Birth Story: Linley Lane Boylston
As I write this post on the eve of Linley's two month birthday, I am in both disbelief and awe of how one tiny human has changed my life so much. It is hard to believe that I was going into labor at this time just eight short weeks ago.
Before I get to Linley's birth story, I want to talk about a few things I experienced prior to my pregnancy and during my pregnancy. A few years ago, the thought of childbirth was pretty terrifying to me. There was a time that I got a little queasy just thinking/talking about it and a time when I actually believed that they took out your organs/put them back in during a c-section (I SWEAR someone told me that). When we started discussing a timeframe for getting pregnant, I told my husband, Bobby, that I didn't want to have the fear of childbirth looming over me while we were trying to get pregnant.
I began to pray about my fear of childbirth and talk to friends and family about their experiences. Through talking with Bobby's cousin, I learned what a doula was and how great her doula supervised childbirth was . She had a typical, medicated hospital birth with her first born and an unmedicated, natural birth with her second child. She told me that, although natural birth was very painful, she would do it again if she and her husband decided to have more children.
This conversation sparked my interest in unmedicated, natural birth and made me wonder if it was the right choice with me. Naturopathic care was already appealing to me - I had recently experienced success in treating my chronic digestive problems through holistic care after years of suffering under the care of a gastroenterologist. After reading the second half of Ina May's Guide to Childbirth and praying some more, I decided I was going to give natural birth a chance.
Around last April, I told Bobby that I felt ready to start trying and that I was no longer afraid of childbirth. A few months later I found out I was pregnant. This was really happening!!! I knew that we wouldn't succeed in our goal of natural childbirth unless we were equipped with the right knowledge. Below is a list of some steps we took that really helped prepare me for natural delivery:
- I started going to a chiropractor that specializes in treating pregnant women (Rubin Family Chiropractic) early in my second trimester. I think my first visit was around the 16 to 18 week mark. Again, I learned about the benefits of chiropractic care during pregnancy by talking to a loved one - this time my brother's girlfriend. She is currently in chiropractic school and told me about the great things chiropractic care can do to help ease the pain of both pregnancy and childbirth.
- We hired a doula at around the 20 week mark. I did a lot of research online and attended a "meet and greet" at Atlanta Medical Center, where we met Alexa of The Happiest Doulas. It only took one follow-up phone call with Alexa for us to feel comfortable hiring her. I wanted a doula that would help assist us in natural birth at the hospital and wanted to make sure that there wouldn't be any tension between my doula and the clinical staff. Alexa quickly eased my concerns. I can undoubtedly say that hiring her was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and 1000000% worth the money!
- Bobby and I attended six weeks of birth boot camp classes. You cannot place a value on the knowledge we gained from this course. Along with four other couples, we learned about what happens during and after typical a labor and delivery. We also touched on many of the complications that can arise during delivery. Despite opening our eyes to many things that we didn't previously know could go wrong during delivery, we found comfort in knowing what to expect if any of these unlikely scenarios did happen to unfold. Also, we practiced some comfort measures and positions that can be applied during natural delivery to help promote the most efficient labor for a mother. The curriculum is evidence-based information - per The Happiest Doula's website "no crystals, artwork, group chanting or 'methods' of giving birth". An added benefit was that Alexa taught the class, so we were able to get to know her all the better prior to Linley's birthday.
Before I get to Linley's birth story, I want to note that I think childbirth is AMAZING - whether it be medicated, unmedicated or cesarean. I do not think having an unmedicated birth is in any way better than any other option; it just felt right for me to try to go the natural route if possible (I also did extensive research on medicated and cesarean births since there remained a possiblity that I may have to accept these routes for the sake of safety). I believe that my body was fearfully and wonderfully made by God to give birth to a child. I think it is very disheartening when some women are not supportive of one another's chosen childbirth methods. There were many times throughout my pregnancy that I experienced other women acting like I must be out of my mind for wanting to try the natural route. Some made very clear their doubt in my ability to have a natural birth at all. Both situations were hurtful, especially to an overly-sensitive pregnant woman like myself. Women should be supportive of one another in a time as trying as pregnancy and childbirth. The goal is to end up with both a healthy baby and a healthy mother - how one decides to achieve that goal should be totally up to them. Having a network of supportive women only helps ease the uncertainty of what's to come. Luckily, many of my friends and family provided me with that.
Alright, on to the night of February 7th, 2018. At this point, I was three days past my due date. Although I was feeling fine physically, my emotional wellbeing was starting to waiver. I never expected to feel this way because we talked so much in birth boot camp about how common it is to go past your expected due date (emphasis on expected!). I had already had some good signs that labor should be starting soon - baby dropping, membranes gone at my 40 week check, and starting to lose my mucous plug/have bloody show. Despite all of this, I was still very worried I would end up having to be induced at 41.5 weeks and I wanted to do all I could to avoid that.
Bobby and I got foot massages on my due date, went on walks every day after work, ate spicy Mexican food and had some intimate time together. Looking back on it now, we actually had a lot of fun that week! On the morning of the day I went into labor, I woke up and worked from home. After I finished up work for the day, I headed to my chiropractor's office for what some of the women in the office deemed an "evict the baby" prenatal massage. It was extremely relaxing and I left in a great mood. Bobby and I decided to go out for an Italian dinner. After we got home, Bobby suggested taking a shower to try to relax and de-stress before bed.
