Sunday, November 14, 2010

Our Birth Story, A Novel by Amanda Lauro

Since the way we decided to have Miles was a little different than the norm, I figured it would be worth mentioning here for anyone interested.  Please be warned that this blog post is more like a novel.  I really do apologize for the ridiculous length, but I wanted to make sure to record every detail so I would always be able to remember exactly how everything happened.  You have been warned.

Can you believe there's a baby in there?

Tony and I enjoying our alone time before Miles came to change everything!
From the moment I found out I was pregnant I started doing research on everything.  Google was my number one source of information, followed closely by Amazon -- where I would search for baby books and read every review to pick my favorites and most helpful.  But my best find was actually very random on one of my favorite blogs – Dooce.  She posted a link to a book called Your Best Birth and explained how at first she (like everyone else) thought the notion of a natural childbirth was whacked-out crazy.  But after reading this book she completely changed her mind.  She pointed out that (obviously) natural childbirth is not for every woman but that the book has a ton of information every pregnant woman should at least know.  The one thing that I’ve heard from so many first time mothers is that things were either not explained to them thoroughly, during pregnancy and/or childbirth, and that they felt that they were not really given choices. Doctors will tell you they are giving you this drug or going to do this procedure on you now – but they will make some things seem like necessity when they could very well be optional.  Your Best Birth does a great job of explaining the birthing process and what all the options are.  I would say it’s a must read for any pregnant women.  Not to push natural childbirth, but simply to answer all the questions that you don’t even know to ask.

Like I mentioned before, I spoke with so many women who regretted one or two things from their birthing experience.  Before getting pregnant I would have thought  - big deal, you’re fine and so is your baby so what's the big deal?  And most women do come to terms with what's happened.  They realize that they have a happy, healthy baby and ultimately that’s all that matters.  But things are different when you are the one having the baby.  Birth feels like your very first step into motherhood and you want it to be right, just as you picture it in your head. 

With all that in mind we started seeing an OBGYN at Presby Plano.  We explained to her my goal of having a natural childbirth and she seemed a little blasĂ© about it, but mostly supportive.  The appointments took hours at a time, but she was nice enough.  However, the more I went to see her the more I realized that she could care less about my baby, this birth, or me.  Of course she wanted it to go well, but to her that simply meant that we all live and that she can make it home for dinner on time.  During my appointments she talked to me through her laptop.  She was trying to be efficient and type notes during the appointment, but with her face in her laptop the entire time I really got the feeling that I was just another dollar to her.  Because of that I started researching Birthing Centers and found the Allen Birthing Center.  Tony and I made an appointment, toured and immediately fell in love!  The place is everything we were dreaming of.  Very professional and clean, everyone is so nice, the appointments are always on time, the CNM (Certified Nurse Midwives) are all experts and they actually listen to you.  They ask things about your family, your life, your marriage and your birth plan.  They want you to have the birth that you want and they realize how important it is.  So we made the switch. 

When I told my family that we were going to a birthing center instead of a hospital there was quite a bit of shock and worry.  The birthing center is located in a beautiful house in a small neighborhood.  It is very close to a hospital in case of emergencies, however there are no doctors there.  I thought my poor mother was going to have a heart attack.  Tony, however, was on board from the get go.  It was his idea, in fact, for me to try water birth.  He realized that women have been giving birth since long before hospitals and anesthesia, so a natural childbirth did not sound scary to him in anyway.  Not to mention that the midwives made us both feel so comfortable there was no reason to worry.

So, after reassuring everyone that this was really what I wanted to do and that things were going to be okay we just played the waiting game for Miles to come out.  And he wanted us to wait until the VERY last second possible.
At a doctors office getting a non-stress test since Miles was 2 weeks late.

Two weeks and several cases of false labor later – on Thursday July 29th I started having very strong contractions.  We had an appointment at the Center and when we showed up I desperately asked if I could take Castor Oil to make sure that things progressed.  After some stripping of membranes (yuck) and a blessing for castor oil we were off to Wal-Mart!  Let me just mention – contractions really hurt in the car and I could not be more grateful for my husband by my side every minute to hold my hand and listen to me complain. 

