|The Unassisted Birth Story of: Jessica Lynnae:
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This is the miraculous unassisted birth story of Jessica Lynnae. I say miraculous because my husband and I have been challenged in our faith, our trust in each other and our trust in God; and through it, we have experienced a new, deeper connection of love in our marriage that we did not have before, and we have a new found respect and understanding of parenthood and for these precious little lives that have been entrusted to us. Though many of you may not agree or understand our reasons for giving birth unassisted, we hope that this story will, at the very least, open your eyes to the simplicity of life and how giving birth is not dangerous or pathological; Jerry and I believe that most complications are usually caused by the influence/laws or control of or from doctors, nurses and even midwifes. I know that there are good doctors out there and terrific midwives, but they are getting scarce, and though they may be "experts" in their field, they still do not compare to, or replace, the importance of the husband and wife together in the birthing process. Forethought
The birth of my third daughter Amy left me with a horrible, empty feeling. I felt robbed, cheated, even emotionally raped by medicine. But I didn't fully understand why I felt that way until some time later. The birth, by most people's standard was perfect. I went to the hospital early into labor, got my epidural and had her within six hours painlessly. In fact, we were watching television until the very moment I pushed her out. The nurses took her away for tests, the doctor left (his job was done) and clean up began on me before I even had a chance to see her. I repeatedly asked to hold her but was told "Almost…she's almost done". Finally she was in my arms bundled up so tightly I could barely see her face. And when I went to unwrap her, the nurse said, "Don't let my baby get cold" as she thwarted my efforts to see her little body. The experience wasn't "mine", nor did this precious little life feel like it was mine to care for. It was surreal. I felt as though "I" was the one in the way. Then a low level of jaundice made what should have been a two-day hospital stay turn into five. Three of those days were spent looking at her from the other side of a glass cage where she received phototherapy. I felt so alone during those days. No one called to see how I was doing and no one came to visit. It wasn't until after I got home that I realized most people assumed I had been home days ago. I was even discharged from the hospital on the fourth day and told that I could remain with the baby, just not to expect any care from the nursing staff. I couldn't even get a Tylenol pill that last day. I suppose I was lucky they fed me. My husband was home caring for the other children desperately waiting for us to come home. But I was a ghost. And I felt as though I was at the mercy of a doctor who had the power to make me stay another day if he "thought it was best". Motivated by insurance money; the doctor had very little interest in how being away from my natural surroundings was affecting me and my baby. Undignified and forgotten I slipped into depression. When I finally got home I tried to put the experience out of my mind so I could focus on the baby and the other children, but what lingered was the feeling that somehow I had been cheated out of something. I was angry and wasn't filled with the joy I should have felt when I looked at my new daughter. But I eventually put it past me and began to move on. It wasn't until I was pregnant again that those feelings came flooding back over me.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that each one of my pregnancies and births were missing something. Each had a lack of completion or satisfaction. Each one seemed somewhat anti-climactic. But even worse they seemed wrong. Like a violation of my freedom and a loss of dignity. But, why did I need to be satisfied? What was supposed to be different? Some would say 'you have a baby' and that should be enough! When you get pregnant, you go to the hospital, get drugs, and then have a baby completely numbed from the experience. That's what's supposed to happen right? I can't count how many times I have heard from women, "just give me drugs". But that was not what I wanted anymore. I wanted to feel it. This was my fifth pregnancy and yet I didn't know what it felt like to have a baby. Something about that was just wrong to me. But when you go to your prenatal appointments it is assumed that this baby was an accident at best, it is treated as though it were a disease and the woman should go along with whatever the 'expert' prescribes her. I mean, what right did I have to ask my doctor uncomfortable questions? And God forbid I may disagree with any procedure. I asked my OB once if he had to put the erythromycin in the baby's eyes after birth and he said YES "It's the law!" Well after some research it certainly was NOT the law. When I told him that I did not want the epidural this time (he had delivered my last baby), he tossed the prescription at me and said, "Well…I told you".
Where is it taught that the birth experience should be rewarding for father, mother and child? Where is it taught that a woman has a choice? It's kind of ironic that I have more rights when it comes to killing my baby than I do giving birth to her. Our society has made birth so damn clinical and academic that life is merely a byproduct of sex, not a desired part of marriage anymore. The life has been taken out of giving life.
