Our very own doula, Lillie, asked her mother to share with us her birth stories. Read as she recalls the birth of her first child. From the feelings of being pregnant for the first time to a long induction and labor, Trina takes us through the emotions she felt 26 years ago.
The Birth of Leah Flynn
By Trina Flynn
Reflections on my first child’s birth, 26 years postpartum
I think that I remember everything like it was yesterday, but realistically there are probably details that I have forgotten.
Finding out I was pregnant was a shock. I meant to get pregnant, but I thought it would take months to conceive, so the immediate feeling that I had when the nurse told me that I was pregnant, was shock. That was the first of many unexpected feelings that I would have associated with pregnancy, birth and motherhood. I can remember wondering why I wasn’t excited when the overwhelming majority of people upon hearing of my pregnancy would either say, “Oh, that’s so exciting!” or “Aren’t you so excited?” I couldn’t think of one person in my life, who, when discussing the blessing of a new life, ever expressed anything but the excitement that they felt. Surely it was taboo to not feel anything but grateful and excited. My resource for all things pregnancy was the gold standard book at the time…”What to Expect When you are Expecting.” I’m not sure that there was much exploration of a normal range of emotion associated with pregnancy in this book. My mother, who had 5 children and to date is the wisest woman I have ever known, would remind me when I had pregnancy questions, that when she had babies they would give mothers “speed” (diet pills) and would basically knock the mothers out during the delivery.
My pregnancy was fairly uncomplicated. I was healthy, although I did develop a borderline case of gestational diabetes and went on a special diet. I had some nausea, aversions to certain foods, serious aversions to certain smells, I would religiously check my heart rate when exercising, I followed all of the rules, and I finally got excited about being pregnant. I remember anticipating feeling movement for the first time and then actually feeling it. I remember being aware of how people were drawn to my pregnant belly. It was odd that suddenly people felt permission to touch my belly, to put their entire hand on my belly. It was interesting to me that people I didn’t know would, unsolicited, tell me some of their pregnancy/birth experience and give me some advice. Women would speculate on the sex of the baby because of how I was carrying it. I loved all of that. I was never annoyed, bored or offended at any of that. Even though I didn’t know what I was “supposed” to know, what I was “supposed” to be feeling, it was obvious to me that this experience is powerfully unifying for women of all ages and all walks of life. Surely if all of those women could do it, I could.
I do not remember having any specific expectations of my experience of pregnancy; I did not have a picture of what I wanted it to be like. I was mainly focused on doing everything that I could do to ensure that I would have a healthy baby. I knew however, that I wanted to have the baby “naturally”. That is what people would say about having a baby without an epidural and I do not remember being encouraged nor, discouraged about my wish. I’m not sure why I wanted to have the baby “naturally” because there was really no cultural trend at that time, and I was not aware of any discussion about it being better for the baby or the mother. It is just something that I wanted to do. The only option that was available at that time for exploring natural child birth was Lamaze, so my husband and I signed up for a course. I don’t remember how many classes we went to or how long they were. My Lamaze take away: find a focal point and RELAX. We learned a certain breathing pattern that I was skeptical of and didn’t practice. It seemed like from what they said, if I could relax during labor and the delivery, then everything would be ok.
My doctor wanted to induce labor a week before my due date. He said that I was small and he was a little worried that the baby would be too big. I didn’t question him. My point of reference was that of the 5 children that my mother had, I was the smallest at 9lbs. 7 oz. My mother was my size, around 5’2”. She didn’t mince words when she would tell me things about forceps, things ripping…so, I figured that my babies might be huge like hers and that the doctor was right and I should be induced. I was scheduled to go in on a Monday morning. On Sunday, the day before, I thought that my water was leaking. I went to the hospital; it was leaking so they went on and checked me in and started the induction process. I still wanted to go “natural”. I don’t remember the exact time line of things, but I think that they wanted to first “ripen my cervix”. How did they do that? I pictured them wiping something pasty on it, but who knows? On Monday at some point, they started the pitocin drip. I was pretty tired since I had been there overnight, but things started picking up with that pitocin. The contractions seemed to start hard, and they seemed to be coming fast. They broke my water at some point. They had taught me in Lamaze to find a focal point, I did, but honestly, did I ever even know why that was important? I think that my focal point was a framed picture of a pineapple on the wall in front of me. Is that what they meant? Or was it supposed to be a mental focal point? I was also supposed to be relaxed…I remember thinking that my body felt as tense as a steel girder. I recalled that the idea of relaxation was real, I know that I used to know how that felt, if I picture the spelling of the word maybe I can remember what the concept is. I could not relax. Did someone offer an epidural or did I ask? I don’t remember, but I got one and it certainly helped. I was aware of my extreme tiredness and that I was literally falling asleep between contractions. That doesn’t seem possible, but I did.
At some point I began pushing. I pushed for what seemed like a really long time, long enough to start to despair. I had always considered myself a strong person. I was not able to push the baby out. I felt like I was giving it everything that I had, I remember my husband seemed to be gritting and pushing with me. I pictured myself as an elephant trying to push a tree over with its head (I probably conjured an image from an old Tarzan movie). I couldn’t do it and I didn’t say it out loud, but I wondered what was going to happen. I was shocked when the doctor asked if I wanted a “little help”. I had literally forgotten about any options. So, they used a vacuum, I pushed, and out came Leah. She was 8 lbs. 5 oz. Big, but not huge, she had quite a bit of vernix on her, coned head, and sounded like a little weak lamb. Pat cried and cried, I cried and cried, my mother, saw her first birth. I did not have that baby “naturally” and I had just had the greatest, most moving, and miraculous moments of my life and I can remember knowing that I would fight a lion for her if I had to.