Birth of Sam

Submitted by Randi & Dave S. 

Because this was my second pregnancy, I was certain that I’d have no doubt when labor started. With my daughter, Stella, I had many “scares,” calling my midwives so often that finally one suggested I down a half a glass of wine every time I thought I was in labor, get in the tub, and wait half an hour before picking up the phone. When labor finally did start, there was no mistaking it, with earth-shattering contractions coming every five minutes like clockwork and a birth ten hours later.

Sam’s entry into the world couldn’t have been more different. I started having “real” contractions about a month before his birth. I breathed through these contractions while setting up my middle school classroom, while getting to know students on the first day of school, while teaching lessons that were observed by administrators, while driving home on the crowded interstate, while reading my daughter bedtime stories, and while attempting to sleep. I never once called my midwives, though, because two key elements were missing: regularity of contractions and bloody show. Still, I had to start my maternity leave about a week before my due date, mostly because I was finding it hard to maintain my patience with the students while so uncomfortable and I worried about driving amidst semis while contracting so often.

Tuesday, August 27th, I had several very strong contractions and that afternoon, finally had some bloody show. I was elated! I told my husband, so together we got my five-year old daughter ready for bed, cleaned the house a bit, packed any remaining items in the labor bag, and slept with the phone next to us so we could call my mom. Contractions were about an hour and a half apart but were very strong, lasting about two minutes each. Thankfully, my Hypnobirthing techniques helped me to cope with them and settle in for what I hoped would be at least some rest before active labor began.

Well, I actually got a full night’s rest. I only woke up at 6am when another strong contraction hit. I was totally confused. I thought bloody show meant things were moving, right? I called my midwife to see if we should send my daughter to school, and she said if the contractions weren’t regular yet, it could be a while. So we sent Stella off to school and I started having contractions, now around every 15 minutes, lasting about a minute and a half each. I went ahead and called my mom, in case we needed her to pick up Stella, but I told her not to rush. Dave and I went about cleaning some more and got all of our labor baggage in the car.

This was my reality for the next several hours. Every trip to the bathroom yielded more bloody show, and the contractions were remained about 15 – 20 minutes apart. I spent great quantities of time on the yoga ball and in the Miles Circuit, to insure baby was in the right position. I used my all of my relaxation techniques, but I was a bit frustrated. Where was my active labor? Why was this taking so long?

My bloody show started to look more red than brown, and got a bit concerned that I might have placenta previa, so I asked my midwife if I could come in to get checked. She said sure. We picked our daughter up a bit early from school so she could go with us, just in case things got intense really fast. I was checked out in my midwife’s office, not the hospital, which was good; I didn’t want to be stuck in the hospital for any more of my labor and delivery than absolutely necessary, and hospitals have a pesky habit of wanting to admit women long before their active labors have really begun.

My midwife told me my bloody show looked normal, that my cervix was 100% effaced and thin and ready to go, but only 3cm dilated. She assured me she’d see me soon, and that I should just relax and have fun. So, I did. I went out to dinner with Dave, my mom, and Stella. We then went for ice cream and came home. Through it all, I continued to have irregular but very strong contractions. And finally, a little after my daughter’s bedtime, over 24 hours from when they started, the contractions began to get closer together and very, VERY intense.

I labored on my bed, listening to my Hypnobirthing CD while Dave applied counter pressure. I drank a half a glass of red wine and lots of water. I tried to eat a snack, but was far too nauseated. When they started getting even harder to manage, I crawled into a hot bath and had my husband call my doula.

My doula, Lorie, and Dave took turns reading the Hypnobirthing relaxation prompts to me while I breathed through contraction after contraction. I was doing a pretty good job of relaxing through most of them, although a couple got away from me and I found myself fighting them a bit. I had a ton of pelvic pressure between contractions, and found myself going to the bathroom very frequently.

By around 11:30pm, the contractions were around 4 minutes apart, lasting about a minute and a half each, and were incredibly intense. It was time to go to the hospital.

We woke up my precious daughter, who was elated she’d finally get to meet her brother. We piled in our car, with the doula following us close behind. I had four contractions in the car, and they were miserable. I hate nothing more than sitting or lying down during a contraction. But I listened to my Hypnobirthing CD and relaxed my body, while my sweet daughter got very quiet so I could concentrate.

We went to the best hospital in the area for natural birth, and while everyone there was wonderful and supportive, the many irritations of dealing with a hospital in general have convinced me that, should there be a next time, it will be a home birth (regardless of the fact that our health insurance won’t pay). It was a pain to breathe through contractions while getting registered. It was a pain to wait for them to come get me while people stared at me in the ER waiting room. It was a ROYAL pain to lie down in the triage area through a few contractions with a monitor around my waist. It was the biggest pain in the ass to get an IV lock and a stupid (pointless) blood test while standing and swaying through contractions. But I relaxed and breathed and, if I do say so myself, handled those hurdles like a champ. And then, the wonderful staff left us completely alone, filling up the large birthing tub with warm water, ignoring me while I went against regulation and drank water from my bottle, and offered to get us anything we might need.

I packed a swimsuit, but I was dealing with very close, very strong contractions by this point (probably around 12:30am), so I just stripped buck naked and plopped into the pool. The water felt great, but I didn’t like lying down that much. Again, Dave and Lorie took turns reading the Hypnobirthing prompts for me. Some contractions were managed by these techniques; others just got away from me. My doula sprayed hot water on my back, then my husband took over, and that helped for a bit, but I got tired of staying on my knees in order to accommodate that, so we stopped for a while.

