It’s Baby Bear’s first birthday, and I find myself thinking about her birth more and more.
For the longest time, I would often say something to the tune of “we got lucky”. Although it’s true that births rarely go as planned, and we were incredibly blessed to have the birth experience we did, I don’t want to keep saying it was all luck.
The truth is that Papa Bear and I worked hard for this birth. My birth team (and hospital) was carefully picked – and then re-picked. I discussed my hopes A LOT with both my partner and my doctor. I let them know when I thought they weren’t getting it. I asked that they trust my body as much as I did. I did yoga, practiced breathing and pain techniques, visualized, prayed, talked to baby. I learned to trust nature, my body, and my baby. I made sure every person with me during labor knew and followed my birth plan. No lights. No talk of centimeters or time. No being told how to position my body or how to push. Just controlled breathing and a lot of people believing this is what a woman’s body is made for.
Here’s the reason I felt the need to say we were lucky – I know a lot of women who want, plan and prepare for this experience and don’t get it. But their efforts shouldn’t go unrecognized. And neither should mine. Yes, nature – and luck – was on our side June 5. But so was hard work and trust.
Here’s Baby’s story:
Wednesday, June 5, 2013 at 10:47p.m.
7 pounds, 1 ounce. 19 inches.
Papa Bear and I were getting anxious for Baby’s arrival. Monday I went for a 1.5 hour walk. I joked at yoga that A friend would have her baby (due June 17) before I had mine. Tuesday, Papa Bear and I went out for greasy burgers and walked around the mall. I had also tried many other “techniques” to get Baby on its way out. Wednesday morning, after finding out that The friend had in fact “gone before” me, Papa Bear and I decided that Baby was probably going to be born after its due date (June 7) and that was fine with us. We wanted our babe, but we wanted it when it was ready. I continued to talk to Babe, like I had for over a week, telling it our mantra: “we love you, we’re ready, we can do this.” I also sang our yoga birthing songs to it. Then I spent most of the day distracting myself with Netflix and snacks.
At 2:18p.m. I felt a painful sensation in my back and abdomen that I had never felt before. I couldn’t breathe while it was happening. I felt it coming in my back and then my stomach got hard and my lower abs felt like stabbing cramps. It felt like I had food poisoning and needed to poop, but I couldn’t, and sitting on the toilet intensified the pain. I texted Mama Sarah (doula/friend) to let her know what I was experiencing and told her I was going to try to nap. As I was falling asleep, another “sensation” came and I knew I wouldn’t be napping.
After a few more “sensations” that were 15 minutes apart, I decided to call Papa Bear, who was at work. I finally admitted they were contractions because the pain came and went, and when it went, I felt fine. I told my partner he should come home soon. It wasn’t an emergency, but I might be in labor. I also made him promise that he wouldn’t be mad about leaving early if it turned out to be a false alarm! He said he’d be home within an hour. I barely managed to say goodbye because another contraction was coming on. Then I lost my mucus plug.
By the time Papa Bear got home (a little before 4p.m.), the contractions were about 8 minutes apart. He called the hospital to see when they wanted us to come in. We were pleased to find out that Stephanie, the nurse who had taught our childbirth class, was working that night. She’s a HUGE advocate for Mamas’ rights and natural childbirth.
The contractions became more intense, so Papa Bear had me call Stephanie back. I explained that the contractions were close and intense, and had gone from 20 minutes apart to 6-8 minutes apart in two hours. I also said although I wanted to come in, I was nervous about going to the hospital too early. I didn’t want to end up getting unnecessary interventions because I “wasn’t progressing.” Stephanie reminded me that I had the right to refuse anything from anyone at the hospital. It was MY labor and delivery. She also assured me that there wouldn’t be any interventions I didn’t want just because I came early. She said I should be fine to give it another hour or so at home to see what happens. I continued to monitor contractions finished (over) packing the hospital bags. I called my sister and asked if she could pick up our CSA share box and drop it off. I tried to eat, but the contractions were too close together and my food just didn’t taste good. I did start drinking water. My sister came and helped us get the kitchen clean. Papa Bear wanted to go to the hospital. I wanted the dishes done. I was also REALLY concerned about putting all the share box food away.
When the contractions were 5 minutes apart (4:35p.m.), we decided it was time to head to Cloquet (40 minute drive). I continued trying to “get stuff done.” Finally at 5:15p.m. I called Sarah and asked her to meet us at the post office (we needed to mail something and I was still in denial about the whole labor thing). We also stopped at Target because I wanted a decaf mocha cookie crumble frappuccino from Starbucks. While Papa Bear getting our drinks, I had two contractions. That’s when I knew we should probably get to the hospital. We met up with Sarah and she followed us along the back roads to Cloquet (to avoid the wonderful 35E road construction).
Contractions in the car were pretty intense. Sitting and not being able to change positions didn’t help. To relieve SOME pain, I made a fist and pushed on my lower back during each contraction.
We registered at the hospital. I had contractions in the waiting room and on the way to our room, and had to stop what I was doing several times and grab someone or the wall. But I refused the wheelchair. Stephanie met us at the maternity area.
When we got to our room, I made sure all the snacks and drinks made it to the fridge. Then I changed into a loose swimsuit cover up. Stephanie asked if a nursing student could be present for the labor/birth. I didn’t mind. (Poor girl didn’t know what she had gotten herself into!)