So even though I was having some contractions that morning, I start the countdown around noon that Thursday when I took the castor oil.  And Miles made us wait 36 more hours before he was born!  A side note on castor oil (in case you ever have to do it) -- definitely take it mixed with a Slimfast.  And definitely be near a bathroom for the rest of the day.  And, in an effort to go ahead and share way too much information, I cleaned my system out so much that day that I did NOT poop during delivery.  You’re welcome Tony.

So, Thursday went by with contractions every 7 to 8 minutes.  Painful contractions every 7 to 8 minutes.  All night long, with my poor husband walking circles in our loft with me, stopping for almost every contraction to rub my back and comfort me.  From noon until 6 am Friday morning nothing changed.  18 HOURS!!  And they had drilled it into our heads – “do not come in to the birthing center if your contractions are not 4 minutes apart, we will send you home.”  But by 6 AM Friday morning I was desperate.  So I called Becky at the birthing center and she said to go ahead and come in, she would to see what she could do to help.  She had slept at the Center waiting for me to call because she was sure I’d be in labor after that castor oil.  So in we went.  More painful contractions in the car.  More stripping of the membranes.  And then Becky orders us to go and enjoy one last breakfast out. 

This is one of my favorite things about the birthing center.  At a hospital so much would have been different.  Probably most importantly they would have taken the baby out by c-section about 2 weeks before all this happened.  But most certainly I would never have been sitting in Mimi’s CafĂ© that Friday morning -- two weeks overdue, eating some oatmeal between contractions, people staring at me wondering if I was going to give birth in that back booth -- had I not been going to the birthing center.

After breakfast, which was pretty miserable for me but necessary for Tony, we went back to the center for the longest day of my life.  A day of waiting and walking. 

We walked circles around that center.  Circles around the bed.  Up and down the stairs more than a hundred times.  Around the neighborhood (although it was beyond sweltering out). Around and around the patio (where I got a text from my nephew telling me that he just found out he was going to have a baby also!!).  We walked and walked and walked… and at one point I turned to Tony at the bottom of the staircase and apologized for this BORING day that seemed like it would never end.  I was bored out of my mind and I though that surely he must be going insane.  He very kindly told me that this was far from boring and to please not worry about him.

Well, around 3 PM Becky had finally given up on me and had to leave, her shift was up.  Amy, another CNM, was on call that weekend and she was there to help me finish with everything.  I really wanted to be devastated.  I LOVED Becky so much.  She is the nicest midwife you could ever hope to have and we just didn’t know Amy as well we knew and loved Becky.  I wanted to be devastated, but there was just no time or room for any emotion beyond feeling those contractions and praying for things to speed up. 

But my progression was just still SO mind numbingly slow!  They kept checking me and stripping more membranes and I was just changing by half centimeters at a time. So there I am pacing around this four-poster bed, stopping every 6 minutes to writhe in pain on a birthing ball, or lean on the bed, or grip the poster for support and SCREAM in pain for 2 minutes, while Tony walks with me timing each contraction, playing all my favorite music and supporting my every move.

Finally sweet Amy comes in and says very kindly, “You might want to focus more of your energy on the contraction and less on screaming.”  And I, being the type of person that hates authority, now just want to scream louder.  But there’s something about being in labor for days that makes you re-evaluate things.  So she leaves Tony and me alone and I immediately take her advice.  I remembered all the books I’d read, and the suggestions in them, and I imagine the contraction as a wave of pain that I’m riding.  And I’m on top of the wave.  Over and over again I’m riding these waves and breathing slowly.  And as cheesy as that just sounded, it totally works.  Tony thought the contractions had stopped coming on as strong, but in fact they were finally progressing even more. 

