Well, naturally, having done this whole birthing thing before, I can’t help but compare the two. So I apologize if jumping back and forth gets annoying. Both my birthing experiences were very similar—yet also very different. With my first child, I had every intention of laboring at home as long as possible because I didn’t want any hospital interventions (IV Pitocin, breaking my water, epidural, etc.), and my feelings hadn’t changed this time around either. In fact, I was even more certain of my choice. I didn’t plan to go pain med-free just so I could have bragging rights—but simply because I knew I could do it and would have a quicker recovery. I believe our bodies are designed to carry and deliver babies and that the medical profession is complicating this with unnecessary interventions. Yes, childbirth is painful. It’s one of the worst pains I’ve ever gone through, but hear me when I say this: It is tolerable, and it is worth it. Do your research, and I have no doubt you’ll release that fear, too.
With Eli’s birth (my first son) I had just had the privilege of witnessing my best friend give birth seven months prior. During her experience, after being admitted with contractions every five minutes, she decided to go home because she was barely dilated and did not want to have her water broken or be given Pitocin in order to “get things going.” I remember thinking I would never have had the guts to get there and leave because I wouldn’t want to inconvenience them. It was an eye-opening experience for me. Her drive was only seven minutes to the hospital, but mine was 30. I couldn’t imagine driving to the hospital with the contractions I was having and choosing to go home because I wasn’t “progressing” as fast as they wanted … and do that drive another two times. So I waited. With Eli, I waited until my water broke at home. That’s when the contractions became super intense, and I knew it was time to go to the hospital. I thought I’d do the same with this one, but this time around, it was very different.
I woke up at 11:30 p.m. thinking I might have felt a little wetness, wondering if my water had broken. Sure enough, I noticed my underwear was slightly damp, but I showed no other signs that it had actually truly broken (such as passing my mucous plug, bleeding or being soaked). Also at this time, I started to feel an achy sensation in both sides of my lower back that would shoot down to my rectum and then wrap up to my lower belly where it felt like menstrual cramping. Pleasant. NOT! So. Much. Pressure.
I was afraid of two things with labor: laboring through the night where I’d lose my beloved sleep and the dreaded “back labor,” and here I was starting it off with the two things I was hoping to avoid. This rattled my confidence a little, but then I chose to focus on getting through each contraction (which was every two to five minutes from the get-go). No training wheels, no ramping up, just “go” time. Thanks, uterus. This was it. No noticeable Braxton Hicks for this girl.
I decided to let my hubby sleep for a bit before I let him in on the big news because I knew I wasn’t ready to head to the hospital yet, and I figured he had a long road ahead of him if I was going to labor for 16 hours like I did with Eli. I texted my mom instead because she’s way more helpful when I’m in pain or sick than my hubby is. Just a few hours later at 1:45 a.m., I realized the pain was getting intense and that it was almost time to leave, so I woke him. We actually didn’t leave until 3:30 a.m., and that was only because the contractions were every two to three minutes and super intense to the point where I thought I had to be close. I was disappointed my water hadn’t broken yet because I really didn’t want them to insist on doing this for me once I was at the hospital.
Once we got there, the nurse checked to see how far dilated I was. It felt like she shoved her whole hand up there, which made me think I wasn’t even close. (I thought his head should have stopped her at some point if I was “close,” but it didn’t seem to.) Sure enough though, she confirmed that I was nearly there because I came in at 9.5 cm dilated, and his head was “right there.” Déjà vu. I had heard those exact words more than three years ago. Looks like I’d be having both my boys at 39 weeks and one day. Consistent, that’s me!
They called my doctor and also decided to call the in-house on-call doctor because they didn’t think mine would get there in time. They had just gotten me to the bed, strapped the fetal monitor on my belly, applied the BP cuff to my arm and helped me lie down on my side when the craziest sensation ripped through my body. My water broke! With Eli it was a slow trickle that made me even wonder if it had broken, but with this one—it reminded me of the “Coneheads” movie where her water breaks and comes out in a torrential downpour and floods the floor! I’m not even kidding. The best way I can describe it is this huge release of backed up pressure like a giant water balloon being shoved through a small hole and finally giving way under the enormous pressure and exploding everywhere.
My doctor had enough time to put on gloves, and this was how I welcomed her to the party. (In hindsight, I find it comical that I put on a pad “just in case” for the car ride to the hospital, and what a joke that would have been if my water broke with such magnitude in the car.)
During my mental prep and research about the best laboring positions and natural childbirth, I had read that even a comatose woman could birth a baby. The body will do the work and technically you don’t even have to push—the contractions are that strong. I had also learned that for some reason, the United States has been slow to respond to the current evidence that “coached” pushing or “blue pushing” (where the mom holds her breath and “bears down” to a count of 10 with each contraction, thereby denying herself and her baby much needed oxygen during a crucial time) was bad for the mom and baby and not recommended. How come with the three labors I had attended, were they all told to do this?
Well, I made up my mind that I was not pushing. With Eli, the nurse treated me like an epidural patient and told me when I was contracting (thanks, I feel that, you know) and instructed me to push while counting to 10. My gut and body said it was wrong. It felt wrong, and I had no desire to push, hence the reason she kept telling me I was “doing it wrong.” There were only a select few contractions that made me want to push, but not all of them did. To me it was a waste of precious energy to push when my body said not to. My research has since indicated that the new evidence says that mom should only push when she feels the urge and not to push with every contraction simply because she’s 10 cm dilated. Never again would I doubt my instincts.
After my “Coneheads” experience, I didn’t have to do anything. No, seriously. My hubby held up my leg, I moaned and groaned, and let that baby come on his own. I “pushed” four times (four contractions did the work for me), and Andrew was out. I was admitted to the hospital at 4 a.m.; baby was in my arms by 4:35 a.m. Only 10 minutes after hitting the delivery room—Halleluiah! Each nurse who took care of me during my short hospital stay kept saying, “So I heard you barely made it to the hospital on time.” Not true. I had no urge to push until I got to the hospital. We had time.
I present to you, Andrew Major Scicluna. Remember what I mentioned about being consistent? Andrew weighed in one ounce smaller than his big bro at 8 pounds, 2 ounces and was an inch smaller at 19.5 inches.
The best part of a natural labor was that I was up and moving around later that morning. I had zero swelling because I didn’t get a ton of IV fluids to combat low blood pressure, no spinal headache from an epidural and no urinary catheter. I was ready to take on the demands of being a mommy of two!
So yes, I mentioned how birth was one of the most painful things I’ve ever gone through, but I chose to go without pain meds twice because it was the best thing for me. I have friends who have had uncomplicated deliveries with an epidural and rave about them, and I say more power to you. I get more discouraged when I hear stories of “I got x-y-z (insert: epidural, Pitocin, Cervidil, induced, etc.) because they recommended it” or, “That’s just what they told me I had to do.” Then my heart breaks when I hear of the adverse effects and emergency C-sections that sometimes follow. To go through the pushing stage and endure contractions, only to end up with a C-section is my worst nightmare.
Well, that’s my story. We’re home and getting adjusted to being parents of two boys, and so far it’s pretty dang awesome.
For more stories about life as a new mama, visit Lindsay’s blog, Handmade by Linds.
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