Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My First Birth

Holy moly...I don't even know where to begin!  Sunday, January 16, 2011...my first doula-baby was born! 

Since doing my training workshop this fall, I decided to take on one private client with a co-doula/friend in addition to my volunteer work.  I'm not committing to private clients now because of my work and home responsibilities, but something about "B" and her doting husband, wouldn't let me say no!  And, just for me, she gave birth on a Sunday so I didn't have to miss a thing!  And, as luck would have it, the hubs had the kids in Michigan for the weekend, so I didn't have to worry about them either.  Fate?!?

I got the call that "B" thought her water broke on Saturday morning while I was at Costco.  She was a week past her due date and I literally almost left my cart mid-aisle to head straight for the hospital, forgetting everything I learned about how long the laboring process can be with first time moms!  As I got my wits about me -- somewhere between buying 200 rolls of toilet paper and enough batteries for my kids' toys for life -- I learned "B" was not contracting and her doctor was letting her labor at home until that evening (yeah doctor!)  I told "B" I would come over in a few hours and see if we couldn't get her labor started on our own, trying to avoid Pitocin, if we could.

I got to her house at about 1 p.m., and she still wasn't having any contractions, but was steadily leaking fluid.  We tried to jump start contractions by having "B" try nipple stimulation (T.M.I.? Sorry!) for the next few hours.  By 3 p.m., nothing had changed and her doctor asked that she head to the hospital at 6 p.m. to get confirmation that it was in-fact amniotic fluid and get induced.  I went home to wait...and wait and wait.  I honestly jumped 10 feet every time my phone rang.  She got to the hospital and they let her try for 2 hours to get labor started on her own (again, yeah doctor) with a breastpump.  But, no go.  She got the Pitocin at about 9 p.m., and was 1.5 centimeters.  We decided she would call us when her labor got intense or when she got to about 4-5 centimeters.  And, all night I waited... and waited and waited...and slept for about 11 minutes.  She texted at about 3 a.m., saying she got the epidural.  She was only 2.5 centimeters, in pain and very, very tired.  "B" never had it in her birth plan to go au natural...so I wasn't surprised.  But, I was a little personally disappointed because I so wanted to witness a natural birth -- but hey, I'm a doula to help people have their perfect birth and she wanted peace and to be "present" in the moment. 

I woke up on Sunday at about 5 a.m.  I almost couldn't stand the waiting anymore.  She wanted us to come when she was about 5 centimeters, and she was only at 3.  I took a shower, blow dried, made muffins and two loaves of banana bread, went to the grocery store and the produce market, made two loaves of bread in the bread maker and meals for the week -- all by 11:30 a.m.  I had so much nervous energy and was just so excited to get the show on the road.

FINALLY, I got the call to come to the hospital at around 3 p.m.  The last time they checked her she was at 4 centimeters and finally having steady, strong contractions.  Phew, I was starting to get nervous they were going to make her have a c-section since it had been so long since her water broke.

I loved the energy in the room, the minute we walked in.  "B" had her epidural turned down, so she could feel the contractions and breathe through them, but wasn't too uncomfortable.  We helped her by playing with her hair and rubbing her very sore legs -- which were achy, mostly from being in bed for so long!  After not too long, I had a feeling her labor was progressing as her contractions were intense, long and very close together.  Her labor had definitely reached a peak...I was guessing she was at 7 centimeters.

At around 4:30 p.m., the doctor came in and examined "B"...she was at 7 centimeters (gold star for me).  The baby was OP, meaning backwards facing "B"'s pelvic bone.  This can slow labor and be pretty uncomfortable, so the doctor recommended we help her get in some positions to help turn the baby (third time, yeah doctor!).  So, we spent the next hour helping "B" get on all fours and do a side-lying position, which was great to experience.  At about 5:30 p.m., the doctor came in again and she was at 9 centimeters ...I had a feeling about this one too..."B" went from being super hot to really cold and was shaking and nauseous.  Sure-fire signs of nearing transition, getting ready to push.  It was fun seeing what I read in my books, actually happen!  And...the baby had turned!  Whoo-hoo, it worked! 

