The Best Day of My Life!
by Kim Fox
I DID IT!!! I pushed David into the world and IT WAS WONDERFUL!!!! At 2:54 AM on May 14, 1998, a blonde haired and blue eyed 9 1/2 pound David Ronald Fox emerged from my body measuring in at 22 inches long with a sweet and gentle disposition. THAT WAS THE BEST DAY OF MY LIFE!!! As I pushed him out, I thought of all the people who said I couldn’t do it, and I pushed harder – - then I thought of all the wonderful sweet people who said I could and I felt their energy combined with the energy of every woman that ever pushed their child into the world – - and he slid out of my body into Ron’s hands. He was a beautiful healthy color and he looked up at me with his blue eyes — and it was like being at the highest peak on Earth looking down. Who cared how I got up on that mountain peak, I knew this was the best place in the world to be!!.
I am compiling this birth story four weeks after David was born and going through all my old e-mails and notes, I see that I have already forgotten so many details that I am glad I have these notes to jog my memory. People ask me how I endured all the pain of childbirth. At four weeks post partum, I honestly can’t remember pain, or what was painful, but I know that there was some pain along the way — it just seems insignificant now. Any pain that was involved was manageable at home without numbing drugs. So I am not going to say that birth was painless, but any pain that I experienced seemed normal, healthy and I am left wondering how great could it have been if I can’t even remember it after only four weeks??
Our journey to know unassisted birth was not straightforward, as it required us to make some poor judgements and lots of learning from our mistakes, before by the grace of God, we would hold our second son in our arms. Praise God.
With our first child we were very trusting of the medical community and any advice that came from it, and why should we not trust health care providers to take care of us — because pregnancy and birth are very complicated processes that the world doesn’t yet completely understand. We had a highly managed pregnancy with worries about “high” blood pressure that could possibly escalate into pre-eclampsia. Then we had the Rh blood scare story. While the second OB was quite agreeable with all my desires for a natural childbirth and my squatting birth plans, he later said not to get my heart set on this piece of cake natural childbirth, since in labor I would not care anymore what happened to me. There is some truth to the desperate point we can arrive at in labor, but once the birth is over, depression over a “botched” birth is a serious issue. What happens to the mom in labor and birth does matter, and it effects her greatly in many psychological and physical ways. Birth is a sexual expression as much as nursing, pregnancy and our menstrual cycles and hormones are, and I think this is often times overlooked.
After the resident accidentally ruptured my membranes with her internal exam, the induction failed to start labor, the cesarean was over and my first son Daniel was lying in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, I felt like a failure and was inconsolable. Ron was distraught too, as we felt we must have failed in some way to have arrived at this point — we were educated people who cared about their son. How could he be in the NICU? If this were the price we had to pay to have children, then forget it — Ron had a vasectomy eight weeks after Daniel’s birth. It would take us two years to realize that our bodies had not failed Daniel, nor was he genetically doomed, the medical system of birth had failed him.
The sterilization surgery could end the flow of sperm through Ron’s tubes, but surgery could not stop our desire to have more children. I may have hated the managed pregnancy, cesarean and treatment of my newborn son, but I fell in love with this sweet little blue-eyed baby, and so did Ron. Meanwhile, Ron developed severe pain — a common reaction to having a vasectomy called epididmyial blowouts (the testicles continue to produce sperm after the vasectomy and the sperm creates a new path out of the testicles resulting in painful hard nodules called sperm granuloma) — and the best way to resolve the pain and swelling was to reconstruct the epididmyis and reconnect the vas deferans thus restoring fertility. This was a big issue for us, and Ron underwent three hours of microsurgery in St. Louis, MO to have this reconstructive surgery. The recovery took a month. The urologist who did the vasectomy complicated matters for us by removing huge sections of Ron’s vas deferans so the reconstructive surgery required huge incisions into Ron’s body. It was a bad time for us. I felt terrible and Ron felt worse. Ron had the reconstruction in April, and I was pregnant in August. David was on the way, and the healing for Ron and I had begun.
