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Monday, September 9, 2013

My Birth Story: Part 1 - Assembling the Team

Our little man is just over 3 months old now and I finally feel ready to sit down and write our birth story. My birth plan kind of went out the window and I needed time to reflect and take it all in. There were a couple of things I needed to accept in the midst of all of the joy, pride, and love. Part 1 of my story goes over how we came to assemble our "team," which is very important if you want a natural birth. If you or someone you know is getting ready to give birth, particularly if they are on a journey towards a natural, unmedicated birth, I hope you will read and share my story. As much as I read and researched, I think reading others' stories helped and empowered me the most. 

Long before I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to give birth without an epidural or any other "drugs". The reasons for this evolved throughout my pregnancy. Originally, it was because the idea of a giant needle in my spine frightened me more than the idea of pain during labor. I think that was because, deep down, I was never afraid of giving birth. After the initial "holy crap, we're pregnant?!" shock, I looked forward to giving birth. One night, we were browsing Netflix and came across The Business of Being Born. My husband and I both soaked it all in. I couldn't believe what the medical world had done to this natural and amazing act that women have been performing since the beginning of time. But I have to say, I was almost guilty of falling into the medical trap that is today's idea of birth in the US.

A couple of weeks after the positive pregnancy test, I called up my OB/GYN thinking that's what you were supposed to do. The receptionist informed me that I would have to see all 6 doctors in the practice and any one of them could deliver my baby. This made me very uncomfortable so I called another practice. This practice was smaller, with only 2 doctors, both whom were women (I was not ok with the idea of a man delivering our baby. I felt I should be surrounded by women, and my husband, during labor and birth. It's what felt natural to me). I was very comfortable with the one doctor, but not the other. So I decided to just bank on the large chance that my OB would be the one at the birth. Then, we set out to tour the hospital. Once the tour was over and we walked through those exit doors, the tears started falling. I did not feel comfortable there, for a reason I couldn't pin down, but it was a gut feeling. Then, after finding out that hospital has an almost 40% C-section rate, we knew we had to figure something out.

Shortly before that tour, I met with a doula (whom we ended up hiring and LOVE). I told her where we were delivering and she didn't say much about the hospital, but said I was a great candidate for a natural birth and that we'd work out a plan. A couple of months go by, and my OB is out on maternity leave. I met with the nurse practitioner a couple of times, still feeling uneasy. That horrible feeling that you get when you are surrounded by people who think they know better than you do. Of course I didn't go to med school, but when it comes to normal, low-risk pregnancy, I'm telling you I think med school hurts some people more than it helps. Ugh. The day comes where the NP brings up her little check list of things to ask me at the appointment that week. She skims over "birthing classes" saying that with an epidural no one really needs those anymore. I stopped her there and said, "Actually we are planning a natural birth." Her response? And the red flag that caused us to switch practices? "Well, you can always change your mind." And I should add that this woman told me that she didn't have an epidural with her tell me lady, why the &%#$ can you do it, but I can't? Hm? I called my doula, who reminded me it wasn't too late to switch (nearing 31 weeks) so I set out to do my research.

It was then that I discovered the wonderful world of midwifery. Why in the world I hadn't read about midwives attending hospital births is beyond me. I thought they were only for home births, and while it crossed our minds, I just didn't feel that it was for us (and our home was half-way through construction). So now I'm excited and I get a recommendation for a couple of different midwives at nearby hospitals. (BTW, the hospital I would have originally delivered at does not have any attending midwives). Apparently folks were randy in August, because neither hospital could take any new patients due in May. So a little bit of panic sets in as I am getting closer to that 40 week mark. Everyone online, including our doula, recommended a midwife group that's about an hour away (up to 2 in our lovely Chicago traffic). My husband fully supported us checking them out because he is awesome and wanted what would be best for me and our baby. So I emailed the group, and the response from the head midwife was the first sign that I thought I'd like it there. She responded like a human being, not a sheep just worried about covering her own wooly arse. Yay!

So, we go to a consult with her and we both left feeling a huge sense of relief and set up our first appointment with West Suburban Midwives in Oak Park. This is also a "rotating practice" with 4 midwives, but knowing they all shared in our beliefs and only have a 10% c-section rate, made me totally comfortable. We'd be driving a few hours to get there and back every week up until the birth, but it felt worth it and we didn't hesitate to switch at 31 weeks. (I will still say that it was definitely worth it). That night, or maybe the next day, I emailed our doula to let her know we made the switch and she emailed me back telling me she was doing a happy dance and was so excited and relieved that they were able to take me. It was a wonderful feeling to have so much support and like I finally had a "birthing team" like I'd read about. Before switching, I felt like it was Team Duda vs Team Intervention.

We had to drive to an appointment with a CNM (certified nurse midwife) each week because I switched so late and they wanted to get to know me before the birth (and I them). Every appointment felt like chatting with a supportive friend and I never once felt that they were in a rush to move on to the next patient. Sometimes, the wait time could be long (and I only bring this up because I have read it about them in a few reviews), but I am assuming it is because of the wonderful conversation they have with their patients that I would happily trade for that extra wait time now and then. 

