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I sit here thinking, drinking my water and eating my apple slices, and just thinking about how I am going to bring a beautiful baby girl into this world for the third time in just 4 short weeks. I get asked a lot how I feel about the birth. I think it’s a pretty normal question for moms to be. We are dispositioned to be scared, hey all the movies show women screaming and saying it’s the worst thing ever so why the heck wouldn’t we be scared?!?! This time around I’m not, I’m not nervous or anxious or scared. I am ready. I think about how differently I felt 3 years ago before the birth of Lucille Gray. How much I questioned and how much I learned. How that moment when I saw her for the first time forever changed me. Labor is a funny thing. As a culture we are so worried and concerned and just plain terrified of the whole thing. We treat pregnant women as if they are “sick” when this is the most natural thing our bodies will ever do. “Will it be painful?” “can I do this?” “what if something goes wrong?” “i have to plan to the very detail”. I thought all of these thoughts. I did until I learned to listen and trust my body. That is why I am not worried or anxious this time around, I know that things might not be perfect, but I trust my body and I trust that given the opportunity my body and my baby can do amazing things together. I want to share my birth story with you with hopes that it can open your perspective to a different side of birth. One that is not scary, one that is peaceful and beautiful and makes labor just as important as the birth itself. I don’t expect that everyone wants to birth this way and unfortunately not everyone can birth this way (medical reasons or high risk) but for those of you who think it can not be done or do not have the resources believe me when I say you CAN DO THIS. I want to put my story out there so you know that I’m no super hero, I’m not any different than you. I just educated myself and took responsibility for my choices and most importantly what would happen to my own body. I loved my labor. Yes uncomfortable at times but that made the finale that much sweeter. You will hear me talk about Hypnobirthing a lot and I have to be honest I owe everything to myinstructorandthe book by Marie Mongan. I’ve linked the info for both.
Ok, so I’ll just jump right to it then. Here is my story, the beautiful birth of my Lucille Gray:
It was Saturday October 20th, I woke up noticing my energy was pretty low. Up until then I was feeling great; lots of energy, walking everyday, basically doing all of my normal tasks. This day I knew something was different, I was feeling so unusually tired but I just figured it was the fact that I was getting very big and my due date was just 10 days away. Scott and I planned to just take it easy, spend some quality time together, watch movies and veg out all weekend (I would highly suggest this for new moms because these kind of days will be few and far between). It was the perfect plan because I started to feel practice labor (or what I thought at the time). I had not felt any through my entire pregnancy but was still not concerned, just really tired. At this point they felt similar to cramps, not comfortable but by no means painful. On Sunday I woke up, did some yoga, practiced my Hypnobirthing with Scott, and went for a long walk. We decided to have some thai food for dinner. I asked to make it extra spicy, not really thinking that the spicy food myth would work to induce labor. I wanted her to stay in there full term but I thought it would be fun to try, never thinking it would actually work. Pad Thai, oh man it was delicious. I usually have a really low tolerance for spicy food but during the last few weeks I craved it. My heartburn?!? Not so much, but tonight it was worth it.
At about midnight I started to notice my cramps were more consistent. With each passing contraction I realized that this “practice labor” was indeed turning into the slow start of my actual labor. At this point Scott was sleeping and I didn’t wake him just in case this was a practice round and I was wrong. I couldn’t sleep, I was excited, I was anxious, I was nervous. Scott had to work the next morning so why wake him until I knew for sure?! At about 2am my surges (contractions in Hypnobirthing terms) were about 6 minutes apart and were consistently staying that way for the past hour. I woke Scott, he jumped up, didn’t hesitate, filled with excitement. As much as we knew we should go back to sleep the adrenaline did not let us. “What can I do?” he asked. “I have no clue” I answered as my excitement started to build. Things were very calm for the next few hours. We lit candles, listened to music, I took a bubble bath. Perfection. I was working mostly on my breathing. I still had very little discomfort so relaxation was very easy.
