I like sharing my birth stories with people- I've written up every single one so far, and shared Anneliese's birth story on my blog, because I find there are too many "scare stories" on the internet about how painful and scary and difficult and dangerous birth is, and I truly believe (based on my research and personal experience) that birth is what you make of it- and that if you decide you will have a natural birth and positive birth experience, you will have that, and if you go into birth scared of the birthing process, thinking that it will be an awful and super painful experience, it will be, and you most likely will feel you can't manage without pain killers like epidurals.
There is a birth culture in the US and around the "modern" world, that is very fearful- whenever birth is portrayed on TV, in movies, in books, it is hyper medicalized, involving lots of screaming and panicking, and I want to be part of the movement to change people's attitude towards birth- to help women see that birth doesn't have to be scary and painful- that birth pain can be definitely manageable- that it doesn't have to be "the most painful thing you'll ever experience" like many people describe birth. (There is a grassroots movement called the Positive Birth Movement which aims to do exactly that.) This last birth of mine was with minimal pain, completely manageable, and I didn't even for a second think "Oh, I wish I had an epidural to take away this pain".
Before my first birth, with my now 6.5 year old Lee, I decided that I'd have a natural birth, and make it into a positive, empowering, uplifting experience. When I shared that with others, they scoffed at my plans, telling me that I've never experienced labor, and that once I do, I'll be screaming like a banshee, begging for painkillers. Pregnant women being told that is so harmful- many women get convinced to have medical interventions because of the inherently negative message being spread about birth, that they aren't capable of doing it without the doctors' help... and when women like myself try to have a good attitude about birth, people try so hard to destroy that and instill fear. As I said above- birth is what you make of it, and even though in general I have a very low pain tolerance (for example, I scream and/or moan in pain from mild burns), I had 4 very empowering, fully natural, epidural free births, and in 3 of them I didn't even understand why someone would be tempted to take an epidural (for Ike's birth, inane hospital policies made my birth so much more stressful and painful and difficult that, though I still didn't consider an epidural, I at least understood why others would).
That said, I am hesitant to share my birth story, because when I do, people tell me "Oh, you could have natural births because you have easy births- if my births were as easy as yours, maybe I'd also have mine naturally", completely dismissing that the reason I have "easier" births is because of my attitude- I decide that I'll have an easy birth, don't stress about it, and it happens that way. Conversely, when someone stresses out about it, freaks out, panics, etc... their body releases adrenaline and their muscles tense up, and these make contractions more painful, can stall labor, and in general lead to a more difficult birth. My births haven't all been "easy"- Lees and Ike's labors were 18 and 19 hours each, with contractions 2 or 3 minutes apart for nearly 15 hours. They were intense births. This birth of mine was my easiest, but it didn't just "happen that way". I made the decision before birth how my labor would be, and took active steps to ensure that it would happen smoothly, and that is why, I am sure, it was an easier labor than my previous 3.
Now that there was this whole preamble about why I want to share positive birth stories to help people have good attitudes towards birth, and therefore make their birth easier... I have a friend who had 3 pretty difficult and traumatic births, and I wanted to show her how birth could be different, so I asked her if she wanted to come to my birth and see how a positive, empowering, natural birth is. She really liked the idea, and since she is a good friend, I knew I'd like her company at my birth- especially since she wasn't anti natural birth, she just didn't know how to make it happen... People asked me "How could you invite her and know it'll be positive?" I said "I decided that it will be a positive experience, so it will be." And I think, in large part, that is why it was so positive- because I was determined it would be so, both for my sake, and for hers.
And on to my birth story...
Although I specifically didn't mention my due date anywhere on this blog, and I kept it quiet in general, my due date was the 17th of March. I wasn't sure when I'd give birth, but I had plans for the 16th of March, so I decided that no matter what, I would not be giving birth on that day. I thought I might go into labor early, since Anneliese was born 6 days early, but my due date came and I realized I wouldn't be early. With my older 3 kids, I had this extremely strenuous 3 1/2 mile hike I took up and down really steep hills near my house, and it put me into labor every time- with Lee I did the hike before my due date and it didn't cause me to go into labor, but when I did it 3 days after my due date, labor started 2 hours after my walk. With Ike I did the walk 2 days after my due date and labor started 2 hours later. With Anneliese, my water broke, and then I did that walk to start labor, which it did while half way through the walk.
