Well, I experienced a natural childbirth for the first time after 7 medicated ones. I had a number of reasons for choosing to go natural.
One is mainly that I just wanted to experience it. Another is that it just seemed appealing from the testimonies of other women who had done it. Part of me wanted to embrace the spiritual experience I heard it could be. And partly–though I had never had any trouble from medicated births–I believe the evidence that intervention can potentially cause problems.
So I firmly planted my mind and heart and went forward. I did a lot of mental preparation, praying and relaxation practice during my pregnancy, feeling really confident going into labor.
I expected this birth to be very fast. My labor woke me at 3 am Tuesday morning and was on and off all day. I was so depressed, thinking I could could go for days or weeks on that mentally torturing roller coaster. But around 7 pm, contractions got stronger and steadily closer together.
Based on the fear of being told it’s likely I’d deliver quickly, we made the hour drive, hoping to have enough time to get settled and relaxed before delivery. I was calm, focused and excited that the time had finally come.
No chance of that fast birth we expected. They didn’t even officially admit us for a couple of hours because I was only at 2 cm when we got there. The nurse said, “I’m not sure you’re in labor”…to which I replied, “WHAT??!!” I knew what labor was and I knew I was in it She finally realized it too and admitted us.
My contractions increased in intensity but took a long time in between. I walked which helped, but eventually I was too tired to continue walking. I had to rest a lot which seemed to stall my progress. I was getting really discouraged around 2 or 3 am when I was only about 6 cm, but having harder and harder contractions. At times, there would be no *apparent* progress after laboring hard for more than an hour.
Long story short, it was tempting, at the suggestion of the nurse, to take a little pitocin to speed things up. Especially as I watched my family grow weary with me. It was almost a pressure to perform–like *I* was holding up progress, and I just wanted it to be over so everyone could get some rest. This is where my husband would say, “Stop worrying about everyone else…let your body take it’s time”…isn’t he brilliant?
I wondered if they were thinking, “Why is it so important you go natural? Why can’t you just take the meds and be done with it?“ Though no one ever hinted at such a thought…well maybe my Dad from whom I inherited my impatience.
Other than the length of the labor, I was not surprised at the experience….yet.
Around 9 am Wednesday morning, my doctor came in to check my progress. He didn’t ask or tell me, but he broke my water while checking, so I knew things were about to pick up.
About 30 minutes later, I had two contractions that were “over the top”. I kept waiting for that “irresistible urge to push” which was approaching, but not quite here yet. However, I decided right then I wasn’t going to have another contraction like the last one. I announced, “I’m pushing”.
But the doctor wasn’t there so they wanted me to wait. “Sorry”, I said, “I’m pushing”. They scrambled around to get me ready, called the doctor, and were still telling me to wait.
At this point, the whole experience took an unexpected turn. I don’t know if natural childbirth advocates have signed a “pact of secrecy” or what, but I was not prepared for the end.
Everything I thought I had read/heard about natural child birth indicated that the most painful part was getting through the contractions. That the actual delivery came as sheer relief with some “pressure and a burning sensation” being the worst.
I had worked so hard on focusing and being controlled through all the contractions. I really believe the Lord had given me grace to accomplish just that and the nurses testified to the “surprise” that I was so calm during contractions. I fully expected I could maintain that level of control to the end, since, after all, the worst part was over.
The worst part was not over. I lost control, I lost focus, and all my senses left me. It was a blur. The pain of delivery didn’t even compare to my hardest contractions. (Am I breaking the pact, here?) The nurses and Aaron were trying to talk to me above my own voice and it was rather a mingled confusion as all I could think of was ending the pain.
The doctor was there by now and once the head was delivered, the pain peaked and then they told me to stop pushing. I didn’t know the cord was wrapped around her neck too tightly to just slip it off as they normally would. So at this point, I could just yell “GET IT OUT!” I didn’t realize he had to clamp off the cord in two places and cut it before the delivery could continue.
My mother got up and left the room at this point. She left crying and said she simply couldn’t endure it. She joined my Dad in the hall.
What little coherence I had left conceived this terrifying thought: “I knew it!…I’m giving birth to a 15 lb. baby and it’s stuck. I’ve got to stay like this until they do an emergency C-section!”
So the sheer panic of that thought gave me a super-charged pushing stamina and I finally delivered her.
But it wasn’t over…I had heard about the euphoria, the relief and rush that comes as soon as the baby is delivered. But my experience was different. I was still in agonizing pain (is this normal?) and could not stop sobbing. I was barely even aware when they placed Ellia on my chest. I just cried and cried while Aaron held me.
The doctor, in fact, ordered pain meds through my IV the minute she was born.
It was completely unexpected and I’m still trying to sort through the process. I’m glad I experienced it. But honestly, the thoughts of doing it that way again are terrifying.
I wanted to be able to report that indeed, it was empowering, and I wouldn’t consider anything else, and I was converted to natural childbirth forever. I want to share in that group of women who feel elated after childbirth.
But my honesty won’t let me. I’m so in awe of those of you who have done this more than once. I joked later that I couldn’t believe the population of the world didn’t die out before pain meds. Maybe I’ll feel differently in a few weeks? Months? Someone told me I’d forget. I don’t think so.
It is taking me some time to process the whole thing. I feel sad that I’m so scared of it now. I feel somewhat disappointed…not really in the experience, but more in myself, I guess. I cried today thinking of it. I feel almost like I’ve let the natural birthing community down because I can’t bring myself to share in the praises and elation of this natural experience. I’m not opposed to pain…really. I actually have quite a high tolerance. I told my daughter before the birth..“Oh honey, they only yell and scream in the movies.”…Oops.
Nevertheless…God is good. He gave me a beautiful, healthy daughter, and strength to bring her into the world. It can be done. His grace was sufficient and I give Him all glory and honor for this new, immortal gift of life.