Our birth story
If you missed last week's post on pregnancy, check it out. Otherwise, read on for the most fun part of the whole thing!! BIRTH! Meeting that tiny human that's been growing in the womb for 9+ months!
As I've already said in this series, my intention with sharing this is to share the realities of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. I've found that many people who haven't gone through it before have tons of questions, so once again, I'm sharing all the details with you. And as a reminder, this is only my experience and I cannot speak for every mother. Here we go:
On October 16, at 39.5 weeks, I was trying everything I could think of to stay distracted from imminent labor. I had coffee at a friend's house, I drove to Wendy's to get my beloved spicy chicken go wrap, I bought craft supplies at Michael's, I sat in Starbucks and wrote a letter to my unborn son. Throughout the afternoon, I progressively could not concentrate. I decided I didn't feel safe driving anymore and got myself home. I hung out on the couch and asked Eric to pick up Chipotle for dinner because I felt extremely tired. I finished the evening off by starting Workin Moms, then called my doula before bed. Today really felt different than previous times I thought I was in early labor, but I was scared to get my hopes up, knowing that this may be another false alarm. My doula, Ashley, suggested I lay low, get a good night's sleep, and call her if anything changed.
And let me tell you, something changed. At midnight, I woke up to an internal "ping!" feeling and was suddenly laying in an actual puddle. WHOOOO my water broke! I was in labor! I could not have been more excited (and simultaneously scared/nervous/happy/worried).
I called the midwife. The amniotic fluid from my water breaking had a brown tint, indicating that baby had likely pooed in there and was possibly in distress. I was instructed to come into the hospital soon.
My contractions were still super mild, so we took our time. Eric showered, I threw our fluid-soaked sheets in the wash, and we tidied up the apartment, knowing the next time we came home we'd have a newborn baby with us.
We arrived at the quiet, empty hospital in the middle of the night. I had imagined this moment over and over, not knowing what time of day it would be or how much help I would need getting to the L&D floor. Thankfully I was still able to walk to the check in station, where a very non-compassionate checked me in. "Lady, I'm literally in labor and you're bing short with me" I remember thinking.
I was directed to a triage room where I got to change into a really cute and comfy hospital gown (it actually wasn't either). My contractions started picking up in intensity. This really worried me because I knew this was just the beginning. I remember thinking "wait, I don't want to be in labor! This already hurts!" To my dismay, I was experiencing back labor, which means I felt all the contractions in my lower back instead of... my stomach? sides? I'm not really sure what's "normal" because that's not what I experienced!
The midwife then arrived, checked my cervix, and told me the glorious news that I was dilated 4cm and 100% effaced. Hallelujah. I was very relieved to know I was already that far along (before baby comes out, your cervix needs to get to 10cm and 100% effacement).
Once we got to the delivery room, it was clear that labor was progressing fairly quickly - I already was feeling big contractions that I couldn't talk through. The midwife had Eric call our doula to come to the hospital because it was time. (Quick note: a midwife is the provider, the one who is employed by the hospital to deliver babies. A doula, in our case, was privately hired to help coach me through labor/birth, to help me stay calm and stay by my side, and to advocate for me as an informed professional).
One of the reasons we chose to hire a doula was because I was 100% set on trying to receive as little intervention as possible, and I knew having her would help with this. I won't go into all the reasons why I wanted this birth plan (talk to your provider if you're curious why people do this!). And yes, the idea totally intimidated me, but I felt this was the best decision for us. Weirdly, I was discouraged from doing this by a lot of people. Our society seems to, for some reason, be into discouraging pregnant women about birth, saying things like "oh, you're going to NEED an epidural even if you don't think you will" or "you have no idea how hard it will be" or "in the moment you will want any pain relief you can get!". Please don't do that to pregnant women, regardless of if you agree with their birth plan. Most pregnant women are already nervous and worried about labor and can use all the encouragement possible. I'm sure part of my motivation to do this drug free was to prove to myself and to the haters that I was strong and capable.
Anyways, I worked through some contractions on my cute pink exercise ball, a few while walking around, and many through soaking in a bath tub. I'll be honest, when Ashley arrived, I clearly remember laying naked in the bath saying "Ashley, it hurts so bad!!" But we worked together as a team to help labor progress and to keep me as relaxed as possible (the more relaxed a laboring woman stays, the more efficiently labor can progress). The warm water provided a lot of relief on my lower back. Eric and Ashley took turns applying counter-pressure on my back to relieve the pain of the contractions. They read me my affirmations I had written down prior like "One contraction at a time" and "I am a force to be reckoned with" and "The pain is intense, but at the end of this I get to meet my boy" (that one still makes me tear up).
At some point (it's all pretty foggy in my mind from here on out), I made my way back to laying on my side in the hospital bed. I had reached the most intense part of labor, called transition, and knew I just had to breathe my way through a few more contractions before the slight relief of getting to start pushing.
To paint a picture of this part, at one point I was mid-contraction when someone came into the room and cheerfully exclaimed "good morning!". I shushed them, and I remember Eric and Ashley picking up on what I needed and telling them to be quiet. In hindsight this is funny because it was probably rude of me, but in the intensity of the moment, I needed all of my focus and concentration to breathe and relax through each wave of pain.
Around 9am, my body started pushing! On it's own! I had been nervous that I wouldn't know how to push, but my body said "nope I've got this!" I was told to stop pushing until the midwife got to the room (in hindsight, I am very thankful we had a doula in this moment to direct me while the midwife was with another laboring mom). Stopping pushing felt like trying to hold back an internal hurricane, but to my relief the midwife arrived shortly after and I could begin trying to get him out.
Baby's heart-rate showed he was distressed at one point, so the midwife had me get on my hands and knees. I don't know how it worked but that helped and I was able to just continue pushing. I was hooked up to an IV and a heart-rate monitor at this point, as was baby.
I continued to push, following the instructions given to me and squeezing Eric's hand with superhuman strength. And yes I pooped. But mentally I was in "labor land" and nothing else mattered other than pushing baby out. When people ask me if an unmedicated labor hurt, the answer is yes. But the pain is completely different than anything else. It is supposed to be happening and you are working towards something. Your body knows what to do, and you just have to help it get there one step at a time. And also a killer support team help a lot.
After about an hour, the biggest physical relief of my whole life occurred when I felt Lincoln slip the rest of the way out. A rush of emotions hit me as he was laid on my belly/chest. Pure joy. It's impossible to describe the relief and happiness and love I felt in that moment. Eric and I cried and smiled and soaked it all in. My boy was here and I got to be his mommy, his warm and safe haven, and he at once became my sweetest joy and my proudest accomplishment.
I am proud and incredibly grateful that Lincoln's birth went how I hoped it would. It was overall peaceful, complication-free, and we got the most perfect baby out of the deal. I know that there are hundreds of reasons, medically and emotionally, that not everyone gets to experience this. I do not want to take it for granted and I remain full of gratitude every time I think about his birth.