The Unmedicated Hospital Birth of My First Baby
Disclaimer: This post contains details that may be TMI. Also, this post is not intended for the promotion of or to advocate unmedicated births or hospital births or to say that such births are somehow better than other types of birth. I believe every birth story and the decisions made are unique to the individuals involved –thus I make no judgement. This was simply my personal experience.
I love reading birth stories and as I begin to prepare for the birth of our third baby, I wanted to review and share the birth stories of our first two.
A little over 4 years ago, I had my first child: our spunky daughter who has so much personality.
And, although I read many books and birth stories, watched birthing videos, and took a childbirth class, I was not prepared for how intense the experience would be.
Here is my daughter’s birth story.
A Slow and Steady Start to Labor
It was Halloween and a Monday when I had my bloody show. The show looked like spotting. Contractions followed but they were far apart and mild.
That night, I woke up at 3 am. As usual, I was restless and hungry. My contractions were coming more regularly. Still, I think they were between 6 and 10 minutes apart and mild.
Around 6 am, my contractions were intense enough that I could no longer talk through them and instead, had to focus on my breath.
It was November 1st and I had an appointment with the midwife in the afternoon that day. I didn’t want to be checked for dilation yet though, I just wanted baby to come on her own, when she was ready, without all the checking and hassling.
The midwife was Jessica and she had a student with her named Bailey. They were nice but didn’t ask to check me and I was glad.
We all thought baby would be coming soon –within hours, but Paul and I left the appointment and came back home to wait.
A Second Long Night of Labor
Later that night, I went to bed, still dealing with the contractions. At around 3 am, the contractions became even more intense, but still not the consistent 4 minutes apart that were desired for heading to the hospital.
I was entirely restless and in a zone so Paul drew a warm bath for me. Unfortunately, the water did not help my contractions at all. So I got out after just a couple of minutes. Getting out was awful. I felt so cold and was shivering, weak, and just miserable.
After getting dressed, I knelt next to footstool by the bed for a few contractions. Then I stood up, legs apart, and rested my head on the dresser. I endured a few more contractions then I felt a gentle pop and about 2 cups of fluid hit the floor.
Paul was busy in the other room but when he finally came to check on me I told him that my water broke.
He was excited and got a towel to clean it up.
My contractions were all over the place: 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 6 minutes apart, but sill not consistent.
We decided to call the midwife anyway. Anne was the midwife on-call and when I spoke to her my voice was trembling. She told us that since my contractions weren’t consistent, there was no rush but that we could head in and she would get a room ready for us.
It was 7 am on Wednesday. I had been in labor for over 36 hours already.
Heading to the Hospital on Day 3
We took our time getting ready. I dreaded the car ride with how intense my contractions were.
Traffic was really bad and we didn’t arrive at the hospital until 9:30 am.
By this point, I could hardly talk or pay attention to anything or anyone around me, although I tried my best.
When we got to the labor and delivery department, they put us in a room to be checked. I was a bit peeved because I felt that I was already far along and Anne, the midwife, said they would have a room ready for me.
After a few minutes, a nurse came in and said there was a misunderstanding and we were quickly ushered to a labor room. My contractions were coming very quickly and I had to stop every few steps to breathe through them.
Once in the labor room, Paul pulled down the shades. It was a bright, sunny morning outside but Paul wanted to keep the room dim and calm for me.
The Stage When My Confidence Went Out the Window
Anne thought she detected meconium in my fluid so she ordered a continuous fetal monitor on me. Our nurse, Andrea, struggled to keep the monitor in the right position because baby was so low in my pelvis.
Anne checked my dilation and I was at 8.5 cm (transition starts at 7 cm). She exclaimed with the warmest smile “You’re just going to have this baby, arent’ you?!”
I didn’t feel very confident about it. It just seemed like I had been in labor for so long.
They told me to let them know when I had the sensation to push, which they said might feel like I was going to have a bowel movement. I was waiting for that sensation and breathing through some very intense contractions, but I never felt it.
However, from the point of when my water broke, I had the feeling that I wanted to push something, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to do it.
Clueless About Pushing
Finally 2.5 hours passed and it was noon. Anne came by to check on my progress and sure enough, I was already at 10 cm.
Andrea said that, being a first time mom, I probably didn’t know what the pushing sensation felt like.
At some point before Anne had come back, I told Paul that I thought I wanted an epidural. He was very sweet and told me calmly, “It’s up to you. You’re already almost done, but whatever you want. I support you.”
I decided to see how much longer I could hold off.
When it was time to push, Anne brought in a mirror so I could see how my pushing was helping baby come out. I told Andrea that I didn’t know how to push. I felt clueless. She told me to push like I was having a bowel movement. That helped me tremendously.
Still, I was nervous about pushing. I didn’t know if I could handle dealing with a new sensation.
But pushing was actually a relief. It countered the intense contractions nicely so that I didn’t feel like I just had to bear them.
Nevertheless, I told Paul a second time that I thought I wanted an epidural and he again reminded me that I was almost done but that he supported whatever I wanted.
