A former "Great Expectations" writer, Julie, shares thoughts on preparing for her upcoming birth by reviewing her first birth.
As a soon-to-be second-time mom, and hard on the heels of my last baby (the two girls will be 18 months apart), I was asked to give some advice on what helped and didn’t help for my six-hour labor. Here’s a little timeline of how May 26-27, 2016 went:
3:00 pm: At 38w2d pregnant, left work early because my feet were so swollen and I just couldn’t take it anymore. Ate dinner. Laid on couch with feet up.
8:30 pm: Went to bed.
10:00 pm: Water breaks in a huge gush while sleeping. No contractions.
11:00 pm: Arrive at birth center to start IV for Group B Strep. Mild contractions have just started.
12:00 pm: [Timeline may get a little hazy here] Contractions start to get more intense. Pacing around room. At some point, the vomiting with diarrhea starts. I am becoming very tired after an hour or two of vomiting with every contraction. Can’t labor in tub. Finally take an IV anti-nauseant. Now I am drugged and can’t stand up. Try the nitrous. Can’t breathe through nose due to pregnancy-related congestion. Have to stop treatment. Pain is becoming unbearable while laying down, but too drugged to stand. Decide that I need to go to hospital to get an epidural (the last thing I wanted!)
3:00 am: Drive to hospital 10 minutes away. Back labor started on ride from birth center. Get blood tests for epidural. Things are going way too fast. Nurse and husband are massaging/pressing hard straight down along both sides of my spinal column, as I stand leaned over the hospital bed. Every back contraction is extraordinarily painful. I say, “Something has changed!” [baby’s head had dropped]
3:45 am: I’m up on the table, legs spread, pushing. Between every contraction I have to push several times and then hold. Head’s out. Hold. Bear down like you are having a bowel movement. Push push. Shoulders slip out and baby is born. [This all seemed to take a very long time.]
4:15 am: They put her on my belly until the cord stopped pulsing.
4:20 am: Official time of birth.
So that is how the play by play went. In my mind, this story is only magical. It was so intense. So real. It was the most amazing experience of my life and I am so happy that it went so well. But how did I get there and what role did my behavior during pregnant life play?
I am an over-researcher. I had researched all of the main “natural childbirth” methodologies: The Bradley Method, Hypnobabies, hypnobirthing, the yoga method. I read and read with the intention of selecting a program and participating in a birthing course. Ultimately, I got so overwhelmed about which one to pick that I didn’t do any of them. It is my personal belief that those methodologies would not have helped me manage the pain I experienced. However, I only directly “labored” for four hours and not the much longer time frame that many women labor.
Psychologically, I had immersed myself in as much knowledge as I could handle, sometimes too much knowledge. I knew about all types of interventions, the ways to hopefully avoid them, and I had read Ina May’s books with the myriad forms that natural birth comes in. I did not go into labor scared; more anticipatory, despite being very anxious about this huge unknown as a first-time mom. I worried about tearing, and the cascade effect of interventions, and C-sections. But when it was happening, I was 1000% there. Pain was just happening and that was ok. I hadn’t worked out any mantras, but I did have a thought in my labor-soaked mind that kept coming back: “This is one moment in time. This is a bubble.” I knew that the moment would eventually be over.
Physically, I had been doing a Fit2Birth program with decent regularity and started back into warm yoga at about 20 weeks. But at age 41, with a history of loss, I was not out running or being a hero exercise-wise. I followed programs that focused on pelvic floor strength. I drank raspberry leaf tea, but not religiously, and not the 5-6 cups a day that would hit medicinal levels for toning the uterus.
What worked for me:
- Flexibility with my birth plan. Things can change very rapidly and you need to be ready to change your expectations.
- Listening to my body and mind.
- Being on the same page with my birth team.
- Being educated on labor and postpartum. I ended up getting postpartum pre-eclapmsia starting 5 days post birth. If I hadn’t educated myself, I would not have known this was a possibility.
- Having faith in myself, my care, and the process, not to mention having a cooperative cervix and baby.
What I would have done differently/areas of improvement:
- I’m not birthing at the birth center this time. I’m going straight to the hospital for my (fingers crossed) two-week early, two-hour labor (yes, a girl can dream). All the bells and whistles of the birthing tub, Jacuzzi, yoga ball, birthing stool, nitrous, etc. didn’t amount to much because I didn’t/couldn’t use them.
- I am praying to avoid the puke fest. The anti-nausea medicine really knocked me out, so I will be looking into other options for easing vomiting that won’t put me on my back, literally.
- Is there a way around back labor? If so, I’m going to find it.
- Writing this blog has made me redouble my efforts of trying to find time and energy to exercise while working full time, being pregnant, and having a 14-month old. I don’t know what role exercise played in how fast my labor was.
The most important advice I can give you is to not be afraid. You can handle the pain. In fact, you will probably forget that it really hurt that much at all. I have!