As promised – here’s the story of my natural, unmedicated, and virtually pain free birth of my first born, sweet baby boy Maximus (Max for short).
My midwife told me at around 38 weeks that the baby was welcome to come any day now – so I started feeling a bit anxious for him to come. I recognized that I was a bit fearful that he would not come in time and that I would have to be induced, so I spent every day from 38 weeks focused on supporting myself to face and let go of that fear. Through this process, and by going to that worst case scenario in my mind of “what would happen if I was induced?” etc… I discovered a lot of research showing that babies tend to do a bit better at adapting to the world when they are born closer to 40 weeks rather than earlier. My prenatal chiropractor also confirmed with his anecdotal evidence, that his patients whose babies were born on time or late had less complications – which was interesting to hear. So, by 40 weeks, the anxiety was gone and I was happy that the baby was taking his time and allowing himself to develop inside me so that he would be stronger for the birth.
By this point, I had been having very minor Braxton Hicks contractions in the evening (which just felt like a tightening across my lower pelvic area) – also some sharp stabbing pains in my pelvic area, which I attribute to my uterus softening/ripening from all of the raspberry tea and other things I was taking – But nothing that indicated to me that I would be going into labor any time soon.
On the morning of Monday, October 24th 2016, at 5:30am (40 weeks +3 days)- I started having contractions. I had stayed up most of the night and only got a few hours of sleep, but I woke up with a feeling of pressure across my lower pelvic area. I wasn’t sure exactly what was happening at first, the contractions were not painful, but felt like an intense wave of pressure that started very light and got progressively more intense to the point where I had to hold onto something and stay still when they peaked. **I looked up “what do contractions feel like” so many times – and I really think the most accurate description for me was that they were similar to what a period feels like on a heavy day, just with more pressure and intensity** I also sort of felt like I need to use the toilet often, so I just kept going into the bathroom and sitting on the toilet during a contraction, and holding onto the walls and the windowsill while the contraction peaked.
By about 6:30am, it was clear to me that these were definitely contractions (they felt very different to anything I had experienced thus far during the pregnancy). My husband, Cam, was still sleeping in our bedroom, but I decided to let him sleep until 7am just in case we were going to have a long day of labor. We just happened to have an appointment at 9am at the birth center and we needed to leave by 8am to drive the hour to get there. So I spent the time between 6:30am and 7am timing my contractions on an app on my phone. By 7am, my contractions were 3-5 minutes apart and lasted about 30-45 seconds.
Cam woke up at 7am and I told him I thought I was having contractions. He started packing up the car, and I called our doula to ask her advice on whether we should be going to the birth center for our appointment when it was so early in the labor process. The doula told me to try taking a warm bath before we left, and if the contractions stopped then I was not actually in labor. I took a 3o minute bath or so, and by the time it was done, my contractions were 3-5 minutes apart and lasting 1 minute. I called the doula back, and she said it sounded like I was in real labor, as I couldn’t really talk through the contractions.
I called the birth center and let them know I might be going into labor, and they told me to come on in for my appointment time. Cam was pretty excited, and although my contractions were coming really quickly, I thought that my labor was probably pretty far off, so we took our time getting to the birth center – we even stopped at Jamba Juice to get a smoothie before we got on the highway. I put on my HypnoBabies Cd’s on my phone, and just listened and breathed through the contractions as Cam focused on driving the hour long drive to the birth center.
When we finally arrived, we were taken into a room and one of the technicians asked me a bunch of questions – which I couldn’t really answer for her during the contractions, later they told me they were certain by my face that I was definitely in labor – and then had me go get a urine sample. I had my bloody show in that moment in the bathroom – which was perfect, because it meant things were moving along.
My midwife came into the room, gave me an exam, and then called out to her staff “get the room ready, we’re having a baby! – you’re 7-8cm dialated, 100% effaced, and we’re gonna have this baby before lunchtime.” Cam and I were both a bit shocked, it was only 10am at that point, we couldn’t believe everything was happening so quickly. We went into one of the birthing rooms, and I got undressed while the birthing team filled up the tub with warm water. The tub felt fantastic, and I just leaned over the side of the tub and held onto Cam’s legs and arms while the contractions came quicker and quicker.
