by Elise Bowerman
Elise's Birthing Stories
Before sharing my experiences, it's important to note a few things which likely effected my births. First, my husband (Jon) and I set the intention to have children together after we were married. Then, we negotiated (talked a lot) about when to start "trying" to conceive. Once we got on the same page about timing we then set the intention to create life - every time.
I became pregnant with both children right away. With Lilly I was so in-tuned with my body that I knew - the next day - I was pregnant. I felt the implantation sensations of cramping/pulling feeling. It was amazing to know I was pregnant before peeing a stick!
We also participated in childbirth education classes outside of a hospital setting. The three great benefits of childbirth education classes outside of a hospital setting are, 1. they provide evidence-based childbirth education; which then offers, 2. realistic tools and options for the birthing experience, and 3. gives both the birthing person and birth partner confidence to be empowered in this life-transforming experience.
First we joined The Bradley Method® which is a 12 week course, meeting once a week for three hours at a time. Then, with our second we did a weekend 'refresher' course with our doula. Both completely worth it!
We celebrated our one year of marriage with Lucas making it through the first trimester, in 2009. We bought our first home in 2008 at the beginning of the recession; both left our full-time careers working for other people so that Jon would grow his digital marketing business. What risks we take when little humans come into our lives!
We told our families we would call or text when I went to the hospital, and then would call again when we were welcoming visitors after Lucas' earth side arrival.
Lucas was 11 days "late." Even though the estimated due date signifies the month around a baby will likely be born - each day counted. With your first, there's too many what-if's and anticipatory feelings; besides being pressured to induce to not count the days.
The day before Thanksgiving I began having back labor. I went to see my chiropractor and Jon and I had a fairly normal Wednesday night. By early morning hours I was in active labor.
I woke up Jon about 3am to help me time contractions and guide me through. (Going back to waking Jon up - yes, if your birth partner is someone you live with and they are going to be your biggest support system, they must sleep as much as possible. All childbirth preparation classes advise this. Which is why it's important to educate outside of a hospital setting... at least until hospitals change their procedure oriented childbirth classes.)
We went to the hospital in active labor, walked the halls, walked around the room, moved in a variety of positions to help Lucas move downward.
What I recall the most is my encouraging, young nurse, and my doctor who didn't seem to want to be working on Thanksgiving Day.
In transition, I finally asked for medication. They gave me half a dose of Stadol, which, according to Jon - made everything worse. It didn't help relieve the discomfort.
Once I was given permission to push (insert eye roll) my doctor left the room. Yes, he left! I was seated in bed (my choice) with Jon and the nurse holding my knees into my armpits because I was exhausted - with no one there to catch my son!
It was the most insane work I've done. Release a baby out, with no one there. My subconscious kept him in. At one point the doctor came back in, looked at his watch declaring he delivered another baby while I was pushing.
Now, I was already failing at motherhood! I can't even get this baby out right or on time! I asked him to stay in the room - he said no, I'm not close enough.
I felt unimportant. Unvalued. Failing. Worthless. This guy can't spare the physical and emotional support to help get this baby out?!
When he returned again, he had a another whammy to share: meconium in the sack, and he would have to use the vacuum or forceps if I didn't push baby out. Again, my fault.
I asked if he would stay - once more. He did. I pushed Lucas out, despite the doctor - again, not listening to me or Jon telling him I did not want an episiotomy. Of course he gave me one.
After being violated mentally, emotionally, and physically I hemorrhaged.
There was a team of professionals caring for Lucas - he was completely okay. I received oxygen and pitocin (which caused horrible contractions.)
I laid in bed, feet still in stir-ups for a good 20-30 minutes with no one cleaning or stitching me. Jon had to tell the doctor to tend to me! This guy was so focused on collecting the cord blood. (Didn't do that with Lilly - lesson learned.)
Once I was stitched and Lucas was in Jon's arms our room was empty. I had to pee so bad. I didn't know what to do. I hadn't even tried breastfeeding. We were alone.
