This lasted for about 5-6 months. Then, suddenly, I had the dawning realization that every pregnant woman has of, "oh yeah, I have to get this baby out of me." I finally started looking more seriously at birthing methods and considered what I wanted to do. For many women, growing up with negative messages about birth and particularly labor, this causes them a great amount of anxiety. I remember one conversation I had with a friend who had a natural birth and telling her, "I'm not sure that I could handle the pain." But I looked into it anyway.
I don't think I could say with any certainty what I researched, but I remember natural birthing becoming more and more appealing to me everyday. One vivid memory I had going for me was the birth videos they show in child development classes of different kinds of births. They include an using an epidural, using forceps, a C-section, and finally a natural birth. That last one is so amazing. The woman is just breathing, and focusing, and by the time she's ready to push and the doctor shows up, the baby's head is already crowning (granted, it's like her fourth kid, but still). I remember being so impressed and thinking, "that's what I want."
Fortunately for me, when I mentioned this desire to by OBGYN, they were supportive, while recommending that I take some kind of class or learn a method to help me. The N.P. recommended "hypnobabies," saying the women she saw use that had the most success. Even more fortunately for me, a short time later I had a chat with a good friend and she had used hypnobabies for her birth AND was willing to let me borrow the book! I felt so blessed, because all the classes require a big time commitment (and ideally before you are too far along) and a bit of a monetary investment, so this was a much easier route for me.
At this point, I had graduated and only had about two months left in my pregnancy. Disclaimer: ideally you have much more time than this to prepare for a natural birth. But, SPOILER ALERT: I did have a successful natural birth with only that 6-8 weeks of preparation. And I did not take the class and had only the book. So it is possible, but I don't recommend waiting that long. Preparation for birth can start as early as when you find out you're pregnant. The more research (and with something like hypnobabies, time to practice), you can do before you give birth, the better.
Okay, now on to the fun stuff.
My mom flew into town on my 39 week mark (granted, they had changed my due date to a week later based on baby's size, so if you go by my original due date, I was 40 weeks) and at that appointment I decided to let them strip my membranes. They had asked to do it a week prior, but the hypnobabies book recommends avoiding that, so I'm glad I at least waited as long as I did before getting that done. Oh, also, I'd been dilated to 3 cm for 3 weeks at this point. While this is unusual for a first-time pregnant woman, it's not unheard of. And it does NOT mean that you are about to go into labor. The doctors thought that was possible when they first realized that. Nope. (Okay, it is possible, it just wasn't the case for me.)
The next day, I felt normal, except for some lower back pain. This was not unusual, as there is a lot of strain on your lower back as your belly grows, and so I figured that it was just intensifying. I was waiting to feel some contractions in my upper belly region because that was where I had felt Braxton Hicks contractions before (though they had been absent for a couple of weeks now), but they never came. While I was convinced I was just experiencing lower back pain, my mom recognized it for what it was: early labor. I felt it all day long. That night, we took my mom to her friend's where she was staying, and went to see one of my husband's friends who was in town. Before we went, we thought we might go mini-golfing or do something fun afterward. When we got there, I was stuck in the car for a minute due to the cramping I was experiencing. That was when I figured I was probably going into labor that night.
After seeing his friend and getting Subway (where a nice dad paid for our meal!!! Pretty sure it was because I was a huge preggo lady) we went home and . . . did chores. No joke, my husband did dishes and I was cutting out fabric for a dress to make for my pregnant sister. I was imminently going into labor and we were going about normal life. I loved it. Soon it was bedtime and I wondered, "can I sleep while I'm in labor?" Google was my friend. It said to try to sleep if I could, because being well-rested helps, but that it may not be possible. Well, the latter proved to be true for me, because my husband crawled into bed and conked out (unusual for him, he usually tosses and turns a bit first) while I lay awake and struggled to find a comfortable position.
Every position I tried would work for a while, but then I would have to do something else. I was on my birthing ball. Now I'm lying on the couch. Now I'm walking. Now I'm on the toilet. Oh yeah, I should throw in a disclaimer here: I spent way more time on the toilet during my labor than I could have ever anticipated. Not just because I just kept having to go (though that was true), but because once I was there some cramping would strike and I was stuck there until it passed. So, not to get too detailed, but after all that I felt confident that I would not be having a bowel movement on the birthing table.
At about 1:30 in the morning (my husband had gone to bed about 10:00 pm), I couldn't handle it anymore. I was kneeling next to the bed and wondering if I could really go through with this without an epidural. I started calling to my husband (who took a while to rouse, also unusual) and when he saw that I was having a rough go he jumped into action. I think we tried using ice and hot compresses to ease my muscle pain and I finally had my contractions timed. They were already three minutes apart! (Most people recommend going to the hospital when they are five minutes apart). So we called my mom and she made me take the shower test (if you get in the shower and your contractions stop, you aren't in labor. If they keep going, you are. It's a good way to avoid getting sent home from the hospital).
My contractions continued and were getting closer together. We were going to have a baby! We still had to pack the hospital bag (Mom hadn't let us do it before thanks to superstition) and pick up Mom before getting to the hospital. So my amazing husband was running around packing our stuff in my "breaks," and then during contractions was at my side, rubbing my lower back and using encouraging phrases. My only job was to alert him when a contraction started and let him go when it ended. Well, and I had to relax as well as I could too, I suppose. ;) It was so much easier with my husband by my side; I regained confidence that I could get through this.
If anything, I was grateful that this whole process took a while because I wanted to delay getting to the hospital for as long as possible. I just knew that I would be able to progress better at home, and that I would be allowed to eat and drink at home (which I did right up until we arrived at the hospital), and that there would be less chance of intervention the less that I was at the hospital. We didn't get there until about 4:00 in the morning.
|My awesome husband supporting me every |
step of the way!
