When My Body Failed Me: My “Natural Birth” Story
WARNING: If you are easily frightened or squeamish please don’t read. Most births aren’t like this. The purpose of this post is to discuss some of the ideas in the natural parenting world about moms who give birth in a hospital rather than at home. I will be sharing my next, more “normal” birth story soon.
I recently went back and began to read some of the books on home birthing that I had read with my first pregnancy. This first passage grabbed my attention:
“We need to come out of medical bondage. We are women held in bondage, robbed of the miracle of birth…We are being robbed, held in fear, toil, pain and bondage…”
These sentences were referring to hospital births.
My first birth was supposed to be a home birth. I wasn’t nervous at all. I felt strong and supported. Even powerful in the last days of my pregnancy. I was comforted with lots of love from other home birthing women and from my midwife who assured me that my body knew what it was doing. My body was created for this. God would be with me. I knew that home birth was the natural way and God’s plan for me and my baby. Since home birthing is the best, most natural, and most spiritual way of birthing, why wouldn’t God want that for me?
When labor finally started I was actually quite relieved since I was two days shy of 43 weeks. Tired of being pregnant and eager to meet my new baby, I was excited to feel the contractions. I breathed correctly and made low noises as the contractions rolled over my abdomen like waves. My midwife said she was impressed I was handling them so well because I was a first time mom.
But the labor kept going on and on. It was night and then it was morning and then it was getting to be evening again.
I was in labor for about 24 hours when I began to feel my body getting weaker and weaker. I couldn’t eat, I hadn’t slept, and I couldn’t do anything but ride each contraction over and over again. I prayed fervently and practiced the positions that gave me comfort. Strength and dignity were my clothing. I still felt so strong, spiritually speaking.
But all of a sudden out of no where my back and ribs were burning.
A sensation I’d never felt before and I hope to never feel again. Excruciating pain seized my back and crippled me into all fours on the floor, wailing. This was no longer a contraction in my mind.
I felt as though two hands had grabbed both sides of my rib cage and were tearing them apart with the force of some disastrous mechanical machine.
The breathing exercises weren’t helping anymore. The ginger, the tea, the warm compresses. Nothing could take this pain away. Yet, even in all of my pain, I do not remember feeling any fear. But I do remember when I began mindlessly crawling around my living room floor begging God to make it stop. I wouldn’t let anyone touch me. It was an out of body experience. I wasn’t myself anymore. I was watching myself helplessly from above. Mindless and animalistic. It was so strange.
But I kept repeating to myself, over and over, that my body could do this. Women were created for this. My body knew how to birth this baby. This was the natural way. I was determined.
Around 30 hours hit when my midwife called another midwife and they both decided I should go to the hospital because my baby’s heart rate had dropped and labor wasn’t progressing right. I was now frozen in one position in so much pain that I knew it couldn’t be real. It had to be a dream.
All this time, I wasn’t afraid. I was in a lot of pain but I wasn’t afraid. I don’t think I was mentally all the way there.
I wasn’t afraid until they told me to go to the hospital. Because I thought doctors would want to slice me open and take my baby out the unnatural way and ruin my birth plan. I couldn’t have a C section. Never. Over my dead body.
I now find it interesting that all the books that I had read about birthing without fear hadn’t prepared me for the fear that they fostered inside me— the fear of the hospital. The fear of doctors. Medical bondage and all that.
I was 3 weeks overdue, I could barely stand up due to the pain, and I’d been in labor for over 30 hours. They were definitely going to give me a c section. I was now terrified.
I rode in the trunk of my van all the way to the hospital because my body was bent over on all fours, sealed in that position because the pain wouldn’t allow me an inch. This was no longer every two minutes pain. It was constant excruciating pain that heightened every two minutes nearly knocking me to the ground. Something was wrong. This couldn’t be natural.
When we got to the hospital, I reluctantly limped my way into the doors, held up by my husband and my midwife’s daughter, Molly. We had to stop twice before reaching the front desk so I could writhe in the pain of a back wrenching contraction.
But when I got all checked in , we found that I was only dilated to a 4. Technically, not even in active labor yet. We had thought I was at a 10 already.
All that work, for nothing. That’s what it felt like. My body was failing me. My body did not know what it was doing.
By this time I was crying and still unable to move. I shrieked in pain every time someone touched me. They decided to give me an epidural to calm me down and let me rest. But that required complete stillness and a man had to stick a giant needle down my back. I had to sit up straight and be still or else I could be paralyzed.
No way, I thought. I resisted.
A nurse, my guardian angel, I now call her, took hold of my two shoulders, placed her forehead on my forehead and held my pain ridden body still. She looked straight into my eyes. She spoke so calmly and so softly and so sweetly despite my ugly crying and panic.