Finally I buzzed for a nurse. A new nurse came in and gave me a pot to pee in. I was like, what?! I'm not broken. I didn't have an epidural. I'm sure I can stand with help. But, she didn't have time.
After all this, I vowed I would never give birth again. It was dehumanizing.
Almost a year to Lucas' first birthday party, a dear friend sat me down. We had been friends since we were 10, and she was a mom of two. She had been there and gotten through the tough years of raising children under the age of five. (They are physically and emotionally exhausting years.)
She knew me well and stated, 'Elise - I think you should consider having a second child.' I shared how Jon and I had talked about adoption since we were dating and it's not out of the picture. We enjoyed a thoughtful conversation about the topic. She encouraged me to listen to my instincts and to trust how Lucas was born was his story. Gaining the knowledge I learned from his birth, and to the woman I was after his birth would be different than any future births.
We learn a lot with our firsts. About birthing, about ourselves, and the care team we need to be confident birthers... however we birth.
Half a year later I was pregnant with Lilly. I dreamed of her name before receiving the confirmation of being pregnant. I knew I was to birth again.
Things would be different this time. I went to a midwife practice at UofM and hired Nicole White, a home-birth midwife in Detroit to be my doula. I stacked the deck to have a calm and supportive care team... the way I deserved to be treated.
A week before her due date I thought I was having Braxton Hicks contractions. Since Lucas was "late" I thought for sure this baby isn't coming any time soon. It was Super Bowl Sunday.
We went to our friend's party to watch the Super Bowl like nothing was happening. Toward the second quarter I had Jon start timing contractions. I'd squeeze his hand when they started and ended. By the time they were 10 minutes apart he was asking if I wanted to leave. I said, no - I'd like to watch Madonna's performance in the half-time show. So we stayed. Priorities... haha.
Immediately following the performance we announced we were going home to pack and head to the hospital! Everyone was shocked! I was focused and clear of mind. I knew what I was doing.
By the time my dad came to pickup Lucas and our dog it was late. I stopped talking in contractions. We needed to leave for the hospital 30 minutes away.
Since this wasn't my first rodeo and at UofM you have to through triage (which is stupid for any birthing person) I had my husband drop me off at the front door since valet was closed.
Barely able to walk, the security guard wheeled me up to triage trying to make small talk. He was so sweet. Politely I let him know I had to focus and couldn't talk. In hindsight, I was in transition.
By the time they wheeled me to my room I could barely move. Rectal pressure had set in, I was ready to release baby into the world!
The nurses moved me onto the bed and I sat up to birth very similarly to Lucas. This time, I wasn't completely exhausted. The lights were dimmed. The nurses and awesome midwife (Heather Lemon) gave me space to breathe baby downward when I wanted, and offered permission to rest during a contraction.
Our doula arrived about 20 minutes before I pushed Lilly out. Although it may seem like she wasn't there for much. The comfort in knowing someone on our team was on their way - with no alliance to anyone but us was reassuring for myself and Jon.
I was able to bring Lilly up to my chest for skin-to-skin right away. No words besides euphoric are descriptive enough. This is what birthing is about! (I felt a similar sense of release and relief with Lucas, but since everyone was calm and Lilly could lay on my chest right away, it had a greater impact.)
They let the cord stop pulsating before having Jon cut it. A lactation consultant popped in and out the whole time I was there (24 hours.) It was such an empowering experience to birth Lilly.
Shortly after having Lilly on my chest, a nurse came to my side, saying 'thank you.' I was like, for what? You all helped me! She shared that she had never seen a truly non-intervened childbirth in person. This experience opened her up to a world she didn't know existed.
Once she shared this with me I knew I had to keep reaching people in their childbearing years. It's not okay for a labor and delivery nurse to only see medicated births from low risk, healthy birthers.
Yoga is my medium, and I couldn't turn away from it after hearing from this nurse. My births have propelled me to support all birth-givers, birthing in all ways to feel empowered, knowledgeable, and trusting of their decisions.