I believe the content we choose to ingest has a great impact on our lives. That is why when dealing with something as important as birth, mamas-to-be should only search out positive birth stories! Today I’d like to share mine.
If you missed my last post, I explained a little about hypnobirthing and how it played a huge role in making the delivery of my first baby so wonderful.
Braxton Hicks Contractions
For weeks before actually giving birth, I would feel what I thought were the start of contractions. Jolts of tightness in my back or my abdomen, or a sensation like my uterus was a big bakers bag of frosting and someone was squeezing the contents down to the tip.
Some people refer to braxton hicks as false labor, but I think all the little movements are a part of the long process of birth, of the body slowly opening up so the baby can descend. (Thinking about it this way helped me to feel less frustration when I didn’t go into active labor.)
All The Old Wives Tales
By month eight, most pregnant women are ready to not be pregnant anymore. Everything aches, you feels huge, it’s impossible to get quality sleep, even though sleeping is all you want to do, and the novelty of stuffing your face has lost its appeal.
As the 40-week mark grows closer, the desire to bring on labor gets very real.
This impatience is met with a whole lot of advice about how to induce labor. Everything from eating pineapple and spicy foods to lots of love-making.
Personally, I opted to eat dates everyday (they are supposed to soften the cervix), and I drank red raspberry leaf tea. (I chose Traditional Medicinals, but Earth Mama is another good brand.) The tea is supposed to tone the uterus to prepare for birth. It’s also supposed to help soothe menstrual cramps, but I haven’t had a chance to verify that for myself yet. (Yay for lactational amenorrhea!)
Aside from what I ate, I also practiced prenatal yoga, walked along curbs, and bounced on my fitness ball ALL THE TIME. The ball was the comfiest place to sit at that point, because it didn’t put any pressure on my back.
Most importantly, I was practicing all of my hypnobirthing techniques: listening to the relaxations, reviewing affirmations, looking at the picture of a baby in my uterus that I’d hung up on my wall. I was not embarrassed to try anything and everything that might help my anxiety.
One of the best tips from the hypnobirth book is to watch funny videos, because laughter reduces stress, and reducing stress is the best thing you can do for you and your baby. Let’s just say I watched a lot of Parks and Rec while bouncing on my ball.
Since this was my first baby, I honestly don’t know if any of these things made a difference, but they did make me feel better.
To Epidural Or Not To Epidural?
Call me crazy, but my anxiety over medications greatly outweighed any sort of fear regarding the pain of childbirth. I did not want a big needle full of chemicals I’ve never been exposed to before going in my back. I’ve always had a high pain tolerance, and I figured if millions of other women have had babies without an epidural, I could too.
I have nothing against the idea of an epidural. If you want one, more power to you. For some women it is the pain killers that make birth a calm experience.
The book I read on hypnobirthing discouraged the use of epidurals, because part of hypnobirthing is feeling all of the sensations and being aware of what the body is doing. If you can’t feel what’s going on, you won’t be in control, and you won’t know when to do what. Once I got the go ahead to push, I didn’t need my doctor to coach me through it. I knew where the baby was and could feel what it would take to get her out.
That being said, I did test positive for GBS (group B streptococcus), so once I got to the hospital they hooked me up to an IV of penicillin. That’s why I don’t feel I can say I had an “unmedicated” birth. I was in the hospital and did receive medicine, I just opted to not get an epidural.
(If you’ve tested GBS positive, just know that the IV is nothing to worry about. It’s more annoying than anything else. Your arm will ache for the thirty minutes to an hour that it’s hooked up, which you will likely go through two rounds of, and then you never think about it again.)
My Birth Story
**Trigger Warning: This does include some graphic details about birth. If you are not a pregnant woman, and don’t want to know, then maybe skip this story.**
Monday Morning – 15 October 2018
We were in the OB’s office for another appointment. I was feeling very much done with the whole being pregnant thing. If I got any bigger, I swear my belly was going to fall off and start bouncing around.
My doctor was on a family vacation. She’d told me the Wednesday prior that I was not allowed to go into labor between Friday and Monday, because while her partner at the hospital was wonderful, she really wanted to be there for me.
So here we were, Monday, with her partner who tells me my cervix is about 2cm dilated, and asks if I’d like her to sweep my membranes. I’ve heard that this can make labor more intense, so I ask her about what exactly it will do. She tells me it will just help get things moving along, it might make me go into labor in a couple of days or it might do nothing if my body isn’t ready.
My due date is the 18th, so I figure it can’t hurt. I really just want this baby out. My husband sits in the corner, maintaining his opinion of the past nine months that it is my body and whatever I want to do when it comes to birth is completely up to me.
After a few unpleasant seconds of being “swept”, the doctor’s hand emerges covered in a very bloody latex glove. She tells me my OB should be back tomorrow, and hopefully she’ll see me in the hospital this week. I can get dressed and go home.
I cry a little bit on the way home, because I’m nine months pregnant and I feel sick and I hadn’t planned to have my membranes swept so I wondered if I’d done the right thing. (The hypnobirthing book advises against inducing labor.)
My husband drops me off at home and goes back to work for the day. I spend most of the day trying to relax and bouncing on my birthing ball in front of the TV between snacks. I do feel some movement, and what I figure are more braxton hicks contractions.