I was breastfeeding Daniel and attending La Leche League meetings when I met Laurie Morgan at a meeting. She was like a breath of fresh air — we both loved being mothers. I think that breastfeeding Daniel exclusively for 22 months gave me a renewed belief that my body was not the faulty, diseased piece of crap that I had been led to believe. I was a woman, and if my body could produce milk with the power to sustain this wonderful healthy son, then I had to begin to question what had truly happened in his birth. Laurie was just newly pregnant with Angelica, and she was reading Laura Shanley’s Unassisted Childbirth. When I read how easy and safe Laura Shanley found birth to be, and those wonderful birth stories, I was in tears. I felt empowered enough to want that (unasssited birth) for my family. I interviewed some midwives, but I always came away feeling like I was negotiating or fighting for the kind of birth that I wanted. I was tired of fighting. When you are home with your hubby in labor, the only one you have to fight is yourself. That was hard enough. The second time around, without the interference from the OB’s or the midwives, it felt GOOD to be pregnant and I was hungry for the knowledge of what an uninterfered with labor and birth would be like. I got it!!
Please don’t rely upon me to tell you how to know that you are about to give birth, since I thought that I was close to giving birth just about every other day for six weeks. I have read those alleged indicators of the onset of labor about patterns of contractions, duration of contractions and I violated every rule in the six weeks before David was born. I had patterns of contractions that went on every three or four minutes for eight hours, ten hours and even sixteen hours and these false labors happened periodically for six weeks. Until I felt David’s head in my vagina, I did not know that birth was imminent. I will say that these Braxton-Hicks contractions were like strong and more intense menstrual cramps, and sometimes I got a backache too. Not enough to take my breath away, but strong enough not to be able to lay in bed and sleep through them. My three year old told a concerned woman who was hosting a garage sale, “Don’t worry about my mom — she is just having a contraction, and she has them all the time.” Contractions were a way of life for much of the last six weeks.
The bloody show came on a Sunday. This I see as a genuine sign that birth is coming up in a few days. It was mucous tinged with pink streaks of blood mixed in it. With the mucous, came strong contractions. Right around this time my bladder stopped telling me when it was full and would not empty when I tried to pee. Looking back at the pain associated with contractions on a full bladder, I needed to do something to get my bladder to empty. I didn’t know what. I tried unsuccessfully to get some sleep in between contractions, but it was too hard to sleep with this intensity of contractions. The only way, the last three days of the pregnancy, that I could get the urine to pass was to get on all fours with a pillow under my chest and wait for about 10 minutes in that position to get the weight of my baby off my bladder. Then I could pee some small amount of urine while remaining on all fours. Since then, I spoke with a friend, Patty Kohl, who said she had luck emptying her bladder if she sat on the toilet backwards and leaned forward to force the bladder to empty. Can’t say if it would work or not, but I would give it a try next time. Now, 28 days later, I still can’t pee sitting on the toilet and I pee standing in the shower. The sensation of when my bladder is full returned around a week after the birth, but four weeks later I can’t sit down to go, and standing seems to not put the same amount of force down there.
The bloody show continued until my cervix effaced completely, and this process took about a day bringing me to Monday evening. After 24 hours of contractions, every 3 to 5 minutes apart, on a full bladder, I started to dilate, and the dilation took another full day of contractions. This brought me to Tuesday night. I still had not been able to empty my bladder.
As of Monday night, I could for the first time feel the cervix — in its ripened state as a small triangular region that was pliable and soft about three knuckles into the vagina — and I was probably four centimeters dilated at that point. Realizing that most women get checked for dilation from very early on and I hear people report 1 cm or 2 cm of dilation — seems like bunk to me, as until you get to the 3 or 4 cm mark you would really be forcing your hands through an undilated cervix. Having heard from midwives and nurses that it is IMPOSSIBLE to force through a 1 cm dilated cervix and to accidentally break the membranes — I have to disagree, as it seemed very possible to do that. As the very painful vaginal check when I was 8 months pregnant with my first son Daniel caused PROM and led to my cesarean section (Nancy Wainer Cohen points out the likelihood of this scenario in her books), I personally knew that I did not trust any hand but my own to check for dilation, and when I checked myself I did not cause myself any pain. But, after each check I would have a series of strong contractions.
