Phenomenal! Empowered! Like a Million Bucks! Euphoric! Energized! These are not your typical words to described how I’ve felt this past week after giving birth to my daughter, but they are exactly what I had expected and what I had trained for. You see, there is a huge difference in planning and preparing. Although labor was August 17th, my real “labor” began in January. So, please sit back, because I’d love to share with you Rachel’s birth story in its entirety.
Those of you who know me well, know my philosophies on natural health, clean eating, exercise, and alternative therapies. Pregnancy is not a disease or a medical condition–it’s the most natural thing in the world. The intervention of modern medicine, despite good intentions to prevent pain, has made women afraid and overly cautious; but most importantly, it has taken away their confidence in their own bodies. We’ve been convinced we don’t have what it takes. How wrong! Our bodies are STRONG–we are not made of shoddy goods in need of assistance. We ARE the stronger sex! I took this philosophy and ran with it from every dimension possible. There is no other way to say it: I worked my ass off during my pregnancy and it paid off in huge ways! Here were my focus areas:
1) Faith. God is where you should always begin! I have a very close relationship with God–he is my savior, my protector, and my friend. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt he would help and guard me….and he did. My daughter was an unexpected gift from him, and I knew a positive birth would be as well. I prayed and prayed and prayed!
2) Exercise. I did it all: yoga, swimming, walking, stretching, aqua therapy, physical therapy, strength training (until my 3rd trimester). I averaged between 2-3 hours of activity every single day, and although the intensity was nil near the end, it still happened even on days where I just wasn’t feeling it. It also helped me sleep great to the end. As a matter of fact, the morning of my labor, I had walked for an hour, did aqua therapy for an hour, and cleaned house for over an hour 🙂
3) Knowledge. Preparation includes research–it’s powerful and it builds confidence. I read 11 books about natural birth during my pregnancy and I am a frequent Bible reader anyway. I made flashcards of motivational, spiritual, and visual reminders. I did hypno-therapy and relaxation techniques.
4) Positivity. I avoided all the drama!!! Too many people focus on the negative, and it’s a shame. I kept my motivation high and avoided or laughed at those who thought I couldn’t do it! One of my flashcards even said “They think you can’t do it–YOU CAN!”
5) Diet. Good nutrition and clean eating is crucial. Your baby will take everything you’ve got and leave you with the junk, so eat right. I ate every 2 1/2 hours and I never said to myself “I’m pregnant, I can have whatever I want.” Clean eating gave me the energy I needed to keep exercising. I also incorporated an organic herbal pregnancy tea at 37 weeks to efface my cervix and tone my uterus–it worked like a charm! My doctor had been expecting me to go for 3 weeks before I was due because of my progress.
Now that you’re primed, let me tell you about my awesome birth experience. It’s rather short, but you won’t believe it! On August 17th, two days before my due date, at 2:45pm I lost my mucus plug and began having bloody show. I called Jonathan and told him not to rush home because it would probably be a bit before contractions began. At 3:15 I had my first contraction that lasted 40 seconds. 7 minutes later I had another one. I called Jonathan and told him I thought he should come home. At this point, things began getting interesting. I wrote down my contractions to note the start times. After about 3 contractions at 7 minutes apart, they jumped to 5 minutes apart, and I had to lay down. I started looking at my flashcards and doing focused breathing–I was already shocked at how quickly they seemed to be progressing. By the time Jonathan got home (about 40 minutes later), they were 4 minutes apart. He looked at the paper and said “We need to go to the hospital. The doctor said if they were five minutes apart.” I said “No. I don’t want to go yet. This can’t be right–they’re coming too fast too soon. Take a shower and we’ll see what’s happening then.”
