My first birth was in a hospital with a midwife, I’ve never birthed with an OB/GYN and I never will. The first contraction hit at 7pm on April 19th, Nathan and I had just sat down to eat dinner and watch a movie (Blade – one of my favs!). Having never experienced contractions before, I wasn’t entirely sure that it really was a contraction, so I didn’t say a word about it to Nathan and adopted a “wait and see” approach. But then, exactly 1 hour later, another one occurred and then 45 minutes after that, at 8:45pm, another one happened. Still, I didn’t say a word about it.
At that time, Nathan worked outside the home and had to be at work at 4am, so we often went to bed around 9pm. After laying down, I initially fell asleep, but then was awoken around 10pm with another, and stronger, contraction which resulted in a sort of internal “popping” noise and an immediate wetness felt between my legs, I realized that my water had broke. I got out of bed and went to the bathroom, took a shower and changed clothes…while in the shower I had 2 more contractions.
I came back into the bedroom, Nathan was awake, I said to him “My water broke and I’m pretty sure I’m in labor” and he replied with a nod “Can I still sleep or should we get ready to go?” “No” was my answer “it’s still far to early to be going to the hospital.” So, he went back to sleep and I went into the living room and watched some TV while pacing the room ’cause, even at that point, I already had dreadful back labor and the thought of sitting down was simply excruciating. He was a posterior baby, meaning our spines were against each other in the way that he was positioned, and he remained that way for the whole 24 hour labor!
I labored in the living room, watching TV, reading while standing and pacing, even playing video games while standing and pacing and slowly, gradually my contractions got stronger and closer together. Nathan got up at 3:30am, which was his normal waking time for work, and called out since it was quite obvious that we’d be having a baby some time that day. After making us both some coffee, he went to his office to make some last minute preparations and I continued to labor in the living room with him checking on me every 15 minutes or so. At that point, I remember, the contractions were occurring every 10 minutes and lasting about 30-45 seconds. I felt mostly normal between contractions, but during contractions I would learn forward against the wall and sway my hips back and forth while focusing on deep breathing and relaxing my entire body so that the contraction could do the most work possible.
Because the uterus is a muscle it responds to stress and fear just like any other muscle, by tensing up and becoming rigid, this makes for more painful contractions that only work half as well at dilating the cervix. The key to a smooth, uneventful, normal, non-medicated birth is to NOT be afraid. Yes, it is powerful energy coursing through your body to open it up and allow safe passage of a baby, and that can be scary to some individuals, but, in reality, it is normal and good. God made your body specifically to birth and to be able to withstand this powerful energy, it will not hurt you or break you, there is no reason to fear it. Do not bunch up and tense up and internally “pull away” from contractions when they happen, instead receive them with joy and embrace them fully with open arms, internally relaxing INTO this energy and allowing it to move through your body unhindered so that it can do the most work possible. The more work one contraction is allowed to accomplish, the fewer contractions your body need have overall to fully dilate the cervix. Just relax and realize this: You’re going to see your baby soon 🙂
Back to the story, at around 5:30am my contractions started coming every 5 minutes and lasting 45-60 seconds each, time to go to the hospital, which was only a short 10 minute drive away. When we arrived at the hospital, the unfamiliar surroundings made my contractions stop almost immediately…I don’t even think they believed I was really in labor until the midwife did an internal check and discovered that I was a good 4 almost 5cm dilated. After that disruption and the paperwork and the nurses doing their “thang”, poking, prodding, taking vitals etc. etc. it took a FULL 2 HOURS before I finally felt comfortable enough that my contractions resumed and once they did resume they wanted readings on the contractions with this stoooopid belt wrapped around my belly and they made me sit down, I DID NOT WANT TO SIT DOWN, it hurt too much! And that was the only “reading” they got as I adamantly and loudly, and in the process cursing their stoooopid machine to hell, refused to do it again! 😆 good times, good times 😆 …looking back now, I realize, that had I had a homebirth I probably would have already given birth at this point or at least been A LOT closer too it, rather that dealing with all the hospital CYA bullshit and the uncomfortable atmosphere of being scrutinized and watched…I’m the watched pot that never boils, their interFEARances did not help AT ALL.
