I'd like to preface that none of what I state should be deemed medical advice or guidance and you should seek your doctor for any questions regarding your pregnancy and birth.
I've wanted a natural birth for a long time. Each time I watched "The Business of Being Born", I've felt empowered. Then I'd hear the birth stories of friends, family, co-workers, etc. and say...yep, I'd like a natural birth, but that's likely not going to happen...oh well.
When I told this to my doula, doctor and husband, they all said that was not a good way to look at this process. Each of them encouraged me to keep thinking positive about a natural birth and to truly believe in myself and that I could bring Braelyn into this world naturally.
To help me 'prepare' for labor, something to which I had NO IDEA what to expect, I watched what I could, exercised as I could, and nourished my body as well as I could (of course treating myself to the occasional ice cream which turned bi-weekly towards the end!).
Braelyn was born on a Monday at 40 weeks and 5 days of my pregnancy.
- The Thursday before (40 weeks 1 day), I became super serious about making sure Braelyn made her debut in the next few days. I religiously sat on my exercise ball at work, during movie watching, and any time I'd feel the need to sit. And I started walking more. I had been walking regularly through pregnancy, but had become lazy in my last few weeks. I picked my butt up and went to the mall, walking the mile loop around as my legs tinged and I had to stop FOUR times at various department stores for a bathroom break! I also bought a whole pineapple and cut it up. I had heard pineapple can help induce labor, so I devoured that thing between Thursday afternoon and Friday morning!
- The Friday before her birth (40 weeks 2 days), I only made it about 1/2 way through the work day before I threw in the towel and asked my boss if I could call it quits and go on maternity leave. I was sore, I didn't feel great (kinda woosy and exhausted). She allowed for me to quit and I wrapped things up, bouncing away on my exercise ball. I walked 2 miles that evening when I started to feel better. I had an Dr. appointment this day and my doctor had said that I was 3 cm dilated and 50% effaced and he said he'd see me soon :)
- On Saturday, my mother arrived in town from Boston. We were officially 40 weeks and 3 days...I was serious about getting Braelyn out before my mom had to fly back home the following Saturday...I kept thinking how terrible would it be if she was here and she didn't even get to meet her granddaughter!? Together, we walked 4 miles. Some in the mall, some outside with the dogs. I bought and devoured another pineapple. By the way...I heard later that the amount of pineapple you'd have to eat would be that of your bodyweight in pineapple...oh well, it curved my sweet tooth and was delicious none the less!
- On Sunday, I became a crazy woman. Waking up and walking 2 miles solo, another mile with my mom and the dogs when she got up, another mile at the mall with mom and Neal, another mile with the dogs, and then 1 more mile with just mom for a total of SIX MILES!!! I told you, I was crazy ready! Also, my husband and I 'did what got us to this place' in the afternoon between miles 4 and 5 which was ALWAYS the best way for me to start cramping. Later that night, I called my back-up doula as I had started to feel contractions for hours on end, but wasn't timing them. She said, time them and see if they continue to last for over an hour, at least a minute long, and no longer than 5 minutes apart. I sat on my exercise ball as we watched a movie, holding my stomach to feel for the contractions as they were not painful enough to knock me off my feet, and sure enough, they were lasting the 1-1-5 rule! Hilary then said, if I wanted to keep them up, I could pump for nipple stimulation, but that I should probably get some rest. So I went to bed after our movie around 9pm and woke up at 3, the contractions were there, but felt lessening. So I woke my mom up and had her help me pump since I'd never done this before. I pumped for 20 minutes on, 20 off, and another 20 on, and the contractions came back a little better, but I was tired so I went back to bed.
