After I decided to deliver naturally, I searched everywhere for first time mom natural birth stories, hoping to get some idea of what to expect. No birth story is going to be the same from one person to the next, but I found a lot of inspiration and motivation by reading others’ success stories! It made me feel like I could really do this, because others had done it before me.
As first time moms, we may experience naysayers when it comes to giving birth unmedicated because first time moms are known to have longer labors. I’m here to tell you that I was successful in giving birth naturally, and my labor was not very long! Events may not go as planned, but despite what you may hear, an unmedicated birth IS possible for first time moms.
There are just a couple things I would have done differently, and I want to pass those things on to other first time moms.
First, here’s my story.
Going Into Labor
I know they tell you to head to the hospital as soon as you have contractions close together, but for me, this was not a good indication that my baby was coming soon. If I had gone to the hospital as soon as my contractions were two or three minutes apart, I would have gotten my hopes up way too early. I probably would have been sent home, or it might even have ended in a C section or epidural. (A C section or epidural is not the end of the world, just not my Plan A).
At 36 weeks, I was dilated to a two and 70% effaced (thinned). A week later, (37 weeks) I was dilated to a three at my appointment. I almost went to the hospital for contractions that were two minutes apart for over three hours. The hospital might have kept me, since I was dilated to a three. I’m SO glad I didn’t go in!
At 38 weeks I was dilated to a four and still having bouts of close contractions that would completely stop after three or four hours. At 39 weeks, I was dilated to a six! My midwife told me I could walk right over to the hospital and have my water broken if I wanted. Believe me, it was so tempting… but my goal was for my birth to be on my baby’s and my body’s terms, if possible.
At 39 weeks and three days, I had more contractions that lasted several hours and were closer than three minutes apart. Not wanting to have my baby on the highway, I decided I should get going, even though my contractions were still not very strong.
Neil and I showed up at the hospital around 9:00 p.m., and when the nurse checked my cervix, I was dilated to a seven. I called my parents, thinking this could happen fast! My mom showed up with my dad and we put on the movie, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” while I walked around the room and tried different labor positions. I was doing intermittent monitoring of contractions and the baby’s heart rate every 30 minutes, which worked okay. The hospital staff allowed me to put the monitor on and take it off on my own, without any interruptions, and they said to call if I needed anything.
I ate a lot of snacks. I have a confession here… A big reason I didn’t want an epidural was because I wanted to be able to eat! I just love food too much and I have a history of getting hangry after three or four hours without food. I’m willing to sacrifice a little pain in order to have a full belly.
The contractions were still light enough that I could have conversations and watch the movie, which I knew meant I couldn’t be that close. (Although secretly I hoped this was as bad as it got, haha!) Contractions continued for a couple more hours, and then…
And the nurses didn’t want me to go home because I was dilated to more than a seven now. It was almost midnight and I was having zero contractions but was stuck at the hospital. They said they could break my water and get labor going (also not my first option).
I was tired, so I decided to get some sleep and have my water broken in the morning. I told my parents to sleep in the guest bedroom at my house, which was five minutes away.
It was a really fun sleepover at the hospital with Neil. Haha… not. My IV was really bothering me all night, and the labor and delivery beds are even more uncomfortable than regular hospital beds. But I did manage to sleep on and off throughout the night.
9:30 the next morning…
Cervical dilation: eight. Still no contractions, so my midwife broke my water. It took her some effort– she said it was like breaking through leather. So I kind of wonder if it ever would have broken on its own. I waited anxiously; I was worried that breaking the water would not be effective. What if they broke my water and then I didn’t go into labor? Once your water is broken, you’re on the clock to get the baby out before an infection occurs. But sure enough, I started having contractions about an hour later.
Neil was so good to bring me washcloths, rub my shoulders and do whatever I asked.
The contractions started pretty light, then got intense FAST.
When the contractions started getting unbearable, my mom expressed her desire to slather essential oils on my feet, saying it was supposed to calm me and ease the pain. I wish I had gotten it on video, because I literally could not sit still long enough for her to get the oils on my feet. The breaks between contractions were so short that it just was not gonna happen. She kept trying to grab my feet and I kept moving involuntarily– it must have been a funny scene!
It took me three hours to dilate completely. I am tempted to sugar-coat the experience because I don’t want to scare any first time moms out there, but it was the worst pain I have ever felt. Have you ever shaken uncontrollably after breaking a bone, spraining an ankle or getting a flesh wound? Well, that was what happened during the most intense contractions– uncontrollable shaking. Dilating to a ten is hardcore stuff! Your body literally feels like it is ripping open from the inside.
I took a hypnobirthing class during my third trimester, and I believe that the techniques helped me. But I had expected the techniques to transform my experience into being pain-free, and that was NOT what happened, haha. I will say that I didn’t swear or cry. At least not on the outside. 😉
The way I imagined my birth was sitting peacefully, breathing deeply. I imagined laboring and pushing the baby out while on all fours. I tried these things, trust me. Eventually, there was no way I could be quiet with that storm going on inside me, and my midwife had me actually change positions because I wasn’t dilating very fast on all fours. Just a few minutes of squatting in front of the bar and sitting up in bed did the trick.
