Being a first time mom, I loved reading birth stories-they helped me get an idea of what labor and giving birth could be like. And it was interesting to see how vastly different the experience can be from woman to woman.
I know that every woman’s birth experience is unique and the ultimate goal in the end is to have a healthy baby and healthy mama. So however you end up there as long as you had options, and were heard, supported, and respected, that’s all that matters.
After much research on the overall process, medical intervention options, the pros and cons, etc., my goal was to give birth naturally, at the hospital, without the epidural or any other medications.
I knew that things don’t always go according to plan, and I was open to that, but I wanted to do everything I could to help my natural birth plan succeed.
I personally love researching and preparing as much as I can. I like to know what I can possibly expect. So I read books, articles, birth stories, watched videos, etc.
For me knowing and understanding the process and stages of labor and what my body will go through and do, took the fear away and helped me to feel confident that my body was made to give birth and helped me trust my body and the birth process.
I learned that a big part of what determines how labor and birth will go is all in your head. If you feel scared, worried, or tense, it can slow down or stop labor. If, on the other hand, you feel confident, trust yourself, stay positive and relax, it helps everything progress and move along much faster.
Mind over matter.
The book: Giving Birth With Confidence by Judith Lothian & Charlotte DeVries was a good read-recommended by my doula.
I also hired a doula and decided to get my placenta encapsulated, both through Baby Nest Birth Services. I can’t say enough good things about them. My doula Maria was amazing, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have done it without her. She gave me so much information and helped me prepare my birth plan and advocated for what I wanted while at the hospital.
I’m definitely not against modern medicine and was open to getting the epidural if my labor happened to be unusually long with very little progress, so that I could get some rest if need be.
The average labor for first time moms can be between 12-24 hours, meaning it could be longer or shorter. Mine ended up being about 16 hours.
I also started walking more and doing stretches and exercises to prepare for labor in the last few months.
GOING INTO LABOR:
I started having stronger and more-uncomfortable-than-usual contractions early morning on December 29th. They were not too close together, but I definitely felt them. This continued throughout the morning and early afternoon.
They were not too intense or often, so I didn’t time them yet, but I did lose my mucus plug (sorry TMI). I texted my doula, and she said it sounded like I was getting into labor, and to rest, eat, drink, and move around in between resting.
Oleg and I decided to go to Costco to stock up on provisions. By the time we got back it was 4 pm, and I was still having tightening, uncomfortable contractions that were lasting about 30 seconds, on and off.
By 7 pm my contractions were definitely getting more intense. I had to stop what I was doing and breathe through them-which was packing my hospital bag, because I hadn’t got around to doing that. They were about 48 seconds long, and coming every 4-5 minutes-this went on for about an hour.
I was totally fine between contractions though. I texted my doula, and she said it sounded like I was in early labor-to do some labor stretches and exercises, maybe take a bath, and she was ready to come over whenever I wanted her to.
Side note: I was Group Strept B positive (it’s a bacteria in your birth canal), so the doctor wanted me to head to the hospital sooner IF my water broke, so I could have time to get a dose of antibiotics in before giving birth. My water hadn’t broke yet, and I definitely did not want to go to the hospital too soon.
I wanted to labor at home as long as possible because for me it was more relaxing and comfortable to labor in the comfort for my own home.
Also due to the research I had done, I knew that going to the hospital too soon can increase my risk of interventions- like labor stalling because of fear or discomfort, which can lead to getting Pitossin, epidural, catheder, higher risk of c section, etc.
LABOR GETS REAL:
By 10 pm the contractions where intensifying, and my doula came over at 11 pm. I was feeling the contractions mostly in my lower back, so the doula and Oleg would take turns massaging and putting pressure on my lower back through each contraction. I labored at home in different positions: lying on my side on the bed, on the yoga ball, on the toilet.
Oleg and my doula would massage my back, press on pressure points on my feet, do aromatherapy, and encourage me. It was a nice and comfortable atmosphere- the lights were dim, and I had my Pandora classical music station on.
I would breathe through each contraction, and started to go into “the zone” I wasn’t thinking about time, or anything else really except focusing on breathing and getting through the contractions.
I was in a lot of pain throughout this time, but honestly it was bearable. I knew that the pain was temporary and the pain had a purpose and a part in birthing my son.
I also knew that my brain was releasing endorphins (nature’s narcotics) as I was in labor and pain, which helped numb the pain a bit and make it bearable. I felt everything, but it felt like I was in a fog, or a dream almost, a bit like an out of body experience.
By 2 am my contractions were about a minute apart, and I was starting to feel a slight urge to push, so the doula advised that we head to the hospital. At this point I started insisting that we stay home, and I will just have the baby here. The thought of getting in the car, and having these intense contractions on the ride to the hospital did not sound good to me. After a little convincing from my doula and husband, I finally got in the car .
We got to the hospital after 2 am. When they checked me I was already at 9 centimeters dilated- Yay! That made me happy and gave me encouragement! I was almost done!
They gave me the IV antibiotics, and I labored for a few more hours at the hospital with Oleg, my doula, and the nurse by my side- massaging my back, giving me water, reapplying my chapstick, doing aromatherapy, and encouraging me.
I noticed that the verbal encouragement was very motivating to me, and helped me to keep up hope that I could do this. I kept thinking “I can do this! I trust my body! I trust birth!” I knew that staying positive would help.
Again, since I didn’t get the epidural, I got to move around and try different laboring positions-which help the baby move down and relieve the pain a bit- leaning over the bed, on the toilet, squatting.
Right before I started pushing, I threw up, and my water broke at the same time (throwing up is a normal part of labor and usually happens towards the end).
THE FINAL STRETCH:
I started pushing around 6 am- trying different pushing positions-one of them being the squat bar, where you pull yourself up using the bar during each contraction, and recline back on the bed to rest in between.
I had a cervical lip that didn’t fully open on one side, which made it a bit harder to push. The doctor had to reach in and push it aside a couple times. The pushing was a slow and steady process, and I started getting pretty physically exhausted and mentally discouraged.
My contractions were a bit farther apart, about 5 minutes between pushes, and I would rest back on my pillow and almost fall asleep between pushing. I started thinking that the baby was never going to come out, and was thinking that if they offered me a c-section I was gonna go for it just to get the baby out already-the things that go through your mind when you’re in the heat of it.
My doctor, nurse and doula were calm and kept saying that labor happens how it happens, sometimes slow, so things have time to adequately stretch out.
They put up a mirror and I got to see the baby’s head crowing (he had a lot of hair!) which encouraged me to keep going.
I definitely felt A LOT of burning pain and the “ring of fire” as his head came out. The placenta delivery was quick and almost pain free. I tore a little bit and got a few stitches.
Our baby boy Lucas was born at 10:13 am on December 30th. It was the most amazing feeling of relief and joy as they put him on my chest!
My whole body was sore and exhausted afterwards for days-I felt like had I run a marathon. By using the squat bar, I had basically done a bunch of pull ups. I can see why it’s called “labor”, cause it was definitely a lot of hard work.
Overall I liked my labor and birth experience. I think partly this is because I prepared myself and went into it with a calm and confident mindset. I had a birth plan but was open to things going differently. I definitely felt like I knew my options, got to make my choices on what I wanted, and I was heard, supported and respected.