My name is Sam and I blog over at young people in love. I'm honored that Cecilia asked me to guest post on her darling blog while she's away in baby land. Almost 6 months ago, our daughter, Hero Marilyn Kelly, joined our family. For me, giving birth was a crazy amazing experience and I'm excited to share my story with you today!
I had been planning and preparing for a natural child birth.
I also wanted to be open to having an epidural if I felt like I ended up wanting one.
But natural birthing was definitely my preference and personal goal from the beginning.
Around 6am on the morning of June 4th, I started having a few contractions. They felt stronger than the usual Braxton Hicks I'd been having for the past few weeks. Now, instead of just my belly going rock solid during a contraction, there was also a cramping feeling in my lower abdomen. But since I had also felt cramping like this before, I didn't think anything of it and assumed it would go away quickly.
By 9am, they hadn't gone away. In fact, they becoming stronger and more regular. When Chas left for work, they were coming every 20 minutes and I was having to breathe deeply through them. I told Chas that this might be it but we shouldn't get our hopes up.
I went about my day and my normal baby-waiting routine.
Showered, ate some cereal, watched Cupcake Wars, ate some more cereal, did the dishes, watched a movie on Netflix, rested in bed.
It was now mid-afternoon and contractions were averaging every 10 minutes and pretty strong but not unmanageable. It felt like I was on my period and having really, really bad cramps. When they'd come on, I'd have to close my eyes tight, grab a hold of something, and take deep breaths in order to get through them.
I loved laboring at home all day.
Because I had had a few false alarms over the weekend in which contractions started becoming regular but then eventually subsided, having the contractions continue to be regular and increase in intensity was so exciting. I timed them with my iPhone app and every time one came on when it was "supposed to," I was like "Yesssss! Come on, baby!"
This was really happening. She was finally on her way!
Chas came home from work at 6pm.
That's when everything changed.
Suddenly, contractions were every 5 minutes, with some intervals being as close as 2 minutes apart.
The intensity of each wave was much, much more extreme.
It was like my body knew that Chas was home and that it was time to get this show on the road.
Since I hadn't eaten much more than cereal that day, I told Chas I needed to eat right then and it needed to be carb loading. I would need the energy boost.
Chas should get a gold medal for how fast he whipped together that alfredo and sausage pasta.
And I should get a gold medal for how fast I ate it. Wolfed a plate full down in the 2 minutes between two contractions.
We threw our gear in the car and were off to the hospital.
Laboring in the car was awful. The tiniest bump in the road felt like a jackhammer to my gut. And then turning corners and having to use my stomach muscles ever so slightly to keep from swaying was pretty bad, too. And something about having contractions while sitting straight up in a seat. Yuck.
At 7:30pm, walking into the hospital, I had to pause to breathe through a contraction.
While checking in at the ER entrance and being sat in the world's most uncomfortable wheel car, the nurse was also busy making small jokes and attempting small talk with Chas and I.
I wanted to rip her eyes out.
Bless her heart.
I was in a hospital gown and lying on a bed in the birthing suite.
A nurse put in my IV, hooked me up to the monitor, and ran through all the questions about my health and past medical history.
Then the same nurse told me she would check my cervix and we'd go from there.
(For the last few weeks, my midwife had been unable to really see how far I was already dilated because my cervix was so far posterior that she couldn't check it without really hurting me. She could tell I was at least at a 1 and 60% effaced before labor but we didn't know more than that.)
But now, at the hospital, we had to know and we had to know now.
And, of course, right as the nurse started the terror that was checking my posterior cervix, a huge contraction came on.
Experiencing both at the exact same time was overwhelmingly painful. And, to be honest, felt a bit scary.
My whole body started shaking.
That's when I broke down and started crying.
That was too much, too soon.
I wasn't sure I wanted to sign on for the rest of this experience.
I don't remember what Chas told me right then but it helped.
He calmed me down, validated me, and encouraged me.
And the good news was, I was dilated to a 5.
Only 30 minutes at the hospital and I was already halfway there.
About 15 minutes later, during a contraction, I felt a strong urge to push.
So I did.
Feeling that urge so soon seemed strange so Chas called in the nurse.
She checked me again and discovered I was now at a 6.
The nurse told me not to push, though, because doing so now would only cause my cervix to swell and then it wouldn't be able to progress.
The on-call midwife came in shortly thereafter.
Because I had never met this woman before, I was a little apprehensive but that soon disappeared.
