Not everyone wants a natural childbirth. DUH, I get it.
But I’m confident that every mother wants a positive birth experience. The funny thing is, most of us aren’t exposed to many, if ANY, positive birth stories before we have to give birth ourselves.
Either we assume they don’t exist because of how the media portrays birth, or because people are so damn eager to share their horror stories, or because it’s just not the norm.
So I wanted to share my birth story, as a point of positive reference.
Does that mean I am going to tell you that birth is glamorous, something I’d chose to do for fun, or pain free? I wish. Really, I do. I have to do it again myself in just a few weeks (Subscribe to follow this blog and get an update when the final part of the story is added: How I feel About Birth the Second Time Around). But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a positive, empowering experience when you look back on it.
So here we go, the Birth Story of a Mother, a Father, and a Baby. Because that is the thing, you birth a baby and a new identity for yourself and your significant other, all at the same time. Crazy to think about, right?!
At 33 yrs. old I finally felt like I had traveled, learned, and self indulged long enough, that I was ready for a child. Fortunately my husband was also far beyond his college party days, willingly going to bed by 10pm., and was also on board with the baby idea.
After four months of trying, I took three pregnancy tests the day before Father’s Day and confirmed I was in fact, with child. Why three tests? I messed up the first one by not reading the directions (yup, it can be more complicated than peeing on a stick, for some brands myou have to remove the cover;), the second was a false negative, and the third was a winner!
Once we found out we were pregnant I started down the traditional health care path. I picked an OB-GYN, and as it turned out, I really liked her. She was younger, active, and had two young kids. I had no issues.
But the more I learned about birth in the U.S. (read Part One here: Natural Child Birth Sounds Insane, but You’re Still Curious: Six Resources to Consider) the more I started to think about natural birth. Honestly, I wasn’t 100% convinced I wanted to go that route, but once I found out that there was a midwife that could deliver at my hospital, I switched to her care at 33 wks. I figured it was my best chance of receiving the coaching and attention I felt I would need to achieve the birth I wanted (read Part 2 here: Why Natural Birth Trumped America’s Other Options)
I felt good during the third trimester and continued to stay as active as possible. I gave up running around 32 wks, but was still playing tennis, walking, doing light weights, and a little Zumba.
I went in for an appointment at 40 wks. + 3 days. I wasn’t dilated a bit. But, I figured my baby and body knew what to do when, so I wasn’t too worried. Then the midwife started discussing inserting a balloon to start dilation. I was not excited. She said she would give me a few more days.
At 40 wks. + 5 days, I went to Zumba. I had finished everything on my to-do list, so I decided to layout by the pool. That was noon on Leap Day, The one day my husband told me not to have the baby. I felt what I thought may be the start of contractions, but I decided to relax and see.
By 6pm. when my husband came home from work, I told him I thought I was in labor. Since contractions were still far enough a part, I decided to go to sleep around 9 pm. After an hour they were getting stronger and closer and I started tracking them with an app. I got up, took a bath, packed my bag, paced the house, sat on the exercise ball, and used a heating pad on my back. By 5 am, or so, we texted the midwife to let her know I was in labor. We left the house about 6:15 am, arriving at the hospital by 6:30 am. When I walked in they said I seemed to calm to be in labor. Ha, I didn’t feel calm. I was in pain and just trying to deal with it internally!
When they checked me at 7:15 am, they asked if I wanted an epidural. I said, that depends, how far along am I? I was at 5 cm. I decided to press on.
Once I got in to my hospital room, I was able to pace around the room and lean on various furniture, or my husband, for support when the contractions hit. Once the midwife arrived she applied counter pressure on my back during each contraction. She told me I could try out the labor tub at 8:45 am. At this hospital you could labor in it until your water broke and then you had to get out because of increased risk of infection.
By that point contractions were very intense. I was groaning as I could feel the baby moving down with every contraction, and the pressure and intensity building. Honestly I don’t know if I was totally coherent at that point. I was just trying to block everything out.
I do remember that I was no longer a sweet pregnant woman by the time my midwife told me that I needed to get out of the tub so that she could check me (9:50 am). I was more of a barbaric, naked, grunting beast. She said the sounds of my groans had changed, and it was a signal that my body was likely ready to push.
Pretty sure I could have pierced her heart with the daggers my eyes wanted to throw at her in that moment, except that would have taken too much energy and coordination, which I didn’t have at that moment.
Some how I exited the tub and they checked me . Apparently my water broke when they checked me, and I was 10 cm (10:20 am). I was ready to push.
I had imagined that I would want to push standing up, with the help of gravity working with me. But once I was on that bed to get checked, there was no way I was moving. By that point contractions were off the charts, I was screaming and squeezing my husband’s hand, and my body was starting to involuntarily push. Instead I chose a side position, biting a towel, with one of my legs propped up on a push bar for leverage.
Eventually I was told that the high pitched screams weren’t helping anything. Plus, I started to worry that I was scaring the laboring mother in the next room. My midwife suggested that I use low groans, then hold my breath and use the power to push my baby out.
They told me they could see the baby’s head. I figured they were just trying to humor me at that point. They asked if I wanted a mirror so that I could see for myself. I declined. I don’t like medical stuff, there was no way I wanted to see what was going on down there while I was in the middle of it. Some people say the pushing phase feels good after the pain of contractions. That was not my case. The amount of pressure down there felt scary. To be a bit graphic, I felt like I was tearing in half.
But here is the crazy thing. Through all of this, asking for an epidural never crossed my mind. With the constant attention and affirming coaching from my husband and midwife, I felt convinced that this was all normal. This was how birth was supposed to progress. I could just get through it one moment at a time. My body was not broken. I did not need a doctor to fix me. What I needed was a calm environment. Love and support, gentle coaching to try new things (positions, breathing, etc.), and a belief in myself.
But had someone been in my ear asking if I wanted an epidural, or left me alone with my fears, I probably would have cracked.
After pushing for 45 min. the head started to emerge. I was ready for all this fun to be over. During the next contraction I pushed with all my might and the head and the body slide out at 11:08 am. My midwife and husband were there to catch the baby. She was perfect.
I couldn’t believe it. The pain was over. The pain had a purpose. The pain told my body what to do. And that purpose was now in my arms.
I had some tearing, so I had to wait until I delivered the placenta and got stitched up, before I finally got to be left alone between my legs. But once I was, it was awesome. I wasn’t attached to anything. I could freely move and bond with my daughter, soaking up those first few hours as a new little family.
I was pretty damn proud of the birth my daughter and I just achieved together.
Our first amazing adventure, on day one.
So, the big question. Would I do it again? Yup. That’s the plan.
Subscribe to follow this blog and get an update when Part Four of the story is added: How I feel About Birth the Second Time Around.
Want something else fun to read? Check out my collection of loving and sarcastic children’s books (Love You to Pieces Beautiful Monster and My Mom is the Worst).
And, If you have your own positive birth story online (Natural, Medicated, or C-Section), please share a link in the comments below so that we can collect other examples of positive stories. Thanks!