- On Monday morning at 5:30 am, I woke up and felt the need to walk again. I put on some clothes and headed out the front door. As I started, I thought, let's just walk the sidewalk on my one street up and down, not the neighborhood. There's only 5 houses on each side of the street, it's not a long street. Sure enough, I was across the street on 'lap 3' of my street and I felt a gush. It wasn't a lot, but enough for me to be shocked and go home. It was now a little after 6am. I checked in the bathroom and sure enough, my water had broken. I called my back-up doula again around 7 am after I had completely soaked 2 pads with more breaking of my waters. She said the contractions would get stronger, and to let her know as well as contact my back-up back-up doula...yes I went through 3 doulas. This was Labor Day weekend, and our original doula was on family vacation, our backup doula had an event she had to teach at for Labor Day, so I was going to have to rely on a doula I'd never met! Woah! Sure enough, around 8am the contractions were strong and I would have to be on hands and knees on the floor to help me through them. Neal had cooked us a delicious breakfast, I cuddled with my pups and told them they'd meet their sister soon and wished Walden (our lab) a happy birthday, I took a shower, Neal took a shower, and like that we were finally off to the hospital around 9am.
- I also drank red raspberry leaf tea like it was going out of style! I had at least 3 cups a day from about week 38 and on. From about week 30 to 38, I would have 1-2 cups a day
- I also practiced working my transverse abdominals and kegals as shown in the Knocked Up Fitness DVD as often as I could remember during my final trimester
The birth of Braelyn:
On our way to the hospital, I had 3 strong contractions. One in the driveway as my mother mouthed BREATH - BREATH - BREATH to me as we drove away and she could see me holding my breath. The other 2 contractions I would breath through and push my feet up against the floorboards in agony.
As we arrived to triage, Neal dropped me off and went to park the car. It was pouring down rain. The moment I arrived to submit my information, a contraction came on, I dropped to the floor on hands and knees and the check-in woman assisted me with telling me how to breath in and out. Neal arrived and we were brought back to check my progress. I was 3.5 cm dilated and 90% effaced. My doula, Deborah, arrived at this time and had introduced herself, read my birth plan, and assisted me with my next contraction by giving me a hip squeeze which I very much liked. The counter pressure helped take my mind off of the contraction and eased the contractions. It was also at this time that I got a heplock put in my arm. This was actually the thing I feared most as I was afraid I wouldn't move my arm once this was in. I HATE having IV's in me...it only took one contraction for me to care less about this heplock!
We were checked into our room, and I continued contractions that were strong and painful about every 5-7 minutes. We walked the hallways and even did the 5 flights of stairs one time through. During those stair walks I had at least 3 contractions I can remember. Neal stood on one side and my doula on the other, doing a double hip squeeze.
|The Stairwell at the hospital has fitness suggestions on every flight...no I did not do these, I just walked and managed contractions!|
|Stair walking during labor!|
My doctor, Dr. Blanke, arrived maybe around noon or 12:30 to see how I was doing and talk me through things. I had one good contraction while he was there that Neal and Deborah helped me get through before I joked with Dr. Blanke about being in his Cardinal's gear ready for the game, which he said started at 1:30 and he'd see me after to bring Braelyn on home. I thought oh HECK NO you will not see me after, I'm getting this child out, but another contraction came and I could not speak.
A short time later, the contractions were harder and stronger and during one I even squealed out, "Just give me the epidural!" To which my doula and husband both ignored and talked me through the contraction. At that time, the nurse came in and said she'd check my dilation. To everyone's amazement, I was 7 cm dilated and fully effaced. This labor was going much shorter than anyone had thought it could. The nurse stayed in the room and said she'd get in touch with my doctor to have him come back. I had one or two good contractions later, to which I remembered what I had learned about pushing in my "Knocked-Up Fitness" DVD's and I had felt the need to push for sure, so I did and I could FEEL HER! I FELT MY LITTLE GIRL move further down and start to make her way!!! I was thrilled!!! That last contraction, I was on my side in the hospital bed and Neal or my doula was doing a hip squeeze on my right side as my left lay on the bed. The nurse must have known something was up, so she checked me again and said, "Your cervix is gone!"...I had no idea what that meant...apparently that meant my push was good and I was fully effaced and fully dilated. :)
Once Dr. Blanke arrived, a team of nurses was in the room. I had two nurses on my left side, one on my right, my husband moved from my right side to my left and stood near my head, and my doula was now on my right side with Dr. Blanke at the receiving end, and another nurse off to the side at the sink, I think taking notes...not sure...
