I was a certified delivery room nurse in one of the most prestigious private hospitals in the country. I have met a lot of amazing doctors and medical professionals along the way, most of them are very patient centered and sincerely try their best to give the best possible care they are trained to give to all of their patients. Back when I was still a budding student nurse, I have viewed labor and delivery as something so gruesome and painful that needs to be done in a hospital laced with interventions and drugs to make it better or may I say possible. One of my most dreaded clinical nursing rotation, must I openly admit just now, sorry ma’am Sherrie Mae Quizora (my clinical instructor) was our Shiprah Birthing home rotation. I felt that nothing being done there or happening there was essential enough to equip me for the competitive modern nursing world. Everything was so primitive and McGayver-ish, women were laying on the floor with their nipples being stimulated by the husband for more contractions, amniotic fluid everywhere, poop and all the mess before the baby comes out. It was just so yuck for me way back then. There were no high tech equipment or sophisticated machines being used. So I was so thankful that I only get to be there for one full rotation no more no less, little did I know, contrary to my obscured view of childbirth, it is where labor and delivery is at its finest.
When I became a labor and delivery nurse, my view did not change at all. I perceived intravenous lines, fluids, synthetic oxytocin, external fetal monitor and infusion pumps as part of the labor and delivery process, so necessary that I have syntocinon and syringe in my pocket before my duty starts. I silently laughed at women coming in with their birth plans, futile attempts to delivery via Lamaze ending up in cs or stat epidural anesthesia at 8cm, crying and wailing for their lives. I together with my colleagues have dreamed of a painless signature cesarean birth when it’s our turn to be moms. No surprise births for us! No shouting or panic at the site of mucus plug or amniotic fluids suddenly popping! I was actually “wow-ed” at when I pulled a normal delivery stunt with my first-born. It was viewed as a stunt and something to be wow-ed at, really. All of these beliefs I held dear in my heart until I had my own child. My first-born was delivered via normal vaginal delivery. Normal, not spontaneous because my bag of water ruptured even before my labor started, since I have seen this so many times, I confidently went through my morning routine, took a shower, blow dried my hair, slathered on my facial moisturizer and make up primer, put on my waterproof make up and prepared my dress, ready to check in for delivery. Looking back now, I was SO MISPREPARED haha so there I texted my obgyne checked in or may I say CLOCKED into the hospital and went through the process, had my I.V. fluid in my arms, Demerol shot through my veins at the slightest sensation of discomfort, external fetal monitor hooked on my abdomen, and I, contentedly laid there on the bed. Epidural anesthesia was conducted at 3cm dilatation, too early yes, but seeing so much of labor and delivery just did not prepare me to experience what labor truly is, so yeah give me those drugs, I even requested for Cesarean Section level analgesia, with fentanyl drip and all. They stripped my membranes, did the whole cervical dilatation for me. I went through the whole additional oxytocin and more anesthesia cycle. Then suddenly I heard the fetal monitor going from the confident lubdub.lubdub.lubdub to a slow lub….dub….lub…dub…., my dear obgyne walked through the door, said that the baby was in distress so we needed to deliver him A.S.A.P., I have seen this one too many times, wherein if the mom was not yet fully dilated and the baby was not low enough, she’ll surely end up in the O.R. table and a cesarean birth. My obgyne have determined that I was already fully dilated, in came the medical team with their sophisticated tools and terms, and I just laid there numbed, retouching my face powder and lip gloss. Everything was going as planned until my baby came out blue, limp and lifeless. As soon as he was born he was placed over my chest, complete with 10 fingers and toes, perfectly chiseled face and nose, he was exactly how I prayed for and more ONLY WITHOUT A HEART BEAT. He was immediately taken to the baby warmer where a team of pediatricians rescued him from the valley of the shadow of death. After a few gruesome seconds he gave out a good cry, and the day was bright again.
Post delivery, I felt numb. Literally and figuratively, I can’t feel half my body and I do not feel anything at all, well…except for the intense need to vomit, uncontrollable body chills, and the unwavering itchiness on my face because of morphine. I felt nothing, I just wanted to sleep, the nurse asked me whether I would want to room in my newborn or not, I said no in a heartbeat. I did not want to room-in my son, I did not do so for a week, I even requested for an extension of his stay in the nursery after the removal of all my medical contraptions. They only brought him in every 3 hours for breastfeeding and I immediately ring the nursery every after feed.
