On Saturday, October 12th of 2013 I gave birth to my little girl. It was amazing, beautiful day. I thank God that we had no complications and that I was able to give birth without any drugs. I thought I would share my story because maybe there are women out there who want to hear a positive story of natural birth in a hospital setting. It is absolutely possible!
I like to say that my “labor” started weeks before I went into labor. 3 weeks before my due date I was 2 cm dilated and 50 percent effaced. Then a week before my due date I was 3 cm dilated and 75 percent effaced. My midwife really thought that I would not go past my due date of October 8th. I went ahead and believed her, but I also wasn’t sure because in my mind my due date was October 11th based on when I thought I had ovulated. Well…October 8th came and went. Really from October 1st my mom and mother-in-law were crazy, constantly checking in and wondering when the baby would be here. I was excited, but I was also relaxed. I didn’t mind having more time with my baby because I loved being pregnant – even though I was not very comfortable.
At my October 9th appointment they did a non-stress test and everything looked great. Apparently I had a contraction while I was on the monitor, but besides feeling a little flushed at one point, I didn’t even feel it. I was surprised because I had been having Braxton-Hicks contractions since week 17 of my pregnancy, so I thought I would have recognized the feeling.
At the appointment I also got an unwelcome surprise. I explain in my post about preparing for a drug-free labor that one of the reasons I chose my midwife was because there was a 99 percent chance she would be at my labor. The only way she wouldn’t was if she was out of town when I went into labor. Well…at the appointment she told me that she and her husband had to go out of town that weekend. I knew right then and there that I would probably go into labor when she was gone! My midwife told me that I was still 3 cm dilated and 75 percent effaced. She said she really didn’t think I would go another week, but she didn’t want to make any bets because she had thought I would have had the baby already! I was sad that there was a chance she would not be at my labor, especially when I found out the other midwife would not be on call and I would have a doctor I had never met. That was what I had been trying to avoid all along! But I really didn’t dwell on it or get stressed out because I was in a good state of mind and I believed everything would happen the way it was meant to happen.
The rest of the week, I ate spicy food and walked as much as I could in the hopes of starting labor. My last day of work had been Friday the 4th, so I was able to just relax and rest (except when my mom called me every hour, haha). No contractions and no labor. Again, besides being uncomfortable and a little anxious, I really wasn’t upset about it and just saw it as a blessing to experience my baby in my belly a little longer. But now I had a pretty good feeling that my midwife would for sure not be delivering my baby.
When I woke up at 7 am on Saturday, October 12th (my Grandma’s birthday!!!!), I started having back pains on and off and they continued throughout the morning. I had a feeling this could be something, but they were so inconsistent that I wasn’t sure. So we went about our day. We decided to go to the grocery store to stock up on a couple items we would want after the baby was born. The back pains continued, but their length apart was very random and not really growing shorter. We were planning on going to a hotel near the hospital during my early labor so that we wouldn’t have to make the 45 minute drive when I was really in pain. But we didn’t want to go yet since we weren’t sure if this was it. We were feeling excited though.
We decided to rest for awhile and were just kind of laying in bed. At 12:30 pm I got up to use the restroom. I went only a couple steps and BOOM! my water broke! I knew because there was all of a sudden so much fluid. I couldn’t believe it because according to my childbirth class, water breaking before contractions is so uncommon. I was very nervous when this happened because I knew that this could increase the risk of infection and I figured the doctor would make me go to the hospital immediately, which was NOT what I had wanted. The books I had been reading suggested that going to the hospital too early could slow labor and increase the likelihood of interventions. My concern was that they would push Pitocin and try to rush me. But, one of my Hypnobirthing Birthing Affirmations was something like “I will stay calm no matter what turn my birthing takes.” So I just kept saying that over and over.
When I called and talked to the doctor, she seemed very nice. She said I could wait three hours before going in to the hospital, the only exception being if I was bleeding. I hung up the phone and was relieved that I could wait a little longer. My husband started making sure everything was in the car and ready to go.
Only 10 minutes later I had more fluid, but this time there was red in it. My husband and I were debating whether there was enough blood to justify calling the doctor, but we knew we had to. So I did, and sure enough the doctor said I needed to head to the hospital. She said the blood was probably just from the cervix, but we needed to make sure the baby was OK. We got everything together, called my mom, and left for the hospital!
On the way to the hospital, I noticed that the back pain was stronger and more painful. I was also having a lot of pain and pressure in my, um, rectum… The car ride was OK. There was some traffic, and I was especially uncomfortable since sitting in a car required, well, sitting! Sitting was the worst position to be in! But I started deep breathing through the pains, which I now realized were contractions. I also worked on one of my favorite Hypnobirthing visualizations, where you imagine a dial you can turn to flood your body with a euphoric feeling. It really works! Overall, the pain wasn’t too bad and I was thinking “Good thing we didn’t do this car ride when I was a lot further in labor!”
We got to the hospital around 2:00 pm. We got a parking spot right outside the front door, and I was very happy about that! I walked in no problem and we checked in to Labor & Delivery. We were assigned Room #2 and a very nice nurse named Molly, although we found out she would be leaving at 3.
The next hour was kind of annoying because they needed to get sample of my fluids to make sure my water had broken. I had to sit on the bed on a pad, which was extremely uncomfortable. Molly asked a bunch of random questions and I kept myself together through all the contractions. I think I kept myself together too well because I don’t think she realized I was in pain. Looking back, I feel like if the nurses had realized how far along I was they would have hurried a bit more!