At around 7am I had some breakfast (yes I ate during my entire labor) and Scott and I decided to head to the hospital. The intensity did start to pick up a little and so we thought this would be a good time to go. I was working with my birthing ball quite a bit before we left and listening to the rainbow relaxation CD ( another Hypnobirthing miracle worker).
We were admitted to triage at St. Josephs Womans Hospital and I wasn’t checked until about 8:30am. At that point I was 90% effaced and 1 cm dilated. What? Are you kidding me?!?! All that work and nothing?!?! I wasn’t expecting that. I knew I had a long way to go and so I asked them to let me go back home. After them monitoring me for about an hour I was allowed to leave. I bet your wondering why, why go home? Since I knew I had most of my labor to go I wanted to do as much as possible in the comfort of my own home. There are several reasons why I made this decision. First, I wanted as little intervention as possible and so I felt I had a better chance of that when I wasn’t in the hospital. Second, I wanted privacy. There are a lot of distractions in the hospital and those distractions could ultimately interfere with the type of birth I wanted. Labor requires concentration and relaxation, and that allows our bodies to do the thing we were made to do, the amazing miracle of birth. I read that with each additional person in the delivery room you can add on 1 hour to your labor. The premise behind this thought is that each person becomes distracting, they have opinions on how things should be done and ultimately they can take away from your goal which is bringing this baby into the world. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for it if you want 10 people in there to help support you, maybe you find comfort in it and I totally respect that. For me I knew that Scott was my strongest support. He knew my goals, he knew my weaknesses, we practiced for hours, and he was the only person I needed to get me through this. Hey, what if I wanted to walk around naked for two hours?!? I think I would feel better if I was alone at home. So home we went.
By the time we got to the house it was about 10:30am. The intensity of the surges were dramatically different at this point. I was alternating between the bathtub and the birthing ball. Scott was there the whole time with positive affirmations and touch massage (Hypnobirthing taught us so much and was huge in showing Scott just what I needed). The next few hours felt like a blur, moving from tub to ball, working on my breathing and focusing on deep relaxation to help my labor progress. At 3:30pm I told Scott I wanted to go to my OB office to see how I had progressed, I was nervous to go back to hospital in case I wasn’t progressing as fast as I thought. There was such a drastic difference in my discomfort from when I left triage to this point that I knew things were moving quickly but I still wanted to be sure. By the time the nurse saw me I was almost 7cm and 100%, they wanted me to go straight to the hospital. This part was one of the more difficult times so far… waiting in the dr office for the paperwork, getting in and out of the car, waiting in the hospital for them to take me to my room. There was so much movement and distraction that it was very hard for me to really get into my “zone”. The discomfort at this point was pretty intense. Like I said before, everyone was there to help me but it took away from what I really needed to do which was relax and focus. It was so much more uncomfortable and really difficult to juggle it all. (Hence my choice for Edith’s birth – story coming soon).
Once I got in the room and was checked by the Doctor I was 8cm. I had a pretty strict birth preference list. We called it “birth preferences”, really that is what they are “preferences”. My baby and my body were ultimately going to do what they needed to do and so no matter how much I planned I knew that this list was there to just make the nurses aware of my wishes if it was in the best interest for me and the babe. The hospital was fantastic and the nurses/doctor respected my wish to be free to move around without monitoring or IV. They left Scott and I in the room alone, it was so considerate of them to let us do things “our way”.
Thank God for Scott. When I would stray from my hypnobirthing he would bring me back in and help focus me. These last 2 CM were difficult. I remember reading a letter from another laboring mom, the woman said that she never expected it to be “painless”, that she wanted to feel something. I kept repeating that to myself, telling myself I was as strong as all the women who had done this before me. This sacrifice meant something and it would be all worth it in the end. When I was scared my body would tense and I would feel more uncomfortable. When I truly relaxed I was able to let my body do what it was supposed to do, all on it’s own.