I spent Monday and Tuesday night sitting up on the living room sofa as the contractions on the full bladder were way too severe if I had one while I was laying down. By Wednesday, I was getting emotionally and physically exhausted and by Wednesday at lunch I was really feeling low. I felt the bag of waters in my vagina and after resisting the urge to break my own bag of waters, I prayed that God would break my water, give me a break between the contractions so I could sleep and get this baby born. God answers prayer.
At 8:45 PM on Wednesday, I had decided that I had had enough, and as I was standing up from trying in vain to pee — SPLASH my waters broke all over the bathroom floor mat. I did not have a chance to tell Ron that I quit and wanted to go and be “delivered” at the hospital — as this was i t– ACTIVE LABOR at long last!! I reached in my vagina and felt just beyond the bag of waters David’s head, about 2 knuckles deep. An incredible surge of energy swept over me and I was ready to tackle anything. My outlook changed in an instant. I did not care that I could not pee. I did not care that I had not had more than an hours sleep in three days. I did not care that contractions hurt — I was about to give birth and I became instantly oblivious to the rest of the world and the things of the world. This was it!!
Within twenty minutes of the waters breaking, I pushed. Not deliberately but my body did it for me. Interestingly, the very first push felt so normal and natural like something that I had done a million times before — like something we have preprogrammed knowledge about or know about instinctively. I had this overwhelming urge to push intermittently over the next six hours, which having never been in labor before, meant that I had six hours of very light pushes that lasted two or three seconds at most. I changed positions during that period of time, doing my best to stay comfortable. I will say that supported squats (husband holds wife from behind supporting her weight) was a BAD position and one I will not try again. It was too hard on my body and Ron got tired out fast. It seemed to be excessive — my body was pushing at its own rate of speed and this attempt to hurry things up was not only in vain but painful for me and my shoulders. Also, I will stay away from sitting on the toilet next time, as it was also a bad position and I attribute my second degree tear and the blood in my urine over the next few weeks to pushing while sitting on the toilet — my pushes seemed misdirected by the limitations of the small opening of the toilet seat. Incidentally, I did not have the tear repaired as it would heal better without stitches (and it did in fact heal fast and incredibly well) — or so I was told by the OB who looked at it.
I birthed David on all fours with God and Ron present (as catcher). Once the head crowned enough that when I reached behind me I could touch David’s nose, my body took over and pushed him out the rest of the way all on its own (nose to toes) in one big involuntary movement from my uterus. David had his hand up alongside of his head with the cord looped around his arm. The midwives call this a Nuchal cord loop, and Ron thought it was no big deal as there was plenty of cord slack so David could have been born without Ron unlooping the arm. David had some mucous in his throat, which I sucked out manually by covering his mouth with mine (he would gag it up crying) and I sucked it out intermittently over about 40 minutes as David would cough it up. He nursed right after all the mucous was out, and had 3 meconium stools in 2 hours. I never even knew babies could be so healthy and happy right from the start like he is — it is absolutely wonderful!! We went to sleep together two hours after his birth. It is amazing to me that David, while he enjoys nursing and playing with the family when he is awake, is so much more restful and peaceful than Daniel was. David likes to fall asleep in my arms, but once asleep will sleep well by himself and does not seem to demand the constant skin contact that Daniel demanded for many months. Besides this lack of crankiness or fussiness, David does not spit up like Daniel did. I am impressed!!
I half sat up about an hour or an hour and a half after the birth and the whole placenta just fell out of my body. It looked pretty symmetrical so I knew that no big sections were left inside me. There were a couple of blood clots that looked like liver or jellied cranberry. I put the placenta in a bowl, and set the bowl next to David. I cut and tied the cord about 6 hours later. By that time the cord looked like a white straw and there was no blood left in it. I have Rh- blood and I don’t know what type David has, but we decided to forgo the entire Rh blood typing (Eldon card) and RhoGAM crap as we had minimized maternal-infant blood contamination by having the gentle birth and by allowing the placenta to deliver itself.
