Birth is messy, unexpected and amazing. Miranda Lentine tells her story,
"When I was 9 or 10, I went to a drama day camp where for one of the scenes, we were
told to dress up as what we wanted to be when we grew up. While my sister put on a lab coat
and borrowed a family friend's beaker, my mom helped me put my hair in a ponytail, adjusted her ring sling to as small as it would go, and I proudly wore my favorite baby doll in the middle of a stage full of miniature doctors, construction workers, and presidents.
Nearly 15 years later, I took my first ever pregnancy test, and stared it down as it
analysed. The minute it showed a positive result, I fell on the bathroom floor and cried. I was so happy and overwhelmed. I wanted to tell everyone and get everything ready right away.
I decided I wanted to have as natural a birth as possible. I get very anxious in hospitals, and my mom had had *five* kids without medication, so I knew I could do it too. My husband, Toby, and I toured the birth center closest to my home, (still close to an hour drive), and began care there. At every appointment, we got to listen to the baby's heartbeat and see how she(!) was growing. As I got closer to my due date, I got very impatient.
At 39 weeks, I woke up to some mild contractions. I spent the day with my family,
walking and distracting myself from the discomfort. The contractions came and went, and then started to get really painful. We called the birth center and I ended up going in. They told me I wasn't far enough along to stay there, but to expect a baby before the weekend was up. In the next few days, my contractions dwindled away, and eventually stopped altogether. I was so disappointed.
During my regular appointment at 40 weeks, the midwife had me schedule an appointment with the hospital for a non-stress test and biophysical profile. At 41 weeks and 1 day, I went into the hospital for testing at 8 in the morning. My mom drove me. The non-stress test went fairly well, but it seemed like the baby was asleep. She wasn't moving as much as they wanted her to. After that, we went down the hall for the biophysical profile, which just looked like an ultrasound to me. The technician took all sorts of measurements, and used a machine to make a vibration on my belly so the baby would move. She still wasn't moving as much as they wanted her to. The technician left for a minute to talk to the doctor, and when she came back in, she told us to go straight to the birth center.
When we got to the birth center, the midwife came in to talk to me right away. She told me that my amniotic fluid was dangerously low, and that I would need to be induced that day. I was confused and upset. This wasn't what I wanted! What about all my plans for a natural birth? The midwife told me that it would be ok, that I was strong, and that I would finally get to meet my baby. Then she said she needed to check the baby's heartbeat, but when she put the doppler on my belly, there was nothing. At first, I thought I just didn't hear it, but when I looked up at the midwife, I saw fear in her eyes. I was terrified. After what felt like a lifetime, we finally heard the wonderful sound of my precious baby's heart, beating perfectly. But the scare had convinced me. I needed to have this baby as soon as possible. It wasn't safe for her to live in my body anymore.
We went to the hospital the birth center had referred me to, and met with the doctor who would be attending to my birth. She seemed to be fine with a more natural approach, and said she would let me lead as much as possible. She told me to come back that evening, and we went back to my apartment. I spent the afternoon trying to prepare myself. Did we have everything we needed packed? Who was going to take care of the cat while I was in the hospital? Were all the baby things set up? My husband and family told me it would all work out, and that I didn't need to worry about anything. They kept trying to get me to eat, but I couldn't get anything down.
Toby, my mom, and I got to the hospital at 7 that evening. The kiosk nurse took me upstairs in a wheelchair. I was embarrassed and offended. I was pregnant, not sick! I could still walk, but she wouldn't let me! One of the maternity nurses took me back to a room and gave me a gown to put on. I was so upset that things had gone this way. It was not at all how I thought it would be. I put the gown on, and tried to let go of all the expectations I had of a natural birth center birth.
My nurse came in and introduced herself, and I knew immediately that things were going to be better than I had feared. She put me at ease, and she was willing to work with me. At about 10 pm, she gave me Cervadil. It was a tiny pouch of something surrounded by netting that went in my body like a tampon. It was meant to soften my cervix so that when they started Pitocin in the morning, I would be ready to deliver.
Almost immediately, I started to feel very uncomfortable. I was constantly crampy, and I had to go to the bathroom every few minutes. My mom and husband told me to try to get some rest, and turned off the lights. I lied in the bed clinging to the rail, trying to get through one more minute of terrible pain. Finally, at about 1am, I couldn't take it anymore. I pressed the nurse call button, and told her I needed something for pain. She asked if I was sure, since she knew I wanted as natural a birth as possible, and I said yes. She injected something through my IV, and I could still feel the pain, but it didn't bother me anymore. I started seeing things. Turtles. So many turtles. In a row and on top of each other. They looked like they were flat and drawn, and they were all I could focus on. Later, my husband told me I was mumbling about turtles throughout the experience. I threw up and peed on the floor.
I started to lie back down, but all of a sudden I felt like I needed to push. The first time I felt it, I told myself it was too early, and suppressed the urge. The second time, I woke my husband up and told him. We called the nurse back in, and she checked me. She said I was ready, and I started to push. It all happened so fast. They changed out my sleeping bed for a delivery bed in between pushes. One of the nurses called my doctor, who was 20 minutes away. My body took over and I let it push when it was ready. They told me they were calling the emergency room doctor from downstairs because they didn't think my doctor was going to make it in time.
He came in, and stood at the bottom of my bed, looking a little bewildered. I was told later that he had delivered one or two babies before, and that the last one had been months earlier. I pushed one more time, as hard as I could, and saw the doctor holding my beautiful, wet, screaming baby. I heard the doctor ask, "What do I do with her?" He placed the baby on my chest, and I just cried, "Oh my God, oh my God..." over and over. I kissed her tiny, bloody head, and looked up into my husband's tired, teary eyes.
The neonatal nurse came too soon and took the baby to be measured, and then my husband and I got a few minutes alone to meet our perfect person. She had hair growing on the backs of her ears. I told my husband she looked like a gremlin. He said she was the most precious gremlin he had ever seen. We kissed her and held her, and I nursed for the first time. It wasn't glamorous, like I had thought. It was clumsy, painful, and exhausting. But at the same time, it was perfect.
After a little while, one of the nurses took the baby to give her a bath. Another nurse brought me a turkey sandwich, chips, and some mandarin oranges. They were apologetic about it, claiming it was all they had, since they hadn't been expecting a birth that evening. Though it was not a meal I usually find appealing, I savored every bite. Perhaps it was just because of the exhaustion, but it was one of the best meals I had ever had. We stayed in the recovery room for the rest of that day, and two more.
Now, more than a year later, my husband and I have a beautiful, curious, talkative toddler, with the most infectious smile I've ever seen. We're currently trying to have a second baby, and I already know I want to go the hospital route this time. The main thing I've taken from my birth experience is that birth is different for every body and every baby. There is no one right way, and there is no better way. Every birth story is a success story. Childbirth is the most empowering thing I have ever experienced. Because of it I know I am strong, I am powerful, I am beautiful. I am a mom."