How I came to love the hospital birth that I didn’t want, Part 2

We’re picking up, right where I left off last time–in the hospital, having rhythmic and mild contractions after taking Misoprostol and feeling vindicated for choosing to be induced after the baby’s heart decelerations returned with my contractions. Between the oxygen and IV fluids they gave me, the baby recovered beautifully, and we all tucked in for some sleep around midnight.

(In the event none of this makes sense to you and/or you’d like to know the back story, here’s Part 1, in all its glory.)

Four hours after I took Misoprostol, the doctor suggested that we add Pitocin to my IV drip. My cervix had dilated to 2.5 centimeters with the help of the Miso, and Pitocin would likely continue that process. If the baby had more decelerations, we could always turn the Pitocin down or completely off (which is not an option with the Misoprostol pills). She made this suggestion at 2:00 am.  My partner, A, asked her if we could start the Pitocin in the morning, after more sleep and some breakfast. “Sure,” she replied, casually.  And with that, he earned me 4 hours of sleep and a big plate of eggs, bacon and toast to fuel my labor.

(Why a doctor who specializes in helping women have babies would not think of this small adjustment on her own, I’ll never know. But I’ve found in my own births and as a doula that when you ask if you can have more time to make a decision or, say, a few hours sleep, or some food before engaging in one of the most taxing experiences known to human kind, the doctor often says “Sure.”)

My doula, C showed up at 9:00 am. We started Pitocin at 9:45, and contractions were strong enough that I wanted to get out of bed by 11. My preferred method for coping with contractions: I wanted to be on the birth ball, leaning back into someone. With each contraction, I would go limp and slump forward into a still, silent lump. And then I would just tunnel into my uterus. The center of all that pain and energy and power. I would think of lightening.

I’d envision this.


It’s a card from a deck of goddess cards my friend A gave me—and when I’m feeling particularly lost or confused, I’ll draw one. So that’s what I did before we started the Pitocin. I happened to draw the Mayan goddess of childbirth, Ixchel (whose name I still don’t know how to pronounce). Score.

Between contractions I felt pretty blissed out. I’d look around at my midwife, my doula, the nurses and tell them all how beautiful they were. At one point, I smiled and cooed, “I love pitocin.” (I’d also like to mention that I knew to look for the bliss between contractions because of Nancy Bardacke’s masterful way of explaining labor in pages 86-89 of her book, Mindful Birthing.)

When contractions got stronger, I got into the shower with A and did my whole birth-ball-still-and-silent thing. When we got out of the shower at 2:35 pm, I confessed to my doula that I was starting to want the labor to be over—and she said, “Yeah, since you got into the shower your contractions have started to space out a bit, so I think you’re having more time to think.” Somehow, that helped.

Ten minutes later, at 2:45, they checked me, and my cervix was dilated to 5 cm. I know better than most that dilation numbers are meaningless–women can stay at 5 cm for 10 hours or go from 5 cm to having a baby in their arms in 30 minutes–but I was still deflated. Then I had a fierce contraction while I was lying in the bed. It wrapped all the way around my hips and down my legs. When it subsided, I told my doula, “That one made me want an epidural.”

With that, I got out of the bed, back on the ball, and thus began the “never-ending contractions” portion of my labor. They rolled in, one after another, hardly a break between. And my still, silent meditation became the still, bellowing moose meditation. It was mind-blowing. To be certain, there was no time to think between contractions.

Fifty minutes after my 5 cm cervical check, and I heard my own power moans turn into pushy grunts. With the first mammoth grunt, my water broke. My midwife laughed and said, “The baby’s right there,” and I reached down and felt the wet toadstool squish of head. In the next few moments, in the stillness between contractions, and as I felt my body gathering up its power into pushing the baby out, an earth-shaking awe flooded my senses. It was as close to terror as I’ve ever been without being terrified. I was laying back, head turned to the side. I could see my doula’s blue eyes and the black plastic side of the computer screen next to me. My eyes were focused to the tiniest pinpoint and wide, all-encompassing, to take in the gravity of the timeless, massive, awe-inspiring place where I was.  My body trembled on the edge and at the center of a shocking and immense moment beyond time.

