If you haven’t read the first part of my natural birth story, going over my pregnancy, click here to get caught up!
As I said in my pregnancy story, we had done a tremendous amount of research so that we could make informed decisions in the heat of the moment.
We had put together a great birth plan, it was easy to read, short and sweet (to make sure that the busy midwives, doctors and nurses actually read it), but very thorough.
I will warn you, I am not holding back details in this post. I am not trying to scare anybody away from having a natural birth (actually I highly recommend it), but I would be doing you a disservice to make it sound easier than it was.
If I can do it, so can you.
When my due date was one week away…
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I was still working, coaching competitive gymnastics every day…
Still going on 1-3 mile walks every day.
I was still doing my exercises religiously, and beginning to get really anxious for the birth to just happen already.
It is very strange that the need to give birth, in the end, overcame the fear and nervousness I was feeling before that. I knew the only way out was forward.
I had refused to schedule an induction at 41 weeks, because the average length of pregnancy is actually 41 weeks and 2 days. Personally, I found it shocking that they would have a “standard policy” to induce at 41 weeks.
But I still felt a lot of pressure… I was worried that the midwives would try to force induction on me again if it got past 41 weeks.
I began using evening primrose oil capsules every day (you can take them orally and vaginally), to help efface or thin the cervix.
My due date came… And it went.
There was no reason not to, so I kept going to work… I felt good, other than the pain of “lightning crotch” (it sounds ridiculous but that’s a real thing).
I was doing well. So I didn’t want to stay home from work until I really felt like I needed to. And it helped to pass the time anyways.
Staying busy in the third trimester is the best thing you can do, if you’re able! Otherwise, time just drags on, and on…
Finally, 3 days after my due date, I asked my boss if I could have the day off. I was sure that baby must be coming soon! And the waiting was just mental torture in a way, knowing what was coming… going between fear, and a “bring it on!” attitude.
But my little boy didn’t come.
The next day was Sunday, I asked my husband to go out and buy some castor oil capsules from the health food store.
This was not something I had planned on, but I had read about it, and it works to induce labor for some women, only if baby is ready to come.
There are some that say that it can occasionally cause baby to have a bowel movement, which can cause distress especially in long births… but because I was so dead set on being induced medically for SO many reasons, I decided it would be worth a try.
That being said, I can’t necessarily say I recommend this. It is better to do everything you can to simple go into labor when your body does so on it’s own.
After taking the capsules twice a few hours apart…
It was finally GO TIME.
Since we had been taught in our Bradley Birth classes to labor at home for as long as possible (to avoid interventions), and knowing that the average first time mother’s labor is usually fairly long, I was extremely surprised when my contractions began RIGHT AWAY at 2 minutes apart.
This is practically unheard of… most of the time, contractions start much further apart and then gradually get closer together.
Not for me.
I stayed calm, started rocking on my birth ball, and ate some homemade food so I would have energy.
By the time Jesse told me that we were NOT waiting any longer, and started helping me to the car, I was having VERY intense contractions. This was only about 45 minutes after they had begun.
The drive to the hospital was HORRIBLE.
I’m sure it would have been more tolerable if we had left a little earlier. but every time I had a contraction… the fact that I was sitting in the seat of my car… and the speed the car was moving, made me feel EVERY. SINGLE. BUMP.
And I live in Michigan. Where we are known for our horrible roads.
So I would make Jesse slow to a CRAWL while I was having contractions.
By the time we arrived at the hospital about 15 minutes later, I was in (literal) screaming pain. I was NOT doing a good job relaxing during contractions, because 1, that’s hard to do when you’re trying to get to the hospital and into a delivery room ASAP, and 2, because I was scared.
I had been trained that I needed to relax, and how to do it. But that was easier said than done.
By the time we got into Triage (I didn’t even know what that was prior to arriving), I was like, just get me to the flipping delivery room already.
The midwife at Triage (who I had never met) “checked me” down there, even though I didn’t want anyone “checking me”. But she insisted that it would help get me where I needed to be faster. I was 4 cm dilated at the time, she said.
I was leaking amniotic fluid, and I had been wearing leggings. You may or may not have heard that most women lose their sense of modesty when in labor. As someone who dresses fairly conservative, I wouldn’t have believed it if it had not happened to me…
The Midwife asked me if I wanted to put my leggings back on to go to the delivery room – IN THE MIDDLE OF HEAVY, INTENSE LABOR, and I said no way. ALL I cared about was getting to the delivery room BEFORE the next contraction started.
I wrapped my blood catcher pad thingy around myself like a diaper and marched down the hall to the delivery room (FINALLY).
I did not give a flying F***.
When we got where we were going, I was extremely relieved. The midwife (who was very nice) wanted to put a saline lock in my arm “just in case”. I already knew they would want to do that, and I refused.