I should have listened to my husband! I kept second guessing myself–something I rarely do, and it almost led to a birth in my truck! I couldn’t believe how close my contractions were. I also couldn’t believe how painless they were for me….another reason for my delay. There was pressure but not pain. But they got stronger and closer, and by the time he was out of the shower I was regularly at 2 1/2 to 3 minutes apart and lasting about 90 seconds. Jonathan and my mom began packing up frantically and he helped me to my truck where I laid down in the back. I pulled out my I-Pod and began listening to my hypo birthing tracks. They focused me, but after 3 contractions in the truck, I felt uncontrollable urges to push…..hard! From that point on, I was pushing and moaning loudly with each contraction and that got fairly intense and a little painful. I knew she was already in my birth canal, and this scared me a little! I didn’t want to have her on the side of the road.
Just before Jonathan pulled into the hospital parking lot I yelled “You have to get me there! She’s coming!” He got me out of the car and I saw a lady coming out with a wheel chair. I politely told her I’d walk and I saw the thought on her face: Oh, she’s way early. She said we’d have to register and Jonathan said “We’re preregistered.” Another woman, upon seeing my bent over frame, came immediately and took us up to labor and delivery–I walked the whole way.
As soon as the head nurse got me to the bed I began pushing with another contraction. She told another nurse “She’s pushing–get her doctor here now!” She asked me why I had waited so long to come to the hospital. I answered that it wasn’t my intention, it had just happened so fast. I laid on my left side and she checked me. I heard her tell another nurse I was fully dilated plus 2–Rachel was already in my birth canal. I was not surprised, but the relief I felt for making it to the hospital bed was immense. She told me “I hope you didn’t plan on having an epidural.” I said “No. I’ve prepared for a natural delivery.” There wasn’t even time for an IV or saline lock, and I was thankful for that–it took away any temptation for drugs. She asked me empathetically “Can you stop pushing? I need to get your doctor here just in case there are any complications.” I told her I’d do my best, but I couldn’t promise anything. As soon as I finished answering her, my doc walked through the door, took one look at me, shook his head and rolled his eyes with amusement. He said “I broke several traffic laws getting here.”
For the next 20 minutes or so, I labored on my side; however, I knew I’d never get her out that way without severe tears. So I rolled over into a squatting position with my knees on the bed. That wasn’t working either–my legs and feet were feeling the strain. I heard my doctor say “That’s a tough position–let’s get her a squatting bar.” I was thrilled to hear him say it, because he remembered what I wanted.
The bar was the perfect choice. The front of the bed dropped and I stepped down onto the mattress, holding the bar for dear life. With each contraction, I squatted as low as I could and pushed with everything I had–just as I had practiced with my physical therapy. After doing this about 3 times, my legs were shaking so badly, I couldn’t get back up. Jonathan supported me and lifted me up from the squats. I could see my legs trembling in a glare from a picture frame in front of me. Just to see myself was motivating. I heard my doctor remark to my mother “She is so strong. I’ve never seen a woman this strong.” It was exactly what I needed to hear. I looked around the room and noticed how full it was–every nurse on duty must have been there and they all stared at me with wide eyes and open mouths. I looked down at one of the nurse’s shoes and said “Cute shoes.” I heard a gasp in the room–they were shocked at how cognizant I was.
With each squat I could feel her moving more and more out. One time when I was down, I saw the doctor take lubricant and rub me around her head. I said to him “Yes, lube me up, I don’t want to tear.” Everyone in the room was shocked I was still talking in the middle of a contraction. It was incredible to reach down with my hands and feel her head. Feeling her hair and the softness of her head was wonderful motivation. I kept thinking to myself “You’re doing it….just like you wanted…..according to plan…..you’re doing it…..this is it…..this is your moment!” With one of the squats I felt my upper pubic bones moving, but it wasn’t too painful. She was so close to coming, but I just didn’t have the strength to keep pushing for long–I’d have to stand up with Jonathan’s help. It was an oddly wonderful sensation feeling my bones around her when I stood up.
