My First Baby's Birth Story
We are about to get a little personal here, but we get asked all the time about our personal birth experiences, and I wanted to share the details with you all! This is literally copied and pasted from my personal journal, so you get all the nitty gritty details from my voice, almost 10 years ago!
(Side note: I am SO GLAD I journaled out my birth stories soon after my births. I have them all written down with lots of detail, and they're really fun to read now. I highly recommend doing so. The process of writing them out was also very therapeutic for me, especially after this birth, which was traumatic for me.)
Content warning: In this birth story I discuss my long and difficult labor (mostly) unmedicated birth that includes vacuum-assisted birth and episiotomy. I am very detailed so just be aware of that. It may not be for everyone!
My First Birth - April 2014
With my first baby, I was having contractions for a few weeks before I went into full-blown labor. Some were stronger than others, and I would always go to bed excited that maybe "this was it," only to wake in the morning with all the contractions gone. (I didn't know about the Miles Circuit back then.)
This went on for a while...once I hit the 41-week mark, I began to get a little restless. It was hard having all those contractions every night with nothing materializing. I would go from quiet expectancy to just trying to ignore them so I wouldn't get my hopes let down.
Then, Wednesday night April 9, I began having contractions that felt a little bit different. They were coming in more frequently and had seemed to establish a pattern. I went into the office to tell Ben...hey...this could be it...but again I didn't want to get my hopes up. So I went to bed almost fully expecting to wake up in the morning with no contractions. However, I woke up at 3 am from a stronger contraction, and I got excited...so I couldn't go back to sleep. I tried for a little while but finally got out of bed around 5:00 am. I went into the living room and turned on the TV and got on the birth ball.
I was sitting on the birth ball, rolling around when I suddenly felt a GUSH of water...it felt like I had peed my pants! I run into the bedroom and woke Ben up..." my water just broke!" He didn't believe me --- he was like "uh...are you sure?" I was like YES I AM SURE!
At that point, we didn't know what to do or what was ahead. Typically your water breaks later on in labor, so we weren't sure if I was about to begin some intense labor. We called the birth center and talked with the midwife. She said that we shouldn't come until contractions were 3-4min apart for 1 min. At that point in the morning, contractions were 6 min apart, so I was excited because I knew that they would only get more intense and closer together... I was in labor!
What I hadn't prepared for was the 12 hours it took for me to enter into active labor. My contractions were all over the place! Sometimes they would be 4 min apart, then they would go to 10, 15...even 20 minutes apart. It was SUPER frustrating. I wanted to balance walking & other labor progressers with rest because I knew that I would need rest!
The other thing was that I began having intense back labor. It was so bad that I even began questioning whether or not I wanted to go to the birth center (BC). If labor felt this bad...could I do it?
Ben and I tried to distract ourselves throughout the day - we went to Subway for lunch (that was the last meal I would have until after the labor ended), walked around our property, watched movies, etc. I desperately wanted to get into the bathtub but knew that it could slow down my contractions, so I never did. I used a heating pad and bounced on the birth ball.
Around 5:30 pm, Ben spoke with the midwife. My contractions had begun to be approximately 5-6 min apart, but they were super long (like 1.5 minutes) and pretty hard. Finally, the midwife said that we could meet her at the BC at 7:30. We still weren't sure if I was in active labor...
The drive up to the BC seemed to take forever, but it wasn't awful. I had contractions but they were manageable. At this point I wasn't very talkative, I didn't want music on and I kept my eyes closed for most of the trip. When we got to the BC, I scrambled to get inside before another contraction hit...and it did after I got inside. I had to stop at the front table and do my breathing...then I finally made it to the back room. In between contractions I was doing fairly well. We got into the room, got settled, and Kameron, our midwife, checked me out. BP was good, the baby's heart rate was doing well, and a cervical check told me that I was dilated 5 cm! I was officially in ACTIVE LABOR!
The next few hours were a blur - I continued to have back labor, and my contractions were intense due to this. She also was able to tell that baby girl's head was cocked to the side (asynclitic) - the cause of all the back labor and slow start to labor. Because of this, she had me get into all kinds of crazy positions.