I did let them strap on an external fetal monitor (shouldn’t have) after I had refused a few times, because I was thinking… “what’s the harm, just let them do it. Maybe then they’ll quit asking about the saline lock.”
Except I didn’t realize there was a cable attached, between my body and the computer keeping track of the vitals. This hindered my movement, not letting me shift positions or move around easily. Hindsight is 20/20.
AND they didn’t stop asking about the saline lock.
AND the stupid monitor straps kept moving around which meant that they lost baby’s readings.
(here is a fantastic article going over all of the evidence and data on fetal monitoring of all types and it’s risks).
Then at one point (I’m not sure when, I had lost my sense of time), the midwife very seriously told me that she thought they needed to put in an internal fetal monitor.
I’m not sure if you know what that is, but I had done my research.
It is a metal screw attached to a cord to pick up baby’s vitals. They stick it up your hooha, and SCREW INTO THE TOP OF BABY’S HEAD. Yes, that’s right.
If you read up on this, Science says that these do more harm than good. They cause many more unnecessary interventions.
Even the inventor of this type of monitor, said that it should NOT be used except in very extreme cases. And I knew this already.
So even though I was in a very intimidating situation, where my midwife was telling me that my baby was in distress, I knew enough that I could refuse.
I was absolutely shocked that she would suggest this based on a slightly elevated heartbeat.
I knew, that baby’s heart rate elevates during contractions. This is a NORMAL thing. But they were acting as if it wasn’t.
Good thing I was armed with my own knowledge.
Then my midwife’s shift ended…
Another midwife came and took over (I had also never met this one). And she was super chatty.
Now, under normal circumstances, I consider myself a pretty nice, friendly person. And someone being chatty would rarely bother me.
But it was on my birth plan, which she had just read, that I wanted as much quiet as possible.
She proceeded to try to get me to allow a saline lock about 4 more times.
And she didn’t want to wait to cut the cord until it stopped pulsing (which was also in my birth plan), EVEN THOUGH the other midwives had been in support of this plan.
I learned through this whole experience, that any birth provider you have will not always have the same opinions. They will maybe not even see eye to eye even with other professionals that they work with.
They all mean well, but they are all operating off of different data, and holding different priorities.
So having to renegotiate my entire birth plan with this midwife I had never met before, right in the middle of heavy labor, was frankly, pretty irritating (to say the least).
Labor Pain Management
Jesse and I had learned all of these pain management techniques, so we brought some things to help, like warm compresses, etc.
The Bradley birth classes were amazing to prepare us for all this.
So it was very shocking when I labor was so fast and intense that we literally had zero time to do ANY OF IT.
So as much as I’d love to offer my advice or opinion on what worked for me, I really can’t.
At this point, there had been 3 hours or so of contractions only 2 minutes apart. I had been in the same position on my elbows and knees nearly the whole time.
I was becoming exhausted.
Then Magic Happened…
My contractions spaced out! It was like having a mini vacation. I know that sounds really stupid, but with such close, intense contractions, I had no time to recover in between them.
So I was able to enjoy probably 4-5 minutes in between for a little while (we weren’t timing them any more), and I could just breathe.
In case you don’t know this, it is very difficult to figure out how to change positions while baby is already in the birth canal, AND worry about getting into said position before the next contraction.
Also I was very scared that I would be squishing his head if I moved (I don’t think that’s how it works, but check with your midwife).
I tried squatting and holding the birthing bar attached above the bed, but I’m so flexible that there would be no room for baby to come out. Also it was SUPER uncomfortable for me.
My chatty-Cathy midwife wanted me to try a reclined sitting position, so I gave that a try too. I didn’t really like this position at all, but I was relieved to not have to work to support my weight.
That ended up being the position I stayed in for the rest of my labor. At that time, I was still not confident enough to insist on switching positions. Especially since I didn’t really know what position I would like better.
Also, it was tremendously difficult to confront the logistics of moving around.
I found a GREAT position to deliver in with my second son that I wish I’d known about with my first.
I’ll be writing about my second birth experience later (home birth), so if you sign up for email updates, I’ll let you know when I publish any new articles.
Second Stage Labor
I’m not really sure exactly how long I was in the “pushing” phase. Thirty to sixty minutes is my best guess.
There is a reason that this stage is called the ring of fire.
It’s also known as the “pushin’ out the baby” stage.
It is essential for a woman in labor to relax as much as possible, making low moaning sounds rather than high pitched sounds. This helps to open the body up easier because it is less tense.
Easier said than done.
I was already in a very stressful situation. There were no professionals around me who I knew. So I had little trust because they were all saying different things.
It felt like the baby was coming out too fast. I wasn’t ready.
AND I FELT LIKE MY BODY WAS GOING TO SPLIT IN HALF.
