If there’s anything that proves how amazing the human body is, it’s the experience of pregnancy and childbirth whether it be firsthand, or witnessing it secondhand. Like many expectant moms, my biggest fear during both of my pregnancies, was the pain of childbirth. The first time, I was scared because I knew it was going to hurt (A LOT), but not knowing what kind of pain to expect was what made it scary for me. I was also afraid that I would not be able to tell when real contractions/labor had started, how long my labor would last, if there would be complications, would I be able to physically handle it, etc.
Oh, did I mention, I also had my heart and mind set on NOT getting an epidural? Keep in mind, this was just my personal choice – I have nothing against epidurals or women who choose to get them, because believe me, I COMPLETELY understand why they do! The pain of labor and giving birth is no joke! I decided to write this post because, since having my two children, I have had several friends ask me for advice about going natural, and my experience in choosing to do so. Because I’m a stickler for organization, I am going to discuss my labor/deliveries separately.
BABY NUMBER 1
As I mentioned above, I had decided early on in my pregnancy that I wanted try my hardest to get through labor, and delivery without the epidural. I realized that I did not know how painful it was going to be, how long it would last, or how would I handle the pain; however, I was very uncomfortable with the idea of a huge needle going into my spine, and feeling numbness in my lower body. I was also nervous that I would not feel the urge to push, or be able to control my body as well, if the epidural was still effective at that time. Of course I knew the numbness would feel better than the pain, but I was determined.
Our son, Avery, was determined to stay in the wombs long as possible. I went into labor on my due date, May 2nd of 2014. Just to give you some context, only about 5% of babies are born on their due date. Now, even though my labor started on my due date, he was not actually born until the 3rd. To be exact, my labor was 19 hours long, not including the couple of hours I was having contractions at home, before we went to the hospital (my husband thought it was another false alarm). By the time we got to the hospital, I was 3 1/2 centimeters dilated. From that point on, I was moving along rather smoothly. Even though the pain was becoming more intense, and contractions were increasing in frequency and duration, it seemed like my labor was not going to last super long. Weelllll, I was wrong LOL. Once I reached 7 centimeters, the doctor broke my water to try to speed things up even more. Well, my body decided to do the opposite, and stop dilating (for several hours), rather than continuing to progress.
To make matters worse, my doctor was not on call that weekend (go figure), so I had the doctor that was on call, and he was absolutely horrible. He had no bedside manner whatsoever, he was completely inconsiderate, and he was getting frustrated because I was refusing to get an epidural. Also, because I had stopped dilating, he was becoming increasingly impatient, and was trying to convince me that I HAD to have a “C-section. Given that the baby and I were both fine, I was not going to have a C-section unless it was medically necessary. This man even went as far as to say that it looked like I was going to have a big baby, so if he got stuck during delivery, he was going to have to dislocated his shoulder! As you can imagine, my husband and I, and all of our family that was there, were fed up with him. He also wasn’t doing anything to help me dilate, and since my water was broken, I was confined to the bed. Eventually, one of our nurses took it upon herself to help me – she made me switch from side to side every 10 minutes, and told my husband to make me sit up straight when I had a contraction. I say “made me” because it was extra painful, but it did the trick! My doctor also showed up for the delivery, which I was extremely thankful for.
Low and behold, my son did NOT get stuck, I did NOT have to get a C-section, and I made it through all 19 hours of labor, and over an hour of pushing, WITHOUT an epidural. I was also up walking around (very slowly LOL) within an hour after my delivery. Our son was a healthy 7 pounds – 15 ounces, and 21 inches long!
BABY NUMBER 2
The second time around was very different for me. Despite the fact that I began dilating around 36 weeks, I still went full term. It turns out our daughter, Violet, was just as stubborn as our son LOL Like a lot of women, my second pregnancy was tougher than my first, which meant the final 3-4 weeks felt like an eternity. My doctor (same doctor as first pregnancy) could tell I was more than ready to have her, so she gave me the option to get induced at 39 weeks, if I was at least 2 centimeters dilated. We also knew the baby was healthy, and definitely weighed enough to be born, should I choose to get induced. Well, week 38 came and went, so once the doctor said I was dilated to 3 centimeters, it was no question that I wanted to get induced. So we took our son to my in-laws’, and went to the hospital that same night! Understandably, being induced was a very different experience than going into labor at an unexpected time. Knowing that I was going to be in labor, and that our baby was finally coming, made us even more anxious and excited. However, it’s also riskier, in the way that it increases the chance of getting a C-section, if it does not work. My doctor was not too worried about it, though, because I was already 3 centimeters dilated (which is why she required that I be at least 2 centimeters first).
Like I said earlier, getting induced is a very different experience. Because induction is forcing labor to start, it can take quite awhile to get things going. For me personally, my doctor used Pitocin via IV to induce labor. (Pitocin is a natural hormone that your body produces to start labor). I began the Pitocin around 10-11pm – the nurses gradually increased it throughout the night and morning, depending on the consistency of my contractions. Since this was a slower, more gradual process, my husband and I were both able to rest off and on during the night. This helped a lot, because I had more energy the next morning when the full-blown hard labor kicked in. At 11 am the next morning, I was barely 5 centimeters dilated, but once the nurse increased the Pitocin again, I made it to 6 centimeters before noon. At this time my doctor came to check on me, and offered to break my water, which I immediately welcomed. After the water break, my labor moved very quickly! Of course, this meant more pain, and more frequent/longer contractions, but compared with my first delivery, I was actually progressing this time!
As with my first pregnancy, I was determined not to get the epidural. Even though I was nervous about going through childbirth again, I knew that I was able to handle it. Since this was my second baby, I learned from my first experience, and wanted to do some things differently to hopefully speed things up this time. For starters, I wanted to try my hardest to walk/move around as much as possible, before my water was broken. A couple of weeks before my delivery, my husband and I had found out about a ball, known as a “peanut ball”. It is a large ball, similar to an exercise ball (but shaped like a peanut), that can be used during labor to assist with dilation, help the baby get into a good position for birth, and even reduce pushing time. As soon as I learned more about this peanut ball, I called the hospital to see if they had them, otherwise I was going to order one. Thankfully, they did have them this time around (they didn’t have them for my first baby). Let me tell you guys …. this peanut thing helped SO MUCH! There are different ways to use it in the bed, but the basic idea is to place it between your legs, which helps you dilate, and allows the baby to move down. Honestly, it’s not very comfortable because they are very large, and it can make contractions pretty painful. BUT, if there’s anything I learned from my first delivery, it’s that discomfort is sometimes needed in order to facilitate dilation.
I honestly believe that using the peanut ball contributed largely to my rapid progression after my water broke. Our daughter was born about 3 `1/2 hours after my water was ruptured – I also only pushed for about 10 minutes, as compared with over an hour with our son. The only thing that made pushing more difficult (and thus, more painful) this time, was that her shoulder got stuck. Despite this, my amazing doctor was able to get her out quickly and safely! Violet was born 8 pounds – 4 ounces and 18 inches long!
So, for those of you wondering if you should go natural, my advice is – TRUST YOUR BODY. You will be so amazed at what your body can handle, and how it knows what to do. You have no idea how strong you really are until you experience something like this! Remember that the pain has a purpose. If you’re determined not to get the epidural, don’t let pressure from doctors. nurses or anyone else make you feel like you have to get it – it’s YOUR choice. On the flip side, if you do end up getting it, that’s okay too. It doesn’t make you weak; you are still incredibly strong! And regardless, at the end of it all, you will have your beautiful baby in your arms – pure bliss!
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