The number one question I asked everyone and anyone who had a baby while I was pregnant was “what does it feel like?” I really wanted to have a natural unmedicated childbirth and I scoured the internet for all kinds of labor and birth stories. Towards the end of my pregnancy I even tortured myself by watching you tube videos of women birthing naturally. I’m still not sure if that helped me or just scared the crap out of me. Of course birth is a different experience for everyone and it seems like no one could quite articulate it for me. Heck, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to articulate it for you, but I’m really going to try.
I have been in a lot of pain throughout my life, especially with my Crohn’s disease and I really said to myself “how bad could it be.” I’m not here to scare you, but yeah, it’s pretty intense. It’s also amazing, empowering, and inspiring. It’s the essence of being a woman. It’s bringing new life into the world. It’s pretty damn awesome, actually. Before I get into my story I want to tell you that this is my experience only. I am fully aware that some people have had a painless birth. Yeah that happens, and I am extremely jealous! If you had a painless birth I want to hear the story so please post it in the comments if you’d like to share!
Next, I am in no way knocking anyone who had an epidural, c-section, or any other kind of assisted birth. In fact after my daughter came out, I turned to my husband and told him next time I AM getting an epidural. Labor is extremely unpredictable and the safety of mom and baby always comes first. Who knows, the next time I am in labor I may need to have a c-section. That’s ok as long as my child comes out in one piece :).
So to all the women out there who have brought a child into this world, you are amazing. We are amazing as a whole. If you’ve never had a baby before and are just curious, or if you are pregnant and are reading about birth, I hope this post helps you in your journey!
Preparing for labor
While pregnant, I read everything I could get my hands on about birth, natural birth in particular. I don’t know why I was so obsessed with having a natural birth, but I figured it would be a cool experience to feel what women have been feeling since literally the dawn of time #crazy. Plus I think I just wanted to see if I was capable of doing it. I was very naive about it and really underestimated how much it could hurt. I have a high pain tolerance so I figured it really couldn’t be that bad. It’s pretty tough to get through the contractions, especially at the end so I was glad I was prepared.
Stay in shape, stretch, stay active until the end
These are all very good pieces of advice. I was active throughout my entire pregnancy and it definitely helped.
Know the stages of labor
Better yet, make sure whoever will be with you while you’re in labor knows them. Really knows them. I was able to recognize when I went in to early labor. During active labor I was NOT able to recognize when I was in transition, close to the end. This is the time when you want to just give up. If someone else could recognize that and tell you NO, you’re about to have this baby, it will be very helpful.
For the love of God eat something substantial before you go to the hospital!
One major mistake I made was not eating enough while in early labor. I woke up at 430 am on Monday August 3rd 2015 to go pee as usual. While I was on the toilet my mucous plug came out. I was having mild contractions 7-9 minutes apart and realized this was the real deal. I tried to go back to sleep but only made it another hour and a half. I took the dog for a walk. I did things around the house. The contractions were not terrible but hurt enough that I had to stop what I was doing when they came. I took a shower and my husband got up. I told him to make me some toast.
Instead of toast, I should have had him make me some eggs, or a protein smoothie, or something to go with the toast. I don’t know what I was thinking. I can tell you that 20 hours later I was kicking myself for thinking that 2 pieces of toast was a enough of a meal to sustain someone trying to push out a human being.
Know what you are getting into
Read books, articles, or watch videos while you are pregnant. When you realize you are actually in labor, rest and eat something more substantial than 2 pieces of toast for goodness sake.
Mind over matter
In my opinion your mindset is the most important factor in getting through labor, especially if you want to do it unmedicated. When I was pregnant I got to a point where I actually stopped telling people my plan to have a natural birth because of all the negative comments I would get. I was told anything from “you won’t be able to do it” to “why would you want to do it when there are drugs?”. I was determined to have an unmedicated birth and I did it. I used a variety of methods to help deal with the pain. I bounced on a birthing ball, utilized the hands and knees position as well as squatting, and went in the shower in my hospital room for almost 2 hours. The shower was key. My advice is take the shower. Or get in a birthing tub if you can. Water helps tremendously with the pain. I didn’t want to get in at first but once I did I never looked back, and it helped progress my labor.