The midwives deliver at a hospital with regular labor/delivery rooms as well as what they call the ABC, or Alternative Birthing Center. This tour made us feel even better (and while I do not want to pass judgment, we found it interesting that everyone on this tour was a very healthy weight and highly energetic, while at our original hospital tour, everyone except me and one other woman was dangerously overweight and a few needed wheelchairs at 20 weeks). The ABC rooms are for women who do not want an epidural and are set up more like a hotel room with a large tub for laboring and birthing. (I LOVED the idea of laboring in the water but wasn't set on a water birth, though I wanted to keep my options open and just let things unfold...which unlike some hospitals, was allowed!).

In order to use these rooms, they require that first time moms take a birthing class, like Informed Beginnings or the Bradley Method. We chose an Informed Beginnings class nearby with Natural Birth Geneva. Because we were pretty far along and had done TONS of research up to this point, there were many things that were review, which never hurts. But, it was great to be surrounded by people who shared your beliefs and to have someone to talk with face to face and later classes taught us a LOT, so I do definitely recommend it. This was one of the ways my reasons for wanting natural birth evolved. Learning more and more about what exactly they want to give you and why got our natural birth hopes set in stone. The "cascade of interventions," was scary and I refused to fall into it. And although I did end up needing a little bit of intervention, I stayed strong and with the help of my birth team, did not need or accept more. The more information and affirmation, the better!

I began my maternity leave (and stopped teaching since my leave took me into the summer and I'm now a work-at-home mom) at 37 weeks and our class ended only a few days before my EDD (estimated due date) because our instructor was awesome enough to combine a couple of classes to fit us in. So we had our midwives, doula, hospital, and education. We finally just had Team Let's Do This! At 40 weeks and a few days, we waited patiently while folks around us got antsy. At 41 weeks we had an ultrasound to check my fluid levels and everything looked great. At 41 weeks and 5 days, contractions began...

***Check back or, better yet, subscribe to read Part 2: The Birth! including photos and to find out why it didn't exactly go according to plan.***

This is a subject I am very passionate about and always open to discussing! If you have comments or questions, please feel free to leave them below. Or if you feel more comfortable, you can message me through my facebook page.


  1. It sounds like you did a lot of research before giving birth, which is wise and important and I think it could also give way to building confidence in yourself and what you want. From your story so far and with stories I've heard from friends, if you have a birth plan and are really sure of what you would like to happen in the delivery room, it really seems like you have to fight with doctors in order to create an experience on your terms. It's actually kind of scary and sad and I can see a lot of women backing down and thinking that the doctor knows better.

    1. Hi Holly! I definitely did a ton of reading & research and it played a huge role in the birth. With how my birth ended up going, I am sure I would have ended up induced and probably with a C-section had I not hired a doula and switched to the midwife group in this post. All of that knowledge we gathered beforehand boosted the confidence I already had in my body's ability to birth! My birth plan didn't go perfectly to plan, but I am so grateful I didn't need a c-section or an epidural, and I owe a lot of that to my awesome "birth team"!

  2. I did a lot of research and planning, too. I wanted a natural birth, but 10 days past my due date I had to have an emergency c-section, so I had an epidural. I cried and was so upset at first. Things ended up working out that both my son and I were okay. He is a very intelligent, talented, and hilarious 10-year-old (almost 11), today So, even though it didn't go as planned, it thank goodness, all turned out okay. My s-i-l had her last two boys with a mid-wife. Her 2nd birth (first with a mid-wife) went wonderfully, but had a little complication with her last child. But she was very happy with her choices.

    1. It really means so much to me that you ladies are sharing your stories! I'm sorry your birth didn't go how you wanted, but it sounds like you accepted that and are very blessed with your little boy :) I am very grateful I did not need a C-section or epidural, but I did need some Pitocin and wasn't able to delay cutting the chord and had to accept that after the birth. Of course birth will always take it's own course, no matter what you have planned! But I'm sure the research you did gave you the piece of mind that you did all you could and in the end, you have your little man :) Thank you again!

  3. I had my first child very young and the experience was completely OUT of my hands compared to my two sons. (I was older and much wiser with them.) That being said, you cannot control everything, and with my two boys, especially my second son, things didn't go according to plan. We had very serious concerns for his health, even his life, and in the end, the goal is a healthy baby. We did get healthy babies, and my last two pregnancies were much better experiences, so all-in-all I am happy!

    1. I'm glad your son was ok! Of course, in the end we want healthy babies :) It sounds like you were educated in your decisions, and what obviously needed to be done and that is what I think is so important. So many women don't know their choices! Congratulations on your families and births!

  4. So glad you had a positive experience by switching to a midwife. I tried midwives with my first 2 pregnancies and it backfired on me, mainly because I chose the wrong ones for me.


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