Warning: this is long and detailed. As much as this story is for everyone to experience with us, I really wanted to write everything down for me too. You only give birth for the 1st time once and I really want to be able to look back and remember everything that made the day so special... the good, the painful, and the gross. There, you have been warned.
I guess to give you guys the full story, I have to go back a little over a week before Brooks was born.
At 36 weeks, I went in for a routine check up and everything checked out great... minus my blood pressure. I was feeling great, no swelling, no anything, and my blood pressure had always been towards the high end during my pregnancy so I wasn't worried, but the midwives wanted to take a closer look. They scheduled a sonogram for me which reported that my little man was growing a little small (5lbs 5oz). They then wanted me to do another, more intense sonogram which they could check my fluid levels, his actual size, etc, but it was going to run about $1300 out of pocket (ouch!). Not that the cost was a factor, but still feeling good in my pregnancy, I asked to delay the sono another week and I would keep my activity to a minimum to see how he would grow in a week.
The next week at our regular sonogram appointment, BAM, dude was up to 6lbs 6oz and looking great. "Psh, I knew it". My entire pregnancy I had thought that my due date was off (later than the original Sept 16th date) so Chris and I left the birthing center in GREAT moods. By the time we got down half way home, we got a call from the birthing center asking us to come back: they forgot to check my blood pressure. Instantly, I was annoyed. I knew it wasnt going to be great, and since I was feeling fine, I didnt want them telling me my BP was high again. Low and behold, thats exactly what happened. 124 over 96. All I could do was sit there, roll my eyes, shake my head, and be angry at my body. They did some blood work put me on bed rest until the next day when I was to come in again to get my BP checked and see the results of my blood work.
Friday Aug 30th - We came back in to the Birthing Center and I prayed, prayed, prayed that my BP would be down... spoiler alert: it wasn't. 132 over 100. I didnt understand why it was so high since I had such a healthy pregnancy, went on long walks every day, and felt great! I loved being pregnant so why wasn't my body reciprocating? My blood work also came back a little high in what they were testing to make sure I didn't get preeclampsia, so they decided I should probably have the baby sooner rather than later. To get things started naturally, without any drugs (the way I wanted from the beginning), they inserted a double balloon catheter, and filled them with water to help ripen my cervix. I was instructed to leave it in for 12 hours and was sent home to deal with some possible "minor" cramping. I was to come back the next day at 9a to be naturally induced and hopefully go into labor.
Chris and I didn't say much on the way back home. I believe both our brains were fried with the amount of information coming at us. "We're having the baby this weekend? Should we be more worried about the blood pressure? Does the kid even have a place to sleep when we bring him home?"... I made up a laundry list for Chris of last minute things we would need; a list that I honestly thought I would have time to go get myself since I wasnt due for another 16 days (even then, I thought I was going to be later) and sent him off to Target. I stayed in bed, dealing with some "slight" cramping, watching shows on my laptop... before things. got. serious.
I have always had bad cramps growing up, but this pain was something else. No rolling, high/low contractions; just a constant "oh-my-God-I'm-dying-on-the-inside" pain. I couldn't stand, I couldn't think, I couldn't see straight. The only place I felt comfortable was sitting on the toilet (not doing anything, just sitting there) or laying on the cool floor of the bathroom (beyond gross, I know, but at the time I didn't care). After Chris had been gone for 3 hours (THREE HOURS!!) I finally called and told him to come home. I didn't know what him being home would do for me, but all I knew was that I wanted him there. By the time he got home, I was in so much pain I was sitting on the toilet, throwing up in the bathtub. I'm sure I looked stunning. Chris helped me get into bed where I quickly "fell asleep". (I say "fell asleep" the same way people "fall asleep" after being hit in the head with a 2x4). However, when I woke up a couple hours later, I was right as rain! No more pain, no anything. I was back to feeling great! I remember even laughing with Chris about how he took so long at Target because I sent him in to get nursing bras and waterproof mascara (...I had visions of being primed and makeup-ed while in labor... my goals were WAY too high/unrealistic. HA!)
We headed to bed around midnight and I slept like a rock.... Until about 6:30am.
August 31st - I wake up with what feels like cramping but then goes away after a couple seconds and I fall right back to sleep. Around 6:30a, I start timing theses "awkward cramps" with an app on my phone (app's name: "Full Term" I highly recommend it). Constantly coming around every 10 minutes, I try to let Chris sleep as much as possible, and even tried going back to sleep myself in between contractions, but finally was "awake" at 7:15a and decided Chris needed to be up too.
I moved into the sunroom where Chris laid some towels down for me on the daybed (in case my water broke) and the contractions were getting stronger. Laying down between contractions still felt really good, but with every wave, I made sure Chris was near so I could squeeze his hand (which actually really helped). We had taken 8 weeks of Bradley Method birthing classes, but with Chris running around trying to get the dogs fed, house ready, bags packed, and hold my hand during contractions, we honestly didn't have a lot of time to practice everything we learned.
