Jennifer's beautiful birth story, reprinted from her site: All My Heart
This is the story of the birth of my first and only child. It is a story of how I triumphed over my fear of childbirth and empowered myself to take control of my own birth experience. If you read to the end of my story, and if this has raised questions or helped you in any way, please reach out to me via email! I would LOVE to hear from you!
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BEFORE LABOR BEGAN:
For as long as I can remember, I feared childbirth. When asked if I ever wanted kids, my typical response would be “ I don’t care either way, I like my freedom so if I’m unable to have children, I still have the benefit of being FREE to do what I want, when I want.” Losing my freedom was a concern of mine, but deep down it was actually my FEAR of childbirth that kept me from responding with an enthusiastic, “YES!”
When my soon-to- be husband asked if I wanted kids, I told him the same thing, “ I don’t care either way.” We got married before we made a final decision on this topic. I knew my husband really wanted kids but that he would sacrifice his own desires just to make me happy, and somehow that made me WANT to birth a child for him! So we left it to God. We prayed that God would intervene with his plan according to who he made us, and that if another life were meant to exist, that life would be created simply through LOVE.
Very soon after surrendering our fate, the stick had 2 pink lines and I FREAKED OUT! Not because we were about to embark on family life, or because I would lose my freedom, or because I only had 9 months to learn everything I could about babies, or because I would get fat and hormonal, but because I FEARED childbirth! I immediately set out to learn as much as I could about BIRTH, and I applied what I learned in life and in church, “ You can’t have FEAR and FAITH at the same time.”
I spent the next 9 months preparing for BIRTH, there wasn’t much time left over for preparing for a BABY. I couldn’t even think past BIRTH. I contacted anyone I knew had been through this experience ( realizing it is almost everyone I know). I wanted to hear their birth story and be comforted by the fact that this is a normal everyday experience, a natural God-created process, and something women have conquered for centuries! What I found in my search was not a bunch of happy women praising doctors and wanting to document the awesome day they met their new baby, but the exact opposite! I found more people who were unsatisfied with their birth experience, who would rather forget the hospital experience altogether, who were not treated the way they had hoped, who were confused about the process and procedures, and who had no idea they may have had choices or that the outcome could have been any better.
Thankfully, God led me to a few who had great birth experiences by taking charge of their own pregnancy and birth experience and educating themselves on process, procedures, and their choices. I wanted to feel the success and healthy happiness they felt! First, I watched a documentary called “The Business of Being Born”, and it was then that my own curiosity about birth was “ born.” I never knew Birth was such a Business! Soon my FEAR was not just about how I would push a watermelon out of a hole the size of a peach. Now it was about how I could avoid unnecessary medical interventions that could cause a less favorable outcome for me or baby, how I could avoid drugs with negative side effects, and how I could find a way to relax and have a peaceful, memorable birth experience. My goal quickly went from avoiding FEAR, to embracing the inevitable and striving for a safe natural birth that I not only wanted to remember, but that I would be willing to repeat and even celebrate!
Next step. If I wanted to be in control of my birth choices, I needed to educate myself. I convinced my husband to take 12 weeks of childbirth classes with me. The classes taught us the physiological process of birth, pregnancy nutrition and exercise, mental preparation, relaxation techniques, and natural pain relieving techniques. The Bradley Method classes also teach a partner how to be an essential part of the process as your ” coach.” YES! You CAN relieve pain naturally with the help of natural hormones that pump through your body during labor, changing positions, pressure techniques, water and more. I learned about midwives and doulas, hospitals and birth centers, evidence based birth statistics, choices I would need to make, complications that could arise, and how to include my husband and trust him for support. I was still afraid of the epidural needle, the complications that could arise during pregnancy and delivery, and negative side effects of drugs and interventions than I was of the actual PAIN of childbirth. Now I just had to make a choice on how to manage the pain.
