My birth experience was the most magical event of my life. I really had the best birth team I could have hoped for, and the staff at the hospital were really supportive of my needs.
Most of you who know me know what a big believer I am in “natural”/unmedicated childbirth. Growing up hearing my mom tell stories of her 5 deliveries, all unmedicated, I never really had a fear of labor like most women in our society do. A few years ago, as I started educating myself more on this topic, I was shocked to learn not only how so many unnecessary interventions are done in hospitals, but also how unaware most women in this country are. So afraid of labor that they immediately say “give me my drugs!” without considering any risk factors. I did not want to be that type of woman when I gave birth. This being said, I also did not want to be so one-minded that I would shut out other options. For example, I’m not one of those people who thought I HAD to have a homebirth after watching Business.Of.Being.Born. I recognize the importance of the hospital and knew that a homebirth was not the right choice for ME. I also did not want to completely shut out my options for pain relief, especially if I were to have a long and exhausting labor and needed some rest. I just wanted to prepare myself to get through as much as I can on my own, with as little intervention as possible. I also wanted to be aware of what interventions could really be necessary vs. recognizing if I’m being taken advantage of in such a vulnerable state. For this reason, we decided to hire a doula (we’ll call her “A”) and I also prepared myself mentally and physically using the Hypno.Babies homestudy. A is also an Hypno.Babies instructor, which was a HUGE bonus to have her expertise during our birth.
So on to the story:
For a while, a lot of people were telling me they had a feeling I would go early. I was like yes, it’s possible, but I didn’t really believe it myself. People at work were so shocked about how much energy I had to go on a field trip the Friday beforehand. (Even though I was sure to take plenty advantage to sit down and rest and also avoid strenuous walks). On Saturday I was so determined to get the nursery ready, get clothes washed, clean the bathrooms, etc. Nesting like crazy. And I even joked that this must mean the birth is coming very soon, but again I didn’t really believe it.
On Tuesday I was at work and needed to go to the bathroom. When I saw a lot of thick brownish spotting in my underwear I immediately had that feeling like when you first discover you got that month’s period. For about half a second. Like “Oh there it i-WAIT A MINUTE I HAVEN’T SEEN ANYTHING LIKE THIS IN A LONG TIME!” I figured it must be my mucus plug, but didn’t get too excited since I know it can still take a while for labor to start after losing the plug. Throughout the day I continued to have some pinkish spotting, so then I wasn’t sure if it was mucus plug or “bloody show.” Still, I didn’t get too excited about anything. That night I listened to one of my Hypno.Babies tracks. And as usual I ended up falling into a deep sleep afterwards. When I woke up around 10 pm, I saw a few missed calls on my phone, including one from my mom who left a message asking how I was doing since I was less than 2 weeks from my due date. I decided I would wait until the next day to call and tell her about the spotting.
Wednesday morning as I was driving to work, I noticed a strange feeling in my pelvis. Best way to describe it is it felt like I was suddenly wearing a pair of pants that were 3 sizes too small. I took some deep breaths and tried to adjust myself to get a little more comfortable. I figured baby was just moving and stretching to make me feel funny. That day, my class and 2 other classrooms went on a “community-based instruction” trip to the movie theater. I remember feeling the sensation at least a few more times, but always when I was sitting down (in the movie theater, on the bus back to school). I would just do some deep abdominal breathing. And I always felt better if I was walking around. Most of all, the students kept me so busy and distracted that I hardly noticed anything. I didn’t start to think that something was up until I got home from work around 5, when I got out of the car and the sensation hit me again. It really stopped me in my tracks and I had to focus on breathing and couldn’t even walk through it.
I got in the apt and decided to call my mom to tell her about the spotting I was having and the funny “pressure waves” I was feeling. I remember feeling these pressure waves quite a few times while on the phone and had to take really deep breaths as she was yapping away about stuff I couldn’t care less about. Once I got off the phone with her, I looked through some of the resources about signs of labor that A had given me, and I decided to give her a call and tell her I’d been having pressure waves throughout the day, and didn’t know when I should “get excited” about things. She asked me what the pressure waves felt like, and I described the “pants too tight” feeling. She also asked if they went away when I walked around or changed position. I said changing position feels better, but I still feel the pressure. So she suggested that I start timing them for the next half hour, then wait a couple hours and start timing them again. If it was actual labor, they should be getting longer, stronger, and closer together.
