On August 6, 2011, at 5:43 p.m., Heather Jansen gave birth to her first child at St.Vincent Carmel Hospital. Henry James weighed 7 pounds, 12 ounces and, according to his mother, has his father’s cute button nose. Here, Heather shares the story of how nurse Erin Deitsch kept up her confidence and helped her accomplish the natural childbirth she wanted.
My birth plan was to deliver with as few interventions as possible. I wanted a natural birth. I had labored at home for many hours, and didn’t leave for the hospital until the pain was almost unbearable and my contractions were so close together that I barely had a break in between them. I was “that girl” walking in to the hospital. Anyone who saw me would have known I was in labor, with my huge belly, my sobbing cries, my stopping along the way to lean against the wall and breath through a contraction, and the way I was snapping at my husband as he tried desperately to help me in any way that he could.
We made it up the elevator to the third floor and my husband ran to get someone to check us in. I heard him come back around the corner with someone who was supposed to check and make sure I was really ready to be admitted. He was saying, “I’m pretty sure this is real labor.” The poor woman took one look at me and went to get my nurse. I was sobbing uncontrollably. My birth plan said that my husband and nurse were supposed to try and talk me out of an epidural. For weeks, I had been praying for a great nurse because I had heard that was the key to getting through labor naturally.
The door swung open and there was Erin. She had a huge smile and greeted us with a chipper, “Hi folks!” which was immediately followed by, “Oh no . . . ” as she met eyes with me.
I was a mess but felt instantly better when I saw her. I wanted to melt into her arms. She kept the mood light, making jokes as she checked me. Even though I was incapable of laughing, I appreciated it.
“Well, hello six centimeters!” she said with excitement. “Heather, great job laboring at home!”
Six centimeters was great in her eyes, but to me, it meant I was barely over halfway there. I continued to cry and said, “I don’t know if I can do this. I think I want an epidural.”
Erin didn’t skip a beat. She looked me in the eye, put her hand on my arm, and said, “Heather, look at me. You are going to do this. You are through the slow part of labor. From here, it will go so fast. Come on, let’s go to your room.”
I got to my delivery room and everything from there was pretty much a blur. The pain was intense. Erin got me some aromatherapy, brought a birthing ball, and applied counter-pressure to my back. The contractions were so intense. I started asking her for an epidural and every time she would say, “Let’s just get through this contraction.” She knew that I would regret it and soon she got smart and just stayed away, leaving my husband to help me labor. He was more than capable and she knew I could tell him all day long that I needed an epidural but he couldn’t get me one. She would pop her head in and say, “Christian, how are we doing?” and he would wave her away as I said, “Is that Erin? Tell her I want an epidural,” but by then she was already gone.
At one point not long after I got there, the pain became so unbearable that I couldn’t stand it. The pressure in my pelvis was building and I knew that I couldn’t take any more. I had been barking at my husband and was frantic from the pain. Erin came in and I asked her when she was going to check me again. “Oh, well, we will know when you’re ready, Heather. Your whole demeanor will change. I don’t want to check you before then because I might accidentally break your water and right now that is giving you a nice cushion.” I was in a panic.
“OK, so it is going to get worse than this?” I asked. “I am going to need an epidural.”
I had no breaks between contractions. It couldn’t get any worse and if it was going to, I needed out now.
My husband looked at her desperately. “What are our options?” he asked her. “Well, do you want me to check you? Would that make you feel better?” she asked me. I nodded my head yes and crawled from the birthing ball onto the bed. I could tell she was nervous and probably assumed that I would be about where I was the last time she checked me not long before.
Suddenly, her eyes lit up. “Oh man, baby is really low,” she said, followed by, “Wow. Heather, I am going to go call your doctor! I can stretch you to nine centimeters!”
She was genuinely excited for me and it showed. It was so comforting. She fled from the room before I could ask about an epidural, which was smart. I knew that at that point, it would be silly to call the anesthesiologist. I was in transition, the most painful but fastest part of labor, and soon it would all be over. My mental state completely changed once I knew how much progress my body was making.
Before long, my doctor was there. She checked me, told me that she was going to break my water and that I would be able to start pushing. My husband held one leg and Erin held the other. Pushing was a welcome relief to the pain caused by contractions, but it was exhausting. Erin must be a coach or an athlete of some sort. She was so great. She was my cheerleader. She coached me through each breath and each push and practically screamed with excitement at the progress I was making as the baby’s head descended lower and lower. My husband followed her lead and between the two of them, there was a lot of energy in the room to keep me going push after push even though I was exhausted and after about an hour felt like I couldn’t possibly do another round. In between contractions, everyone whispered and let me rest. Erin laid cold washcloths on my forehead and pull them off when it was time to push. It was a perfect balance.
After about an hour and a half of pushing came the moment we had been waiting for. The doctor held our baby up in front of me and I got to hear “It’s a boy!” because we had waited to find out the sex. They laid him on my chest, just as I had requested when we met with Trish for our pre-registration a few weeks earlier.
Within an hour, I was feeling great, watching my baby boy get his footprints taken, laughing, eating peanut M&M’s and asking to get out of bed and walk around. This was why I had wanted a natural birth. The recovery time was incredible and I was so proud and excited that I had done it. I definitely couldn’t have done it on my own. I have my husband and Erin to thank because the truth was that if they wouldn’t have been so amazing, I definitely would have diverged from my birth plan and given in to the epidural. They just weren’t willing to let me give up.