My birth story – for real. Things you wish someone told you about birth. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a very honest, direct, and raw person. I tell it like it is; no silver lining or sugar coating. So if you are expecting a fairy tale story of how wonderful the experience of birth is, then stop reading right now. However, if you want to be prepared for what may come and the not so pleasant reality of what happens to our bodies, then keep reading my birth story.
This is my perspective. Every birth is different. Just because it happened to me it does NOT mean it will happen to you.
If you been to my website before then you know I am pro doing things all natural. So the birth of my child, as you can expect, was planned to be all natural. I had my birth plan all set. Giving birth at a birthing center, not the hospital, vaginally, no drugs, and no interventions. My birth playlist was all mantras and meditation music by artists such as Snatam Kaur, Mirabai Ceiba, and Krishna Das. I had my essential oils picked out, my birth team of midwife, monitrice (a nurse who is also a doula), my mother, sister, and husband. I was going to be mobile, labor in water, and use all the natural resources available. I expected pain of course. I went to all the classes to prepare for this. Birthing class, Breast feeding class, how to take care of newborn class. Everyone was very positive that I could do this, that pain would be manageable with the right mind set and water; that contractions were painful but you had breaks and they were gradual so you could get used to them.
I started early labor at 4 pm on Friday, November 27 at home. I was by myself as my husband had gone Mountain Biking. The due date determined by ultrasound and the midwife was December 1st but the full moon was November 25th and the due date that I had expected was November 28th. So we knew it would be here anytime now. From my classes I knew that early labor can take days but is no cause for alarm, or to rush to the birthing center. You need to be in active labor for that which according to the text books it requires more signs of labor like losing your mucus plug, your water breaking, contractions lasting one minute and being about 3 minutes apart. So I just tried to relax and breathe deep every time I had a contraction. It felt like cramps, the kind you get when you are a teenager and get your period. You feel pressure and discomfort in your lower abdomen. Totally manageable. With time they started getting stronger, last longer, and more frequent. All expected.
My husband got home around 6 pm and helped me keep track of the contractions. At 9 pm I decided to give the midwife a call for a heads up. I knew it was not time to head to the birthing center but it was coming… The contractions were getting stronger, they were coming 2 minutes apart, and lasting 40 seconds to 1 minute and 20 seconds. However, I lacked any other signs of active labor, therefore the midwife asked that I just try to get some sleep. HOW?! Yes I was tired but when a contraction came there was no way I could relax and sleep. My mom and sister were in Mexico for Thanksgiving. I called and texted multiple times but could not get a hold of them. I was going to have to go through this with my husband as my sole family support. Not what I had planned. Around 10 pm a bunch of mucus came out and as I had a contraction I would feel a bit of liquid come out. I thought it was my water so I finally decided it was time to go to the birthing center. We met the midwife there at 11 pm but I was still not considered in active labor. My contractions started to come 1 minute apart or less and last over a minute. Liquid with blood kept gushing out at every contraction and the only position that made it bearable was being on all fours (cat cow yoga pose).
I labored in bed, the shower, the tub, back in bed, tried a standing position, side position… yet contractions were just getting super strong. It felt like my insides were ripping apart. And they really were… The midwife asked me not to push when I got a contraction because my cervix was swelling and ripping, yet I was not dilating. That was like asking me to not beat my heart. I had no control over it. My knees hurt from being in the laboring position for over 8 hours now. I was stuck at 5 cm. I was tired and hurting and I broke down. I asked them to take me to the Hospital. I wanted the epidural. The midwife knew that my plan was to have a drug free natural birth so she very kindly would ask me to try a bit more. Maybe now I would dilate very fast and deliver this baby like I wanted to. After 4 am and me asking for it multiple times, she called it. I was not progressing, my cervix was swelling, and I was tired and in pain. Getting the epidural and some rest was more important at this point.
The transfer to the hospital was very smooth. We were very close by and I had also prepared for this scenario. I had done a tour of the hospital (thanks to my sister) and knew where to go and what to expect. I had also pre-registered so that my husband and I, under stress, would not have to deal with all the paper work.
In order not to make this story super long I will summarize. I got my epidural and IV to go with it. They monitored the baby’s heart rate by attaching this belt like device to my belly. Thank God one of the midwife’s on staff at the hospital happened to be around doing rounds. She took over knowing I was a transfer from a birthing center and wanted a vaginal birth; that way she kept the doctors at bay and the interventions at a minimum. She checked my dilation and said it was at 7cm. The contractions stopped so now artificial Oxytocin had to be administered to continue labor. The baby was face up and so we had to turn him. The most obvious way was to have me turn but when I turn to a different side his heart rate would drop dramatically, which in turn would cause a rush of people to come into the room. It was quite the scare and I thought we were going to be taken to an emergency C section. They even gave us all the disclosures and had us sign the release papers just in case. In order to get the baby out of danger they stopped my contractions by giving me some artificial form of adrenaline. My doula arrived later and was such a blessing. She gave me massages with essential oils, played drum birthing music on her iPod, braided my hair, and kept motivating me with kind words. At 7 am I was able to get a hold of my mom in Mexico by calling the resort. She packed her things and came right away with my sister. That meant they would get there by noon. At 10 am my water officially broke. Because of the adrenaline I was shaking. My sister kept thinking I was cold but I assured her I was actually quite warm. It was all the adrenaline in my body that made me shake. The baby’s heart rate kept going up to 150 and then down to 70, so to get a better read they inserted a monitor into my uterus and attached it to his head to have a better reading. They found out the baby must have the umbilical cord around his neck and that is why when I moved, his heart rate would drop. Since my water had been broken for hours, that also meant less wiggle room for the baby. The solution was to pump more liquid into my uterus to help loosen the cord around his neck. If you are counting now I have four tubes going in (catheter for urine, contraction monitor [these two are standard], baby monitor, and the liquid). By now my epidural bag was empty, I started to feel my right leg again, and a lot of pressure on my belly from the contractions. The pressure increased and became quite painful again. We had not even reached 10 cm yet. I just kept thinking that there was no way I would endure the crowning of this baby along with the 4 tubes without any anesthesia. I asked for more.
