My sweet baby’s birthday is coming up and this mama is having a bit of emotional roller coaster! Just thinking back over the last year, realizing just how much my life has changed, how much I have changed, thinking about the future, needlessly worrying about her birthday events. I want everything to be perfect.
And I remember feeling this exact way one year ago. As I was getting ready to bring our baby into this world , my thoughts were racing. Wondering if I could handle labor, wondering if I would get the natural birth that I had wanted, wondering if my baby would be healthy, wondering if she was even the little girl we were expecting (there are mistakes!), wondering if I would be a good mom. Turns out I had nothing to fear – well, the verdict is still out on that last one, we’ll see how the next 17 years will go 😉
She was, and is, perfectly healthy. She did come out the most precious little girl I had ever seen. I did have a completely natural birth. And I’d say I did ok handling labor! I had a fabulous birthing team and support, the proper training, and I was doing exactly what my body was made to do! I’ve never shared her birth story because, frankly, after she was born I had such a whirlwind of emotions and trying to type it up was so emotional, the story was so intimate. I wasn’t ready to share. But I figure this day we celebrate her being with us for a whole year is a good day to share!
You see… the story of her birth doesn’t start with the moment the contractions started. It doesn’t start with the day we saw her on the sonogram, heard her little heartbeat or even the day we found out we were expecting. In all reality, it started 14 years ago when my parents divorced. I spent age 15-18 being the primary caretaker for my siblings as my mom, after being a SAHM for 15 years, had to go to work full time. I guess I lost a little faith in humanity/mankind. And I know I got tired of taking care of kids. So I decided in my teenage heart that I didn’t want kids. And if (big if) I ever had them, I wanted the situation to be perfect. I didn’t want them to experience the heartbreak of a father leaving. I wanted to a be a SAHM like my mom. I wanted to offer my child all of the good and none of the bad. And if I couldn’t do that (which we all know can’t happen) then I didn’t want children. And so I walked into every relationship with that decision, and every man I dated had to be ok with it.
Then in November 2012 I married a pretty awesome guy. One that I am pretty confident isn’t leaving. One who isn’t anything at all like my dad. But I still didn’t want kids. It helped that he already had two kids in elementary school and he didn’t really want anymore either. Perfect, right? Right. A few weeks after we were married, my husband looks at me and says “I just can’t shake this vision of you being pregnant. I just keep seeing it. I have this feeling we’re supposed to have a baby.” I told him absolutely not! A month later, I was sitting down writing my goals for the next year (2013) and I felt God nudging to write down “Have a baby”. Ummm… NO. I ignore the nudging. It gets stronger. And stronger. Almost like a heavy premonition at this point. So I finally give and write “Get pregnant.”
WHAT HAVE I JUST DONE?
At this point I’m on the pill. As fate would have it, I come across some pretty hefty information online about the negative effects of birth control and we decide that I should stop taking it. We decide to go the Natural Family Planning Route. I order a “Fertile Focus” fertility monitor and finish out my last round of pills. We don’t plan on getting pregnant anytime soon but since we are open to the idea, I’m not too strict on the tracking. The Fertile Focus does its job – I’m now aware of my cycles and the 3 days that I’m fertile. The point of tracking is to abstain during fertile days. Except there is like some other power in play and I’m absolutely mute when it comes time to tell the hubs that we have to take a break. I never told him. Month 1 rolls around, month 2, month 3…. I’m actually a little sad when my period starts each. Seriously, what is wrong with me??? I don’t even WANT kids, remember. I’ve never been so double minded in my life.
Then the next month, my cycle is late. Ironically I had given up – determined that a baby was not in the cards. For most of my adult life I have had inconsistent cycles. With my ex husband we had been birth control free for a year and no baby (he wanted one – that’s a whole other story). Clearly I was broken. I felt so stupid to even go down this path. Another 2 weeks goes by. So I pee on a stick. HOLY CRAP. I can’t even come out of the bathroom. I’m pretty sure I stayed locked in there for like 30 minutes. It was Sunday morning, we were supposed to go to church. Hubs is sitting on the bed (probably waiting for me to come out of the bathroom) and I just stand there, crying, holding a positive pregnancy test.