As soon as I got off the phone with A (around 7 pm), DH called as he was on his way home from school. I said, “Good. Because I’m having some pressure waves.” Of course, he had no idea what I was talking about so I had to explain, “I might be having some contractions, but I’m not sure. The doula says we should start timing them.” “Well,” he said, “I guess we should probably start packing a bag.” (Yeah, we had not even packed a hospital bag yet). I tried to distract myself by getting some clothes and underwear ready for packing (looking back I now realize we brought WAYYY too much stuff!) I also decided to listen to my Hypno.Babies “easy labor” track. I usually did it while lying down in bed. However, after I few minutes I gave up on that because lying down just did NOT feel good when a pressure wave hit. I tried other positions like leaning on my birthing ball, but that didn’t feel too great either. At this point, what helped the most was bending over and pushing hard onto the bed or birth ball with my hands. When DH got home, he was totally apathetic to what was going on. He asked if I wanted to go out to eat. “I don’t want to go ANYWHERE!” I said. He said “Let me know when you want dinner. I’ll make you some soup.” Then I reminded him to start setting out some clothes to pack, and he also started getting some of his camera stuff ready. But mostly he was just chilling at the computer and drinking a beer. I was like “You shouldn’t be drinking. What if you have to drive me somewhere?” He gave his usual retort, “It’s just one beer!”
Pretty soon I felt like getting in the bathtub. So I went to start the water. DH asked if I wanted any candles or dimming the lights while I was in the bathroom. The bath felt really good, but when a pressure wave hit, I hated sitting down so I would get on my hands and knees and start rocking. At one point DH was in the bathroom and saw me rocking and then said, “Honey, I don’t think this is the real thing.” (hahahahaha!) “You don’t? Why not?” “Because the real thing would be more intense.” Anyway, I asked him to go ahead and start making some soup and I would get out of the tub soon. While I was eating I tried to have him help me time the contractions using Contraction.Master, but it was not convenient for me to have to call out to remind him to hit the space bar at each start and stop. So then he decided to download the app to my phone so I could use it easily. After I ate, I went into the nursery with the lights off and tried to labor there with my birthing ball for a while. At one point, I remembered I had a bag full of red raspberry leaf tea. It was supposed to be my magical-help-me-have-a-fast-labor tea, but I hadn’t even started drinking it yet for fear I would kick-start things a little too early. At this point, I figured it certainly couldn’t hurt, so I asked DH to make a cup of tea for me. I sipped on some water and the tea, but after a few pressure waves I was over the toilet throwing up. We both decided to get some rest and lay down. Of course, DH was asleep and snoring away in no time. But for me, I had to get up and rock on hands and knees at each wave. I threw up again, and then figured the bed was not the best place for me to rest. I also remembered I had a BedBuddy so I heated that up in the microwave and then held it across my back with each wave. In between waves I was lying on the floor with some pillows, then would get up and rock with the BedBuddy on my back, sometimes making some low hums while I exhaled. All the while I was using the app on my phone to time them. When I tried drinking some water and threw up again with the next wave, I knew we had to go.
So I woke up DH (this was around 1 am) and said we needed to go. He got up and started getting everything packed. Then I called A and told her that my pressure waves were coming about every 4-5 minutes and lasting from 40secs to 1 minute each, and also that I had vomited 3 times already, so I thought we should probably go to the hospital. She said “I don’t think that’s a bad idea. Would you like me to meet you there?” I said yes. So then DH had everything and I just carried a couple pillows and a baggie in case I needed to puke in the car. It was a little drizzly outside and I remember thinking that it must be an “omen” of some sort. When we got to the car I realized that we almost forgot the birthing ball (*whew*). While DH went back to get it, I called my mom (it was about 3:30 am her time) to tell her we were on the way to the hospital. She asked if I was having contractions and I said yes, and that I was vomiting too. I felt another one coming so I very quickly got off the phone with her when it started.
