Stephanie's Childbirth StoryJun 6, 2019
It was music to Stephanie and Jonathan’s ears when they found out Stephanie was pregnant! Both 34, Stephanie, a manager in a physician medical group, and Jonathan, an elementary school music teacher, were excited that they would be expanding their family at allegro speed. From the start, Stephanie felt strongly about having a natural birth, and as a healthcare worker, she began to methodically research and map out her plan. She and Jonathan took educational classes together that helped encourage medication-free birth options, and she selected a midwife who was supportive of their wishes. They even went as far as to select a code word they would use if she wanted to request pain medication during the delivery. She would need to say it three times so Jonathan would know she was serious. Stephanie didn’t want to have any regrets, and wanted to be fully in control of her delivery. When it was time for her to select where to deliver, the couple toured The Center for Women and Infants at Saint Vincent Hospital. There, she learned about a new option being offered that might help make her birth plan a reality, and it was actually, well, a little funny!
“A lot of moms don’t know about the option of using nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, to help ease labor pains during delivery, but I was very excited to know in advance that this was an option at Saint Vincent,” recounted Stephanie. Nitrous oxide is a tasteless and odorless gas used as a labor analgesic. It has been found to decrease anxiety while increasing a feeling of well-being so that the pain experienced by mothers in labor and delivery is easier for them to deal with. Nitrous oxide is administered as a mixture with oxygen and inhaled through a mask. This new offering at Saint Vincent helped cement Stephanie’s decision of where she would deliver. Now, all the couple had to do was wait for the big day to arrive!
“On my due date, I thought my water broke, but it actually hadn’t,” said Stephanie. “Regardless, I came in to be checked and ended up getting admitted with preeclampsia.” Her labor had adagio progression at best from this point, and the couple, along with their caregivers, realized she would need a little help to speed things along. After laboring for more than a full day, Pitocin was administered. The contractions began to strengthen, and Stephanie requested the nitrous. “It took me a minute to get the hang of it in terms of the depth of my breaths, but it immediately helped take my focus away from the contractions and gave me an almost tingly, relaxed feeling,” Stephanie said. “It was really nice to have a chance to get through the contractions in an easier way, and I felt in control and very much myself, which was reassuring.”
Unfortunately, more time was passing, and Stephanie was still not progressing. Her contractions were intense and 30 seconds apart, not allowing her body to rest. After discussing her options with her care team, she decided to have an epidural to see if her body would be able to relax enough to allow her to advance further. This turned out to be the crescendo of her labor, and shortly after, Melody Virginia Richter arrived.
Appropriately named after an identifiable succession of musical sounds, Melody, was a surprise for Jonathan and Stephanie, as they chose not to find out their baby’s sex in advance. As part of Saint Vincent’s family-centric approach to maternity care, the couple was able to hold their daughter right away for skin to skin contact, breastfeeding and they opted for delayed cord clamping. Stephanie felt that she and Jonathan got to spend a nice amount of time with the baby before she went for her medical exam. “These were all things in my birth plan that historically, I would have had to make a case for, but they are things already available and accepted at Saint Vincent. It was really refreshing,” Stephanie said.
Life has definitely changed a lot for the Richters! The couple says that Melody is a very good baby, and they are settling into a new rhythm as a family of three for now. “If we have another one,” said Stephanie, “I would try for the same birth plan with the aid of the nitrous. I feel very strongly that if I would have gone into natural labor, the nitrous would have gotten me where I needed to be. It kept me really comfortable. The midwives, nurses, everyone in the maternity department at Saint Vincent made our long labor experience exceptional.”