Wait. Before the birth story, I should probably start with some background.
I’m Mary. I married a wonderful man named Josh on May 2, 2009. On the issue of kids, we agreed before we got married that “if it happens, it happens.” Little did we know it would happen so soon. Four months after getting hitched, I was knocked up! Always makes me think of that rhyme back in grade school: “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage!”
Ahh, pregnancy. I had the morning sickness (I thought I had it bad, but found my morning sickness was not as bad as what others experienced. Oh and sea bands really help!). I was tired. I was hungry. I had headaches. Thankfully, it all ended after the first trimester. It was pretty much smooth sailing from there, aside from the occasional back ache and what not, and that is when I started thinking about how I would be giving birth. There was actually only one choice for me: I wanted to have *gasp* a natural birth.
Yes, natural birth as in no pain relievers, no epidural, I would feel everything and be completely aware natural birth. Many people asked me why would I do such a thing, as if it’s something so un-human and rare. Well, I guess it is kind of rare nowadays, but hello… women were birthing children without drugs thousands of years ago! And that’s what I told myself. I am a woman. My body was made to birth children. The cave women did it, both my grandmothers—who had lots of kids—did it, I can do it. Not without lots of research and help, of course.
I started looking into classes, reading books, etc. that helped women prepare for natural childbirth. I came across HypnoBirthing and as I read more and more about it, I found it to be a great fit for me. Everything in the book, HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method clicked with me. So I signed up for some classes with Jo Kilburn, who is also a doula, at preciousbirth.com. (Jo is awesome. Love love love her! Highly recommend!) I won’t go into too much detail, but if you’re wondering if women are actually hypnotized/unaware during labor, they are not. They’re completely aware of what’s going on. It’s basically learning some really deep relaxation techniques, how to release fears, how to breathe when it comes to pushing… basically, how to let your body do what it needs to do to get that baby out!
Ok, yadda yadda yadda. Let’s move on to the exciting stuff: The Birth of B…
My due date was Tuesday, June 15, 2010. I was hoping to go into labor on a weekend so that I wouldn’t have to worry about calling Josh at work and then have to wait around for him. Well, I got my wish! Around 5am on Saturday, June 12, I got up to go pee (there is a lot of peeing going on in the last trimester), which is when I lost my uterine seal. Jo taught us all the signs of impending labor, so I was thrilled! Women can lose a little of their uterine seal here and there a few weeks before labor, but for some reason, I just knew and thought to myself “today is the day we get to meet our little boy!” I went back to bed smiling and decided to wait until Josh woke for the day to let him know.
Josh and I got up around 8am and I told him what happened. He was happy too, but I don’t think it was “real” to him yet. I went to go pee again and this time there was a little blood. One of the things that stuck in my mind during HypnoBirthing class was Jo saying, “Blood is good!” because that meant my cervix was starting to open up. Again, I was thrilled! But I called Jo just in case :) She went through everything with me again and said she’d call me back around 1pm. Josh and I went about our morning. I wasn’t feeling any major contractions yet. They just felt like braxton hicks (practice contractions), which I had been feeling for about a month already.
The funny thing is that our plan for that Saturday was to get new tires so that B would have a safe vehicle (there was almost no tread left on the tires!) and to drive to the hospital to figure out the best route and know where to go when we actually got to the hospital. It was already too late to do the latter, so we figured might as well get the tires changed. As I was showering and getting ready, I started to feel a little weird or sick or nauseated… just something different. I decided to stay home and rest while Josh went out to get the tires changed.
So Josh went out and I rested for a bit. Then I suddenly wanted to bake banana bread! I always thought it was so weird that women in labor end up baking or vacuuming or cleaning or something. It’s great, though, because it totally takes your mind off being in labor! As I started baking, my contractions grew a little stronger, but nothing unbearable at all. Throughout the whole day, I stayed positive, telling myself “I got this yo!” I even talked to B in utero, “Let’s work together, we got this yo!” However, I think baking got me into The Zone. It was like a symphony. My contractions grew stronger and when I would feel another one approaching, I would slow everything down. I slowly swayed my hips while mixing the batter. I slowly breathed in and out. I slowly counted to 20. And then it would be over; I would continue on like nothing happened. I made enough batter for two loaves of bread and by the time they were both in the oven, the contractions were really strong. There was some discomfort, but I was not in pain.
Josh got home pretty quickly because they didn’t have the type of tires we needed. I decided to start timing my contractions with his phone (we used the Contraction Master app for the iPhone). It was about lunch time at this point, so Josh went out to get food while I sat on the recliner listening to some music to help me relax, doing my breathing and timing my contractions. This is when I got all confused because the timer was saying my contractions were three minutes apart and lasting one minute each. Why was I confused? Because Jo gave us an easy-to-remember number combo to know when to head out to the hospital: 4-1-1. Meaning the contractions are four minutes apart, lasting one minute for one hour. My number combo was 3-1-1! I couldn’t believe it because the timer was telling me I was in active labor, which is supposedly the hardest part and the time when contractions start to be painful. I was feeling none of that, so I stopped timing, thinking it was all wrong. What I was feeling was heaviness down “there” and discomfort in my lower back.
Josh got back with the food, but I was only able to take a bite because I started feeling a little woozy. I decided to just lie down and wait for Jo to call me back. This is when my contractions became really intense. I was still able to handle it, but after lying down for a while, I had to find different positions to hep me feel more comfortable. I was feeling it most in my lower back. The best position for me was getting on my knees with my upper body slumped on the bed, kinda like if I were praying. Again, the slow swaying of my hips, slow breathing and slow counting got me through each surge. I imagined waves rolling in and out on the shore, which we learned in class. I also just stayed positive and kept telling myself that after I put in the work, I get my prize—finally getting to meet my baby boy.