Luckily though, the contractions did resume and with increased strength and severity…this is the point where everything sorta becomes a blur, at this point you’re living in what I call the “labor bubble”. Anything and everything could happen around you, a nuclear bomb could go off and you wouldn’t give a shit ’cause you’re about to give birth dammit! and that is the ONLY thing that is important to you, and until that baby comes out it is your whole world, everything else ceases to matter…this is normal and natural and good! At this point, I was praying with every contraction, not that God make the pain stop but that he give me the strength and power of will to withstand the energy of birth and every single time, the very moment that I prayed, the contraction would instantly feel easier. There was a really nice big deluxe shower in the bathroom of my hospital room and I spent a lot of my time hiding out in there with water as hot as I could stand it spraying onto my lower back where all the pressure was.
A lot of women, especially the control freaks, fight against this stage of labor and slow their birth tremendously in the process, giving into fear of being “out of control” they clench up tight and internally pull away from the contractions unwilling to go any further, but the more quickly and easily you allow yourself to enter into the “labor bubble” the faster you will see your new son or daughter. It’s all about how willing you are to work with the energy of labor that plays a large part in determining how quickly labor will proceed…fortunately though, once the cervix dilates to a certain point that baby is coming out whether you want it to or not, better that you go along willingly rather than internally fight against it out of fear…all you’re doing is just making it unnecessarily painful for yourself! At it’s very core this is really what birth is all about and, from a spiritual perspective, the main purpose of it is to teach us to give up control and give it over to a power that is infinitely higher and stronger than ourselves by which we are thus enabled to have a stronger and higher relationship with God, no longer fearful of letting him have complete control over our lives. Of course, I learned all this the hard way 😆
My first son was posterior for the whole labor and birth, he never turned. Because of his less than ideal position his head wasn’t very well applied to the cervix, adequate pressure from the head pressing against the cervix is part of what causes labor contractions, but because of his position and combined with the fact that it was my first birth, I dilated very slowly and had to constantly stay on my feet so that gravity would force him downward and increase the pressure on my cervix and, hopefully, speed up dilation. I don’t ever recommend sitting down in labor, especially in a first labor, for gravity helps tremendously in keeping things going. Especially if you’re giving birth in a hospital where they wanna put you on a timetable and if things are not progressing according to their “schedule” they will want to augment labor with pitocin first, which will cause unnaturally painful contractions which will proceed to you wanting an epidural for the hideously unnatural pain and the epidural has great potential to slow down your labor, in which case they’ll wanna declare your labor “stalled” and do a cesarean section ’cause, after all, the good doctor does have that 4pm tee time to make! 🙄 Don’t fall for this downward spiral of doom, stay on your feet, keep pacing, keep walking and to hell with the doctor’s tee time! 😀
I don’t care what people say, the pushing stage of labor is infinitely harder than anyone bothers to mention to the first time mom. I was completely unprepared! I thought, at the time, that the labor was the hard part and that pushing the baby out was the easy part, it’s NOT…at least not when your baby is fully posterior and each push is like two steps forward and one step back. I pushed for a full 2 hours before finally birthing my baby. Plus, I was so tired that I just didn’t care anymore, I even took a nap while fully dilated. Now, with the experience of six births under my belt, I know for sure that the pushing stage would have gone more quickly and been far easier had they not had me flat on my back and pushing with no contractions and without even feeling the urge to push…this is how the woman who is drugged up on an epidural pushes, for she could not feel the contraction or the urge to push even if she wanted to…but I was a natural labor, which most of the L&D nurses had very little experience with. At the time I didn’t fully realize the horror of it all, but looking back now, the very fact that the idiotic L&D nurses had me on my back trying to push out a posterior baby is the absolute stooooopidest thing they could have done! Squatting on a birthing stool or standing while semi-squatting with one leg up and supported on a piece of furniture would have been far better positions for pushing out a posterior baby, which are the positions I have used for all four of my homebirths…*sigh* live and learn right?
