A Hospital Birth

Ellen Cobb-Friesen was my first client and the whole experience was very special for me because her and her partner are some of my dearest friends. Less than a month after they asked me to be their doula, I became pregnant and I was so excited to share this journey with her. When the big day came, I was 34 weeks pregnant and determined to do everything in my power to bring them my complete attention and all of my energy. In her interview you will hear all about her very long labour (thank you Ellen for sharing your story with everyone) and also her thoughts on her experience with Saint-Boniface Hospital.

How did you decide to give birth at a hospital?

Given what I know about my Mother and Grandmother’s labours it was important to me to have the option of pain medication. I am/was interested in other options such as the birth centre, but knowing that it would be more difficult to access heavy-duty pain medication made me feel anxious. I realized that I would feel most comfortable giving birth in a hospital setting.

What did you do to prepare for your labour and birth?

I did a lot of reading about birth from a variety of sources, one of my favourite books was Birthing From Within. A lot of the reading I did didn’t talk about hospital births in a positive light which was disappointing and a bit frightening for me. I think part of the reason is that they were mainly written by Americans and my understanding is that there are much higher rates of intervention in their medical system than in ours. Through talking with relatives and friends about their experiences I heard so many positive experiences about hospital births. I think it’s important to look critically at people who are very entrenched in their opinions and not open to the other side.

We had a few sessions with our Doula about what the labour might look like and what could happen. It was particularly useful to talk about different natural ways we could reduce pain, and different birthing positions. We took a prenatal class at the Birth Centre here in Winnipeg through the Women’s Health Clinic that was also very useful. Once I was overdue I had acupuncture to help get my body moving more naturally.

Can you talk about your birth?

My labour was long! I woke up at 5am on Sunday morning with what I thought were contractions. At 7am I woke my partner up to let him know that they were happening but not very intense. We tried to sleep a little bit more but it was hard for me because I was getting excited. Around 10am we called our Doula to come over. We were debating when to head to the hospital because we figure my pre-labour was going to be long (family history!), but I was vomiting quite a bit and feeling anxious about that so we went in. I was only dilated a small amount so we were sent home a few hours later. I thought that I would be disappointed to get sent home, and I was a bit, but it was also nice to get a bit of a reset. Plus we live close to the hospital so it wasn’t inconvenient!

At home I soaked in the tub for quite a while, but my contractions were starting to get more painful and I felt like it was time to go back. They checked my dilation again, and I was at 2cm. That was frustrating. I was able to have some morphine at that point and get a little bit of rest. During this time we also walked around the hospital and did counter-pressure. I loved the counter-pressure, it made the contractions liveable. Around 5pm I was only at 3cm, and they were talking about sending me home again. However, because I was also 10 days overdue at that point and was on the list to get induced in a few days they offered to give me some induction drugs to move things along. I decided to pursue that because I was really feeling the pain at that point and had a strong desire to get things moving further along.

At about 10pm we finally were able to move from triage to a birthing room. There I used the exercise ball, we did counter-pressure, and my Doula set up some peppermint oil in a diffuser. I thought I would want to listen to music but I found that I prefered just the general hospital noise. I also requested an epidural at this point, and disappointingly they weren’t able to get it in - after three tries they decided to back off. I was able to use more heavy-duty pain medication at this point which I was so grateful for. We also continued to do some counter-pressure as well. At about 1am the nurse checked me and I was 7cm dilated. I started to get excited again that I was finally going to meet my baby.

Of course, with labour as in life, you can not predict how things will go. Once I was at 10cm a few hours later I tried to push. In all I pushed for about two hours, but the baby did not really descend. The nurse was able to feel that the baby had a head of hair, it was fun to find out details like that. By 7am I had stopped pushing and there was a shift change, which also meant that another anesthesiologist could try giving me an epidural - and this one was successful on the second try. This was wonderful because it meant that I was able to get some rest because I was totally exhausted.

I napped until about noon, and then we had a chat with the doctor and nurse about the next steps. Because I had been in labour for so long at that point and the baby still hadn’t descended that far it was looking like I would need to have a C-Section. I was disappointed to hear that but not surprised. I was also open to it at that point because I couldn’t imagine pushing again since I was still very tired. Because I was with a family doctor for my care and labour, I was then referred to the on-call Obstetrician if I was going to have the surgery. The OB came in and wanted to see if it were possible for me to push to see what muscle power I could give. He was a really kind and funny man and brought a lot of much-needed energy into the room. He determined that I should try and push, that it was still possible for me to give birth vaginally. So, I started pushing again! With the help of a vacuum I was able to push out my precious baby girl at 2:46pm on a Monday - about 34 hours after I woke up from my first contraction. She was immediately put on my chest and snuggled right in for a good long cuddle.

What did you like most about your labour and birth?

I liked that I was mentally prepared to be open and flexible to what could happen. If I had had a strict “plan” for how I wanted the labour to go that could have been incredibly difficult and hard to move past. When I initially started thinking about what my labour could look like when I first became pregnant I wanted it to be totally drug-free. As it moved along I grew to be more open about having pain medication, and wanted to avoid having a c-section. By the end I just wanted to have a healthy baby in arms, in whatever way that might happen.

What would you change about your labour and birth?

For what I had control over, there isn’t anything I can think of that I would change. I would pack a few more t-shirts to wear postpartum in the hospital though!

Can you talk about the team that was there for you?

I had incredible support from both my partner and our Doula throughout the whole labour. I could have done it without them, but I am so thankful that I didn’t. They spend endless hours providing counter-pressure, got me snacks and drinks, and helped keep my mind off the worst of the pain. Because they had each other they were able to make sure that between the two of them I had un-ending emotional support.

We also had a number of nurses and doctors throughout our time there and they were all friendly and personable, and would explain everything to make sure that I understood what was happening.

What type of postpartum support did the staff at the hospital give you?

I was able to receive so much assistance with breastfeeding which was so helpful. Every time there was a shift change I would get a new nurse who would inevitably share some nugget of information that I was able to use to make sure that I had a good breastfeeding experience right from the start. I had a difficult time recovering from labour and had a nurse with us who was able to support me for hours afterwards before I was sent to the recovery wing. We were at St. Boniface hospital which is a teaching hospital, this means that we had a nursing student with us later on who had to explain so much to us which I loved! I like to get as much information as possible so that I can have the best sense of what is happening.

Would you still decide to give birth at a hospital now?

I had a good experience at the hospital, and plan on having a hospital birth the next time I am pregnant.