The Birth Story of Eleanor* (First child, induction, no pain meds)

The Birth Story of Eleanor*

Names changed for client privacy

              I started working with the Smiths when Dani was just beginning her third trimester of pregnancy. I met with her and Aaron three times in their home, to cover the necessary material, and to get to know them a little bit. I found Dani intelligent and inquisitive, often asking about birthing options even I was not aware of. Aaron was very supportive of Dani’s desire to be prepared for the event of childbirth.

               Dani was interested in making sure she advocated well for baby “Peanut.” Several weeks before she was due, she had convinced Dr. Adele not to follow general protocol for Peanut, which would have been to induce her once she made it to her gestational due date. I found it interesting that this was even a concern to Dani, because most mothers can’t even imagine going past due. Yet, Dani almost seemed to be planning on it. I was curious to see whether she would be right. As it turned out, she most certainly was.

               Dr. Adele monitored Dani and Peanut closely during the days following the due date. From carefully observing the amniotic fluid levels, Dr. Adele was able to determine that Dani would need to be induced, and set the date. Dani had advocated well for Peanut; the induction was not just being scheduled because of protocol; it was being scheduled for good medical reason, and well past Dani’s due date. Dani had already been experiencing mild, irregular contractions in the days prior, which is symptomatic of “Early Labor.” For Dani, these contractions had resulted in a 2 cm cervical dilation, which gave her a good head start for being induced.

               Just before 11p.m. on a Wednesday night, the first dose of Cytotec was administered. Dani continued to experience irregular contractions throughout the night. She and Aaron tried to rest as they waited for labor to begin, but found it difficult. Nurses coming in and out, the sound of Peanut’s heart rate on the monitor, and general nervousness all probably contributed to the issue.  Still, they were glad to know they were safe and in good hands.

              Around 3:30 the following morning, I got a call from Aaron asking me to come into the hospital. Dani’s water had broken after the second dose of Cytotec and the contractions were getting stronger. The agreement had been for them to call me whenever they felt ready for me to join them, in hopes that we would all get some rest. I have to admit I was glad to get the call; I was awake most of the night out of excitement for them anyway.

               When I arrived at 4:30, I found them sitting quietly in the hospital room, Dani on the birth ball and Aaron on the doctor’s stool, both watching the monitor that showed Dani’s contractions. I observed Dani for a few contractions, turned the down the volume on the monitor, and offered a few tips (one of which was to stop watching the contractions, which were “coupling”—a dysfunctional labor pattern that can also be a symptom of early labor.) We walked a lap around the halls of the Birthing Center, pausing so that Dani could lean on the hand rails during her growing contractions.

               Dani’s nurse, Michelle, met us in the hall because the wireless monitors weren’t picking up Peanut’s heart patterns. By around 5:30, the four of us made our way back to the room so that Michelle could reset the monitors. Upon our return, Dani started feeling nauseous. This indicated that there were hormonal changes occurring, and I felt encouraged (although I don’t think Dani enjoyed it very much.) Michelle explained that she would be back in about an hour to decide about whether to start Pitocin.

               Because they had been up all night, and the day shift nurses were about to come on and would possibly start Pitocin, I suggested that Dani and Aaron take a hot shower to relax and stimulate the release of Oxytocin. I figured it would also refresh their mindset and help them to welcome the new day. I stepped out into the waiting room and spent my time in prayer, giving thanks that Dani was being given the opportunity to experience labor as she had wished. In response I felt led to write the following instructions to myself in my notes: “Support. Kindness. Be Faithful.” These words cued me in to how God needed me to care for Dani. I was appreciative of the reminder that nobody’s labor experience is ever exactly like anyone else’s, and that I would need to remain in tune with her and Aaron in order to help them the way God wanted me to.

               At 6:30, Michelle came in to start the Pitocin. A cervical check showed that Dani had dilated to 4 ½ cm, which, according to Dr. Grantly Dicks-Reed’s “Pillars of Parturition,” explained why Dani didn’t particularly want to be in labor anymore. She had approached the first “Pillar.” I reminded her that a new rush of endorphins would be coming, applied aromatherapy to her feet, massaged her back, and offered ideas for new positions to try. Aaron was always present, encouraging Dani, praying over her, and providing scripture for her to read. He seemed very in tune with, and respectful of, Dani’s need to quietly withdraw within herself as her contractions grew in intensity and frequency.

