Reading other women’s birth stories while pregnant was one of my favorite things, gleaning any knowledge I could from other’s experiences. Every one has their own unique body and story, it’s fascinating how each one can vary so greatly. Each positive experience I read empowered me so much for the labor ahead, so I wanted to share mine to hopefully give courage and strength to anyone who needs it!
My entire pregnancy I was obsessed with researching, reading everything I could swallow about childbirth. My favorite books were Ina May’s, Guide to Childbirth and Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way. We have a Bradley instructor who offers classes here in the valley if anyone is interested or you can look up an instructor in your area on Bradley’s website. We went into the class totally naive & curious, so eager to learn and we came out confident. I felt so knowledgable and prepared for anything and I know that knowledge is what gave me the strength and fearlessness leading up to and during labor. I felt like I could give birth anywhere.
So, this is our story…
38 weeks pregnant, we were craving one last little adventure before Ivy’s arrival. I had been having painless contractions frequently, where your tummy tightens, mine would get a kind of hump at the top. Earlier in my pregnancy I just thought this was her bum sticking up at the top of my tummy, making it tight, but I learned they were actually Braxton Hicks contractions. Those were coming more frequently this day, but they had been happening for a few months, so I thought nothing much of them, besides I still had two weeks right? We were a little hesitant to go, little did we know later that night real labor would start!. We spent the day swimming by a waterfall, it was wonderful. I think maybe the icy waters of the McCloud River sent me into labor!
That night around 10pm the contractions started to hurt like period cramps, progressively getting more painful through the night, I didn’t sleep at all. By 2 am I felt like it was time to go to the hospital just to see if I was dilating, was this real labor?
We called our Dr. in Ashland, she said the hospital was accidentally understaffed because of a conference and that we would need to find somewhere else to deliver. A little panic, but no time to really freak out, we decided to just go to the hospital here in Grants Pass. Looking back now I feel like maybe this happened for a reason because she was born with an extrememly rare skin condition. The pediactrician on staff that day recongnized her condition right away and had her transported to a NICU. You can read more about that here.
Once we got to the hospital I was only 1 cm, you guys! Worst news ever! All I could say was, ‘ so you’re saying this pain is going to get worse?’ Haha! She laughed & said it could just be early labor and last for days. Thankfully it didn’t. We went back home to labor. Billy tried to sleep since I kind of kept him up all night and I needed him for the laboring ahead.
At 2pm, we headed back to Three River’s Hospital and I was 4cm. This was it! We stayed there, labored in the tub (having my belly in warm water helped the pain so much!), bounced on a yoga ball. I was naked, having extreme hot flashes & then be freezing. I was throwing up with every contraction. It was tough. Billy was covering me with a blanket then ripping it off of me, trying to anticipate how I felt and giving me lots of water between contractions so I had something to throw up. He is my hero!
Once I was at 7cm I asked if the Dr. on call could come break my water. I just wanted to get to pushing. Once my water was broken the contractions were so much more painful having her head right against my cervix. A couple hours later I was at 10 cm and ready to push.
I pushed for two hours. Pushing was painless, I was making jokes and each contraction just gave me the urge to push her out and then I could relax between them. By this time I had been up for almost 48 hours since the contractions had kept me up all night. I was so exhausted. The nurse applied oil to my cervix. I actually think she went and bought it for me because I mentioned wanting that in the birth plan I brought with me to the hospital. All the nurses that labored with me were so amazing. They honored my birth plan and did everything they could to support my wishes. There was a moment in pushing that felt like burning and that was the little ripping that happened. I needed one stitch afterwards. It’s better to rip than having the Dr. do an episiotomy because the nerves and vessels can heal and connect better if it’s not a straight cut. Also always bring a printed out birth plan. I had one ready and Im so glad I did because I was delivering with a different doctor and at a different hospital than we had planned. It made all the difference being able to hand over the birth plan to the nurses and have them support me through this day.
You can see our birth plan here if you want to use it to come up with something that works for you.
The Dr said she could see her head moving back and forth, trying to help get through the birth canal! Isn’t that amazing! The moment Ivy came out was the weirdest sensation that I’ll never forget. Once her head was free I could feel her legs kicking as if she was swimming and her feet push off inside of me.
They placed her on my chest and all I could say or think was, she is so huge! Haha! Her warm soft body against me was so surreal. 1/3 of a babies blood is in the placenta so we let the cord stop pulsing before Billy cut the cord.