About five minutes after getting in bed to go to sleep, I had my first contraction. It was approximately 10 PM. I didn't want to jump to conclusions that it was actually happening because I had experienced a few painful contractions the few nights prior that stopped. However, tonight was different and another contraction followed about five minutes later. They started becoming more frequent and we decided to start timing them using our contraction timer app, Full Term. Things were definitely becoming more rhythmic. I decided to take another shower to shave/wash my hair because priorities, right? Bobby began getting the last of our items for the hospital together.
Once I got out of the shower, my contractions were about one minute long and five minutes apart. They were definitely becoming more and more painful. We called my doula and my mom to let them know what was happening. My mom had just taken the other half of her sleeping pill - it was 12:30 AM now - and needed to sleep some before heading to the hospital. Our doula, Alexa, didn't answer. I knew something was wrong because she always answered both calls and texts promptly. After a few more painful contractions, Bobby and I decided it was time to head to the hospital. We had originally planned on me laboring at home for a while, but without hearing from Alexa and contractions quickly getting more intense, I thought it was time to go in.
I stayed on all fours in the backseat on the way to the hospital to make the drive a little more bearable. We arrived around 2 AM. I was about 3 to 3.5 centimeters dilated when the nurse checked me in triage. She went to talk to my doctor and came back to tell me they were moving me to a labor room since I was already four days past my due date. Bobby and I got set up in the labor room and tried to decide which labor position to try first. I was already in a lot of pain and we unfortunately still hadn't heard from our doula. Bobby suggested I try a few contractions on the exercise ball. I conceded to his suggestion and my water broke during my first contraction.
Next, I decided I wanted to try laboring in the shower. Showering is a huge pain reliever for me so I figured I would spend a lot of time laboring there. However, after two contractions having Bobby hold hot water on my back, things felt like they were moving too quickly for me to handle. Bobby tried calling Alexa a few more times and received a call back right when I was getting out of the shower. Her phone had gotten stuck between vibrate and loud modes- something that had never happened to her during her eight years of being a doula. She told him she was on her way and would be there ASAP. I can't recall exactly what we did next. I remember feeling stuck and just holding onto Bobby, not wanting to move. I laid down in bed and vomited. Alexa walked in shortly after.
I don't think I've ever been more relieved to see someone. I started crying when I saw her and told her I thought I was a wimp and couldn't handle the pain. She quickly told me that I could and helped me get in a laboring position that would be more comfortable. She helped identify that I was having back labor. She and Bobby helped me get on my knees and lean against the front of the bed. They took turns pushing inward on my hips during contractions.
By this point, my contractions were back to back. I wasn't expecting them to be this close together or this painful. I lost track of time and just focused on getting through it. There were many times I thought about trying either IV Fentanyl or getting an epidural (the two pain interventions offered at my hospital), but I was scared that they would slow things down and lead to me requiring a c-section. I tried to use a few methods we had learned in class and envisioned myself on a tropical island I had visited in the past, feeling the warm sun on my skin. That helped momentarily - then it was back to the pain. I found myself either praying or cursing during many of my contractions.
I remember staring at the clock, but being unable to read it. I asked Alexa what time it was. "6 AM", she replied. The nurse came in and checked me again, I was 8 centimeters! It was exciting to hear, but didn't mean much to me at the time. I still knew I had a long way to go. Alexa asked me if I would be willing to try a different position. She warned me that it could be more painful, but it could help turn the baby and ease the back labor. She had me lay on my side, put one of my legs in the stirrup on the bed and lean in towards the bed during my contraction. It was excruciating, but during my first contraction in that position, I felt Linley turn. I had one more contraction in that position before Alexa asked me if I was starting to push through my contractions to which I replied, "I don't know...maybe?!". She got the nurse to come in and check me again; I was already 10 centimeters now and it was time to push!
Pushing was so different than transitional labor and a lot more bearable for me. I got in the hands and knees position because it was what felt natural to me. I remember having no idea what I was doing during the first few contractions, but then I started to get the hang of it. Bobby, Alexa and the nurse were extremely supportive as I figured out how to push effectively. I started making progress pretty quickly and they soon told me they were starting to see Linley's head. The nurse went to get the doctor and Bobby and Alexa reassured me that Linley was going to be here soon.
I kept pushing as the doctor arrived. Linley began having some decelerations as she was coming down the birth canal. At first, the doctor wasn't very concerned. The nurse gently scratched Linley's head and her heart rate would increase, which was a good sign. However, the decelerations must have started to get worst because I heard the doctor mention having to use the vacuum if I didn't get things moving fast. I knew I could do it and pushed as hard as I could. About four contractions later at 8:13 AM on February 8th, Linley was born! The ten painful hours of labor were all worth it.
Linley was placed immediately on my chest. She was crying and looking around. I remember staring at her and looking at her fingers and toes. I was amazed at how perfect she was! It was the most surreal experience because although I was holding her for the first time, I felt like I had known her forever. Bobby and I were officially parents to our beautiful baby girl, Linley Lane Boylston.