So, on my due date, I had Mike watch the 3 kids, and I did this walk... But I am in such good shape now and the walk didn't tire me out, my muscles weren't shaking from the walk like they had in previous times, so when I was 3/4 of the way finished with my walk, I called up my midwife and asked her if my being in good shape could make this walk that worked for me before not work for me now. And she said "No, wait- don't do something to try to bring on labor now! I am just finishing up a birth now, heading to yet another. I'll call you when that one is over, but in the meantime, don't try and start labor."
So, then I went straight home, and said that I would take it easy and not try and bring on labor. And since my midwife was busy, decided I would not go into labor yet. A few hours later, she texted me, asking me if I was in labor- when I responded in the negative, she said that was good, because she was heading to yet another birth, this one a nice hour plus drive from where I live... Ha. So yes, since mentally being ready or not to go into labor can definitely play a part as to whether or not you will, I am not sure if the walk simply "didn't work" and put me into labor because my body wasn't ready, or because my midwife wasn't available, so I made sure I didn't go into labor... but because of that uncertainty, I said I'd wait a few more days until I'd try the walk again.
So, 3 days later, on Thursday night, the 20th of March, I decided to go on a walk again. This time, on the advice of my midwife (I called her first to ensure that she wasn't at another birth!) instead of just going on a long walk, I just walked up and down some really intense inclines repeatedly with my husband and pushing Anneliese in the stroller (while the older kids were at a babysitter). Then my husband went home to pick up the kids from the sitter, and I continued walking. I stopped at my friend, Hallie's, house, and chilled there, and applied pressure to certain pressure points known to bring on labor. I also did a lot of deep squats and some hip shaking dances, to try to get the baby to be positioned correctly. I said that if this didn't bring on labor, then I'm done trying, and I'll just wait it out.
When I got home, no contractions, so I cooked food for the next two days... just in case.
And then right as I got into bed for the night at around 2 am, I felt a contraction. And then started shaking intensely, shivering uncontrollably, even though I wasn't cold. This happened to me when my water broke with Anneliese, and my midwife told me that it's something hormonal that causes that to happen. So I was pretty sure I was in labor. Throughout the night I had sporadic contractions, and I was so nervous I didn't really sleep much. I asked my husband to stay home from work, because I was in labor... and then when I woke up in the morning, at around 8 (my husband has to leave for work at 6:30 or so), no contractions. None the whole morning either. I felt like a silly idiot for making him stay home from work. My midwife said that with a fourth pregnancy, I can have these prelabor contractions for days, they could stop and start many times... and to let her know if they come back, consistently, etc...
At 3 pm, I was sitting at the computer, and had a contraction. I'd been having uncomfortable/somewhat painful Braxton Hicks contractions for my entire ninth month, but this felt different. I couldn't sit down during it. I asked my doula friend who was online at the time "If I can't comfortably sit during a contraction, and have to get up, its not a Braxton Hicks contraction, is it?" and she said she agreed, its probably a "real" contraction.
I was getting them 7-10 minutes apart, so I called my midwife at 3:45 pm, let her know they were coming consistently, so she told me to call her back at 4:30 and update her. I did- they were about 5 minutes apart by that point, and she said she was heading out the door to come to me. I told her she didn't need to rush- I was definitely in labor but I didn't think I'd give birth before 9 or 9:30 pm earliest.
I started cleaning up my house, some last minute stuff I wanted done before I had the baby, gave the kids baths, and then... my contractions became more and more infrequent. By the time my midwife arrived at around 5:30 or so, my contractions were down to about 15 minutes apart. I felt so bad, felt I called her out for another "false start", that she came for nothing. She wasn't upset, though. I decided that we needed to walk together, to hopefully intensify things a little bit. Before we left, she had me lay on my back during a contraction so she could listen to the baby's heartbeat through her fetoscope, confirmed that everything sounded great, and that it was a "girl" heart rate.
