I am a sucker for birth stories. When I see a birth story blog I read it. If a friend of mine has recently given birth, I ask for the details. Not just “how big was the baby” kind of details, but I genuinely care to hear about the events leading up to that little one’s birth. While many birth stories have similarities, no two are exactly alike. One common thing in many birth stories is dealing with the unexpected. Your baby doesn’t have their own copy of your birth plan to follow. There are so many variables at play that you never can be 100% prepared to deal with. Labor isn’t a predictable and textbook; there are surprises.
Birth Story #1
For me my first labor and delivery was full of lots of unexpected situations. Of course when you are doing it all for the first time everything is new. I tried to be as prepared as I could, but my first was nothing like I imagined it. I had planned for a natural water birth at a birth center. No drugs and minimal intervention. And I hoped it would go relatively quickly. Nope. Not what happened.
Early I knew I wanted to try a drug-free, natural birth. My family can be the first to testify that I have a very low pain tolerance. I am not a tough girl, and never have been. But a drug free birth was important to me, and my husband fully supported my decision. I found a great birth center, which helped prepare me for labor and delivery. As my due date got closer I continued to prepare and educate myself in natural birthing methods and pain relief. A doula friend even walked us through a birthing class. We felt ready!
Then my due date came and went. Anyone who has gone overdue knows the torture it can be! I was due December 22nd. And at the time we lived on the east coast while all of our family was in MN. So in addition to the agony of waiting, we also felt the loneliness of not being with our families for Christmas. It was a hard combination!
Finally December 30th, early in the morning, we saw some positive signs that labor was coming! My water broke, but labor wasn’t moving quickly enough so we had more waiting to do. After almost a full day with not a lot of progress my contractions picked up. Still I wasn’t dilated nearly enough. I had to be transferred from the birth center to the hospital. There they gave me pitocin and we waited.
This labor thing was not going like I had thought it would. I still was confident and hopeful I could avoid an epidural. After being on pitocin and over 30 hours since my water broke, I reluctantly decided an epidural was needed. I felt a mixture of emotions in that moment. There was a feeling of relief because now I could sleep! There was also a feeling of defeat though. I had a goal but I failed.
Thankfully my husband and midwife told me all of the things I needed to hear. That this was a wise choice for my body and that I wasn’t a failure. Then I slept. And it probably was only 2-3 hours but it felt AMAZING! Labor is hard work, and long labors are no joke. I was happy I opted for the relief.
After some rest and a few hours later my epidural was wearing off. I could feel the intense contractions again, this time hitting me even stronger then before. The midwife stepped in the room and I told her it was time to push and she said “OK!” For the next hour I pushed and then our baby girl was born. 40 hours from my water breaking, labor was done.
She had some problems breathing right away so the nurses quickly tended to her and then we heard her cries. Next she was placed on my chest and I looked at her, our beautiful daughter. In that moment it didn’t matter to me that my labor was nothing like I had planned. She was here in my arms and that’s all that I cared about.
Birth Story #2
When I was pregnant with our second child I realized I had to start thinking about this whole labor and delivery thing again. I definitely had a different perspective. I knew I could plan and prepare, but to also be flexible too.
During this pregancy we moved from the east coast to Minnesota. Now I needed to find a new doctor or midwife. I liked my midwives back east, so I considered finding another birth center. But I also felt more comfortable delivering again in a hospital because our first daughter had some complications and was in the NICU. Then I found the perfect combination; I saw an OB and a midwife and would deliver in the hospital.
I loved my OB and my midwife. They were supportive of me and my choice to again try for a natural, drug free birth. A natural birth was still a goal of mine, and I wanted to reach it. In my mind I knew that I wouldn’t be a failure if I chose an epidural, but I also really wanted to try without.
Right before my due date I started feeling like labor was coming, but I tried to relax. My 40 week check up was on my due date. My husband and I left our daughter home with family and made sure our bags were packed! At that appointment I had my OB strip my membranes (which can help induce labor if your body is ready) and boy did it help! It was about 4:30pm when we left my appointment, but I was NOT going home. We had a 35 minute drive from our house to the hospital, so we stuck close by. After a few hours of killing time we were ready to go back to the hospital. I could already tell things were going faster than last time.
For the next few hours I walked the halls, paced in our room, labored in the tub, and bounced on a birthing ball. My husband and nurse were amazing. I am sure without them I would have given up. Late into the night my mom joined me in the hospital room and jumped right into my team of support. She wasn’t there the first labor, but I was so glad to have here there this time.
Eventually my water broke, and pretty soon after that I knew it was time to push. After a short 12 hour labor, with my husband and mom supporting me and midwife directing me, I pushed our second daughter into the world. It was an incredible moment when she was placed on my chest. The whole labor blurred in an instant. She was here in my arms and again, that’s all I cared about.
Having had two very different labor experiences it makes me wonder what the delivery of baby #3 will look like. I am due in October, so planning for the delivery is something I have had to start doing. My current plan is to have a natural, drug-free birth again as my goal.
I know now that I can survive labor with both an epidural and also without. Having been through both I can say that I really preferred no epidural. Of course the labor I had when I had an epidural was long and tough, which makes them hard to compare. But I felt like my recovery from my second birth was quicker. And although I felt every pain and contraction, I also felt more empowered and more present in the process. So for me, my choice is no epidural.
But I don’t really know what this labor will throw at me. All I can do is prepare, but expect surprises. That surprise may be a faster labor, a longer labor, or even needing a C-section. At the end of it, the labor is just part of the process to bring me my baby. And that first moment with my baby is the moment that I know will be what I remember most.