On the eighth day following the birth I could feel my uterus contracting to resume its prepregnant shape. I woke up with back pain and light cramps, and as I stood in the shower to pee I saw drops and drops of fresh red blood. About 2 hours later I passed a piece of placenta. Later that day, more contractions and the shakes, which makes me think of transition, another piece passed. There was no appreciable blood loss and my body temperature was normal. All felt within normal and healthy limits and resolved itself easily and safely at home.
What is all this bunk about the head coming out, and then rotating it and the shoulders? David was born head first, with his head facing his daddy (I was on all fours) and he just slid straight out — no head turning, no shoulder worries — just nose to toes in one contraction. His hand was up by his face, so as the arm came out, Ron unlooped the cord from his arm in a quick movement as he was sliding out. Just think, the midwives have these nuchal cord loops as their claim to fame and my husband figured out how to unloop it instinctively. Ron and I both feel that Ron’s unlooping the arm was not really necessary in facilitating the birth as the cord was plenty long enough to permit David’s birth.
In my opinion, birth is not this terrible ordeal that women have been lead to believe. The baby wants to be born — provided we let him pick his time to arrive. David helped himself to be born. His hormones made me efface and dilate, he moved around to get into the right position, and during the birth he even used my ribs to kick off (like you do on the side of the swimming pool to push off). Babies know more than we give them credit for.
Danny woke up to find a new baby in our bed — as he slept through the entire labor and birth — and his comment was “THAT baby came out of YOUR belly?” Danny is very much the proud big brother, wanting to protect the baby and giving lots of hugs and kisses. The homebirth and tandem nursing have definitely helped Danny to be able to better express his emotions to his baby brother in a healthy and loving way — lots of rubbing noses and soft touches.
I must take this opportunity to touch upon something that really bothered me the last weeks of the pregnancy — the high volume of calls and letters from people wanting to know if the baby had been born. Knowing that so many people cared how we were doing was great, but at the time, in our already anxious state, the encouragement was easily misconstrued as being external pressure or interference. I hope to remember this experience and to be patient as I wait to call other expecting women until after receiving the call from them that the baby has been born. There seems to be a fine line between encouraging and supporting an expectant mom and pressuring and upsetting her and her hubby. This was especially frustrating for us as we passed the 40 week mark 3 1/2 weeks before David was born. My mother called every day or two for 6 weeks to see if we were alive and to put in a plug for going to the hospital. This was very discouraging. And look what she and the other doubtful and frenzied friends and family missed out on — a wonderful birth!! Somehow it seemed like loved ones felt a false sense of responsibility if they did not do everything they could to influence us to save ourselves by going to the hospital. If the hospital would have endangered our lives, those same doubters would have accepted no blame for the bad outcome, but by pressuring us to go the hospital they were attempting to protect themselves from guilt if something would have gone wrong at home. In the end, Ron and I were the only two people responsible for protecting our child.
May 14th 1998 was the best day of my life. On that Thursday morning as I birthed David Ronald Fox, in a sense I was reborn. It was clearly the greatest day of my life. Daniel Craig was 3 1/2 years old at the time that his baby brother was born, and the reason that Daniel’s birth was not a good day for our family was that we blindly trusted obstetricians, nurses and hospitals to make Daniel’s birth the wonderful, empowering, and very much sexual experience that birth should be — and unsurprisingly a medically managed pregnancy, failed induction, cesarean section, and 5 day stay in Neonatal Intensive Care did not meet the needs of our family. So we needed to have a gentle birth the second time around.