Slowly but surely as the months passed and the due date got closer and closer, God kept putting people in my path that would encourage me with their own natural birth stories. They came out of the most random places! Friends, family, the Mall, the office, the photographer, the woman who bought my wedding dress, and people I found on podcasts and blogs. (My favorite source of information came from podcasts hosted by Kristen Burgess, a mother of 7!) There were still many naysayers telling me to trust the Doctors, they know best and that I was crazy to think I could deliver a baby without drugs. The only thing that would stop me from succeeding was my own mind, my own fear, or unforeseen medical complications completely out of my control.
Next I was on the hunt for an OB or midwife that would deliver our baby. My goal was to find someone who would support my decision to have a natural birth without any drugs as long as there were no complications with my pregnancy. I also wanted someone who actually paid attention to our “birth plan.” The first I met with told me that she was on a call rotation with 5 other doctors so there was no way to predict who I would get on that day, meaning there would also be no way for me to expect any Doctor to support any of my choices because we would have had no established relationship.
I then decided to meet with a midwife at a hospital/birth center, the only one of its kind on the West Coast! Upon my first midwife appointment they also told me they would be on rotation, and the midwife advised that pregnancy nutrition wouldn’t affect the growth or health of my baby and not to worry about it. This just didn’t feel right to me. That put me back on the hunt for a Doctor who would satisfy my desire for someone who could partner with me and support my choices for a safe and relaxed birth environment. I ended up finding someone through a referral and the first question he asked was “ Do you have a birth plan?” . Wow! he knew about birth plans and accepted it as the norm rather than the exception! He was my man! It is so important to feel confident in who you choose to be your Doctor while pregnant and even during delivery if possible! This made the world of difference for me!
WHEN LABOR BEGAN: A story of my Daughter’s birth:
Birth is like a wedding. No matter how much you plan, it will never go that way and you will need to be flexible! In addition, much of postpartum depression is triggered by a birth experience with an undesirable outcome. If this happens it is important to remember that all that really matters is that Mama and Baby are alive and well! That being said, if you could have a positive birth experience to remember all your life, would you want to at least try to make that happen?
After 9 months of intentional preparation, the day had finally come! I woke up one day a week before my due date and noticed I had lost the mucous plug, had a bloody show, and my amniotic water started leaking. I was instantly panicked and upset because I hadn’t studied what to do if water broke before I was even in labor! I felt this was a trap and I would be forced to go to the hospital too early and interventions would lead me into a forced Cesarean. Our training taught us that any panic or even excitement can slow labor, and that it is very important to stay relaxed so that oxytocin ( known as the LOVE hormone) can naturally flow through your body and let it know you are ready to birth!
My husband (trained to be my birth coach) quickly reminded me of our decision to take control of our birth experience, and rely on what we did know. We also took advantage of the advice we could get via text from people we had come to know in the evidence based birth community. Because our home is about an hour from the hospital we chose, we decided to get a hotel close to the hospital and labor there until I was actually ready to go to the hospital and in real labor. ( Many people leave for the hospital too soon, only to either be sent home for false contractions (Braxton Hicks contractions,) or being forced into admitting and being induced. The consistent advice we received was to wait until your contractions are about 3- 5 minutes apart, and consistently stronger and closer together. If you avoid getting to the hospital too soon, you also avoid interventions like induction and unnecessary vaginal checks. There is no sense in taking up hospital space if you could be in labor for another 10 hours!
We ended up spending almost 2 days in the hotel but had a great “mini vacation” together. We went out to dinner, took a few walks, watched a movie, slept pretty well, and bought some cookies for the Labor and Delivery nurses. We were told this could be a good way to say, “Hey, please follow my birth plan, I brought you cookies.” After almost 48 hours had passed without any contractions, we decided to take another walk. We ended up at the top of a mountain overlooking a Lake and we sat down on a bench and prayed. We surrendered labor and delivery and the health of our baby girl to GOD. We accepted whatever the outcome would be with FAITH not FEAR. I was very confident, the complete opposite of how I started off 9 months prior. I was proud of me and of us and how far we had come. My husband had me do 15 squats, (also a very good position for late stage labor), we said AMEN, and we were on our way back to the hotel. We noticed several signs from God that day, all providing us the comfort we needed to know he was right there and we were making the right decisions.
