From the very beginning of my pregnancy, it was my hope and desire to be able to have a completely natural and un-medicated birth. So many people have asked me why I chose to have an un-medicated birth. People have looked at me like I’m crazy.
When you make this decision, you have to have a purpose, a “why”. I wanted to be able to experience the complete realness and pain of childbirth. I wanted to prove to myself that I am strong enough, that I can endure something this incredibly intense, that I can work towards a goal and succeed. I wanted to educate myself as best as I could during my pregnancy to make sure I was prepared mentally, emotionally, and physically.
I wanted my husband Michael, our doula Jessica, and my mother to be present supporting me the whole time. Above all, my wish was to give birth to my first baby, a healthy and beautiful son. I am luckier than I could ever imagine and as I sit here typing this next to my sleeping baby and I realize that it is truly difficult to put into words what I experienced on May 18th and 19th, but I’m going to do my best.
It was Saturday, May 18th at 10:30am. I was 38 weeks and 5 days along. Michael and I were sitting on our couch watching Superbad when a pretty strong contraction came on that made me wince in pain. I had been experiencing inconsistent, not so painful contractions for almost a week at this point so I had an inkling that active labor was near. Although, I did not expect for it to start on a stormy Saturday morning a week and two days before my due date.
We texted our doula Jessica updating her and she advised that we start timing the contractions to see if they got closer together and more intense over time. She also reassured us that she would come over as soon as we said the word. Two hours went by and, indeed, the contractions got way more intense, longer, and closer together…I knew this was it. Jessica arrived at our house around 12:30 pm and it was go-time. I was in full-on active labor and the pain was intensifying.
Michael turned on the seven-hour labor playlist I had made the day before and it truly made me feel empowered and emotional. One of my favorite songs by Ben Rector, “Hank”, came on and it brought tears to my eyes. I was feeling so overwhelmed but also extremely focused and in the moment. Then, one of my and Michael’s favorite songs by the Lumineers, “Stubborn Love”, came on and the lyrics were ironically powerful: “It’s better to feel pain than nothing at all”. Truer words were never spoken.
I managed to labor at home for eight hours which was exactly what I wanted to do. I knew I would be more comfortable at home so I wanted to spend as much time as possible there. I spent most of the time on the birth ball, in the bed with my pregnancy pillow, and in the shower. Michael and Jessica assisted me by massaging my legs and back and providing counter-pressure to my lower back during contractions.
It was 6:30pm when I finally decided it was time to head to the hospital. I was getting increasingly nervous for the car ride because contractions were now three minutes apart and VERY intense.
When Michael pulled into the hospital parking lot I started crying. I started crying because I knew that when we left the hospital we would have our son with us. I cried because I knew I only had a few more hours with Michael as a family of two. I cried because I was scared, scared of the unknown and what was to come. I wanted to make my family proud and, ultimately, I wanted to make myself proud by bringing my baby into this world safely.
Jessica got the wheelchair for me, brought it out to the car and rolled me into the lobby. Upon greeting the nurses, they asked me multiple questions which I had terrible difficulty answering during contractions. They asked how far along I was, how far apart the contractions were, how long they were lasting, what my name and date of birth was, and I’m pretty sure I either ignored them or had Michael answer for me.
They rolled me into triage and did a cervical check to find out I was 7 cm dilated! This was a huge deal to me because I wanted to make significant progress at home and this was proof that I did. Little did I know that getting to 10 cm would be the hardest feat of my entire life. My water had not broken yet, so we were hoping it would break on its own as I continued to labor. It was about 7pm when my mom arrived at the hospital and joined us in the labor & delivery room. I had asked if she would be there for the whole experience and she graciously accepted, not knowing what to expect.
Being the Type A person that I am, I had my hospital bag packed a couple weeks before I went into labor. I packed all the essentials including things I probably didn’t even need. Although, one thing I made sure to pack was my courage rock. If you know me well, you know that I had terrible food allergies when I was younger. I was allergic to pretty much everything and had some anxiety issues, so it was difficult getting through doctor appointments, shots, testing, etc.