During the last bit of dilation, I remember hearing my hypnobirthing soundtrack as though it was background noise, and the non-background noise was me, wailing. Needless to say, Neil turned off the soundtrack after like 45 seconds.
Even though it was so intense, it wasn’t bad pain, because I knew the pain was bringing me closer to meeting my child.
Giving Birth- The Pushing Phase
Around 1:30 p.m., my midwife checked me and announced that I was complete… finally! She told me to let her know when I had the urge to push. Well, I am ashamed to say that I lied to my midwife. I was so anxious to be done that I just started pushing! (This is pretty much the opposite of what hypnobirthing teaches.)
After about 20 minutes of trying to “breathe my baby down” with no results, I gave up on that type of pushing and totally went all in, straining every muscle in my body. It seemed like my baby was crowning FOREVER. A couple times, I even said, “I can’t do this anymore”, and, “Is it too late for an epidural?” Pretty sure every mom has said that at some point during labor!
You would think pushing the baby out would be more painful than dilating, but IT WASN’T! It was physically hard and a different kind of pain, but for me, that last little bit of dilating was seriously more painful. A couple of the nurses told me that a lot of people find pushing less painful. Maybe it’s because you’re distracting yourself by focusing on pushing? Whatever the reason, I’m here tell you that it was both physically and mentally easier for me.
I kept feeling the urge to poop. How awkward, and yes a little embarrassing. My midwife kept saying, “It’s normal, everything is being squished down there.” But why did there have to be SO MANY people in the room? Oh, well. I’m a nurse, I should know they’ve probably forgotten about it by now.
I tried several positions during pushing and I was surprised that the winner ended up being a reclined position with my feet on stirrup bars. (It wasn’t quite the same as stirrups because I could rest my feet and grab onto the bars with my hands.)
It took at least 30 minutes before the baby started crowning. Those first 30 minutes were so long. It felt very long after that, too, but my motivation was renewed when my midwife had me reach down and touch her sweet little head. It was the strangest thing, reaching down and seeing a little tuft of hair poking out and everything bulging down there.
At 3:37 p.m…
My beautiful Claire was born. A seven pound, 19-inch bundle, screaming at the top of her lungs. For the first time since arriving at the hospital, I cried, and they were tears of joy.
My midwife immediately put her in my arms, and I was so ready for that skin to skin contact! I wanted to hold my precious girl in my arms and soothe her. And then I remembered I still had a bra on because I didn’t want to do my whole labor without a bra. Everyone around me immediately helped me rip off my bra so that I could do skin to skin, haha!
Claire screamed for the first two hours, so she didn’t do a whole lot of latching. Luckily she did eventually learn how to eat (via breastfeeding) but that is a story for another time.
If I Knew Then What I Know Now…
What would I do differently? Overall I had a wonderful birth experience and there are not very many things I would change! I had a healthy baby with no complications and delivered her unmedicated, as planned. What more could I ask for?
But looking back, I wonder what would have happened if I had made these three changes:
- Waiting until contractions were stronger before going to the hospital
- Waiting as long as possible before pushing
- Taking my bra off before the pushing phase
It’s so easy to get impatient when we are close to labor or in labor. Part of this is because usually, we get signs of labor LONG before labor begins, and it gets us excited! We are tired of pregnancy restrictions, tired of having a big belly, we have been waiting nine long months, and we want to meet our cute baby, dang it! Also, deep down, we know that if we have our baby just a little early, it will be fine because technology can save basically anyone these days.
These are the reasons I failed a little on the waiting aspects, and I don’t think I’m the only one.
Also, it would have been nice to do skin to skin without the hassle of trying to get my bra off first. I should have thought of that one sooner but I guess I was slightly distracted!
About Waiting to Head to the Hospital
A part of me thinks that I would have had my baby several days later and my labor would have been shorter if I had just waited to go into the hospital.
I know that like me, there are many moms who head to the hospital a bit too early. I have friends who had 70+ hours of labor because of this, when they probably could have had much shorter labors if they’d waited. I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault when this happens– I mean, how are we supposed to know when it’s time? Waiting too long could end up being worse. Every mom will have to decide for herself when she feels ready.
Next time, instead of going “by the book” and the timing of contractions, I will wait until I have to focus on my breathing and have a hard time holding conversations. For me, that was the turning point in my labor.
This was very psychological for me. I so badly wanted to get the labor moving that I tried to force my body to push the baby out. According to the hypnobirthing class I took, you don’t have to intentionally push your baby out. If you relax and let your instincts kick in, your body will birth your baby for you. All you have to do is breathe while the right muscles expel the baby. Supposedly, your “pushing” muscles can get in the way of your body’s natural mechanisms, and can actually prolong labor and cause complications.
I believe that pushing too soon may have slowed things down rather than sped them up. It also cost me A TON of energy. Every muscle in my body was sore the next day from my head to my toes, and that is no exaggeration.
In Conclusion, Learn to Be Patient
The biggest lesson I learned from my birthing experience was to relax and let me body and the baby decide when it’s time for childbirth. Letting your own decisions govern the timing of your baby’s birth can ultimately create setbacks and could even cause harm for you and the baby.
I know I will try harder to be patient for my next baby!
If you are a first time mom, what are you doing to prepare for D-day? If you have a sweet baby, how would you have labored differently if you could go back in time? Post your questions and comments below.