One o’clock passed and Jo didn’t call yet. Two o’clock came around and Jo still didn’t call back, so I figured she got busy since her family was in town. The crazy thing when you’re “in the zone” is the time warp. It seems like everything is going by quickly, but really hours pass. When 5pm came around, my surges were super intense and I told Josh that I had a feeling it was time to head to the hospital.
I sat in the back with my knees on the floor of the car, leaning on the seat and hugging my pillow because when I tried sitting up front, it just did not work for me. I think it was because of the heaviness I was feeling. It took about twenty minutes to get to the hospital (Kaiser San Diego Medical Center). Josh called his parents on the way, who were on standby, ready to fly down from Oregon. He also let my parents, who live in San Diego, know “it was time.”
Thankfully, we got to the hospital just fine at around 5:30, even without practicing the route. And apparently it took me 30 minutes to get up to triage because I had to stop to lean on a few cars and breathe in the parking lot and again stop and lean against the walls in the hospital halls. For me, it didn’t feel like it took that long.
It was about 6pm when we finally got to triage. The nurse doing the check-ins was finishing up some paper work and told us to just have a seat and wait. She took her sweet old time and at that point, my surges were so intense that I didn’t care anymore and started leaning on her desk and door to breathe and count haha! Again, it wasn’t exactly pain I was feeling. Just intense tightness in my abdomen and some discomfort. I was totally calm though and not screaming bloody murder. The nurse probably thought I wasn’t in active labor, which is why she took her sweet ol’ time. Anyway, after we finally got my paper work done, I was sent into a room to get a cervical check to see if I should actually get admitted.
Now, my goal was to labor at home for as long as I could and be at least 6cm dilated when we got to the hospital. When the nurse checked, she happily said to me, “Good girl! You’re eight centimeters dilated!” Yes, you read that right—EIGHT CENTIMETERS DILATED!!! When I heard her say that, I was so so soooo elated! That meant I only had two more centimeters to go before I could start pushing and I’d finally get to meet my baby B! The triage nurse asked if I wanted an epidural and I immediately refused. I was really in the zone now since I knew I was almost there.
I was admitted and had to walk over to my birthing room, which also took a while due to me stopping to lean and breathe every couple of minutes. When we finally got there, I was really feeling heavy down there. It honestly feels like you have to poo haha! Anyway, I got settled onto the bed and we met my L&D nurse who read our birth plan. I was a little worried they wouldn’t agree to it since it’s so common for them to be directing the mothers on what to do. My nurse was awesome though! She read it thoroughly and happily obliged. She never asked if I was in pain or wanted an epidural. Instead, she told me I was doing a great job as I was going through each surge. You could tell she was amazed I was not screaming my head off. One thing about my birth plan: I asked to just have a heparin lock instead of an IV, just in case any situation came up where they would need to give me something. I did end up agreeing to an IV because I was so lazy to drink water and I was getting a little dehydrated. But, it was all my choice and they didn’t force it upon me. To me, that is another aspect of natural birth—the woman labor is the one in control.
Besides the nurses, I only wanted Josh in there with me. Usually women want their moms in the birthing room too, but I knew I couldn’t have my mom in there with me. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mom, but I knew I had to remain focused and calm; she is the type who would be asking me non-stop if I was ok, if I need anything, etc. haha :)
I think word spread that I was going the natural route because other nurses came in to check me out. That’s what I’m assuming because I remember people popping their heads in, but never staying. One of the midwives came in and talked to me for a bit. She, too, was very supportive and telling me I was doing a good job.
Anyway, another one of my requests stated on my birth plan was that they only perform a check for dilation and effacement at my request. Labor was pretty intense at this point (it was probably around 7pm) and I had the urge to push. I had the nurse check me and I was at 9cm, so I couldn’t push just yet. I remembered Jo telling us that when we had the urge to push, but were not yet 10cm, it was time to start “breathing the baby down” …and I didn’t have to tell the nurse ;) My urge to push was getting stronger and stronger and almost an hour later, I had the nurse check me again. She told Josh I was at 10cm. I didn’t hear her, so when I asked Josh what she said, I was so happy to hear it was time and that I had made it!
My water hadn’t broken yet, and, per my request, I wanted my bags of water to rupture naturally. So thankfully, my water broke after a couple pushes. Then my nurse called a midwife and some other nurses in to get ready for Baby B to make his appearance. The midwife I got was awesome. She, too, was very supportive and told me to tell her when I felt another surge and I wanted to push. It was all on me and being in control like that made me feel so good. I told them each time I was ready to push. Again, it wasn’t painful because I was focused on breathing, staying calm and keeping my body relaxed. I did feel some burning when B was crowning. That only lasted about a minute, maybe less and it wasn’t unbearable. It was such a relief after his head came out, then shoulders and the rest of his body. It was 8:30pm (just 30 minutes of pushing) when I heard the first cry of my sweet baby boy.
Giving birth was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had and being aware and feeling everything that was happening to my body was pretty awesome. To feel B moving through the birth canal, knowing that we were working together… for me, I think it made our bond even stronger.
To all you soon-to-be mama’s: no matter what you choose or what happens—epidural, no epidural, c-section, whatever—it will still be one of your best days ever because you finally get to meet your baby… and of course, he/she will be the cutest baby on Earth :)
(Phew! It took me 6 months to finally finish typing this up! haha)