My journey through natural childbirth was not straightforward at all. It all started with my desire to breastfeed, which lead me to look for a breastfeeding advocate pediatrician and at the same time a homeopath for my son’s baby eczema and cradle cap. As a nurse who delved into pharmacology for a year, I have deemed corticosteroids untrustworthy for newborns or any adult for that matter unless it’s to be used for life and death situations. From homeopathy to organic food to organic household cleaning supplies then, just then, to natural childbirth. I had myself added to two facebook groups that talked about natural childbirth, one from here “gentle birth Philippines” and one from abroad “homebirth and waterbirth”.
As I researched more about natural birth, I learned that cord coil doesn’t always harm newborns, that the legendary “fetal distress” amidst labor nowadays, is possibly caused by too much contractions caused by synthetic oxytocin. A line from an article discussing it struck me, it said, “it just so happen your baby is too healthy for modern medicine to kill”. After that article I reached out to midwives from the homebirth and waterbirth group, one of the few I spoke with said that in her 10 ++ years of midwifery experience, she has delivered babies with multiple cord coils and yet the baby comes out pink and void of fetal distress in the womb. After this eureka moment, I have decided to undergo drug-free, au natural childbirth, just like that.
Then I scoured the Internet for resources that can help me go through it successfully. My obgyne, Dr. Martin Manahan, who happens to be one of the top OB’s in the country that delivers via water birth, was very supportive of my newfound idea and even recommended, the wonderful, Irina Otmakhova as my birth doula.
She gave me all the resources I needed, the tracks, the affirmations even lend me books on hypnobirthing and taught me daily exercises to do because I really cannot find time to do yoga. But unfortunately due to my busy mommyhood / mompreneur life, I was not really able to do or imbibe much of it. During my birth, all I had was my conviction to do it naturally. I am not encouraging no or little preparation; all I’m saying is it is possible to go through it with little preparation but then in order to be zen from start to finish rigorous preparation is a must! I learned that the hard way. Labor was tolerable but the last leg of it especially after the bag of water ruptures, the pressure waves became tsunami like. And when the head popped out as the contractions wanes out, I realized that no matter how much you try to push the baby out, it just won’t slide out without that tsunami like contractions, behind my warrior like cry I actually wished for ONE BIG TSUNAMI WAVE. Then finally it came, and the baby popped out like magic. I felt everything! And I’m glad I did! According to my latest ultrasound she’s 6.6lbs but when she popped out, I knew she’s more than that. She’s 7.5 lbs. I must say, all the things I laughed about when I was a clueless-about-real-birth delivery room nurse, the birth plan, the presence of my husband, my ever supportive obgyne and my birth doula, the dim light, the warmth of the water, soothing smell of lavender oil, and relaxing music really did make a difference.
Post delivery I felt tired but energized to care for my newborn, we did a semi lotus birth and I had my placenta encapsulated. As compared to my first birth, I made it a point to room-in my newborn and not have her leave my sight from the time she came out until we were discharged. She’s a calm, easy to feed newborn. My breast milk came in right away, by the 48th hour she was expelling yellow seedy poop and her umbilical cord came off on the 4th day. Until now she’s very easy to care for, it’s as if I do not have a baby at home.
Natural drug free childbirth was overall a wonderful experience. Birth is meant to be felt and labor pain is overrated. It is not as deadly or gruesome as I thought it would be, definitely not like in the movies but to be 100% honest the last part of it wherein after the water bag ruptures and the baby’s head pops out, that one, you need to prepare for that, definitely. Definitely need to prepare for that, indeed. Conviction to do it naturally is also very important.
Now with my successful natural delivery and newfound belief I pledge to join the natural gentle birthing movement to encourage women to take back the power that was unknowingly taken from us, the power to give birth. The power to give birth is a gift especially given to us, women, for a reason, we should embrace it, own it and be able to feel it. It’s nature’s design, we should go along with it, every pain, sacrifice and sweat happens for a reason, it leads to a whole new level of motherly instinct and yearning for the young. Happy natural birthing, mommas! When faced with a dilemma, unless you have a medical condition, the answer should always be “YES I CAN!” because indeed you can!
Irina is a birth
keeper, mother and an advocate. As a certified Childbirth Doula and
Hypno-Doula she accompanies mothers through pregnancy, birth and postpartum to
ensure a joyful, balanced and pleasurable experience. It is her greatest joy to
see mothers to come out of birth feeling empowered, proud and honored.