When we got to the hospital, DH dropped me off at the ER and they wheeled me up to L&D. The nurse instructed me to go change into the gown, and when I got out of the bathroom both DH and A were already there. (They had oh so conveniently gotten to the parking lot at the same time and came up together). I got in bed and the nurse started hooking me up to the monitor and asking the usual boring questions. Whenever a pressure wave hit, I would have to take really deep breaths and then was still trying to answer her questions. She said, “Honey just take your time. You don’t have to answer right away if you’re having a contraction, I can wait.” After the questions, the nurse then checked me and I was at 4cm, already 100% effaced and the baby was at -1 station. I was really surprised I had already progressed that much. The contractions were very manageable at this point, especially with A’s help. With each contraction, I would close my eyes as A cued me to take very deep breaths and relax my body using the Hypno.Babies techniques. Pretty soon though I was vomiting again. This is again where it was helpful to have a doula who was familiar with that hospital because she knew exactly where to get my little throw-up-cup and some wash cloths.
Another nurse came in to try to start my IV because I was getting dehydrated and needed some fluids and also anti-nausea medicine. Of course, being dehydrated made it more difficult to get the IV in the vein, which is what I was afraid of. At this point, I think I needed the relaxation techniques more for the pain of the needle than the contractions. The nurse failed on her first attempt. Then tried to start again. “I’m going to try to get this in before you have another contraction…because they’re coming!” she said. Once again, it didn’t work. She was very confused and said she’s never had to stick somebody more than once. So she went to get 2 other nurses. After 2 more attempts we finally had the IV going. I remember saying part of the reason I didn’t want an epidural was fearing they would screw up with the needles (even though I know it’s totally different from trying to get in a vein).
Once I got the fluids in, my nurse unhooked me from the fetal monitor and said I could walk around, but to make sure I come back in 20 minutes and hook up the monitor again for another 10 minutes. So the 3 of us started walking in the hallway. I felt very pleasant and chatty in between each contraction, but as each one came I would hug DH and start swaying back and forth. With each one A cueing me to take deep breaths and relax. Eventually I felt like going to the bathroom so we went back to my room and then after peeing I hooked up to the monitor again. A asked if she could get me any water or ice chips. Ice chips sounded really good, so she went to get some, but once again I was throwing up after the next contraction. After 10 minutes we unhooked from the monitor and I started doing the “slow dancing” labor with DH again. I asked A to try some hip squeezes to help me. In between contractions I remember I was asking DH if he had been texting anyone. He had texted my family and his friends. Then I realized I was going to need to let someone at work know and I didn’t have the number for the call-out line. (As if that was the most important thing right now? Lol) This was around 4:30 am, and I decided to text my assistants to let them know. My phone said the text failed, and I was saying how my phone does this a lot: it keeps saying fail and then I try to resend and the other person is wondering why I keep sending them the same text over and over. DH took a look at my phone to see if he could get it to work. But then I felt a contraction coming and I snatched the phone from him, threw it on the bed and then leaned into him and “slow danced.”
With each contraction, I would vocalize a very deep “ahhhhhhhhhhhhh” or “uhhhhhhhhh” sound as I exhaled. The first time I dropped the F-bomb, A was like “Ooh! Ok! Now we’re getting somewhere!” I felt a little ashamed after that contraction and apologized, but she reminded me to just vocalize whatever I need to. After a while I said I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom again and asked DH to come in with me the shut the door. The contractions were pretty intense and I was vocalizing more loudly while I could hear A outside the door continue to give me the cues. At one point though, she suddenly opened the door and asked if I felt like I needed to push. I said no, and she said I had made a sound that people make when they need to push. I felt another contraction coming so leaned into DH and was vocalizing very loudly when I suddenly felt a lot of fluid gush out and I gasped in shock. (Don’t know why, it’s not like I didn’t know that with childbirth comes a lot of embarrassing bodily fluids). “What was that?” I asked. A looked down at the toilet and said just some blood, then asked if I wanted to be checked again, as she didn’t even know why they still had me in this room instead of the big delivery room. I said yes, so she got one of the nurses and I heard her saying “She wants to be checked again. She made a pushing sound and also has a lot of bloody show.” The nurse sweetly said “Good. That means maybe there’s some cervical change.” They got some resident OB to come check me: I was at 6 cm and baby was at 0 station. Everyone was like “Oh you’re making such good progress!” But I was thinking “ONLY a 6? How much longer do I have to do this?” I started to think about the epidural, but still wanted to get through as much as I could.