It was beautiful, it was painful, I felt it all and remember every minute. It was exactly what I hoped for and Im so thankful to the women and Billy who supported me through the whole day. I labored until delivery for exactly 23 hours. She was 7lbs 15oz. Our miracle, our Ivy.
Having a natural childbirth was something really important to me and I feel so proud of myself for making it through. I believed with all of my heart that my body was made for this and could do this. I feel like it was my mind that brought me through. I have no judgements towards women who choose to have an epidural. Birth is so personal, unique to each woman. After going through it I see why an epidural feels like something people would want. An epidural honestly never even crossed my mind the entire labor. I think if you go into it thinking maybe I’ll get one, then you probably will. It just wasn’t an option in my mind and I knew my whole pregnancy that I wasn’t going to have one. Visualize the experience you want to have, literally play it out in your mind and most of all believe in yourself. You are doing the most beautiful thing, bringing, creating, sustaining, life. I’d also like to say that if you’ve had a c-section or will have to have one…you are amazing. AMAZING. You are strong and brave and what you are doing to bring your babe into the world is just the same and more.
A few reasons I decided an epidural wasn’t for me…
-Epidurals & pitocin effect our bodies natural hormones we release during labor that help your body deliver a baby, which can cause longer labors. That’s why the percent of c-sections have gone up enormously. If you haven’t watch ‘The Business of Being Born’, it’s a must see. Having Oxytocin disrupted by epidurals causes your milk to not let down and can cause you to get off on the wrong foot with breastfeeding.
-Epidurals can cause a life time of back pain and sometimes don’t even work or wear off.
-The drugs enter the baby’s blood stream. The epidural is meant to numb your entire lower half so I didn’t feel like I wanted to expose my baby to something so strong. We take such caution while pregnant to not eat to much fish, deli meat, etc. Why should it stop there?
-It’s been proven that babies who are born with epidurals come out less responsive, with less color, their heart rate is lower and might not even be able to latch to nurse because their palette is numb.
-One thing that was really important to me was being able to walk around freely without being connected to an IV and wires. (You can refuse an IV or get a hep-lock) Being able to labor how I wanted, in a tub or however, meant everything to me. Once you get an epidural you have to just lay in a bed and have an annoying monitor hooked to your belly, a catheter up your urethra and then have someone tell you when to push. It’s just not what I wanted. Being able to stand, rock, walk, bounce, labor in water, progresses your labor so much faster. I wanted to experience it all instead of being sedated.
Most epidurals are not administered until you’re dilated quite a bit, you’re almost there, girl! Once you get to 10cm the contractions don’t hurt anymore, you get to push and it’s such a relief. You get to feel your body, feel your baby, know when to push. When I was just about to a 10 I kind of started moaning, I couldn’t help it. I needed to push. There was no screaming like in the movies, but I was a beast. Pushing is tiring, so so tiring but it’s filled with so much hope and anticipation also. We have this one day of pain, but remember that it’s not pointless or endless. At the end of the day you will be holding your sweet baby. Is there anything more hopeful to carry you through? After going through all of this I felt like I could do anything, it’s truly empowering.
I hope this was a little encouraging to anyone feeling like they needed it. You are so strong, stronger than you know, we all are.
You are so powerful and wonderfully made. We are kind of the greatest creatures ever, that we are given this incredible ability to grow and care for a baby solely from our body. This body is yours and when you go into the hospital, remember that. You do not have to take anything or do anything that you dont want to do. Dont let anyone scare you into something that you feel isn’t best and surround yourself with a team of people you trust and can look to in times of fear or uncertainty. That’s why it’s the most important thing to become knowledgable about your body, about birth, figuring out what you want and the experience you want to have. Things might not go according to plan, but having the support of your partner is everything. That’s another reason I loved The Bradley Way so much, was that it’s just as much focussed on the partner as it is on the baby and mom. It trains them to assist you, know you, stand up for you and be your advocate. You can also look into having a doula beside you through the whole birth. They are like a mid-wife except then don’t deliver babies. They know labor and how to relieve pain in natural ways, reminding you of your strength and helping you in more ways than I know to write here. They are really amazing. I didn’t have one, but the births Ive watched where the mom had a doula by her side were incredible to witness because they knew what she was going through and had methods, positions, knowledge to help make the whole process into a more wonderful experience.
I would love to talk to you if you have any questions or fears about birth. This is ours, as women and it’s time to claim that.
You can read what to pack in your bag here
Pregnancy essentials here
New mama must haves here