The birth story of Moriah Joy Schlenker
7 pounds 13 ounces
9:16 am on August 7, 1998
For several months, I had considered changing doctors because the one I was going to was not open to how I wanted to experience the birth of my child. He insisted on medical interventions that I felt would be unnecessary or undesirable compared to the alternatives. For example, he said that the cord must be clamped and cut immediately to prevent anemia or jaundice, depending on where the baby was in relation to the placenta. He also said that 95% percent of women need an episiotomy and in the delivery room he could not even wait for my husband’s or my consent before doing one. That was my main concern. In our birth plan, we did not exclude any medical procedure entirely. We stated our desires, but also stated that if the plan couldn’t be followed we wanted the doctor to ask our consent before doing the intervention. We even had a clause that said if the situation was life-or death, we understood that our consent would not be sought and that he should do whatever was necessary. If he couldn’t agree with this plan, imagine all the things we hadn’t thought about putting into the plan that he was going to do during the birth.
After a visit to the local hospital’s birthing floor, I was very discouraged. They had mentioned that it had been a slow day for births that particular day. Later in the visit when we wanted to look at a post-partum room, we were told that all the private rooms were filled. We were also told that if we were unable to get a private room when we delivered that the baby would not be allowed 24-hour rooming in. Also, my husband would not be allowed to stay overnight if we were in a semi-private room. If we went with the hospital, we were going to be forced to stay at least 48 hours and yet we were most likely going to be separated from each other because if all the private rooms were booked on a “slow” day, then you can assume your chances at a private room were small indeed. Also, in the hospital they have to monitor you with at least an external monitor for a portion of every hour. They also said that they had to take the baby away from the mother immediately following birth to clean it up and perform some tests. All these things did not sit well with us.
I kept convincing myself not to change doctors “this time”. I dislike change. I had learned in my childbirth classes that tension can slow labor and increase your pain. I thought if I changed doctors I would be increasing my tension and I didn’t want the effects of that on my childbirth experience. I also felt fated to give birth at the hospital because I only saw two options—hospital or home. I didn’t want a homebirth because I wanted all options open to me and my child. If we needed a medical intervention, I wanted it to be readily available. I would not have been comfortable at home so home was not an option I seriously considered. That meant that the hospital was my only choice.
On Tuesday, August 4th, I called Barbara to ask her a few questions about the childbearing center she owns. (I forgot to tell her that I was 39.5 weeks pregnant until we were a few minutes into the conversation—oops) I knew that if I went there I would be changing birth attendant and place, but the tension I was feeling about delivering with my doctor at the hospital made me think it might be better to experience the tension of newness and the unknown than to risk all the things I knew I didn’t want. I was told I was going late and I believed it so even though I was due on Friday, I made an appointment to check out the childbearing center on Thursday evening, August 6th, at 5 p.m. After the tour, my husband and I decided that we wanted to birth our child there. Barbara did an exam and gave us the numbers to reach her when the time came. Little did we know just how soon we would be using them.
On Thursday, I had been experiencing some back pain, but wasn’t sure if they were contractions. I wasn’t feeling them in my belly at all so I convinced myself this was just some pregnancy pain and used a hot rice bag to ease my discomfort. I was planning on packing my bags for the upcoming event but decided I would do that on Friday since I really wanted to get my hair cut and I was, of course, going late. After visiting the childbearing center, my husband and I went out to eat. I wasn’t really hungry but it was late and I knew I must eat. I timed my back pains for the fun of it and they seemed to be 35-50 seconds long and about 10 minutes apart but I still thought it was my imagination. I looked for the stopwatch since I knew we would be needing it in a week or so. When I found it, I discovered it needed batteries. I put it in a ziploc bag so that my husband or I could get batteries for it on Friday. I sat down to watch my favorite movie while my husband and his brother moved some things into a truck. After the movie, my husband and I tried to go to bed, but I couldn’t sleep because my pains in my back. I tried to handle the labor alone since I figured I wasn’t far into it and my husband was going to help me later with it. I tried walking, hot showers, and different positions by myself. I wanted him to be well-rested just in case this really wasn’t labor and he still had to go to work in the morning. I finally woke him up and told him I needed his help.
Back labor was very hard for me, but Greg made me much more comfortable. He used a back rub and counter-pressure we had learned about in our birthing class. I used two different positions at home. Either I would sit on the toilet and not want to be touched at all or I would lie on the bed with Greg doing the back rub and counter-pressure. Greg was wonderful. He had to pack my bags for the center between my contractions, yet every time I needed him he was right there in seconds. I trusted him completely to be there any and every time I needed him. I also experienced some vomiting so he would be rubbing my back and then I would say I that I thought I was going to throw up and he would have to run to get the trash can. You are not supposed to move during a contraction but if one was especially intense I would move form the toilet (where I could handle the lighter contractions by myself) to the bed, yelling “Greg, I need you”. Greg was packing my bags, timing the contractions with a digital clock, doing the backrub and counter-pressure, reminding me how to breathe and relax, and staying on top of everything else. I couldn’t have made it through labor without him.
