Tiffany’s first birth: Quick, intense labor; 9 lb baby; beautiful water birth

January 25, 2012

Nothing in my life has ever been typical. I don’t know why I expected Connor’s arrival to be. I had a normal, uneventful pregnancy, and assumed that I would be a “normal” first-time mom and have a baby that either came on the estimated due date or later in the birth month. I assumed my labor would be long, and maybe not easy. I assumed I would have a seven pound baby, if that, because I hardly showed all pregnancy. These are just some of the assumptions my darling son decided to prove wrong. You know what they say about people who assume…
Before I was ever pregnant, I didn’t know that you could have a birth without drugs. And from what I had seen of birth, drugs didn’t really take the pain away. Pregnancy seemed like the most uncomfortable nine months of anyone’s life, being told what to do, when to do it and not having any control over your body from the time you get pregnant until after the baby is born. I wanted children, but I really couldn’t stomach forcing myself into that kind of situation. I was introduced to the idea of natural, un-medicated childbirth by one of my husband’s best friends. His wife had decided to go with a midwife (I hadn’t even heard of one of those) and have her baby at an out-of-hospital birth center. The idea that she was choosing to have a baby without drugs and without a doctor was intriguing to me, and I started to do a little research. After tons of research and hearing her birth story, I knew that this kind of birth would work for me.
I have never been comfortable in hospitals, and the impersonal style of doctors in an office always bothered me. I had no preconceived notions about what my birth would be like, as my mom had c-sections, and I had never been exposed to many birth experiences. I did know that I never understood why birth seemed to hurt so much when it was a natural process. The biggest piece of information that sold me was that Scott (my husband) could be an active participant in the labor process. I love and trust my husband, and he makes me feel safe. I knew I could do anything with him by my side.
When we found out we were pregnant, I immediately called our friend’s midwife, Heather Shelley. I knew that if I wanted to try a natural, un-medicated childbirth, I was going to go all the way, and not even have the options of drugs on the table. I figured if it was absolutely horrible and all those uplifting stories I had read were nothing like what my labor would be like, I could always have another kid and use drugs with that one. I was determined, not only for me, but for my baby to give him the best possible experience I could.
I always had a sneaking suspicion that I would be earlier than my estimated due date, but I assumed I would be “normal” and have a baby who was later or at least on time. I was due Friday, August 19th, and I was okay with that, because then Scott, who had just started a new job, wouldn’t have to take off as much work to stay home with me. A weekend baby would just work out perfectly. I tried to convince Connor to come the Friday before, but he didn’t listen.
Sunday, August 14th came around, and at midnight as we were getting into bed Scott joked that August 15th was a good day to have a baby. As far as I knew I hadn’t had any signs at all that labor was approaching, so I just laughed and said it would be nice but not likely. Monday, I woke up and started work, and it seemed like a typical Monday. At 1:15pm, I felt a different contraction. From about 35-36 weeks, I had Braxton-Hicks contractions that felt like normal contractions. This one was intense but didn’t hurt. It just felt strong. I thought nothing of it; I assumed that was normal because I was getting closer to my “due date”. My body was preparing for labor. I sent a text to my midwife, just to give her a heads up that I would hopefully be delivering this week. She gave me a call about 2:00pm to ask me how I was feeling and recommended I come get checked, just so we could have a better idea of where things were headed. I didn’t want to, I didn’t think I was in labor, but I thought it might be interesting to know if there was any progress. I’m very impatient and like to know everything about everything. Since I was working, I couldn’t go in and get checked until after 6:00pm.
Scott came home at about 5:30, super excited. I was still convinced that I wasn’t in labor, and that they were going to send me home. I dilly-dallied, taking a long, hot shower, put my hair up and slowly started getting things ready “in case” I was in labor. The contractions suddenly sped up, hitting about every 3 minutes as we were loading things in the car. They were short though, only lasting about 10-15 seconds. I had previously thought that I would have plenty of time to practice my hypnobirthing and preparing for this long labor I was going to have later in August. When contractions are that short, by the time you think to breathe, it’s almost over, and you sit there wondering what is going on. I thought for sure that because they were so short, it was just more practice my body was having, and I still had five long days ahead of me.
When we finally got to the birthing center, I became a little apprehensive. If I wasn’t dilated, and they sent me home, was I just going to have to endure a week of these sudden, punch-in-the-stomach contractions? But then I thought, what if I’m dilated to an 8? Then labor was going to be a piece of cake because I’d almost be over the hardest part! I went up the stairs, and the midwife there checked me. She was up there for what seemed like hours, and I could feel my hope sinking. I just knew she was going to tell me that I was either dilated at a 3 or not at all, and I should just go home and get some rest. Then the words came out “Hun, you are at a 6”. ‘WHAT?!’ my brain screamed, and all the thoughts of how unprepared I was flooded into my head, and I almost started to panic. But then a line from the birthing affirmations CD crept quietly in “I will birth easily because my body and my baby know how to work together in harmony”. That line became my mantra. Yes, I wasn’t as prepared as I would have liked to be, but I was definitely in labor, and I was going to do this. There was no turning back.
