I dreamed of having a natural childbirth.
And at just shy of 40 weeks pregnant, I was ready! The birthing tub had taken up residence by our bedroom window, I'd taken a natural birth class, and I'd even brewed my postpartum herbs into a bath tea. In my spare time, I scoured YouTube for all the water birth videos I could find. 😉
All that was left?
The no small feat of labor!
This is the story of how my husband and I welcomed our son into the world — at home, after 11 hours of labor, with my mom and our midwife.
Early & Active Labor
Since I’d already been contracting for several days after losing my mucus plug, I didn’t think much of my continued contractions as I got ready for bed on a Friday night, 3 days before my due date. They made my back ache like it had never ached before… But I had hot water bottles and a husband at the ready to help me cope. 😉
Then we switched out the lights. A few minutes later, at 10:20 pm, a particularly intense contraction hit. It felt a bit like an earthquake in my abdomen — a squeezing shifting and then a bursting.
After that, it didn’t take long for my life to become all about enduring, breathing, enduring, and breathing. Over and over and over again.
We waited until a little after 1:00 a.m. to call our midwife. By then I’d completely lost track of time. Despite the fact that she had an hour drive, it didn’t seem like very long at all till she had tracked down our house thanks to the blue light bulb installed outside of our garage.
Also, because we’re keeping things real here, I had eaten beans the night before. Soaked beans, yes, but beans all the same. Let’s just say that next time around, I’m not eating beans if labor is at all imminent! 😉 Birth may be beautiful, but it’s certainly not glamorous!
If I wasn’t in the bathroom, I lay in bed, keeping my eyes closed and focusing on breathing hard and deep through contractions so my throat and therefore my cervix would stay relaxed.
I visualized breathing as if I was blowing the pain away — with every exhale a little bit more of the pain would puff away till it was all gone.
Eventually the contractions intensified so much that I couldn’t relax by simply lying on the bed and breathing. The hot water bottles on my back became too heavy and too hot to stand. My legs shook.
I felt a little nauseous but I actually wished I felt more nauseous so I could throw up and experience some relief.
I reminded myself of my chosen Bible verse — “I will hold my original confidence firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:14) — but mostly all I could think was that I was so tired and it was so hard.
Finally I changed position to all fours on the bed, which did not help at all in terms of pain relief, but at least our midwife was pleased!
Then, for 2 contractions in a row, I felt an incredible pushing feeling.
The feeling was so alarming that I gasped out, “It’s pushing down!” as I felt the baby slide farther down the birth canal. I actually fought it as best I could. I'd heard too many stories (thanks to taking natural birthing classes) about moms pushing prematurely and wearing themselves out.
Our midwife then did a cervical exam to see what I was feeling — and found that I was completely dilated and the baby’s head was definitely on its way. And I had thought I still had a long way to go!
So, at 7:30 in the morning, I finally climbed in the birthing tub. It felt amazing. The awful pressure eased and my contractions spaced out a little.
And I could push! That was the craziest thing. Pushing felt so good and active and like it was accomplishing things — but at the same time it's like it wasn't even me pushing. I was just along for the ride.
Throughout pushing, one thing really sustained me: ice. Ice water, ice chips, ice rags on my neck and shoulders. All the ice! It was heaven in the midst of the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Funny how I needed hot water bottles in the beginning — and their polar opposite (haha) in the end.
Eventually I summoned up the courage to feel the baby’s head. And yes, I was slightly apprehensive because everything felt so tight down there and I didn't know how the addition of fingers could make it any better!
With the next pushes, the baby’s head came down, then up, down, then up again. I focused on stretching my skin while our midwife kept checking the baby’s heartbeat.
It really did burn. I tried to be gentle and slow to prevent tearing, but there came a time when I felt like I was going to split in two, yet I knew I had to keep pushing — regardless!
The moment the baby’s head popped out was explosive — a wet slippery explosion and then our midwife saying “Give me one more good push!”
It felt like my muscles couldn’t push without a contraction to make them push, but I tried anyway, and with a twisting, tugging, pulling feeling our midwife worked the baby’s shoulders out. Then the body slipped out so easily! She handed the baby through my legs to my husband, chunks of vernix floating in the water, and up came the baby to me.
It was 9:11 a.m. on Saturday, March 25th.
My first impression?
Lusty newborn wails, alert eyes, shiny cheeks, and a huge head.
A boy! (And we still hadn't picked out a boy name!)
