When I had my son in 2010, I had zero desire to do it without drugs. I am the biggest wimp. I cry when I stub my toe. Why anyone would willingly go through that pain seemed insane to me. I was terrified of giving birth and the pain that went along with it. When I went into labor with him, we went to the hospital right away, and I got an epidural as soon as I could. I was still in horrible pain and terrified, so I ended up getting whatever other drugs they could offer me: staydol twice, and something else that I don't remember. None of it seemed to help and I spent the rest of the time until I had my son laying in the hospital bed crying and trying to escape the pain. After a 30 hour labor, my son was finally born.
Needless to say it was a pretty awful experience, but I did not realize there was any other way for me to do it. When my sister-in-law became pregnant a year later, we watched The Business of Being Born together, and all of the sudden my eyes were open to a whole other possibility. I came to the belief that the reason why it was so painful despite all of the medication I took was because I was so terrified and had the wrong perception about giving birth. In the movie, they describe it as something that you push yourself through, past a point where you thought you could go, and at the end of it you end up stronger then you thought you were. A friend also blogged about her homebirth experience around that time, and it made give birth sound like something you could be excited about doing, not this horrible scary experience that it was for me. I started reading books about natural childbirth and by the time I was pregnant again, I had decided it was something I wanted to try. Ultimately, the biggest motivator for me was the sense of personal accomplishment I thought it would give me. Almost like running a marathon.
My game plan to be able to do it was to hire a doula and labor at home as long as possible. If I went to the hospital too early, I was pretty sure I would get an epidural. On March 2, 3 days before my due date, I got adjusted by my chiropractor and went to the mall to run some last minute errands. I was really hoping the baby would come early. I had had a check up earlier that day and I was already dilated to four! But no contractions. On the way home from the mall around 5:30, I got sick and had to pull over to throw up. I was sick throughout my whole pregnancy with my son, and I remember throwing up on the side of the road the day before I had him. After I got sick this time, I thought, okay, Now it's a normal pregnancy for me. Baby, you can come out! About 15 minutes later, I started to have some contractions. I figured my uterus was just stressed out from getting sick and I didn't think much of it. I got home and decided to drink some water and take a bath, because my midwife told me that if it wasn't actual labor, that would make it go away.
Before I got in the bath, I had a few contractions that really hurt. I asked my husband, Luis, to do a few last minute things for me, in case I really was going into labor, and when he didn't do it right away, I started crying and yelled at him. I think that's when I started to think that I that this could really be it. I got in the bath and texted my doula, Jen, about the contractions. Even after a long soak, they didn't go away. At this point, I think they were maybe ten minutes apart? I don't really remember. I had Luis bring my son to grandma's while I finished packing and things. As soon as he walked in the door, I remembered that I had wanted to take some belly shots with my son, so I made my husband drive me over there. That didn't really work out well because the contractions started to pick up at that point, and I think it freaked him out to see me in pain. It was around 8:30 at this point, and I think Luis started to freak a little bit because some of my contractions were only 2-4 minutes apart and he wanted to go to the hospital.
Jen, kept telling us to relax, things sounded like they were going good, and keep checking in with her. Our midwife, Brenda, wasn't really stressing either, so we decided to head home. Throughout the whole labor, Jen, was the epitome of calm. She kept telling us that things were going good, everything was normal, right on track, and it really mellowed us both out. We would both start to get freaked out, and she would bring us back. It was so needed. When we got home, we laid in bed for awhile, just relaxing. Luis would rub my back during contractions, and while they hurt, it was manageable. I tried the hypno-breathing I had practiced and it didn't seem to help. I kept feeling like I was doing it wrong. I talked to my doula and she explained that I was still in my thinking brain and at some point my body would basically take over, and that I was doing just fine. I think it was at this point that she recommended that I change positions during the contractions, and so I got on all fours, like a cat. I also started making low moaning noises, and both of those things, combined with her pep talk really helped. In between contractions, I would just rest and relax with my husband. It was actually a really nice time for us to be alone together, thinking about the crazy adventure that would be taking off. He supported me really well during my contractions and in between. It was a really intimate moment for us, and made me feel so grateful to have him.
My midwife had told me to try to keep my bladder empty, because it would make the contractions more painful if it wasn't, so I kept getting up to go to the bathroom. I hated doing this because it was so awful to get caught in a contraction when I was not in my bed! After one particularly painful contraction in the bathroom at around 10ish, I decided it was time to call the doula.
