To tell Amelia’s birth story, I really have to go back to the birth of my first child. When I had my first daughter, I went in very open to whatever may come. I had a vague desire to avoid an epidural but really didn’t know what I was getting into. After about 10 hours of walking the halls in labor, I chose to get an epidural. The delivery was perfect, and I had a beautiful baby girl. Unfortunately, I was one of the few who got a spinal headache, a rare side effect from the epidural. I spent the first week after her birth lying flat on my back while my husband Elliott took care of all her needs. All I could do was nurse her in the side-lying position and sleep. Her first bath, all her diapers, clothing choices, etc. were all done by my husband, Elliott.
Fast forward to my second pregnancy. I knew I wanted things to be different. By the time my second child would arrive, I would have a wonderfully energetic three year-old running around who would also need my attention. I knew I wanted to do everything in my power to avoid an epidural this time. I told my husband about my desire to get a doula to help support us during labor and delivery. I knew that by getting a doula it would increase my chance of having the birth I wanted, without an epidural. I also knew that even if I did get an epidural or c-section, that at least by having a doula to support me, I was making every effort I could to have the birth I wanted. I started looking around online for a doula that was a good fit and I landed on Northeast Iowa Doulas. I don’t know what exactly drew me to them, but I just had a good feeling. We met with Kaity and Victoria and after the initial phone call and in-person meeting, I just knew they would be the team to support me.
I had really hoped to have as few interventions as possible during my labor…but when I got diagnosed with gestational diabetes I thought that was out the window. Kaity and Victoria helped calm me and remind me that I still had so many choices and that this diagnosis did not necessarily mean I couldn't deliver vaginally, without an epidural. Throughout my pregnancy, I often texted my doulas with one worry or another, and this was one of those times. They calmly validated my feelings and reminded me of the many things I did have control over and choices I could still make to have a birth that I felt good about.
I needed to be induced a week early due to the gestational diabetes. We went in on Tuesday evening to possibly start the induction process. I was told that if I was dilated enough I would be able to go home and come back to have my water broken the following morning. If not, I’d have to stay overnight and start Cervidil right away. We left everything in the car, just in case we got to go home…luckily my cervix was dilated more than they expected it to be, and they sent us home. We spent that evening reading to our daughter and enjoying our last night as a family of three.
Early Wednesday morning we headed to the hospital. After getting checked in, the doctor came in to break my water. Her first attempt with the crochet hook thingy didn’t work, so she used a fetal scalp lead to break it. She said she would leave it in just in case it hadn’t worked. When the doctor left my nurse asked me to get up for a bit. I was immediately uncomfortable with the lead in. Not in pain or anything, but it was like having a 2-foot metal tampon string attached to your thigh.
All through our discussions over the months, Kaity and Victoria always encouraged me to voice my desires and assured me it was okay to ask for the things I want. I had already presented the doctor and nurse with my birth plan asking for as few interventions as possible. I told the nurse that I was really uncomfortable and asked if we could remove the lead....
She left to ask the doctor for me and came back to give me the news.
Doc said yes! I felt so relieved that I had spoken up. As soon as it was out, I felt more comfortable and was able to walk around much more easily.
For the next several hours, I spent time walking the halls, pacing in my room, and sitting a bit. Elliott was there by my side and Kaity (who was on call) stayed in touch with me the whole time prior to joining us. I progressed slowly but steadily. At one of the early checks, the nurse reported that the doctor had asked about using some Pitocin. I was still progressing so the nurse said she told the doctor that she didn't think that would be needed yet. Again, I am so glad I had voiced my preferences to the nurse and she was really supporting me. She encouraged me to stay moving and to keep changing positions. It was a gorgeous sunny, warm day so I pulled on some pants and a jacket over my oh-so-fashionable hospital gown and we went out to the rock garden for some pacing and games of 20 Questions!
Kaity called to check in and asked how I was doing. I told her I was doing great and was still moving and talking comfortably. I was at about 4-5 cm at my last check. She told me she was ready to come whenever I needed her. I let her know I didn’t really know when I would need her but would keep in touch. At my next check I was a solid 5 cm dilated. I texted Kaity and said she could probably head my way at time. She said based on our last chat, she had a feeling I would be needing her soon and she was already on her way and she would see us soon. I decided to hop into the shower as the contractions were starting to get a little more intense at that point.