Around 8am, I stumble into the bathroom and got sick again. Feeling a little bit better, I start thinking about the last time I ate... which was over 20 hours ago. With nothing in my stomach and only keeping down water, I ask Chris to run to Einsteins to get me a bagel (thinking something heavy would help and some strength to work on). I have two bites, before I feel disgusted. We called the birth center a little after 9:30a to let them know the contractions were 5-6 minutes apart and labor had started itself (no induction!!! YIPPIE!!). They instructed us to come in and they would take a look. By the time we got everything packed, ready, and in the car, it was 10:15a . Chris and I did one final look around the house and realized it would be the last time we would ever be a family of 2. A very surreal moment.
As we drove along in the car, I was in a really good mood, even Instagram-ing pictures inbetween contractions ("LittleHouseintheBigD" if you want to follow). We got to the birthing center in about 10 minutes and loving our decision with how close it was to the house. I made us wait in the car until I had another contraction then the moment it was over, raced in, up the stairs, and onto the exam table, leaving Chris in my dust (I was NOT going to have a contraction on the stairs!).
Upon further review, I was 6cm dilated. Best. News. Ever.
We went back downstairs to the birthing suite where I climb into bed and continued having contractions until getting sick again around 11am. I was really starting to get tired and the contractions where taking a lot of energy to get through. It was then that the birthing assistant asked if I would like to get in the tub. I'm telling you people right now, the BEST decision of my labor was getting in that warm tub. It was AMAZING! If my pain level was at a 8-9, it took me down to a 6-7 and was so incredibly calming. I loved every second I was in there. I never wanted to get out.
After about a half hour, the midwife came in and checked me again. "Hmm... still at 6cm". I replied calmly with "oh... really?"... but in my head I was screaming "WHAT?! No way!! I'm in pain, I can feel the contractions working! Whatever the hell you are using to measure is off!"
And then my water broke.
I was already in the tub and the midwife was right there, so timing couldnt have been any better. I remember apologizing (I don't know why) but they told me not to worry and that I should probably get out of the tub and try walking around. In my head, all I could think of was "No! NO! NO! NO! NO! I want to stay in the warm water! I'm happy here! I love this... please don't take me out!" But they had already begun draining the tub and Chris was wrapping me in a towel before I could say anything else.
Once my water broke, its like my body flipped a switch. Yes, contractions where painful, but manageable... like an 8-9 out of 10 (on a 1-10 pain scale). But when my water broke, I went to a 15. Maybe more like 482...
In birthing classes, they had shown us some natural childbirth videos of these strong, silent women pushing through the pain and pretty much being all out rock-stars giving birth. I TOTALLY thought I would be one of those women, especially since I felt like I had so much to prove (my in-laws and even my own grandmother weren't too supportive at first when I told them I had decided on a natural childbirth. On a very sweet phone call with my Grandma, she had even suggested that I would "break an hour in and be begging for drugs".) This just gave me all the more motivation to do it naturally because I knew down deep in my gut that I could do it. But let me tell you, strong and silent was not the way I was going down. I turned into... a screamer. (duh, duh, DUUUUHHH!!) And not even little screams. Like loud, oh-dear-God-someone-is-being-murdered screams. I could have sworn that no one, in the history of the universe, had ever been in as much pain as I was feeling. My throat even hurt for days after giving birth from all my screaming and grunting. Super charming.
Even though they had suggested I walk around, I had no food in my system and was exhausted after every contraction. They tried feeding me apple juice to get my blood sugar up, but the sugary syrup only hurt my stomach. The contractions were every 2-3 minutes apart now and I was begging to "take a nap" when I wasn't in the middle of one. Sadly, they said no to the naps ("EVIL!!") because I was really moving along and the baby was on his way. They switched me over to sipping Coke to get me some caffeine, keeping me awake, and would threaten me with an IV if I wouldn't take it. (Again, I really didn't want to be hooked up to anything, so using the threat of an IV actually really worked well!)