And this is where I started to succumb to fear. My first labor, while completely natural, was filled with fear. I fought every contraction and was hysterical the majority of the time. Later, I would be diagnosed with PTSD brought on by childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse, and general trauma. Trusting my body to endure something as powerful (and for me, as painful) as labor is difficult when my body has been betrayed many times in my life. I was certain that this time, because of all the therapy I’ve gone through as well as my Hypnobirthing class that that wouldn’t be a problem, but I was wrong. The contractions were closer and stronger and I was scared. I wasn’t sure how I would get through this, or if I even could. I became irritable with my husband, no longer wanting to hear his voice, and that probably has something to do with his gender and how painfully a man had once betrayed my trust. Although I know, while in my right mind, that he loves me and is as supportive a husband as I could possibly have hoped for, while in that intense pain it almost felt like he was mocking me. The poor guy; he really is amazing during labor but has always become, at some point, the focus of my irritability.

I was lying in the tub during another strong contraction when it literally felt like a cork popped between my legs and I was flooded in pain. I yelled out, “MY WATER BROKE!” and I could actually feel it shoot across the tub. And then the pain multiplied by 100. It felt like I was jumping out of my skin with each contraction, and they were right on top of each other. I became pretty hysterical, desperately trying to find a position that didn’t make me want to murder someone. My body finally decided on sitting in the tub, legs splayed wide, my butt resting on my feet. I moaned low and complained vividly, all the while trying hard to take my doula’s advice to surrender to my body and not be afraid. I began to shiver and get nauseated and my brain kept telling me, “There’s no way you can do this.” But I also reminded myself that these are all signs of transition, so I felt a twinge of optimism that we were nearing the end.

Before I knew it, I was pushing. Not consciously, but it was happening. Lorie asked if I was pushing, and I said, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I think I need to.” So she got the nurse who checked me and said I was at 9 ½ cm. I knew it wouldn’t be long though, and I refused to fight the urge to push when it was so very overwhelming. Suddenly, I wanted out of that tub. The water was too hot and I wanted to be upright. Getting out while coping with rolling contractions was difficult though, and I literally had to stand, wait out the pain, get one leg out, wait out the pain, get the second leg out, wait out the pain, let my husband dry me off, etc. Dave tried to get my gown back on me but I threw it off. I felt like an animal, and as an animal, I wanted nothing to do with clothing. I was hot and uncomfortable and I wanted to birth my baby down!

I moaned across the room and ordered my doula to put the bed in the most upright position possible. There was no thinking now – I knew I wanted to be on my knees on that bed, facing the top of the bed to use as support between contractions. And the minute I settled on the bed, I had a major contraction and began to push – hard. In Hypnobirthing we’d learned about calmly “breathing the baby down,” but my body simply wouldn’t let me. My body wanted to PUSH. And finally, finally, I found some relief. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but pushing felt wonderful. Not that anyone in the room would have known it. I moaned and complained and loudly said things like, “Why won’t any of you help me?” and “Will this ever end?” But pushing felt so productive and gave me something to actually do during the pain of those contractions.

I was exhausted. At one point, between contractions, I rested my head on the top of the bed and actually fell into a deep sleep. It must have lasted less than ten seconds though, because my contractions were so close together. Everyone in the room was incredible. Despite my negativity and complaining, all I heard was, “You’re doing it, Randi” and “Soon you’ll meet your baby” and Dave kept telling me how incredible I was and how much he loved me. I tried to listen to them, but I felt ashamed that I wasn’t calm and serene like the Hypnobirthing videos. Now I know how silly that is, that I have my demons that I wrestled with and that I was rocking out in my own way, but at the time I was complete prey for negative thoughts.

Finally, I felt my baby crown. It stung, but I was elated. We were so close! And I heard myself saying aloud, “I can do this, I can do this.” I slowed down the pushing, so I wouldn’t tear, and before I knew it, I felt his head emerge, and then the rest of his body came out, along with a huge gush of water. I wanted to flip over ASAP to put him on my belly, but my midwife told me to wait. I heard them cut the cord, despite our explicit wishes, and they whisked him off to the warmer. I sat down and saw a room of pale, worried faces. “What’s going on?” I demanded, but nobody answered. Finally, my doula said, “It’s OK, Randi, the cord was wrapped around his neck. He’s not moving yet. Talk to your baby.” So I did. Dave and I talked to him, telling him to wake up, that we loved him and wanted to meet him. I was in shock. I didn’t even register what was happening. I couldn’t even see him for all the people around him. And my body was still contracting through it all.

Samuel Miles Serchuk was born at 3:09am. He was 8lbs, 5oz, 21 inches, and adorable.

My doula ran out to the waiting room to get my mom and daughter, and they came in. My sweet daughter’s face when meeting her baby brother for the first time will remain etched in my mind. She sweetly asked, “Can we keep him?” and got very upset when she found out he had to stay in the hospital with me for two days.

All in all, I’m content with how the birth turned out. The hospital birth was a compromise I made with my husband. A homebirth would cost us more (which is ridiculous but true) and he was concerned about possible issues that might have come due to my age (38). But after seeing me pull off another all-natural birth to another healthy baby, he’s agreed that if we have another it would almost certainly be homebirth next time. Overcoming self-doubt and fear brought on by PTSD is hard. I definitely had an easier time of this time, but at some point it did take me over. It helps to have an incredible support team, but I think having some pre-birth therapy sessions focusing on the abuse would have been a good idea, too, as would talking over the abuse with my doula and offering up suggestions for statements she could say to counteract the self-doubt. Again, though, I was struck by how WONDERFUL I felt after the birth. Natural birth is a struggle for me, but I’d much rather deal with an intense amount of pain before the birth and then feel energetic and fantastic after the birth, when I need that energy to care for my baby. I’m grateful that I’ve been able to pull that off twice in my life, and I’m beyond grateful to have two wonderful and sweet children, as well as the best husband in the world, an amazing mother, and fantastic doula and midwife. I’m a lucky woman.