We walked to the big delivery room just in time for the next contraction to hit. The nurse hooked me up to the fetal monitor and I bent over the bed with the contraction. But then she said I had to get up because that position made the baby’s heart rate go down. She said “I saw you brought a birthing ball. Why don’t you try that?” So I got on that, but then nurse suggested I use the one they had in their storage room since it was a little taller. I sat on the ball and rocked while DH sat on our ball. The contractions were REALLY intense at this point. With each one I would lean forward and hug DH, while rocking my hips backward really hard into the counter-pressure that A would give me. She would also push my shoulder down, because it was so easy for me to tense up, and remind me to relax my body and use my “peace” cue, saying “peeeeace” to breath relaxation throughout my body. I remember at one point thinking that anyone in the L&D ward who could hear me must be thinking “That sure doesn’t sound like *peace* to me!” Lol.
I labored this way for at least another 30-45 minutes. When each contraction ended I would think to myself “It’s over. See, that wasn’t so bad. This is do-able.” But I hated anticipating the next one coming. Eventually I was sooo tired of it, and after one contraction I looked at DH and whispered “Can we talk about it?” As if he could read my mind. He just stared back at me, confused. I asked A what were my risks of other interventions if I were to get the epidural, now that I had already progressed so far. She said my risks were very low at this point. I said I was just so tired, I hadn’t slept all night, I was so tired of each contraction (ok I sounded like a little excuse machine here lol). I said I just wanted some epidural so I could get a little rest and then stop the epidural once it was time for pushing. (And I was thinking to myself “At least I can say that I got to a 6 on my own). So she pushed the call button for the nurse, and said that I wanted the epidural. Of course, I couldn’t get it right away. They had to give me more fluids first. The nurse checked me again and I was at 7cm. (Thinking to myself “At least I can say I got to 7 on my own). Once she got the fluids started, I asked how long that would take and she said about 20 minutes. I was thinking “OMG 20 more minutes are you kidding me???”
A couple nurses were coming in and out to check on me. I remember one nurse saying “Don’t worry, you’re gonna have this baby before 9:00.” Another nurse smiling at me and sweetly saying “You’re progressing so WELL!!!” My thought was “Not well enough!” I just wanted some relief already and really frustrated that I had to wait so long. The nurse was watching the monitor and I continued to rock on the birthing ball when with one contraction I suddenly felt a very strong urge. I yelled “I FEEL LIKE I HAVE TO POOP!” Well that got them moving. The nurse said “Ok. I’m going to check you and then we’re going to call the anesthesiologist immediately so you stop feeling that.” She checked and I was at 8cm, and baby was at +1 station. (At least I can say I got to 8 on my own). Things definitely became a blur at this point. I remember A reassuring me that this part of labor usually progresses very rapidly. I was sitting on the bed since they said that’s how I would have to sit while getting the epidural. The contractions were much more intense and more difficult to get through because I was trying to fight back that urge to push. At one point I vaguely remember the doctor coming in and saying “Hi Ruth, I’m Dr. K, I’ll be delivering your baby today.” All I wanted was to get some relief right now. Finally the anesthesiologist came in and said “I’m here to give you your epidural.” I said “Thank you!” and then A was like “Oh she’s so sweet!” I had another contraction while they were getting ready. Then A told me she was going to have to leave. They won’t let her stay in the room while they do the epidural because that was the hospital policy. (That’s dumb). She reminded me to use my relaxation techniques. Once she left I could hear the anesthesiologist getting stuff ready and trying to explain procedures to her colleague. With each contraction I leaned into DH and he was so good about reminding me to breathe. I remember at one contraction I was using my “peace” cue, then the next one I was dropping the F-bomb again, and the anesthesiologist chuckled “Ooh! She just went from *peace* to THAT!”
