Sweet Things 4 Life
Sharing our journey toward a more natural, simple, healthful lifestyle.
As promised, I’ve documented my labor and delivery in blog form. There will be a second part about the four weeks before I delivered where I experienced prodromal labor and why you shouldn’t feel crazy if this happens to you! I apologize in advance for the long post, but a woman’s birth story is incredibly important to her and wanting to share it with others.
At 41 weeks exactly I started feeling mild contractions around 5 p.m. the Monday before Camden arrived. They were around 10-15 minutes apart and not very strong, just slightly uncomfortable. I also started bleeding a little bit, which I knew was normal and probably a good sign this was finally it. When Mike got home from work we went for a walk to try and bring the contractions on faster and stronger. Our goal was to labor at home as long as possible before heading to the hospital.
The contractions started getting a bit stronger and closer together, they were about 8-10 minutes apart when I called our midwife to tell her I thought this was it. She told me to wait until they were closer to 4-5 minutes apart and felt strong. I’m not sure how many laps we did in our neighborhood, but we stopped for a break to eat something and gather our things for the hospital.
As we were at the tail end of another lap my contractions suddenly went from mildly uncomfortable and 8 minutes apart to make-me-keel-over-I-can’t-focus and 2 minutes apart. This was around 11:30 p.m. I told Mike as soon as we got home we needed to head to the hospital. My contractions remained about 2 minutes apart lasting about a minute and a half until I finally delivered her at 7:29 a.m. Tuesday morning.
When we arrived at the hospital we went to triage so they could check how far along I was. I’m pretty sure this is when I started experiencing increased back labor. For anyone who has experienced back labor, you know exactly the pain I’m talking about. For anyone who hasn’t, there aren’t really words to describe it. I think I said it best around 5 or 6 a.m. after I’d been pushing for two hours and finally asked for the epidural, “It feels like my back is being ripped in two!” I don’t mean to scare you, but back labor is no joke. It’s usually because the baby is in a weird position which makes you feel the contractions in your lower back as well as your abdomen. It also meant I didn’t have a rest in between the contractions. After the contraction passed my back went into a spasm type pain that grew as the contractions returned.
I knew before we went to the hospital that I was dilated to 4 centimeters and about 90% effaced from my previous visit to the midwife. In triage I was 6 centimeters dilated and about 95% effaced. I remember thinking this is going to go really fast now! No such luck. It felt like as soon as we got to the delivery room the contractions got stronger.
Mike and I had done a natural childbirth class and were prepared with numerous different positions to labor in, breathing techniques and pain management strategies. However, I was unprepared to not have a rest in between contractions. I labored in many different positions throughout the night: on my hands and knees, on the toilet, standing, standing with my leg up, on the birth ball. I think the best thing was Mike’s support. With each contraction he used a technique called the “double hip squeeze”, after the contraction passed he used his thumbs to rub my lower back where the back labor was the worst.
At about 4:30 a.m. I started asking about my pain medication options. Although we wanted a natural, un-medicated delivery, the pain seemed unbearable and I still didn’t have the urge to push. Laura, our midwife, checked me and said I was dilated to 8 centimeters but if she broke my water then I’d probably finish dilating and have the urge to push. Finally! Within 15 minutes of her breaking my water I was almost completely dilated and started feeling the need to push.
With every contraction I beared down, I really had no choice, my body knew exactly what it was doing. I pushed in many different positions: on the toilet, on my hands and knees, squatting with the squat bar on the bed, on my back. Ultimately I pushed for two hours before asking for an epidural. I wasn’t making much progress. Camden’s head was stuck on a piece of my cervix, so every push was just exhausting me.
After two hours of pushing Laura suggested I get the epidural and I agreed. At 6:30 a.m. I was exhausted and making little progress. As they started the paperwork and hooking me up to an IV I continued to push, because as I said, I really had no choice. Finally at 7 a.m. Laura said it was too late for me to have the epidural, I had made a monumental amount of progress and my baby would be here within the next 30 minutes.