Things really started to ramp up at that time. Contractions became stronger, longer and closer together. I really began leaning on my team for support at that point- figuratively and literally. Holding onto my husband and feeling him support me through the contractions was just what I needed as things got intense. Kaity was ever present offering different positions to try, reassuring me and offering different comfort measures that were helpful. She encouraged me to keep breathing through each contraction, told me how amazing I was doing, and also validated and encouraged my need to be vocal through each contraction. She helped my husband with ideas on what he could offer to support me.
At one of the most intense points, I remember I was laying on the bed, probably over one of the birthing balls. Contractions were coming hard and fast. One of the things I had put into my birth preferences and that I had told my team was that I did NOT want to be offered any sort of pain relief measures when it got intense. I knew that if I was offered, I probably would have said yes. I told them that if I needed it, I wanted to ask for it and to have them ask me if I was sure that I really wanted it.
I was feeling like I couldn’t handle the intensity at that point, and I remember Kaity locking eyes with me and saying gently but firmly “I know what you’re thinking, and you can do this! You’re so close and you’re doing so good!” It was EXACTLY what I needed to hear at that time.
I had my cervix checked a couple more times by the doctor to see how I was progressing. She told me I was really close but not quite there yet- probably about 8 cm. I was so hoping that the time to deliver was just around the corner. I was tired and the contractions were so strong at times that I thought I might be sick. I was on the bed at that time using the squat bar as well as Kaity and Elliott for support.
Ingrained into my memory will be Kaity on my left, the nurse in front of me and Elliott on my right. I was so tired and starting to doubt if I could delivery the baby without any medication. When I looked up though, each one of them was so focused on me and they each were telling me that I could do it and I was doing so well, and that baby would be here soon. I don’t know what I would have done if one of those pieces of my team was missing.
I was starting to feel like my body wanted me to push, but the doctor had said I wasn’t ready for that just yet. Elliott and Kaity and my nurse encouraged me to change positions to help get those last two centimeters. I had a hard time knowing what position I wanted to be in and really just wanted to stop moving. Kaity and Elliott helped me to move and took all my weight as I changed positions. We changed a few times from sitting back to leaning forward over the squat bar on the end of the bed.
A change in position was suggested so I decided to try hands and knees over the peanut ball again. I had a couple extremely strong contractions and then all of a sudden I felt myself wanting to push and at the same time I heard myself say “push!” At the edge of my awareness I heard Kaity say to the nurse, as she walked back in, that I was starting to actively push and they agreed it was time to get the doctor. Moments later my nurse returned with my doctor and the whole medical team followed in behind them. I remember looking to Kaity and telling her I was scared. With all the hustle and bustle in the background, she was so calm and reassuring as she told me that I could do this. She also assured me that what I was feeling was normal and that it was time to meet my little one! I could see the doctor was ready, the nursing staff were ready. Elliott was by my side telling me I could do it. The doctor told me I could push when I was ready. I remember pushing and letting out two huge screams- like no sound I’ve ever made before. Two pushes and all of a sudden a huge wave of relief and sudden bliss.
I fell back onto my bed and saw my beautiful baby for the first time.
We didn’t find out the sex of the baby at our ultrasound, because I wanted Elliott to tell me.
I will never forget asking him,
“What is it?”
He smiled and said, “It’s a girl!”
I asked, “Are you sure?”
"Yes!” he said, reassuringly and full of excitement.
At that time they placed my perfect baby girl onto my chest and I looked at Elliott and said,
“I DID IT!”
The birth experience I had with my second daughter wasn’t exactly what I had imagined it would be…But it turned out to be exactly what it was meant to be. There is nothing I would change about the birth of my daughter and it actually gave me such a sense of peace with my first delivery experience. I feel even more strongly now that having the epidural during labor with my first child was just part of the birth experience that I was meant to have. Even after having experienced the spinal headache after my first delivery, I no longer wish I had done things differently.
Each birth experience was as special and unique as the two beautiful girls I love. Both had their own set of challenges and difficulties, but both were beautiful and exactly what I was meant to experience at that time in my life.
Authored by: Katie Patterson