God bless this man. He later told me that he had no idea how to react. He had warmed to the idea of a baby but never pushed the issue. Then here I am sobbing. Was he supposed to be sad? Happy? Console me? Cheer me up? Obviously, we stayed home from church. And we talked and talked and talked. It was the most surreal moment of my life! I eventually warmed to the idea and we spent hours dreaming 🙂
I made an initial appt with my OBGYN but wasn’t overly impressed with how I was treated. Its one thing to go in for yearly exams. Its another to have a doctor talk to you like a child telling you how to have a baby. I walked away completely frustrated and unsatisfied. I came home and did some digging. I remembered a friend of mine several years ago talking about a water birth so I started Googling. And I read and read and read. This concept of natural birth sounded fabulous. I was already a firm believe in prevention verses medication and doctors made me feel uncomfortable. I started talking to moms who had given birth naturally. I booked a visit to a local birthing center.
when I walked in it was like Heaven. It was a quaint, country home with creaky floors, antique doors and four poster beds. It felt like home. The midwives told me all about how they were just there to assist, to support. That I was the one that would be doing all the work and that I was doing exactly as my body was designed to do. As a bonus, they had privileges at a hospital two blocks away in the event something went wrong. It was perfect!
Fast forward a few months. To my due date. I woke up to nothing unusual. About 10am, minor contractions started, which was convenient since I had my 40wk appt at 2pm. At the appt I was at a 2 and 75% effaced but she said not to get my hopes up cause that could last for days. By 4pm, they were up to 8min apart, then 5min at 5pm. I called my midwife and she told me “You are too calm to be in real labor. Call me back when you can’t talk”. I had no idea what she meant then and I was VERY frustrated with her but looking back now I have to laugh at what I thought was “labor” haha!
They finally let me come in around 2am but she said I still wasn’t ready. She also said that I needed rest and she gave me something to help me sleep. It worked. I slept until about 6am until the contractions woke me. And we went back in around 7am. I’ll be honest, in that moment, I was quite convinced I was gonna die or something. Its such a foreign feeling. Its not really even “bad” or “painful”, its just foreign. Similar to throwing up. My body was acting on its own and that was so weird. They let me into my birthing room and let me labor alone with my husband. I was advised to get more rest but that simply wasn’t happening.
My water broke around 11am and they told me I could push when I wanted. And I did. But evidently I didn’t understand what pushing really was. Everyone says its like pooping. Well maybe I poop easier than other people or something, but actual, REAL pushing is not like pooping! Its so freaking intense and takes every ounce of energy in every fiber of your being! I think it took about 2 hours before I finally was pushing in an acceptable fashion. I had to get at least two, preferably three, good pushes per contraction and I was exhausted.
And here’s the problem I had: I was dehydrated, tired and had not eaten much. They pretty much forced me to drink water and they kept offering food but I just couldn’t eat. If I could offer any advice to any future moms out there its to be sure and get as much rest as you possibly can, drink more water than you think you can hold and EAT. If I had done that, my labor wouldn’t have lasted nearly as long. And I would have been in better shape by the end.
My other problem is I had a cervical lip. You can read a little bit about that here: http://www.midwiferytoday.com/enews/enews0602.asp. Basically the cervix wasn’t allowing baby to descend right, which means most of my pushing was for nothing. My midwife tried to move it but that was the most painful part of my entire labor so we just switched up positions. Up until now I had been in the birthing tub, where I had dreamed of having my baby. She moved me to the bed side lying around 1pm. Pushing in that position removed the lip and allowed baby to progress again. Then she had me stand near one of the posts and squat while pushing. WHOA. That was such an awful feeling but it did the most good! After about 30 minutes of that, I went back to bed (I didn’t have the energy to squat anymore – everything I had was spent). I remember thinking at this point that I was too weak. I couldn’t do it. I wanted a natural birth so bad but I just couldn’t do it. But between my midwife and my super husband, they kept my spirits up. They just kept reminding me of the beautiful baby on the other side. She said I was crowning. She let me reach down and feel – all I could feel was my baby’s crazy head of hair! And that’s all the midwife could talk about – all that hair!
Another 30 minutes and I reached my max. I felt like I had pushed for FOREVER. It should be noted that I was a pretty vocal woman in labor. Its a good thing I was the only one there or I may have scared another mom. My poor mom came up at some point during the day and sat in the waiting area but said she had to leave because she couldn’t handle listening to me in so much pain. Labor is TOUGH. And anyone who tells you otherwise is either super lucky or lying.