After Jen got there, the next few hours passed in a blur. I had no concept of time. The contractions were getting increasingly painful, but I would just get on all fours during them and make my low-pitched "Oooo" noise. That really help manage the pain, it made me feel like I had some control over what was going on. The house was pitch black and I needed everything quiet. At one point my husband's alarm went off to remind us to call and check in with the midwife, and I told him I never wanted to hear that noise again. Any little thing that stressed me out triggered a contraction. My mom texted me and it triggered a contraction. Thinking of a situation that had been getting on my nerves triggered a contraction. I had to just completely clear my mind and focus on the task at hand. Jen kept telling me to grab my rest in between contractions, and I really did. Luis and her would rub my head, my legs, and my back, and I felt so relaxed. Sometimes I would even fall asleep in between. It was funny because it alternated between being in the worst pain of my life, to feeling like I was at the spa getting a massage.
During the contractions, they would mostly just press really hard on my lower back. That seemed to help a lot. After a few hours of having contractions in the bed, I decided to go to the bathroom again. I have no idea what time it was. I ended up having a contraction while sitting in the bathroom and I just decided to stay there. During those contractions Luis would press on my head while I leaned forward and Jen pressed on my lower back, while I would still make the loud "Oooo" noises. It seemed like I started to let go at that point. Like my contractions had transitioned from me pushing through them with my moaning noises, to pushing with them, if that makes sense. I felt like I was surrendering to what my body was doing, I was giving up fighting, and it felt kind of good, in a way.
Throughout the whole labor, I wondered at what point we would go to the hospital. Jen kept telling me that if I was in tune with my body, I would just KNOW when it was time. I did not believe her at all, it sounded nuts to me. The contractions kept building and building, my moans were getting louder and louder, and the idea of me going to the hospital and leave my quiet, dark, peaceful home sounded absolutely awful. Just the thought of it gave me a contraction. I told Luis then that our next birth was going to be at home, FOR SURE. Although I don't think I voiced it, I thought about just staying home and having the baby there for awhile. ( I know it sounds crazy) And then, all of the sudden, it was like a switch flipped in me.
The only way I can explain it is that I just, all of the sudden, didn't feel like being at home anymore. I still hated the idea of going to the hospital and didn't necessarily think it was time to go, but I wanted to leave the house really badly, like I just had to get out of there. Luis went to go start the car, and Jen stayed with me. I had a few contractions while Luis was gone, and I just kept thinking, how would I do this if Jen wasn't here? I did not want Luis to leave my side for a second. Seriously, if he stepped a foot away from me, I flipped out. Fortunately, Jen was like a ninja, and somehow managed to check in with the midwife, text people for me, take pictures, and support me very well during contractions, without me barely noticing a thing. I had 3 contractions on the way out the door. Luis started to get really scared, like we weren't going to make it, because those contractions were REALLY strong, and probably about 30 seconds apart. He was trying to rush me out the door, and I just wanted to take my time. I think that was the only time during the labor that I saw him start to get really scared. The 20 minute ride to the hospital wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Jen sat in back to support me and Luis drove. I had a few contractions.
We got to the hospital at about 1:30 am. Luis dropped us off at the emergency room , went to park the car, and that is when things started to get really ugly for me. I think the security guards were trying to ask me questions in the middle of contractions, (seriously, who does that!?) while I was climbing on a wheelchair, ROARIING at the top of my lungs through my contraction, and terrifying everyone in the emergency room. Thanks God Jen was there to talk to them and basically tell me I didn't have to, because I probably would have yelled at them otherwise. They told me to sit down and wait for the labor nurses to get there. I told Jen to start walking because we weren't waiting for anyone to come get us. Fortunately as we started walking, we saw the nurses come down. At first I didn't want to, but they had me go in the wheelchair so they could get me to triage faster. That was the worst elevator ride of my life. Seriously, I hate elevators now. When we got to triage, the nurse checked me and announced I was dilated 8.5-9!!! As soon as she said that, a wave of relief washed over me. I just kept saying "Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus", because I knew that I had made it. No matter how hard it was from here on out, it was too late to get an epidural. Honestly, from the beginning, I felt like my only hope of doing it naturally was to get to the hospital too late to get an epidural. I didn't trust myself to not get one( even though I made Jen and Luis promise to not let me) if we had gotten there any earlier.
