*I must first make it known that I have a low pain tolerance. Please remember this as you read my story!*
After two bouts of prodromal labor in the weeks leading up to my “due date,” I was ready for our baby boy to make his debut. Well, that “due date” came and went, and 2 days past, my anxieties skyrocketed as my doctor insisted on different tests to check on me and the baby. I was fully convinced they’d find any excuse to induce me, despite my strong desire to give birth intervention-free. I was a wreck; crying, upset over the littlest things, and uncomfortable in my body. Everything was aching and I felt like a beached whale with stretchmarks. Thankfully, my sweet husband Dan surprised me by coming home early from work, which really cheered me up. 🙂
We followed our usual night routine: had dinner, said family prayers, played with my daughter and put her to bed, and then enjoyed a few episodes of Frasier before hitting the hay. I woke at 1 am with hard contractions; unlike the Braxton Hicks and prodromal labor contractions I had experienced before, these were unmistakably real labor contractions. At least I’d hoped they were real…it would be so discouraging to get to the hospital and be sent home!
I got out of bed soon after contractions started and found Dan gaming in the living room. The poor man hadn’t slept yet! He started an epsom salt bath for me, in which I tried to relax for the next hour and a half. He called his brother to come over and watch our daughter, and soon after he arrived, Dan had the hospital bag ready and the car parked out front. Contractions were coming on stronger and closer together. I focused on breathing through them, which made them much more manageable. It was 2:30 am when we left for the hospital.
When we got there, I got out of the car and had a couple contractions on the way to the doors. This had to be the real thing! The hospital staff quickly escorted us through ER up to Labor and Delivery. I was so happy when our escort let me walk instead of insisting on a wheelchair, like they did last time! We were put in a nice labor room with a tub, and they checked my dilation. I was already at 6 cm…this WAS the real thing! I felt so relieved, but also a bit anxious. I hopped into the tub where I labored for the next 4ish hours.
Labor was hard, as I expected. My coping techniques worked well for most of it. I continued to focus (with Dan’s priceless help!) on breathing normally, but I also found that talking to myself through contractions helped a lot. I probably looked like a crazy person…hanging out in the bathtub of a dark bathroom, talking to myself. Saying, “I can do this,” “I love you” to my baby, and “we could do this together” helped the most.
Eventually, the contractions got extremely intense and I began to feel a little frantic. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could handle it, though it had only been a few hours. I asked for an epidural a couple times, started crying, and was trying hard to keep myself from hyperventilating. Dan helped so much by reminding me that I could do it and that I was almost done. He also handed me water and coconut water throughout the night as I needed it.
From my reading, I could recognize this phase of labor as transition: often called the hardest part, a sign of transition is when you feel like you can’t do it anymore. Fortunately, one of my awesome nurses offered to check my dilation to see where I was at. I got out of the tub and got checked; I was “stuck” at a little over 9 cm! But, the baby was still not dropping as much as I would have liked him to. I continued to labor on the hospital bed, threw up, and contractions continued to get even more intense. They began to overlap and I found it hard to breathe, but I still was not feeling the urge to push.
Things are a little fuzzy in my memory at this point. Somebody suggested that I have my water broken in order to move the baby down. I was so scared of more pain that I didn’t want it broken, but I knew it was the right thing to do. Suddenly, there were many people in the room: more nurses, my doctor, and others. Our doctor quickly broke my water, had me change positions, and I began to push. Finally, I felt the urge! At this point, I was not self-controlled. I had become so uncomfortable that I allowed myself to scream. The poor onlookers probably all left with broken eardrums. I think I pushed for about 20 minutes before my baby boy was born at 7:54 am. Bliss!
Finally, I held my 8lb 9oz, 20.5 in long baby in my arms! I was a little surprised…I forgot the reward I’d receive after going through all the pain. Soon afterwards, the room mostly cleared out and it was just Dan, baby Thomas, and myself. Baby boy nursed right away for the first hour before being weighed. He has beautiful twinkling blue eyes, could hold his head up from day 1, and has the most kissable cheeks! What an absolute blessing! Every bit of the difficulty of pregnancy, labor, and delivery was worth it a million times over again. What a sweet child.
Thank you for reading the delivery story of my chunky little sweetheart! I should point out a few things that helped:
1.Drink coconut water during labor! It provided me much-needed energy to finish the job. I would have been totally dehydrated without it, as I did not have an IV.
2.READ GOOD BOOKS! Though birth is a natural process, the traumatic idea of birth that I had in my head would have scared me out of attempting to do it without any pain medication. I needed to replace my false idea of an injurious birth with the reality of an empowering, important, and completely natural birth. I got halfway through Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, and both Dan and I read the Bradley Method book. They were essential to our experience!
3.Have a good support system! If you’re surrounded by people who think you can’t do it, or wonder what the point is, REMOVE them from your birth space. My husband was my rock when I was a kite in a hurricane. At some points, I got so scared, but Dan was there to bring me back to earth and remind me that it’s all okay! Having him there reminded me that I am also doing this for him and the health of his child. You’d do anything for those that you love! Let those who are involved in your birth experience be both a support and an inspiration to you.
As I mentioned before, I have a low pain tolerance. I am sensitive to any physical changes that I feel. And you know what? I had a natural childbirth–by choice! And if I can do it, ANYONE can do it! It is hard, hard work, but I don’t regret it for a moment and I plan on doing it again, if possible. It is absolutely worth it. I feel so incredibly empowered and recovering well. I highly recommend giving natural birth a good shot, if you can! Though not every pregnancy, labor, or delivery can go as we plan, it was worth the effort to make it the way I wanted it to be. You might surprise yourself with your strength!
Disclaimer: All information on this blog is for informational purposes only. I am not a licensed medical professional. Please discuss any dietary changes, supplements, or medical questions with your doctor.
Diane Stanislowski is a wife, mother, and researcher with the goal of restoring the practice of traditional holistic approaches to wellness and sharing evidence-based information with the public.She lives in Grand Forks North Dakota with her husband and daughter Jane, and receives raw milk and pastured meats from Bartlett Farms.