So I decided to hold off again.
A Long Sleepy Pushing Stage
Anne had me lie down on the bed for the pushing stage. It felt so good to lie down. I started to relax and dozed in and out of sleep between contractions.
Consequently, my contractions started getting further and further apart. At one point, they were around 6 minutes apart. I was told that the desired length between contractions in the pushing stage is 1 minute or so.
Andrea and Anne sat in front of me, waiting for each contraction.
I felt bad that I was making them wait for so long and I asked them if they would like me to lay on my left side, because I knew that if I did, I would get a contraction right away.
A few times, I turned to the left for an immediate contraction and Andrea was impressed that I knew my body so well.
Finally, after 4 long hours of pushing, Anne said that she thought I should get IV fluids and a shot of pitocin to get my contractions going. Andrea told me that it was getting risky having the baby in the birth canal for so long.
I really didn’t want an IV or pitocin, so I asked if I could have just a few more moments to rest, then I would get up and walk around to get my contractions going.
Anne didn’t seem happy but she said I could rest for 2 minutes then had to get up.
Paul kept me going, telling me “Get up and drink something.”
I drank a protein shake and some coconut water.
Sitting on the toilet made my contractions intense, so I knew it would be a great place to push. I got on the toilet and pushed. I also squatted by the bedside and pushed. But squatting was very tiring on my legs.
The Prayer That Changed The Direction of My Labor
Paul asked if I wanted to pray. Even though I felt like God was so far away from me, I knew it was a good idea.
I sat on the toilet and felt like the world was just cold hard surfaces and mathematical equations. I couldn’t feel God. From this place, it seemed impossible that God even existed.
I told myself that perhaps I couldn’t feel God, because he was too close to me. Just as in the footprints poem, he was carrying me.
Emotionally and physically, I could not sense Him, but mentally, I knew He was there. So I asked God to stay with me and to give me strength to get through.
I realized then that I was holding back because I was afraid of the pain of baby coming out. But, I knew that I just had to do it and was just going to have to take the pain. I wanted the baby to be safely delivered.
It was a decision that felt like jumping off a cliff. I was completely afraid, but had to commit to it completely, come what may.
Determined to Push
I sat on the toilet and continued to push as much as I could. Finally, after 20 or so minutes, Paul asked me how things were going. I told him I thought I could feel baby’s head ready to come out.
Paul told Andrea who came to check on me and had me go to the bedside. But she couldn’t get a good view in the position I was in.
Nevertheless, she decided to get Anne while I went back to the toilet to push some more.
When Andrea returned, I got up from the toilet to go back to the bed and Paul exclaimed that I had a trail of blood down my leg that had gotten all over the floor.
Anne checked to make sure that it wasn’t anything too alarming. She said my perineum wasn’t torn so it could be something inside but wasn’t anything serious.
At Last, Real Progress
On the next contraction, I pushed so they could see my progress. Baby was now further along but slipped back in after I pushed.
I was dismayed that baby wasn’t staying in position, so on the next contraction, I pushed so that the top of her head stayed and didn’t slip back in.
Finally! She made it past my tailbone and stayed in place.
Another push and she crowned.
It burned and the pressure was intense, but really no worse than the intense contractions I had been bearing all along.
Anne placed hot washcloths on the area around baby’s head and it was such a relief.
They had me keep the baby in the crowning position until my next contraction. Once it came, I pushed out baby’s head.
I was so relieved that we were almost done.
Anne reached inside me to make sure baby’s shoulder was rotated properly. Then I pushed and baby’s shoulders came out.
I was expecting her whole body to come out, but when only half came out, I quickly pushed again to get the rest of her out.
Andrea remarked at how my instincts kicked in and I knew what to do.
It was very exciting toward the end. The pediactric group rushed in and other nurses were busily running around.
Andrea placed baby on my chest. The cord was a bit short and I felt an uncomfortable tug so she had to re-adjust baby.
Andrea moved to wipe baby with a towel to stimulate baby and get her crying but baby started crying as soon as she laid on my chest.
I was in shock and kept saying “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh! Is she mine?!”
Paul cried tears of joy.
I couldn’t believe that she was finally out and here.
Thank you, God.
Overall, my labor lasted over 44 hours. I pushed for 4 hours with little progress. Then, after saying a prayer to God, I pushed for another half hour and baby was born!
Labor, delivery, and birth was such an intense experience. It required everything I had emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. I can’t believe that women do this everyday!
My recovery from labor was brutal. I had insomnia, post-partum psychosis, delayed and low milk supply, a torn perineum, and my whole body felt like Jell-O. It took so much effort to move around. On top of that, my belly felt so strange like all my insides were hanging off my body in that loose belly space and moving around everywhere.
All just a part of the crazy experience.
And in the end, worth it to bring my dear daughter into the world.
I am so grateful to God, to my husband, and the awesome support I received at the hospital from Anne the midwife and Andrea the nurse. I learned so much from this first experience. Consequently, my second baby’s birth was very different than this one. I will share that story in an upcoming post.