I left the kids with my husband, and instructions on how to feed them, to take them out to the park, etc... and then my midwife and I walked over to my friend, Debbie's house, to pick her up. The three of us walked together, and I was having contractions 10 minutes apart or so, not really intense, but enough that I couldn't ignore them. I explained to Debbie each contraction (that I was trying a new technique) what I was doing to make it feel better, but also let her know that I was having a contraction, because I don't necessarily make it obvious- I kept on walking, kept on talking at first, just was sashaying from side to side during a contraction, or rubbed my back or my belly. We walked until we got to Hallie's house (where I had been the night before and did my accupressure, etc...) and we hung out there for a bit. Hallie also used my midwife for her last two home births, so it was nice for them to see each other, and I like spending time with friends who have good attitudes towards homebirth and birth in general when I'm in labor. (If you read Anneliese's birth story, you'll see that I did similarly.)
I used the bathroom at Hallie's house, and realized that sitting on the toilet actually caused me to get more intense contractions, which I kept in mind for later.
We walked some more, and contractions got a drop more intense, enough so that I didn't want to talk during contractions anymore... and eventually, that I didn't even want my midwife and Debbie talking to each other during my contractions- I needed quiet. But just kept walking through contractions, slowing down my pace a drop during contractions, closing my eyes and leaning on Debbie, but other than that, nothing really. Still, my contractions were 5-10 minutes apart or so.
I wanted them to intensify, to get nearer to transition, so we walked over to a path a short distance from my house, with a really, really steep hill. Debbie and I walked up and down the hill (a total of about 100-200 feet) while my midwife rested at the bottom. (She had just run a partial marathon that morning.) My midwife said that the angle of the incline positions the woman's feet and pelvis in such a way that most women get contractions while walking uphill. Somehow, I'm the exception to the rule, because I got many contractions on my walk down hill, but only occasionally on the walk up hill. We probably walked up and down 20 times, and contractions were getting closer together and more intense- at the most I was getting one contraction on the uphill stretch and two on the down hill stretch.
My midwife asked me if I had pressure at all down there, because that would mean I'm around 8 centimeters... but despite the walking and the amount of time that passed- it was around 8:00 by then, my contractions still weren't very intense and or close together. So I said we should go back to my house, eat some supper, and she should check me. And if I'm far enough along, maybe she could break my waters to try and speed things up a bit.
We got home, and my older boys were at our next door neighbor (whose front door is literally inches away from ours), but Anneliese was home, sleeping, as was my husband. My midwife, Debbie, and I ate the supper I'd prepared the night before (good thing I made a huge pot of tomato rice and meatball soup- enough for the extra mouths!) and still, my contractions were not so intense and were widely spaced...
And then, to my great luck, Anneliese woke up. I did NOT want her awake during my later parts of my labor, so I figured- why not try put her back to sleep via nursing. I know nipple stimulation is supposed to bring on or intensify contractions, so figured it couldn't hurt. My midwife, however, was skeptical if it would even work, because I had been nursing throughout all my 9 months of pregnancy. But it did. The second she started nursing, I had the most intense contraction I'd had so far, and it was the most painful too, especially since I was sitting down during the contraction and I absolutely hate sitting during contractions because it really makes it more painful. Anneliese didn't fall back asleep from my nursing, so I just fed her some soup, and then my husband took her over to the neighbor's house, and stayed there with the kids.
At this point, around 9:15 pm or so, I wanted my midwife to check my dilation. I was hoping I was 6 or 7 centimeters by then, but didn't think I was. I had asked my midwife to teach me how to check my own dilation, and she explained it to me, but said that of everyone that asked her to teach them how to check their own dilation, no one had managed to do so successfully. I checked myself and guessed that I was somewhere between 4 and 6 centimeters, and then my midwife confirmed that I was five centimeters- that I was the first person to actually figure it out!
But while I was excited that I figured out how to check my dilation, I can't say I wasn't bummed out that in over 6 hours of labor, I only was dilated 5 centimeters. I asked my midwife to break my waters, but she said she didn't know if she'd be able to, because the baby's head was really low, she couldn't reach the sack of water because the baby's head was there. She said she could check me during a contraction, because sometimes the sack of water bulges out during a contraction, and if she saw that it was bulging, she could break it, but otherwise no such luck.
By the next contraction, I was standing up, leaning on the dining room table, swaying my hips and talking out loud to myself, trying to figure out if it was worth it lying down during the contraction, which would make it more painful, especially since there was no guarantee that she'd even be able to break my waters, and I'd be putting myself in more pain for nothing. While I was trying to figure out what I should do... my water broke all over the floor. "That answers my dilemma, doesn't it?" I laughed....