The next couple hours passed with lots of skin-to-skin cuddles and kisses. I felt over the moon happy, incredibly hungry, and also like I’d been blown to smithereens. Mom made us scrambled eggs, toast, and bacon (aka my dream breakfast).
The placenta birthed much more easily than I’d anticipated, with an army of blood clots to accompany it.
Miraculously, I had only a few minor tears in minor places. Not-so-miraculously, I couldn’t use the bathroom for the life of me, and nearly passed out trying, so instead I was introduced to the stinging fury of a catheter.
The day continued in the same way as it ended: in bed with a little Cherry baby next to my Cherry husband. One long cycle of snuggles and crying and diapers, little kicking feet and little waving hands, and breastfeeding practice.
Just before we dropped off to sleep, my husband and I decided on a name for our 8-pound, 15-ounce little boy.
Thoughts About Labor & Birth
Labor was grueling throughout, agonizing at times, but I feel blessed and empowered to have done it. I can honestly say that giving birth is a highlight of my life. And I'm so thankful that all went smoothly and safely with no complications — and our baby is healthy!
Also, I am now a firm believer in having postpartum support. I can't imagine how much harder recovery and transition to life with a newborn would be without my family around to help! The extra hands so I can shower? Priceless! Not to mention the meals, encouragement, and my mom's help with nursing.
Shoutout to my husband, too, who changed pretty much every diaper during our son's first couple of weeks. 😉
Although I’ve heard from many women that first-time moms can’t really prepare for labor and birth — or, at least, they can’t know what to expect — I didn’t find that to be true for me.
I took the Mama Natural Birth Course as well as reading both Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and her Guide to Breastfeeding, all of which helped me not only understand the process of birth, but prepare for it mentally, too.
The Mama Natural Birth Course in particular gave me a broad understanding of the various labor interventions and birth procedures available today. I liked knowing the bigger picture so I could make an informed choice if anything did go wrong during labor and we needed to transport to the hospital.
But the class didn't stop there — it also provided a wealth of information about nutrition, newborn care, and breastfeeding, too. Because of the class, I could picture how my body was preparing for birth as it did so. I knew exactly why my contractions intensified at night thanks to various hormones.
And the birth videos! Each lesson in the class includes a beautiful birth video. Such a treat!
Our midwife also offered monthly and semi-monthly classes as well. It was fun to gather together and learn with other moms due in the same month as myself! If you or anyone you know plans on giving birth at home in the Indianapolis, Indiana area, definitely check out Believe Midwifery Services. I can’t recommend them enough.
All of the above resources served to inform and inspire me. I was apprehensive — yet I became confident.
Speaking Of Books I Read…
Although it's too late for me this time, I can't wait to enjoy a brand-new book — The Mama Natural Week-By-Week Guide To Pregnancy & Childbirth — for my next birth! It already has an honored place on my bookshelf.
And let's be honest… I don't have to wait till my next pregnancy to dig in and enjoy it. 😉 I already have! I've been devouring anything pregnancy- and birth-related for months now and my interest hasn't waned yet!
I love how detailed and evidence-based this book is — from researching delayed cord clamping to skin-to-skin contact to ultrasounds to different induction methods. All very important!
Psst…. When you order your book through this link, you can also claim your FREE EXTRA bonuses including:
- “Shattering Your Fears About Birth” video — Walk into childbirth free from fears from tearing to, yup, pooping in the delivery room
- “From the Birthing Tub” ebook — Get inspired with these true stories of 50 natural childbirths!
Just go here to order the book, then go back to this page to claim your FREE & EXTRA bonuses. Hurry! This offer ends soon.
The One Thing I Didn't Expect
Breastfeeding was hard. Harder than labor!
In his first week, our son lost a significant amount of weight and my milk supply decreased. For 48 hours we turned to pumping, bottle-feeding, homemade formula supplementation, and lactation aid herbal capsules.
This was a lesson in keeping my priorities straight. I know how amazing breast milk is, and I wanted so badly to be able to feed it exclusively to our son. I also didn't want him to have nipple confusion from bottle-feeding. But in the end, he still needed to eat. So we had to compromise and trust that we were doing the best we could at the time.
Thankfully, after that 48 hours, my milk production increased again, and our son transitioned back to breastfeeding like a pro.
Our midwife was so helpful throughout — she’s also a lactation consultant!
My life is now topsy-turvy in the most wonderful, sleep-deprived, crazy way. Case in point: I wrote this entire post while nursing!
Will you share your birth experience? Did you birth at home, in the hospital, naturally, in water, or…? I’d love to hear!
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