Childbirth can feel like it’s going to be a train coming through your body. If you’re a parent-to-be, you already know you’re getting ready for what some consider one of life’s big journeys — as in childbirth first, motherhood second. That’s the order you think in if you’re like me and didn’t grow up around a lot of kids. The real journey is being a parent, but you don’t realize it. At least I didn’t, at first.
People are brimming with advice, including how your life is going to change forever. Yeah, yeah, you think. How about that birth process? “Why don’t you let Mother Nature take her course?” was the best advice/hidden comment to just let go and have trust that I got. I took it to heart after making a list and a wish: I wanted to deliver entirely free of any drugs at all. I had my list and then I left the rest up to the universe.
Our culture and media are cluttered with stories that encourage ideas such as screaming, tortured sounding women in horrible pain. In Lamaze class, there was one gal who was so terrified of the pain. I felt bad for her and wished I could help her change her framing. To boot, it wasn’t accurate. It didn’t account for Mother Nature’s power to do good.
Childbirth isn’t like having your arm cut off suddenly — it’s something your body expects. Mother Nature does do better living (and childbirth!) through chemistry. It’s real.
Whatever your beliefs, however long it took for you to get pregnant, however long it felt like maybe Murphy (of Murphy’s Law) was inevitably meddling in your life or process, pregnancy is a gift. Sometimes, it’s not the right time for the gift. But when you’re ready, there is nothing more shocking than the first time you answer back instinctually because some young toddler has called you Mom.
Circumstance is powerful for sure, but you can make your own birth process. This is probably the most important reason I want to share my story: I made a bargain. I was specific and I got most of my requests! My biggest request was for a 15 hour labor (door to door). And in the moans of the night managing back labor pains of hell with our amazing tub (warm water was the only way to ease the pain), I got my wish. Door to door. From first throw up to welcome little… Chloe.
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I figured for a first child 15 hours wasn’t unreasonable (I was blessed with good health and a by-the-book pregnancy) so that was my offer in hopes that Mother Nature would be reasonable (yet realistic) with me.
Stop trying to know when
My daughter was 11 days late. After the third day late or so I began to fight the process. If you’re not coming, then I’m stopping work on your room and I refuse to pack a bag for the hospital, I thought to myself. But I will leave this cute little crab nightlight on for you in case you do decide to show up in the night. I’m waiting, Kidlet! Hear me?
In my impatience, I kept swimming for exercise. Those last swims were the coup de gras, in fact. She was all positioned perfectly until she turned during one of my last swims (all of this in hindsight, of course!). It would be a back labored journey for me!
I come from a long line of Scottish, Welsh and Irish stock. Inability to ask for help and the resolve to weather whatever life brings you, often alone and stoically, is something I learned from my great relatives as they aged and passed on. Eventually, the aging process wears you down and you have to ask for help.
We had a doula and a midwife. We called the midwife twice that night but didn’t call the doula. I didn’t want to bother her. I figured any progress I was making was just the start and that I’d need her for later when we got to the hospital.
This one is really short. Do it. Google it. Talk to your doctor about it. If they think it’s bunk, go find a midwife or doula who gets it. My daughter wasn’t a giant baby but I had one miniscule little tiny tear to show for an 8lb. 7oz. baby. Save yourself and get a partner who will assist you with this. You’ll be thankful for years to come.
11 days late
When you’ve labored all night, you don’t really know what your progress is until a professional steps in. But as Nigel Tufnel famously said in the movie This Is Spinal Tap, this one goes to 11. Once we got the hospital, I wasn’t just 10cm dilated, I was 11. 11? It was more than ideal for time to start pushing. So there you have it, dreams do come true if you’re willing to welcome the freight train with an open heart (and cervix).
The envelope, please
Our culture is obsessed with preparation, material things, and planning. I was 90% sure I would have a son. Many told me I carried “as if I had a boy.” Closer friends were more divided but, I was so cocky and sure, my husband and I agreed to get an envelope with the news in it. If we decided we needed to know for sure, we would open it.
That envelope went unopened for over 10 months. We aren’t great dieters, but we did do that. People can’t believe it when we tell them this part of our story. How could we not open it?!!!? I still left a tiny bit of wiggle room with gender neutral clothes (I hate overly girly anyway) and I painted the baby’s room green and yellow (like my childhood bedroom was!).