This midwife was amazing and apparently was the one who had trained our original midwife.
She was so calm. And that's exactly what I needed.
After a few contractions, she'd gently suggest some different positions for me to try laboring in, explained why those positions might be helpful, but was never pushy.
I tried lying in bed, squatting on the yoga ball, and kneeling on the bed.
All the cords from the IV and monitor were a nuisance but relatively easy to ignore as I slowly moved from one position to the next.
The midwife and Chas were both active in applying counter pressure on different points.
Sometimes it helped. Sometimes it didn't.
Either way, I felt safe and comfortable in being able to direct them both in what my needs were in the moment.
Through all this, I continued to have a strong urge to push.
With every contraction, that urge grew stronger and stronger.
Having to resist the intense urge to push while simultaneously working through huge contractions, was insanely difficult.
There were plenty of contractions in which I wasn't able to hold off the pushing.
It would have been so nice to not have had to deal with both at once. Because, honestly, the contractions alone were super hard, yes, but not as bad as I imagined they'd be. To only have the contractions would have been so nice.
By about 10:15pm, I was 8cm dilated and my cervix had finally started moving forward to where it needed to be for birth.
Shortly thereafter, we decided to break my water to help things keep moving along as the pushing was taking more and more control of each contraction.
That was the last time my cervix was checked.
Around 10:45pm, a huge contraction came on and, even though I did all I could to resist, I did three big pushes during it.
That's when I saw the briefest wave of panic sweep over my midwife's face as she scrambled to get on sterile clothing, gloves, and all the gear out and prepared for birth.
Chas and the nurse each grabbed a leg and pulled back.
Now it was all about the pushing. I finally didn't have to resist it.
I pushed for about an hour. It felt like 5 hours.
This is when things got really intense.
And this is when I discovered that I don't labor "pretty."
As Chas describes it:
"You know how everyone says labor and birth isn't anything like how it's shown in the movies? (screaming women)
Well, that's exactly what it's like."
I screamed. Loud.
My voice was raw the next day from all the screaming and yelling.
But it wasn't fearful screaming. More like the only thing that felt natural to do in order to get enough power behind each push.
There were many times during pushing that I turned to Chas in desperation and told him I couldn't do it.
At those times, I felt afraid and wasn't 100% sure that my body was capable of going any further.
Not once did Chas look concerned or scared. Not once.
His response was always calm and reassuring.
The nurses and midwife's response was always, "You ARE doing it! You're doing so amazing!"
Both Chas' quiet confidence and the staff's enthusiastic encouragement was exactly what I needed.
Then I'd take another deep breath, close my eyes, and remind myself over and over again to focus, focus, focus.
Because I kept asking Chas what he could see happening down there, the nurses set up a mirror for me.
Being able to see my body physically respond to the pushing gave me the motivation I needed to keep going.
It also kinda freaked me out. Just a little.
Watching a human head slowly emerge from you is pretty surreal. The reality of it all hit pretty hard all at once.
Just about the time she was crowning, I was having an increasingly hard time being able to slow down my breathing enough to catch my breath in between contractions. The pain and burning sensation was so intense. I was put on some oxygen to help me get more air which was relieving. (Feeling like you're on the verge of hyperventilation is not the greatest.)
At 11:27pm, as soon as her head fully emerged, the rest of her body slipped right out.
That part was awesome.
She was placed right on my chest and Chas was able to cut the cord.
Interestingly, I actually didn't experience an overwhelming feeling of euphoria in that moment, like I had read would happen with a natural birth.
My body was shaking, my muscles were still tense everywhere, and I was trying to slow down my breathing. And the pain. The pain was still there.
What I did feel, however, was an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.
I did it. I actually did it.
I gave birth unmedicated from start to finish.
I really, truly did it.
It's a feeling of self-pride that I will always have now.
When it was just the three of us, Chas offered a beautiful prayer.
It was the perfect way to start off our little family.
Along with the nurses, midwife, and Chas, I am also so grateful for the women who I was able to speak with prior to birth who were encouraging and confident in my ability to have a natural birth.
Women who, regardless of whether or not they themselves had an unmedicated birth experience, spoke about birthing in a positive way.
In my moments of desperation, those are the thoughts that I drew strength from.
Like tapping into a source of inter-women birthing power.
Because regardless of how it happens, I believe all birth is natural in that it's what we as women as designed to do, medication/c-section or no medication.
It's a pretty great thing.