Today’s post is a very special guest post by my sister-in-law, Kirstie. She recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl (although I may be a bit biased 😉). After hearing her birth story I asked if she would be willing to share her natural birth story here on the blog, and she graciously agreed. Grab your Kleenex, because this is one powerful and emotional birth story!
What led you to pursue an unmedicated birth?
I never once thought about an unmedicated birth before I was pregnant. I know very few women who chose natural birth (3 total) and I thought they were crazy. Why have all that pain if you can avoid it? But, something shifts when you are the mom and it’s now your birth and baby.
Halfway through our pregnancy, I started to hear more and more about natural birth. I seemed to be surrounded by it – everyone from my favorite singer to my wonderful sister in law talked so positively about birth. I remember hearing, “I can’t wait to do it again.” I had never heard such crazy talk!
So, my husband and I sat down to watch The Business of Being Born on Netflix and were blown away. Suddenly those women weren’t so crazy. We saw the overwhelming research and the reasoning behind unmedicated birth. It was a very sudden shift from bliss ignorance to reality and wanting to promise my baby (and me!) the best birth-day possible.
I think our decision to have a natural birth was our first real decision as parents to do what is best for our baby. Plus, who doesn’t love a good physical challenge?
How did you prepare for labor?
Once my husband and I were sure we wanted to pursue natural birth, I asked the few women I know for resources on the subject. I knew we were taking on this marathon and I had to start training somehow! Thank goodness for these women!
I turned into a research sponge for the next few months. I read several recommended books, we took a 12 week Bradley course, and we hired a doula. With the information under our belt, we committed to preparing physically and mentally; we practiced positions, pain management techniques, and birth affirmations.
Also noteworthy, we did not listen to the many naysayers along the way. Whether experts on the subject or not, people offer their strong, sometimes rude, opinions on unmedicated birth (believe me, I used to be one of them!). Not many intentionally mean to do any damage with their words, but it was important for my husband and I to remind ourselves often why we chose this path and encourage each other along the way.
How did labor begin?
We were 8 days past our due date and knew the clock was ticking (we did not feel comfortable going past 42 weeks). Our midwives began to discuss the possibility of induction and I felt like all of our hard work would be for nothing. In one last effort to avoid drug inducement, my membrane was swept – ouch! Although I was upset we had to give our little one a nudge, my contractions began at around 5:30pm Thursday when we were finishing our walk. They became consistent and stronger and I knew it was the real thing.
Can you share with us your thoughts and feelings from active labor through birth?
First and foremost, although educating myself helped me greatly for the event, nothing could have prepared me for what was to come. When my contractions got pretty painful at home, around 1:00am, I began to vomit and shake pretty violently. From our reading and cheat sheets, we knew (or thought we knew) vomiting usually happens during transition. My husband called the midwife and she agreed — it sounded like we were pretty late in labor and she’d like us to come to the birth center.
We arrived at the birth center at about 2:30am and I was 3 cm dilated – not what we wanted to hear! After two hours of slow paced walking (and continued vomiting), I had progressed to 3 ½ cm and they gave us a room.
After that, I was pretty continuously in “Labor Land.” I remember bits and pieces of everything. I remember the positions I loved during practice, I now hated. I hated being touched, talked to, or looked at (my poor husband). I continued to get sick every few contractions and couldn’t do anything without a heating pad on my back. Around 6 cm (no idea of the time — although I would guess around lunch time on Friday), I got an IV for fluids to keep me hydrated. This was a turning point for me.
It had been so long and I felt like there was no end in sight. I was exhausted and the pain was so unbearable. I asked for an epidural. Silence. My husband may have muttered something about one more contraction, one more hour, and I saw the doula move for our labor bag. The next ten minutes will be a memory I will never forget.
As I held my husband’s hands and my mother held the heating pad on my back, my doula began to read the birth affirmations that I wrote weeks earlier. Specifically resonating with me were, “Today is Kensie’s birthday! I will put my needs, my desires, and my hopes on hold so I can concentrate on giving my baby the best birthday. I will not give into temptation and self-pity. I have waited for this moment and the next.”
After she read them all, she showed us the framed ultrasound we brought and said, “Remember why you are doing this.” That was the only time I teared up all labor. My husband gave my hand a squeeze, our doula prayed over us, and from that moment on I never considered quitting.
But, it only got harder. I got in the tub (oh sweet, sweet relief) and labored for hours. When I got out, I had to do positions — positions that I hated — to try and flip our little one who was posterior.
Finally, around 7:00pm I got back in the tub and felt the urge to push. What hard work. One of my first pushes, my husband and I saw a POP under the water, a cool, clear bubble popping; my water broke! Finally a sign of progress for me!
After 3 hours of pushing with my husband to lean on behind me, Kensington Deeann was born at 9:49pm in the water weighing 8 pounds 5 ounces and 20 ¾ inches long. 28 hours of excruciating pain and suddenly none of it mattered!
What surprised you most about birth?
The length, the pain, the ring of fire – you name it. It was all such an experience. But the thing that surprised me most was the moment it was finished. The indescribable pain was nothing compared to the indescribable joy and accomplishment. I’m officially one of those women who can’t wait to do it again.
What advice would you give to someone interested in having an unmedicated birth?
Only surround yourself with people who believe you can do it. Education is important, but support, whether that be family or doula, is vital. I was fortunate to have both and it got me through the hardest but most rewarding 28 hours.
I’m so, so thankful for my husband’s backing through the pregnancy and preparation to the final push. I don’t think my mother ate or took a break all day. And finally, our doula was life-saving; her knowledge and hands-on help made all the difference. Next to my husband, our doula will be our first call for baby #2!