As the day progresses into the afternoon, the contractions don’t stop. By the time my husband returns from work I tell him very calmly that we might be going to the hospital tonight, but I want to let things progress some more. I do not want a repeat of our triage experience.
We notice that I have to start actively breathing through the contractions, which now feel very different. Each one is like a wave, a pressure deep in my pelvis and lower back that comes on slowly, peaks in intensity, and then recedes.
I have him call my mom, who instructs me to start timing them. I also spend some time in the bathroom. It’s now one o’clock in the morning and the contractions are 10 minutes apart, lasting 1-2 minutes each.
There is no doubt in my mind that these are the real thing. I have to sit on the ball, leaning against the end of our bed, “ooh”-ing through the waves. My mom arrives around 2 am to coach me through things. Waves start coming closer together, so she tells us it’s time to go to the hospital.
With no traffic in the early morning hours, we get there in about five minutes. I’ve brought a plastic mixing bowl along, because I noticed an awful pit of nausea in my stomach. My mom walks me into the main entrance while my husband parks the car, and before I make it into the sliding doors, the Dairy Queen Reese’s blizzard my husband had so sweetly brought home for me that afternoon lands violently in my mixing bowl, along with the remainder of my stomach’s contents.
I feel sorry for the people watching me behind the window. A nurse from the front desk brings out a couple of barf bags for me, and I throw the very full bowl into the trash. Now empty from both ends, my body seems very ready to expel my child.
I waddle to the elevator and ride up to the maternity ward, where my husband meets us to check in. Luckily we were here three weeks ago and are pre-registered, so I just have to show my ID.
The triage nurse is an older lady, very nice, and I like her even better when she announces that my cervix is dilated 5 centimeters. Halfway there! She does have to check with the OB on site, but she thinks we’ll be able to stay. I keep up my “ooh”-ing until she comes back to take us to our room.
I tell her I plan to hypnobirth and that I don’t want an epidural. She’s pleased, and discusses options for monitoring. I want to be free to walk around, but the cordless monitors aren’t available. We decide on intermittent monitoring, which basically means she’ll hook me up for a few minutes every hour to see how the baby is doing.
To my delight, she can do this while I’m in the tub, which is exactly where I want to be. The hot water loosens my tight muscles and I probably sound like I’m performing some sort of incantation with my deep moans and “ooh”s. They keep the room dark and quiet, and bring me a ball to sit on, as well as a peanut ball, prepping my bed and bringing me water to drink.
I’m somewhat oblivious to all of this as I focus on the sensations in my body, riding each wave, keeping my voice low and controlled.
After a while I tire of the bath, and opt to get up and move around. The contractions are intense, and I have to concentrate on each one. The birthing ball becomes my home for awhile until I get so tired I have to crawl into the bed, where I alternate between different yoga postures, trying desperately to stay somewhat comfortable.
There aren’t many others in the maternity ward , so the place is peaceful, and everyone who comes in the room is good enough to speak in whispers. Eventually there is a shift change, and I recognize my new nurse’s accent. She’s from Moscow and I welcome the opportunity to distract myself with a conversation in Russian.
I really, really want to start pushing. I feel that the baby has moved lower, and the pressure keeps building. When I tell my nurse that I’d like to push, she calls for the doctor.
When the OB comes in, she immediately apologizes for doing the sweep. She didn’t think it would cause labor to come on so quickly. At this point I couldn’t care less about that, I just want this baby out!
After checking my cervix again, she asks me to wait a little longer. I’m almost 10cm, but not quite, and she doesn’t want me to rush it and tear.
I try to wait. I need all the support I can get, because I’m exhausted and it’s becoming harder to stay controlled through the contractions.
Finally I’m okayed to push. My mom instructs me to take a big breath, hold it, and push my chin to my chest while I push. The baby lurches down my birth canal. I just want to keep pushing, but they urge me to take breaks in between.
Vaguely, I remember something from the book about breathing the baby out, but my patience has evaporated, and I know I can get this baby out with another push or two.
Five minutes later my baby girl is placed on my chest, her beautiful blue eyes looking into mine.
She doesn’t make a sound until I address her in Russian: “Говори мне.”
She replies with a little coo.
My husband cuts the umbilical cord once it stops pulsating.
I’m not sure what happens to the placenta. They must have gotten it out, but I don’t remember feeling it or even seeing it.
The doctor starts stitching me up while we all adore this new little life in the room. My impatience earned me a few second degree tears. Thankfully, this doctor is meticulous, and spends a good 45 minutes repairing my vagina and perinium. She uses a local anesthetic, so I only feel the occasional poke.
My Russian nurse is amazing, and brings me a platter of fruit and sandwiches. Calls are being made, Facebook posts are being written, fathers are arriving, and I leave my husband in charge of the baby while she is weighed and measured. The nurse takes me to the bathroom to attempt urinating and to get cleaned up. Urine doesn’t happen, but there is a lot of blood coming out of me. She gives me a bag of bathroom goodies, full of giant pads, bottles to replace toilet paper, special wipes and sprays, and she instructs me on how I am to take care of my southern regions for the next 6 weeks while I heal.
I’m put in a wheelchair and handed my baby, and taken to another room to recover for the next 24-48 hours.
Recovery is another story.