For anyone who wants to read about it, I’d like to share the story of my natural, un-medicated labor and birth of my baby at a free-standing birth center with midwife attendants. Yes, it is a personal story, but when I was preparing for the birth I really enjoyed reading about other women’s natural birth experiences. It helped me so much to read about the range of what might happen, in order to mentally prepare for the birth experience, and to keep an open mind about it. So, I am posting about my story on the chance that someone may find value in reading it.
The *very* short story, before I get into the long-winded version, is that it was an amazing and special experience, and one that I would recommend for anyone who is a candidate. And yes, I would have a second child the same way, without hesitation, even with the pain. Yes, there was a LOT of pain even though now, over 4 months later, I can’t really remember it!
NOTE: Birth is a messy bodily process, so if you do not want to hear some of the graphic details of the birth, turn back now before it’s too late! Certain details will likely be Too Much Information for some folks. If you cringe at the term “mucus plug” you should turn away immediately!!! 😀
For anyone else, here goes my long-winded story:
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I had a prenatal appointment. I was over my projected due date, but had lost my mucus plug days before and could tell “stuff” was happening. By “stuff” I mean that my entire pelvic region, my hips, my joints, my cervix, my ligaments, etc., all felt stretchy. And my feet and sinuses were swollen. I was ready. At my request, T. the midwife checked my cervix, and I was not too surprised to learn that I was about 1cm dilated! But this can happen days or weeks before birth, so it was not necessarily an indication of when I might go into labor.
After the appointment, Mr. Husband (MH) and I went to for Taco Tuesday dinner, our weekly ritual. Baby always kicked especially vigorously after my taco dinner. Kick-kick-kick-kick!
Later that night, at about 11:30PM, I started to feel something like period cramps that I was fairly certain was early labor. I started keeping track of them. By midnight, they were stronger and more regular and I just knew it was early labor. I was right! We called the Maternity Center (MC) to keep them informed of our progress. The MC’s power had gone out in the middle of the night due to a passing storm, so they encouraged us to stay home and try to get some sleep for a few hours before coming in.
Sleep was not possible for me. I tried to rest, to no avail. I was way too restless! As the pains slowly increased, I found that pacing around and keeping busy helped. I gathered up my go-bag, packed a cooler with food (the MC makes you eat a protein-rich mean before leaving), and packed drinks and snacks. All my snacks and food were paleo-approved! 😉
During this overnight hours, I spent a lot of time in the bathroom, because the contractions had my GI tract working. Ugh. While all this was going on, at least MH was able to sleep a bit.
By the early morning, the strength and regularity of the contractions had increased. We picked up breakfast at Starbucks (not paleo, oops!) and got to the birth center by around 7AM. C. was the midwife on duty! Yay! C. is great! Once there, I alternated resting, walking, and squatting. My blood pressure was unusually elevated so the midwives gave me droppers full of liquid hops, and monitored my blood pressure frequently. The midwives observed that I was smiling way too much for the birth to be happening any time soon. They were right!
Before noon, I was resting, and suddenly felt a gush of warm liquid. Good thing I was sitting on an absorbent pad. My waters broke! By this time I was 12 hours into labor. The waters were stained greenish-yellow with meconium. The midwives said not to worry about that, but cautioned me that we were now up against the clock, and I only had a certain amount of time in which to give birth before they would be required to give me intravenous antibiotics. We all wanted to avoid that! MH went out and picked up lunch (I was hungry from being awake for so long and laboring, and wanted the exact same thing we had for dinner the night before). MH also had to keep driving home to walk our dog every 4 hours. Luckily we live just 2 miles from the birth center.
Throughout the entire time, the midwives periodically checked my blood pressure, and baby’s heart rate. But they did relatively few internal checks, unless I requested them (it was nice to know that dilation was happening).
After the waters broke, the contractions became progressively stronger, and I got much more serious. Because of the timing issue, the midwives wanted to get me active and moving to help labor progress. So, I walked outside, sat on the birthing ball, and walked some more. MH walked with me and let me lean on his back during contractions.
As Wednesday evening progressed, the contractions got very intense. The midwives offered the jacuzzi tub, and I accepted. After a few hours in the jacuzzi tub I finally got all the way to 10 centimeters. This was a challenging time.
The midwives suggested that I focus on a point during the contractions, and to breathe in through my nose, out through my mouth and focus. And that’s what I did. Intense breathing, breathing, breathing, break. Intense breathing, breathing, breathing, break. This seemed to go on and on and on. I focused on a paint chip. Pro tip: For the next baby, if there is one, I will bring something more fun to look at than chipped paint!
I listened to music on Pandora, too. The contractions were so intense, and I was so exhausted, that I entered an altered state, and I would “fall asleep” in between each one and then wake up and breathe-breathe-breathe through the contraction. Then, right back to sleep. At the urging of the midwives, MH got partially into the tub so I could lean up against him. He sat behind me on the edge of the tub with his legs in the water, and I reclined between his legs. We were getting close to the 12-hour deadline, but they held off on antibiotics because I was finally fully dilated and ready to get the baby out! I started pushing while in the jacuzzi tub, at the urging of the midwives. Can you guess what happened when I did that? Doodies happened, that’s what! Ugh, ugh, ugh, gross. But at the time, I wasn’t in a position to care much. My modestly and vanity went out the window during labor!
At some point I started marveling aloud, “I really must be a crazy person”…and I meant it. We were at the 25-hour labor mark. Little did I know, I was very close to giving birth!
