Monday, May 2, 2011

Confessions of a Mom who Birthed at a Birth Center

© Rachel Hanses 2011. Rachel shares her experience of birthing in a birth-center, which is different from a hospital and a homebirth:

 “On April 17th around 7:30 am, I was lying in bed watching TV while Mark was in the shower when I felt a pop. I laughed to myself thinking, “This is what Rainey (our Bradley teacher) said it feels like when your water breaks,” but I didn’t feel any water, so I stayed in bed. I watched TV for about 10 more minutes and moved a little when I felt the gush. I am talking GUSH of water. I started to panic because first, it was getting real and second, I believed I had to deliver a baby within 24 hours and third there was water EVERYWHERE.

As I scrambled to find something to put under me, water continued to go everywhere. I think in the end I saturated two comforters, a towel, Mark’s robe and I still got water all over the sheets and the floor. Mark walked in and saw me and I said, “my water broke” and his eyes got HUGE. “What do I do?” he asked panicked. I said, “Call the midwife and my mom” and he questioned, “Are you sure?” and I retorted, “YES!”

I got in the shower and the water continued to pour out. I am assuming this is why everyone thought Eliza was bigger than she is, because she was so happy in her comfy water room.  After my shower, I seriously had to sit on a towel rolled up because I was still leaking water. We drove out to the birth center to get my heplock and my first dose of antibiotics because I was StrepB positive, and we had agreed that it was better for me to take the antibiotics rather than risk the danger to little Eliza.

We got there around 8:30 and I felt fine. We left, got lunch, came home, waited, and Mark kept asking, “Are you having contractions?” I didn’t feel a single contraction and it was confusing. I thought babies were born after the water breaks.  Soon 1pm came around, we returned to get another shot and still no contractions. My mom arrived from California at 4:30, and I still wasn’t in labor. In fact Mark and I both picked her up from the airport. Then 5 pm came around; I got my shot, still no contractions.

I was told to take 6 oz of castor oil to help speed things along. I was not looking forward to the castor oil at all, and it was 10x worse than I can even tell you. I put it in pudding, then a frosty and then straight up. No matter what way I took it, the stuff was intolerable. Mark actually laughed at me while I was choking it down and I believe I yelled at him, “The time for hilarious husband is over, you need to be Bradley coach now!!!” I also made my mom and Mark taste the castor oil so they would stop saying, “just chug it”- seriously? Chug oil? Chug oil that tastes like old lady’s lipstick? Ugh, I just gagged thinking about it. 

We were scheduled to go back to the birth center at midnight for another shot. I started feeling mild contractions after the castor oil but still nothing special. I went to the grocery store with my mom and Mark to get some food. I came back and kind of giggled at the novelty of actually feeling some contractions. Around 10:45 pm, I started feeling stronger contractions, but nothing that bad, so I got in the bath. I don’t know what happened, but the second I got in the water I started shaking uncontrollably. Mark called my midwife and she said it was adrenaline.

I got into bed, and that’s when the real contractions started. I remember my mom talking and I just said “shhhhhhhhhh” because I needed silence. It was around 11:15 pm, and my contractions were pretty close together. Mark called the midwife, since we were supposed to be there at midnight anyway, and she told us to come.

We hadn’t packed a bag yet because it was a week early, but we had a few things thrown in our carryon. We grabbed it and drove out to the birth center. I could feel the contractions hitting me pretty hard, but still not bad enough to make me think we were close. When we arrived at the birth center, the tub was filling up, and I hopped in immediately. I don’t know what it was about the tub, but it didn’t feel right. Ahem, too much info time: the castor oil went right through me and gave me terrible diarrhea. I had to climb out to use the toilet and it was miserable.

Around midnight I went from okay to full on transition. I was in the tub trying to float and keep my head above water and all I could think was, “I am almost over this contraction” and another one would hit. I think I counted 7 hitting me in a row before I was given a rest. I remember being on my knees trying to find a comfortable spot in the big birth tub, but I couldn’t. I was slipping around, the pillow I had was soaked and my face would dunk under the water when I was trying to zone out. I was miserable.

I was in transition for just under two hours. It was rough, but I held it together. I remember thinking, “this is fucking terrible, but I can’t imagine having some doctor shove a huge needle in my spine, even like this.” The weird thing is that it was almost an out of body experience; I felt the intense contractions, yet my mind stayed perfectly clear. I remember looking at Mark trying to relax myself, and all I could do was zone out. After the 3rd time I had to get out of the tub to use the bathroom, I just stayed out. I wanted a water birth more than anything in the world, but it didn’t work for me. You can plan everything but things don’t always work out the way you wanted.

I had Mark dry me off, and I kneeled on the floor with my face on the bed. I don’t know how long I did this, but eventually my midwife recommended that I get on the bed and put my face on a birthing ball. This is how I got through a lot of the birth. After I got out, I got this incredible urge to push. I wasn’t really pushing, but my body was on its own. It was insane. I just stayed there and pushed. I wasn’t able to move the baby at all, and I pushed and pushed and pushed. I remember the nurse insisted that I drink something so I had a red Gatorade, which Mark held for me during the entire pushing phase. The worst part is that I felt like we weren’t getting anywhere. When she started to crown, I kid you not, it didn’t hurt at all. My midwife told me to just go with the flow and push during a contraction. She recommended that I change position to a seated position, and then push twice. I was then moved to the bed on my side. My nurse held one leg up, and I knew we were close. Slowly, I could tell she was coming. My motivation suddenly kicked into high gear and with every contraction I pushed as hard as I could.

Once her whole head was out, I remember the next contraction I pushed and pushed until her entire body came out. I remember feeling a tremendous relief because she was born, I did it the way I wanted to, and it was all over. I lay there with my eyes shut. I remember asking, “is she a girl?” and she was a girl! They put her on my chest and I just burst into tears. Mark was right there with me and we were a family for the first time. Once her umbilical cord turned white and stopped pulsating, it was clamped and Mark cut it. 

She stayed on my chest for an hour, and I don’t really remember what occurred other than sitting there with my amazing husband and my new daughter while I just took it all in for the first time. We declined the vitamin K shot, the HepB shot and the antibiotics, and she was allowed to just lay there and be a newborn with no traumatic interventions. 

I remember lying in bed with Mark and Eliza while the nurse made us breakfast. I ate it, we filled out some paperwork and I took a shower. We were required to stay for at least 6 hours, so we counted down the minutes until 6 hours occurred, and we left. 

My labor started around 11:15, and ended at 4:15 when she was born. I wasn’t truly in active labor until around midnight. It was short, and really hard. I don’t think there is an easy way to have a baby, but I can’t imagine doing it any other way. I was coherent the entire time, I was able to walk around, go to the bathroom and drink Gatorade (I could have eaten, but I didn’t want to). I guess they baked a cake in the room while I labored, but I was so in the zone that I didn’t even smell it. The best part was the first shower. I was able to walk in and shower, and it felt so good. Most women aren’t allowed to shower 5 hours after they give birth!

I am not proud of myself for doing it naturally, because in my opinion, unless there is a medical reason for intervention, birth should be natural and non-medical. But I am proud of myself for holding it together, getting through this and having a child. It was the single hardest thing I have ever done, but I did it, and I did it my way. My daughter is healthy and happy. I can’t imagine doing it any other way.”

The documentary, "The Business of Being Born" features a birth-center birth. Check it out!


  1. I love it, Rachel! Fantastic story!

  2. beautiful story, rachel! <3 xoxo