In the past, my labors went faster once my water broke, so I was hoping that it would speed things up, but it was also getting later and I felt bad that my kids were at the neighbors house (her kids tend to go to sleep early in general), so I said maybe we should walk some more to speed up labor... and then a contraction hit and I decided that I wanted to go into the shower during a contraction, didn't feel like walking around without a contraction. I put on a knee length sleeveless comfortable dress, because I wanted my friend, Debbie, to see what the later parts of labor were like, didn't want to shut her out of the bathroom while I labored alone, but didn't feel like hanging out in the nude... so I showered with the dress on, sprayed my belly with hot water during a contraction. And then between contractions, to save hot water (because I remember that I'd run out of hot water during my birth with Anneliese), I turned off the shower and hopped out of the bathroom, and hung out with Debbie and the midwife. We were chilling, joking, telling stories (my midwife asked me to tell the story of how I met my husband, and it's a long, drawn out story), with my hopping into the bathroom every 5-10 minutes for a minute and a half or so to spray water on my belly. (I put the plug in the tub so that this same water filled up the tub for later.)
I tried sitting on the toilet, because I saw that that position really intensified contractions, and I did that a few contractions, but it was just too much- I saw how much the hot water really helped me, to the extent that I didn't feel the pain of the contractions so long as I had hot hot water coursing over my stomach during the contractions. Once the hot water ran out, I poured in some boiling water from the hot water urn into the tub, and used a large container to pour water over my belly repeatedly during contractions. Whenever I felt the water was getting too cold, I'd have Debbie or the midwife bring over more hot water to pour it in.
I was talking to my midwife and she was saying how some women don't like water during labor, and I simply didn't get it. "How do they handle the later contractions that are more intense without water?" and she said "Oh, they usually sing through them." "Sing through them? What does that mean?" So she showed me- singing out "Ooooooooooone.... Twooooo.... Threeeeeeee..." and said that they usually get up to ten and then the contraction is over. I thought that was an interesting idea, but wasn't sure it would work for me.
I saw it was already 10 oclock, and was feeling pressure to have labor finished already, because of my kids being at the neighbor and all... So I announced out loud "This next contraction will be much more intense, and it'll open me up the rest of the way." That's just what I decided. And sure enough, the next contraction was much more intense. So much so that just the hot water wasn't helping, and I decided to try counting/singing the contraction in addition to the hot water. I counted to ten, then hopped back out of the tub to hang out. Then the next contraction I hopped back in, this time singing and counting through an even more intense contraction- I got up to fifteen, and then it was over.
I asked my midwife if she'd be prepared to check me. She asked me "Do you feel you need to push?" I said "Slightly, but still, can you check me anyhow?" She was hesitant (she doesn't like to check often, especially after your water breaks, because it increases the risk of infection) but I said I'll be checking myself, I just want her to confirm. When I checked myself, I guessed that I was at least 7 or 8 but I didn't know for sure... And then my midwife checked me and said "Guess what- you're 10 centimeters." And I was very confused. I didn't feel like I went through transition- how could I possibly at 10 centimeters? My contractions were STILL 5 minutes apart or so, and not too painful... She said that sometimes between contractions, you could be open more, and then when your body contracts, the cervix can close a little bit, so its possible I'm 10 between contractions and only 8 during a contraction.
My midwife said the way I'd know if I was that open during a contraction would be to try pushing during a contraction. If it "felt good" then it means I'm open all the way. If it felt a lot more painful when I tried pushing, then I knew I was pushing against the cervix and needed to wait to dilate more.
I tried to get into a comfortable position for pushing- I have a new bathtub that is narrower than the bathtub I delivered Anneliese in, and I simply couldn't get into a comfortable position to push in- I am tall, broad, have chunky thighs, so whatever position I got into that was comfortable for pushing, I felt there wouldn't be room for a baby's head to fit through my legs while squeezed between the tub walls... So I tried pushing on the toilet. That was effective, my contractions weren't hurting more when I tried to push, but... I really wanted the hot water during a contraction.
I ran out of energy. Decided I didn't feel like pushing especially if I couldn't get comfortable. So during the next two contractions, I just poured hot water on my belly during contractions and didn't push.