When we got to the delivery room, I was so happy to see my midwife already there and everyone getting ready for the birth. That was when things started to get really, really painful, and I just wanted it to be over. Seriously, if they had offered me a c-section at that point, I think I would have taken it. From the beginning of my labor, I would roar through the contraction until I was out of breath, take a quick one, and keep going until the contraction was over. That is what worked for me. My midwife was concerned that I wasn't breathing enough for me and the baby, and so during the contraction, she would say "Take a breath! Take a breath! Relax your shoulders!" I tried following her guidance, and it completely threw me off. I lost all of my focus.
I am guessing that I might have also been in transition at that point, because things got really painful. I started crying and pulling my hair and I kept saying that I could not handle even one more contraction. They kept telling me how close I was to the end, and in my head I knew it was true, but it didn't matter. The delivery might has well have been hours or days away. I could not take it another minute. After a few contractions I decided to go to the bathroom and Jen suggested I run some hot water on my back. At that point, my midwife's advice to breathe really started to get to me. So instead of making an Ooooo sound, I would say NOOOOO!!, and that helped me feel like I was gaining back control during my contractions. So we were all in the teeny bathroom, and Jen was sitting inches in front of me supporting me during the contractions. But when I said "Nooooo!", she said " Don't say no, say yes!" I could not handle any more coaching during the contractions, lost it, and yelled in her face to "Shut up!" Immediately, I felt horrible afterwards, and kept apologizing. I still can't believe I did that. It didn't seem to upset her too much, I really hope it didn't. At that point, my midwife stepped out to answer a page, and I got up to get in the shower to see if that would give me some relief.
All of the sudden I got another contraction, and with it came tons of pressure and the urge to push! Still in the bathroom, and leaning over a laundry hamper, I yelled, "I'm pushing!" and started to. I felt like a water balloon burst out of me and all over the floor. I can't remember what everyone was doing at that point, but I do remember them trying to make me get out of the bathroom. I think my husband grabbed the midwife and Jen pulled the emergency cord. I did not care what anyone said at that point, I was having the baby right there, and they were just going to have to figure everything else out. Somehow they got me out of the bathroom( I think my husband pulled me) and over to the bed. I felt so relieved to actually be doing something and with another contraction, I started pushing again next to the bed.
My midwife kept telling me to get on the bed and I just ignored her and kept pushing. My body was ready to get this baby out. So they laid down some mats on the floor underneath me and with one more push or so the baby's head came out. Brenda told me that it was time to get the baby out, so I pushed again and she caught the baby. I had pushed for a total of two minutes, max. It was 2:20 am. My husband hugged me and told me that it was a girl, 8 lb 9oz, with tons of black hair! She looked just like my husband. We named her Luciana Mireille.
After she was born, I was in shock for a good while. Maybe 20 minutes? I was just staring, with a blank look in my eyes, my husband says. Up until the point she actually came out, everything in me believed I wasn't going to make it without an epidural. I had hoped and prayed to be able to do it naturally, and even though everyone believed in me and really encouraged me (especially my husband), I never thought I could. I think that is part of what was so shocking to me. I actually did it! After I delivered her, I found out I had torn pretty badly, but I did not even know until my midwife told me. I really couldn't feel a thing.
Having experienced laboring for over 24 hours in a hospital with my son, vs the 45 minutes or so that I did with my daughter, that is the one piece of advice that I give to moms trying to do it naturally. Stay at home! (and hire a doula). I look back at my labor with Luciana and I don't think there is any way that I could have done that in a hospital setting, with people trying to listen to my heart beat or get my blood pressure every 5 minutes! It was getting on my nerves for the short time I was there! I really think I would have gotten an epidural if I had gone in earlier. But, the interesting thing was that going into it, I had no idea there would be such a stark difference in laboring at home vs the hospital. I know people always say that, but I guess you just can't imagine what it will be like until you experience it. I would never have imagined that hearing a phone beep or walking a few steps would trigger a contraction. It's crazy. Honestly, I am so glad I stayed at home, with just my doula and my husband, and I am glad I only had to labor at the hospital for a short time.
All in all, I would not have changed a single thing about the labor. Everything was so perfect to me. The whole labor was such an amazing, bonding, intense journey that I got to experience with my husband. I feel like we climbed Mount Everest together. I feel so blessed to have been able to experience such an amazing thing. I know it probably sounds crazy, but I cannot wait to do it again!
Tags: birth, birth stories, birth stories on demand, doula, midwife, hospital birth, natural hospital birth, positive birth stories, empowering birth stories, birth stories with pictures