I used to think there were two kinds of pregnant women: The first of which is the ones who HATE being pregnant. They complain about the extra weight, the fatigue, the lack of sleep, the puking, the whole nine yards. Being pregnant feels to them like a prison sentence to be served in an over-inflated stretch mark ridden carcass of a body that despite being clinically alive, feels like it is hanging on by a thread. I place myself firmly in this category. I LOATHE being pregnant.
Then, you have the women who LOVE being pregnant. Those are the ones who affectionately rub their happy little tummies, and tie rainbow ribbons around their protruding middles and tell everyone how much they adore feeling every bump, tickle, and kick from within their womb of peace and harmony. You know the ones I am talking about. Everyone has met one. To add insult to injury, these women also seem to have the most uneventful pregnancies with little to no pain or recovery. These are the preggos we love to hate.
I always believed that you could only be in one group or the other- Pregnancy and Labor sucked, or it didn’t. However after giving birth to an 11 pound 6 ounce baby naturally, I would have to most decidedly place myself in a newly created third category: The “I ain’t afraid of no birth” category. Because after my experience with the pregnancy from hell, there was no way I was going to let my labor be as much of a nightmare.
The first 20 weeks of this pregnancy were a breeze. People kept telling me they forgot I was pregnant (always a self esteem booster!) I felt fine, I had a great appetite and I was pretty much unhindered by my condition. After 20 weeks things took a huge turn for the worse.
I was getting dizzy, I felt sick all the time, I was having pain in my legs, all in all I was just miserable. The bigger the baby got, the more miserable it made me until it hurt to even get out of bed! My midwives were totally stumped.. What was wrong with me? They referred me to every specialist they could think of, ran every test, and still, we had no idea what was going on. I was in so much pain, I cried every time I had to change positions, get off a couch, get out of my bed.. it was awful.Because I was in so much pain, the very thought of labor terrified me, I remembered how painful it was with Tiny, the grueling 24 hours of agony I endured in various degrees. I really didn’t want to deal with that again. I enlisted the support of my friend Amber who is a doula and trained to deal with exactly this sort of thing. Having her on board made me feel much more empowered to have this baby and to be strong through whatever pain would come my way. When my due date came and went, and still no little man (what a joke that would turn out to be!) I started to get desperate. I was only 4 or 2 days overdue depending on which due date you were following, but I was in a LOT of pain. This baby needed to come and he needed to come NOW. At my last appointment, the midwife told me why I might have been in a lot of pain: the baby was really low- he was ready and by golly so was I!
I should mention, I am all for waiting for baby, and doing things naturally, and I would never ever be induced unless it was medically necessary, but I saw no harm in a few small “pushes,” so to speak. The first thing I did was drink a bottle of Magnesium Citrate. The worst thing about that was the taste. It was like shooting an entire bottle of sour mix- chasing it with grape juice made it more bearable though. The next thing was to take the natural herb supplement that I had been taking, but start taking it on overdrive… Instead of three times a day I would take it every 15 minutes for a predetermined amount of doses. Filled with all kinds of herbal goodies these pills would hopefully kick start labor…Then all I could do was wait….
My doula Amber (amazing doula by the way!) came over and we did some exercises to coax baby into a better position. The goal was to align my cervix with my uterus- something I had trouble with during my labor with Tiny. After about an hour or so, I really wasn’t feeling too much in the way of contractions. I THOUGHT they were tightening, but there wasn’t any pain, and one thing I remembered from having Tiny was that contractions HURT!!!
We kept doing exercises and I thought I was feeling contractions but I wasn’t sure….Amber said to tell her when I thought I felt them. That I could do. After about an hour Amber told me that my contractions that I couldn’t really feel- were 3 minutes apart! We called the midwife and headed to the birth center to be checked. Since I couldn’t really feel anything, I was really worried that this was yet another false labor- What if we got all the way there and I wasn’t in labor! After all, the biggest thing they say about labor is that when it is the real thing you will know. I felt silly that after already having one baby I couldn’t even tell if I was in labor or not.
We got to the birth center and Ms. Jill- the midwife who delivered Tiny and one of my favorite human beings on the planet checked me: I waited for her to tell me not much had changed..She said, “Do you want the good news or the bad news?” and then proceeded to tell me I was- 7 CENTIMETERS DILATED………(lets that sink in)
I was 3/4 of the way through labor and I hadn’t felt a darn thing! We decided to break my water- and after getting myself situated in my suite (cause that’s really what they are like there) and eating a peanut butter sandwich to keep my energy up- she broke my water. At least a gallon of fluid came rushing out of me, promptly soaking the entire bed and everything on it. Even then! It took a good 45 minutes before I finally started to feel any kind of pain at all!