Sorry to be so graphic, but the actual feeling of it was like pooping out a full size bowling ball. That’s the amount of pressure I felt. It is really the closest comparison I can make that others will be able to understand.
I was VERY scared to let the baby come out. At the same time, I knew he had to come out. I knew I had to relax, but I couldn’t. My labor had happened very fast and much more intense than usual.
All the while, chatty-Cathy kept RUSHING me! She kept telling me that I needed to push (duh, I was…), and that I needed to get baby out (duh again).
This stressed out cheerleader approach was a far cry from my “as silent as possible” birth that was on my birth plan. Her chatter was entirely unneccesary and made me MORE TENSE.
As a result, I pushed harder than my body wanted to. I needed to push when my body told me it was right, and work on staying as relaxed as possible.
Pushing his body out the rest of the way was nothing… I almost didn’t feel it at all in comparison.
They put my baby son onto my chest, and he was extremely strong right away, lifting his head up and crying. He looked like a tiny, purple, adorable, angry old man.
The Magical Moment
Lots of women tell their birth stories and talk about the magical moment when they see their baby for the first time.
They talk about the euphoria, and the instant “love at first sight” feeling for their baby.
It was not like that for me.
What I felt was, a very tiny stranger had been placed on my chest. I felt a very strong sense of duty to this little stranger. And I knew I was up to the challenge. I knew I wanted to start off my journey as his mother right.
But I would be lying if I said that the magical love at first sight had been present… as much as I hate that fact.
Also, remember I told you that the midwife didn’t want to delay cutting the cord? Well, we had compromised on a 2 minute delay.
After probably thirty seconds, she came over, told me it had been two minutes already. In my post birth state and lack of any sense of time, I said ok, and she clamped and cut the cord.
In recollecting the birth later, I mentioned that it didn’t seem like 2 minutes. My husband Jesse confirmed that there was no way it was 2 minutes. So the midwife actually lied to me to get her way.
There was nothing I could do about it by then, but I was and still am extremely disappointed that my son was robbed the benefits of a delayed cord removal.
As soon as my son was out of me, the midwife and nurse started kneading my belly to get the uteris to contract. They were in a very big rush to get the placenta out.
To this day, I have NO IDEA why they were in such a screaming rush to get my already extremely fast birth move faster…
I was already working on trying to get the baby to latch and feed, so I was a little distracted.
They informed me they were going to apply “gentle pressure” on the umbilical cord, to try to get the placenta to detatch.
This was a part of birth I had NOT read up on. All I had cared about was getting my baby out safely, unmedicated, with no unnecessary interventions. So that was what I learned the most about.
So I had no reason to think they were doing anything wrong.
Once the placenta had detached from my body and I squeezed it out, I started bleeding… a LOT.
The order of events that came next are muddled together in my mind.
But the gist of it is, they SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN PULLING ON THE UMBILICAL CORD. I had plenty of time to get the placenta out naturally, and they didn’t allow that to happen.
At that time, they called for an OB to come and help. They inserted a needle in my arm to give me pitocin to help the muscle contractions to stop the bleeding.
A few months later, I read a new study that had been done. It showed that pitocin makes you MORE than 30% (!) more likely to suffer from postpartum depression. This helped me make sense of the struggles I had for the first three months of my son’s life.
I should note that I was a good little girl and I held very still so that they could get the needle in very easily.
The OB had to insert her fist (really her entire ARM), up into my uterus, to search for where the bleeding was coming from. This allowed her to apply pressure to the area from the inside, the nurse doing the same from the outside.
After the bleeding was under control, and they stitched up two tears that occurred during the birth (not surprising, considering how rushed the pushing stage was). This was the least of my concerns.
This entire time, I was holding my baby, trying to get him to nurse (unsuccessfully for the most part).
Finally, when that was all over, the OB gave me a 5 minute lecture about how I should have let them put in the saline lock ahead of time.
So I nodded and held back from telling her off. I held still and they got my pitocin into me in about 15 seconds flat. I knew her condescending lecture was BS.
It was about their convenience, rather than about what was best for the laboring mama.
I had more important things to concern myself with.
All of a sudden, I was a mama.
I was exhausted, and I was in pain. I had pushed through a lot of adversity and other people’s opinions in order to have a natural birth.
But I had succeeded.
I felt like a total bad ass.
Now I had this little, wrinkly person who depended on me so thoroughly…
And I didn’t let him down. He began his life drug free. He was healthy, aware, and able to really experience his first moments of life with nothing impeding his awareness.
Now my next challenge was to get to know this little stranger. And so I did.
So even without that magical moment, I was forever changed for the better.
That’s it for my natural birth story! Feel free to email me if you have any questions about it, I’m really an open book.
Keep reading when I post my postpartum story! Sign up for email updates below and I’ll let you know when I publish any new articles.