If you’re an expecting mom, or trying to conceive, you’ve probably thought about giving birth. When I was pregnant I wanted straightforward “this is how it was for me” accounts of birth. Many of my mom friends and our Doula were willing to share, and gave me some wonderful pearls of wisdom in the process. A lot, however, was left out. Would I have liked to know about it beforehand? In hindsight YES. This is my most honest account about my experience before, during, and after the arrival of Baby E.
I knew before I got pregnant that I wanted as natural a birth for my baby with as few medical interventions as possible in a hospital setting. My mom prides herself on having given birth to both my sister and I with no pain medication, and I wanted to follow suit. When you become visibly pregnant the question inevitably arrises in private, and occasionally public settings, “so are you getting an epidural?” My answer in the beginning was an unwavering “no”. However, when your baby bump appears, people are also inclined to share their birth stories with you, especially if they are particularly dramatic. By the time we came to the end of the second trimester I was seriously questioning my ability to give birth all together, let alone my ability to do it with limited pain management. Per the recommendation of a friend, I decided to hire a Doula. A Doula is defined by DONA.org as “A trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.” Well said.
We met with our Doula once a week from 24 weeks on at our home. She answered any and all questions, brought up topics we wouldn’t have thought to ask about or were even unaware existed, and helped us to map out a birth plan we were all comfortable with. She shared many birthing techniques, of which I chose the Yoga birthing method. She had an abundance of information for dads, covering both the labor process and parenting a newborn.
Top Five Things I Learned From My Doula:
You don’t have to get an episiotomy (where they slice your perineum (taint for the layman)). In most cases it is unnecessary and is typically done for the sole purpose of speeding up the delivery for the Dr.
That goo they put on your baby’s eyes, making it even harder for them to see with their undeveloped sight, is unnecessary. Unless you have an STD. Then get it.
There are so many drug free ways to manage the pain of childbirth. My absolute “couldn’t have done it without this” tool was to have the Doula and Jer pushing on either side of me at my hips as hard as they could.
A placenta is really cool. Not only does it sustain and protect baby in the womb, but it looks like a beautiful tree to boot. We had a print made of Baby E’s.
You have a say in what happens at the birth of your child. Come up with a birth plan you are comfortable with, share it with your Dr beforehand, and be an advocate for you and your baby.
Knowing she would be at the delivery from start to finish added a sense of comfort and peace to a pretty scary proposition: pushing a baby out of my body. If you have the financial means to hire a Doula, I highly recommend it. I have a passion for Yoga and per our Doula’s recommendation I studied and practiced the Yoga birthing method. I was a Downward Dog to Cat Pose master.
I went into labor with Baby E at 2am on August 25th. I had been having Braxton Hicks for weeks up to this point, so I doubted that the suddenly stronger and steadier ones were anything different. Just in case, I got up to shower and do my hair and makeup. Don’t judge ladies, having your baby will be one of the most photographed events of your life, a close second to your wedding. Some additional volumizer and a few coats of waterproof mascara can go a long way towards making memories you’ll actually want to share. This was one of those pearls of wisdom from some of my closest mom friends. A call at 5 to the Dr and Doula with time between contractions confirmed this was the real thing, and after all agreed this was labor, I woke Jer up. Why ruin a good night’s sleep for a false alarm? We arrived at the hospital at 8 AM, along with our Doula and parents on the way.
For a first baby, Drs and Doulas alike prepare you for a very long labor, followed by a long delivery. We came prepared with an iPod filled with music for each part: calming for the beginning, energetic for the middle, and hard and fast for the delivery. We had electric candles and aromatherapy at the ready and letters to hang on the door asking people, parents included, to let us be. Our Dr. and nurses were informed of our birth plan, and we had extra copies just in case. However, my exceedingly wide hips for once served a purpose. By 10 AM, two hours after we had arrived, I was in hard labor.
Everything happened so quickly. Forgetting every posture and breathing technique, despite my Doula’s wonderful, calm coaching, I was begging as politely as a woman in labor can for an epidural. No one can prepare you for the pain that is giving birth, be flexible with yourself as you may react very differently than you anticipate. My Doula and our wonderful nurse, who also happens to be a midwife, kindly reminded me of my goals to have a natural birth, and then broke the news that there was no time for an epidural anyways. By 11 AM I was 10 cm dilated, and it was time to push. Like our detailed preparations for labor, our plans for the delivery and the moments after birth went the way of the Dodo. We had requested delayed cord clamping in order to have as much skin to skin contact as possible in the first few moments of life outside the womb, and wanted to allow Baby E to make her way to the breast in her own time. We hadn’t planned for meconium in the amniotic fluid, which requires the newborn to be swept off to a team of NICU nurses to be suctioned out, both stomach and lung. I was, however, able to get away without an episiotomy. Regardless, pushing ensued. Jer describes my pushing as sounding like the most guttural noise he’s heard outside of a horror movie. Within 15 minutes Eloise made her grand entrance, and despite my best efforts to derail my goal of having a drug free birth, I did it! On a side note, if you have a fast labor and delivery like I did, be prepared to be hated by everyone you know who has given birth.
Top Five Things No One Will Tell You About Childbirth:
It is unbelievable how much fluid, blood, etc is involved in this process. I found it absolutely disgusting myself, but I was and am well aware that I am not cut out for the medical field.
You will make sounds you never knew or wanted to know you were capable of making. Think Exorcism of Emily Rose.
After you have given birth to both the baby and the placenta, a nurse will squish, with the weight of her body, your now traumatized and tender mid section to get rid of any leftover amniotic fluid. Fun.
After getting sat on by a nurse, any stitching that needs to be done due to tearing, and assuming this isn’t baby number 3, you will most likely have some tearing, may feel like tiny bee stings all up in your Va-j-j, and at the very least uncomfortable pressure.
The squirt bottle they give you for “down there” will be your best friend. It will be a lifesaver for the first poo post birth.
Despite all of this, I was glowing and elated. Baby E was given to me cleaned off, suctioned out, wrapped up, tired and hungry. She was also well cared for, safe and healthy. Despite the drastic shift from what we had planned we had a beautiful, healthy baby girl we had prayed for for a very long time. By 12:30 I was noshing on a reuben, holding my baby girl.
I hope expecting moms will find this helpful. Childbirth is a scary proposition, but women have gone through it and survived to tell the tale, as will you.