When contractions got to be about 3-4 minutes apart, Greg called Barbara. Barbara tried to talk to me also but I went into another contraction and couldn’t talk. They decided to have me go to the childbearing center about 6 am. Greg was able to somehow load up the car with all our stuff in between my contractions. He then walked me out to the car and got me settled. He drove really slow to the center. I was worried about a set of railroad tracks we were going to have to cross but his driving was perfect. It was a very smooth ride there. As soon as we got there, I went straight to the bathroom. Greg got my pillows behind me just like we had at home. Barbara checked the fetal heartbeat and said everything was going well. I moved to the bed and Barbara said she wanted to check me. I asked if I had to be on my back because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do that. She said that she could do it with me on my side and I allowed her to do it. I was at 4cm. In class we were taught not to be discouraged by the numbers but I must admit I got discouraged. At the doctors appointment on Monday I had been 2 cm. I went through several more stints at the toilet and on the bed. Greg was always there making me comfortable. Barbara checked the fetal heartbeat occasionally, but always asked first so as not to startle me and she always stopped if I started into a contraction. She was very patient. Deidre, the nurse, came and was introduced to me. I was pretty into myself at that point so I didn’t really care who was there. All vitals that needed to be taken were always done wherever I was and in whatever position I was in.
Greg asked if we could move to the whirlpool. Barbara said that that was a good idea. When I felt up to it, we moved. I don’t remember moving or getting into the pool but once there the jets on my back were great. I stayed there with Greg right behind me. Deidre and Barbara took the baby’s and my vitals every so often, but they always requested to do them. I really hated lifting my belly from the water to let them listen to the baby’s heartbeat, but they were very patient and let me lift when I felt able to. They ended up eventually using a fetoscope when the lifting was too much because the contractions were so close together. The contractions seemed to get worse then and I couldn’t relax and stay in control. I began yelling, screaming and thrashing around. After a few seconds, I would get in control, but Greg had to help me a lot and even then it was not a good control. Barbara offered me some different positions but I didn’t want to move. She asked if she could check me and I consented. She said I was ready to push. I was very happy about that because I just couldn’t relax any more. I kept pushing with my bottom because that’s where the pressure was. I also starting feeling the contractions in my belly for the first time. I pushed with each contraction by doing a kind of backbend. My feet were planted on the pool’s bottom and my arms were around Greg’s back and neck behind me. I would arch and push. Everyone in the room was very encouraging and telling me how wonderful I was doing. At the time, I thought they were all the biggest bunch of liars on the face of the earth. I did not feel like I was doing well and whenever I felt strong enough I let them know how I felt. In reality their comments were exactly what I needed because I wasn’t confident at all. Barbara told me that the head was out, but it didn’t feel any different to me. I tried to push the baby out with the next contraction but it frizzled out. The next few contractions seemed to last forever because I could push and push and push and it was still going. I got tired of resting it seemed and I just wanted the birth over with. I pushed with all my might each time. I felt a slight release and then a weight on my chest. They told me I had a baby. I couldn’t believe it. the whole time I was pushing I felt that they were lying to me about the progress. I would have believed I had just had a bowel movement more than that I had just had a baby. I asked if the baby was a boy or a girl and was told I could look. I just couldn’t open my eyes. They told me she was a girl and then my eyes opened and I looked down and she was looking up at me. She was beautiful. I couldn’t believe. It seemed too much like a dream. All my contractions had stopped, I had forgotten about all the pain and here was my baby stuck (literally because of the vernix) to my chest.
Here I get a little fuzzy. Here is what I remember. I wanted to wait a few minutes before trying to push out the placenta. Greg and Moriah went out to have her weighed and cleaned up a bit. After they returned, I was helped to turn width wise In the whirl pool so that I could brace my legs on the other side. Moriah was given to me to have her nurse to help expel the placenta. She wasn’t interested but I suddenly could feel a contraction coming on. I asked someone to take her because I knew I wanted to sink down into the water. Greg took her and I pushed with the contraction. I felt the placenta separate and come out. It was a really good feeling. I was unable to feel Moriah come out; I just felt pressure. This was different. It felt wonderful.
Greg, Moriah and I were back in the bedroom area and we recovered together. It was a very special bonding time for just the three of us. We all went home about 9 hours after the birth. We waited that long because I kept feeling faint because I hadn’t eaten anything real recently and I threw up during labor. I also have low blood pressure. Everyone at the center was very helpful and it was a real blessing to have Greg and Moriah with me at all times.