I sent Debbie next door to get my husband- I wanted him to find our hot water bottles, so that I could push while on the toilet, and therefore in a more comfortable position, without needing to go without the heat, since the heat effectively canceled out the pain of the contractions...
Meanwhile, I found a position that I was comfortable in and made room for a baby's head to emerge- kneeling on one knee in the tub, and just pushed out the baby's head, caught it myself- the second my husband walked in the door! My midwife recommended that I get onto hands and knees to push out the baby's body, so I did that, she caught the baby's body, and passed it to me through my legs, I put it on my chest, and we stayed there skin to skin for a few minutes and covered the baby and me with a towel, while we let the water out of the tub. Then we cut the cord, passed the baby to my husband, and pushed out the placenta with just one push. Baby was born at 10:43 pm.
I rinsed off quickly, then walked into the bedroom, I lay in bed, where the midwife checked out the baby, listened to her heart, weighed her, etc... and then we dressed her and I held her and tried nursing her. Perfect apgar, perfectly healthy, 7.5 lbs. My friend went next door to get the kids, and they were excited- couldn't believe the baby was born already! We bonded a bit as a family, then the midwife went and checked on the placenta, made sure it was whole, (or something like that) and gave a little lesson to my husband and boys about how the placenta looks, how it works, etc... They thought the placenta was gross but cool at the same time.
Anyhow, in short- the coolest thing about this labor was that the contractions stayed 5-10 minutes apart the whole thing. I never got stressed out/nervous/uptight even at "transition"- I really feel I skipped transition- that we were joking, laughing, and telling stories right up until I pushed the baby out...
When I was in the hospital, on a scale of one to ten, I felt my births were a 10 in terms of pain. Manageable, but still ten. I needed to concentrate on my contractions, do specialized breathing techniques, use hot and cold water bottles, and they still were painful but manageable. With Anneliese, when I was in the shower, I needed to do my breathing together with the water towards the end, and felt my contractions got to a 7 in terms of pain.
And this one? Other than those 2 contractions at the end that I sang through, I didn't need anything more than just the water (it needed to be hot hot hot, though, or it wasn't helpful in taking away the pain)- with those techniques, it got maybe to a 5 in terms of pain.
My labor in total was 7 hours and 45 minutes long, and I progressed 5 centimeters and pushed out the baby in the last hour and a half, whereas the first 6+ hours I only progressed 5...
I literally couldn't have asked for a better birth. Very chilled out. Very positive experience. And for my friend Debbie, she said it was a really wonderful experience as well, really showed her what is possible when it comes to birth, that it doesn't have to be scary and difficult and traumatic, that there are techniques she never even had considered before, that would have helped her labors be easier, had she had known them.
I am so glad I had a homebirth, because being in my own home, in company of people I like, with me calling the shots and doing what I needed to do to feel comfortable and to help the baby come- I'm sure that's what made it so positive and relatively pain free- had I had the same birth in the hospital, I highly doubt it would have gone so smoothly. (They probably would have been pressuring me to "speed things up" because I was progressing less than a centimeter an hour... and that's too slow for the hospital "timetable".)
My midwife told me that this was her 560th birth. When Anneliese was born 2+ years ago, she was my midwife's 408th birth. Guess my midwife has been busy!!!
|Rose at 4 days old.|
As for how I feel- this recovery has certainly been the easiest so far. My biggest complaint, really, is sore leg muscles from all my intense walking and squatting. My pelvis was also way out of alignment from the position I pushed in, and my mom, a physical therapist, fortunately was able to "put me back together again" and that pain went away.
I had no tears or stitches or anything...
I feel great, but still making sure to take it easy! In all honesty, the after birth contractions for the first few days were more painful than labor itself... Couldn't sleep the first night because of the afterbirth contractions hurting so much. But fortunately, that's much better now.
Wow, this post is already super, super long...
So I'll end it here.
And again, not in the mood on debating safety or wisdom financially of homebirth on this post.
If you want to read up more about it, see these posts of mine (and feel free to comment/debate there):
Frugality and Homebirthing: Moms Are People Too
Is Homebirth Safe? What Can Go Wrong in a Hospital Birth?
Potential Complications During a Homebirth- How To Deal With Them