My mother who had now been present for over 8 hours told the doctor not to give it to me. My mom had 4 children at home, completely natural (me included). In her experience, there was no reason to get anesthesia. She kept telling me to breathe in through my nose and then breathe out like a dog with my tongue sticking out. However, I had an oxygen mask over my nose and mouth which made that breathing almost impossible. I could not take off the mask because it was needed to provide enough oxygen for the baby. I had to be firm with my mom and tell her that it was my body and my decision, and that I wanted the anesthesia PERIOD. My mom then left saying she was of no use to me at this point if I chose to have anesthesia. The labor then stopped. Partially because of the anesthesia and partially because I felt really bad for disappointing my mom and making her leave. I felt like a total failure and fraud. I always advocated a natural birth and judged the women who had interventions and C sections. That’s when the Doula went into action and got me back into track. She guided me to focus on the birth and the baby and forget about everything else (what had just happened with my mom). As she continued to guide me my contractions came back. I finally reached 10 cm and pushed. My mom also came back! Pushing was the easiest part. The midwife coached me. After the second push she threatened to give me an episiotomy. No way! I thought! This whole birth has already gone like the total opposite of what I had visualized. This was the last straw. There was no way I was going to let them cut me. So I pushed with all my might and next thing I knew I had a baby on my chest. A beautiful baby boy with a sweet little cry. I was still not done. I had to birth the placenta. I ripped minimally and only needed a single stitch. My sister who watched the whole thing said that to her, that looked like the most painful part of the ordeal.
As the anesthesia wore off, I felt pain down there but also in my abdomen, so the doctor prescribed some pain relief medication. My labor was so long that things internally were probably a little damaged too. We were transferred to my maternity room and then a whole new process began. A nurse would come in almost every hour to take mine and the baby’s pulse, check our heart rate, and temperature. Every time the baby would cry like crazy because of the cold instruments used. Especially the cold thermometer under his arm. A series of test were next. Several pricks on his little foot, a hearing test, and more cold instruments to measure heart function; I could barely keep track of everything. One of the test showed signs of jaundice so to make sure, they had to draw blood again to be more precise. His levels of bilirubin were high so now we would have to treat him. That is when I lost it; I started to cry. I thought it was over and now here we go again! I just wanted to be done and enjoy my new baby and get out of the hospital. The thought of them poking him again and again just broke my heart. Why was this happening? The nurse explained that it was no big deal, that of all the things that could go wrong this was the least dangerous and easiest to treat. My hormones were all crazy though so I was not thinking straight. Breastfeeding now became the most important thing in the world. He had to get rid of the toxins through poop and pee and the only way to do that was to make sure he was feeding as much as possible. So I had to keep track of every feeding, every pee and every poop, and make sure that he fed every two hours. If he was asleep that meant I had to wake him up whether he liked it or not. Yeah, now I have to also make my baby cry; we had no rest. My husband was pretty much in the same boat since he would not leave my side other than when I told him to please leave and get something to eat. He was amazingly supportive, WAY beyond my expectations. The lactation consultant came right away to make sure he was latching and that feeding was going well. They told us we were doing great. They brought the UV light and blanket and for the next 24hrs he would need to be under this light. To protect his eyes, he had to wear cloth glasses, which were a little complicated to put on, and very cumbersome. They kept sliding down and covering his nose. I had to constantly adjust them; just one more thing to make both of use uncomfortable. I also had to learn to breastfeed holding the baby and blanket beneath him, and having the light over us, so I also had to wear my sunglasses while breastfeeding. Because you know being a new mother is not challenging enough LOL. After the 24hrs another blood test for him 🙁 and if this one was not satisfactory there was the risk of keeping him at the hospital and sending me home. The thought of it broke my heart. Thankfully I had a really great nurse who advocated on my behalf. She told the doctor that although the numbers were not exactly what they wanted she had watched how well I was feeding him and was sure that everything was going to be ok and so the doctor released both of us. Finally we were going to go HOME! Being home was bliss. Still not much sleep, bleeding, and pain but at least no more IV, or people coming in at all hours to poke and check us.
I wore big pads or depends (adult diapers) for weeks. Did sit baths, used padsicles (a pad that has frozen witch hazel) the first 5 days which was such a relief! At the hospital they had giant special ice pads. My nipples got super sore and one even cracked. With time they get used to it and then it doesn’t hurt anymore and it gets easier to breastfeed. Seeing my baby boy smile and get chubby and grow makes it all worth it 🙂 Your kid becomes your world and the cutest thing you ever seen. You just want to snuggle 24/7.
My view about birth continues to be the same as before giving birth. Hope for the best but prepare yourself for anything! Most likely things will not go 100% as planed and that is ok. The advice I would have given myself? Don’t be hard on yourself and don’t feel guilty for not being able to stick to the plan. You may not be as strong as you wished but your best is good enough. Don’t let anyone or anything make you think you failed. If your baby is alive then you did well. You are a mama! And everything is OK 🙂