At this point it’s about 5 or 6 PM and my contractions are finally around 4 minutes apart.  Amy checks me again and finally gives me some good news -- it was time to get in the tub!  Nature’s epidural, as so many women like to call it.  Well they must have been smoking crack if they thought this was in any way like an epidural.  Don’t get me wrong.  The water felt great.  The weightlessness was so helpful.  The warmth was really soothing.  But the contractions were just as bad as ever!  Tony got in with me to help support me.  But by that time I was so sore and so tired there was not much he could do to comfort me -- he could barely even touch me, I was in so much pain.  But even though he couldn’t do much, the second he went to the kitchen for 2 minutes to eat some food I panicked without him.  His presence meant everything to me; I could barely manage a minute of it without his support.

So we spent several hours in the tub swaying back forth with each contraction to help with the pain.  The swaying really helped and relaxed me so much that I kept falling asleep in between contractions.  Amy suggested that if I was that tired, I could take a break and try to nap some on the bed.  I just remember thinking – has she lost her mind?  These contracts are surely going to interrupt my naptime.  Not to mention that there is no way I want to delay this now.
But at this time I was also thinking, this baby is never coming out. He’s two weeks late, I’ve been in labor for so long now – it’s obviously not happening for me.  I just kept waiting for Amy to finally call it quits and call the hospital to tell them that we were coming.  Every time she checked me (which wasn’t often) I was just a half-centimeter difference than before.  Still progressing, but soooooooo sloooooooowly.  She then suggested that I start swaying side to side instead of back and forth to see if that would help.  I thought, whatever lady – like the direction of my swaying is going to make any difference.  But right then she proved to me the reason we had chose a Midwife instead of a doctor. They truly are experts at childbirth.  Some side to side swaying and three contractions later and I literally felt Miles’ feet move from my right ribs - to in between my ribs.  He was finally in the locked and loaded position.  And I was ready to push.

I told Amy that I felt the need to push so she checked me again and said it wasn’t time, I was only a little over 9 cm.  I didn’t really know what to think, but it’s so crazy at this point that I have no energy to argue.  Except that one contraction later and I have to tell her again – I really feel like I have to push.  She relents and says to go ahead and push, she is going to try to stretch me to 10 cm manually while I’m pushing!  WHOA NELLY!!  Were you even ready for that kind of detail?!?  I really should have warned you about that, shouldn’t I have?  Well, you think that was shocking to read.  Try actually doing it! 

Warning: if you thought the stretching thing was an over share you might want to skip to the last paragraph right now!  Things are about to get even more intense.

So she stretches me, it works and a few pushes later I’m starting to feel A HEAD DOWN THERE WHERE THERE SHOULD DEFINITELY NOT BE A HEAD!! 

I’m squatting in the tub and feeling this insane pressure.  And at this point I realize that it is WAY to late to be sent to the hospital for any pain medicines and I am more than a little bummed about this.  This HEAD WHERE THERE SHOULD NOT BE A HEAD is hurting like hell.  So I push with every possible bit of strength I can muster after 30-some hours of labor and I scream like every movie scene of labor you’ve ever seen.  And Tony and Amy and the nurse are all there cheering me on, saying the nicest things they can and giving me the encouragement I really need at this point. I push for about 25 minutes and then Amy suggests that I get out of the water and try to finish pushing on the bed.  Which is fine by me at this point.  The water was supposed to be a pain reliever and it’s done all it can do for me now.  Nothing is helping this final bit of pain so -- bed, water, or the moon -- I could care less about where I push.  So out we go.  Tony, thankfully, close by every second.  And I don’t know if everyone knows this (but I did not before watching too many labor videos on youtube) but you are pushing with a head “there” for an average of TWO HOURS.  There is a head where there most definitely should not be one for FOREVER!  And knowing this, I pushed like nobody's business.

Once on the bed things got even crazier.  Amy took out some oils and started to help “stretch things out” as I was pushing.  At this point she again suggested that I stop screaming and use all my energy to push.  I took any suggestion I could and shut the heck up and pushed harder than I could imagine possible.  The nurse asked me if I wanted to feel the baby’s head with my hand to “encourage me” and I wanted to punch her in the face.  I can already FEEL the head PRETTY WELL WHERE IT IS THANK YOU VERY MUCH, I HAVE NO DESIRE TO TOUCH IT!  I actually saw her smirk at my reply, but there was no time to kill her, I was still pretty busy. 