Before my last squat, Jonathan kissed me and said “This is it, baby. This is the one. Push, baby. I love you!” I said “Yes, this is it, this is it.” The most painful part was the very end, just getting her head out all the way. I was grunting and yelling, and just when I thought I had nothing left, I felt her head nudge its way out. Unfortunately, as soon as I got her head out there was only a little relief because my doctor firmly said “I need it now. Push now! I need it now!” I didn’t think I had anything left, but I did, and I felt each shoulder slowly being pulled out with his hands. Then the rest of her body quickly arrived and she was screaming. I was screaming uncontrollably too and then I fell back onto the bed. That is one thing I will NEVER forget: after she was out, I couldn’t stop screaming. It was pure joy, pain, shock, and honor! I saw Jonathan cut the cord and then she was on me. My precious baby was on me!
As I lay there looking at her and her gorgeous head of hair, the relief was incredible and so was the love. She looked at me as if she was saying “Thank you.” More relief was to come, though, as the doctor delivered my placenta. I barely pushed and it slid slowly out. Delivering the placenta and ensuing fluid was the most spectacular sensation. I said to my doctor “Oh, my God, that was incredible.” He responded with “I thought you’d like that.” He checked me out and said “I don’t see anything major here. No tears, just a few minor scratches. No stitches necessary.” I was beyond thrilled–all that vaginal stretching and perineal massage from physical therapy really paid off. I looked up at the one nurse left in the room and asked her to leave so we could say a prayer. My Mom and Jonathan surrounded Rachel and me and I said a prayer thanking God for such a wonderful delivery. She was born at 7:30pm, a mere 4 hours and 15 minutes after labor began.
Please don’t stop reading, because I have some very important things to tell you. I want to share with you what I would have missed or been unable to do had I been drugged up. Rachel was a very calm baby inside my womb throughout my entire pregnancy, but when I was pushing on my side in the hospital, my little girl was kicking the daylights out of me trying to get out of my birth canal. That is how I knew this position would not work. Her ferocity reminded me that she was my true birthing partner. I would have missed all the shocked faces, and all the words my doctor spoke about my strength. I would have missed being able to reach between my legs and feel my daughter. I would have missed being completely cognizant of my own power and in control of my thoughts and wants.
Had I been drugged, I would not have been able to tell my doc to lube me up. I would not have been able to tell Jonathan to tell everyone to get out of the room. I would not have been able to tell my nurse she had cute shoes or to give my Mom a thumbs up as she encouraged me. I would not have been able to ask for ice water and drink it in between squats. I would not have been able to reach into my soul to find that final push to get her chest out of me so she wouldn’t strangle as her neck was out. I would have missed the incredible feeling of delivering the placenta. I would not have been able to forcefully refuse the shot of Pitocin the nurse tried to give me immediately after I birthed my daughter. The nurse said it was to help with any clotting, but had I been drugged I would not have been able to have a conversation with her about an alternative uterine massage. How quickly they were to rush to any type of medication instead of something natural, but thankfully my unmedicated birth allowed me to voice my opinions.
I thank God that I was completely awake, alert, and energized throughout the entire process. I would never have had the euphoria I had for the next 5 days following her birth. I was unable to sleep, and it wasn’t that I didn’t have plenty of opportunities. I would just lie there going over everything in my head, praying, and weeping. My eyes were dilated for days from natural endorphins and I was up and about throughout the house upon returning home.
One thing that meant a lot to me was the staff at the hospital kept coming into our room and telling me how amazing I was. I was the talk of the maternity ward. One of my regrets is that after she was birthed, the head nurse came up to me as I was being assisted to the bathroom and said “That was absolutely amazing. I could never had done that.” All I said was a tired “Thank you.” I should have told her “Yes, you could’ve….you’re stronger than you think!” We are all stronger than we think! We are capable of remarkable things–never doubt yourself!
I have yet to take any pain medications–I haven’t needed them. My body is healing beautifully. Despite being offered everything from Motrin to stool softeners, I chose to put nothing in my body except good foods high in fiber. My daughter is such a lovely, peaceful, happy baby, and I am ever thankful to God that he made this pure, joyful birth possible. Praise be to Jesus.