Once the epidural was in, the anesthesiologist thanked me for being such a good patient and said I was an “all-star.” (Do they say that to everybody or does she have some really mean patients? Lol) She said she gave me a very very low amount of epidural since I was so close and that it would take another 15-20 minutes before I started to feel comfortable. Since I had the epidural, I had to stay lying down but I could lie on my side. After 3 more contractions (the epidural had not kicked in yet), I screamed “I REALLY FEEL LIKE I NEED TO PUSH!” There were so many people in the room at this point, I don’t remember who came to check me. I just remember it seems like all they did was spread my legs open and I heard “she’s complete” and I heard someone else say “we need a delivery cart in here.” Then someone (maybe it was A, as she said she came back in the room at this point) told me “You’re complete! It’s time for you to push.” I was kinda in disbelief. As the doctor started getting the bed in position for me to push, I felt the epidural was kicking in. I was definitely still feeling each contraction, but the intense sharp pain in my back was gone. As they got me into position, I remember feeling a little disappointed that I didn’t get to push in a more “gravity-friendly” position like squatting or standing, but at the same time I was just ready to have my baby.
Now, I don’t know just how much different I would have felt if I had absolutely no epidural, but I do know that everything I had been told about pushing is true: Pushing felt REALLY GOOD. Especially after I had been trying to fight it during transition phase, it felt so good to bear down and do something about that pressure. I could feel my baby moving with each push. After just 2 or 3 pushes, the doctor exclaimed “This baby’s got a head full of hair!” She guided my hand to reach down and touch and said “That’s your baby!” I kind of didn’t believe it- it just felt slimy to me lol. A couple more pushes and I could definitely feel my baby’s head coming out. Everybody was like “Ruth! Look! There’s your baby’s head!” I couldn’t see a darn thing over my belly though, so the doctor again guided my hand to touch him. (I now wish I had had a mirror or something because apparently he had his hand crossed over his face as he came out. It would have been cool to see that). With the next contraction I was pushing real hard, and then just quit because I thought I should have felt him move more at that point. The doctor and nurses looked at me like “What’s wrong? Why did you stop?” “It’s not helping!” I said. And everyone said “No no! You’re doing so good!” With the next contraction I pushed as hard as I could.
Next thing I know, I felt him slide right out and the doctor was holding him up as he cried that gurgly cry. I kept screaming “My baby! My baby!” It was so surreal. DH cut the cord, and then they put him on my chest. I was in tears. I couldn’t believe he was here! It was such a magical moment of pure ectasy. Eventually they took him to get weighed and everything so DH was taking pictures while the doctor was stitching me up. A was telling me how amazing I was, and also that it was almost insane that I pushed for only 13 minutes. Most first-time moms average 2 hours of pushing, she said. The doctor told me for “bragging purposes” she would consider this a natural birth. “That epidural doesn’t count,” she said. “You did this all on your own.” I was like holy crap! I did it! I really did this on my own!
Another doctor who was attending the birth came to show me the placenta, as mine was really unique. The umbilical cord was attached to the side/membrane of the placenta, rather than in the center. She said that’s probably why he had such a low birth weight (5 lb 11 oz). Because his birth weight was low, they said they would have to test his glucose level every 3 hours for the next 24 hours. That was so hard each time I had to see him get poked in the foot. At one point the first day, I felt really pressured to try to get him to feed because his levels were low, and the nurses said if his glucose level dropped any more that they would have to give him formula. I did NOT want that. But fortunately, his levels came back to normal.
Since then, our little Anu has been such a good baby. He doesn’t fuss a whole lot. In the hospital I could hear a lot of other babies crying through the night, but DH and I noticed that Anu doesn’t really cry a lot, he just whimpers a little lol! He has been feeding pretty well too. The lactation consultants at the hospital were really impressed with his latch and called him a “little champ.” He does seem to have more of a preference for lefty over righty, as when I offer him the right he seems to think his hand or his t-shirt are better options. But we are getting there. We had one sleepless night our first night home, but I think mostly because we were all feeling confused by schedules and his feeding habits. Now through the night he just wakes up when it is time to eat and is pretty easy to get him back to sleep. He is so chill, it makes me wonder if he’s got some tricks hiding up his sleeves for later. Lol.