One was where I was on my side with my bottom leg extended out and my other bent and off the bed (I didn't know the name for this at the time. This is the side-lying release). This position made my contractions super hard and they hurt REALLY BAD! I kept moving around into different positions - from that one to the birth ball to lying on the bed on my back.
I steadily progressed throughout this time period, but I also had some times when I requested to go to the hospital. Again, I was just unsure if I could do it with the amount of pain I was experiencing. Ben was right there encouraging me and telling me that everything was fine. His encouragement helped me push through the pain and continue laboring without meds. I can't even say that I necessarily was consciously praying - but I can say that the entire experience was highly spiritual. I tapped into a strength that I never knew I had!
Transition + Pushing
I also started throwing up throughout this stage because the pain was so bad. That was not pleasant! I remember asking at one point a few hours in if I had entered "transition," and they were like "uhh I think you've been in transition for a while now!" Around 2 am my contractions began changing. I began calling them "pushing contractions" because when one came on, I couldn't do anything except push. They began as somewhat easy pushing but progressed to outright hard pushing.
Also, after some of the contractions, I experienced pain radiating from my hips down my legs. Apparently, this is a first-time mom thing - your hips and body expand permanently to accommodate the baby. This pain was worse than the contractions in my opinion. Throughout this period I moved between the birthing stool & the bed. In bed, Ben sat behind me and I was able to lay on him for support during my contractions. Right when the pushing period began, I asked Kameron how long it typically lasts. She said she's seen some people push for 10 minutes, and some for 4 hours. I assumed that I would be somewhere in the middle...
When I began pushing, my pushes were inefficient because I didn't know how to push! Kameron taught me how to push by putting her fingers on the muscle that I needed to focus all my energy on. I also basically lifted my butt off the table and instead of pushing my feet INTO something, I grabbed my knees and pulled them toward me.
By this time, I was beginning to become pretty tired, so after about 45 min of pushing, Kameron & the nurse began coaching my pushes by counting out how long I had to hold the push. They counted to 10 and then instructed me to take a quick breath and begin pushing again for another ten, and then lastly for ten. This was pretty difficult but I was able to get into a rhythm.
So 45 minutes go by... then 1 hour...then 2 hours... I begin getting pretty tired. By 3 hours I start falling asleep in between contractions. Now mind you, my contractions are only 1-3 minutes apart... so this is a pretty quick nap! Needless to say, I was EXHAUSTED!
After around 3 hours I was able to see her head. They used a mirror to show me her head as I pushed. There was nothing more frustrating than seeing her head begin to pop out, only to watch it retreat back. This went on for over an hour, and it seemed as though I was making zero progress. And in reality, I really wasn't making a ton of progress. Because her head was still in the side position, it was hard for her to get over the lip in my pelvic bone. The problem was that technically, she could have turned her head at any moment, and then bam! it would have been over pretty quickly. We tried different positions to get her to move, but I was also tired and wanted to lie down. She wasn't moving her head, so it was making it extremely difficult for me to push her out. But, she was doing fine (her heart rate was good), so it was all a green light for me to keep pushing...
Transferring to the Hospital
However, around 6 am, my contractions began slowing down. I was so tired that I couldn't hold myself up at all...I had to be in bed with Ben behind me. He also had to hold my legs back for me as I pushed. This was a very, very difficult time.
For one, my pain level was beginning to get off the charts. I was so exhausted, dehydrated, and just completely drained. My speech was slurred and it was very hard for me to think about anything really. I was literally in survival mode at this point.
This was also a breaking point for Ben. It was a very emotional time for both of us because the labor had been so hard and it was getting to the point where it was unbearable. Ben broke down, cried, and had to leave the room (I had no idea!). This was when we began seriously discussing transferring to the hospital. Kameron told us that more than likely they would hook me up to Pitocin and vacuum baby girl out. I was ready for anything - I just wanted it to be over! I had been in labor for almost 36 hours at this point...
Getting me to the hospital was no easy feat. At this point, I was severely dehydrated & could barely move. I got in the tub while the final preparations were being made so I could relax and try to slow down contractions & get into a good state before I went to the hospital. If I wasn't relaxed & handling things well, there was a strong possibility that I would have been rushed in to have a c-section.