Long story short, yes there are things that ease the pain, but labor is intense. You have to be determined that you are going to refuse the drugs. Lets get something straight right now. I am NOT saying that anyone who got an epidural, stadol etc, or had to have an emergency C was because they weren’t determined enough. So don’t even go there in the comments. Shit happens. What I am saying is that if you are sure you want to have a natural labor (or attempt it), commit to it in the beginning. This is not something you can be wishy-washy about. When that pain gets intense you WILL want drugs. Sometimes doctors are determined to do unnatural things to progress labor along to their liking. Don’t give in to it! Seriously. Unless you are really not progressing for hours or something is happening with the baby. Deep in your mind know drugs are not what you really want and then stick to your guns. If you are wishy washy over it, it’s extremely easy to say yes to drugs or interventions at first mention.
Trust me, it was getting hard for me to keep saying no to the barrage of “don’t you want the epidural?” remarks that were being made to me. Is it hard? Hell yes. It’s probably the hardest thing I ever did in my life. But it’s what I wanted and it was worth it.
Stand up for yourself
I arrived at my doctors office at 130 pm, August 3rd 2015, already in labor at 2 cm dilated and 100% effaced. I was already 11 days late and they were planning on inducing me that night, so I was sent over to labor and delivery. I was at the hospital by 215 pm and by 5 the doctors changed shifts. The new doctor who came in was from a different practice and I had never met him. He didn’t know my labor plan to have a natural birth. This guy was
kind of old school and had been in practice for over 35 years. I inherently trusted him but could tell right away he wasn’t into my “new age” stuff. He kept offering me an epidural even after I told him I did not want one. When he checked me at 530 he told me I had progressed to 5cm. He wanted to break my water, and kept bringing it up. I said no, so he said he’d be back in an hour to check on my progress. When he came back he really wanted to break my water and I almost felt pressured to do it even though I knew I didn’t want him to. He left the room again, and the nurse told me if I wasn’t comfortable with it, tell him no. She encouraged me to go in the shower since I had been saying I would, but didn’t feel like getting undressed.
Since it would postpone the breaking of my water, I opted for the shower. I am extremely glad I did. First of all, I was having back labor and the hot water on my back really helped with the pain. Second, when the doctor finally did break my water a few hours later (I had progressed to 8 cm), the amount of pressure I felt was unbelievable. If he had broken it at 5cm, I seriously doubt if I would have been able to manage the pain on my own, determined or not. I truly feel like I would have gotten that epidural. Who knows, maybe that was his plan, since he wanted me to get one so bad.
If you don’t want something done, stand up for yourself. Have your SO know your plans as well and tell them to advocate for you. I knew deep down it wasn’t time for him to break my water. Your body is smart, listen to it. I was progressing just fine.
The only way I know how to explain contractions is a little woo-woo / hippie talk. But if you know anything about me, well obviously my blog is called the granola girl for a reason. I’m a little crunchy. But in all seriousness, to me, contractions are the energy flow of bringing another life into the world. It is exactly like a wave. You can feel it building, rising, and then you feel it crash away. If you are focused and relax your body completely between them, there is no pain in between contractions and you can actually rest. The doctor and nurses kept asking me how I felt and to rate my pain. I kept saying to them “In between contractions, I’m fine”. To which they would all laugh, and then offer me an epidural .
Seriously though, the energy from the contraction does not feel like it’s from this world. I would describe it as “God’s wrath”. During the peak, I could not focus on anything else other than getting through the pain. I could not believe how intense it was. If there is one key thing I got from reading a Hypnobirthing book it was that it does help tremendously to completely relax your body when the contractions are over. This not only allows you to rest, which is awesome because labor is exhausting, but it also helps to progress your labor as you are not fighting it by tensing up. There were times where I felt myself almost falling asleep before the next contraction came. Every contraction seriously felt like an intense energy surge coming over me. It’s crazy.