And feel it I did! Without all that water to cushion the squeezing,the contractions started to get a lot more painful. Instead of having some time to get used to the idea of being shattered from the inside out, I began to feel pain right at transition, the most intense, longest, and most painful contractions of all. I took each one with deep breaths, keeping in mind three things:
1. The contractions wouldn’t last forever. Like a wave, each one would come and go and that contraction would be over forever.
2. Every contraction brought me one step closer to holding my baby boy- something that with Tiny’s birth, I couldn’t really focus on because I was just so relieved not to be in pain anymore.
3. The contractions were going to come whether I liked it or not- I could cry and tense up or I could relax and just let them come, either way they were going to happen.
It was these three ideas that allowed me to overcome my fear and let my birth happen. Mr. Wright was there getting the life squeezed out of his hands, Amber was there to calm me down and put cold cloths on my head, Amber the nurse ( also present at Tiny’s birth) was there to assist Ms. Jill and to offer support, and Ms. Jill was there to remind me that I did this once, and I was doing it again! When it came time to push, I knew that the longer I waited the more it was going to hurt. I summoned all my strength and in three pushes (every one of them more painful than the last) my son was born. Ms. Jill handed him into my waiting arms. I was not going to let the pain overshadow this moment, and I held him close- I kissed him on his big chubby cheek and whispered Happy Birthday.
After that moment we all turned our attention to the glaring detail that everyone was thinking about: this was a BIG baby…after about an hour of checking vitals and letting him nurse we were all dying to know just how big…boy were we in for a treat…
It should be mentioned that the irony of Tiny’s name is that she was actually born 9lbs. She was a very large baby. We imagined that her brother would probably weigh in about the same or more. hahahahahha
Mr. Wright followed Ms. Jill back to the scale with my son. I could hear them chatting and then suddenly Ms. Jill shouted..”BRING THE CAMERA!” about 5 minutes later they came back into the room to tell me his weight, well not tell me, they made me guess. They wanted pictures of me guessing.. What did THIS mean?
“ten pounds?” I said. Ms. Jill pointed up. “ten pounds 5 ounces?” Up again….
“11 POUNDS?” Up a third time..
The baby weighed in at 11 pounds and five ounces….That baby came out of MY body completely naturally.
That’s right. Eat your heart out Drs who tell women everyday that their bodies are too small to fit baby’s head through the birth canal. He will get stuck, you will hemorrhage, and bleed out on the table and your baby will DIE!!!! To them I say, “phhhh…”
After he was born, I allowed myself to think of the alternate outcomes that would have ensued had I had him at a hospital:
-Meconium in my fluid would have meant a ticket to the NICU as a precaution
– No Dr. would have ever let me labor with an 11.5 pounder. Guaranteed C-section
– I never would have been allowed to have delayed cord clamping so all that blood that belonged to my son could go into him instead of in the trash.
– They would have washed all the wonderful (cheesey) vernix off of him that protects his skin. Incidentally not even an hour after birth, most of that thick white goodness had actually absorbed into him and never needed washing at all!
All in all I know that although it may have been painful at times, (and in this case not for very long!) having a natural birth was worth it for me. All of the precautionary/invasive procedures that take place in conventional hospitals were just never an issue for me. My body did what it was designed to do, and pretty flawlessly! I arrived at the birth center after 7pm and my son was born at 10:04 and not a single drug was used. It took a lot of strength to make it through that pregnancy, and in the end and by the grace of G-d himself- the labor was a small inconvenience more than a real ordeal.
As I sit here looking at the baby I brought into this world just a week ago, I can’t help but feel a little bit of sadness for the many mothers I know and don’t know, who are so scared of natural childbirth that they choose hospital birth out of fear. If there is anything my experience has taught me it is that birth is NOT something to be feared. It is not a traumatic event and it is not (in most cases) an emergency. It is a natural (there is that word again) part of life and when left to its own devices it will (most of the time) turn out just as it should, without ANY intervention.
I hope that my story can bring hope to those moms who, like I once did, are trembling in fear over the concept of delivering a child through their lady parts- and I invite anyone and everyone to contact me with any questions or comments or just someone to talk to.
In the meantime I will gladly take my place as part of the third group of mamas: those who birth without fear-
I may have had a really rough pregnancy… but labor? That was a piece of cake- I barely felt a thing!