There was a while that I was fully dilated with just a “lip” remaining. I remember being so frustrated and Scott reassuring me that this was how our birth was supposed to be. The fatigue really started to set in. I would close my eyes and almost start to fall asleep in between surges. More than physically tired, I was mentally tired. The mental fatigue I felt was playing games with my mind. I kept thinking about our “training” and that my “marathon” was soon to be complete. No woman goes into a marathon without training. The same with birth. It requires preparation, research, practice. With all of those tools I was ready to test my body and experience one of the most challenging things I have ever experienced in my life.
Right as the end was approaching the moment came that we talked about and read in all the books, the moment I was most scared of… the self doubt. I started to cry out of frustration. I was so tired and I thought this would go on forever. I just wanted to rest for 5 minutes and I asked Scott to please help me. At first I asked for tylenol (like that would help) and then I did what I never thought I would do… ask for the epidural. Scott smiled at me… all he said then was “WE ARE SO CLOSE” (at this point I was fully dilated so even if agreed to it, which I don’t think I actually would have, it was too late). I knew what this doubt meant. Just as the books said and as Scott reminded me, this doubt was my bodies final release, the last hoorah before the big finale. It’s statistically shown that it happens to most women. The fear and the doubt rear their ugly heads right at the very end. Knowing this I felt a bolt of energy pulse through me. I could do this! This moment didn’t make me weak, it made me realize how strong I really was.
I was fully dilated but my water was still intact. The doctor offered to help with that, I politely declined. Scott asked the doctor for a few minutes alone. We held each other, arms around each others neck. He asked me to squat with him, after about 5 minutes we felt a huge gush by our feet!! It worked. The doctors came in and the delivery started.
This part was not ideal. I laid on my back on the bed. This is probably the worst position to deliver a baby (and now that I have done it differently I would never do it this way again). I was so much more uncomfortable on my back. I was so fatigued and had very little energy. The nurses wanted me to wear an oxygen mask. I thought it was pointless. Again another contraption to distract me from my main focus, bringing my baby into this world, One of the nurses would yell at me telling me to hold my breath when I pushed. I wanted to get up off the table and slap her. Yelling motivates some but not exactly what I wanted for a peaceful birth. I was pushing but also keeping in mind that my body would bring my baby down when she was ready. They still insisted on pushing. At this point I was so tired I didn’t argue. The doctors felt an episiotomy was necessary (pushing and forcing my baby into the world when she isn’t quite ready or my body isn’t quite ready would obviously make it seem like an episiotomy was necessary). After 45 minutes I finally agreed. The moment she preformed the episiotomy our daughter was born, it was instant. I do believe, knowing what I know now, with a more gentle approach of breathing the baby down this procedure might not have been necessary but these were the circumstances in front of me at the time and I made the best decision with the information presented to me. Scott was able to receive her, place her on my chest and cut the cord after it looked to not be pulsating (about ten minutes). She latched immediately. Have you seen videos of babies crawling to the breast after birth? That was my girl! She was such a good eater! At this point we decided to name her Lucille Gray Blinkhorn. She was born at 7:02pm, 6lbs 7oz and 20 inches of pure perfection! She was so alert for the rest of the night and I was walking around full of energy myself about 1 hour later. I could not believe the “high” I felt. It was one of the most amazing feelings. Scott and I didn’t sleep for the next 3 days. We didn’t want to miss one minute of her life. We survived off endorphins, and left over pad thai ;)
Let me talk a little about these endorphins. One of the most magical parts of this experience were the “drugs” as I like to call them. The hormones my body naturally produced after Lucille was born. Oh gosh, I was on a high like nothing else. Did you know that we produce the hormones during childbirth that help us bond with baby? There have been studies with animals where they actually reject their young when the hormones production is inhibited. For me there was a whole lot of hormones and a whole lot of bonding going on ( kissing and hugging and crying and more crying). I’m not implying that mothers who birth differently don’t bond with their babies, I am just stating this particular study and how it relates to my personal experience. I was on such a high, I literally felt like I could go out and run a marathon after 48 hours of no sleep and a 19 hour labor. It really is beautiful what our bodies are capable of and after feeling these “drugs” I knew I would never birth differently (if I had the choice of course).