But before that happened, I got the chills very bad. Cold! They decided to get me out of the tub, and onto the bed. They set me up on the edge of the bed, with my feet in the air, one against each of the midwifery assistants. Midwife C. was in the middle, ready for the delivery. They turned bright lights on overhead to see my nether regions better.
At my request they covered my top half with a towel, not out of modesty but because I was still getting chills. C. encouraged me to hold my breath and push during each contraction. And push, I did! C. reassured me as the baby started moving down the birth canal. At first I couldn’t tell anything was happening! I was skeptical, and asked C. if she was just trying to make me feel better. She said no! The baby is moving down!
And then, I knew she was right. I felt a strange fullness in the cervix/birth canal. The contractions at this point were extremely intense, and I did my best to take full advantage of each one, despite being utterly exhausted. I somehow found the energy. And within about 15 minutes of being on the bed, the top of baby’s head emerged! And then the entire head! And then, the baby! I learned later that I had pushed so hard, I broke a big blood vessel in my eye! Wow!
Those final pushes were the only time I called out with a bit of a yell, due to the intensity of the sensations. And then it was over, and such a huge relief to have the baby on my chest. They wiped her down and wrapped her up while she was still laying on me, and I was able to get her to latch before she fell asleep. Due to the expertise of the midwives protecting the perineum, I had no tearing and did not need an episiotomy!
During this time, the midwives pulled the rest of the umbilical cord out, and massaged my uterus. The cord came detached from the placenta, so C. reached up to grab hold of placenta and pull it out, which was fairly intense. They continued with an extremely vigorous uterus massage to stop the bleeding.
It turns out my chills were from a substantial fever (it shot up right at the end), and I was dehydrated and my lips were super dry (even though I was drinking during labor). The midwives quickly made me drink water, water, and more water, and very soon my temperature (and blood pressure) was back to normal.
In the meantime, I had a good deal of bleeding. I got up to urinate and do a perineal wash, and got blood everywhere! What a mess.
Then, once I got to the bathroom, I couldn’t urinate! My bladder was full, and my brain was giving my bladder the signal, but nothing was happening. I tried relaxing, but nothing happened. I ran my hands under the water in the sink, and nothing happened. Finally, the midwives gave me mint oil to smell, and it worked! Weird! I had some burning, but the perineal irrigation helped then, and in the days to follow.
After some initial bonding, the midwives washed the baby’s goopy hair, and got her dressed. The midwives continued to monitor us for 4 hours after the birth, the minimum monitoring period. This allows them to make sure our temperatures were normal, vitals were normal, and that my bleeding slowed to a regular level before letting us go. Thankfully everyone’s vitals were great! Baby was born with an APGAR score of 9 out of 10!
There was one other woman in labor in another room at the MC at that time; she was screaming terrible screams during each contraction, and I burst into tears out of empathy for her! Hormones!
Baby nursed some. I ate the food we brought. We were all so sleepy! I was coasting on fumes after being awake for almost 48 hours with no real sleep. The midwives offered us the room to rest for a few hours, which was very kind; but as tempting as it was to pass out right then and there, we really wanted to get home and sleep in our own comfortable bed and quiet bedroom. And that is what we did. We packed up and got home by 6AM, a little over 4 hours after baby was born. We all slept in the same bed for 4 solid hours. When we finally woke up, MH went to Whole Foods to get us some Thanksgiving dinner from the Whole Foods Market hot food bar, and we had a nice, quiet day getting to know our new little person, and calling friends and family and updating Facebook to share the good news. Best Thanksgiving ever!!!!
Some various reflections on the birth:
- From day 1 of my prenatal care, through the birth, the midwives took a very calm, practical, and common-sense approach.
- Midwives work hard! I have a lot of respect for what they do.
- I am glad I didn’t opt for a home birth, or a hospital birth. I am not anti-hospital, or anti medicine, but I think when it comes to birth, midwives have the right philosophy: Birth is a natural process, and not a medical “problem” that must be solved. But a home birth didn’t feel right for me. Like, the paint in the bottom of my bathtub is peeling, and I could barely fit in there when I was 9 months pregnant. Not ideal. So, the freestanding clinic, just a few miles from a hospital, was the perfect middle ground. It had a homey feel, but I didn’t have to clean up the mess afterward. And the midwives have very clear guidelines about when they must transfer a patient for additional care, to protect mother or baby.
- I’ve had a few people tell me that because baby was born covered in meconium, a hospital would almost certainly have taken baby to the NICU for precautionary reasons, even through she had a stellar APGAR score, a strong cry, and no signs of inhalation of the meconium (which can be a very serious and life-threatening thing). It’s a liability thing (lawyers, grrrr). Being separated from baby, when it was unnecessary, would have been very traumatic! Not to mention the extra expense of that specialized testing.
- The birth (from the initial prenatal care through the final post-partum visit, and all testing) cost around $5,000, far below the average cost for a hospital birth.
- Hospitals tend to disallow eating or drinking during labor. Without eating, I wouldn’t have made it through 25 hours of labor, and being awake for almost 48 hours. I needed that fuel!
- I am very thankful that I was able to have a natural “paleo” birth (ha ha, it was cave-woman style!). There are some very interesting new studies now about how beneficial bacteria are passed to babies during birth, and the benefits of bonding hormones, etc., and I wanted to take advantage of all that good stuff. I was mentally prepared for the contingency that something could go wrong, but I am so glad it did not. Thank you, universe, for my amazing little baby girl!
So, that’s it for this very long post. I’d love to read your birth stories if you’d like to share (whether natural birth or otherwise!). Feel free to post or link to them below. I am a lot more interesting in birth, babies, and child-rearing than I ever was before! 😉