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Oliver was born on February 16th, 2017 at a birthing center here in Florida. Now that I’m pregnant again and expecting our little girl within the next 3 months, I really wanted to share the experience I had giving birth for the first time and what I learned from it.
I do want to add before I dive into this story that I’m a fan and advocate for “natural” birth, meaning the mom doesn’t receive an epidural and is free to move around instinctively during labor.
That being said, I above ALL else believe that no matter how a woman gives birth the only “requirement” is that she is treated with dignity and respect before, during and after this incredible and intense life-changing event. I am by NO means under the impression that every woman can or wants to give birth un-medicated.
I believe in choice, freedom, education and respect. So please, when reading this, don’t think that I think I’m looking for “brownie points”, so to speak. I decided to try and give birth in the way that felt right for myself but I was also very prepared for giving birth in every way, should plans change. Birth is difficult, intense and beautiful no matter how it happens and every mom should be incredibly proud.
I really hope you enjoy this because I personally LOVE reading birth stories of all kinds. It is truly incredible what women are capable of. One story that I recently read that you would probably enjoy just as much as I did is Blake Eynon’s c-section. Check that out HERE, especially if you’re a first time mom and looking for a real, raw and positive section story!
Anyway, onto the birth of my son, the little human that made me a mama.
Am I in Labor?
I decided before I even got pregnant that I would give birth at a local birthing center without pain relief. This was for many reasons, the main ones being…
- I get VERY anxious in hospitals.
- While I’m not afraid of needles, I don’t react well to strong medication. And
- I did a lot of research and knew that medical interventions during labor tend to have a domino effect and increase the risk of having a c-section.
Fast forward and I’m 40 weeks pregnant. I went in for a checkup and normally my midwife would not have performed a cervical check but I asked for one. I just had a “feeling”.
Sure enough, I was 3 cm dilated, 70% effaced and my waters were bulging. We knew it would be soon but she was still considering that fact that I was a first time mom. We decided to go ahead and do a membrane sweep, which I wasn’t very educated on at the time and probably wouldn’t do again until I was further along.
I felt a LOT of pressure down there for the rest of the day and that night. I slept just fine and woke up around 10 AM to a very mild, low backache. I got excited, thinking this might be the start of labor, and let my family know.
As the hours went by I was less and less convinced labor had actually begun. I tried timing the contractions but they were SO irregular and mild that I couldn’t make heads or tales of them. I had experienced some “false” labor prior to this so I was thinking maybe my body was just agitated from the sweep but labor hadn’t actually started.
As I moved around, while the contractions didn’t get “worse”, they didn’t go away either. My mom was over and unlike myself, my husband and my sisters, she was convinced I was, in fact, in labor. She had 3 kids, all of which were unmedicated and only one being induced, so in hindsight I probably should have listened when she told me to rest.
Fast forward and it’s 10PM. I’d been feeling this way for 12 hours and while my mom was noticing slight changes in my behavior, I figured it would be a while so I went to get some rest.
When I actually laid down in bed I noticed my body was a bit tense. So I took a deep breath and on that exhale, relaxed my entire body. And then, just like in the movies, my water broke!
When my water broke I actually felt my son’s head slam into my cervix which was very intense but I found the whole situation so funny that I was laughing and crying at the same time, while screaming for Matt (my husband) to come in the room.
My mom walks in with a grin, of course. She and Matt helped me onto the toilet as water continued to leak and I was shaking from the sudden intensity of the contractions. Yes, I was in labor after all!
Faster Than Expected
While attempting to breathe and stay calm, remembering all of the things I’d learned about labor, my husband called my midwife. I was GBS positive so I had to go in and get my first round of antibiotics. The car ride there was seriously awful because my body did NOT want to be in that position or dealing with the bumps of the road.
Once I was inside and sitting on the birthing ball while receiving my antibiotics, the contractions really didn’t seem so bad. We were all convinced it would be a while still. My midwife asked if I wanted to go home to labor somewhere familiar and comfortable.
I said yes, not knowing how intense things were about to get!
On our way out of the front door I had a contraction that brought me to the ground. I wasn’t yelling or cussing or doing anything more than moaning. But walking wasn’t in the cards. I got back into the car and thought “why is this so intense already?”
We didn’t make it 5 minutes down the road before my body started to bear down. I wasn’t ready to push and I knew that, but I also knew I couldn’t leave the birthing center.
So we went back and I labored for another hour in various positions. It was intense at times and switching positions was no fun but I was very confident in my ability to handle the pain. I took it one contraction at a time and rested in between.
The birthing tub had been filled and I was more than ready to get in. I knew that the water would either slow down or speed up labor so I got in, just thinking that it would take some pressure off. I had a few contractions and barely felt them. It was awesome. I thought that labor was being slowed down by the water and I would get some rest.
But then, of course, the next contraction was by far the worst of them all and they only got more intense after that. I internalized as much of it as I could. Trying to remember to relax my shoulders and face, releasing pain through moans and whatever noises felt productive.