               The nurses changed shifts and at 7:30 a.m., nurse Juli came in to meet Dani and assess her progress. As soon as I saw her, I knew we were in good hands. While Michelle had been an excellent nurse, I have worked with Juli before—in fact, I had even joked with Dani and Aaron that if they could try to go into labor on a Thursday during the daytime, they would probably end up with the best nurse ever. As it worked out, it was Thursday, it was daytime, and that nurse was Juli. I was tickled to see her and felt so grateful for this little ‘nod from God’.

             The Pitocin had been turned up from 2 mU/min to 4 mU/min. Dani had dilated to 6 cm and was in a good labor pattern at this point, so Juli decided to keep the Pitocin level there. Dani did a great job of remaining passive during her contractions, welcoming each one and sometimes even verbalizing the word “down,” in an effort to coach her body through the hard work it was doing. Dani’s mom, Charlene, arrived around 8:40 to find her daughter in full-blown labor, working hard through every contraction to keep from fighting her body’s efforts. I explained to her the same thing Aaron had explained to me upon my own arrival, which was that Dani needed quiet and plenty of space. He had proven exactly right about that.

              Not once did Dani lose her composure. As labor progressed I tried to encourage her to keep her eyes open so as not to feel isolated in the pain. For many women, shutting the eyes leads to a fearful state that can make it difficult for them to deal with labor the way they ultimately hope to. But Dani was not afraid. Aaron stayed with her, offering his quiet support, just as she needed. Sometimes she would pray, and other times she would express the intensity of her contractions, yet she was always totally calm. Her eyes were closed, but she was never alone. She had a good support system and had called on the presence of the Holy Spirit. I believe she was kept in perfect peace for this reason. (Isaiah 26:3)

                At one point Dani briefly considered asking for an IV pain medication. But almost as quickly as she thought of it, she changed her mind again. We stuck with scripture, aromatherapy, massage, back pressure, and position changes. By around 9:15 a.m., Dani was so tired that she was falling asleep between contractions. Juli instructed her to lie on her side with a peanut-shaped ball between her knees. At 9:40, Dani informed us of a strong need to push.

              Juli called Dr. Adele in. As we awaited her arrival, Dani mentioned wanting to push in a squatting position. Juli told her the baby was “right there” and that pushing in a squatting position would cause the baby to be born too quickly and would likely cause injury to Dani. (It is times like these that I so value the experience and insight of good medical professionals.) At 10:10, Dr. Adele arrived and told Dani to go ahead and push. I watched in amazement as Dani remained passive, even at the brink of delivery. She wanted to be sure to take her time, working with her body so as not to cause injury to herself. I have never seen anyone so calm at this point in labor. After several more minutes of waiting, Dani went ahead and started pushing. It didn’t take her long. Baby Eleanor was born at 10:30 a.m. (She remained “Peanut,” however, until she was named later that morning.)

          Aaron was much braver than he thought he would be. Of all the horror stories he had heard before, none of them were true for him. It wasn’t gory. He didn’t pass out. Watching the birth of his daughter seemed to bring him to life. His quiet support turned to proud excitement as he and Dani introduced themselves to their beautiful 7 ½-pound daughter. A whole new energy seemed to beam out of him as he cut the cord and informed the nurses of their wishes for various newborn procedures. He even took a picture of the placenta.

           Dani changed in the moments after Eleanor’s birth, too. While just minutes before she had been so incredibly tired and withdrawn, she was suddenly energized and interactive. She spoke to Eleanor as if she had known her all her life. She beamed right alongside Aaron. Together, the three of them made a picture-perfect family.

           Before I left, Juli pointed out that Dani had only been in active labor for about 3 hours. As I think about the incredible progression and the way Dani sailed through it with such steadfastness, I know that it was God’s power that got her through. And really, it was God’s kindness that made it quick. By seeking God’s presence, she and Aaron had all of His goodness in the room that day as their precious daughter was born. It was beautiful and amazing to witness.