Successful pushing, like jumping into a fire, goes against all natural instinct. As you push with each contraction, the longer and harder you push the more it will hurt, especially when the baby’s head is crowning, which burns like an em-effer and I am NOT over-exaggerating. Using the “jumping into the fire” analogy you must resist the natural instinct to pull back from the pain and instead force yourself deeper and harder into it, the more efficiently you can do this the faster your baby will come out. I know this from experience, I went from two hours of pushing with my first baby to just ten minutes of pushing with my sixth baby. With this last birth I pushed so hard and so efficiently that I thought that my body might rip into two, but as quickly as it began it was all over and baby was out and in my arms 🙂
Once baby is out, it’s a very good idea to breastfeed them as soon as possible. As long as the pregnancy was healthy and normal, and the labor and birth not drugged up, the baby will most likely arrive quite active and alert with a strong rooting and sucking reflex, this is the ideal time to latch baby onto the breast and let him/her have a first meal. Stimulation of the nipples in this way will help the uterus to start clamping down and the placenta to separate from the wall of the uterus and be birthed more quickly. I have breastfed ALL of my children, the shortest time being for only 8 months and the longest amount of time being 26 months, the breastfeeding relationship is actually my very most favorite part of the whole pregnancy cycle, it’s such a sweet and tender time of bonding and joy and love between mother and child that I would never give it up for anything in this world! Plus it’s a lot easier than formula feeding, after all who wants the added work of washing bottles and mixing formula when they could be bonding with their baby while feeding them at the same time 🙂
Odds are, if it is your first time breastfeeding, you will probably get sore nipples and have issues of being uncomfortable as your milk comes in (I highly recommend investing in a few very supportive nursing bras) and, if you don’t breastfeed enough, you may have supply issues. I have a motto “When in doubt, breastfeed!” 😀 I don’t care what anyone says, you can NEVER EVER breastfeed your baby too much. In the early days it can seem like you might not have enough milk, and baby will suck and suck and suck, latch on and pull off, latch on and pull off repeatedly in an attempt to get something and then cry and get frustrated ’cause nothing comes out…please please please do not fret and give up and give formula, this reaction is completely normal and it is one of the ways by which your baby communicates to your body that it need to increase it’s milk supply. Do not worry, baby is tiny, it’s stomach is about the size of it’s little fist, it does not require as much food as you might think and it will not starve to death.
I find, that the best thing to do is to carry baby around in someplace different, give baby a change of scenery…a different room with different lighting perhaps, babies are greatly interested in patterns of light/dark, black/white…for whatever reason they find the contrast intriguing. If the weather is warm, and it often is as I’ve had four of my six children in the spring and summer times, I will take baby outside and show him/her around…show them plants in the garden and trees on the edges of the woods and the different livestock on our homestead and have their siblings or father talk to them and engage them, I do all that I can do to get baby’s mind off food for at least 20-30 minutes. Then I come back inside, sit down, relax and try again, often within the 20-30 minute span the breast has already made enough extra milk for at least one let down, a snack to satiate baby till the milk more fully comes in. Just keep breastfeeding, you can never do it too much and the more you do it, the more milk your body will make.
As a final word I just want to say that motherhood is first and foremost about sacrifice. If we truly wanted to we could get that epidural and be completely disconnected from the birth experience but then that would not be giving baby the best birth possible. Life is already difficult enough as it is, so the best thing that we can do for our children is give them the best head start on that life as we can. Adequate prenatal nutrition and a natural drug free pregnancy and birth and breastfeeding are three ways that we can do exactly that. It may be a lot of hard work and, at times, uncomfortable and downright painful but anything that is actually worth doing is never easy, and isn’t it all worth it to provide your baby with the best start possible?