I had about 8 more contractions before Braelyn was here. 5 of those contractions, she was literally partially out. I didn't look, but Neal said you could see the top of her head (he only looked once and from above, not at the receiving end). I thought, "Okay Dr. Blanke...go ahead and freaking pull her out!"
My contractions were still about 5 minutes apart, which isn't all that common. So during our 'breaks' Dr. Blanke would tell me what he was doing and what he was seeing, and then during the next break, we'd comment on the music and how it was too slow...and time seemed to go on forever with her 'stuck' in the same spot for many contractions. During contractions, the nurses would instruct me to pull my legs up as high as I could, and they helped with this, and Neal held my head forward and I was instructed to push without making a noise and hold my breath or breath out, but not to make gasping breaths for air. Sometimes, I'd continue this pushing past a contraction because I was so into it, and Dr. Blanke would have to tell me, okay let's break now and wait for the next one.
After about 3 of 4 of those contractions with her little head partially out, Dr. Blanke finally said, "I don't normally do this, but there's a band of muscle here that I think is holding her back, I'm afraid you will have a very large external tear, or I can make a small internal tear in the tissue and that may allow her to pass". I thought about it as a contraction came on, and then told him to do it before the next one, and finally she had moved along! I don't even remember feeling the cut! She came out and the umbilical cord was wrapped just once around her so they had to unwrap it first, then I had one more contraction and the rest of her was birthed. It was 1:33 pm on Monday, September 1st! She still hadn't made noises and the nurse and doctor were both suctioning out her airways. When my water had broken, I had known there was already meconium so I knew she'd need to have a VERY thorough suctioning before they'd let me hold her. It was about a minute and finally, I heard my little girl! I kept trying to reach for her but was far too exhausted. Then, they handed her to me and I couldn't stop telling Neal how much I loved him and then telling Braelyn I loved her!
|Right after they handed Braelyn to me!|
|First Family Photo|
We stayed together as a family of three for at least 2 hours before letting our parents come meet Braelyn. Neal's parents had driven in from town and were actually at the hospital by the time Braelyn was there. His mom said she could see when the Dr. and all the nurses were rushing into the room for Braelyn's arrival. My father took the 6ish hour drive and met his girlfriend at the local airport who flew in from Wisconsin. She arrived at about 2pm, just after Braelyn was born. I actually was on the phone with my dad when he was picking her up and to both their surprises calling them to tell them Braelyn was here and they could get lunch and come see her in about an hour and a half! We then called my mom and told her the news. She was thrilled and shocked we had called so soon but said she'd come when we were ready.
My birth was beautiful. It truly was almost exactly how I had wanted, but thought I'd never get. I'm extremely thankful for my amazing husband and all of his support through pregnancy, labor, and now fatherhood.
I truly do not think Neal nor I could have done the all natural birth had it not been for having a doula there to guide us. We wouldn't have known these comfort measures well enough, and I know he would have been even more tired from doing a hip squeeze solo. Yes, it's not the same pain I went through, but he was still sore from using forearm muscles to squeeze for so long!
I'm so blessed with such a beautiful little girl and an amazing little family of three...five if you count the fur pups! I hope every woman can experience a birth the way she wants. There's no one right way. Whether baby comes via C-section, after an epidural, or natural, it's an amazingly beautiful, humbling, and inspiring experience!
|On our way home!|
***A note to my future self if we make another baby...I was still on my left side during most contractions and pushing, but the nurses kept pushing me over to my back. My doula was NOT pleased, nor was I, but honestly I was too exhausted to think of any other position to birth in at the moment. Had I been more aware, I would have asked to move back to a forward leaning position. I would have needed help getting to that position by having people literally pick me up and move me between contractions, but I do wish I had done that...but that's something to remember for the next time possibly.
***Also, for years before I was even pregnant, I had wanted any births I had photographed. I do wish we would have designated someone to do this for us.