Then my doula showed up and started encouraging me to make deep moaning sounds through the contractions (up to that point I had been mostly silent and holding my breath a bit through them). This is the point where things started to really shift for me – the moaning seemed to encourage the contractions to come on stronger in intensity – but they really weren’t painful, just a feeling of intense pressure. In the breaks between the contractions, Cam and my doula were making sure I was getting plenty of water, and my midwife was rubbing some really nice smelling essential oils on my scalp and on my pressure points. The other midwife was checking me every now and then for me and the baby’s heartbeat – but it never felt invasive, I was grateful for everyone taking on their roles so I could focus on breathing and not tensing up through the contractions.
By 12pm, the midwives said I was fully dialated and was ready to push. Now – pushing was really interesting – it was NOT painful, but it was very intense work – imagine if you were trying to climb the side of a cliff, each time you wanted to move up a bit, you had to focus all of your physical strength on shifting your weight and swinging your arm up to reach for the next hold, and then shifting your body weight up, and repeat again and again – this is how I would describe pushing – it wasn’t painful, but it required all of my physical ability to be focused for that minute or so that I was pushing, and then I would have a moment where I could relax. I also really embraced the moaning and making noise that my doula was encouraging, and when I would instead make a sort of high pitched noise, she would remind me to keep my tone low, which helped me from getting too tense.
At the time, I was sort of between consciousness and a more introverted place, I was aware of all of the people in the room and what they were asking me to do, but I was also very focused within myself on what was happening with my body. Something that I kept saying to myself over and over in my head was that “I can do this” – especially in those moments when I couldn’t really feel that I was making any progress (it is hard to feel that the baby is moving down much, until right before they come out – so I can see why many women may get discouraged during this time). My midwives were fantastic during this time – even though I told them I was tired, they kept telling me that it wouldn’t be long and to try three big pushes and releases for each contraction, and really encouraged me the whole time.
When they started to see the head, they explained to me that now I was going to start pushing and that when they said hold it, I was to hold the pressure instead of pushing further – and that this would keep my perineum from tearing. I did exactly what they told me to do. At this point, my water broke fully (it had been sort of leaking slowly before). This was when I started to “feel” the baby coming out as something other than just the pressure from the contractions. I felt the momentary burning when the baby’s head came out (which was the only point where I could describe as painful, but again it really wasn’t a serious pain), and then in two more pushes, the rest of his body was out.
Cam caught our baby boy Max at 1:04pm – just 7 & 1/2 hours from the start of contractions.
The midwives immediately put Max on my chest, and he came out looking a bit purple/grey, but he was completely healthy and started crying right away. He had an Apgar score was 8. I had no tears, just a slight “skidmark”. We stayed in the tub together while the midwives gave me some black & blue cohosh and injected me with pitocin (after labor) to get the placenta to come out – which it did within 20 or so minutes. They also gave me a little bit of ibuprofen just in case – which I agreed to even though I didn’t feel any pain. After a little while longer, the birth team wrapped up the placenta in a bag and wrapped Max in a towel and gave him to Cam to hold while they helped clean me up and move me over to the bed.
I kept saying to everyone “WOW – I can’t believe how well that went! – That was easy!” while I snuggled little Max and got him to breastfeed for the first time. I felt fantastic – all of my tiredness from the labor and from not sleeping was momentarily gone, I was so happy that Max’s labor went smoothly and that he was healthy and happy. I had a little bit of lunch to get my energy up, and gave Cam a turn to snuggle Max. After a while, the birth team asked if it was alright with us if they weighed and measured the baby and checked him over – we agreed, and they did all of this on the bed. Cam cut the umbilical cord (which had stopped pulsing a long time ago) and put a onesie on him so we could get ready to go home.
The only issue I had was right about at this time – while we were getting ready to go home, I started to feel a bit faint, and the midwives tested my blood pressure and it was a bit high. I have a theory that this may be because of the pitocin and the ibuprofen – I did not take any drugs/meds during my pregnancy, so I think my body had a little bit of a reaction to these. So my midwife got me to get up and go to the bathroom to try to urinate – and this was the hardest part of the whole labor (although nothing I couldn’t handle), it burned a bit and I had to hold onto one of the midwives because there was still a lot of pressure.
We stayed a bit longer at the birth center (maybe about an hour) just sitting in the bed and drinking a little juice and water until I felt well enough to leave – and we packed all of us up in the car and drove home. We were all in our own bed by 5pm that same day!
I am so thankful and grateful that Cam and I decided to go for a natural unmedicated labor – it was nothing like what you see in the movies, it really was an amazing experience and I would do it again in a second! I know that all of the work I put in to prepare myself, both physically and mentally, was the key to not only my success at natural labor, but the ease and quickness of the labor.