“Giving birth should be your greatest achievement not your greatest fear.” -Jane Weideman
I’ve told this story, or various fractions of it before, to close friends and family. I’ve talked about why I chose to deliver not one, but both, of my babies without so much as even an aspirin and why I’d do it a million times over again. It took me a while to gather my thoughts and figure out exactly how I wanted to present this piece to the masses because I didn’t want to reach the wrong audience and I didn’t way to send the wrong message.
My goal is not to persuade anyone to have an epidural free birth.
The purpose of this is not to tell anyone how to have a natural childbirth or provide you with the magical answer to doing it sans drugs. I will not be the one to tell any mama that it is easy, and I’m not here to preach the “amazing powers of a woman’s body,” although I do have to admit, our bodies are REALLY bad ass. I am NOT here to brag. And finally, allow me to take this moment to insert my disclaimer: I firmly believe that we should embrace medical intervention when needed. Women who have brought babies into this world via cesarean delivery or other medically required means are all freaking bad ass warriors. If you’re a mom, you are, hands down, Wonder Woman, and I don’t give a damn how you got there. The purpose of this particular post is in no way to knock all of the amazing mamas out there. I am simply sharing my own, personal, childbirth journey….
What I am going to do is share my personal experience with natural childbirth.
I’m going to share the reasons that I chose it for myself and my babies, with a slight glimmer of hope that maybe I will instill just a tiny bit of confidence in other mamas who may be considering a similar birth plan. Because, believe me when I say this, I cannot promise that it won’t be hard-possibly the most difficult thing you have ever done in your entire life. But at the same time, I can promise you that it will be the most incredibly rewarding experience of your life and you will learn something about yourself and meet a new side of yourself that you never knew existed. Now, this is true with motherhood in itself, regardless of how you get to that final point, but there is something undeniably exhilarating about living, feeling, and breathing the experience of birthing your baby from that first contraction until the final push.
Let’s begin with William.
Ah the joys of the first born. Who really knows what they hell they’re getting in to with tiny human #1?! It’s all baby coo’s and cute clothes right?! It’s all, “Yay! Two pink lines!” and “Oh look at my HUGE baby belly” *insert eye roll at 15 weeks.*
Fast forward to the adorable baby shower that my mother-in-law had put together for me at the ripe, but “safe” gestational age of 37 weeks. My lovely sister-in-law had spent the night prior to the shower and was kind enough to drive me to my in-laws’ house. I assumed I had caught the stomach bug, since I had woke up that morning feeling all sorts of awful, but put on my, literal, BIG girl panties, and waddled along.
We arrived early and I crashed on the couch while everyone finished last minute preparations. Word quickly spread that “Kate had a touch of the stomach bug” and everyone was super sweet and accommodating. The shower was truly beautiful, and my MIL had even gone to the extent to make donut pops, because my pregnancy obsession, for the full 37 weeks, up until that very moment, had been donuts.
I pulled it together opened gifts, and fraternized with the guests, including my bestie Jenna, until the epic moment, when mid conversation it happened. I leapt up and ran to the closet bathroom and…threw up. Violently.
As the party was winding down, and I was recovering, it was then that I realized I was having fairly (and by fairly I mean aggressive, 2 minute interval) consistent contractions. Guests began to leave, I kissed my besties goodbye, and my dear sister-in-law saw that look on my face and asked the question “are you okay?” to which I replied “yes, but we need to go.” She quickly (not so quickly on my husbands part, I mean after all golf was on!) rounded my husband and we headed off to the hospital.
Sure enough, and unbeknownst to me, this was the start of my 3 day labor process.
Contractions had begun at approximately 2 pm on Sunday January 10, and 7 lb., 13 oz Baby Boy William David Levengood would enter our world on Wednesday, January 13 at 6:57pm. Life as we know it would never be the same, nor would I ever want it to be.
So, what happened in those 3 days?!
How does one human body survive 3 days of contractions? I’d taken the childbirth classes, both “Childbirth the Natural Way” and “Breathing and Relaxation” and was “fully prepared” for anything that birthing a baby could bring my way… bring on those contractions because each one brings me ‘one step closer to meeting my baby’ (and I’ll add, the baby’s gender was a surprise). Day one, bam. I’ve got this! I’m breathing, I’m relaxing, I’m visualizing. Nailed it.
Let’s turn to day two.
Still contracting, now with a little less sleep, I turn to google machine. Worst. Mistake. Ever. Google should have an auto block for any woman approaching her due date. Once you hit 36 weeks during pregnancy, you should automatically be banned from the internet.
From raspberry leaf tea, to pineapple, to spicy cheetoes, to walking, oh the walking (and it was January mind you), my 37 week, contracting-every-3-5 minute body did it all. And finally, things picked up a bit and I thought “this is it” so my husband and I got back in the car, headed back to that OB triage unit.
We were presented with few other options.
