My Daughter's Natural Birth- The Most Empowering Experience
Sometimes while going through my current health struggles I get so discouraged. It's helpful to look back on all my body has been through and done to encourage and empower me (and to give my body grace while it heals).. so I wanted to jot down my daughter's birth story so I could remember the details years from now and to share what helped me go natural. Even though it was the most physically and mentally exhausting and painful thing I've been through, I would definitely try to go natural again and believe there are so many benefits to a natural, unmedicated birth for mom and baby.
When I was around 30 weeks pregnant, I started having intense pelvic pressure and pain like I had in the final week of pregnancy with my middle son. On a Tuesday at my 33 week check up, I mentioned it to my doctor and she checked me. I wasn't dilated and everything seemed fine. Just two days later when I was playing in the backyard with my oldest son, I kept leaking fluid. I actually thought I was just peeing in my pants. I've never done that before during pregnancy but just figured it was the way baby girl was pressing on my bladder. I had to keep changing my pants and almost called the doctor. I remember texting my husband and asking him to be home on time from work because I just felt off and needed to lay down.
That night as I was walking to the bathroom, water gushed out all over. I started screaming and my husband and boys came running. We grabbed our hospital bags, dropped our boys off at my parents and headed to the hospital. I felt contractions off and on but nothing consistent and nothing that I hadn't been feeling for weeks. Once we got to the hospital they confirmed that my water did break and monitored my contractions. They started to build up so they gave me IV magnesium for 2 days (not fun because it makes you feel like you have the flu and you're bedridden with a catheter.) They gave me two steroid shots to help baby girls lungs be ready and I had to get IV antibiotics (knowing what I know now about gut health and struggling with SIBO, I would have declined these antibiotics). I was discouraged as my birth plan wasn't going according to plan but was just thankful baby girl was doing well. I had several ultrasounds and baby girl was doing great except had low levels of amniotic fluid.
My goal was to have a natural birth with no pitocin but on Monday they said it was time to induce me (I was 34 weeks and 4 days at this point). I didn't want pitocin because I think it makes it very difficult to go natural. (I had it with my son and wasn't able to go natural). But I also trust my doctor and didn't want to keep remaining on bedrest for the next several weeks until my due date. I know a big concern was a cord accident since I didn't have a lot of fluid. We lost my nephew from a cord accident at 37 weeks, so I definitely felt at peace about the decision to induce.
I was still determined to go natural and made my wishes known to the nurse who was very supportive. They started the pitocin around 10 am, and I tried to walk around and stand as much as possible to get labor going. The contractions were far spaced and mild so after a few hours of this they actually changed the bag of pitocin to make sure it was working. They cranked it high and around 2 pm, my doctor came by to check me and ended up breaking the reminder of my bags of water. She also placed a sensor to monitor my contractions internally because they were putting the pitocin so high. I remember as she checked me the pain got real. I started to doubt myself and at this point considered an epidural.
I got stuck around 5 cm for a few hours and became discouraged, but breathed through the contractions. I was listening to music and got very emotional when "Oceans" by HiIlsong United played and started crying. It was a song I listened to often after my miscarriage. It made me wonder what that baby would have been like and made me feel emotionally overwhelmed that I was about to meet our baby girl after all Patrick and I have been through.
I remember thinking I wasn't even at the most painful part (transition phase) and feeling overwhelmed. But my husband and my mom were with me and incredible support systems. They had faith in me when I didn't have faith in myself. As I got closer to 7 cm, the pain got more and more intense. I just stayed off my back the entire time and alternated between sitting on the edge of the bed, sitting on the toilet, and standing. When I felt a contraction coming, I would lean into my husband's chest and he would keep me calm and help me breathe by breathing with me; he was such a comfort. My mom stood behind me and rubbed my lower back which felt like it was breaking in two (I had intense back labor).
Once at 7 cm, the pain was unbelievable. At this point I just tried to keep calm and not panic. I did guided imagery which helped greatly. I imagined each contraction as a wave and pictured myself on a boat in the middle of the ocean with the bright sun in my face. As each contraction intensified I imagined the wave taking my boat up high and then I "rode" the contraction down on my boat. This imagery helped me so much and I actually felt like I was outside of my body at times. Maybe my brain was protecting me from the pain.