At that point, everyone says it was like something flipped and I was in full swing labor. My contractions became really close together and really intense. I couldn’t get comfortable. I spent a lot of time on all fours on the bed. I needed a hep-lock but refused to move my hand. Stephanie waited patiently until my hand was positioned right and put it in. I don’t even remember her doing it. Sarah reminded me that I needed to keep changing positions. Stephanie filled up the tub. I got naked and got in with the water still running and made Papa Bear get in (clothes still on) behind me on the bench seat. The water was too cold and I felt too crammed. Also, the sound if the faucet was breaking my concentration. Then I threw up. I stayed in the tub awhile longer though, because getting up sounded too painful. After I got out of the tub, I spent a long time on the toilet. I alternated between grabbing the side bar and grabbing Papa Bear.
Each contraction felt like it would never pass. I thought at several points that I wanted drugs or for someone to “just cut it (the baby) out.” I also said a few times, “I can’t do this.” Whenever I said that, the people in the room would say, “You ARE doing this.” That was much more helpful than if they had told me I CAN do this. I couldn’t argue with the fact that I was already doing it! They also reminded me to stay with Babe and stay with my body and breath. That helped me take each contraction one at a time.
I got on all fours on the bed again. Someone needed to check my cervix. I managed to lie on my side for a minute. I heard something about a 7 or 8.
Everyone kept encouraging me to change positions and move. I didn’t want to, because every time I did, the pain/intensity increased. But I knew this meant baby was getting down further, so I moved. Whenever I refused to move, someone would make me open my eyes to look at them. This helped me “come back to reality” and force myself to change positions. I had to squat with my arms on the bed during contractions. Then when they got more intense, I grabbed onto Papa Bear’s neck or belt loops. I’d squat and just hang off of him. It was too much effort to hold myself up AND breathe through contractions.
I got back on all fours on the bed. Each contraction made me feel like I had to push, so I did. My water broke. I could hear it pop and then a gush of warm fluid came out. I remember thinking, “Where is the doctor, I’m going to push this babe outa me soon!” Someone must’ve gotten the doctor. She needed to check my cervix again before I could actually push. I said I couldn’t turn over. Everyone gave me my space, gently encouraging me to at least turn on my side. Eventually I managed to lie on my side in between contractions and she quickly checked my cervix. Once the next contraction came, I immediately got back on all fours. Dr. B let me know I was 10cm and could push anytime. She wanted me to turn around so we could get a better angle for pushing. It was such a difficult moment mentally because I knew I was so close to meeting my baby, but I was too exhausted – and scared of more pain – to turn over. Everyone told me I could turn when I was ready. I did deep breathing and thought about baby coming out. (Papa Bear said I pushed on all fours for about an hour.)
I turned to face forward. Papa Bear climbed on the bed behind me. He supported my body and arms. Two nursing students supported my legs and feet. Nobody told me to push. I breathed into each contraction and pushed on my own. Everyone reminded me to relax my legs as much as possible. I felt like Baby was moving in and out of my body with each breath/contraction. I let this happen for awhile, visualizing Baby’s head stretching everything out. Then I started taking deep breaths in and quick breaths out as I pushed, visualizing my out breath pushing baby out. My vagina was on fire. Dr. B said I could feel its head if I wanted. I reached down and touched its hair. Then I decided to push at all costs. Big breath in, big push, breath out. Repeat. At one point I thought, “I wish Dr. B would just cut an episiotomy and pull this baby out!” But I kept breathing and pushing. Then its head came out and I SCREAMED as Baby fully came into the world. (Papa Bear later told me pushing like this lasted about 15-20 minutes.) Dr. B. lifted Baby up and asked Papa Bear to announce boy or girl. At first he couldn’t see! But then – GIRL! They put her on my chest right away. Once the cord stopped pulsing, they clamped and cut it and then let us be. I started shaking uncontrollably and was so cold. The doctor monitored my placenta. I was super annoyed that “labor” wasn’t over. I pushed the placenta out, not realizing that it would take some work. Baby didn’t latch right away. Mama Sarah helped me make a “boob sandwich” and we were on our way to successful breast-feeding! We stayed naked together for at least an hour. I was in heaven.
It turns out, I had extremely minimal tearing – no stitches necessary. Dr. B. said it was because of how controlled and calm my pushing was. The hospital staff were very impressed with the entire labor/birth. I was impressed with my birth team. They did whatever was necessary to help me labor comfortably and naturally. I was impressed with nature – and Baby Bear. My body and her body had communicated and cooperated with each other better than I could have imagined.
I can’t stress enough how helpful prenatal yoga/meditation was. I kept my eyes closed almost the entire time I was at in labor. This helped me stay oblivious to time, distractions, and other people (turns out there were A LOT of people in the room a lot of the time!). I played music similar to what we listen to at yoga. I moaned like crazy. I breathed into contractions and pushing and pain (thanks, yoga instructor, for making us do endless squats!). I visualized. I stayed mindful and in the moment. Having a doula/mama friend there was also invaluable. She knew sayings/techniques from yoga (since she herself has been through our class). She got me popsicles, water, wash cloths, etc. She reminded Papa Bear to stay hydrated. She fielded the hospital staff. She made it possible for Papa Bear to be entirely focused on me.
And the only way I was able to stay entirely focused on myself and Babe was knowing Papa Bear was right next to me the entire time. He encouraged me, held me. He believed in me and my body when I couldn’t. I could not ask for a better birth partner.