Labor land is real
It’s so important to have your husband / SO / baby daddy / labor buddy know what you want in labor because “labor land” is a real thing. I read about it in books, about how as labor progresses the woman goes deeper and deeper internally within herself. Nothing could be closer to the truth. I am a registered nurse. No I’m not a maternity/labor and delivery nurse but while I was in nursing school I saw both a vaginal birth, and a c-section. I knew about the progression of labor. During my 9 months of being pregnant I read everything I could get my hands on about birth. I had my plan, I knew what I wanted and what I didn’t want. I knew the stages of labor, yet while I was in labor all bets were off. I was completely focused on getting through each contraction and then totally relaxing my body when the contraction was over. I wish I could see what happened from my husband’s point of view because it was all very surreal for me. I remember being in the hospital bed, being in certain positions, getting through the contractions etc, but while this was going on it was like I was in my own world and everything and everyone else was so far away. I would hear my husband encouraging me and feel his hands putting counter pressure on my back, but it’s like he wasn’t in the same place as me. I don’t know how to explain it. At times it was almost like hearing disembodied voices.
During the labor I was not even thinking about the end product being the baby. I was solely focused on getting through the pain. While I was pushing I remember the nurse, doctor , and my husband talking about me, yet it was like they weren’t there. I could sense their presence, which I so needed, but I was in my own world doing my own thing, just bringing that baby down. I needed cool towels on my forehead and a sip of water. I would whisper it to my husband, and seemingly out of nowhere they would appear. I never noticed the nurse getting the towels or the water or the time lapse of anything. Everything felt like a second and an eternity at the same time. It’s like being in some crazy time warp vortex.
After pushing for an hour and 15 minutes through utter exhaustion, my daughter was born at 1:11 am on August 4th 2015. I had my eyes shut and was so in the zone that I did not even realize she was out. Suddenly I heard the nurse saying to me, “Open your eyes! Look down!” I looked down and the first thing I noticed was that my stomach was no longer popping out like I was 12 days overdue. “Woah” was all I could say. Then I saw her, my little purple baby between my legs, umbilical cord still attached, while the doctor clamped the cord and my husband cut it. The doctor rubbed her back briskly and that newborn cry brought me flying back to the real world. I just had a baby. Holy shit.
A word on pressure
I was in labor for a total of about 20 hours and the whole time I had mostly back labor. I wish I could tell you what regular contractions in the front feel like, but I don’t even know. In early labor I had some that felt like extreme period cramping. As my labor progressed the pain was mostly across my low back and in particular on my right SI joint. My husband said he could actually see my back bulging out in that spot during each contraction (eww). For me the absolute worst part of the entire experience was the amount of pressure you feel “down there”. Ok I don’t even mean really down there. Lets be totally honest for a second. You will feel EXTREME and I mean extreme pressure in your freaking butt hole. It is the worst feeling I think I ever felt in my entire life. I don’t even know how to explain what it feels like but basically like you are going to lose control of your bowels RIGHT NOW in front of everyone and there’s nothing you can do about it. Contractions are intense, my back hurt really bad, but I would do anything to never feel that pressure ever. again. Yup, I think my husband should give birth next time.
So despite all the pain and intensity about labor, having a baby is a truly amazing thing. I don’t think it really matters how the baby comes out. When the baby is out, no matter the way of the birth, it’s a miracle. There is no feeling in the world like it. Yes it hurts, it’s challenging, it’s life changing. At times it feels impossible. I had a vivid memory of the pain for at least 6 months. Now that my daughter is 13 months old I can no longer remember the full intensity of the pain, yet I know what I went through and how much it hurt.
Even so, I still want to do it again. Why? Because I cannot even begin to describe how wonderful those first few moments, hours, and days are with a new baby. It is so incredibly special and there is nothing like it in the world. I would go back to those moments and re-live them over and over again if I could. I felt so empowered and in awe of the fact that I brought life into this world. I grew a human and birthed it into the world.
So yes, I will do it again
I’m not sure if I’ll do it again naturally, but now I know why women are made for this… and why they keep popping kids out .