I hadn’t dreamed of having a natural birth. My mother’s experience with my big brother and I involved constant painful contractions with no breaks. She taught me early that I would need an epidural and, as a redhead, I should be concerned about hemorrhaging. I listened and knew that would be the plan … until I became pregnant.
Suddenly, my world and mindset shifted. I was growing a baby inside of me and felt this overwhelming desire to do everything in my power to give it the healthiest start I could. I had never even heard of a doula before and wouldn’t have considered a midwife, but now I was open and hungry for knowledge.
I dove into books, blogs and online forums. I wanted to know everything my body was going to go through, how I could give my child his or her best start and what birth would be like for both of us.
I was blessed to stumble upon a prenatal yoga class. My teacher, Patricia Grube, is passionate about educating moms about their births. That way, they would know what to expect and how to respond in any situation.
A mental training technique, called “Hypnobirthing,” was introduced to me by some of the moms. I wasn’t hypnotized, but Brandon and I worked with Ellie Shea (no relation), who taught us several breathing and relaxation routines that could assist me in labor.
Because music and scriptures are so influential and important to me, I decided to make my own CD to listen to at night. I created a track of classical songs and my voice reading verses and affirmations, allowing time for reflection in between. Falling asleep to this every night really committed these to my memory. Listening to the music helped me fully relax my body. I hoped the same would happen by instinct during labor. Kundalini yoga was also helpful in my mental preparation for birth. We learned the idea was to focus our minds, so fatigue and pain weren’t in control.
As you might have expected, my mother was not supportive of my choice for natural birth. I had to deny her access to the labor room and restrict it to just Brandon, myself and my doula to prepare for a positive atmosphere.
Brandon had already taken his month of paternity leave and would also have to go back to work two weeks after the due date. I was stressed. I was big, uncomfortable, hot and ready to get the baby out.
I chose to deliver with the Midwives of UCLA because they offered the personal experience of Midwives in one of the best hospitals in the country. I switched to the midwives from my original OBGYN when I learned my doctor wouldn’t deliver my baby after business hours or on weekends.
I was already four centimeters dilated and 80 percent effaced. We’d had weeks of strong Braxton-Hicks contractions, a false start, an episode of trapped fluid that we thought was broken waters and decided all McKayla needed was a little push. We chose to induce four days before the two week post-due date deadline the midwives allowed us, so off we went!
The midwives started with an inserted gel that would help efface me to 100 percent and possibly start my labor in the process. I had contractions, but they were minor and irregular. Then, they presented me with the option of Pitocin. I hadn’t wanted Pitocin, and I cried about it. I decided to go with the Pitocin but hold out on the epidural. Twelve hours later, I only progressed to five centimeters!
Thankfully, because I didn’t receive an epidural and wasn’t tied to a saline bag (I had a hep-lock), they were able to remove the Pitocin, and the contractions slowed back down to a normal, but unproductive, pace. We had a light breakfast while the midwives proposed breaking the waters. I didn’t want to go back to Pitocin, and I knew I couldn’t exactly go home. So, I agreed.
As soon as the water broke, labor kicked in to an active level. The midwives monitored the baby and me frequently to make sure we were both healthy and handling the stress. One of my previous fears was vomiting during labor, but at this point it felt natural. I listened to my body and moved any way it needed to move or curl up to find comfort.
Brandon was a rock star and was so gentle with me. Everything we practiced and prepared for worked. The recording immediately put me in a relaxed state after reaching a place where I started shivering and tensing my body (which is counterproductive and causes more pain).
When I was able to let go and allow my body to respond naturally to the contractions, an amazing thing happened. The pain localized to only where my baby was positioned and most of the time it was only a strong pressure. It was so awesome to know where she was and watch my body respond.
There was a point between 6 and 8 centimeters where I almost asked for an epidural, and Brandon completely supported me in my decision. When they came in to check, I had reached eight centimeters. I knew at that point that I could keep going and that it wouldn’t be long—and it wasn’t. The transition only took about an hour and a half, which went fast compared to the nearly 45 I’d already endured!
My nurse helped me understand what to expect as I neared transition. I started bearing down uncontrollably. I had to hold onto Brandon for support and would cry out with each contraction. I knew people could hear me down the hall, but I couldn’t help it.
My mom heard me from the waiting room and found her way into my delivery room without me noticing. By this point, I didn’t mind, so I was glad to have her there. It was funny that she snuck in, but I am happy she got to witness the birth of her first granddaughter.
At 10 centimeters, Patricia saw that I was getting tired and encouraged me to sing. It gave me the distraction and boost I needed to get through pushing for two and a half hours.
Finally, I could feel her head, and my excitement produced the adrenaline I needed to push her out all the way. There was a large team in the room to suction her because they had found meconium (baby poop) in the water and needed to clear her airway. They were quick, and we heard her cry within the minute. They cleaned her, wrapped her and put her into my arms where I called her name and sang to her. She latched quickly and breastfeeding was successful for us from that point on.
I tore to the second degree. While they were stitching (one of the more painful parts of my birth, next to pushing), I had a minor hemorrhage. They quickly administered a Pitocin drip, and it was contained. I didn’t feel light headed at all, so I wasn’t affected by it.
Overall, it was a life changing experience for Brandon and me. It brought us closer and showed us what I am capable of. I know everyone’s labor is different and some circumstances prevent women from having the natural births they dream of. I’m blessed that I did.
Read more about Elizabeth’s adventures on her blog Our Story Our Song.
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