Recovery after the unassisted birth went very well. A natural tear heals so much better (that suturing is not necessary) and faster than a episiotomy. I was up and around the day after the birth and felt really well. The urination has been a little slower to resolve itself, but it is getting better and will be resolved completely in the next few weeks. It is clearly much easier to heal physically after a vaginal birth than after major abdominal surgery, and for me I have no post partum depression or emotional trauma to try to heal from — like I did for months and years after the cesarean.
When I look back upon the last year, responsibility seemed to be the key element in deciding to stay home in pregnancy and birth. It seemed like I had a false sense of security in visiting the OB’s office and turning over my birth to the experts. Preparing for this unassisted birth, Ron and I did a lot of talking and thinking about the responsibility we had to our children and came to understand that we were the ones responsible for Daniel’s botched birth and ridiculous NICU stay. The real difference being that we paid strangers to make decisions for us — decisions that we needed to be involved in and make after we were informed of the risks and complications and the intended outcomes. By paying someone to make those decisions for us we did not become less responsible for the outcomes, we were just as responsible, but without being informed or knowledgeable about what was likely to happen. Our ignorance and blind faith put Daniel at risk. The anger we felt towards the “experts” was misdirected, as we needed to be angry or disappointed in ourselves. When we came to the point of owning Daniel’s birth trauma, then we could begin to make a difference in David’s birth and the births of subsequent kids.
We needed to decide what things were important to our family, so that we could make better decisions to protect our emotional and physical health. First, we knew we needed to keep the stress level at a minimum. Then, we wanted to experience birth as a family — Ron needed to catch the baby and Daniel needed to be welcome to be a part of our family during the labor and delivery (instead of being shipped off to Grandma’s or isolated with a babysitter). We came to see birth as an intimate and sexual expression that was deserving of privacy, like trying to have an orgasm while house guests are sleeping in the next room — not impossible, but more difficult to achieve. I wanted the birth of my son to not disturb the natural flow of our household, so that Daniel would remember the birth as the day he met his brother — not as a day of strangers invading his space and his being in the way. David needed to pick his hour and day of arrival, and Ron came through with support and encouragement when my patience waned and frustration set in — when I most needed him. I needed to feel my son being born — whether that would have been painful or not — I was hungry to know what birth was all about.
Another consideration was my Rh- blood and my husband’s Rh+ blood, as we had received RhoGAM twice in Daniel’s pregnancy. As it turns out, RhoGAM is a blood product, and with it came many risks that once again I was never informed of — viruses are present in this blood product that can not be isolated or destroyed and the inoculation taken while pregnant is now known to damage the immune system of the unborn child and the damage is permanent and irreversible. So I decided to prevent the maternal-infant bleed as best I could by allowing the placenta to separate spontaneously from the uterine wall by not cutting the cord until after the placenta birthed. This removed the chance of contamination so I did not need the RhoGAM. All these things considered, we decided that our baby would best be served by a gentle homebirth with just Ron looking on.
Since the birth, an observation that I have made is that it is easy to see the benefits of Natural Childbirth to the child — but people seem to think it is almost selfish for the mother to consider the benefits of Natural Childbirth to herself. It is amazing how important it is for the baby to be born gently from her vaginal outlet, as the emotional and spiritual changes that occur in the mom are incredible!! But those changes are not given much attention. Ron’s life was changed too, and I am certain that he will never be the same emotionally either after he caught his son as he emerged from my body. Ron’s facial expression as David was being born is an image that I will keep with me for the rest of my life — Ron was the first person to look upon his son. That means something. The changes that have taken place in our marriage are considerable, as we have a heightened amount of respect for each other and in our roles as husband and wife. I felt a new and more intense connection that morning to God, my new son, my husband and Daniel that I don’t think would have been possible outside of David’s private birth. The life changing experiences that Ron, Danny and I went through the weeks and months leading up to David’s birth — coming to the point of being a family, and relying upon each other — definitely had wonderful rewards in the dynamics of our relationships.
So where do we go after this? In a few years, God could bless our family with another baby and if you ask Ron whether we will go to the hospital to “be delivered” he will ask you “What for?!!” Of course, we will have our kids at home with just daddy and God looking on.