On January 25th, 2019 at 2pm, bathed in warm water and showered sunlight, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl via water birth at St. Luke’s BGC.
Note: This is a blog post about how a traumatic first birth influenced my decision to “birth gently” the second time around. My medicated birth happened in Cardinal Santos, and my water birth at St. Luke’s BGC.
Now, the last time I made an entry onto my website was last year when the first symptoms of pregnancy started to take a toll on my body. This time, and very much unlike my first, I experienced headaches, migraines, extreme nausea and fatigue all within the first few weeks of my first trimester, starting when we were vacationing in Morocco. Having just recovered from a laparoscopic surgery a month prior, which removed a small grapefruit sized endometriotic-cyst from my ovary, I was totally unprepared for pregnancy. I was also totally unaware of how much one pregnancy can differ from another. With my first born, the pregnancy was easy, I had bounds of energy, and I never experienced any nausea or pains. But an easy pregnancy doesn’t mean a less traumatic birth.
My first traumatic birth
A quick replay on my first “text-book” birthing experience: I arrived 6cm dilated with little discomfort, I wanted to brith without the use of drugs, but was talked into a pitocin drip to make my contractions come stronger and faster, the artifical breaking of my water bag, an epidural, and some other Iv’s for things like dextrose. (Insert eye roll). During my labor I couldn’t eat or drink, I couldn’t stand up to walk and stretch for 6 hours, I was hooked up to a machine which was very uncomfortable around my belly and made breathing through a contraction a little bit distressing. I felt like I was being prepped for a surgical procedure!
A lot of this could’ve been avoided had I chose to water birth with my first, but I didn’t because like many first time moms, I was terrified of what to actually expect and I put 100% of my trust into my medical team rather than my own intuitions.
I do have to give credit to my OB at the time, a loving and patient woman who spent all her time making me feel as comfortable as possible after the birth, the real traumatic part. Once my son came, we were briefly given skin to skin contact, literally for a moment, while I received stitches from an episiotomy, which I was given without my consent. Then I was whisked away, and separated from my son, to a “recovery” room, even though I protested and requested to stay within reach of my baby at all times. I was “required” by the hospital to be held in a room with other recovering patients for 2 hours – with no one I knew from my family to accompany me. This was just the beginning, and I suppose was the onset of what was to be a very traumatic recovery which spiraled me into postpartum depression for the next 3 months.
Once I was in my private hospital room I could finally feel the stinging pain of the episiotomy stitches, hitting me like a bus, once the epidural wore off. And because I was STILL hooked up to an IV and had a catheter still in my spine, I couldn’t walk, sit up or stand without yelping in pain and discomfort.
When they wheeled my son into my room, it was like I hardly knew who he was…
As harsh as that sounds, imagine laying in bed with the worst pain you could imagine, too tired, too anxious, hungry and have all these hormones rushing through your body trying to stabilize themselves after being pumped with this drug and that – let alone YOU JUST GAVE BIRTH! And now, oh NOW, they expect you to feed a crying baby by shoving your tender, and if you were drugged with pitocin, swollen breasts into a tiny little mouth.
Postpartum depression & an unsuccessful breastfeeding journey
“Breast is best” – we all heard it, so naturally I was determined to give my baby the best start I could. Little did I know at the time I was pressuring myself into what would be, what I call, the lowest lows of my life, when they should’ve been the happiest. I don’t want to point fingers here, like to the over judgmental lactation consultation who didn’t have any children of her own. Or to my helplessly inverted nipples, lack of information or support as to how to latch properly. Or to the nurses who, when I was having a hard time latching my son, just brought in donated breast milk and fed it to my baby without consulting me or lending me a breast pump instead. Or to all the unnecessary “residents” who would pop in and out of my room like I was some guinea pig whose breasts could be poked and prodded at at all times of the day.
It was only when I met my doula for my second birth, where I learned that Pitocin and other drugs that are commonly administered during labor could affect my breastfeeding experience and its long term success. Quoted below from a very informative article, backed by studies:
Pitocin can interfere in the early postpartum period, leading to adverse effects on long-term breastfeeding success, and therefore the overall health for mother and baby.Indiebirth.org
Needless to say that my breastfeeding journey was crippled from day one and the trauma that ensued in the next few months had sadly found its way well into my second birth. Before I gave birth the second time, I knew from the get-go I was going to be formula feeding. I knew this because I was unsuccessful the first time and because I was terrified of having depression again. But because of my drug-free, supportive water birth I was able to breastfeed longer than I expected I would. Baby girl had no trouble latching, and I had immense support from lactation consultants at St. Luke’s BGC and from my doula and OB.
A challenging, but blissful water birth
After having a water birth, I truly believe this is how all births should be experienced. From the moment I came in at 7cm dilated, I was cared for and, I dare say, loved by all the nurses, my doctor and doula. I labored in all sorts of positions, walking, standing, squatting – in water and out. Whatever felt comfortable, that was the position I was getting into. This time I wasn’t confined to a bed and I wasn’t hooked up to IVs or machines.
I felt my baby and I could move freely and openly, together, getting the work that needed to be done, done, without the help of drugs or doctors
Sure, I screamed, I moaned, and to my horror I bled all over the floor leaving a natural mess all around the birthing suite. The nurses and my doula were kind and supportive, quickly cleaning up after me and assuring me that “it’s fine, it’s natural. Don’t be ashamed.” This time, I was treated as a powerful woman going through a spiritual process rather than just another patient in the hospital.
I ate fruits and drank water as freely as if I were laboring at home. I was also able to listen to music and use essential oils to ease and calm me in between contractions, these things would never be allowed during a “text-book” labor. When I labored for my first pregnancy, I was put in a room with just a nurse, and no one, not even my husband was allowed to accompany me for the first few hours. This time I had my doula who constantly had her hands on me for each contraction, sending me her supportive love and energy. I was allowed to have anyone I wanted in the room with me…
My husband, though, stayed in the corner, and that’s just where I wanted him, because I wanted to do this alone, I wanted to prove to myself after all my lows from my first birth, “you are worth it, you are powerful, you are capable!”
When the contractions got stronger I jumped in the water. It didn’t necessarily help with the pain of the contractions, I was surprisingly more comfortable outside the water, but I knew I would tear because the episiotomy I had with my first birth would have to give way… so I rode on the chance that birthing in the water would soften the skin. I did eventually tear in the water, but this time it was only 2nd degree and after the stitching, the healing was much easier than my episiotomy.
When my daughter was out, we had at least 30 mins of skin to skin contact, unlike the few lousy mins I had with my first. I was also able to walk right away, without pain, and we were even discharged the next day! The best part about this birth was being able to have my baby kept in the room with me at all times, even for all her testings. She never left my side.
There’s not much to say about a water birth other than it is what it is. Birthing is a natural process, women over hundreds of thousands of years have birthed, what we now call, “gently”. Birthing in a calm, safe environment has always been the norm, before the introduction of medical intervention. I’ve experienced both, and if I had 10 more babies I would want to birth them all in the water, hopefully catching the next one with my own hands!