After a short nap, God led us to ANOTHER GREAT DECISION to go to the hospital just to have them check our daughter’s heartbeat. We wanted the reassurance that she was OK in there with so little fluid left in her little home inside my uterus! (I had mistakenly thought that babies can’t survive long after water breaks or leaks. What I later learned is that babies do not actually “breathe” amniotic fluid in and out, they just have it in their lungs to practice the art of breathing. Late amniotic fluid is made up of baby’s urine, and my fluid intake is directly related to the replenishment of fluid.)
The monitors not only showed that she was alive and well, but that I was having contractions between 4-7 minutes apart! I had a faint lower back cramp and had no idea that was a contraction! The nurse told me she wanted to admit me but I declined. She then said she wanted to check my cervical dilation, I declined that as well and we left the hospital. ANOTHER GREAT DECISION. (Most of the reason you are told to go to the hospital within 12 hours of water breaking is to prevent infection, but what they don’t tell you is that infection is much more likely once you open that canal up to vaginal exams!). I wanted to make sure I was checking in when contractions were 3-5 minutes apart.
The hospital will almost always tell you that you can’t eat or drink while in labor, so we went to grab an early dinner and as I stood in the Panda Express line my contractions were coming about 5 minutes apart. Back at the hotel, they really started to kick in. I used early relaxation techniques for comfort. An essential oil diffuser appealed to my sense of smell and sight (it lit up on a color rotation), a workout ball ( referred to as a birthing ball) became my resting support through contractions, and my husband gently rubbed my feet. We also had a Yoga Pandora station running in the background. About an hour later, I was ready to focus on each contraction and couldn’t be bothered by “relaxation techniques” anymore. I belive this is when some women lose control, forget about breathing, and anything they learned in Lamaze class goes completely out the window.
Contractions came on strong in my lower back even though my baby was in the preferred anterior position with her face to my tailbone. My husband guided me into different positions to alleviate some pain. Many of them worked but the best was sitting backwards on the toilet! With every contraction, he squeezed my hips to apply counter pressure and it took away 75% of the pain! We continued in that pattern for a few hours while he made sure I stayed hydrated and cool. At this point I ended up sitting on the toilet while eliminating from both ends. This may sound gross but it is important to mention because this is a common signal that a woman is in the late stages of labor.
Around midnight (6 hours into my 12 hour labor) my cousin arrived to offer more support and relieve my husband a bit. She timed my contractions and counted with me. This really helped me focus because I could follow the rise and fall of the pressure waves. She also stayed with me while my husband took things to the car between contractions. He had only 2 minutes to run from the hotel to the car until I was calling for him to squeeze my hips again. He got a good workout that night! At 2am my husband made ANOTHER GREAT DECISION to move to the hospital because contractions were now 2 minutes apart. We stopped to handle contractions in the hospital lobby and again in the elevator and again in the hallway. They were coming on fast and strong, but I still never once thought about asking for pain medication.
Once checked into the hospital, they wanted to give me an IV and I declined so I could get myself into their Jacuzzi tub ASAP. I did allow them to check me at this point and I was so excited to know that I had already dilated to 7cm! I knew transition was coming and this would be the hardest part. If I was going to ask for an epidural this would be the time! I threw up in a bag, drank some Gatorade, and then my husband and I spent an hour in the tub. My husband read me some Bible scriptures and that helped me focus on something else besides the pain. I moaned in low tones through each and every contraction and that helped me a ton! I then allowed the nurse to put the Heplock in my wrist, but asked that I would not be connected to an IV so I could be free to move around, change positions, and drink to hydrate at my own pace.
At one point I was standing hunched over the bed and my husband noticed my oxygen level was low during contractions, some lasting up to 4 minutes at this point! I was definitely in transition and baby was moving into position. I felt a ton of pressure between my legs and even down my legs. My husband told me to stand up straight so baby could drop into my pelvis and find her way out, but also so I could breathe in more oxygen and stay alert. That was ANOTHER GREAT DECISION on his part! I stood up and stayed supported by the nurse and my husband while my cousin took pictures. Soon after, the nurse told me I could push! I was elated to be at the final stage after 12 hours of contractions! Honestly, time went by really fast! The nurse instructed my husband to sit behind me on the bed and push and breathe with me. This was my favorite and most special moment of the whole process. She had us both in a sitting squat position which opens the pelvis. (You’re used to seeing women laying in the bed unable to push effectively because the epidural has numbed the lower half of the body.)
