Since I’m not attending births any longer, I’ll rely on my students for new “material” here. Sarah gave me permission to share her story here!

The birth actually did not happen as we planned, which is why I guess everyone says not to get too attached to your birth plan. In my case, I had an amniotic leak that had probably been going on for several days. I actually feel what I thought was my waters breaking (a little) the night of August 22 but no contractions. I decided to go to bed and try to get some sleep before heading in to see Dr. Landherr in the morning of the 23rd. When we got in to her office she tested me for amniotic fluid – it came back negative! So I was allowed to go home for the weekend.

However, I continued to notice small amounts of fluid leaking out, so I raised this at my weekly OB appointment the following Wednesday August 28. We tested the fluid again and this time it came back positive for amniotic fluid. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200, we had to be admitted to L&D. Dr. Landherr really wanted to do everything to get me the natural birth that she knew I wanted. She gave me the whole day and most of the evening to see if labor would progress – I was having regular contractions (5 mins apart lasting 60 seconds according to the monitor) however I was barely able to feel them and was not dilating.

Fortunately for us, Dr. Landherr was on call that night so she was popping in to check on us regularly. At 5pm she came by and we decided that if nothing had happened at 10pm she would break my waters properly to see if that would help move things along. Unfortunately it didn’t. So, the recommendation was to start pitocin at midnight. Obviously not what I wanted but at this stage with the amniotic leak we were on borrowed time.

My nurse, Katie, was INCREDIBLE. She told me to understood my goals and wishes and empathized with my reluctance to go on pitocin. She was also able to reassure me that situations such as mine are the reason that pitocin is available. She was able to identify with me and guide me through the process, I was so comfortable with her expertise.

So, we started on the lowest dose of pitocin at midnight and increased the dose every half an hour to an hour or so. The contractions weren’t too bad at first so I told Forrest to try and get some sleep until the real party started. I used the breathing techniques you taught me – turns out long slow in and long slow out was the one that came naturally to me. I used a range of positions and generally had no trouble. Until about 3am.

At about 3am I started having more trouble with the contractions as they got stronger. Forrest got up and started helping me using all of the techniques he learned in class. I couldn’t believe how much he was able to reduce my pain! Having a birth support person really does reduce pain markedly!!

By 4am I was starting to struggle. I couldn’t talk in between contractions and they were coming strong and close together, sometimes almost on top of each other. I was able to keep my voice low as I breathed out the contractions, making a soft “ohhhhhhh” sound with each from the bottom of my diaphragm. There were only a couple of positions that I could handle by this point. I spent a lot of time on the birthing ball! These were all techniques I learned from you.

By 5am I was doubting my ability to continue – in my mind I was going to have to keep this up for hours, I was starting to tire and it was becoming hard to breathe during the contractions. A couple of times I felt my sounds get a little high, almost like I wanted to scream. I remembered what you said and tried to relax my diaphragm and keep my pelvis open and keep the sounds very guttural. I did a decent job of that.

Then I had a really big, really painful contraction. I managed to gasp out to Forrest and Katie “I don’t know if I can keep doing this”. Both knew that I didn’t want the epidural. Forrest looked torn between encouraging me and supporting a change of plan if needed. Katie told me just to take it one contraction at a time. So I went in to the next one. It was even worse and actually made me inadvertently let out a little sob. I said to both of them “I can’t keep doing this”. Katie said said “OK, let me just check you before we make any decisions” as I wasn’t having cervical checks up until that point. The last one was done the previous night at 10pm when my waters were broken and I was only 1cm.

So I get on the bed to be checked (OMG the worst position for contractions!) and Katie tells me that I’m 7cm and that his head is ‘right there, ready to go’. This was all of the impetus I needed to keep going – after this I don’t really remember any pain at all. They help me get off the bed and Katie helps me in to the shower. I might have been in there 20 minutes or so? Katie was helping me by applying pelvic pressure and lots of encouragement. Then all of a sudden I said to her that I had to push. She asked me if it was just during contractions or all of the time. I said I wasn’t sure and waited for another contraction to see. I was like oh nope, I have to push RIGHT NOW and it’s constant. So she gets me out of the shower, helps me dry off, and gets me back on the bed.

I’m at 10cm and ready to go! All of a sudden there are people pouring in to the room, Katie is on the phone with Dr. Landherr who can’t believe how quickly this all happened. I did a couple of practice pushes then Dr. Landherr was in the room and we were doing it for real. At one point I remember Katie telling me to relax my face and push with my muscles lower down. I remembered what you said about this too and was able to immediately implement this instruction. Maybe 10-12 pushes later and little Elliott Arthur was in the land of the living!

All in all it was a 6.5 hour labor from beginning induction to his arrival. While it does register somewhere in the back of my mind that there was pain involved, that is by no means my memory of the birth – my memory is one of euphoria. The only pain I remember are those two tough contractions, certainly no pain during pushing – I would almost describe that as enjoyable! I will forever have wonderful memories of his birth.

I wanted to share this with you because your classes helped me to go in to this with the right mindset, I was unafraid and ready for the challenge. When things did get tough, both Forrest and I were able to employ almost every technique you taught us. Your teaching gave us, and particularly me, the confidence to undertake an unmedicated birth. You were such an incredible facilitator and had so many helpful anecdotes that I wanted you to know what a difference you specifically made to me and to the arrival of our son. I can say with all honesty that you played a very big hand in the success of our son’s arrival.

So this has been a long email, but I wanted you to know exactly how it went down and how appreciative we all are for your guidance. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

All the very best,

Sarah, Forrest, and Elliott.

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How does a doula really make a difference?
Results from different studies have all suggested that having a doula reduces the overall cesarean rate by 50%, Pitocin use by 40% and requests for epidurals by 60%. The use of a doula also showed a major reduction in the length of labor due to fewer stress hormones being produced in the laboring woman’s body.

The Doula Book © 2002; Klaus, Marshall, Klaus and Kennell.