When we were checking in, I was very calm. I think the lady was probably convinced that they would be sending me home since I seemingly wasn't very far into labor (AKA freaking out). We got into the room and I was finally checked. I was dilated to 7 cm!!!! (You don't go home if you are 5 cm or more.) I was beyond thrilled, and the nurses were impressed. They kept telling me, "You are doing so well" and they meant it. My mother and husband were troopers, they were constantly massaging by back and legs to help ease the pressure. I literally could not have done it without them.
All through this I had some music playing (but pretty much only I could hear it). The one song I remember coming on was "Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw. Guys, I literally started singing. In the middle of my labor. It was epic.
I quickly progressed to 8 cm, but then I kind of plateaued. The nurses (with my approval) eventually sent for the doctor to break my water to try to help things along. The only problem was, it was the old guy, and right after we called for him, he promptly fell back asleep. A part of me was relieved because I knew it would get harder once my water broke, but another part of me was like, "Seriously, Doc?" He eventually arrived and once my water was broken it got way hard. The pressure was instantly that much more intense and, though my body wasn't ready, I was feeling the urge to push. This is not a good thing to do when your body is not ready, because it can cause a lot of tearing. Well, I did tear, but that's not what I felt when I was pushing; it was honestly relieving (though it was a false sense of relief). Later, when I discovered that I was still at 8 cm, I realized I needed to stop pushing and relax again so that things could progress.
Eventually, I was fully dilated and the baby was facing the right way! We were good to start pushing! They got the doctor there and I was on my back even though it's easier on a woman to be squatting or on hands and knees to push, but the good news was (thanks again to being sans-epidural) that I could curl around my baby in a semi-sitting position to help me push. The other good news was the nurses didn't direct my pushing like I was told they would. Your typical nurse will encourage "purple pushing," where they have-you-hold-your-breath-for-ten-seconds-and-push-as-hard-as-you-can and then breathe. And then do it two more times - all for one contraction. They typically have to direct it like that because most people that have epidurals can't feel what's going on and so they have to be told what to do. Mercifully, this did not happen to me. I got to push when I wanted, for how long I wanted, and guess what - I only pushed for about 10-15 minutes (you'll hear about people pushing for 1 hr+, not fun. For more information about the side effects of coached pushing, go to http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-to-push-should-your-body-be-your-guide_1745336.bc).
And he was here! Born just after 8:00 am. The relief you feel when the labor is done cannot be described. They placed him on me and I got to have him skin to skin and it was so beautiful. My birth really was one of my favorite experiences and even after it was over I felt excited to get to do that again. I felt so powerful, and also so blessed that I had such great supports by my side. I literally could not have done it without my mother or husband. So if you feel like you may want to have a natural birth, I highly encourage looking into it and learning about what your body can do! It really is incredible.
For unbiased information about natural birthing, go to http://www.babycenter.com/natural-childbirth?. For Hypnobirthing specifically, go to http://www.babycenter.com/0_hypnosis-for-labor-does-hypnobirthing-work_10351603.bc
For more information about Hypnobabies, their website is https://www.hypnobabies.com/ and you'll find lots of helpful information and inspiring birth stories too!
Side effects of epidurals: http://www.babycenter.com/0_epidural-pain-relief-for-labor_1489911.bc
If anyone cares, these are the interventions I had and how they went for me.
1. I was having internal checks (for dilation) from week 36. While I liked knowing my progress, there is increased risk of infection with each check, so if the suspense isn't killing you then waiting it out could be best.
2. I did have my membranes stripped at 39 (40 by old due date) weeks, and I did go into labor the next day. Note, however, that this is not always the case. In any case I recommend delaying this procedure or never having it done because it can be done improperly and cause damage. Or if you are Group B strep positive, then the earlier you have it done the more likely your baby can be infected. ALSO one of my nurses re-stripped my membranes while we were in the hospital during one of my checks WITHOUT my permission (and believe me, once you've felt that, you can tell what they're doing) which was very disappointing so be sure to have that in your birth plan if you don't want that.
3. I was Group B strep positive, and so they gave me an IV with penicillin. Honestly, the IV was one of the more irksome parts of my labor because the liquid going in is cool and it was hard for me to ignore at times. And it restricts movement, although admittedly once I was at the hospital I was mostly in bed laying down because that was easiest for me. More info here: http://www.babycenter.com/0_group-b-streptococcus-screening_1647.bc?
4. Monitoring. At first I was able to have just the two external bands: one for contractions and one for baby's heartbeat, and I mostly didn't mind them. Sometimes though, they lost signal and the nurse would have to come adjust them, which sometimes broke my relaxed state, so a bit irksome. Even worse though was later after my water broke they had a hard time getting his heartbeat, and so they were very insistent upon getting an internal monitor (the one that pokes the baby in the head). I delayed it as long as possible, but finally allowed it. Thankfully he didn't suffer any damage from it, but it's still something I hope to avoid in the future. More here: http://www.babycenter.com/0_fetal-monitoring_1451559.bc
5. Episiotomy. Thanks to the fact that I started pushing early, I had torn myself inside, and so my doctor told me as I was pushing that either the baby could take his time to stretch me out, or doc could give me a little snip and baby would be out quicker. So I did get snipped, and obviously required stitches. Thankfully, overall though, my healing went very well. I experienced very little pain, which I credit to going naturally because even if things hurt it was easy to relax and not notice it thanks to going through labor naturally. In the future I think I'll have us do more perineal massage next time around, and will also know better to delay pushing until I'm really ready to avoid having one in the future. More info about those here: http://www.babycenter.com/0_episiotomy_165.bc