Before sharing my birth story (actually the stories of both of my babies’ births with you), I wanted to include a disclaimer: I had all-natural births and I thought both were awesome in their transformative intensity. But, I know many women for whom other approaches to childbirth are preferable and/or necessary, and I want to say that I completely respect that. Simply because I think going natural is great, I know it’s not for us all. Now, onto my babies’ births…
They arrived 2 years, 10 days apart, in two different states, delivered by two very different OBs, yet their births are incredibly similar. 40 weeks, 5 days into both pregnancies, I was sent to the hospital to be induced with Cervidil, a cervical ripening drug. My amniotic fluid had reached levels potentially dangerous and so waiting for labor to begin on its own was no longer an option. Once checked in and hooked up to the fetal monitor, I was given an IV for antibiotics; I was GBS+ throughout both pregnancies and needed prophylactic drugs to ensure my baby’s health.
Within two hours of the Cervidil administration, I began feeling contractions. At first they were gentle nudges, wake-ups from my daydreams about eventually holding my baby in my arms. Quickly these gentle nudges became intense, and I found myself sitting in the rocking chair, practicing breathing techniques, bouncing on the yoga ball, walking the hallways, leaning literally and figuratively into my husband (who was the best birthing coach I could have asked for), having my back massaged, and taking hot showers to alleviate the pain. Showers were key for me, so much so, that to this day, I encourage anyone giving birth to stand in the shower as much as possible during labor.
In and out of the shower I went for nearly 13 hours with both babies. The turning point in both deliveries however, came when I reached 7cm dilation. With my son, I found myself shortly before 7am entering the shower for what would be the last time. I stood there for about 10 minutes, taking deep, full breaths. I knew that I was close to becoming a mother and that soon the little man I’d dreamed of having would be cuddling in my chest, nursing. What I did not know was that it would take 2 ½ hours of pushing (yes, you read that correctly!) to get to that magnificent moment. Once out of the shower, the nurse checked me and told me I had reached the magic number. There I was 10cm dilated and ready to push. I came close often, so often in fact that my OB was called away from surgery to help deliver my baby. About 30 minutes into pushing my OB left because I was not progressing as expected. We tried it all: the bar, squatting, standing…the difficulty, I later came to realize was that I was not pushing with contractions. I was just pushing. Whenever. That meant that my body was not getting the rest it needed between the waves and I was not maximizing the effect of the contractions. Eventually, I got it and regrouped. I looked into my husband’s teary eyes, with tears in my own, and pushed with all my might. And at 9:29am, out came my gloriously beautiful baby boy, all 8 pounds, 5 ounces of him.
The pushing stage with my daughter could not have been any more different. Getting to 10cm was not as easy as it seemed with my son. In fact, there were many, many times from 7cm-10cm in which I thought I could not do it. I was exhausted. I was over it. I was sweating and suffering in ways I had forgotten about. And then, I felt the urge to push. My husband had accompanied me to the bathroom and so he rang the emergency bell. In rushed in my wonderful OB and nurse. They hurried me to the bed and after a quick check, I took a deep breath of relief knowing I had reached 10cm. It took 10 minutes (yes, only 10 minutes!) of pushing and there she was. And at 3:25pm, my dark-haired, 7 pound, 14 ounce beauty was in my arms. On my chest. Nursing away.
I know how fortunate I am that the births I hoped for came to pass. I know that many, many women have their birth dreams altered by unexpected events. In the end, what matters is that baby and mom make it through healthfully. I truly believe that. But I also believe I owe much of my birthing success to my husband, who in both labors and deliveries was a super-star partner. He held my hand, letting me squeeze as tightly as I could. He encouraged me in the most intense moments of my life. He reminded me over and over again that I could do it, even and especially when I told him I could not. Secondly, I owe thanks to a most powerful gift I received from a dear friend: “Ina May’s [Gaskin] Guide to Childbirth.” My husband and I read the book each night and with great anticipation leading up to my son’s birth – the book taught us to not be afraid of childbirth (regardless of what shape it was to take), to trust in my body’s strength, and to remember that my mind and body are connected in ways often overlooked.
Both of my children’s births have impacted my life in ways words cannot fully encapsulate. What I knew going into both was that my love for them is like an ocean. Infinite. Deep. Powerful. Life changing. Thank you sweet babies of mine.