"B" was starting to get uncomfortable with the urge to push at about 6:30 p.m., and the doctor came back in.  I got to hold a leg while she was pushed.  "B" was a champ and took the moments between pushes to relax (I should say so, after nearing 32 hours of labor).  I SO remember that feeling -- when I could hear AMB and the nurses chatting -- but it just sounded like mumbles, as I melted into the bed, trying to muster the energy to go on.  I tried to be cognizant of this and contain my excitement and nervous energy, but it was hard. 

She pushed for about an hour (it felt like 5 minutes) and the actual moment was surreal.  It happened very fast at the end...and then, there she was.  Her husband got to tell her it was a girl and "B" got her wish to hold the baby right away, skin to skin, with the routine exams happening on her chest.  We stayed until she could breastfeed for the first time and the time came for some quality family time. 

Then, my co-doula and I...we went out for a celebratory drink!

I was surprised by the lack of blood during the actual birth and then by the amount of blood post-birth.  I was shocked by the unique one-of-a-kind smell of amniotic fluid and the little tool the doctor used to stitch her up, a little fish-hook looking thing.  (I'm glad I didn't know this before I gave birth.)  I was amazingly, pleasantly surprised how eager her doctor was to do things more naturally -- I think my jaw visibly dropped open when she recommended positions instead of other interventions to turn the baby!  But, you can also tell the nurses are trained to help their patients not be in pain.  It was like she couldn't handle "B" not pushing her epidural button with every contraction, every wince of discomfort.  I was surprised with how tired I was and how much my feet and muscles ached...and I was only there for about 7 hours.  I know a lot of that was due to nerves and the fact that I was on high-alert since the moment her water broke, but I was bone tired none-the-less. 

I'm very glad this was my first birth.  "B" had a team of help, including her husband and my co-doula and definitely didn't need all of us...but, that almost made it better for me.  I could sit back and learn a little more, take it all in, mentally capture the images and scene so I can determine what my style will be moving forward.

I couldn't really write this post right away. I had to take it all in, process and wrap my arms around what an amazingly awesome experience it was. Yet, at the same time, for some reason, I was disappointed.  I think I built it up in my head so much, that when it actually happened, it was a little anticlimactic.  I was expecting really heavy-duty emotions, but didn't really get that.  Perhaps it was because it wasn't my baby or a family/friend's baby or that I was so focused on just trying to be helpful and not get in the way, that I wasn't exactly sure my place.  And, I was also not prepared to be so tired...it almost felt like a hangover that I needed to sleep off.  And, for some reason, which surprised me, I didn't want to tell the story 100 times like I thought I would, like I wanted to after my own births.

But, now, I know I made the right decision to have birth work in my life.  I learned a lot from this experience and now I know what to expect next time.  I won't have those "first time" jitters and understand my place in the process.  I shouldn't get emotional, that's not my job. 

And, now that I had time and a clear head to reflect, I smile remembering when "B" and her husband told us they couldn't have done it without us and thanked us countless times for all our help.  But, in the end, it was me who was beyond thankful.  Thankful that they trusted me, with my inexperience and my visible kid-in-a-candy-store excitement, to witness the moment that will forever change their lives.  It is amazing to think that years from now, when "B" is telling her beautiful little daughter about the day she was born -- I will be there in their memories, always. 


  1. Good job! Keep your heart open and keep your ear to the ground- learn, learn, learn! Every birth teaches you something amazing.


  2. Thank you for sharing your experience at your first doula birth. I felt like I was there with you! You definitely have the gift of expressing yourself w/ words. As a homebirth mom of nine and an aspiring midwife and doula, after reading your account I know for sure now that I could never be a hospital birth doula. All that intervention they did after just a few hours of her membranes being ruptured would drive me nutso. I'm thankful for "B" that you were there for her.