A Birthday Birth Story
Name: Maria Provencher
Baby Name: Melanie Anne (Founder of Returning to Birth)
Birthday: September 1, 1988
Location of Birth: San Diego, CA
Today is the perfect day to tell my birth story. Because thirty years ago today, my sweet baby Melanie was born. She is the same Melanie that brings us these amazing birth stories in order to inspire us, encourage us, and remind each of us how strong we really are. Thank you Mel for making me a Mom, for being the amazing woman you are, and for bringing me such joy from that very first moment I held you to every day since. I love you with all my heart.
Even though my story happened a looong time ago, sorry Mel, it's amazing how birth memories stay vivid and so very etched in our minds. We never forget them, good or bad, they remain with us forever to remind us that we are so very strong when it comes to love.
My day started off normal, I woke up, showered, dressed and headed off to work. Even though I was 4 days away from my due date, I felt good. I felt big, but I was healthy and ready for whatever was about to happen. But I had no idea what was coming really. My husband and I had taken a free childbirth class series which was held in a large classroom somewhere in Balboa Park with about 20 other couples. It wasn't too indepth and we had missed a couple of classes, but most of it made sense I guess. But I still wondered about just how this was going to feel. The class covered many topics, but how were those explanations going to apply to me? It just wasn't clear to me, so I would just wait and figure it out when it happened I guess. I was clueless.
One fear I did have was going to the hospital so soon that they would just laugh at me and send me back home. Why that worried me, I don't know, but I had heard some stories and that is what stuck out.
So that day while I was at work, I began feeling a new and strange feeling that I could only describe as a contraction. They were not painful, but I could tell I was having them, and they would come and go every 5 minutes. I casually mentioned them to my 3 office mates, John, Lisa and Sue and they all went to general quarters. That made me laugh because I wasn't in labor. I told them that this was what they described in class as Braxton Hicks contractions. I figured these couldn't be productive labor contractions because they were 5 minutes apart and they didn't hurt. In class they said to go to the hospital at 5 min apart, so this must not be real labor. So as I continued to work, Lisa and Sue just stared at me while John documented and timed every thing I felt. They entertained me the rest of the day with their concern as we worked and timed contractions until 5pm. I told them I would see them tomorrow and headed home. John did not look so sure about that, I was still clueless.
That evening at home I told my Husband Jerry that I was still having a lot of those Braxton Hicks contractions. We had dinner and I started to realize that these contractions were not going away and were starting to get more noticeable. I decided at some point that the BH contractions I had been having all day had now become early labor contractions. I tried to rest, at some point I even attempted to go to bed, but that didn't really work. At 10pm I decided it was time to let my doctor know that I was in labor. I realized that I didn't know how I was supposed to do that at 10pm, clueless. I looked up his name in the phone book and there he was, his home number, and I called. He was a bit surprised to get a call from a patient at 10pm, but he was so very sweet he didn't bother me with the explanation of, "don't you know you're suppose to call the office?" He just listened to me and told me that when I was ready to head to the hospital a Nurse would call him when it was time for him to arrive. His advice was that when it was difficult for me to walk and talk during a contraction, that I should head in. Hmm, I could talk, so I guess this is early labor.
I told Jerry to get some sleep, that this would be awhile and I needed him rested for later. I decided a shower would be a great thing and oh my it was. I stayed in that warm shower for close to 2 hours, contracting away, and talking to my clueless self to see if I could.
As I got out of the shower Jerry woke up to check on me. We both noticed a bit of blood leaking out of me and so since no one had mentioned that, I decided that was probably something we should go to the hospital to check out. I was also feeling a very slight urge to push? No, it isn't time for that, so I decided not to mention that to Jerry. We gathered our things and began to walk to our car, but not as easily as I thought it would be. Every couple of minutes, 2 actually, I had to stop, turn towards Jerry, hold on and breathe. All I could say to him was, "I'm in trouble, if this is early labor, I'm never going to make it!" clueless
That was not a pleasant car ride!! We finally (10 min) finally got there after what seemed like forever. We left the car at the front entrance to Mercy Hospital and began the long walk to the elevators. It was now 1am and the large hospital lobby was empty except for a lone security guard at the other end near the elevators. I just watched his eyes as they got bigger each time I stopped to grab a hold of Jerry. It took quite a few contractions to get to him and by then he had the elevator ready for us.
In those days, most women labored in shared rooms together, often at different stages in their labor, and then were wheeled into the OR when it was time to push. But Mercy had 4 new private LDR rooms where you could labor and deliver all in one place, so cool! The first words out of my mouth when I saw the Nurse was, "could I please have an LDR?" Her response stopped me in my tracks, "Slow down, we don't know if we're even going to admit you yet." And there it was, my big fear of being sent home was going to happen. I had come too soon. I was so disappointed immediately.
I was told to go into the triage room where the Nurse began her paperwork and finally examined me. Thankfully, this time it was the Nurse who was clueless, I was too, but now I had company! "You're 10 cm!" she said, "Who is your doctor, how far away does he live?" "Oh, he already knows I'm in labor, I called him earlier." I saw general quarters again but this time for real as the nurse worried that she would be delivering this baby herself. Thankfully, for the Nurse, it took me some time to push and my wonderful and sweet doctor arrived and patiently guided me through it. It was his idea to get me a large mirror so I could see how I pushed while he applied warm compresses to my perineum to help it stretch. I vividly remember seeing my baby's head and thinking to myself, "I'm having a baby!" as if it was the first true understanding I had of being pregnant at all. There was some pretty thick meconium present as she was born, so she was immediately given to a Pediatrician who was there to suction her lungs to prevent aspiration. Then she was put into my arms and there are just no words to describe the amount and intensity of the many different feelings I felt all at once. She just looked at me with her big beautiful eyes and I was so happy she was finally here with me and Jerry. She was finally in my arms and in my heart all at once. She immediately took to nursing and I was struck by her quiet alertness as she curiously looked at us and at this new world she was in. She has been a joy and an amazing blessing to me ever since that wonderful day.
I was so surprised by how well my birth went and also by how fast I felt better following her birth. It was an amazing experience that showed me a power and strength I never knew I had. This amazing and positive birth experience actually became the first step in a lifelong love for helping women in birth. A year later I would unexpectedly become a doula for a friend. The reason she had called me, she would later tell me, was because I was the only person who had ever told her of a positive personal birth experience. I didn't know what a doula was that day I first helped her, but I knew I wanted to help other women also experience a positive birth. My birth changed my life really, it showed me my strength, it helped me to be a better Mom, and it taught me that I can share my experience and now not so clueless knowledge with others to help them in their journey.
And now Melanie, my sweet baby, is helping others with birth too. Happy Birthday to you Melanie. Those words have so much meaning to me because of you. 💗