As far as laboring positions go, after getting out of the tub (boo!) I sat on a double birthing ball (aka. bouncy work out ball) with Chris behind me while I leaned back on him, grabbing his hands. That worked pretty well, then we switched to just me sitting on the ball with Chris rubbing my back. I specifically remember this one since Chris was doing an AWESOME job nailing this one part of my lower back when the birthing assistant came over to show him a different way to squeeze my sides and I barked "Ignore her!! Don't MOVE from that spot, I swear to GOD!"... (I did a lot of apologizing after birth :-)
When it came time to actually start pushing, it was probably the biggest difference between a birthing center and a hospital birth. In the hospital, you are in bed with only one way to go. At the birthing center, we tried a couple different things. First was squatting, leaning back, and pulling on the giant four-poster bed. Squatting (done pretty much EVERYWHERE in the world, minus the US) actually allows your pelvis to open up 2-3 extra centimeters which really helps move the baby down and out. This was working pretty well for me, but since I was still EXTREMELY low on energy, I would all but nearly collapse after every contraction (Chris was seriously physically holding me up at times. Dead weigh + pushing = Chris deserving a medal... thank God he works out :-) Seeing how this probably wouldn't be the best if the baby began to crown and then me collapse on top of it, we moved over to the bed and began pushing from my side with Chris behind me, helping me crunch over and push. The squatting must have done a lot because by the time I started on the bed, little man was already crowning and I could feel EVERYTHING. The only thing that kept me calm was Chris whispering in my ear, counting down from 20. I have no clue why this worked, but by the time he would get to 1, I would demand "Again!" and he would start the countdown again until the next contraction. After a couple more pushes, his head come out, and I thought my body had ripped in two. My thought? "I'm done!!! Pull that kid out!" Nope, a couple more pushes were needed to clear his shoulders and with a quick wave... he was here... and immediately placed on my stomach.
|Not exactly my beauty shot|
August 31st 1:32pm - The natural high after he was born was like nothing I have ever experienced. He give a quick cry and pinked up right away. He was COVERED in vernix (great news) and was long and lanky. He was immediately able to lift his head, open his eyes, and look at me. I know undrugged babies are more alert, but this was unbelievable. He was so perfect and aware of the world, it was crazy! I brought him up to my chest and he began nursing right away. They wiped him down a little and put a blanket over us to keep him warm but I LOVED LOVED LOVED how they didnt take him away to clean him, measure/weigh or any of that right away. Just that initial bond was worth every painful second.
They then weighed and measured our little guy and reported back at 20inches, 6lbs 6oz (the exact size of his sonogram).
Hanging out with just the three of us was the best thing in the entire world. I know some people like having friends or family in the hospital or near by, but honestly, I valued the time with just US.
|Us in the Birthing Suite at Dallas Birth and Womens center|
Looking back on some highs and lows of the whole process, I have determined the following:
pros: - I LOVED that I was able to freely move around, change positions, get in the water, and was never tied to an IV or monitoring system. This way, I was able to really concentrate on every contraction AND it allowed Chris to be behind me, to the side, the front, pretty much wherever I need him. That to me was priceless.
- Also LOVED the water... I'm honestly considering a water birth next time since it was so peaceful and wonderful for my pain. Ladies, if your hospital/birthing center/home/wherever you are has a tub while you are laboring, I HIGHLY recommend it. The relief is glorious.
- The fact that I trusted and knew everyone in the room with me. They were 100% familiar with me and I loved how it was just the four of us (me, Chris, Midwife, and birthing assistant). I honestly don't think I could've dealt with more people or being surrounded with strangers I didn't know.
- I was able to make every decision. I was constantly asked what I wanted and was never forced to move or be in a position I wasn't comfortable. No one was screaming "PUSH!" nor did I have to put my legs up in uncomfortable, cold stirrups. This was MY birth... not a cookie cutter birth. And I love how it was special to just me.
- That I was able to labor at home for a large majority of it. I truly only labored at the birthing center for 3 hours (10:30a-1:30p... my labor was 7 hours total if you start counting from 6:30a) and I believe being in comfortable environment really helped speed my labor along
- Seeing how alert Brooks was after birth and the fact that we got so much skin-to-skin time. No one took him away, cleaned him off or anything. We were allowed to just be me, Chris, and Brooks. I truly treasure that time.
After everything is said and done, some people have asked if I would do it again knowing how much it hurt. My answer: ABSOLUTELY! Brooks is one of the calmest, most well-behaved babies (as said by his pediatrician, family, and friends) and the fact that I got a strong, healthy, happy, VERY alert baby out of it makes every excruciating second worth it times 10. I would not have done it any other way! My pain was nothing compared to a natural, drug-free start of Brooks's life. It was the best for him and therefore, worth it for me. I trusted my body and got the exact experience I wanted with a beautiful baby as a result.
Every woman should be able to give birth the way she wants to. Have that be at a hospital, birthing center, at home, drugs, no drugs... whatever way SHE wants. It is up to every woman to research and find what will work best for her and her baby and the experience she wants to have. With the months of research I did and various options to choose from, the decision I made for me and Brooks was the best for us. I am so happy I stuck to my guns and didn't let the doubters get me down.
As a final shout-out, I really have to thank Chris. For days after the birth (and even now), I tell everyone who will listen that I honestly could not have done it without him. While in labor, there were many times I felt like I just wanted to give up, or give in, but Chris was there constantly whispering in my ear that I could do it and was going great. I thought that I would be strong enough to do a natural labor alone, but looking back, there was no way I could've come out the other side as happy as I am without him there. He didn't give birth to Brooks, but he labored with me every moment and I will forever be grateful!
P.S- For all those who just read this blog for DIY and home decor stuff, don't worry, we will be back to normal VERY soon!