I finally went to a birth! My first birth! And now I will tell you all about it :)
B, the doula who has been trying to find me a birth to shadow her on for the past 2 months, but has been a bit flaky, finally called me and said the words I have been waiting to hear, "You know that mom I told you was due soon? She's in labor." The crazy part - her call woke me up at 8am so we hadn't shoveled the car free from the snow that yesterday's blizzard dropped on us. So boyfriend went right out to free the car from the snow while I showered and ate and packed my bag full of extra clothes and food. Talked to B again and she told me that the mom and her husband had also freed their car from the snow and were heading to the hospital and we would all meet there. Drove on the snowy roads (had a couple mishaps, like coming to a stop at an intersection and all the snow on the top of the car sliding down onto my windshield so I couldn't see a thing and had to get out and clear it off) and survived to reach the hospital downtown. Unfortunately, B hadn't given me very many instructions on where to park/which building to look for, etc, and I completely passed the hospital parking garage and ended up in the expensive one. sigh. The roads in the city were definitely not plowed, though there were people working on it, and they all looked at me like I was crazy as I drove by. I also probably looked lost. Started tromping through the snow and around the buildings that all said the hospital name on them trying to find the Women's Health building, which I thought was the right way to go in. B had told me that she was in triage with the parents and she would let me know when they got a room. Turns out it was not the main lobby that I was in and I ended up sitting in the wrong lobby for 45 minutes. Oh well. Got a visitor pass from the gruff information desk woman, who noticed my backpack as I was walking away and said "Are you a Doula?" and was so much nicer to me after that, apologizing because she would give me a doula badge but she was out of them.
Went up to Labor and Delivery and found the correct hospital room. Mom was already 7 cm dilated and fully effaced, and had only been in labor since 5:30 am. Her water had broken at 7am. The situation was very quiet and calm as the mom got through her contractions really well by herself. It hadn't occurred to me until I got there, though it seems like an obvious thought now, that there wasn't really much I could do or say because I had to yield to B, the more experienced doula, not wanting to overstep my bounds. Plus, this was her patient not mine, and she had her way of doing things. So, I mostly watched. I was packed and prepared to be there into the night, as this was a first-time mom, so I figured I'd be doing a lot of watching and waiting. Pretty soon her parents arrived and they were really nice and there was more to watch. Nurses and doctors were coming in and out. The mom was hooked up to an IV and the fetal heart monitor, which they kept adjusting. The main nurse was really nice, as was the doctor. The only strange moment occurred when another nurse who looked like she just wandered in because she had nothing to do came in and said "is she on an epidural?" and the main nurse said "Nope" and the other nurse said sympathetically to the laboring mother, "Oh, I know you must be in so much pain!" and B turned to her and said "She's doing very well." I was glad the nurse just left after that and didn't go any further in her attempt to convince the mom she needed an epidural.
After I had only been in the room for about an hour a doctor came in and checked the mom's progress. She was still at 7 cm, +1 station. The mom groaned and said "I haven't changed at all in 3 hours? I don't think I can keep doing this. Can I have the Stadol?" And the doctor said no, when you're at 7cm we don't give stadol anymore, because if the baby were to be born soon the effects of the drug won''t have worn off yet. She said she could push the cervix back with her fingers and the mom could push through it and get the baby out now, or she could give her the Stadol and they'd wait a few hours, and until she dilates all the way, to start pushing. And the mom chose to push the baby out now, despite the discomfort of having the doctor's hands push against her cervix. Which is amazing because I did not know you could just push through like that at only 7 cm!
