Today is my oldest niece’s birthday, and the first grandchild of our family, so I thought I’d give her birth story (from my perspective).
My sister had planned a natural birth — that is, she intended on giving birth without any drugs. She did not take any childbirth classes, read few if any books, didn’t ask about her hospital’s policies or procedures, just assumed that since billions of women for thousands of years have been giving birth without the aid of narcotics, that she’d be able to do it too.
When my sister went into labor, there was a lot of snow on the ground — for us in Mississippi, anyway! We were actually able to build a snowman about as tall as we were, which has happened maybe two or three other times in my life (the other few occasions we had a lot of snow, it didn’t pack together well). So, when it became obvious that the contractions were regular and not going away, my sister and her husband headed to the hospital. There was none of this, “stay at home as long as possible” because not only was there snow on the ground, but also the hospital of their choice was about 90 minutes away in good condition. They wanted to leave in plenty of time because they weren’t sure if the roads were going to be treacherous with the snow, and wanted to make sure they didn’t have to drive fast and end up in a wreck, or hit an icy patch and spin out. (The roads were actually fine, once you got on the highway.) When she got to the hospital, they wouldn’t admit her because she wasn’t 4 cm dilated yet, so she went to her in-laws’ house to wait. And wait. Eventually, she dilated enough, so they admitted her.
Once she was admitted, she was made to be on continuous monitoring (although I don’t think there was a medical reason for it — she hadn’t been given any pain medication, and I don’t think she was given Pitocin until much later). At one point, she had to use the bathroom, but they wouldn’t take the monitor off. Nor did they bring her a bed-pan. Finally, she unstrapped herself and relieved herself, and the nurse came in and chided her for taking off the monitors and getting out of bed, because it meant that she (the nurse) had to leave the nurse’s station and come into my sister’s room to put the straps back on.
Details are a little fuzzy at this point. I know she finally got some Stadol to help with the pain, and she slept for a few hours. Her labor was over 24 hours (but I don’t remember if that included the time before they left for the hospital when she was in early labor, or just the “active” phase), much of that time was spent flat on her back. The baby was born face-up, which means that she was posterior during labor as well, meaning my sister had to deal with back labor much of that time — and perhaps all of that time. Had she been allowed to move during labor, her labor probably would have progressed faster and more smoothly, and the baby would have rotated into a better position. Instead, she followed orders and stayed in bed. Finally she got an epidural, which she said was wonderful. Her experience was so bad that she jokes that when she went into the hospital to give birth the second time, she walked in backwards, so that she could get the epidural that much faster. She pushed for four hours, and my niece was born with the worst cone-head I’ve ever seen. I guess the “good news” is that she avoided a C-section.
During labor, I might have gone into her room once; maybe twice. Our whole family was excited — first grandchild and everything — and they hadn’t found out the baby’s sex by ultrasound, so there was still the anticipation of finding out if the baby was a boy or a girl. We camped out in the waiting area. My mom was obnoxious to get in my sister’s room. I found out much later that my sister had told the nurse to keep my mom out because she didn’t want her in there. I can’t really blame her — my mom is such a “nervous Nellie” when it comes to things like this that had she been there, it probably would have gotten my sister nervous and perhaps made her labor take even longer.
Still, after the baby was born and we all went back into the room, my mom had a legitimate reason to complain. My sister’s mother-in-law — actually her husband’s stepmother, so no blood relation at all — got to the baby first and held her before my mom did. Of course my mom didn’t say anything, but she didn’t like it.
Main lesson I learned from this: if you plan a natural birth in the hospital, you must put forth some effort and do some homework if you actually wish to succeed. My sister might have been able to accomplish giving birth without pain medication under the circumstances related above just be sheer grit and determination; but it wouldn’t have been a pleasant experience, and probably not an empowering one. Had she done some reading and learning beforehand, she would probably have had enough strength to ignore the nurses’ commands to stay in bed, and instead would have labored in a way that was more comfortable to her. But, she was a “good little girl,” and followed orders. Consequently, she had a horrible birth experience, which ultimately was unnecessary.