October 18, 2016
When I checked into the hospital for my delivery, I was excited and elated, nervous and naïve. I did not really know what to expect even though I read many books, took childbirth and child care classes and spent a lot of time researching. For first-time mothers, the amazing and intense experience of labor and delivery is absolutely life-changing. It is also enlightening in both the most magical and practical ways. Here are three things I learned as I gave birth to my son, Killian, earlier this month.
My birth plan detailed my hopes for no drugs, no intervention and no surgery. Like so many mothers advised me, labor and delivery did not go as I had hoped and planned. At 41 weeks, four days pregnant and zero centimeters dilated, my obstetrician induced me. I was given three doses of Cytotec over 16 hours before they started me on Pitocin. Though I did not want to receive these drugs, I listened to my obstetrician and my body responded to the intervention; I was able to proceed through 30 hours of labor and delivery without requiring a cesarean section.
My baby boy was born with the umbilical cord wrapped twice around his neck, so we were not able to delay the clamping and cutting of the cord. Because of this and him passing his first meconium in utero during my labor, he was not immediately placed on my chest when he was born because he needed to be examined in the birthing suite by a pediatrician and the neonatal intensive care unit. But in a matter of minutes, after he received an Apgar Score of 9, Killian was nestled in the loving arms of his mother and father. Ultimately, it does not matter that I was not able to follow my birth plan because my son was born healthy and perfect, which superseded all else.
Most physicians and hospitals have a strict policy against eating during labor in case a C-section is required. Most women stay awake for a C-section, but some need to be put under using general anesthesia during which time it is important to not have a full stomach because food could be aspirated into the lungs. Since my labor was progressing well under induction, I assumed that I would not require surgery to meet my son, and even if I did, I would be awake for it. At least that is what I told myself when I convinced my husband to help me sneak some crackers and peanut butter. It was about 14 hours into my labor and I needed to eat to keep my energy up. Apple juice and ice chips were just not enough to sustain me. My husband thought we should ask the nurses for permission, but I knew they would say no, so he sweetly and secretly fed me. Renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin makes the case for eating during labor in her book "Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth." How can we muster up our strength if we are running on fumes? Her words were ringing in my ears as I snuck bites of food. I am not sure if my bucking doctors’ orders was a wise idea, but it was certainly the right decision for me. I would have had a very hard time summoning the strength to push after 30 hours if I had not had some sustenance to keep my energy up.
After hearing glowing endorsements about utilizing a doula, I attempted to find one at the last minute to assist with my son’s birth. I was only briefly disappointed that I could not secure a doula because I would have a great team of doctors, nurses and my husband with me. I knew my husband would be my coach, comfort and pillar of strength, but I underestimated just how amazing he would be. His loving, calm, gentle care kept me going through 30 hours of labor and delivery. When I needed to be comforted, he knew what to say. When I needed to be distracted, he had me laughing. When I needed encouragement, he provided it without request. When things got tough, I simply looked into his eyes. He never took his off mine, and with a simple nod of the head, he conveyed what words could not communicate. My husband gave me the strength to push myself to my limits. He was my everything in that birthing suite, just as he is in my every day. I would not have gotten through it without him. Doulas are highly trained experts, which my husband is not. But I am ultimately glad that we did not have a doula with us. The experience of delivering our son was awesome, and the way my husband and I were able to share it, just the two of us, will be one of my fondest memories.
What did you learn during labor and delivery? Hearing the experiences of other mothers has helped this first-time mommy in a number of ways. I hope you will continue to share your thoughts with me. Post in the comments section, below, or tweet me @ThePhillyVoice and @KathleenEGagnon.