Profile: Wahiba Naeem
Themes occurring in the birth story:
- Epidural vs Natural birth experience
- Advantages of having a Doula/support person(s)
- Things I did that I believed would help during my birthing experience
- The physical and emotional tolls of Epidural and the cascade of interventions that follow
Pregnancy and birth is an experience of a lifetime and we all want it to be incredible. Who doesn't? Yet if we are not well prepared or do not have the right support, we can experience trauma like I did with my first born. And then there was the magic of natural birth with my second which left me more empowered than I have ever been in a lifetime. I have been blown away with my birth experiences and want as many of you as possible to go through the tremendous feeling that I had which affected me positively in so many ways.
Epidural & Pitocin (labor induction) experience: My first daughter was born on the 12th of August 2014. Although I was semi-active during my pregnancy, I thought more about how labor and birth was going to be and did not put much effort into actively working towards an easy laboring experience. I thought I was walking daily for an hour, but I was walking indoors which did not appear to make a difference to my stamina. I thought I was squatting, but I realized later I wasn't doing it right either. During my pregnancy, I was sitting with a reclined back so that my stomach could "breathe" for most of the last trimester (as in my experience many people instruct us to do). Basically, at that point, I had not done the entire AMANI Birth course that prepares mothers for an empowering birthing experience. My mother in law was a new trainee with AMANI Birth who lived in another country. She traveled for three days and communicated as much as she could to me in those days but I did not completely grasp everything; so while I thought I had grasped enough knowledge to prepare me for my birth, I discovered to my dismay that I still had a lot to learn.
I went two days over my due date and eventually my doula Kay Hashmi , pushed me to walk in our town center for two hours, which helped kick start my labor. I also did acupressure around 9 p.m. I was in early labor for almost seven hours, most of which I walked and rocked on my stomach. At 3:30 a.m, my aunt checked my cervical dilation. She estimated that I was at 4 cm and was having contractions 5 minutes apart. Since it was my first baby and we couldn't predict how fast the labor was going to progress, we left for the hospital. We arrived at 4 a.m and my water bag burst in the wheel chair. The nurse performed a vaginal exam and broke my amniotic bag further. I refused the IV since I wanted freedom of movement and only agreed for a cannula insertion. I did take an enema in fear of emptying my bowels during labor, which now seems hilarious to me.
I wore my gown and was out in the corridor walking. I walked constantly for nearly 13 hours. We did intermittent fetal monitoring every hour and a half or so during which I sat on the bed because the pain while lying down was excruciating. Every time a wave of pain hit me, I held the railing and my aunt or sister would massage my lower back to help with the pain. We continued like this until 10 a.m, which is when my doctor arrived. Observing that my contractions were still not consistent or increasing fast enough, she suggested Pitocin and an epidural, both of which I refused. The midwives on the floor knew my birth plan was to go all natural, so they helped with negotiating with the doctor. I continued walking, jumping on the birthing ball, taking a shower, eating bag fulls of dates for natural release of oxytocin, ...etc until 5:30 pm.
I was stuck at 7 cm of cervical dilation. And exhausted. While this is [within] normal, the "medical" world likes to refer to it as failure to progress and uses it as an excuse for C-sections. My midwife said my OB/GYN was pushing for a C-section now and if I wanted a chance at a vaginal birth (natural was out of the window now), I should opt for an epidural. A quick istikhara, and fear of hemorrhaging due to exhaustion later, I opted for the epidural. It was here I lost all control.
Enduring nearly 20 hours of natural pain, I was in control of myself emotionally and physically. I held on to railings around me while I was in pain but I had support. I had people that helped me manage my pain. My body was my own; I could eat, I could walk, I could talk, I could think. Once the epidural was administered, I was strapped to the bed and on constant fetal monitoring. I couldn't eat anymore. I couldn't feel my body waist down anymore. I couldn't think because my entire body was shaking at a level I had never experienced. My doula held my hand the entire time because the shaking took an emotional toll on me. My daughter's head was still not engaged in my pelvis.
Once I dilated an hour later, I was asked to push. I pushed for nearly 45 minutes, in what was to become a very traumatic experience. I had three sets of midwives' hands pushing with all their might on my uterus, and an obstetrician sitting at my vagina, who had already given the command for the operation theater to be ready. I was told to push as I was directed every minute, and no matter how hard I tried, the baby just wouldn't come. After 45 minutes of utter exhaustion and seeing the baby's heartbeat decelerating, the doctor gave up and said, "One last try, Wahiba." So I pushed until I felt like my eyes were popping out to no avail. After a vacuum and an episiotomy later there she was.
I went through 21 hours of labor in total. The umbilical cord was cut immediately and I was given the baby for skin to skin contact. I fed her and handed her to the pediatrician. After getting cleaned up, I was still feeling completely numb and in a drugged state (which meant I completely missed out on my oxytocin-high, which I was so looking forward to) and fell asleep. I had to wake up nearly every hour to feed my baby. Instead of feeling happy and bonding with her, I was annoyed and frustrated and just wanted to be left alone.
I did not completely return to my senses for nearly four days after; the effects of the epidural were so strong. I could not stand for two days, and even when I could, I was super weak. Because of the episiotomy, I was terrified by even the thought of using the toilet and defecated very painfully nearly four days later. The episiotomy took me six months to heal from completely. It weakened my pelvic floor to a point where I had urinary incontinence even after complete healing. I could not bond with my baby during the first days because I was so out of it myself. My back used to have spasms at the sight of the epidural for nearly a month afterwards, and I suffered from chronic backache for nearly six months. These were just the physical blows; the emotional roller coaster that I went through due to the trauma is another piece to the story. But oh well, "I could have had a C-section", I thought to comfort myself.
At least I got my vaginal delivery. At least I have my baby.
[Stay tuned for the second part of the birth story.]