Laboring Honestly: Morgan’s Story

This is a real birth story written from my perspective as a mother. This was written as a processing exercise for my own emotional health. I have posted it here so that other women can read about one Mother’s actual, unfiltered experiences during birth. This post may contain triggers for emotions to arise for the individuals reading it. If you are pregnant and reading this, please know: This is MY story. This is not, and will not be, YOUR story. Please read with caution, and be sensitive with your comments.

We had just finished eating dinner the night of my due date, when my husband said, “Well, if you aren’t gonna have this baby tonight, do you wanna go for a walk on the beach?” Right then I felt a gush. My mucus plug had come out and fluid started to seep out slowly. This was not how I expected my labor to start.

I called my Midwife, who told me it sounded like I had a high leak. It’ was 6:30 PM, and I was expecting to birth my baby at home. In a home birth, you have 24 hours from the time your water breaks to have your baby at home. My contractions hadn’t started, and I knew the clock was ticking. So I looked up a website for acupressure points to induce labor. I had my husband apply clary sage essential oil to the points and push on them while I simultaneously attempted nipple stimulation using my breast pump. I tried focusing on my breath and intentionally relaxing and visualizing my baby moving down and out for two hours. Contractions started successfully at around 8:30 PM.

I labored at home for about 6 hours with just my midwife, her assistant, and my husband. The birthing tub was set up, the lights were dim, there were candles lit, I was relaxed an breathing… it all seemed like things were progressing well from my perspective. But then my midwife informed me that Morgan’s heart rate was decelerating during contractions and it was no longer a choice to stay home.

We loaded the car with our Go-Bags and drove to Sarasota Memorial Hospital around 2:30 am. Upon arrival, the woman in admissions told us that my midwife and her assistant were not allowed to come with me, just my partner. Luckily, my midwife, has been working in this area for 20+ years and knew that she could come with me. She reassured me of this, which put me at ease, but it was really scary for me to be told that my support team was about to be removed from my presence during a time of vulnerability.

Morgan’s heart rate continued to decelerate during my contractions and the only position she could tolerate me in was hands and knees. So, I labored on hands and knees in the hospital bed for a few hours wearing an external heart rate monitor. But then, Morgan’s heart rate just disappeared. It was gone for 4 1/2 minutes. And that’s when shit got real.

I remember talking to her, “Come on baby. You got this. Come on baby. Be ok.” as they inserted an internal heart rate monitor (Which looked like a fish hook with three prongs, and got hooked into the top of her head while she was still inside my body) which was highly uncomfortable for me, and I’m sure worse for her- though they said she couldn’t tell. But either way, they found her heart beat and were able to monitor it successfully throughout the rest of the labor experience.

I was getting really fatigued muscularly, from being in the same position for hours, so with this new and more accurate monitoring system, I tried to find a more comfortable position. I tried lying on my back (which was awful for me because of the back pain it caused) but her heart rate decelerated. I tried lying on my side, and even squatting, but her heart rate decelerated. So, for the sake of my baby, I was limited to hands and knees, which was exhausting.

At that point, the OB that was on call came in. He said, “To deliver this baby, you are going to have to be on your back.” To which I retorted, “Why!?” He bluntly stated, “It’s the only way I know how to deliver a baby.” And I responded, “Well that instills a whole lot of confidence in your patients!” And then he left. Right then, I made a decision. That man would NOT be in the room when I was ready to push my baby out.

Around this time, a lot of confusion began to develop about my chart. They saw a history of Streptococcus Viridans from a urine culture, and somehow this flagged me as Group B Strep positive (even though Viridians is Group A) which then required me to be put on IV antibiotics for a certain number of hours before birth. They said, “You should have been on antibiotics for this during your pregnancy. Because you were mistreated, we are going to have to put you on IV antibiotics, which you will need to be on for a certain number of hours before birth.” I’m not a person that likes to take medications. So the thought of having to be put on IV antibiotics for something I knew I didn’t have was extremely frustrating. But then to also tell me that I had been mistreated by my chosen health care team, when the hospital staff were obviously the ones doing the mistreating, was infuriating. It made me lose trust in them as my overriding health care team. And trust in your team is not something you want to lose during your labor and delivery. Regardless, I complied, because I felt like there was no other choice.

I continued contractions on hands and knees for what felt like forever. Every time the OB would enter the room, I would tense up and tell myself, “Don’t have this baby. Don’t have this baby.” Every time the nurse would ask me if I was ready to push so she could call him in, I would tell her, “No.” Even though the strain in my voice as I said the word would indicate to anyone that I was obviously ready to push.

I could no longer fight my body, so when the OB came back in, it was time. He told me to lie on my back. I did it, even though it hurt like hell, and the baby’s heart rate decelerated. I felt robbed of my will. Defeated. But I complied. I pushed her out while lying on my back, because that’s what was best, FOR HIM.

In a home birth, after the baby is born, I have witnessed mothers lying skin to skin with their new born for 45 minutes to an hour while Mama breast feeds. Baby gets time to learn how to latch and suckle. The suckling action, in-turn, stimulates the mother’s uterus to contract which naturally assists in pushing out the placenta. But in a hospital, doctors are on a timeline. I know this, so I asked, “Can we please do delayed cord clamping?” He responded, “Of course! We wait until the cord stops pulsing to cut it, which is about 60 seconds.