I was torn because I wanted the pain to end, but I had also come this far without any medication. Looking back I’m not sure I could’ve sat still long enough for them to administer the epidural. Throughout the whole night of laboring I was moaning, although it felt more like screaming, trying to let the contractions wash over me instead of fighting them. At this point I was yelling at people, I could feel the “burning ring of fire” and I was pissed. I was tired, in pain and now it felt like I was being stretched to my limits. I could feel her head stretching me as wide as I would go, then my contraction would end and she’d just be stuck there, stretching everything out. The nurse kept saying this was a good thing, she was stretching me out so I wouldn’t tear and I kept yelling back at her, “IT BURNS! IT HURTS SO BAD!”
It was around this time our midwife asked if I wanted to reach down and touch her head as she was coming out, “HELL NO, JUST GET IT OUT!” Not exactly the calm, collected delivery I had envisioned. As her head had been making its way out Mike was getting emotional, he kept saying I was doing so well and he could see our baby with tears in his eyes.
In the end it took three sets of contractions to get her head, shoulders and waist out. I thought as soon as she was out the pain would end, but it wasn’t as quick as I thought. I delivered lying on my back, so as soon as she was out they handed me a slippery, extremely cone-shape headed, wide-eyed, screaming baby girl.
We didn’t know the sex beforehand so Mike got to tell me we had a daughter. I felt a whirlwind of emotions: relief, pain, love, exhaustion, disbelief. We were able to wait until her cord finished pulsing before Mike cut it. There was some concern about whether we could do that or not because she had pooped in the sac. When Laura broke my water they saw meconium in the water. The worry was that if she had inhaled or swallowed any it could hurt her lungs. Luckily she came out screaming! It’s common for overdue babies to poop before delivery because they have more mature systems that are preparing for the outside world.
Between the tears and my swollen face and eyes it was hard to see her, but I remember thinking she looked a little scary and alien-esque. Her eyes were so dark and alert and the vernix was almost completely gone except for what was left in her blonde hair. It made her look like she had platinum blonde/yellow hair. She seemed big to me, especially her hands compared to her body, but she was perfectly healthy and beautiful. We skipped the eye ointment on her eyes, but we did have the Vitamin K injection done. Once the placenta was delivered we saved it to have it encapsulated.
She was a healthy, average 7 pounds 10 ounces and 21 inches long. Her head measured 14 inches, but it felt much larger to me! She was holding her head up almost immediately, she was so strong. The nurse had been right, she took her time coming out so I didn’t tear or need stitches.
At around 8:15 a.m. Mike asked if I wanted to call my mom. Our plan was not to tell anyone we were in labor so we didn’t have the added pressure of people waiting on our baby’s arrival. As soon as I heard her voice I burst into tears and all I could manage was, “I did it! I did it without the epidural!” Of course she could barely understand me, but she finally got it and went into a high-pitched frenzy asking about me and the baby.
Reflecting on this experience I feel proud. I honestly can’t believe I was able to do it without any pain medication. I know I don’t win any awards for doing it un-medicated and many people will think I just want to feel superior, but I wanted to do this for me. It was a goal we had from the beginning of our pregnancy and through it all I was able to do it. There were a lot of people who didn’t think I had the pain tolerance to do this, but I did.
Giving birth was a transformative experience. I think I needed to do it that way to fully embrace motherhood. I don’t think it would’ve felt as real to me if I didn’t cross that threshold on my own. In the end, we didn’t have the delivery experience we pictured, but we got the one we needed. Before experiencing natural childbirth it was hard for me to fathom a time when I would ask for an epidural, but if I had known my back labor would be that painful and last that long I think I would’ve gotten one near the beginning of my labor. However, because she got stuck on her way down and it took me so long to progress, having an epidural probably would’ve resulted in a C-section, which I really wanted to avoid.
Ultimately everything happened exactly as it was supposed to. Our healthy baby girl arrived exactly when she was supposed to and I conquered a 14 hour labor to bring her into the world. I think my advice for other moms out there would be to listen to your body. It knows what it’s doing and we should interfere with it as little as possible. My baby was incredibly alert when she was born and started breastfeeding like a pro as soon as we were in our hospital room. I also recovered quite quickly. I was released at 2 weeks postpartum to start doing moderate exercise, not that I started an exercise regimen right away. Our bodies are much wiser than we give them credit for and it’s my belief that we should listen to that.
Until next time,
Katie & Mike
We want to share our journey toward living a simpler, more natural and healthy lifestyle with you. As we navigate through an increasingly complex and tech-driven life, we'll share our goals, triumphs and struggles as we attempt to return to a simpler way of living.