As time wore on, I was more and more convinced of a little boy. Girls’ names were SUPER easy to come by, boys… not so much. And of course, all the options had to be numerologically calculated out and approved by me. It was work, but I had chosen Joel Daniel — something with just a hint from my father’s middle name.
My husband, convinced of a girl also had a name picked out that I’d approved. You’re not going to need it but, whatever Honey! In May of 2009, we welcomed our little Chloë.
Comments on Petitioning fate while you’re expecting: 9 lessons for those planning unmedicated deliveries
I love this! I did want to point out though that current evidence points to perineum massage potentially contributing to more, not less, tearing due to a risk of inflammation of the tissue. Mother choosing her own pushing position, avoiding lithotomy position for pushing, and avoiding coached pushing are better contributors to an intact perineum. There’s some research you can read in the National Institute of Health’s database, and I believe the Cochrane Review has an overview as well.
It depends on if you’re talking about perineal massage throughout pregnancy vs during delivery. Throughout pregnancy can reduce tearing but during pushing can increase swelling and the risk of tearing.
I checked the Cochrane reviews and found this:
“Antenatal digital perineal massage reduces the likelihood of perineal trauma (mainly episiotomies) and the reporting of ongoing perineal pain, and is generally well accepted by women. As such, women should be made aware of the likely benefit of perineal massage and provided with information on how to massage.
– See more at: http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD005123/antenatal-perineal-massage-for-reducing-perineal-trauma#sthash.dMKhJI9Y.dpuf“
I was also 11 days late with my son!
He was finally born on July 31st (1 day before the start of his scheduled induction) and I had an unmedicated birth 🙂
I hear you on the “if you’re not coming then I’m not going to finish your room etc”
At 7 days late I declared that for just 1 day I was not pregnant, just fat and no-one was allowed to ask me anything about pregnancy!
I loved this post. I had an unmedicated homebirth at the end of May and this is all valid. I loved my birth experience.
PS: You made my day using my pic, too! 😀
I know that having unmedicated VBACs was the best choice for me after delivering my first via c-section. I love how short my recovery time was, and how alert my babies were after birth, and how satisfying my exhaustion was, like after running an awesome race, compared to how crappy I felt from all the drugs given to me during my c-section.
As a sidenote: I also did not know what I was having, and boy, did that piss people off. 😀 It was fun to keep people guessing.
Coming in late and thank you for all the dialogue about the piece. I am glad you enjoyed! As I was reading the first comments about perineal massage I was wondering if we’d hit on a divide we each take personally: how we as individuals deal with Western medicine or Eastern/holistic in our healthcare choices. My husband is a Western guy, which is why we labored at home but went to the hospital (to discover I was at 11). I guess I’d add that these kinds of differences in how birth should be can be compromised on as well. I had a textbook pregnancy and plenty of fluids/good signs even though she was so late so I had room for this choice. I won’t lie, I was thinking about that needle certain moments.
I’ll also add that the day after this article came out, my Facebook feed had an infographic (not sure if the source was a good one) that likened childbirth pain the the equivalent of getting multiple fractures at one time. As a reminder, this piece is my opinion and I’m not a doctor. But encourage your friends that they can do it! 🙂
Thanks for your support and appreciation- really nice to have!
What is true is that being afraid of the pain will make it worse so it’s good to try to psychologically prepare to deal with it as positively as possible. However, pain is pretty subjective so it always bothers me when the natural birthers say it’s not so painful, you can’t really know what the birthing experience will be like for any particular person. I read many, many birth stories and there was a wide range of experiences even for those doing natural births, just do a search on this site.
Yeah, the dealbreaker for me wasnt the pain, it was the exhaustion. Id been up for 24 hours by the time I got to the hospital and each contraction left me weak and exhausted and terrified of the next one because I just didnt have the energy to face it. The epidural let me relax and actually be present in the moment and bond with my husband and partner and generally appreciate and enjoy the experience.
To each their own!
Totally. Pain is different for everyone and labors are all different. Mine was like suddenly having my arm cut off. My first contraction took me to my knees and they were 1 min apart right away. Baby came quick. Pain meds are not a sign of weakness, but instead acknowledging when you need help. That takes strength.