My mom bought me a small red rock with the word ‘courage’ etched into it. I took it with me everywhere and clutched it in my hands whenever I needed to be brave. It was a comfort to me and gave me a sense of security. It was with me during some of the hardest times of my childhood, so I knew I needed it with me as I brought my child into the world. I held onto it so tight during contractions that it started to make my hands sore, but it served a more powerful purpose to me than just a rock being squeezed in my grasp.
Several hours went by in which I spent time in the shower, sitting on the birth ball, leaning over the bed, attempting to walk around…all assisted by my wonderful team of angels- Michael, my mom, and my doula Jessica. I was even able to mutter “I’m so hungry…I want a popsicle” and within minutes, they managed to have an orange popsicle ready for me. It tasted so glorious and gave me a tiny burst of energy.
I learned the importance of a support team during this experience. For me it was my husband never leaving my side, my doula using her knowledge and expertise as well as compassion to naturally relieve pain, and my mother being there as she has my entire life since she gave birth to me. At around 9:30pm, my midwife came in to do another cervical check to see if I had made any progress. Upon checking, we realized that I was still 7 cm.
Despite this discouraging news, she also told me that my water still had not broken and if I was okay with it, she could break it for me and it would move things along much faster. Without an ounce of hesitation, I said YES PLEASE. It took about two seconds for her to break it and the sensation was extremely strange to say the least. It genuinely felt like a rush of water coming out of me and all of the sudden things became more intense than I could ever put into words. The pain in my back was so unbearable, I thought to myself if I could still do it.
I had no idea how long it would take me to get to 10 cm and I was almost ready to give up, even though deep down I was determined to reach the finish line the way that I had dreamt. I started feeling urges to push and I knew it was almost time. Every excruciating contraction and gut-wrenching grunt brought me closer to meeting my Mason. That was truly what continued to be my motivation when I questioned whether I could go on and when I relentlessly said, “I can’t do it” or “I want this to be over”.
The clock struck midnight on May 19th and it was time to start pushing. My midwife checked me again and I was 10 cm and 100% effaced…complete! They prepared everything for me to begin pushing and I just felt relieved and so ready. I was so ready to have my baby I didn’t care what it took. I have never been so focused and so exhausted in my entire life.
Nothing prepares you for the experience of pushing a baby out. People always assume that pushing is the worst and most painful part of childbirth, but I disagree. Pushing felt productive. I was actively moving my baby down the birth canal and because of that, it was less painful than the contractions even though I suffered a second-degree tear. It felt like 10 minutes, but in reality, I pushed for an hour and 23 minutes.
At 1:23 am, Mason Patrick was born into this world and he was a perfect 8 pounds, 1 ounce and 20 inches long. As he came out, I reached down to grab him. One unexpected thing that happened was the umbilical cord popped as I pulled him up to my chest. My midwife was able to clamp the cord so fast that I didn’t even know it happened. Although, I was unable to do delayed cord clamping, which was part of my birth plan.
The moment he was born was the most emotional, incredible, surreal, out of body experience. When I saw his face and heard his cry, I felt an overwhelming sense of love and all the pain and exhaustion completely disappeared. I couldn’t physically feel anything. In that moment, everything was perfect. In that moment, I wanted time to stand still.
Holding my baby for the first time and feeling the warmth of his skin and his heartbeat on my chest was the most indescribable feeling. Looking over at Michael and seeing his face while he laid eyes on his son for the first time was overwhelming and beautiful. My childbirth experience was everything I wanted and more. Fifteen hours of labor gave me a sense of strength, power, and pride to be a woman and a mother. I can’t wait to be able to tell Mason that I did it all for him. I labored for him because I love him so deeply and so immensely that I would endure any amount of pain for him. He will always and forever be my first son and my greatest triumph.