At this point I had so many hormones raging through my body that I couldn’t feel contractions anymore at all. I wanted to meet her so bad, and I didn’t want her to be squished in there for too long, so I pushed with all of the strength I had left, so much so that I got a few hemorrhoids in the process. Luckily the nurse kept my vagina lubed up with mineral oil so my daughter’s head would come through with more ease. This probably prevented a larger tear so I’m thankful for her attention to detail! Pushing FELT SO GOOD!! Not gonna lie, it was hard work. It took a lot of strength and concentration, with focused breathing. I thought I might pass out but before I knew it, the Doctor told me to open my eyes, he handed my baby girl to my husband who laid her on my chest. I thought this would be the moment tears of joy or pain would stream down my face, but instead I felt so relieved, happy, successful, amazed, surprised, and so ALIVE!
We felt then and still do feel like kids on Christmas morning! We had created a beautiful human being! And she loved me right away. She crawled up my chest and found my breast and started sucking right away. She was covered in vernix and I loved it! My husband kissed my forehead, smiled with the greatest grin of his life and it was all as beautiful as I imagined it would be. Dr gave me a quick fundal massage to encourage the placenta to come out. ( Many hospitals will give you pitocin to force the placenta out, but my brith plan stated I’d like to avoid drugs and allow it to happen naturally). Shortly afterwards, my placenta came out naturally and the Doctor stitched up my 2nd degree tear while my husband watched intently.
The hospital staff left us alone with our baby for 2 hours before giving her a bath, weighing her, or taking footprints. Shortly afterwards, both sides of parents showed up to meet their new granddaughter. At this point we hadn’t slept over 24 hours and the adrenaline was wearing off a bit so we visited a little and then slept most of the day away in between nurses coming in and out for various tests, meal service, etc.
I still stand in awe of all women who have birthed children, especially my grandmother who had 10! If you would like to learn more about pregnancy, birth, and raising children you can request to join my Facebook group “In AWE of Awesome Women”
Never once did I have FEAR, only FAITH that I would control what I could and left the rest in Gods hands. Thankfully, we are not only surviving but thriving and celebrating our experience as something we didn’t just “get through” but a process we actually enjoyed! We owned it, loved it, accepted it and kicked it’s butt!
I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO WRONG.
Before this experience, I thought birth without drugs was for crazy people or superwomen. I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO WRONG! Anyone has the strength to give birth naturally if they want to and if there are no other medical reasons not to.
I expected the pain (with or without drugs) to be unbearable. I thought that my only option was to go to a hospital and allow them to manage my pain with drugs and to trust them to make the best decisions for my care. I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO WRONG! The pain is bearable especially if you have support and have prepared properly. Preparation will also empower you to make decisions for yourself rather than put your entire birthing experience in the hands of someone else. Trust me, you won’t regret the knowledge you will gain and the outcome of the entire process! Hospital staff will follow standard procedures to keep you safe and comfortable by offering drugs at your earliest sign of pain, but also by performing sometimes unnecessary and possibly harmful medical interventions. They don’t normally have the time to fulfill your personal desires or to make decisions using evidence based care. Check out (www.evidencebasedbirth.com) for more information on what that is.
I thought that having a newborn would be exhausting, overwhelming, anxiety ridden, ruin my marriage and take away all of my time, freedom and joy. I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO WRONG! Creating a new life is the best thing that I have ever accomplished, and she is worth every ounce of effort or change in my life and she is a testament to the love in my marriage.
I had always been told that selfish people were the ones who decided not to have children. I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO WRONG! Maybe the most selfish are those of us who do have children, because they bring such joy to our lives, we get to raise them the way we want to, we want to have someone to depend on us in their youth, and someone we can depend on when we grow old.
(NOTE: Want Real Mom Tested Techniques for Handling Labor Pain? Use these 11 proven natural childbirth techniques to handle labor and keep things moving right along. Get them here.)