*NOTE: Natural childbirth was awesome for me, but it’s not for everyone for a variety of reasons. Thank God we live in a country where we have choices and medical options available for both mom and baby! This post is not intended to judge anyone for choices they make, as I believe all women choose what is best for themselves and their family. This is just my story as it happened – nothing less, nothing more.*
Yesterday we took our newborn son to the doctor for his two week check-up at the pediatrician’s office. The nurse gave him a hepatitis B shot in his upper thigh, and the little guy screamed his face off. I felt like killing that nurse with my bare hands for causing pain in my child. And that’s when I realized I’d been bitten by the bug of parental love…a love so protective and instinctual that it makes you nuts.
We found out we were pregnant in November 2008, but it took awhile to get excited about it. After a miscarriage last summer, I was afraid to get my hopes up. But as my belly grew, so did our anticipation. We found a good doctor and I continued my crazy travel schedule, giving safety & self-defense seminars across the United States. I became an expert on puking in pretty much any public place, since morning sickness kicked into full gear as my travels got underway. Did you know many airlines no longer have barf bags? If I get any spare time in the next few months, I’m gonna write a few letters about that.
We made the decision early on to have a natural, unmedicated birth. I saw the documentary The Business of Being Born (created by Ricki Lake) which opened my eyes to the rising number of medical interventions in healthy pregnancies and births. While pain in childbirth wasn’t something I was looking forward to, I believe in my body and the idea that women were made to do this. I felt strongly about giving our baby the chance to make an entrance into this world without any medication and very little stress. To prepare, we did Bradley Method and Hypnobirthing classes in addition to reading lots of books like Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.
I took a tour of the labor and delivery ward at the hospital when I was 33 weeks pregnant. The word “meltdown” doesn’t begin to explain my reaction to this place. I had been assured the L&D area had a holistic feel and was “homey.” But honestly, this ward was about as homey as a mental institution. As the rules were explained about giving birth there, I felt utterly dejected. This was not the birth I had hoped for, and I had an awful feeling about this hospital…I actually felt FEAR. That’s when I realized my intuition was warning me. As I’ve taught so many women in my presentations, the definition of intuition is “knowing something without knowing why.” After many tears and some Baskin & Robbins peanut butter & chocolate ice cream, Peter and I knew we had to seek another option.
Enter the most amazing birth center and midwives under the sun at Mountain Midwifery in Englewood, CO. Never in my life have I received such attentive emotional, physical and medical care. The entire staff is kind, fun, personable, empathetic and accepted me as a patient very late in the game. (Could have had something to do with my threat to have my baby on their door step if they didn’t let me in…I know, I’m a psycho. But I was kidding…kind of.) Honestly, I love these women and think everyone should at least investigate the idea of having a baby at a birth center and under the care of Midwives.
So that brings us to the eve of the birth on August 17, 2009. I had a full day of meetings and project work, as the Girls Fight Back Fall Tour is about to begin. I was tired of being pregnant, my “Shrek Feet” were puffy and out of control, my belly was enormous and I was ready to meet this creature inside me that was plagued by 24 hour a day hiccups. Peter made his spicy chicken tacos, which we now refer to as “Labor Tacos.” (Nice foreshadowing, eh?)
Less than 3 hours later, we started getting ready for bed. Just as I was about to request a small crane to peel my huge ass out of the couch, I heard a weird “pop” sound inside my belly. (Kinda like when you pop your knee.) Turns out this popping sound was my water breaking. All our classes said that water breaking doesn’t mean you’re having a baby right away. For some women (especially first-time mamas) it can be another day before baby comes, so I thought we had time. But less than a minute later I felt my first contraction, which was way more powerful than I anticipated for early labor. About 3.5 minutes later, the next one came…and 3 minutes later the next one came. (We geeked out and used an iPhone app called Contraction Master to time these – I highly recommend it.) That’s when I realized my body skipped early labor altogether. I was in ACTIVE labor right off the bat, and our midwife named Sarit told us to get in the car and drive to the birth center.
After a grueling 30 minute drive, we arrived at the birth center by 1 am. I was dialated 6 cm and 100% effaced. I practically dove head-first into that amazing birthing pool, and spent the entire night laboring in every position short of swinging from a chandelier. Baby was having a hard time clearing the cervix, so with each contraction Sarit was holding open the cervix while I pushed. (And yes, that felt about as awesome as it sounds.) At times I didn’t know if I could do it, and seriously questioned my judgment on the whole natural childbirth thing. But I remembered from our Bradley Method classes that all women doubt themselves (and their sanity) at the very end…and that meant I was close. Thankfully baby finally pushed past the cervix and into the birth canal around 6 am. At this point I had been in full-throttle labor for almost 7 hours and hadn’t slept for almost 24 hours. Delirious doesn’t begin to describe my mental state at that point, but the Midwives saw baby’s head…
After realizing how close I was, my creepy motivational speaker persona emerged. I actually said to the midwives and nurses in attendance at that point, “OK Team! Let’s do this!” (Seriously, who says that in the throws of labor?) After 35 minutes of pushing, baby made his grand entrance at 7 am sharp on August 18, 2009. Because of a shift change at the birth center, 2 nurses and 3 midwives were in attendance (Sarit, Nancy & Sarah) and Nancy actually caught him.
We named our son Miles Patrick. He was 8 lbs. 4 oz. and 22 inches of pure love.
Right away our son was placed on my belly, and I couldn’t believe I just pushed out this slimy little cone-headed man. Peter got into bed with me, and the three of us just lay there and stared at each other, cried tears of joy and pretty much marveled at the miracle of life we had just experienced. Then we took a 3 hour nap with Miles on our chests, and the Midwives prepared me an herbal bath. By 2 pm that afternoon, we were at home with our new baby.
Giving birth naturally pushed me to the very end of my physical, mental and emotional limits and was the most intense experience my husband and I have ever had. Despite the pain and exhaustion, I came out on the other side knowing I can pretty much do anything. It was by far, the most accomplished I’ve ever felt in all my life and will probably remain the hardest, yet best thing I have ever done. Many have asked me if I’d do it again, and my answer is a resounding YES.
(For anyone considering natural childbirth, I’m planning to write more posts about the topic. Please sign up in the box at left to have my blog posts delivered straight to your inbox via Feedburner.)