I share a lot of questions with pregnant and new moms. But most of the questions begin with, “Was it like that for you?” So I thought I would dedicate this post to sharing with you exactly what it was for me, giving birth for the first—but definitely not last—time.
Welcome to the Share Your Story event: Childbirth – Your Stories
This post was written as part of the Share Your Story event hosted by Kids in the House. Our contributors have shared their stories, struggles, and wisdom about the unforgettable yet unpredictable event that is childbirth.
I answer a lot of questions with pregnant and new parents through my work at Mommy Greenest, but this post addresses the one that’s most common: What was it like for you? My birth experience started about 8 p.m. on December 31, 1998. I remember marching up with my double-spaced, three-page natural birth plan in hand, and the look of annoyance on the nurse’s face as she read it.
It was New Year’s Eve, so the nurses weren’t really interested in adding more patients to their caseload—they wanted to go home, or at least sneak a little champagne into the break room at midnight. I was admitted at about 9 p.m. with contractions about five minutes apart, but not so strong that I couldn’t talk through them if I had to.
My husband and I walked the halls and did our deep breathing exercises and yogic exercises for a few hours, until the nurse suggested that we go home and come back the following day when I was “really in labor.” I went home, took a shower, breathed through the contractions, got in bed, and actually slept through about an hour’s worth of contractions. (Yes, you can do that.)
At about 2 a.m. I heard a loud “POP” that literally woke me up, but the sound was coming from inside me and liquid was following. I ran to the bathroom and sat on the toilet, and a gush of water came out—it felt like gallons. At that moment, I went into transition. And we weren’t even in the car yet.
So up until this point, I was in what they call “active labor,” which is when your cervix is dilating and the contractions are getting longer and closer together. The period between active labor and pushing—when you’re fully dilated and ready to push—is the transition. And this is how I arrived at the hospital: Dilated to about nine centimeters, with contractions lasting about a minute and coming about a minute apart. Did I mention the railroad tracks we had to drive over in order to get to the hospital? Or the fact that it was New Year’s Eve and my husband was proceeding cautiously, terrified of some drunk driver plowing into us? But I digress. I was in pain. Intense pain. Letting lose with guttural, animalistic screams that were so loud the admitting nurse asked my husband if he could “shut me up.” (No, I’m not bitter.)
For me, the prospect of giving birth highlighted the fact that I hadn’t grown up with a mother, and made me feel even more abandoned. I compensated by asking my aunt (my mother’s sister) to be with me during the process. My aunt has done yoga for most of her life, is a trained masseuse and therapist, and is super-duper calm. You would think this would make her a perfect birth coach, right? Wrong. You process a lot of emotions when you’re giving birth, and one of my biggest was my anger at my own mother. For whom my aunt was, sadly, standing in.
During early labor, the shoulder and foot rubs were amazing. Later, at the hospital, I literally kicked her off of the bed when she tried to rub my feet. I felt horrible afterward, but my instinct may have been right: At that point, I only wanted to focus on my husband. We were so intensely bonded it was like falling in love all over again. I remember looking into my husband’s eyes and feeling like there was nobody else in the room, like we were standing on a mountaintop with a whole world of adventure in front of us. And, in essence, we were.
Sorry, Aunt Lake.
There is no perfect childbirth. There is only labor, birth, baby—and baby trumps all. But here’s where I really wish things had gone differently: I was ready to push, but the nurses were scrambling to get a doctor and wanted me to hold off. In a panic, I agreed to an epidural, and the anesthesiologist rushed in. He turned me onto my side, and—between minute-long contractions that were 45 seconds apart—attempted to insert the epidural needle into my spine. This is extremely difficult, to say the least. The way an epidural works is the anesthesiologist inserts a hollow needle between the small bones of your spine, then guides a tiny catheter through the needle. (The next morning, I had scabs from more than a dozen needle marks up and down my back.)
Once he got the tube in, the anesthesiologist injected a small amount of painkiller into the tube—we were so late in the process, he didn’t need to give me much. As the painkillers flooded my body, I felt an amazing sense of warmth and well-being. I could watch the contractions rise and fall on the monitor, but only felt a sense of pressure—no pain. I could still feel my feet and use my legs. My doctor arrived, and I was given the green light to deliver: I pushed only a few times, and my son was born in about 20 minutes.
The reason that I wish things had gone differently is not because I’m against epidurals. In fact, I chose to have an epidural for my next two births as well. But I wish the process hadn’t been so rushed, and that I hadn’t been so scared. I wish I’d taken ownership of my birth experience. I wish that I’d known enough to tell the first admitting nurse that I didn’t want to go home at midnight—I wanted to continue to labor in the hospital without an induction.
That’s what happened with my next labor. When we got to the hospital and the nurse gave a little speech about how I was only three centimeters dilated and probably wouldn’t progress and they’d have to send us home or induce. My husband and I just looked at each other and laughed—then told the nurse we’d like a room, thank you very much. And do you know what? She gave it to us!
It was the same exact labor, practically to the minute: My water broke around 2 a.m., I went into transition and was ready to push in about two hours, my daughter was born at around 4:30 a.m. The only difference was I’d gotten the epidural at about 11 p.m. and was completely comfortable. I remember watching her emerge into the world, utterly peaceful and joyous, just as I’d been with her brother.
And here’s the point of the story: I know many women who’ve delivered naturally or with an epidural, vaginally or through C-section. And many of us have regrets. But when they put that baby on your chest, you don’t care how she got there. You are just grateful, thankful and full to the brim with love, absorbed by the beautiful creature that’s just emerged from your body.
There is no perfect childbirth. There is only labor, birth, baby—and baby trumps all.
- Two Peas in a Pod: A Double Miracle – Rachael at Three Boys and Mom shares how the blessing of an unexpected twin pregnancy saved a woman’s life.
- Childbirth: the Ache of Love – Sasha at MomLife Now describes how one mom discovered a miraculous beauty she new not existed.
- Tax Day 2007 – Cheryl at The Pump Station & Nursery looks back on how an easy pregnancy turned out to be a taxing birth experience.
- Going with the Flow – Bridget at Bridget Bertrand shares how her OB helped to put her on the right course in regards to birth plans, the playlist, and even the recipe to make the day her daughter came into the world.
- My Not-So Natural Birth Story – Rachel at Mommy Greenest shares a lot of questions with questions with pregnant and new parents through her work, but this time describes what it was like for her, giving birth for the first time – but definitely not the last – time.
- The (Not So) Perfect Birth Story – Britt at My Life and Kids reflects on how a mom’s life-threatening delivery helped mold her into the mother she was meant to be.
- Giving Birth: When the Unexpected Happens – Elle at This is Mommyhood shares advice for when your baby has an unexpected stay in the NICU.
- A New Look at the “Perfect” Birth Story – Melissa at Fill My Cup shares how a crazy delivery gave one mom a new perspective on the ‘perfect birth.’
- Induction Induced Feelings of Loss – The Orange Rhino shares how a planned induction brought unplanned feelings of jealousy, sadness, disappointment and loss.
- Our Beautiful Birth Story – Lindsay at The Fully Caffeinated Mama reflects on how it wasn’t the feeling of intense pain caused by the epidural wearing off that she remembers, but rather the beautiful baby on her chest for the first time.
- Jack’s Arrival – Samantha at The Peanuts Gang thought she would have a scheduled c-section, but it turned out that having Jack was QUICK and sooner than expected!
- Remembering to Breathe – Suzy at Kids in the House explains how with little fanfare, the completely wrong music, and a very distracted doctor, her son Leo was born.