While I did seem to be in the early stages, my “unique” birth plan gave us limited medical options. I could A, walk the hospital for a few hours and see if I progressed, B, try a morphine sleep, or C, go home. As tempting as B sounded, when you tell the world that you’re attempting a natural childbirth, adding morphine to the mix negates that-I hadn’t done all that cheetoe eating and tea drinking for nothing! Going home was embarrassing at this point, so we were back to walking, again. Here is where I insert my first two pieces of advice to anyone considering a natural childbirth:
1. Tell the world.
Tell absolutely everyone you know that you are planning an all natural childbirth. As superficial as it may sound, that shit keeps you accountable and motivated. Because I promise you this-virtually everyone will have some doubt in your ability to do it. Childbirth is freaking painful and hard. It isn’t called labor because it is easy. But, our bodies were made to do it. If you are like me, the motivation will rest in all of the naysayers, all of the people saying “you’re crazy!” or “bring on the drugs.” I was pretty damn proud when I was able to turn to all of the people who thought I couldn’t do it, or who thought I was out of my mind for wanting to, and tell them that I did.
2. Know your people and find your team.
Between my incredible husband, my fabulous OB team, my saint of a mom, and my best friend Lauren who were all in Labor and Delivery with me, I could not have gotten through this. From the spicy cheetoe run to the humorous garbage bag on the seat of the car, which would NOT have helped had my water broken in the car, these people made the experience.
Now back to the saga.
The walking did not help, and so we headed back home. Now both baby-less and sleepless, the situation was truly starting to take a toll on me.
I did what any good mom-to-be would do and poured a glass of wine.
Go ahead and judge away, but until you’re headed into day three of your uterus massively contracting with no sleep, best keep your thoughts to yourself.
The next morning, I gathered myself enough to head to my doctors appointment where my OB was kind enough to strip my membranes and wham, bam THANK YOU M’AM, I was finally in full blown labor. I arrived at the hospital around 4:30pm at a beautiful 7 cm dilated and at around 6:57 pm, after 12 minutes of unmedicated pushing, William entered our world.
With my second, Owen, the story wasn’t quite so glamorous or long winded.
Still, the end result was the same-a beautifully perfect baby boy! With Owen, I’d been experiencing intermittent contractions for a few weeks. Things would heat up at night only to quickly fizzle. Finally, at 39 weeks I arrived at the hospital to have my membranes stripped again, at 5cm. We arrived at the hospital around 8:30 pm-I was uncomfortable, consistently contracting, but nothing rough. By 11:21pm I had my handsome boy in my arms after only 3 MINUTES of pushing.
So, my friends, I now give you my list of reasons for “pushing” (pun totally intended) through an unmedicated childbirth, not once, but twice!
1. It goes SO fast.
Some women push for hours at a time. This is because with an epidural you cannot fully feel the sensation (and BOY do you fully feel it) to understand what your body needs you to do. Sure, you may not feel the full intensity of the pain, but I’d trade 3-12 minutes of intense for hours of “still-pretty-damn-bad” any day!
2. You can MOVE!
I was in the tub, out of the tub, on the exercise ball, off the ball, etc. I was able to again, feel my body and adjust to the pain as I felt fit.
3. Intermittent monitoring!!!!
This means I was not tied to Iv’s and wires and jelly with the monitors-yuck! Yes, I was completely feeling (and screaming) through my contractions, but I was free from all of the gadgets and able comfortably relax in between contractions without the uncomfortable tug of machines.
While nursing my babes immediately after delivery, I was able to get up and walk! I could pee when I wanted, shower, eat without restrictions,etc. I didn’t have the headache that can commonly be associated with an epidural and was free to go on with my life just as I did before, save for the tiny human I was now responsible for keeping alive.
While I’m sure this one will receive some eye rolls, and it is in fact my least favorite reason to share, natural childbirth is safer. Yes, epidurals are deemed, very, very safe for both mom and baby, BUT natural birth is still safer. Your risk of interventions such as a vacuum or forceps assisted delivery, or a c-section increases (even if slightly) with an epidural. Complications are possible with any type of delivery, but our bodies are miraculous and actually know what to do and how to get it done safely.
I feel as if I could talk about my experiences for days upon days.
There are so many details and wonderful memories from the first contraction to the first time I felt my baby’s skin on mine. Both deliveries were truly miraculous and the two best days of my life. I have NOTHING but positive feelings and memories about childbirth and look forward to, God willing, experiencing it again. Nearly 100% of women I polled would describe childbirth as amazing over scary, regardless of how their delivery went. It is about trusting your body, your team, and most importantly embracing the magic of bringing life into this world.
Finally, “it is said that women in labour leave their bodies… they travel to the stars to collect the souls of their babies, and return to this world together.“ How beautiful is it that we get to experience this incredible event?
So, as well known midwife and childbirth advocate Ina May Gaskin put it, “whenever and however you intend to give birth, your experience will impact your emotions, your mind, your body, and your spirit for the rest of your life.” Can I get an Amen?!