What a whirlwind of a week. I feel so out of sorts!
Last Monday, June 16, I gave birth to our third child, Graham. It felt different than the previous two and I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps because I’m older and wiser now (haha) or maybe because I knew it was going to be my last.
I was so excited to finally have Graham here with us, and SO, SO excited to be done being pregnant. I didn’t feel any apprehension about having a newborn, but I was feeling nervous about labor. My previous two deliveries were both vaginal, one with an epidural and one without (you can read Lincoln’s natural birth story here). After having my first child, I felt like I learned so much about labor and what happens to the body, and going into Lincoln’s birth I was more educated and prepared to do it without medication.
With the technical knowledge and now the added firsthand account of what natural labor is actually like, I was sort of nervous to do it again. After taking a short labor prep class at the hospital, I was reminded of some techniques to help deal with the pain and felt a little more prepared and determined to go without an epidural for Graham.
In case you are wondering my reasons, I’m not a huge hippie/all-natural/have your baby in the woods kind of woman. I actually have several reasons why I wanted to go without medication for babies 2 and 3, including the fact that anyone getting near my spinal column with a huge needle freaks me out, as does the possibility of paralyzation (I know the chances are slim – but I also have scoliosis, which slightly increases those chances if the anesthesiologist was to miss due to the curvature in my spine). I also hated that I couldn’t feel what was happening during the pushing process with Mia, which may be why it took almost 3 [exhausting] hours for me to push her out. The epidural also slowed down my labor (which no one wants) and it was frustrating that I couldn’t feel my legs for a while after it was over.
Plus, there’s the whole “millions of women have done this without medication and survived” aspect that has always been in the back of my head. The pride and strength that I felt after having Lincoln naturally was a testament to how amazing this body is that God created and how amazing and intricate the process of birth is, as well. It’s very empowering and a bit euphoric. Ok, enough of my hippie talk.
So then came the waiting to go into labor… I have never gone into labor on my own. My water never breaks and my contractions never seem to want to be consistent, though they do like to hang around for hours on end. So starting at 36 weeks, I began having bouts of false labor and inconsistent contractions. They were much more painful than Braxton Hicks and I could feel them from my uterus to my lower back – so I knew they were the real deal.
My doctor tried stripping my membranes at 38 weeks, which gave me painful contractions for 24 hours, but they slowly ceased. I walked every day to try and get my body into labor, and I even attempted to (TMI alert) have sex – twice in 24 hours (I consider myself a saint for doing that). That also gave me really painful contractions, but again, didn’t put me in labor. After all the attempts, I decided not to put myself through the pain of contractions that lead nowhere and to just wait it out – my doctor had agreed to induce me at 39 weeks, so I didn’t have to wait long.
[ 7:30 a.m. on June 16 ]
By the time we went in for my induction, I was dilated to 4-5 centimeters – very much the same as with my other 2 births. All those contractions over the previous few weeks had done their job and my doctor agreed to break my water to start the induction. This was what I had hoped for since this had always made things progress quickly for me in the past, and because I didn’t particularly want to do a natural birth on Pitocin.
[ 9:00 a.m. ]
The nurse broke my water. At first, there wasn’t much of a “gush,” and then I got my first contraction… and whoa. If you’ve never experienced the feeling of your water breaking, it’s SO WEIRD. It feels like you peed your pants, but that your bladder was holding 5 gallons. That’s what led to this photo. I think I was squealing “eeeeeee” under there while my husband laughed at me.
[ 10:00 a.m. ]
After some walking around the halls and lots of waiting, my contractions finally started picking up speed. By 10:30, they were full blown. I was still hanging in there without medication, sitting on a birthing ball, leaning forward and focusing on my breathing to get through each contraction. By 11:00 a.m. I was dilated to 7 centimeters, but Graham was still high, positioned at a -1, so I stayed on the ball and kept trying to get him to descend.
[ 12:00 p.m. ]
As the contractions progressed, I started asking myself the typical “Why did I do this?” question because the pain was becoming so intense. And with each contraction, I was feeling more and more of a need to bear down. I’d never experienced this before, and it added an entirely new element to getting through each contraction. If you have ever had this feeling during labor, please chime in in the comments below – because, solidarity! It made everything SO much harder in a way I didn’t anticipate.
My husband called for the nurse several times to tell her that I felt the need to push, so when she finally checked me and told me I was only 9 cm and had to wait, I was worried. Not pushing felt impossible.
The next 20 minutes or so are kind of a blur. I was up on the bed trying NOT to push and deal with the pain of the contraction at the same time. I mostly remember my face… and now that it’s over, my husband and I laugh about it every time we talk about it. It involved the following: screaming (like, real, out-of-the-movies, ridiculous, top-of-your-lungs screaming when I should have been doing those dumb breathing techniques), super wide eyes
glaring staring at my husband, my husband yelling at me to look at his face and focus on breathing (because I looked and was acting like a psycho), my husband laughing at me (so sweet, no?), shaking my head “no, no, no,” thinking I couldn’t actually do this, and trying desperately not to push.
Okay, so that all sounds pretty bad. Honestly, that last part only lasted about 10 or 15 minutes. At some point, the doctor finally arrived (I think she barely got there in time because I overhead my nurse tell another nurse that the head was “right there” before the doctor walked in), I apparently dilated to 10 centimeters and was finally given the go-ahead to push. I only pushed twice. I remember my eyes were closed as I focused on pushing and someone said “look down,” and then – there he was. This perfect little boy finally a part of the world outside the womb.
[ 12:40 p.m. ]
Graham Thomas was born at 12:40 p.m. He was 7 lbs. 5 oz. and 20 inches long. And he was perfect.
He didn’t even have a conehead since he wasn’t in the birth canal for long, so he didn’t look like an alien. Always a plus. He was perfectly healthy and settled right into life naked on my chest. We rested there together for about an hour, he ate and I reveled in his beauty.
Everything else went as planned with the after-birth and I was quickly in recovery and left to enjoy our newest family member with my husband. Speaking of my husband, what a guy. He was a great birthing coach – essential if you plan on doing this without medication. He let me work through many of the early contractions on my own, helping me keep pace with my breathing when needed. And he never complained when I squeezed his hand, shirt, arm – whatever I could get a hold of. He did laugh at me when I made the crazy-lady-in-labor faces and screamed at the top of my lungs at the end there, but I sort of forgive him because it was probably a surreal and ridiculous moment. Oh and he took some great photos, too.
So that was it. My final birth story. I know this is long and perhaps a little boring to read, but I wanted to write down all the details so as to remember the effort and pain it takes to create such beautiful life. It was my hardest labor yet, despite the fact that it only lasted 3 hours and 45 minutes, but it was well worth it. What a spectacular process it is, and I continue to be amazed that my body can actually do something that seems so impossible.
And the prize at the end is just the best.