Scott ran and picked up some food (Go figure I didn’t eat much that day because of course I wasn’t in labor), while I laid on the bed, practicing my surge breathing and praying for a smooth labor, and a healthy baby. When Scott came back, I tried to eat, but really couldn’t eat more than a bite or two. I just wasn’t in the mood for food and the contractions were now about 1 minute to 2 apart. The set up the birthing tub, and started to fill it with water. When it was ready for me, I found I couldn’t walk as easily as I hoped so I just slumped to the floor on all fours while Scott helped me change into a bikini top with a tank over it. I didn’t see the point in putting on bottoms, because I really didn’t want to figure out how to get them off later. My contractions slowed for just a second, and I took that opportunity to walk over to the tub and get in. Once I hit the hot water, they picked up again. The intensity of my contractions shocked me, and it took all my concentration to keep myself relaxed in between contractions. I just kept repeating in my head “My body and my baby can do this. I will birth easily because my body and my baby know how to work together in harmony”.
Every now and then, a fear would creep in and I would feel like I couldn’t do it, it was too intense, and I wasn’t prepared, but I tried to keep myself calm and relaxed. I tried to relax my body, draping it over the side of the tub, not fighting the contractions, just trying to ride them. (I felt kind of like I was on a bucking bronco, my body being thrown forward with each surge) My labor picked up fast, and when I used to have a minute or two in between suddenly I had contractions every 30 seconds or so, so quickly that they had a hard time trying to get the baby’s heart rate. Eventually I got sick of trying to tell them when my in-between times were, that I kind of snapped and said “I’ll let you know if he’s having a problem”. I just wanted to have peace and quiet, and concentrate on my birth.
One of the midwives mentioned, as the contractions continued to get faster and stronger, that I was getting close to transition, and my labor could stall or slow down for a little bit, and maybe I could get some rest then. ‘Ah, transition, that blessed time when most mom’s can rest, maybe take a nap, as the baby gets ready to come out’ I thought to myself, and happily breathed through the next couple contractions. A stalled or resting labor was not in my cards as it would turn out. My contractions continued to pick up, until it there was no break in between peaks at all and it felt like I was having one constant contraction. At this point, I did have a moment of weakness and beg to leave. I wasn’t in pain, but I was exhausted, and all I could think of was that if I went to a doctor’s office (where I didn’t feel comfortable) or if they tried to give me an epidural (I hate needles), my labor would stall and I could rest. That’s all I wanted, a rest, a moment to recoup before I had to deliver my baby. I swear those midwives thought I was crazy, and just kept telling me that I would just end up delivering the baby in the back of the car, I wouldn’t make it to a hospital, and there was no turning back. Scott thankfully knew what I meant, and being the amazing husband and friend that he is, just held me and said “Okay hun, we’ll go, but let’s try and get through this next contraction together”. He repeated that over and over, after every time I begged, and it lulled me into a state of peacefulness. I knew, as long as Scott was there, I could do this and it was going to be ok. I may have been tired, but I could do it.
Eventually, the head midwife suggested that we break my water, because I was so tired. I didn’t care at that point, so I let her, and what followed was absolute bliss. The constant peak of contractions was gone, and suddenly I had breaks! The urge to push was a steady, predictable pattern with seconds of rest in between, and I was in heaven. I finally got my rest. For about 20 minutes, I refused to push, just relaxing against the side of the tub, enjoying my break. Because not only are there predictable patterns with pushing, the urge to push is much less intense than an actual contraction, and I could easily “ignore” it. Finally I got up, in kind of a hands and knees position, holding on to the midwife outside of the tub, and pushing back with my feet against the other side of the tub. In between urges, I gave little short pushes, and as I felt him move down it kind of gave me a strange feeling. I was pretty sure Connor came out two or three times, so when they had me feel the head, and he was still a good inch or so still in there, I almost bawled, thinking he would never come out. At 9:45 that night, Connor was born (I wasn’t very rational, obviously no one stays pregnant forever) and he went right on my chest as I collapsed next to the side of the tub. His cord was really short so I was able to hold them while they delivered my placenta. That’s right, they did it. I was done doing anything. My baby was out, I was holding him, if that placenta was coming out, I wasn’t pushing. I absolutely refused to push, and they slowly pulled it out, being careful to make sure it wasn’t torn or anything. Then Scott took the baby, and was able to cut the cord, and held him while I was cleaned up and helped to lie down on the bed. Throughout the pushing stage, I kept thinking ‘Man, I don’t know how women birth 9lb babies’. Connor was 9 lbs 1 oz at birth. It’s just done.
The first thing I ate after labor was a slice of chocolate cake. I have never tasted anything so delicious, and to this day, chocolate cake is something I love and crave. Scott and I slept on the bed in the birthing suite, and in the morning were able to take our baby home. Remember those stairs I mentioned earlier? Yeah, after having a baby, stairs is the last thing you want to try and walk down…I was pretty convinced it was easier to throw myself down the stairs than attempt to walk down them. But I made it just fine, and happily went home to my own bed.
My birth didn’t go quite as planned, and I wasn’t prepared for a fast, hard labor, but I did it. It was the most intense experience of my life, but it wasn’t painful and I made it through. Hypnobirthing and Rescue Remedy (the midwives had a tin of them) helped me to stay calm and really experience my birth. Sharing this birth experience with Connor and Scott strengthened my love for both of them. I have never loved my husband more, and I don’t think I could ever feel more attached to my son than I do now. It was amazing, and I will definitely do it again. Next time, I’ll just start hypnobirthing earlier than 34 weeks.
There is a lot of talk about women who choose natural un-medicated childbirth as trying to be “superwoman”. I don’t feel like superwoman. I did nothing extraordinary, and I didn’t choose this way because I wanted to rub it in other people’s faces. I don’t feel I’m better than anyone else, that my birthing experience is far superior to others. I did what was best for my family and myself, after lots of research and forethought. I firmly believe that the best way to have the best possible birth experience is to have the mother be where she is comfortable, where she feels safe. No one birth is better than the other, and though there are different methods, everyone should choose what feels right for them, following their own research.

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