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Make haste: The birth of Ava Unmedicated

Make haste: The birth of Ava

"I could feel everything because I was not medicated, and I obeyed my body when it told me to push."

It was Saturday, the day before my due date. I had been experiencing nausea for the past week or two. I was ready to have the baby because I was getting pretty uncomfortable. I reviewed all the highlighted sections in my Husband Coached Childbirth book. I had been to the doctor the day before, and she told me I was 70 percent effaced and 1 centimeter dilated.

That afternoon, my husband and I were installing the car seat (last minute, but the car had been in the shop). I wasn’t expecting to have a baby that day because I hadn’t had any contractions that I was aware of. As I pulled the strap tight to secure the car seat, my water broke. It was around 5 p.m. There was quite a gush. I started feeling contractions, but they were irregular and 10 to 15 minutes apart at first.

I took a shower and put on a pad. I gently bounced and rolled my hips on my yoga ball for about 30 minutes to help the baby move down. Then my dad convinced me to go ahead and call the hospital.

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They told me to come on in because my water had broken. I was a little disappointed because I thought I was supposed to be waiting on closer contractions, and I was afraid that I would labor in the hospital for the next 10 to 20 hours. I had been told by several people that first time labors were long like that.

My husband and I got our bags and headed for the hospital. On the way there, my contractions got closer and more regular. By the time we arrived they were five to six minutes apart, and I was ready to get settled in and focus on what my body was doing.

I changed into the hospital gown and laid on my side in the bed, flipping sides occasionally. They checked my dilation, and I was only at 2.5 cm. The nurse asked me if I wanted an epidural, and I said no. At some point she came back intending to give me Pitocin. I said I didn’t want it. She said I was at risk for infection because my water had already broken and they wanted to make sure I delivered soon, but I said, “Let’s wait and see.” I felt as though I was moving along quickly. My mom gave me a reassuring nod to let me know I was doing the right thing.

I was talkative and happy in between contractions for the next hour or so. (I wasn’t really watching the clock.) Then I felt a shift. My contractions were more painful, and I no longer wanted to chat.

My body temperature rose significantly, and my mom and husband were fanning me with a pain chart and my baby’s memory book. I threw up a couple of times, but I had expected that because that’s what happens when I have bad period cramps. I started to repeat the verse I had memorized for the occasion in my head. (2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”) And I kept sipping the water my husband offered me.

Nurses kept coming in to take blood work. They told me my platelet count was low. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but they told me I would not be able to have an epidural even had I wanted one and that if I needed a C-section, they would have to put me to sleep rather than giving me a spinal.

They also put me on oxygen, which I found out later was for the baby, but it helped me too. This was worrisome to my family members, but I was too focused on having a baby to really be concerned. About four hours after arriving at the hospital, I started feeling the urge to push. (It felt like I needed to poop.) A nurse who was taking my blood saw the look on my face and asked if I felt like I needed to push. I said yes, and they checked for dilation. To their surprise, I was fully dilated. It was clear they weren’t expecting this from the monitor they had been watching from the desk. They called the on-call doctor. The doctor I had carefully chosen was out of town, but I trusted that it was going to be OK. The doctor came in and brought a wave of calm into the room.

She helped me sit up in the bed and encouraged me to form a C-shape around my baby when I needed to push. I could feel everything because I was not medicated, and I obeyed my body when it told me to push. My mom held one leg, and my husband held the other. They both encouraged me and told me I was doing a good job. It wasn’t long before the doctor told me she could see the baby’s head and I needed just a couple more good pushes. I beared down with the next contraction and felt the baby crown. One more contraction, one more push, and she was here. At 10:45 p.m. the baby I had waited on for 40 weeks was here. I was relieved, shocked and proud. My husband cut the cord, and they placed my daughter on my chest where she rested for 45 minutes.

They gave some Pitocin at that point because they were concerned about bleeding since my platelets were low. My placenta came shortly after, and the doctor gave me one little stitch. Approximately six hours of labor and no medicine involved (until after the fact) and my first baby was in my arms. She weighed 6 pounds, 12 ounces and measured 21 inches long.

So let me quickly tell you a little about what helped me …

  • Research. I read natural birth stories, looked up information about Pitocin and epidurals, asked questions, watched YouTube videos of and about birth, and read Husband Coached Childbirth by Robert Bradly (of the Bradly method).
  • Prenatal exercises. Sitting on my yoga ball helped relieve back pain and may have helped open everything and move the baby into a good position. I also did squats for strengthening. Labor isn’t for the weak, so do what you can to stay healthy. (You know, when you’re not sick and when your feet aren’t too swollen to wear tennis shoes.)
  • Talk to your supporters. Whoever will be there for you when you deliver needs to be in the loop about what you want and your reasoning. In my case this was my husband, my mom and my doctor. They were supportive of my decision to deliver naturally and gave me advice and support. On a similar note, I would suggest not talking too much about it with other people unless you want a lot of unsolicited opinions.
  • Anticipate the feelings. I think the most helpful thing for me was to understand what my body was doing and why. Because of my research, I knew about the stages of labor. I imagined ahead of time the most pain I had been in. In my case, I have had a few periods with cramps so bad that I threw up, got hot all over, followed by chills, and had to lay down and curl up. The first time it happened I thought I might die, but obviously I didn’t. When I had a bad contraction, I just remembered that I had been through this pain before and turned out fine. This time the pain was bringing me a baby which was much more rewarding. I had read that the urge to push felt similar to needing to poop. This was also a good indicator for me. As someone who has experienced her fair share of constipation, the practice pushing came in handy (sorry for the TMI, but it’s real life).
  • Prepare to go with the flow. Yes, have an idea of what you want. Yes, stick to your principles. However, be aware that things may not go exactly as you imagined. I had envisioned that I would push squatting or on all fours, but when it came time I didn’t have the strength. I had no food in my stomach (remember I threw up), I had been sweating, and I was attached to oxygen. I did fine and had minimal tearing in the C-sitting position with support from my mom and husband. I also didn’t labor at home as long as I expected, but that was OK because it meant she was coming quickly.
  • Believe in yourself and your baby. Find a mantra, remind yourself that women have been giving birth forever, and you can this. Your child is on his or her way, hold onto that thought.

Send us your birth story! Whether you had a home birth, hospital birth, 37-hour labor or emergency C-section, we’d love to read the tale of your little one’s grand entrance. Write up your birth story (click here for tips on getting started) and email it, along with a few photos, to birthstory@pnmag.com. We’ll share it on our Birth Day blog and may even print it in an upcoming issue!