As soon as she made that decision everything went into high gear. Nurses in scrub gear and tables full of instruments and sheets and plastic appeared in seconds to fill up the small hospital room. The bottom half of the bed disappeared and the doctor set up the whole area. I had been trying not to look between the mom's spread legs out of courtesy, but I soon realized it was going to be hard to miss. B told the mom that she should grab her thighs and pull against them to help her push, and she grabbed a leg and held the foot and thigh so the mom could push against her too. Then the doctor said "can someone else come hold this other leg?" and I jumped right in. The dad hadn't jumped up so I figured it was fine that I did. Plus, B had told me the other day that the husband was totally cool with doulas because he is from Africa and is used to birth being a Woman's thing, surrounded by other women, etc. So, I'm holding her leg and leaning into her as B is taking charge and telling her to push down down down ok breathe do it again down down down. It was really forceful pushing, and quick, because she had to push through her not fully dilated cervix as the doctor spread it apart. Then she'd breathe and relax in between contractions. That's another thing I'd like to note here: I don't know if many women realize this ahead of time, but contraction pain is not like broke-your-leg pain. If you break your leg, or cut your hand open, just as an example, you're in PAIN PAIN PAIN PAIN PAIN not stopping until the paramedics come and put you on pain drugs and then you're on them in the hospital and until you heal. With childbirth its a minute-long contraction Pain PAIN pain and then none. A few minutes go by then Pain PAIN pain none. So you get a few minutes in between to totally breathe and chill. And there's even a short period just after Transition and before Pushing called Resting stage where you could even fall asleep!
Anyway, let me just explain in detail just how much I was at this birth. I was not just at it, I was THERE. I was all up in. I was right on the other side of the leg from the doctor. I had a front-row seat to the birth. And I have to say, it was not gross or weird at all. I watched the baby start to crown, the head pushing out and then slightly receding. The baby's head was all narrow as it got squeezed out (newborns don't look like babies they look like newborns - elongated heads and squishy faces!) and so much tinier than you'd think. Admittedly, there was a gross aspect to it - the mom did poo a little bit and that is the only thing I can't handle - the smell. I don't like poop smell. I already know its going to be a problem when I have to change my kids' diapers. But there I was, supporting and pushing against the mom's leg, right in the thick of the action, and she was kind of a large woman too so it was no piece of cake. I watched the baby come out in a split second and get placed, blue and crying, right on his mom's belly. It was so surreal. I had watched it in videos before and then it was a foot from my face! Too cool.
Then there was a long to-do about collecting the cord blood because the parents had wanted to donate it. Unfortunately they did a really bad job, blood squirting everywhere except in the bag, and so I don't think it was enough to donate. Mom had pushed so hard and so fast that she had torn, so the doctor stitched her up for a long while and the baby got weighed and measured. The grandparents and the dad were taking photos like crazy. Then they gave baby back to mom and B helped her start breastfeeding. He latched on like a champ! Too cute. I congratulated her and told her she did awesome, but she said she didn't feel like she did in the end. But she really did do great - she was coping with her contractions well before she asked for stadol and then she was brave in choosing and executing the plan to go ahead and get the baby out! And I thanked her for letting me attend her birth for my training and she and the new dad both said they were glad they could help me out. They were so nice!
The whole thing happened so fast and I'm amazed I'm there and back already.
It all made me realize that I was thinking about Birth on the one hand and being in a Hospital on the other. Birth and Hospital were separate, even when I was thinking about births in hospitals. I know what it feels like to be a patient in a hospital, what it looks like to visit someone in their hospital room, and I've watched birth videos and read about hospital births, but I hadn't actually connected them in reality until today. I don't know if this makes sense. But when I was standing in that hospital room, it was just like being in a hospital. I guess I kept thinking "I'll be at a birth!" and maybe my thoughts were romanticized (everything would happen fast paced, I'd be doing lots of support techniques, or it would be a special birthing-type room) instead of thinking "I'll be at a hospital!" which is just what it was. I was at a hospital. It was just like visiting someone in the hospital. I hope that doesn't sound dumb, haha.
Being there made me realize that there is so much that you can't know until you're doing it. The workshops and the books do not tell you everything. If I were on my own, I wouldn't have known where to get ice chips or chux pads from. I wouldn't have been able to tell the mom that shaking after the birth was normal. I wouldn't have been able to tell her that after she is able to get up and use the restroom by herself, whenever she is ready, they will move her and baby to the postpartum room. And so forth. Realizing this has only made me more nervous to go into a birth on my own - there will be so much I won't tell the mom! But only experience gives me experience, I suppose.
As B and I were walking out I asked her how I did, and she said I did well. She didn't say too much about it but I believe her. :)