Well…20 months after Amy was born, we found ourselves pregnant again and I knew that I would not step one foot inside the hospital unless my life or the baby's depended on it. I would rather give birth in a bush than anywhere close to a hospital again if I had anything to say about it. My husband didn't know why I didn't want to be in the hospital again because as far as he was concerned, they were quick, relatively painless with drugs and pretty good overall. What he didn't know was how I felt emotionally for the months that followed. It is usually just assumed that post partum depression is "normal". It is also assumed that this depression is caused by the baby not the doctor or the hospital experience.
It was never easy for me to put into words how I felt at the time, but I knew that giving birth should not make me depressed. This precious baby was not the reason for my depression. Giving birth should be a birthing of my own spirit to connect with this little life that has grown inside my body, nourished by a force that I have no control of. I should be elated and empowered by such an awesome event in my life. In a sense, I should be 'birthed into motherhood'. I don't care if it's pregnancy #1 or #15, I will always be a "new" mother to that child. But that had not happened to me yet. While I became pretty resolute with my decision, my DH was not quite so quick to jump on board. He was unsure for our safety and understandably a little nervous at the thought of a DIY birth. He said he would feel safer if there was a midwife there, so I agreed to at least meet one. We have several in our area that come highly recommended so I made an appointment. But after leaving her office, we knew that she wasn't the kind of person we wanted to share this with. We didn't feel comfortable with her at all. I had heard that she was a very "strong personality", but I was very turned off by the way she seemed to devalue Jerry's participation in the birth. I wanted HER on the bench watching and Jerry on the field, but she was quick to say that she would "let" him participate, but had the right to "bench" him if she felt the need. Then, after calling and talking to a few more midwifes in our area; I realized that this was becoming a familiar theme. If I wanted them, it had to be their way. Finally I was able to convince Jerry that we didn't NEED this. We are two capable and responsible people. I am not a high risk pregnancy and I didn't want a stranger in my house (much less between my legs) for what should be an intimate thing between us alone. He agreed and began to read all the books I gave him.
I was still seeing my OB for prenatal "scare", but knew I shouldn't tell him because he already had a very bad bedside manner and I didn't want him to complicate things. But by my 7th month I just walked out of his office disgusted by his total lack of interest in my questions or concerns and I never returned. I knew I didn't want anything to do with him and he had no right to be at my birth. His office never contacted me. I just walked out and it was as if I had never been there. Pathetic! (I found out afterwards that before he had become an OB "doctor" he was a radio DJ. Why was I not surprised?)
We did consider having Jerry's sister come out for the birth because of her experience and training, but logistics were a concern (she lived in California and us in Oklahoma). So we eventually decided that we wanted this to just be an intimate thing between the two of us. But she graciously offered to be available to us on the phone to answer any questions we may have.
We told a few people in our family and church, but knew that it would not be a popular thing to tell just anyone. Even people we trusted labeled us as "radical", and since we were the only ones we knew of that had ever wanted such a thing, we pretty much just kept it to ourselves. When we did tell anyone (big mistake), they thought we were being reckless and foolish and proceeded to tell us a myriad of tragic stories with questions like…"what if your baby DIES?" (As if we hadn't thought of that one already). So we just continued to let everyone think that a midwife was coming so we could avoid further Q & A. We had to protect ourselves from the harsh criticism we were being faced with so that we could deal with our own fears and doubts without dealing with everyone else's fears and doubts; or unsolicited advice. So we separated ourselves from the negative comments and focused on our trust in each other and in God. My biggest support came from my sister-in-law and the many great web sites and books on unassisted birth and I am so grateful that those women shared their stories with me. I knew that I wasn't alone, and I WASN'T crazy for wanting it this way!