I was still having pushing contractions, and now I was fighting AGAINST them! I wanted them to stop so I could rest for a bit! Finally, we were ready to go, so Ben & Sarah (the nurse) helped me into my clothes. Meanwhile, I began dry heaving for a long time. I was so exhausted, I couldn't even cry. I had to be helped along as I walked to the car to go to the hospital.
In the car on the way, I had 2 more pushing contractions. Thank goodness they were ineffective, or I would have been having baby girl in the car with Ben! We get to the hospital, I get put in a wheelchair (which I was very happy about), and whisked up to the 5th floor.
The hospital was in stark contrast to the birthing center - bright lights, loud voices, and people everywhere. The nurse came in very loudly, pushing for me to have an epidural. At that point, I wanted anything but ended up deciding not to get one since baby girl was so close to birth. Kameron had already talked to the OB over the phone and had basically instructed him on what I needed. We were avoiding a c-section at all costs, although they prepped the OR just in case.
From this point forward, everything moved VERY quickly. They hooked me up to an IV and started pumping fluids & antibiotics. The doctor came in and checked on me and determined that we were in fact going to try Pitocin & vacuum. I was petrified of Pitocin because I was so tired and wasn't sure I could do any more pushing contractions...I was so exhausted.
They had me lie on my back and put my feet in stirrups - which was fine by me at this point because I was so tired I don't think I could have been in any other position! In my mind, I thought Pitocin was going to make my contractions really intense... I had a contraction & pushed and completely forgot how to push (from what Kameron showed me).
The doctor had me readjust my legs when I pushed. Baby girl's heart rate started to decrease. I asked if the Pitocin had kicked in and everyone said yes...and I thought...well this isn't so bad. let's do this!
Meanwhile, the OB gave me a local anesthetic down there because he was going to use the vacuum. Apparently, at the hospital, a doctor can only use a vacuum 3 times, and then it's a c-section. He tried to use it twice while I pushed, but it popped off each time. Baby girl was being stubborn to the end! Finally, he did an episiotomy. I pushed, he vacuumed one last time and...
Baby girl did a 180 flip...tearing me really badly... BUT...
She was BORN! She was 8lbs 12oz - a hoss in comparison to the other babies in the nursery. She was placed quickly on the table because apparently there was some meconium that she inhaled, so they had to suction that out. The placenta was delivered and I had no idea that it was delivered!
Immediately After Birth
I was bleeding pretty badly, so the OB had to get the area prepped and I found out that I was going to have to have surgery to repair the tear down there. I had to get an epidural AFTER I gave birth... how crazy is that? I got to hold baby girl for a second until I was taken to the OR.
Meanwhile... Ben dealt with the fact that we were at the hospital during a nurse shift change. After I went to the OR, the floor was deserted & he was left holding our baby girl with no ID tags. Long story short, he had to track down a nurse with my mom and try to figure out if he could come into the OR with me. He was told 2 different things, suited up, only to be told to go back to the room. Honestly, it wouldn't have made much of a difference to me. I fell asleep while I got stitched up.
I ended up leaving the hospital a little over 24 hours later. Recovery was difficult, but breastfeeding went well.
Hindsight is always 20/20. Are there things about this birth that I would've done differently, now? YES. Do I know more now? Of course. Do I think my providers acted in the best way at all times? No!
This was my most difficult birth and looking back, I had some birth trauma afterward. I'm a "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" kinda gal, so I powered through it all. But I also had undiagnosed PPA (postpartum anxiety) and struggled with feeling waves of guilt and "what ifs" surrounding my birth. I knew that I gave it my all, but there was a tiny voice in my head saying that maybe it wasn't enough. Maybe my body was broken. Maybe I could've tried harder.
This birth was the seed for all the resources we create through our company, Balanced Families. We wouldn't be who we are today without this experience. It drove us to want to create resources that are balanced and that truly educate couples about all possibilities during labor. The birth education we received in 2014 was very one-sided and made us afraid of hospitals. We believe you can educate about unmedicated birth while also educating about interventions in an unbiased way.
This birth brought Ben and I closer together and helped us see how very important a knowledgeable partner is during birth. I couldn't have done it without Ben's steadfast presence. He was the ULTIMATE birth partner - sacrificial, empathetic, supportive, and he gave it all he had. This birth story could've been a bad chapter in our life, but we believe God used it for good.