 “With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a child.” Genesis 4:1

              Dani and Aaron, congratulations on the birth of your beautiful baby girl. You two are a great team. Thank you for welcoming my presence; it was an honor to be there with you. And baby Eleanor, may you always know that God was there the day you were born. May He be with you ever more. Happy Birth Day.

Sincerely,

Jennifer DeBrito

Jennifer is a Holistic Christian Doula in Colorado Springs. In addition to coaching couples through a  Christ-centered childbirth experience, she also specializes in wellness coaching for pregnant and postpartum women and their babies. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop and the proud owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC.

To learn more about Jennifer, please go to EdensPromiseLLC.com

Advertisements

The Birth Story of Cami* (2nd child, induction, no pain meds)

The Birth Story of Cami*

*identifying information changed, for client privacy 

 Tuesday was a great day for the Moore* family. Just one week prior, Elizabeth* and Mark* had returned home from their doctor’s appointment, disappointed with the news that their baby would not be induced that day as they had hoped. Cami’s small ultrasound measurements had kept Dr. Hingle* on her toes for several weeks, as she tried to decide when would be the best time for Cami to be born. While technically it was good news that the induction could wait, because it meant that Cami was healthy in the womb and could be allowed to grow in there a little longer, it still made for a long week as they waited for the time they could hold their baby in their arms.

The following Tuesday, the induction time was set for 5:30 a.m.Elizabeth sent me a text to inform me of the plan: start Pitocin at 5:30, possibly get an epidural, get water broken at 7 a.m. I met them at the hospital as they were getting settled in. The three of us chatted with Sarah*, the nurse who had attended to Elizabeth while she was in labor with Eliot. Seeing a familiar face was comforting to all of us. To me, it felt like a nice reminder of how God had come through for us with the birth of Eliot—and how He would do it again.

Because Dr. Hingle was already at the hospital at 6 a.m., things were done in a different order than we had been expecting. Instead of starting Pitocin, Dr. Hingle broke Elizabeth’s water (or, at least, thought she did). As a supporter of Elizabeth’s birth plan, Dr. Hingle hoped that this would cause Elizabeth to go into labor on her own, without the use of Pitocin. She told Elizabeth that if she wasn’t in labor after a few hours, then she would recommend Cytotec to soften the cervix, and if necessary, follow it up with Pitocin to start contractions. An epidural would probably have been placed coinciding the use of Pitocin, but as it turned out, neither was necessary for little Cami to be born.

Mark, Elizabeth, and I walked around the Birthing Center, waiting for contractions to start. Elizabeth did feel a few light contractions, but as her nurse, Elaine explained, we knew she wasn’t in labor yet because she still looked beautiful. What Elizabeth was experiencing was early labor symptoms, like she experienced at home before she went into labor with Eliot.

Because Elizabeth had not yet fallen into a labor pattern, one dose of Cytotec was administered around 9:30 a.m. The three of us relaxed in the hospital room for the next hour, chatting and snacking on hospital food, and once Elizabeth was allowed to get out of bed again, we resumed our alternating pattern of walking, birth ball, monitoring, and restroom breaks. It was during one of these  breaks , around 10:30 a.m., that Elizabeth’s water finally broke. Movement continued to encourage release of the fluid, so we just kept on moving.

Dr. Hingle was due to return to the hospital around 12:30 to check on Elizabeth and decide whether or not to start Pitocin. I think we were all prepared for this course of action, yet were still pleasantly surprised when Dr. Hingle opted not to start Pitocin after all. With Elizabeth still only at 3 cm dilated, Dr. Hingle really could have gone either way on that decision—but the fact that she was encouraged, was encouraging to us as well.

By this point, Elizabeth had started to grow more serious and was falling into more of an active labor pattern. To encourage full-blown labor, Mark helped her with taking a warm shower to relax and stimulate Oxytocin release. It worked. By 2:00 p.m., Elizabeth was in full-blown labor.

