As green mamas, we share in common a journey toward a more natural lifestyle. This lifestyle consists of eating habits and other practices that are more apt to support our family’s health. For many of us, much of this way of thinking comes about as soon as we learn we are pregnant with our firstborn.
That is how it was for me. As soon as I knew there was a little one growing inside me, it sent me on a reading frenzy. I wanted to know how I could provide the optimal growing environment for that precious fetus. I also wanted to learn everything I could about birthing options so that we could decide what would work best for us.
For my family, that ended up being an all-natural delivery. Through prenatal yoga sessions, birthing classes and a doula; we received the preparation we needed to succeed. I’ll be honest with you, it was far from easy; but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Here is my own experience with natural birth.
My Natural Birth Experience
Good morning, Contractions!
On Tuesday, November 27th (my due date), I awoke at a quarter of five to the mild contractions of early labor. They felt like menstrual cramps and were arriving several minutes apart, so I attempted to go back to sleep; however, all I could think about was what I had not yet done to prepare.
I finally fell back to sleep an hour or so later, but I would awaken each time a contraction came; so I eventually decided to just get out of bed. After being up and moving around for a bit, they seemed to go away.
The Waiting Game
I had an appointment with the midwives that morning, and they didn’t seem to think my contractions meant labor was for certain coming that day. In fact, I was told that it could still be another week or more before the baby arrived. So my husband, Chris, and I went home and took care of some things around the house, and then spent some time relaxing.
My contractions returned late in the afternoon. They were anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes apart, and I was able to self-soothe myself through them by breathing into it and doing some pelvic rocking. Meanwhile I was just doing things online and not really taking the contractions all that seriously.
Later that night, however, the contractions began to get more and more intense, slowly gaining in proximity. At this point, I began to need my husband to get me through them. I would get down on all fours, and he would apply counterpressure and/or massage. We had also just bought a heating pad that was very helpful for soothing my back pain; as I was experiencing a lot of back labor and continued to throughout my labor.
Playing it Cool
Around 10 p.m., when my contractions were consistently arriving every 7 or 8 minutes, I decided that I needed to call my doula to give her a heads up that this seemed to be true labor. She said I still seemed pretty calm and able to talk through the contractions, and recommended that I eat a good meal and try to get some sleep. I was able to eat a bit, but the contractions were making sleep impossible.
I called the doula again around 1 a.m when contractions were between 6 and 7 minutes apart, but she still thought I seemed pretty early on in my labor, and asked that I give her a call back when the contractions were consistently 4 minutes apart. We finally got to that point around 5 a.m., and decided to go ahead and meet at the hospital.
A Shocking Discovery
Once we arrived, the doula was shocked to learn that I had already dilated to 8 centimeters. According to my behavior, she had assumed that I was only at a 2 or 3. So I assumed that it would not be long at all before I was completely dilated, and it was time to push, but boy was I wrong.
The doula, my husband, and I quickly found our rhythm, with myself standing and leaning on a birthing ball that they placed on top of the bed. My birthing team massaged me during the contractions, and between contractions I would rest in bed with the heating pad. After several hours of moving through the contractions, the nurse checked me again, but I was disappointed to hear that I was still at 8 centimeters.
We continued on for a few more hours, basically doing the same thing–although we also tried using the shower and I found that comforting–until the nurse decided it was time to check me again. To my absolute horror, I was still stuck at 8 centimeters, and I completely lost my composure at that point, suddenly bursting into tears out of frustration and exhaustion.
My doula helped guide me back through encouragement and reassurance, and so we carried on. This round we decided to try laboring on all fours again, per the nurse’s suggestion, since there was some concern that the baby wasn’t in the best position.
Finally, after a few more hours, my water suddenly broke. I later learned that the medical staff had been close to the point where they felt they either had to break my water or give me Pitocin, or the labor wasn’t going to go anywhere. My midwife had been on her way down the hall to check me at the very moment that my water broke. What a relief! I had no idea that the real “fun” was about to begin.
A Roller Coaster Ride
My contractions soon became even more intense and closer together. The doula suggested that I get in the tub, which I happily agreed to. To my surprise, however, I really didn’t enjoy being in the tub during contractions since the heat seemed to aggravate my back pain.
When I got out several contractions later, it wasn’t long before I began to feel a true urge to push. I thought I had been ready earlier and kept asking to be checked, but for the sake of my morale I’m glad they hadn’t listened to me. Finally, however, I was now fully dilated and ready to go.
The Shift Change
To my disappointment, there was a shift change around that time and the new nurse wasn’t nearly as helpful. She made it sound like pushing was going to be so tough for me, and that worried me a little. She also said there was quite a bit of stool in the way, so she recommended I try to relieve that by laboring on the toilet for a little while. I did try this, but to no avail. And then it was time to push.
I decided to use the squat bar that was an option on the hospital bed. At first it was kind of tricky to figure out exactly where I should be pushing into, but the nurse had me push against her fingers that I was able to feel inside my cervix, and that helped a lot. At this point, I had been laboring in the hospital for more than ten hours, and I was so ready to be done with it all that I pushed with all of my might.
My birthing team had to remind me to breathe into it and wait for my contractions. There was definitely an intense burning and pressure, but I pushed right through it, and Serena came out in something like five contractions.
On the Outside
When she came out, my husband caught her and he was so emotional. I was just so exhausted and relieved that it was over and had nothing left to give. There was a little concern about her oxygen level at first since she wasn’t crying and seemed to be a little plugged up with mucus.
The pediatric staff quickly resolved her situation though, and I was able to hold her and attempt breastfeeding. Afterwards, the nurse guided me to the bathroom and I passed out for a minute, which really frightened Chris; but after that I was okay, and the nurse said it was normal after the exhausting experience of birth
I did it!
In retrospect, I am so glad that I was able to get through childbirth without any assistance from medications or other interventions. It made me feel so powerful and capable when I was able to manage the pain using only the strength of my mind and body. I had been so scared of not being able to handle such a painful process since the very beginning of my pregnancy, but I totally handled it and felt in complete control for the most part.
Why Plan a Natural Birth?
In case you are wondering why anyone would choose to feel the pain of labor, here are some of the many benefits to having a natural birth.
Following are some of the items I found to be most helpful in achieving drug-free birthing success:
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
A Heating Pad
A Good Doula (you may even be able to find a good doula-in-training for free if you’re on a budget, worked for me)
A Peanut Birthing Ball
An Old Tennis Ball for counterpressure
Peppermint Essential Oils
An Empowering Labor Gown
If you’ve experienced a natural birth, what was your experience like? Or maybe you are considering one, but have some hesitations. If so, what might they be?
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