I pushed with my own instinct and then with the urgings of my midwife. And in 6 minutes, I felt this immensely hard, huge, lumpy head fill up and then come out of my vagina. (There’s really no other way to put it.) And then I pushed out a shoulder. And then I opened my eyes and reached down to grab this warm slippery thing, and bring his body up to my chest.

And that’s how it happened.

Had I known beforehand that this is the birth I would have–in the hospital, induced, pitocin, the works–I would have cringed with disappointment and sadness. On this side of things, I feel aglow and triumphant. What a tumble into the space of letting go! Once I was able to shed my own hopes and expectations, I was just left with what was:

  • my steady and balanced partner A, who should really consider moonlighting as a doula
  • the doula of my dreams, C, who helped me through with her presence and humor
  • my midwife, with her remarkable skill and empathy
  • a rotating array of hospital nurses, midwives and obstetricians, all of whom listened and worked with us towards the birth we wanted
  • baby C’s incredible body
  • my incredible body

It was a beautiful birth.


20 thoughts on “How I came to love the hospital birth that I didn’t want, Part 2

  1. Love and admire your mindfulness, AHM. What a great and triumphant birth story.

    I had to share, too, that when I got to the part about the doctor suggesting you start Pitocin at 2 a.m. and A having the foresight to say no, I started nodding my head vigorously. When I was in the hospital after my ordeal last January, the night nurse came in at 4:45 a.m. and suggested we go for a walk around the halls. My response? “Can we please wait til morning so I can GO BACK TO SLEEP NOW??” Luckily, she agreed.

  2. Great blow by blow description. Glad it all worked out. Maybe more importantly, how wonderful you feel as though you and your support gang made the correct decisions.

    Have you ever seen any of those videos where men are subjected to artificial labor experience?

    Here’s a long list of them….…0.0…

    Nearly all can’t take it. Pitiful while pretty funny at the same time. Hopefully, they will have new respect and support for all birthing women after their experience.

    Hope all is going well.

    1. yes! i’ve seen one made by a couple of dutch guys. so funny, pitiful, interesting. Somehow, I’m assuming that when men are experiencing simulated birth that their bodies don’t necessarily kick them into endorphin bliss land between contractions…and that certainly helps…

  3. Follow up….since there are scads of videos on that link, I have picked out this one as a great example….

    ……and he doesn’t make it past 3 1/2 hours….on behalf of all mankind, we surrender and salute all birthing moms.

  4. These are the dangers of vilifying any method of birth. I tell pregnant friends (who ask!) that it’s important to be open to every option, because you never know what will happen or what will feel right at the time. I planned for an unmedicated birth center birth. I ended up with an induction, an epidural and a c-section. And you know what? If I had to choose, I’d do it exactly the same way again! Congrats!

    1. love it that you feel that way about your birth, laura. I always tell my doula clients and friends (who ask! 🙂 ) that its so much less about WHAT happens and so much MORE about the process, how decisions are made, that contributes to how women feel about their birth.

  5. This is so beautiful! Congrats, congrats, congrats!

    Also, the name of the Mayan birth goddess is pronounced “Ish-chel” (the X makes a sh or ch sound.)

  6. Very beautiful!
    I’m sure that my last birth experience could have been much easier if the CNM had agreed to a desperately needed nap. I only asked for 2 hours and nothing was wrong, baby sounded perfect and was bouncing around, it was just that my water had broke early in a long, slow labor. She was so adamant that pitocin had to be started right then that I left the hospital while she got the on call ob presumably to discuss a needless c-section. I had taken the cytotec too, but it didn’t work quickly enough for the CNM. I ended up at a different hospital wIith a needless epidural less than an hour before my baby was born. The up side of this experience is that it has led me 10 years later to pursue midwifery (as a CPM for out of hospital births) as a career.

  7. Your words were deeply moving to me. I had to stop and re-read several times your sentence “It was as close to terror as I’ve ever been without being terrified.” I work as a nurse-midwife in a busy hospital based practice, and hope with all my heart I support the women I care for stay open to the transformative power of birth, that you express so eloquently.

    1. Pam, I love it that you zoomed in on that sentence. It took me ages to write because it was so hard to capture the enormity of my experience in that moment. Those words were as close as I could get! Thank you so much for the work you do and the heart you put into it. ❤

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