Then Amy asked Tony if he could see well enough and I almost bit his head off – he was under strict orders to NOT watch what was going on down there.  Everyone took a moment to laugh at that during my next big push.  And again, there just wasn’t the time I needed to even bother getting upset.  I pushed a few more times and finally felt the most relief you can ever imagine.  Miles was out!  45 minutes after I started pushing. At 12:54 AM, July 31st!  As Amy pulled him from me to place him on my chest he pooped all over me.  But I couldn’t even be bothered to care.  I had been waiting SO long to meet him. I was in shock that he was finally here. My first words were “so that’s what you look like.” He was purple and wrinkly, his skin was flaky, and his hair was so dark.  Tony and I watched in amazement as he took his first breaths with wide eyes.  He was drinking us in as much as we were drinking him in.  All three of us could not stop staring at each other.  Miles and I hugged for the first time while Tony cut the cord.  The nurses cleaned us both up, taking him only for a brief second to wrap him in blankets then handing him back to Tony while Amy struggled with my placenta. 

Nothing can ever go smoothly for me.  Two weeks late and 36 hours of labor wasn’t bad enough.  After all the pain of natural childbirth, my placenta was stuck.  To avoid making this long story even longer – I almost had to go to the hospital anyway, Amy is forever my hero for finally getting it out, and removing the placenta was more painful than the actual childbirth.

But one hour later Tony, Miles and I were all curled up together in bed staring at one another in amazement. Tony and I were both in shock that Miles was actually here.  Everyone was beyond exhausted.  The nurses left all three of us to sleep around 3 AM, but as exhausted as I was there was no way I would sleep with this beautiful baby boy finally here for me to stare at. 

Tony rested some, but finally at 6 AM I woke him and asked if we could start getting ready to go.  We both showered.  Mine shower was very slow and slightly awkward with the nurse staring at me the entire time.  I was so tired and shaky though that I really appreciated the help.  I even grew to love her as she helped me pee for the first time.  Here I was crying over a little stinging after I had just gone through the most painful thing of my life, but she was so understanding and helpful.

By 8 AM all three of us were in the car on our way home.  I desperately wanted to get into my own bed and stare at this beautiful boy for as long as possible.  And all he did was stare back.  It was truly amazing to see this newborn baby as wide-awake as he was; more alert than any newborn I had ever seen.  He was wrinkly, peeling from head to toe, scrawny and he looked like an old man – but I have never seen, and may never see, anything more beautiful.

And that’s the end.  We were home barely 8 hours after Miles was born and I was groggy and exhausted until around Sunday evening.  By Sunday I got my second wind and actually felt better than I would have expected.  I was under strict orders for bed rest until Tuesday, and I took full advantage, but I could not believe how good I felt.  Natural childbirth definitely isn’t for everyone.  And I had many moments of doubt during the actual pain of it, but I think that’s to be expected.  However, once everything was done the pain was easily forgotten and the only thing that mattered was the beautiful healthy baby in my arms.  And I will forever be grateful to my wonderful husband Tony, Amy, Becky and Kathleen the best midwife I’ve ever known, Dooce, Your Best Birth, and the Allen Birthing Center for the fact that Miles is here safe and sound and I was able to birth him with no regrets!


  1. Amanda thank u for sharing this story. You are an amazing writer and the fact u can remember all those details is amazing!!! I feel very inspired by your story and am sure others will be as well

  2. After 15 years of infertility and pregnancy loss, when I finally got pregnant (and stayed pregnant!) I just wanted the baby HERE...I didn't care how he showed up. But now I regret not doing my due diligence and researching more about natural methods. We got an epidural and I stalled out at 7 cm and ended up having an emergency C-section. And of course, another C-section with blessing #2. God designed my body to do this job and I regret not allowing it to do what it's supposed to do. :-( BUT...just so you know...your story is SO inspiring to me! Loved reading it!