The actual birth story. And, being a birth story, it may get somewhat graphic. Just to warn you.
My first contraction hit around 11:30 on Thursday, July 16th. I was laying in bed trying to get some sleep when I felt it. Being as I had the exact same feeling the night before, I rolled over and tried to go to sleep. I just knew that I’d go to sleep and wake up the next morning with no more contractions. Well, about ten minutes later I had another contraction. It made me have to pee, so I got up and went to the bathroom. I noticed I was spotting, which means my cervix was changing, so things would start picking up within a few hours. I still didn’t actually believe I was in labor, so I went and laid back down to try and get some sleep. No such luck. The contractions weren’t painful, but they were coming about every 7-10 minutes. I was starting to wonder if this was the “real thing”, so I started casually timing the contractions. Around 3am I woke Craig up to let him know that I was having contractions. We learned in our Bradley Classes that if it’s “real labor”, changing activity will intensify the contractions. Because I had been laying down for a few hours, I decided to do some housework and see what happened. Well, the contractions kept coming. Craig came downstairs about an hour later (too excited to sleep!) and sat with me for a few minutes as we tried to decide what to do. The decision came quickly: if this was the “real thing” we needed some rest! So we went back upstairs and tried to sleep. No such luck. My contractions started getting stronger and closer together. I ended up taking my exercise ball upstairs and rocking on it for a couple of hours, listening to music, while Craig laid in bed and tried to rest. I don’t think he got much of it! He was too anxious waiting on things to happen.
By 6am I was having to breathe through my contractions so we decided to get up and moving. We both showered so that we’d be ready to go when things started happening. It was only at this point that I realized this was really it. I was in active labor and had been for a while. We continued to work through contractions until about 10:30 when we called our midwife and headed to the Birth Center. Contractions were then 2 minutes apart and lasting about a minute long. Pain wise, I’d rate them around a 6.
We arrived at the Birth Center around 11. I was hooked up to the monitor for about 10 minutes to make sure Nathan and I were handling labor well. Leslie, my midwife, checked my cervix and I was 6 centimeters dilated and 100% effaced. Things were definitely moving along! Once I was given the okay to come off the monitors we walked around some more before getting in the tub. Contractions started picking up more, so we got in the tub about an hour after arriving at the BC. Now, I must take a break and clarify what I mean by “tub”. The birthing tub, as they call it, is a jacuzzi. Complete with bubbles, heat, and different colored lights. It must be what Heaven will be like. And it was my lifesaver during labor. Seriously. Some women like to call water “nature’s epidural”. While I haven’t ever had an epidural, I would imagine this statement is pretty close to accurate. While the jacuzzi didn’t numb me it certainly made the contractions much more bearable. I really never had a problem with the “pain” of the contractions. I’m hesitant to even refer to it as pain. I just saw it as a means to an end. Honestly, I never had the thought that I couldn’t handle labor. Which surprises me still since I’ve never been much for pain. I guess knowing how much healthier natural childbirth was and what a great thing I was doing for both Nathan and myself made everything that much more bearable.
Anyways. I labored in and out of the tub for a few hours. I was checked around 3:30 and was told by the student midwife, Angela, that I was 10 cm dilated. Time to push! This is where things get not-so-fun. I started pushing with contractions when I felt like it. No pressure to count to ten or anything like that. In our Bradley Classes we were informed that women sometimes poop when pushing. This completely grossed me out, especially since we were in the tub. So I wasn’t really pushing as well as I should have been. But that wasn’t really the issue. I started pushing “for real” and nothing was happening. Leslie was completely shocked because she expected Nathan to be born within 30 minutes of me pushing. Not so. She checked me after a while and discovered that I had a little bit of a cervical lip left. I was pushing against it, which was making things much more difficult. Leslie broke my water and then decided that instead of waiting for me to finish dilating (which could still take awhile), she’d help me. And here’s where the actual pain comes in. In order to get rid of the cervix, Leslie had to pull it back as I was pushing. PAIN. Lots of it. For one thing, having someone’s hands where they’re not supposed to be is never fun. Second, having those hands pulling and stretching skin that doesn’t want to stretch is not fun either. Third, having to push while all this is going on makes the situation even worse. But it worked. After a couple of pushes my cervix was completely dilated and I was able to push without hands in the way. THANK GOD.
