|Photo by Southern Grace Photography at|
The sad reality is that people like to tell pregnant women horror stories of terrible birth experiences. I don't even know where they come up with some of this stuff. If you're pregnant, you may've heard the pain of labor is the worst a human being can experience, being equivalent to 20 bones breaking at once (uh--does any living person actually know what breaking 20 bones at once feels like?). I hope my story encourages you to see birth as a beautiful thing rather than something to dread. And if you're planning a natural childbirth, I hope you're empowered to know it can absolutely be done.
I have to be honest-- the first reason I started researching natural childbirth is because I hate needles, and the idea of the epidural totally weirded me out. Not exactly a noble, crunchy momma approach to natural childbirth, but there it is. ;) But as I learned the benefits to mom and baby, as well as the lowered medical intervention rate for natural childbirths, I knew this was the route I wanted to go.
Side note: My husband and I chose to take Bradley classes, which was an invaluable experience for us. Without them, I would've felt so lost during labor and delivery. They equipped me with the knowledge to better understand and trust my body, and they equipped my husband to be an active participant in labor. So if you're planning a natural childbirth, definitely consider this method!
For me, labor and delivery had a definite spiritual aspect, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention it. The more I thought about labor while I was pregnant, the more I realized the correlations between my Christian faith and the labor process. God's fingerprints, actually, were all over the whole thing-- this painful process is a consequence of sin entering the world (Gen. 3:16) but shows the pinnacle of redemption in its ending. See, I've always thought of painful contractions as a punishment from God for Eve's sin (don't you hate her?). But what if that's all wrong? What if labor is not a punishment, but a lesson, to show us just how painful sin is? To protect us from staying in that state of brokenness forever? Because the beautiful thing about contractions is that each one pushes your body closer to delivery. And delivery is the beginning of new life.
Now, I have a pet peeve about people acting like they're somehow better because they managed to avoid pain meds, so let me be clear that I don't think going med-free somehow brought me closer to God. Unless you count my prayers during contractions. ;) But the reason I mention the spiritual aspect is because it demystified labor for me. I came to see the whole process not in terms of the pain but in terms of the beauty... yes, it hurts (badly), but that's because your body is using that pain to bring about new life (hello, Gospel!).
Now, for my birth story! I had been praying nearly the entire pregnancy about my labor and delivery. No joke, you guys. I was pretty freaked out initially, and praying really helped bring me peace (most of the time, at least!). The week before labor, I had an appointment with my midwife and found out I was 4 cm and 90% effaced! What! So that was really exciting to know my body was doing the work it should be, especially because my mom had the labor of all labor nightmares when giving birth to me, and they say genetics can impact your experience.
When Tuesday the 12th came, I woke up that morning (*ahem* afternoon), with a very painful contraction. I texted my husband to let him know, but didn't think too much of it at that point (don't you always assume it's a false alarm?). Then, I had more. And more. So I started timing them and realized my contractions were only about 2-3 minutes apart (they started that way!!!). I called my husband to tell him he needed to get home!
He got there quickly, and not long after, my water broke at home (woot! for it not happening in Starbucks). I had a particularly painful contraction after that, and started getting nervous we wouldn't make it to the hospital in time. We'd planned to wait and labor at home as long as possible, but also hadn't bargained for such quick contractions! So, we hopped in the car, and I still think that was probably the worst part of my labor. I'm pretty sure I almost had two sets of transition, because I did later have the typical 8 cm transition with double and triple contraction peaks, but in the car, I started exhibiting transition symptoms. I was shaking, threw up, just really in pain. We finally got to the labor and delivery desk (which I walked up to because I'm a crazy person) and got checked in. Turned out I was at 6 cm. At this point, it was about 3:30, and everything continued to happen quickly from there.
I had planned all this stuff to do during labor... walking around the halls, visualizations, etc. etc. and guess what I did? None of it. Instead, I went inward to focus. One of the nurses thought I was hypnobirthing, and I guess in a way, I was--even though I had not planned on doing that at all. I had my eyes closed for most of my labor, and I just sat in that hospital bed/chair upright, hooked to my strep B IV. I had every intention of getting up whenever the IV was done, but by that point, I was so uncomfortable I couldn't imagine moving!
A couple hours or so later, I started feeling like I had to go to the bathroom, so husband helped me get unhooked from the contraction monitor, which in and of itself was like a comedy routine because I was still hooked to that IV for antibiotics. Turned out, though, the pressure was from the baby descending. I had my first pushing contraction, and let me just say, people aren't kidding when they say your body pushes whether you help it or not. Is that not the craziest feeling? So, we'd learned in my childbirth class this whole pretend-to-blow-out-a-candle trick to help keep you from pushing if you aren't ready. WHAT A JOKE. My husband kept reminding and encouraging me to do the quick breaths, and finally, I puffed out between contractions, "I-am-going-to-hy-per-vent-i-late." I didn't think I could hold off pushing much longer. But then the doctor showed up (my midwife was out of town--boo!) and told me I was close enough that I could push if I wanted to--such sweet words! At this point, it was only around 6:15 or 6:30, and I was feeling encouraged that things were moving so fast. I remember glancing at the clock even though I'd told myself I wouldn't do that.
So, after laboring another thirty minutes or so on my own, a nurse helped me get into a more productive pushing position, and man, don't you know I took advantage of finally having something I could help my body do! I think she was surprised how effectively I was pushing because Nathanael moved FAST at that point, and after a few minutes, she said, "Okay, I'm going to need you to stop pushing now while I call the doctor." Once the doctor entered the room, it was only about 20 more minutes before Nathanael was born. He had some meconium, so they had to wait to stimulate him to cry until they suctioned that out, but boy was it the best sound when I heard him cry! It was ammazing how quickly my body felt normal after he was born. Within minutes, all the pain of labor was over, and I was holding him. It was the most beautiful thing.
In case you're reading this blog because you're pregnant and looking for birth stories, let me encourage you. Labor hurt. It was the most intense thing I've ever done and probably will ever do. Those midwives and doulas who avoid the word "pain"? They're lying. I had to really work to stay focused on breathing, and in the moment of intense labor, all those positive affirmations I'd practiced went out the window ("This is pain with a purpose."-- Who stinking cares. When you're 8 cm, all you care about is that it's pain). But I never once felt afraid or out of control. Not one time. I never did ask for pain meds. And when I came out of it on the other side, I was amazed by the fact that I-- a normal person-- had just birthed a baby and had the privilege of being part of a miracle.