My natural hospital birth story of my first child is as unforgettable as it is incredible. If you are thinking about natural birth in a hospital setting, I hope this story inspires you to go through with it!
If you ever hear my husband Marc talk about the show, 24, you would think he is a raving lunatic. This guy absolutely loves Jack Bauer and worships the ground he walks on.
Of course, he made me watch the show with him, and he was so excited for me that he could barely contain himself. Well, I would say that Marc was equally excited when I went into labor, but with a lot more fear.
Now, looking back on the day Alex was born, I am reminded of the 24’s famous countdown scenes.
I woke up feeling a little queasy. Gas? What did I eat for dinner? My body was so messed up from pregnancy anyway that I decided to chalk it up to indigestion and went back to sleep.
An hour later, I woke up again, and this time the cramps were coming and going at more consistent intervals. Could it be… contractions?
People always said that when you have a contraction, you would know it. Well, that was a lie. It felt like someone was giving me a big, tight hug around my abdomen, a little too tight for comfort. I was way too excited to go back to sleep, so I sat in bed with Marc dead asleep next to me, googling about contractions and labor.
The contractions were about 1 minute each, 7-8 minutes apart. I had gone to triage the day before due to some spotting and the doctor said I was already 4 cm dilated, so I started getting worried that the baby would come out any time (HA!).
I woke up Marc and we left for the hospital around 6 AM. I was so nervous because I was adamant about giving birth naturally, but I knew that contractions would get extremely painful. However, I already promised Marc that I would go through with it, and for the sake of my child, I was not going to break my word.
Triage sent me to the labor and delivery room since I was at 6 cm dilated and I needed antibiotics at least 4 hours before giving birth since I was Group B Strep positive. I was put on a hep-lock with the antibiotics and saline fluid so that I could unhook from the machine when the antibiotics were finished and walk around without carrying around the IV bag. My midwife told me the hope is that I could deliver by noon before I need another round of antibiotics.
One of the nurses that were taking care of me kept asking me if I wanted an epidural. I almost punched her in the throat after she continued to remind me that the epidural was right there if I needed it. As politely as I could, I just kept telling her no and that I wanted a natural birth.
In fact, my midwife kept calling me “stoic” because I was having contractions, but I didn’t behave like I was having them. I was happily bouncing on my exercise ball, chatting with Marc and texting my family and friends. Marc and I walked around in the hallways, examining the bulletin boards and commenting on the screams we heard from neighboring rooms. Why do people make such a big deal about natural birth? Pshhhh.
This was going to be easy-peasy.
Are you kidding me? I was still 6-7 cm dilated. I was supposed to be pushing by now. Not cool, cervix. I thought we were friends.
We consented to have the midwife break my water, which would release natural hormones to move things along. We debated on doing this because we did want everything to go naturally, but we were concerned that I could be in labor for an extremely long time considering I hadn’t progressed in 4 hours, which meant I would be getting a lot more antibiotics (every 4 hours).
The midwife went in with a little, hooked stick, and I felt like a water balloon broke inside me.
Holy hormones! The contractions got exponentially stronger after the water broke. I could still walk the hallways and bounce on my ball, but at times I did have to stop mid-stride because my legs would all the sudden cramp up.
I started moaning every time a contraction hit. I tried different positions to try and make myself more comfortable, but nothing was working. I would grab on to the bars at the edge of the bed and hulk out with every contraction; I was truly surprised that I did not end up tearing the whole thing out with how hard I was gripping it. They said that if I started getting the sensation like I wanted to poop, I might be ready to push… TRUST ME, I WANTED TO POOP.
I called the nurse in to check on my cervix and was floored when I learned that I was still at 7 cm. The nurse told me to keep walking and let gravity do its work, but it was getting to a point where I wasn’t sure if I could make it back to my room if I left. The midwife told me that the reason I wasn’t dilating faster was that my cervix was super stretchy. I didn’t know what that meant exactly and was in too much pain to care.
The contractions started getting unbearable. Every time one hit, I felt like I was in some kind of unimaginable medieval torture device that squeezed all your organs downward toward your vagina.
I wanted to push so badly, but since I was not dilated enough I had to hold back the urge. Just imagine you have the world’s worst diarrhea but you cannot go to the bathroom – that’s how I felt with labor, but with a lot more pain. Moreover, the contractions were also getting closer and closer – I was having one every minute or so.
Marc was trying to help me by massaging me and pushing against my hips every time a contraction hit. The hip squeezes helped a little, especially since they countered the pressure of the baby hitting my cervix and causing the “pooping” feeling.
However, after hours of doing this, Marc was getting really tired and could not squeeze as hard. Even though I was in pain, I did laugh at my poor husband a little as he sank to the ground, trying hard to catch his breath in exhaustion. Come on, who is the one giving birth here?
I was starting to feel nauseous due to the pain and was trying not to throw up. Amniotic fluid and blood were gushing out of me and my midwife was on the floor, cleaning up the mess so I wouldn’t slip on my own body fluid as I went through the contractions. My midwife checked my cervix again and I was at 9 cm, 1 cm away from pushing!
My midwife returned to check on me and said a little part of the cervix was still in the way, but she said that she could help push it aside. So, I get to push! I have never heard such beautiful words spoken.
I crawled onto the bed slowly and started to bear down on each contraction. I guess the cervix at one point got out of the way because my midwife instructed me to now hold the back of my thighs with my hands (kind of like a squat position but lying down on my back) and push as hard as I could with each contraction.
Although I exercised so much during the pregnancy, I could not have prepared for how much strength it was necessary to push. I was having trouble catching my breath, and Marc told me later that I was turning purple. My legs and arms were shaking due to exhaustion, and for the longest time, I just kept hearing “Almost there, Betty!”
After a while, I just started panicking – what happens if I don’t have the strength to make it through? What happens if the baby is suffocating right now because I could not push hard enough for his head to come out? What happen if the baby gets stuck?!?!
I tried setting all doubts aside and continued to push as hard as I could. After what seemed like forever, I started to really understand how to push more efficiently.
Finally, I felt a release of pressure, and the baby’s head was out! The midwife then instructed me to start pushing a little at a time – push as hard as I could like before, but not hold each push as long. I could feel the baby’s body start to slide out. Then finally, she told me to give one final big push, and all of a sudden I heard, “OPEN YOUR EYES BETTY! LOOK LOOK LOOK!” My eyes flew open just in time to see baby Alex came out all the way!
Want to read more about what it’s like to give birth naturally in a hospital setting? Head over to Elm Tree Medical’s blog to read Zoe’s natural birth story.
What do contractions feel like to you? I have trouble describing it! Tell me in the comments below!