What having an unmedicated birth is really like...
After almost 6 weeks postpartum I finally feel able to sit down and type down my birth story. It has been so busy as I was a full-time student during my last trimester and into Lucy’s first three weeks outside of the womb.
MY FEELINGS ABOUT IT
Let me start by saying that I really did not go into labor believing I would actually survive. Okay, maybe I am being a little dramatic, but I was terrified pretty much the entire time I was pregnant. Just the physics of delivery scare me; like how do babies even fit through there? It still blows my mind. Also, I have never managed pain very well, I usually whine and whine even when I am even slightly uncomfortable. During the last month of my pregnancy I kept asking my husband and mom if they really believed I could do it because I needed so much reaffirmation that I could and that I would...
WHAT MOTIVATED ME
I knew I wanted to really set myself up for an unmedicated birth due to all the potential benefits for me and baby (easier recovery, easier time with breastfeeding, increased connection with the experience, shorter labor…etc). I had been exposed to the idea of an unmedicated birth from hearing the stories of various close friends and acquaintances which were always so inspiring. The Netflix show, Call the Midwife, was a great influencer in my decision as well!
HOW I PREPARED
Prepared is an exaggerated word; I didn’t quite feel like I prepared because that would imply hours of reading, research, exercise, and a perfect diet. That was not me, and has never been me, ha. I did what felt realistic and right for me, and just hoped for the best. I took an online birth course from one of my favorite bloggers and completed it at my own pace. The birth course was the first thing that set me up for success as it informed me of what happens during birth, how to write a birth plan, what to do when complications arise, how to advocate for myself and how to pick the right provider for me. The second best thing I did was tour the birthing centers in my area. I actually waited WAY TOO LONG to do this, and barely made the cut to switch providers when I decided to do so. Seeing the facilities and taking the tours is what really set me up with the perfect provider and place. Finally, the third thing that I believe helped me have an unmedicated birth was to share my plans with everyone. I told everyone who would hear it that I was going to attempt a water birth because sharing my plans with others made it real to me and kept me accountable to ‘the plan.’
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED
To my surprise, I was actually able to pull through with an unmedicated birth. Praise the Lord! I was prepared and expecting complications (because I tend to me more a ‘worst case scenario’ person) - but God surprised me with a beautiful birth. I still can’t believe it actually happened. So here is what happened:
CONTEXT: I was exactly at 41 weeks and preparing mentally for an induction considering I was already passed due and had zero signs of labor.
THE START OF LABOR: I asked Drew (my husband) to pray that night for me because I was feeling so defeated and stressed, after 10 minutes later labor started!! Talk about an answered prayer!! It was 11:48PM when I felt that first contraction that was noticeably longer and stronger than anything I had felt before. I prayed that it would be real labor and 3 minutes later I had the next contraction, and so on… My labor started pretty intense/consistent from the beginning. Contractions were 3 minutes apart and got stronger and longer. I labored on my own for 2 hours before I woke-up everyone in the house.
By 2:30 AM I got in the tub at home and tried to relax. Contractions kept getting longer and stronger, so I called the midwife just to let her know. The midwife told me that I could either go to the birthing center to get checked or stay at home - so I decided to wait a little longer.
By 3:30 AM we were on our way to the birthing center. My husband was asking me questions, and according to him, I wasn’t really responding rationally anymore so we decided it was probably time. By the time I got in the car I was actually ‘moaning’ through the contractions.
Once we arrived to the Birthing Center I was monitored and checked. I was only at a 1cm and though it was disappointing I was not surprised after reading all the birth stories of my course peers. The worse part of this process was the monitoring. The nurse asked that I remain seated or laying on the bed to get an accurate reading. Laying down made my pain 5x worse! It hurt so bad to stay on the bed and there is no way I could have stayed on the bed for much longer without giving into pain medication. I remember one of the nurses asking me, “are you sure you want to try naturally? You are only at a 1cm and already not coping well” (don’t worry, she was a labor and delivery nurse, not from the birthing center unit). I did my best to ignore her and could not wait to see my midwife.
Finally around 5:00AM I was admitted to the birthing suite where I had access to all types of yoga balls, a nice queen bed, a tub, a sitting shower and a different nurse (PTL). It was so LUX. I spent about an hour on the yoga ball, and threw up twice before I decided to move onto the shower to see if that would help me cope with the increasing pain. See pictures and descriptions below.
TRANSITION. I was in the shower from 5:30AM to 6:30AM approximately, this is also when my midwife and the birthing suite nurse arrived. This is also when the pain was getting harder to cope with. I began to lose myself in the pain and remember being vocal about how much it hurt. I would also forget to breathe. Up until this point it had been pretty much just me, my husband, my mom and a friend in the room. However, once the nurse and midwife arrived and checked me things got so much better. When I was checked I was at a 5, they immediately started to fill up the tub! YAYAYYAY!! Nurse Christina was able to center me, she instructed me on how to breathe and told me that whining or holding my breath would only make the pain worse. She told me to not think or talk about how much it hurts but to put all of my energy into ensuring I breathe through every single contraction. I was immediately attached to her, and she became the main voice I wanted to hear through my labor, she gave me confidence and didn’t let me fall apart - she was excellent. I was very needy through my labor. I wanted people to breathe with me through all of my contractions as breathing was just so hard to do and this is when Drew stepped in and breathed with me through the rest of my labor. The nurse and midwife were mainly there to suggest I try different positions, suggest different types of breathing, and to regularly monitor the baby’s heartbeat.
PUSHING. Around 9:20AM I was checked again and I was at a full 10!! As soon as the midwife told me I was at a 10 my contractions literally stopped and turned into the urge to push. This is when I felt the most scared. For some reason I had imagined pushing to be the worst and most painful part of labor, but thankfully I was wrong. Pushing hurt the least, but the pressure is intense. Once I started to push my water finally broke and since it had meconium my midwife warned me that I would only be able to stay in the water for another 25 minutes before I had to be taken out. This terrified me so I pushed with all that I had and after 15 minutes of pushing baby came right out!
Luz Elena was born at 9:38 AM, she was wide awake, alert, healthy and beautiful. She was able to breastfeed right away and she stayed in my arms for 2 hours before they weighed and measured her.
So, what was having an unmedicated birth really like (for me)? Definitely painful but easier than I had imagined. I would definitely do it again. There is nothing about my labor experience that I would change except for the being strapped to a monitor for the beginning part of it. I describe labor as going into a rollercoaster ride blindfolded. Waiting for labor to start is like that climb up in the rollercoaster when you are just waiting for that drop (labor). Once labor starts there is no stopping. You are strapped in and moving and the best thing you can do is breathe and try to enjoy the ride though it is somewhat terrifying!
PS. a special thanks to our friend Kelsey Souders for taking pictures of this special moment. <3