“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
At the beginning of my pregnancy, I knew nothing of pregnancy or childbirth. I never took that class in high school where you watch The Miracle of Life, never witnessed a real life birth, even one on T.V. (I’ve always had a strong aversion to TLC’s A Baby Story). I thought that I didn’t need to do anything more to prepare for childbirth than to skim through What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I also felt a bit disgusted at the thought of birth, the messiness and painfulness that I imagined came from birth. However, Tim, my husband, felt that a birth without pain killers was very important and he urged me to consider a natural birth for the sake of our coming daughter. I felt irritated with Tim for asking me to go through such an excruciatingly painful experience without any epidural assistance.
Some time after our discussion over a natural birth, Tim and I spent an evening with his aunt and uncle. They talked about their own experiences of childbirth without medication and I felt inspired by their stories. I agreed that a natural childbirth would be preferable to one with an epidural, but I did not have any confidence in my own ability to endure a painful childbirth ordeal. I started to do a little research online about natural childbirth to appease Tim and so that I could come to a firm decision on whether or not I would prepare for a natural birth.
My casual researching of natural childbirth quickly became a passion. I took a hypnobirthing class. I read Childbirth Without Fear, The Bradley Method, Hypnobirthing, countless online articles and I was reading Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth up until the night before my labor. Through my research, I started to feel confidence in myself and my body. My perspective of childbirth changed. I stopped thinking of it as disgusting, to knowing it was divine. I knew that childbirth is natural. I knew I could have the birth that I wanted, one without drugs. I knew this was an experience in my life that I needed and wanted to have.
My water broke at 5 a.m. on July 10th, the day before my “due date”. I felt so nervous and excited. About an hour later, contractions started and I decided to wake up Tim. He made me a delicious breakfast of oatmeal, eggs, and bacon. The contractions were about 1-2 minutes apart when we decided to go to the hospital.
When we were admitted, a pushy nurse wanted to hook me up to an electronic fetal monitor for longer than my husband and I thought was necessary. She told my husband that the length of time I was attached to the monitor was “up to the hospital”. He curtly responded “Actually, it’s up to us. Get me whatever form I need to sign that clears you and the hospital from any responsibility.” She took offense to our objection to protocol and she stomped out the door. We were greeted a few minutes later by a lovely nurse who took the trouble to call my doctor, who agreed that I didn’t need to be hooked up to the monitor for as long as the other nurse had demanded.
I am not a confrontational person and after our disagreement with the pushy nurse, my labor stalled and my contractions stopped. At that time, my parents arrived at the hospital. I felt a little embarrassed to be sitting in my hospital room without showing any perceivable signs of labor.
Eventually my labor started again and the contractions were now exceedingly more intense than the contractions I experienced earlier that morning. Though I believe that childbirth without pain is possible, I will admit that mine was painful. My back ached with each contraction and I felt so nauseated that I threw up several times. I silently wished for the ability to give up on childbirth completely. I contemplated getting an epidural, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask for one. It was partly an issue of pride, but also that I didn’t want to risk any potential after effects a drug would have on me or my baby. Then I felt the urge to push.
I asked for the lovely nurse to come “check” me. She replied that I was dialated to a three, or in other words, not even close to pushing time. I laid on the hospital bed in a crumpled ball of despair. Some women are dilated to three centimeters weeks before they go into labor. I had been in labor for nearly twelve hours and was only at a three. I felt foolish for unknowingly coming to the hospital so early in my labor and scared that I would soon be branded as a “failure to progress” and rushed off for a cesarean section. I no longer had any energy to stay composed and peaceful, like the ladies I had watched give birth in many hypnobirthing videos.
In my despair, I finally, truly allowed myself to relax. I pushed down, as my body asked me to. I started moaning with my contractions, not in pain, but as my body asked me to. My mother encouraged my noises and I started to feel so much better. I no longer felt in pain, only the intensity of each contraction. I could hear what was happening around me, but I could not respond. I felt like I was dreaming. This went on for maybe two hours, but to me, it felt like twenty minutes. I knew Cordelia would be there soon, but I couldn’t communicate for a nurse to check me. My body was solely focused on getting a baby out and I didn’t have any spare energy to say words.
Eventually, thankfully, a nurse did check me and was surprised that I was fully dilated. It was time to “breathe my baby down,” as Marie Mongan says. At one point, my doctor said to slow it down, as apparently my baby was coming a little too quickly, so I tried my panting breaths, which came out as a very loud whistling. I remember that Tim, my parents, doctor and nurse all laughed a little bit at my whistling, but I couldn’t openly acknowledge the humor that I was whistling or even stop the whistling.
Sadly, as I was breathing my baby down, one important part of my birth plan was overlooked. As Cordelia was crowning, my doctor, nurse, and mother started to “coach” me to push, instead of allowing me to keep my focus and follow my body’s lead. Their coaching spurred me to a feeling of impatience with my body. I went against my research and better judgment and forcibly pushed my baby out. I believe that because of my pushing, I did tear a little bit.
Regardless of that small disappointment, Cordelia was born (nearly fourteen hours after my water had broke that morning) healthy, happy, and a really good nurser. She is a beautiful baby with a peaceful spirit and calm demeanor.
I feel happy and blessed for the preparation I took in preparing for my daughter’s birth day. I had the unmedicated birth that I wanted. Birth is natural and should be treated as such (the exception being in a TRUE medical emergency). I hope that all women can understand the miraculous ingenuity of their bodies, possess confidence in themselves, and overall, that they can have the birth that they want, free of fear.