Every birth is different, but here’s my story.
During my pregnancy, I tried to gather as much information on how painful labor might actually be. I would often hear “mine was horrible, but everyone’s pregnancy is different” or “it was the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life!”
I heard many horror stories which often ended with, “well, don’t worry. You’ll forget about the pain as soon as your child is born.” Not the most reassuring for a first-time mother, but something I definitely kept in mind the entire time.
I had feared the unknown, but on the other hand, I knew there was no turning back and that my baby was coming one way or another!
Two weeks before my due date, I noticed some blood. My water didn’t break and I saw no mucous plug, but it seemed that something was happening earlier than expected. Soon after, at 1 a.m. I woke up from a notably different type of cramping. It began to occur every 5 minutes. It wasn’t that painful (yet), but uncomfortable. I felt as if I had to go diarrhea every five minutes. If this is labor, I could handle it for sure I thought, but I knew this was only the beginning.
My husband nervously drove us to the hospital as if the baby would pop out any second. I had to remind him to not worry. Things usually didn’t happen that fast for first-time moms (or at least I hoped it wouldn’t). I had to go by instinct although in the back of my mind, I wasn’t sure what would happen next.
We finally got to the birthing center after an hour of driving and the nurses confirmed I wasn’t even dilated. I couldn’t believe it. We were turned away and had to find a hotel because returning home wasn’t an option. It would take two hours just to return again!
The diarrhea-like cramps were painful and uncomfortable; I couldn’t sleep. I was bleeding slightly and started to actually have these cramps and stomach aches over a 10 hour period. I started googling my symptoms (never a good thing!) and discovered there are people who have this uncomfortable feeling for days and weeks! “Fake labor” would not be in my cards, I had hoped.
Fortunately, I had an appointment with a midwife in the afternoon and was checked again for any cervical changes. I had finally dilated 3 cm and was 90% effaced. What a relief I thought! I welcomed the pain because I wanted things to progress. I couldn’t imagine having diarrhea cramps for weeks. However, 3 cm isn’t enough to be admitted, we were told, so back to the hotel we went.
“When your cramps become more regular, every 3 minutes a part, and you become more snippy, check in again” the midwife suggested. In the mean time, I tried to walk around, pausing multiple times to catch my breath.
A couple hours later, I was FINALLY admitted. My husband kept asking me questions non-stop about what I wanted, needed, and more. All I could say was “if I need something, I’ll let you know. Thanks.” I literally couldn’t talk. I felt like vomiting and had heart burn for the first time in my life.
As my labor progressed, I felt the urge to push before I was even 10 cm dilated. I would have a cramp, then a couple of minutes later, one that made me yell out in pain as it forced my body to push. A gush of blood would come out as this happened and I felt extremely uncomfortable because the pain was in my back and butt! It would take my breath away. However, the pain was still tolerable, believe it or not.
I had a volunteer doula come in that night who helped me breathe, rubbed my back, and encouraged me. She helped me be aware of my voice and how I could use it to save energy and get through the pain. Unfortunately, she couldn’t stay the whole night, but the time she spent with me truly made a difference. Even though labor was hard work and painful, the right breathing technique and support helped ease the pain. This is probably the number one thing that helped me get through labor!
As I started heading towards my second night of labor, I wondered how much longer I could go on … I questioned if it was even worth it to continue without an epidural? I went into labor without a plan. I wanted to go with the flow and make decisions as they came. I didn’t want to be tied to a bed or deliver on my back or disappointed if my perfect labor didn’t come true, so I left any expectations open. But after my second sleepless night, I started to inquire about pain medications (although deep down inside I knew I could handle more because the pain was still manageable). I was exhausted and sleep would have been nice especially if I didn’t have to feel any pain with an epidural.
There were no walking epidurals available though and I didn’t want to take narcotics (which could make me dizzy), so I continued along, breathing away. A bath was an option too and this I requested and wanted. I was so uncomfortable as things progressed. I couldn’t get in the shower to relax my muscles, but somehow a bath sounded soothing and worth the effort. As soon as the bath was ready, however, I suddenly felt a pop down below as if major pressure had been released from my insides. Immediately, there was a shift. The back and butt pressure/pain I felt was no longer there. It was time to push! I knew as soon as I felt it.
As the baby descended, I felt the burning sensation of the babies head crowning – a temporary stretching sting. The cramps were still there and I had no control over my own pushing. I let my body do its own work and took the breaks my body provided in between each wave of labor. I was standing up giving birth because I couldn’t get onto the bed as I would have liked and was given a stool to put my right foot onto in order to widen my pelvis. Gravity certainly assisted me. However, I never expected to be standing for 50 minutes! My legs were becoming tired and shaky, but I couldn’t move. My energy was sapped and I regretted not exercising more. Standing up was the most comfortable thing to do though and I listened to my body’s cues.
I started to go along with my body’s signals to push, but after a while I felt as if the baby would never come out because things weren’t progressing fast enough. After his head came out, I thought it was all over until I heard my husband say “push, his body is stuck!” I ended up pushing as hard as I could and a gush of fluids came spewing onto the floor. It was the best sense of relief.
The midwives held my baby from under me and told me to grab him. He was screaming, kicking, and punching his way into this life. He was so slippery, I was terrified to grab him. I had never held a baby before. He would be my first. I held my son and put him on my chest. I couldn’t stop looking at him in awe. He was so beautiful to me and I felt overwhelmed with love and joy.
When the umbilical cord finally stopped pulsating, which happened surprisingly quick, my husband carefully snipped it. At this point, I’m glad my husband didn’t pass out. I always joked that he would get queasy and faint, but my husband did amazing!
While holding my son, I had to deliver my placenta which did not hurt at all. In fact, I couldn’t even feel much down below because of the adrenaline pumping throughout my veins.
Looking into my son’s eyes and holding him for the first time was the most incredible thing in the world. The pain that I felt earlier in labor vanished and I felt ecstatic to have made it through. It’s true what they say … After your baby is born, you forget the pain of labor and birth.
At least most of it.