New nurses kept coming to our room, it was flattering yet surprising that new nurses were coming in to talk to us about my birth. None of the nurses had seen a completely natural birth with no intervention. Plus one without an epidural where the mom was so calm ( no screaming or cursing. A little crying but hey…). Really? Not one? I really wasn’t special, only doing what millions of women had done before me, doing what my body was made to do. Regardless I still felt so proud! I felt so strong! I felt empowered! I held this beautiful miracle in my arms and she was worth every second of it.
As much as I appreciated the support and praise I also resented it. I was no different than anyone else. I don’t have some over the top pain tolerance (actually I would argue my tolerance is kind of low) I didn’t cure cancer or win a nobel prize. I gave birth. Their compliments were sincere but made it seem like a this “type of birth” was out of reach for most. That this is only for a select few women, when that is the complete opposite. If I could do it anyone could do it. If society educated women to the benefits of natural birth and empowered and supported women in their choices, than a lot more women might make this choice and we would have a lot less interventions and a lot less unwanted c-sections. The way movies depict a woman in labor is so far from the truth. From a young age we are lead to believe that this will be the “worst” and most painful moment in our lives and the only benefit is the baby at the end. It doesn’t have to be this way and if we help women take control of their bodies they will realize that birth can be a wonderful experience, even the difficult parts. Have you seen the movie “The business of being born”? Sometimes I hesitate sharing it with people because it is so strongly one sided but there are a lot of good facts to take from this movie. This movie totally changed my perspective on birth. It is worth it to take a look and form opinions and conclusions for yourself.
Nothing that’s good in life comes easy. We have a choice, we are powerful, we just have to make the choice to educate ourselves and take control.
I had a birth. A very normal, safe and real life birth. I didn’t do this because it was “trendy’, I did this because it was best for me. After a lot of research and hard work, I took control of what was going to happen to my body. I am an adult and I didn’t take this decision lightly. We research what cars to buy or read reviews for hours on the coolest new iPhone debut and all I did was put the same effort into one of the most significant moments of my life. I didn’t make the popular choice or the easy choice but I made an educated one. It isn’t so far fetched, it can be beautiful, it doesn’t have to be horrible, and you have to power to control it all. You have a lot more power than you think.
I credit my beautiful birth to my hypnobirthing training and although I wouldn’t call my labor “painless” it wasn’t as bad as the movies made it seem (my second was even easier). Even if a natural birth is not your ultimate goal (which is 100% ok, it doesn’t have to be) I would still suggest readingHypnobirthing by Marie Mongan. This book provided me with the information to help me let go of the fear and feel confident in what I was capable of. I had the pleasure of working with a fabulous Hypnobirthing instructorAndrea with Hypnobirthing and Fertility. She has classes in the Tampa area and can also do skype sesions for those of you who are not local. Let her know I sent you.
Know your risks and know what possibilities are out there with the decisions in front of you. Don’t leave it for someone else to make. That is all I want for other women, to have the information readily available so we can make these decsisions for ourselves, whatever the decision might be.
I am so in love with my Lucille Gray and now 3 years later I look back on her birth with such fond memories. I don’t expect that everyone chooses to birth like I do but I hope reading this empowers you to know that you do have choices and there are many beautiful and very safe options out there for you. My hope is that every mother feels empowered to make the best decision for their bodies and their baby.
If you have question or concerns feel free to reach out to me, I would love to share more about my story or hear about yours. Again I hope I don’t offend anyone by sharing my beliefs, I know there are so many circumstances out of our control, but for the majority of us we have a voice and a choice.