And then my midwife said a magical thing, she told me “If you can give me 3 more GOOD pushes, then we will have your baby.” I basically accused her of lying. Then she reminded me that she hadn’t lied yet and she hadn’t made any promises but she was promising now. So I did. I pushed with everything I had left. I was convinced all of my insides were going to come out with that baby. She got excited and called Daddy over to catch the baby. And he did!
But its not all angels and rainbows. The next few minutes still make my blood run cold. Only her head is out and she tells me to stop pushing. The cord was tangled. Specifically it was wrapped around her waist and her shoulder. I don’t think I even comprehended what that meant at the time. When I was 36 weeks I had read a story of a baby that had strangled itself in the womb at 38weeks because the cord was wrapped around its neck. I had spent the next month worrying. I wanted my baby out where I could see her and nothing like that could happen. And here I find out just how real of a danger that was.
They got her untangled pretty easily and gave me permission to push again. Another good push and she was out! (Now Daddy really got to catch her ’cause he kinda got pushed out the way the first time.) They lay her on my chest and its just… perfect. I didn’t know this feeling existed. I didn’t know that even in my tired state that my heart could swell to 100 times its normal size. I didn’t know that I would pledge my life to someone so tiny. I loved her so much!! At 3:38pm on that wonderful afternoon my entire world turned upside down and I haven’t been the same since!
Its true when they say a pregnant body will, in most cases, give all its got to the baby. Because shortly after she was born, my body said it had been through enough. I snuggled her for about 30 minutes, we delayed cutting the cord, and then I got weak and lightheaded. I think everyone was much more concerned than they let on. I was dehydrated. They handed the baby to Daddy and made me lie back down. All I could think of was that I wanted to hold my baby. They hooked me to an IV with pitocin and fluids. It took almost an hour for me to recover and be able to walk or sit up. I struggled with guilt over this for a long time because I had read so much about how baby needs to bond with the mother. I felt like I had messed up her first hour of life because I hadn’t eaten or drank enough water.
This kind of guilt was not only pointless but it was wrong. I just gave birth to a baby with absolutely zero drugs or assistance. My midwife was there as support and to make sure nothing bad happened. I could have delivered this baby in the middle of the woods. Because that’s what a woman’s body is made for: having babies. Birthing them. Feeding them. Loving them. Its how we are built. My baby is perfectly healthy, at the top of the weight charts, super smart, and super bonded to both Mommy and Daddy.
The moral of my story is this: It doesn’t have to be perfect. I had this vision of a calm, serene water birth. With tears of joy and everyone smiling the whole way through. That’s not how it was. As a matter of fact, I delivered laying on a bed ON MY BACK with my knees in the air. I still laugh at the irony. And it was tough. SO TOUGH. It was LABOR. It was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But I will tell you it was also the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. I walked away from that feeling stronger than I ever have. Even looking back now remembering the pain, remembering the work, and telling myself I would do it all again in a heartbeat!
Natural birth is certainly not for everyone, especially women who are high risk due to a number of reasons. But MOST women can have a successful natural birth. However a lot of women don’t believe in themselves. Its scary. I’m here to tell you that you can. You can do it tired. You can do it hungry. You can do it if you have a low pain tolerance. You can do it without a doula. You can even do it in a hospital without a midwife (although that is more difficult because alternatives are readily available). You can do it if you’ve have had a c-section. You can do it if you are tiny. You can have problems like a cervical lip. You can call the midwife too early. You can push for what seems like forever. There is not right or wrong way to have a natural birth. You just do. Its as natural as anything else you do on daily basis.
And please don’t think I’m knocking mommies that choose an epidural or a c-section or a voluntary induction. Its not my place to judge anyone and even if it was my place, I still wouldn’t do it. I am passionate about natural birth but if you carried a baby in your body and delivered that baby in whatever way you were comfortable with, then you are also a warrior!
My lovely midwife discharged us at 6:50pm after we had established that baby could nurse well and I was healthy and whole. We stopped by Braum’s on the way home for a burger, fries and mint chocolate chip shake and then went home where the eager Mimi (my mom) was ready to meet her grandbaby. And we started on this adventure of parenting! 😀