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“How can there be too many children? That is like saying there are too many flowers.”
Only hours after delivering our first baby, Jane, I remember talking with my husband about how exciting it would be to have another. It was only 6 short months from birth that we conceived our second child: my son, Thomas. Then, after only 8 fleeting months, we conceived our third precious baby. What a whirlwind this has been! Our family has grown rapidly and we are so thankful. We now have three beautiful little flowers. Though this time has flown out the window faster than I thought possible, there has been lots of learning along the way to this third birth.
While birth is instinctual and a natural bodily function, it took many months of preparation for me to feel ready for this birth. I didn’t come into my first birth well-informed, and I ended up accepting an epidural, which wasn’t what I wanted. I thought I could just grit my teeth and get through it, but I was wrong. The second birth was both intense and wonderful! I succeeded in achieving the birth I longed for so much: a completely natural birth with no medical interventions (besides that the hospital staff broke my water so baby could descend 🙂 ). However, the second birth was also highly stressful and exhausting, and I knew it could have gone better had I been more versed in relaxation methods. From these first two experiences, I knew that I had a lot of studying to do. I faithfully did so, and ended up with a wonderful birth experience for myself, my husband, and our baby. What a blessing!
I educated myself primarily by reading books. I decided not to use The Bradley Method this third time and rely on two other books which prepared me in a better way. The first was Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and the second was Childbirth Without Fear. Though I disagree with some of the approaches in Ina May’s book, I found her work to be inspiring. I liked Childbirth Without Fear because it fully convinced me–it didn’t just inspire me–that birth is a truly natural function, and that there’s nothing to be afraid of. According to this book and my own experiences, most of the time, the nature of each birth is as much–if not more–reliant on the state of mind of the mother. The basic message of the book is that fear is the only thing (in the vast majority of circumstances) that will cause real suffering in a mother and child during the birthing process. It is true that our bodies are psychosomatic. On that note, I’ll dive right into the story:
On February 28, a week past my “due date” (how accurate are those, anyway?), I woke up anxious at 11:50 pm with mild Braxton Hicks contractions. I tossed and turned in bed and started to get irritated at somebody for no real reason. Finally, coming to no rational conclusions, I texted my husband who was in our living room to come and talk with me. He came in at 12:30 am and I asked him a few silly questions and told him how irritated I was at this person and why, though I knew I was being ridiculous. After he brought me back to earth, I felt so much better; it’s always nice to be married to a grounded person when my pregnancies make me (more?) erratic.
When all that was over, I began having more intense contractions, and by 1:45 am, I was sure I was in labor. My husband called my mom, who was staying in town to help us, to come over and stay in the apartment with the two older babies so that Dan and I could focus on the birth. My mom arrived around 2:30 or 3 am, and I was in hard labor, having consistent contractions that were increasing in intensity. I was able to calm my mind and focus on each contraction as it came. For some reason, I imagined my body as a nice red sports car (I don’t even like cars!) and my uterus as its growling engine. With each contraction, I’d picture myself either as the car or inside the car, and the engine revving. “This is power, not pain,” I reminded myself, and was able to deep-breathe through my engine revving strongly. It was very helpful to moan with a low voice during each exhale to prevent hyperventilation. I was not afraid, just in the moment. It was fantastically helpful to have my husband rub my back and remind me that everything was okay, nobody is being injured, and that this is a completely natural process, even though it feels intense.
Because my husband was well-practiced and well-read in the birth/birth-partner genre, I was able to let him choose when we should head over to the hospital. I can’t trust myself in this area as I would choose to leave too late, so my husband decided to get everything in the car and told me we are going to the hospital around 4 am. We arrived around 4:10 am and walked slowly to the entrance, stopping when necessary. The cold air felt wonderful! I’m sure I looked like a zombie, slowly waddling to the doors and making strange sounds, but I didn’t care. We walked up to Labor and Delivery the same way.
By the time we got a room, contractions were starting to get very intense. I remained calm but was starting to get irritable and uncomfortable. Remaining in control began to be more challenging. I changed into a hospital gown and went to the bathroom, and by the time that was over, my mood was very serious and a bit unfriendly. The nurse or resident checked me and I was 8-9 cm dilated. A few minutes later, I began to feel nauseous, and I threw up my coconut water, water, and dates that I had been snacking on to sustain my hydration and energy. The doctor-on-call was finishing up a c-section and wasn’t in the room until the very last minute, so I thought I was going to have only my nurse and an inexperienced resident (she did not know how to check my dilation, nor did she have the manners to ask me if she could check me) to help me deliver the baby. Finally, the doctor arrived, though I wasn’t very aware of any of my surroundings. I had the urge to push while I was on all fours. My husband had been rubbing my back up until this point, but it stopped being helpful. My low moans turned into loud animal-like roars and I pushed out my baby; it only took four pushes and ~10 minutes! I felt a little burning as her head and chest were born, but (thankfully!) I did not tear. My sweet little baby girl was born at 5:44 am.
We were in our hospital room for less than an hour before our little one was born. She was so beautiful, even though she was still covered in my blood and puffy from her birth. She weighed 9 lbs 12 oz, was 21 inches long, had a 14 inch head, and 14.5 inch chest. God had given us another perfect baby girl.
Release from the hospital happened a little over 24 hrs later, and baby Dorothy and I were very tired but healthy and doing well when we arrived home. This birth went perfectly! It was exactly as I had hoped it would be, and I am so amazed and grateful for the happy outcome.
Through this experience, one thing was made certain in my mind: birth, most of the time, depends on the state of mind of the mother. My books were right. My biggest baby had the easiest delivery and my recovery thus far has been better than after my first and second child. Mindset is what makes the difference!
In summary, the things that helped me achieve my best birth experience are:
- Spiritual and intellectual preparation are needed to have a healthy mindset about birth
- A supportive birth partner and calm environment to labor effectively and without fear
- To remove or tend to sources of anxiety before or during labor; my body would not go into labor until I had discussed my stress with my husband
- Accept the possibility that things might not work out the way you want them to, and that is out of your control. Only try to control what you can control best: yourself
- Make sure you are well-fed and hydrated before and throughout labor
- Labor and birth in whatever position is most comfortable for you. This, of course, cannot be done if epidural is used
I hope this story has been encouraging and fun to read! It sure was amazing to experience. My strong little baby girl and I are feeling great, thank the Lord! Have you had a similar experience? I’d love to know! Mamas must bond with each other 🙂