As I transitioned from 8 to 9 cm the contractions were lasting a long time with little breaks in between. This is the point I really started to doubt my ability to continue. I begged for an epidural and remember just wanting to curl up in a ball and tell everyone I was done. The contractions were so strong it felt like they were going to lift me off the ground and like my core was ripping in two. At this point it was too late for an epidural anyway and my husband pushed me to keep going and helped me get control of my breathing by breathing with me. I sat on the toilet a few more times and then the edge of the bed. It was after 7 pm and I was exhausted. At this point I became very aware of my thirst and drank cold ice water.
Then we had the nurse come check me again. This was the most painful part of my labor and seemed to last forever, but then I heard the most beautiful words "you're complete!" My mom helped me sit up (seriously laying down at any point during labor made it unbearable for me). They started prepping me to push and I remember a blur of people running all around. And then I felt baby girl drop inside my pelvis. It was an overpowering sensation that took me by surprise. It wasn't necessarily painful like a contraction but felt like a bowling ball trying to press out (which I guess is what was happening! haha) I started to panic and started pushing even though they told me to wait because the doctor wasn't set up. I couldn't wait. The urge to push was too intense. I tried to get control of my breath and calm myself back down.
Once my doctor was there I remember asking her if she could "cut out the baby" which we really laugh about now because I adamantly did not want an episiotomy this time which I didn't get one thankfully! Pushing through the contractions and being able to feel everything during the pushing phase was amazing because my body knew exactly when to push and I felt so empowered. I pushed and pushed for about 12 minutes and then at 8:21 pm she was here! My mom kept telling me to open my eyes because they were shut tight. I opened my eyes and saw my baby girl and all that pain and struggle was so worth it... We did delayed cord clamping and then I got to hold her right away. But I was in so much pain as I birthed the placenta (seriously had no idea how painful that would be) that I was worried I'd drop her so my husband held her. I tried to concentrate on that sweet moment of Patrick holding her for the first time as they stitched me up. I had a pretty intense tear because my daughter had her fist up on her face when she was born- still recovery was way better without having an episiotomy!
They took her away to the NICU since she was 6 weeks early but her lungs seemed great. They gave her a bottle there which I wasn't prepared for and worried I wouldn't be able to nurse her. Once I was able to stand and use the restroom we moved to our room, and I immediately pumped (I pumped every two hours to get my supply to come in.) Every drop of colostrum I got, they could give her in the bottle. We spent most our time in the NICU and did a lot of kangaroo care (skin to skin) and then I would pump immediately after. Baby girl was too weak to nurse so was only able to breastfeed once a day in those first few days. But as she got stronger within the first week or two, I was able to transition her off the bottle to exclusive breastfeeding.
She spent 6 nights total in the NICU. I would spend all day with her and then had to leave her at night. I felt so torn between staying with her and going home to see my boys. For any moms out there that have had babies in the NICU..you are so strong! There were so many babies in the room around us that had been there for weeks or even months.
My daughter's birth didn't go exactly as I planned, but I'm so thankful she arrived safe and that I was able to go natural. I couldn't have made it through without my husband and mom. If you're trying to go natural, make sure to have an awesome support system (it could be your husband or even a doula). Stay off your back, move around and use guided imagery, music and slow breathing techniques. There's no shame in an epidural (I had one with my middle son's birth) but my recovery going natural was so much faster and I felt so much better postpartum.
My main tips for going natural (I'm by no means an expert but these are things that helped me! As always discuss with your doctor):
1. Have a support system (we couldn't afford to have a doula but my husband and mom were incredible!!)
2. Prepare your body! I definitely would have seen a pelvic PT and chiropractor while pregnant knowing what I know now:)
3. Read up on what happens during labor so you can imagine how your body is working for you, not against you.
4. Have music, essential oils or whatever calms you. Practice meditation or guided imagery.
5. Move around! Sit on the bed, stand, walk around, or sit on the toilet. Laying on my back too much with my son's birth is what led me to an epidural.
6. Have your birth plan and go over it before hand with your doctor.
7. If things don't go as planned, be flexible. I got an epidural with my middle son because of the circumstances and it was the right thing for me for that particular labor. I had a lot of guilt and disappointment in myself for a few months after his labor but looking back, I made the best decision to get through his birth.