My heart sank.

They cut the cord, and the nurse took Morgan from the OB and proceeded attempt to wipe her clean with a towel. Seeing this, I cried softly, “Please stop wiping the protective barrier to the outside world off my baby.” She stopped, handed her to me, and I got to hold Morgan for the first time.

So many people told me that holding your baby for the first time was an experience like no other. They said there would be an instant feeling of magical love that would overwhelm me. But nothing happened. I was overwhelmed though. I felt physically exhausted, emotionally defeated, I was in incredible pain, and I thought to myself, “Whats wrong with me? Why don’t I feel anything?”

But I didn’t have time to process any of that, because the nurse informed me that she was about to give me a drug called Pitocin. To which I freaked out, “Why!? The only reason I could think of that they would give me Pitocin at this point would be if I were bleeding out! “Am I bleeding more than I should be?” I was not. The nurse told me, “It’s just standard procedure, to prevent excessive bleeding.” So I responded, “I don’t want any more medication that I don’t need in my body. I don’t want prophylactic treatment.”

So we skipped it. And without the time for baby to suckle and without drugs to force the uterus to contract, I tried to push my placenta out by shear force. It was awful. I ended up getting back on hands and knees (you can’t even imagine how sore my knees and thighs and hips were at this point) and I was back to holding my breath and pushing just like round two of birthing a baby. I was tugging on the cord, and pushing, and nothing was happening. He told me to lie down again, on my back, and I eventually was able to push it out with the his pressure of his hands pushing back against my vagina. This was like a nightmare for me.

I felt like I had fought through this whole process for a “natural” birth experience, like I had envisioned in my mind that my home birth would be. This just felt like one more battle I didn’t expect to have to fight, in order to achieve the birth experience I had desired in a hospital. But the hits just kept coming.

The placenta was out, and it was time for stitches. I had incurred an internal first-degree tear during the delivery. Which, for the record, I don’t think would have happened if I’d have stayed on hand and knees. But that is just speculation, and we will never know. I truly believe it’s ergonomically insane to try and push a baby out essentially up-hill to get it past the sacrum and coccyx. But that’s what I did, because that’s what I was told to do, even though it was against my better judgement. The OB gave me a lidocaine injection, into my labia where I tore. (Talk about adding insult to injury!) And then he stitched me up- which was still very pinchy and painful even with the lidocaine!

After that, they handed Morgan back to me, and we tried breast feeding. They told me she had a really strong suckle, and a nice latch. All I knew, was that it was another type of pain.

The OB said, “Well, that’s it. You can go home in the morning as long as you are not hemorrhaging.” I thought, “It’s over. I can make it til the morning. Then, we can go home and rest.”

But the pediatrician in the hospital, caught wind of this imaginary GBS positive situation and said I hadn’t been on antibiotics long enough from when they started the IV to when I pushed her out, so I had to stay in the hospital while they did tests on Morgan.

So we ended up being required to stay in the hospital for 56 hours, after a normal vaginal delivery with no complications to baby or mom, getting poked and prodded. That’s three days with no sleep, because every time I got to sleep, someone came in to check on us, and woke me and my sleeping baby.

But we both eventually got home. That first night at home, I slept around 7 hours in total. My baby and I were both physically healthy. We had achieved most of what I had desired for my birth in terms of an unmedicated, vaginal birth, with minimal tearing. My brain was telling me to feel grateful. But I was just so full of fear and anxiety. And the emotional disconnect I felt when first holding my baby remained. I wanted to feel love, But most of what I felt was an intense version of the word overwhelmed. I felt guilty for not being able to feel happy when I knew intellectually that I was so lucky to be physically healthy and have a healthy baby.

What I didn’t understand then, was that I couldn’t reason my way out of what I was feeling, because those emotions had manifested as perceived trauma. It went beyond a superficial feeling of disappointment that my labor and delivery had played out differently than I had hoped. What I was experiencing was deeper than that, and more closely resembled a form of PTSD. I felt those varying levels of “disappointment” at a time when I was at my most vulnerable, and simultaneously enduring the most physical pain I had ever experienced. The sum total of those individual encounters left me feeling robbed of my power in a time where I was hoping to step into it.

The other part I didn’t realize at the time was that the feelings I had after giving birth were not unique to me. I had heard of postpartum depression, but I didn’t feel depressed. I felt fearful, anxious, and completely overwhelmed. I now know that postpartum anxiety is a common experience for women as they transition into motherhood.

This transition occurs during a sacred window of time, that I have now come to know as, The Fourth Trimester. I believe that what we experience during labor and delivery can truly and deeply effect our emotional and physical wellbeing in this sensitive time of transition and beyond.

My struggles during my postpartum window with Morgan led me to search for ways to heal from what I encountered- mentally and physically. While I was pregnant with my second child, I sought out ways to improve my Fourth Trimester experience. The labor and delivery of my second child, Mackenzie, was exponentially better than this first experience- and my postpartum mindset and recovery followed suit.

I wrote an entire series of blog posts on what I learned during that second postpartum window. You can find the first post in the series here: The Fourth Trimester: Seeking a Better Way

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