Everything was going okay but suddenly things just changed. The moans became harsher, it was difficult to not scrunch up my face and according to those who were there, my energy clearly changed. I went from managing to really being in pain.
That’s when I started to vocalize how I was feeling.
“I can’t do this anymore.”
“I can’t handle this.”
“Can you do it for me?”
What I didn’t realize in my state of mind was that I was entering transition, which is the stage where you progress to a 10 before pushing. A nurse came in and let me know I’d been in the tub for an hour and needed to get out. I was more than happy to do so, craving being on my left side on the bed. But every time I tried to move, a contraction would stop me. Soon they were on top of each other. Another nurse came in to help.
I had a contraction that knocked me back and began to bleed a little (a great sign). I realized in this moment that I wouldn’t be able to get out without a contraction happening so I sucked it up and pushed myself through the pain. Once I landed on the bed I was still in pain but it felt great to be out of the water.
They put a peanut ball between my legs and I contracted for a while (still intense and close together but not as bad as the tub). I began throwing up, another lovely sign of transition. They had me go on all fours, arms resting on the foot of the bed. I had a few more contractions and threw up some more.
Then something amazing happened. The pain vanished. In its place was the feeling of my son moving down the birth canal. At first I said “I’m pooping” (totally normal ladies, it’s okay!) and then I said that I felt his head. “That’s him. I feel his head. He’s coming.”
One of the nurses said “yupp!” and I announced that I had the urge to push. My midwife checked to make sure and I was at a 10, ready to go!
“Push whenever you feel you need to”.
I was pushing ineffectively (not holding my breath) for about 20 minutes before I was corrected. My midwife told me to push during a contraction so she could see the effectiveness of my pushes but to be honest, I couldn’t feel any contractions. Just the random urges to push.
So I continued pushing like that for a little longer. I then went onto my back and pushed a bit more. Soon his head was emerging and I was prepared for the “ring of fire” that people often talk about but while I found it intense, I didn’t find it as bad as others had experienced and for that I was very thankful.
During this my midwife had put olive oil around my son’s head and was supporting my perineum with an olive oil-soaked rag. His head was out but I felt completely drained. People were talking to me but I could barely comprehend what they were saying. My midwife told me “chin to chest” and even though I heard her, I just couldn’t physically respond.
My husband, who had been with me and held my hand during the entire labor, pushed my head down so my chin touched my chest. I pushed one last time and my son was born!
The exhaustion mostly subsided within seconds and on my chest was our son, all 9 pounds and 5 ounces of him. I can honestly say I wasn’t overwhelmed with love or emotion. But I did have this odd feeling of just knowing he was mine and all of the sudden, it was like he’d always been here. Like he’d always been in existence. Like he’d always been mine.
What I Learned
Overall I couldn’t have asked for a better birth, especially as a first time mom who was told I wouldn’t be able to handle the pain. Now that I’m pregnant again I’m not afraid of labor or the pain that comes with it because I know what’s on the other side.
I didn’t tear, despite how big he was, and I think my slow pushing played a part in that.
Overall I had 12 hours of early labor (does that even count if you barely felt it?), 3.5 hours of active labor and just 1 hour of pushing. It was a fast labor for sure.
I wish I could say we lived happily ever after but that’s not the case here. Even though the birth itself was great, I have learned a lot about myself, giving birth and what I need postpartum.
This time around I’ll be in a hospital. If things had gone perfectly postpartum I would probably have a home birth. But after having my son I bled a lot and had huge clots for weeks. I had hemorrhaged but didn’t know it and neither did my support team. This resulted in some pretty severe postpartum anxiety, low milk supply and other issues. After speaking to my current midwife, I learned that one common complication of having a fast labor with a big baby is an increased bleeding risk.
I didn’t receive pitocin after delivery and was sent home 4 hours after giving birth. This worked for most of the women who also gave birth at this birthing center. It just so happens I had a different situation where I required more care. This time around I’ll most likely be staying in the hospital for the full 48 hours to make sure I’m healthy.
I will still be going all natural, assuming no complications arise, which I am still preparing for just in case. The worst thing I can do is assume that because everything went well during my first birth, it means there will be no hitches this time. But if you’re reading this and have given birth before, you likely know that things rarely go the way we plan or even hope.
I’m still incredibly excited to give birth, just like I was the first time around. I’m confident in my ability to give birth and I’m glad I had the experience. Plus I’m glad that I can learn from everything that happened and better prepare for my own health and healing after our baby girl arrives, something I regrettably neglected the first time around.
If you want to try an unmedicated birth there are so many resources that helped me prepare and I’ll be writing that post later this week. If you want to stay updated on when I publish a new blog post, you can sign up to the right of any post.
Thank you so much for reading and I can’t wait to write our baby girl’s birth story when she arrives in the next few months. ❤️️