor (back labor), but no one recognized them, probably because I did not have the characteristic back pain.  I did have the very slow labor, the irregular ineffective contractions.  Baby was backwards and also positioned poorly, with his head tilted back a bit.  Breaking my water, in this case, was a not the best plan.

Anyway, it had no effect at all on my contractions.  I walked the hospital for hours, painfully aware of the fact that with my membranes ruptured, we were now “on the clock.”  Later that afternoon, I sat on the bed and cried after refusing Pitocin.  I was told that if I didn’t get the Pitocin soon, I was risking a C-section when the time ran out.  I bitterly regretted allowing my water to be broken.  I realized that we had put Alex and myself at some risk, for no good reason.

So, I walked.  I pumped. And finally, in a very merciful answer to prayer, I began to have stronger contractions that didn’t fizzle out.  After that, it was a couple more hours till Alex was born.

Let me just say – posterior birth is hard.  It’s really hard.  One would think that by the time you are on your fifth natural birth, you would pretty much know what it feels like…but a poorly positioned, posterior birth is a whole different ball game.  It felt like something was wrong; it hurt a lot more.  It took a long time, too.  When little Alex finally made his appearance, it was a full 24 hours after labor began.  His poor little face was all bruised from his awkward passage; I was battered and exhausted.  It took me much longer to recover from that birth than from any other, too.

So I walked away with a couple of lessons:

  • Never let anyone break my water again.  I’m not saying everyone should follow this rule, but it is my rule, now, and it will take a lot of convincing to change it.
  • I’m never having another posterior baby.  Never.  And my saying so will make it happen. 😉

Birth Story #6 – Abigail Rose

Miss Abby’s birth was so normal.  After some of my other oddball labors, the only thing I was sure of, looking forward to her birth, was that I had no idea what to expect.  We were on the alert for a fast labor again, and I was hoping, this time, labor would at least make itself clear in time to do something about it.  I was also offering many heartfelt prayers that baby would NOT be posterior again.

One Sunday night, I felt pretty lousy.  We went to our evening service; if I remember right, I think I complained the whole way home.  (Mark is very patient with this sort of thing…)  The last thing I said as I carefully maneuvered myself into bed was something to the effect of, “If I feel anything like this tomorrow, I’m not going grocery shopping.  I might not do anything at all.”

At 3:30 am, I woke up thinking I had an awful stomach ache.  When I sat up, though, I immediately knew it was labor.  I was happy, but nervous, knowing that sometimes, by the time I’m that sure it’s labor, it is very close to the end.  I woke Mark – it was so TV sitcom – “Wake up!  It’s time!  We have to go!”

In half an hour, we were on our way.  I was clearly in labor but not showing any sign of pushing.  We had an uneventful drive up the canyon, Mark munching dry Cheerios and an apple on the way.   We called the midwife to let her know we were coming; when we arrived, the after-hours entrance at the ER was ready to whisk me straight upstairs. They told me, “Danielle said you go fast, we’ll do the paperwork later.”

I gave the guy who pushed my wheelchair a hard time, I think – while in the elevator, I chatted about the time I hadn’t made it and had the baby in the elevator.  He looked a little nervous. 😉

Well, there isn’t much more to say about it.  I paced and bathed and paced and bounced on the birth ball for several hours.  Labor picked up, and Abby was born at 8:30 am.  I don’t know why she had so much bruising on her face (you can see in the picture).  As far as I know, her positioning was fine.

My favorite memory of Abby’s birth day?  The amazing rainbow that welcomed her to the world:

You can’t tell in the picture, but we could see the entirety of both rainbows, end to end, from our window.   It was absolutely breathtaking.

So, that’s it – so far! – for my birth stories.  Will there be more?  I’m wondering that too…

Birth Story #7 – Emily – Water Birth

One hour old

Emily’s birth was a whole new ball of wax for me – first time out of the hospital (intentionally, anyway), and my first water birth.  I had her at a local freestanding birthing center just a mile or two up the road from our house – a distinct improvement over the 40 minute drive to our previous venue.  Though I did find that I missed those drives to my prenatal visits – 40 minutes up and back, all to myself, through a gorgeous canyon…yeah, it was alright.

Anyway.  With Emily, as usual I felt like I was in early labor for about the last 4 or 5 weeks of my pregnancy.  I spent most evenings in the bathtub, and I also spent a shocking amount of time playing some jewel game that Jonathan has on my Kindle.  My body did not want to move, and my mind did not want to think.  We were reading Lord of the Rings together as a family at the time, and I am afraid that the final chapters may always remind me of that silly game, as I would so often listen and play at the same time.  I hope that memory fades before I read it again!

I don’t really get nervous about labor.  I don’t know why, because I worry all the time about everything, really.  I just accept that I am blessed with an exception, here.  This time around I was worried about one thing, though.  I had changed providers due to the move; not only this, but for my entire birthing career, I have been seen by ONE midwife – not the same for every baby, but only one for the pregnancy and birth.  She knew me.  She knew that my labors can be wacky, and she knew about the elevator birth and why it happened.  All I had to say was, “I’m coming,” and she told the nurses to get in gear, pronto.  Aw, she was awesome.

Well, at the birthing center, there was a team – large enough that I am not even sure how many there are.  I liked most of them quite a lot, they are all caring and competent folks.  But there is no way that any of them were going to know who I was when I called in the middle of the night to say that my contractions were completely patternless and not overly close together, but I needed to come in anyway.  And, the birthing center isn’t automatically open all night the way a hospital is, so it’s not like I could just show up.

I fretted about that a lot.

In the end, when I called the on call midwife at 2 am with indistinct signs of labor, she was a little confused as to why I thought I needed to come in right away.  But I dropped a few terms like “seventh baby,” “history of precipitous birth,” and “elevator,” and she said she’d meet me there.  🙂

It was a good thing, too.  We got to the center, they admitted me, administered my IV antibiotics, and removed the IV at my request.  Then I hopped (okay, climbed, with some difficulty) into the enomous birthing tub.  The water felt wonderful.  In the past, I have been in a regular to largish bathtub during labor, which did nothing for me.  This thing was like a mini swimming pool, and the water was very warm, just perfect.  I had complete freedom of movement, which seemed to make my labor pick up speed.  This is where I began to insist to anyone who would listen that I wasn’t going to be able to do this, after all.  I always say that.  I even always believe it.  Labor messes with your head.

Well, I didn’t have long to think of an alternative…Emily was born only 45 minutes after I first arrived at the center.  One of my all time favorite birthing memories is when they lifted her out of the water and put her on my chest.  She picked up her little head and looked straight in my eyes.