At 3 pm my new nurse Maria arrived and I finally expressed that this position was extremely uncomfortable. FINALLY they checked the fluid and confirmed that my water had broken. They also determined that I was almost 7 cm dilated and that the baby was at the 0 station. I was so happy that I was dilated that much; my dream had been to get to the hospital around 7 cm. I had been so afraid that I wasn’t going to be far along. I was so thankful.
Maria knew I didn’t want pain medication and that I wanted to move around and be in different positions, so she let me get out of bed. At this time, I also met my doctor, who seemed very nice and chill. The next few hours – which went by so quickly I don’t really believe it was 3 hours – I was able to labor pretty much as I wanted. I found that the only bearable position during contractions was on my hands and knees. In any other position, the pressure on my rectum was too intense and uncomfortable. Thank goodness my movement was not restricted! They had to put the electronic fetal monitor on me maybe once or twice, and I did have to stand still a little more for that, but Maria really tried to allow me to get out of it as soon as possible.
I was so grateful that no one was pushing me to do something I didn’t want. If anything, Maria was just really impressed with me and let me do my thing. I did feel very uncomfortable but the discomfort always ended with the contractions and never once did I wish I had medicine. I never really got to use all my relaxation strategies because everything happened so fast. I also just kept using deep breathing, not the different Lamaze breathing techniques. I did find the Hypnobirthing birthing affirmations helpful though, even if I didn’t have time to put myself into a blissful hypnotic state in early labor, haha. Through it all, my husband was amazing because he rubbed my back in the perfect way!
At 6 pm the doctor came in to check me. I was 10 cm! She said we could start pushing! I kind of wonder how long I was at 10 cm. The nurse told me that I would know when I needed to push because there would be incredible pressure in the rectum…but that was my entire labor! So I have a feeling I would not have known when it was time. Anyways, I told everyone that sitting on the bed for pushing was not an option, so I went on my hands and knees. After pushing for a while, Mary, the other nurse who had joined us, suggested using the squatting bar. That worked amazingly and after one round of pushing the doctor said I was ready to deliver! I actually did use the old school breathing method of holding your breath during pushes because that’s what the nurses were suggesting and I just really wanted everything to go smoothly. Without my midwife, I still had a small fear that I would have to have a c-section, so I figured the fastest method, the better. I found the nurses counting to 10 during each push very helpful. I always did 4 pushes per contraction, even though they were ready to only count out 3. I wanted to get the most out of each contraction! I have to say, pushing and even crowning didn’t hurt that much. It was uncomfortable and I wanted it to be over, of course. I just kept thinking: this is how my body is supposed to work. I didn’t really feel an “urge” to push though. I just knew that when I had a contraction, it made sense that I should push. I can’t even express how amazing the hospital staff was at this point.The nurses and doctor were so positive and encouraging, yet also calm. No crazy screaming and yelling, just calm and encouragement. The doctor let me feel the baby’s head when it was partially out, and that crazy sensation really motivated me to keep going.
At 6:53 pm, after a little less than an hour of pushing, my baby came out!! My husband got to tell me it was a girl! The relief and happiness I felt was amazing. Not suprisingly, I didn’t have to have that shot of Pitocin. My daughter was in my arms immediately and I just thanked God over and over. She was so cute, with adorable forehead wrinkles. I told her she was going to snuggle with mommy and daddy now instead of just mommy. She nuzzled near my breast and I was so happy. The only time she was taken away was when her temperature was a little low. Our nurse put her on the warmer for just a little while while my husband talked to her and took her first picture. Otherwise, we stayed skin to skin just as I wanted and she got colustrum, which was coming out great. I had to be stitched up a bit, which I was shocked by because I really hadn’t felt any tearing or pain. The doctor said the tearing was “average” (whatever that means). The placenta was delivered very shortly after my birth. But honestly, I wasn’t paying attention to anything nothing because I was cuddling with my baby!
I am so grateful that I was able to have an uncomplicated, unmedicated birth. The lesson I’ve learned is that even when every little detail doesn’t go your way, the experience can still be perfect. Before labor, I had been so worried about my water breaking early, but now I’m glad it did. Otherwise who knows when I would have gone to the hospital?? The other thing I had been counting on was having my birth attended by my midwife. Yet, even though my midwife wasn’t there, the doctor respected all my wishes and was amazing. And I never felt like I needed anyone but my husband, except during the pushing stage. This might be strange to say, but I think it is interesting that my nurses all had names that are forms of the name Mary, considering how much I pray to Mary when I pray the rosary… I had been so worried about the hospital staff not respecting me, especially if my midwife wasn’t there. But instead, everything I voiced an opinion about was immediately respected.
I am aware that I am so ridiculously blessed and lucky to have a relatively fast labor. My best friend – whose births have actually been even faster than mine! – was mad at me when I said I didn’t view the experience as very painful. But I can’t help it, I really feel that way. I do think it is strange that I never felt uterine contractions during the entire labor, everything was in my back and rectum. Maybe back labor is less painful than regular labor? But I also believe that my mindset and the way I prepared for labor helped me view what I was feeling in a different way. I learned that so much of pain is mental, how we choose to view sensations and how we choose to handle them. Those 12 hours on that October Saturday were amazing, intense, and wonderful. My daughter’s birth was even better than I could have imagined.