She held me and breathed with me. She told me I’d be okay and that she wasn’t going to leave me. With each contraction my back split over and over again(not really but that’s what it felt like). I didn’t think it was humanly possible for me to sit up straight. And I couldn’t have done it without that nurse.
I dug my nails into this nurse’s shoulders, while the anesthesiologist set up his tools for injecting me. It took forever and three contractions it felt like. All the while this nurse held on to me, never letting go and never complaining about the pain I caused her.
They gave me the epidural and some food and something to drink. I fell asleep while my body contracted and dilated more. I was exhausted and discouraged and very upset. But I remember feeling relieved to sleep. My nurse stayed past her shift to make sure I was okay, but eventually she had to go soon after I woke up. I’m forever grateful to that angel of a woman who probably had bruises because of me.
When the doctor came in, he had the nurses set up for a c section. I begin panicking again. But he came over to me, calmly and introduced himself, told me I was doing a great job, and that he was going to help me.
He asked me if there was anything I wanted for my birth plan.
Which shocked me, because I thought doctors didn’t care about birth plans. All the books make them sound money-hungry. We told him we wanted the cord left unclamped as long as possible.
He said “okay”.
My baby boy, my sweet Jethro was posterior, the cord was wrapped around his neck, and his heart rate was going down with every single contraction. My body was literally killing my son. He pooped meconium while still inside the womb, due to the intense stress he was in.
The doctor was calm and very quiet. Solemn and determined. It comforted me to see him so unaffected by the high stress of the situation. It was just another day on the job for him. Strangely, that gave me a sense that he knew what he was doing.
He didn’t give me a c section. I don’t know why even until this day other than the fact that I told him I really didn’t want one. My baby was stuck, his heart rate plummeting and my doctor somehow, miraculously reached his hands inside of the birth canal, unwrapped the cord, turned my baby around and pulled him out. I don’t understand how that’s possible. I certainly don’t understand why he didn’t cut me open because it seems that would’ve been easier for him. All I can assume was it was because he actually cared. This doctor cared about the panicked mother in front of him, despite what the birthing books said.
He did all that for me because I couldn’t do it for myself. My body could not do it. I had no energy left. My body was, from an objective standpoint, absolutely and completely utterly useless.
Then all the things that learned in those books suddenly became untrue. Or at least not the WHOLE unbiased truth. Because my birth was in the hospital, but I tell you what, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was not robbed of the miracle of birth. I was granted the miracle of LIFE.
Because if I hadn’t “submitted myself to medical bondage” I would’ve had a completely all natural unmedicated stillbirth. That’s what the truth was. I know it is, because I’ve read my medical records and because it’s happened to many women in the past, before medical bondage existed.
I was not robbed, I was saved. My baby was saved. And God was with me, the whole time. He knew that my body wouldn’t do what it needed to, even though I was 100 percent sure I could. He knew my baby was in the wrong position and he provided him a way. A way that some deem “unnatural”.
I never felt any guilt about my hospital birth until I heard a group of women talking about how home births are best and most Godly, and spiritual way you could birth. And that hospital births were rooted in fear and ignorance. It stung me. I knew that wasn’t true, because of my experience, but I realized that I hadn’t come to terms with the fact that I felt like a failure because my body wouldn’t birth like that book said it would. I didn’t birth like those women who were so confidently casting judgement.
But I knew that my hospital birth was spiritual and meaningful and powerful beyond belief.
I loved the experience and the nurses and the after care so much! I felt so cared about, so pampered and so humbled, that I went back for my second birth without a doubt in my mind. I got an epidural and I triumphed as I pushed my second miracle out and as she sounded her first cry. There was no fear. There wasn’t any room for that. There was only love and joy and victory through Yahshua in that delivery room.
The nurses who cared for me were profoundly pro-women and so knowledgeable. My second baby was also turning posterior, but this amazing nurse got me into a position that moved my baby back into the correct position.
The point of the story is this: I no longer need a book to validate that my children are miracles. I don’t need the permission of a book to have my birth be a spiritual, powerful experience. I don’t need to give birth in a certain place for me to see that birth is an act of God.
Birth is a miracle no matter how a woman chooses to do it. That baby is a miracle. Medical science has saved so many lives including my own baby boy’s. I’m so thankful that I live in a time where a doctor was able to save my boy’s life.
So this is for you, woman, who’s body has also “failed” her. Whether it failed to get pregnant, failed to deliver a baby the “correct” way, or failed in any other way by the standards of other humans. God is with you, even still, dear. God is always with us. Outcomes are different for every woman, but you are still a woman and still a child of the one true God, Yahweh.