And yet Nathan still wasn’t arriving. So Angela, the student midwife, put her fingers on my perineum and pressed down. This helped me figured out exactly where I should be pushing. My pushing was definitely more effective while she was doing this but still Nathan wouldn’t come. Finally, after about an hour of pushing, Craig was able to see Nathan’s head. I reached down and was able to feel it. It was nothing like what I thought it would feel like. His head was all squishy and slimy. So weird.
I kept pushing and pushing, but Nathan still wasn’t coming. So Leslie took over, gave me a bit of a pep talk, and told me to “get this baby out”. After pushing for about two hours total, at 5:37 pm, little Nathan made his way into the world. He was placed on my chest and through our tears we admired our little miracle. And we immediately knew why I had so much trouble getting him out. The boy was HUGE! He was a good pound bigger than everyone was expecting and his head didn’t cone at all. So basically, I was pushing out a 12 inch perfectly round head. No wonder it took forever! Look at all those fat rolls!
Craig was able to cut Nathan’s cord after it stopped pulsing. He then got out of the tub and got to cuddle up in bed with our son. Leslie and Angela helped me out of the tub and got me to the bed. Nathan was then placed back on my chest and allowed to nurse as Leslie checked out the damage. He was then passed back to Craig while the midwives stitched me up. This was the most painful part of the whole thing. I would rather go through labor and delivery three times than have to get stitched up like that again. I don’t remember, but I either had second or third degree tears, both inside of me. But as painful as it was, it was totally worth it. Although judging by the way I whined and cried as they stitched me up, you’d never know it. 🙂
After I was stitched up, iced up, and doped up on pain medicines, our families were allowed in to meet the newest member. I don’t remember much from this time. I was SO tired and SO hungry, that all I could think about was sleep and food. My amazing brother-in-law, Kyle, went to Moes to get us dinner while Rita stayed and took pictures to document the event. (Thanks Rita!)
Because of the amount of stitches I needed Leslie decided to keep us overnight. So after dinner and a nice visit with Kyle and Rita, Craig and I settled in with little Nathan and spent our first night together as a family. We went home around 10:30 the next morning with our little miracle sitting in his carseat in the back seat.
Now, there are a few things I want to say in addition to this story.
1. There is NO WAY I would have been able to have a natural childbirth without the help of my husband. He was absolutely amazing throughout the whole process!! I love him so much more after sharing this experience with him. His support and encouragement were better than any other method of pain control I could have had. He was by my side through the entire process, making sure I stayed relaxed and hydrated. I married an amazing man.
2. Craig and I have both said we would do the entire thing again. Knowing how much better natural childbirth was for Nathan there’s no way we could do anything different for our future children (unless there’s a medical reason for it, of course). Apparently while our families were in the waiting room they couldn’t believe we chose natural childbirth. Craig was later told that we shouldn’t go back to the Birth Center. I guess if you’re not in the room, you get a little scared. Neither one of us, however, ever felt worried or scared. We completely trusted Leslie and Angela and knew we were in great hands. Nathan and I were never in any danger. I was exhausted and in pain, yes, but that was to be expected. They monitored us closely and would have transferred us in an instant if there was a need. But there wasn’t. We were just fine. Even with the extended pushing and the stitches, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. And we will if God chooses to bless us with another healthy pregnancy.
Natural childbirth isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for us. And it’s kind of funny, but that mindset has travelled to other areas of our life as well. Thanks, Nathan, for opening our eyes to healthier ways of doing things.