Lately here at Stitches and Sunflowers I’ve been sitting around waiting for false labor to turn into real labor. Since I have only baby on my brain, I thought it would be fun to share with you the birth story of my first baby. Birth is so personal, but as I was preparing for L’s birth I found it really helpful to read stories of other moms and get a healthy perspective about childbirth in our culture that fears and sensationalizes birth.
I woke up one morning feeling contractions that were small but fairly regular. For me they felt like a strong menstrual cramp that came and went in a wave. At this point they were strong enough to wake me, but not strong enough that I needed to get out of bed.
Laboring at Home
My goal was to labor at home for as long as I could. I wanted to be able to work with my body in early labor in a place that was comfortable and familiar to me.
That evening I was still having regular contractions, but they weren’t yet five minutes apart and I was still feeling pretty normal. There was a church barbecue at the beach that night. I knew that it would be my last chance for a beach trip in a long while, so we went! It was a cloudy and slightly rainy day, so not many people were getting in the water, but I wanted to swim in the ocean before the baby was born so Levi and I got in and swam.
At the end of the party I started to notice my contractions were strong enough that I was having a hard time acting normal through them. A friend drove us home (we didn’t have a car, so we walked everywhere normally) and we started to pack for the hospital. We cleaned the house with some old seventies music playing (woo-hoo the Carpenters!) and every time I had a contraction I would stop what I was doing and sway to the music.
At around 9:00 pm we let our doula know that I was in labor, but when she came over to talk to us my contractions seemed to slow down a little, and still weren’t overwhelmingly strong. We decided to try and get some sleep. Levi did sleep a little, but I didn’t sleep much between contractions. Finally, I couldn’t handle laying down and pretending to sleep any longer, so I woke up Levi and we started the 45 minute drive to the hospital.
At the Hospital
We checked into triage at 4:00 am. The nurse asked, “How long has this been going on?” I honestly couldn’t think of a good answer as to when my labor started, so I said, “About nine months.” It’s still one of my finest moments when it comes to telling jokes.
When the nurse checked my cervix I was 6 cm. dilated and 90% effaced. The nurses were very surprised and started rushing to check me into a room.
Our hospital room had a view of the beautiful mountains of Oahu. Before getting in the tub the nurses had to check how baby was doing on the fetal monitor. When I had a contraction I would breath deeply and lean into Levi and sway. Leaning forward and letting him hug me helped me relax into the contractions.
Finally, I was finished being monitored and they let me get into the tub. The warm water helped me relax and made my contractions much more manageable. I focused on envisioning my cervix opening and relaxing my whole body into each contraction. Levi was the most amazing birth support. He supported me with gentle touch and words of encouragement. I clung to him during every contraction.
At 9:00 am I was ready to start pushing. My midwife came in and broke my water. At this point I was so exhausted. Everyone was cheering me on and telling me to push during my contractions. I tried using the birthing bar to squat on the hospital bed, but between every contraction I laid back on the bed and stared out the window at those beautiful mountains. I just wanted to be done! I started to say, “I can’t do this, it hurts,” and the contractions became very painful as I was pushing.
I pushed for an hour. Everyone kept saying, “You’re almost there, I see the head, you’re almost there.” I thought every push would bring the baby out. The baby’s heartrate started to drop. Everything started to become mixed up and crazy in my brain. I was worried about the baby, but it all felt kind of far away as I was overcome by my contractions and efforts to push.
My midwife called in the attending doctor. When he came in I think he introduced himself, and told me he needed to use the vacuum to get the baby out as soon as possible. One more push, and with the help of the vacuum L was born.
When they placed L on my chest, I was amazed at how alert, alive, and tiny he was. I felt so much love for him already. His birth was such a challenging and incredible experience. It was a beautiful time of bonding for Levi and I. It was an example of how our bodies are powerful and perfectly designed.
I wouldn’t give up my natural birth experience for the world. I think everyone’s birth choices are their own, so I wouldn’t push the decision to have a natural birth on anyone. However, I also don’t feel that I am a remarkably unique woman for giving birth naturally. I don’t have a high pain tolerance and I’m not an athlete. Birth is a healthy, incredible process and our bodies already know what to do.
What was your birth experience like? Share in the comments.