Jerry and I had gone to bed rather late that night and I rolled into bed after a movie at about midnight. I was complaining of a slight back ache, but had been for weeks I suppose so I didn't think anything of it. In our birth class (BIG waste of money), the instructor had marveled at the wonderful chemical in sperm that works to soften the cervix. So, of course THAT became the primary reason for sex in those last weeks…LOL. We had just finished making love and Jerry was snuggling behind me; and just as we both began to doze off I heard a "snap" and felt a gush of fluid. I said "ooooh boy!" And Jerry (who usually falls asleep faster than me), said he heard it and we both sat up. We knew that my water had just broke. He sprung out of bed and said "OK…let's do this!" with the biggest grin I have ever seen on his face. He helped me to my feet and the side of the bed was wet, as well as my legs, so he went to get a towel. I immediately felt the first "REAL" contraction. It wasn't unbearable, but definitely NOT a BX. By the time he showed up with the towel I was trembling. This was going to be my first birth without an epidural, without a doctor, without any of the things I was "used" to. So I was admittedly a little nervous. Jerry, seeing this, came over to me and caressed my shoulders and calmed me down. He had encouraging words and offered a prayer then kissed me and went to get the phone. We had prayed before, that we would have the baby while the other children were asleep, and God mercifully answered our prayers. My water broke at 12:15 am.
Jerry was on the phone with his sister followed by others that we had promised to call no matter what the time was, while I walked around the bedroom feeling the contractions become increasingly stronger and closer together. I lay down in the bed on my left side for a while, but became really uncomfortable. I thought it was because of the increased contractions though instead of my position. Jerry would check on me frequently while he hooked the hose up to the washer and dryer so he could fill the pool we had set up in the garage; and when he saw me in so much pain he said I should get up. At that point it hurt so bad I didn't think I could get up. But he grabbed my arm and helped me get up…I immediately felt better. I commented to him about how "programmed" I was to be lying in bed during labor and how much better it felt to be up. I got on my hands and knees for several more contractions and they were much easier to deal with than when I was on the bed. When the pool was filled I climbed in. We had bought a high-sided kiddy pool from Toys-R-Us for $20 which was just the right size for Jerry and me to both fit inside (plus I knew that the other children would have fun swimming in it after it was washed out)
Jerry put on some worship music and dimmed the lamp we had put in the garage. It was middle of June and the temperature was perfect. It was even somewhat romantic, only we were about to have a baby instead of dinner! The pool water was a little cool, so Jerry went to boil some water on the stove since the water heater was empty. I was on my hands and knees inside the pool working through each contraction as they got stronger and stronger. At one point I remember thinking that these were getting too hard and I wasn't sure if I could do it anymore. I voiced this to Jerry who was on the phone again with his sister, and she told him that it was a good sign. I was irritated that he was on the phone though, I wanted him to be right with me, but I couldn't say anything. At this point I was moaning through the contractions (apparently pretty loud). Then, as Jerry poured the warmer water in the pool, he noticed that I was holding my breath at the end of each contraction for a few seconds and I seemed to be pushing. "What are you dooooing?" he asked. "I'm pu-sh-ing" I said. It felt sooo good! Jerry's sister was telling him that it would probably be a while yet, but he replied "Ummmm…I don't know…I think she's pushing".
It wasn't really painful but rather like having the slow dry heaves only I wasn't sick. I was just reacting to my body. My uterus knew what to do and the baby responded quickly to this and the head moved down into the birth canal and I started to push a little harder. The force of my uterus squeezing and the pressure of the baby's head were incredible so I yelled at him to get off the phone. He hung up, stripped off his shorts and jumped into the pool with me. I felt with my fingers at the opening of my vagina and felt a hard wrinkled piece of skin. I couldn't tell if it was part of me or the baby. The contractions were still really hard, but I felt better every time I pushed. I asked Jerry to feel what it was I was feeling with my fingers. He said it was the baby's head. "Are you serious?" I almost didn't believe him. Jerry was behind me in a quarterback position with his hand on my perineum and said he could feel the bulging of the head. Then I had a strong desire to push really hard and with it her forehead popped out. But when the contraction was over, her head slipped back in…THAT HURT! I am sure that my moaning turned into a shriek just then. He kept telling me I was doing great and that it was almost over, so I pushed and pushed again. I knew what the "ring of fire" was because of the various stories I had read, but had never felt it before myself because I had always been medicated, but I felt it just as her head was emerging. It was a burning, stretching feeling in my clitoris as my body opened the widest it ever would. I wasn't worried about ripping or tearing, I just wanted this baby out so I pushed through it; it didn't last very long. It was so intense that I pushed my body up against the side of the pool and water started to spill out into the garage. I didn't care, I had to push hard and I was using Jerry's legs as a springboard. Finally he said "The head is out". He was holding the baby's head and telling me not to go back under the water as I groaned through the pressure I was feeling. He held my butt up in the air while I pushed through the last contraction. Then, with a "GOOSH" the slippery little body slid out. I turned around and sat down and Jerry handed me the baby. I immediately looked between the legs and started to cry. We had another girl. And how precious she was! Rosy red from head to toe. Her little face looked like a swollen china man. She blinked a couple times and looked at us both then closed her eyes and seemingly went to sleep. She didn't cry, or cough or squirm. It was as if she was unaware of what had just happened. "Does she know she's been born?" I asked him laughing with tears in my eyes. It was silent and peaceful as the three of us sat there naked and speechless; tears running down Jerry's face too. After a moment I tried to move myself into a better sitting position and slipped a little. I caught my balance, but startled her awake and her little raspy cry filled the garage for a few seconds, and then she closed her eyes again in peaceful trust.