Having been up most of the night before and not having been allowed to eat anything of substance all day, Elizabeth grew tired quickly. (Also, having been in the same room for so long, and thinking of herself as “in labor” since 5:30 a.m. probably didn’t help her mindset.) To freshen up the environment, we changed the lighting and the music, applied some aromatherapy, read scripture and prayed.

Elaine, Elizabeth’s nurse, came in frequently to assess our progress and joined in as a both a coach and team member. She was a Godsend, applying pressure to Elizabeth’s sore back and offering her knowledge and words of encouragement. Mark stayed with Elizabeth the whole time, getting her through each contraction. Elizabeth would often signal the beginning of a contraction by saying, “Mark, I need you.” He would then hold her hands and look into her eyes, coaching and encouraging her, one contraction at a time. I told them then, and I’ll say it again now: they are a great team.

Sometimes it seemed like Elizabeth might ask for an epidural. She talked about wanting to be done, or feeling afraid of what she knew was to come. More scripture, more prayer, more aromatherapy, more movement and more encouragement; supporting her through one contraction at a time, we each gave her all we had to offer. Whatever we may have lacked as her support team, I know God provided. Although Elizabeth had been planning to get an epidural this time around, she never did ask for one. I give God the glory for that. Whatever the reason, He wanted Cami to be born without one. So, He got Elizabeth through it.

Hours passed by quickly as we rotated through various positions, hoping to help Elizabeth cope as Cami dropped into position. Around 5:30 p.m., Elaine called Dr. Hingle to give her a progress report, and the two of them tried to decide whether Dr. Hingle would have time to attend her son’s school performance. Elizabeth had spent some time “resting” on her side, and it was clear that it wouldn’t be much longer before she would need to push.

Whether or not she made it to the performance, I don’t know. Dr. Hingle came in around 6:30 and checked Elizabeth, finding her at 7 cm. Dr. Hingle prepared some warm washcloths as compresses,  and just a few contractions later, she told Elizabeth to go ahead and start pushing. It took Elizabeth a few contractions to focus and re-learn “how” to push, but once she got it down, Cami was born quickly. The way Cami was turning as she was delivered explained the back pain that Elizabeth had felt during labor. (Like her brother, Cami had apparently decided to do some last-minute gymnastics before being born.)

Cami was born at 7:30* p.m. She had a strong, healthy cry and seemed happy to be placed on Elizabeth’s chest as she snuggled in for warmth. She was placed quickly on the scale after a few minutes, weighing in at 5 lbs. 7 oz. Little as she was, she was strong and healthy, and learned to nurse after just a few tries.

I went to visit the three of them in the hospital the next day. It was fun to see them with their second child; they were so relaxed and comfortable with their new baby. It’s amazing what a little practice can do! As we reflected on Cami’s birth story, the three of us found ourselves wondering what had happened to the epidural she had been planning to utilize as pain management. The goal had not necessarily been for Elizabeth to have a natural birth; after all, we had gone in thinking the day would start with Pitocin and an epidural. Instead, it took one little dose of Cytotec to get it started, and the rest had happened naturally. No one was holding out on pain management for any particular purpose. None of us really know why it went how it did.

My only thought is that God knows what Cami needs. He also knows what Elizabeth needs. Between the two of them, I know God was caring for one or both of them with how He worked things out. The truth is, God knows what we need even better than we do. And when we place ourselves under His care, He is able to provide what we need—even if we don’t know to ask.

Elizabeth and Mark, I am so glad I was able to be there to support you through Cami’s birth. The way the two of you lean on each other and God, is nothing less than beautiful. Thank you for the honor of inviting me to attend Cami’s birth. Baby Cami, may your birth story always remind you that God knows what you need. It’s not about asking for the “right” thing; it’s about seeking His presence in your life. As long as He is with you, all of your needs, whether spoken or not, will be met in Him. May that truth always be with you.

With love,

Jen DeBrito

Jennifer DeBrito, CCLD, CCBE, is a doula and childbirth educator is Colorado Springs, CO. She is the author of Expectant Parents Workshop: Devotional, and owner of Eden’s Promise, LLC.