WOW! It was over. She was finally here. I brought her up to my breast but she was content just being held. Jerry got out of the pool and got some shorts on while I stayed in the pool holding her close to me with a towel over us both. Then he helped me to my feet and to a nearby chair. We were still sobbing in awe of the whole thing when we called his sister back. She said she had wanted to stay on the phone to listen, but Jerry had hung up on her in all the excitement. I sat there holding her while Jerry finished making phone calls and cleaned up some of the spilled water and blood. The moment she started to nurse I felt some very painful cramping. It got so bad that I asked Jerry to cut the cord and hold her. After he took her from me I squatted over a dishpan and the placenta came out in a "gush". I instantly felt better and was able to get up. I had so much energy. I was super charged and so excited about it all. I cleaned myself up and sat back down with her while Jerry went to wake up the other children. He woke up three year old Karen first because of how excited she had been about the whole thing; and the first thing she said was "My baby is here?" with big giggles. It was so precious. Then one by one the others were brought in to see her and then one by one they went back to bed. It was 3am.
After I got something to eat and drink, Jerry got out the digital fish scale we had bought (again, it could be used again later I thought). We laid her on the bed in a mesh laundry bag and lifted her up. She weighed a whopping 10 lbs 11oz. I had set out all her newborn clothes ahead of time, but she only fit into the 3 month outfits. She was big, pink and beautiful.
We eventually ended up back in bed with little Jessi between us like she had been for the past 9 months, only now she was sucking contently at my breast. It was a peaceful and quiet morning and just barely becoming twilight out our window. I wasn't tired at all but just laid there staring at this miracle and marveling at her little body (that wasn't so little really), while Jerry slipped into a deep sleep and started to snore. I couldn't help but think over and over how easy it had been compared to my other experiences. Yes I did feel it all, and yes it was hard work, but gloriously hard. I never felt so great after birth before! She was the biggest baby of all with no drugs, no episiotomy, no intervention and I did it, WE did it. It was so primal, so…natural.
All the times in the hospital that I had to stay in bed in one position hooked to a monitor with an IV, the constant traffic of strangers, the need to remain still and hunched over through a hard contraction while someone stuck a huge needle in my back, or for someone else to check my cervix again. How there was very little peace and much broken rest. It really was a violation; a violation to the simplicity and sanctity of it all. Love and life are truly simple; if we only let it be. I wished then that I had known this for my previous births because this felt so right. And I knew now, that we were changed forever. A peace fell over me as I lay there with my thoughts and then I fell asleep too.
This was truly a remarkable experience that will stay with us forever. Jessi was born a natural peaceful way and her little personality reflects it. She is so easy going and patient. She is nearly 2 years old now and has never seen a doctor. I am so proud of her! She also had jaundice as her sister Amy did; but we decided with a little research, to let the morning sunlight and my breast milk help expel the toxins. Her little body knew what to do too. How fearfully and wonderfully we are made indeed! And I know that if we are ever pregnant again that we will choose to do it this way. Next time I hope it is even more intimate. I would like Jerry to be with me more and on the phone less and maybe even share part of this experience with our other children if possible, but I would certainly not complain if it were just Jerry and me alone again. He is my friend, my lover, my husband, my life long partner and now my MIDWIFE!!!! LOL…..*sigh*. You did so good honey! WE did so good! I love you!
Reflections from "Dad"