I should preface this birth story by saying that the reason I wanted a natural childbirth was not because I am terribly opposed to medication or interventions. I think they are WAY overused in modern medicine and I wanted to avoid them, but I do think they have a place. No, my main motivation was a deathly fear of the epidural! Something about that huge needle and all the horror stories of completely numb legs, spinal headaches and the negative affects on the baby had me shaking in my boots. I should also mention that my pain tolerance is virtually zero i.e. I spend much of my life trying to be as comfortable as possible (I’ve been known to tear up when getting my eyebrows waxed!). So I spent most of my pregnancy reading books about how I can make a natural childbirth happen when all the odds seemed to stacked against me.
I knew if it was going to happen it would be important to have the right team behind me. So instead of a doctor, we hired midwives and a doula. I wanted to have a hospital birth, but I also wanted to go as natural as I could, and this seemed like the best of both worlds.
Little did I know that one of the hardest things about the entire pregnancy and labor would be the waiting two extra weeks for the baby to come! I waited 13 LONG days after my due date. Just sitting around watching hours upon hours of House Hunters, having loads of uncomfortable sex, eating pineapple, popping primrose oil pills and climbing stairs. It was awful. Every day felt like a week and by 41 and a half weeks when my midwife suggested labor induction, I agreed even though it was not at all part of my original plan. We scheduled it for when I would be 41 weeks and 5 days, 2 days before I would have had to be induced anyway.
I was so disappointed with the decision, I felt guilty and sad that the natural childbirth I had spent months preparing for was not going to happen. I had heard the stories about pitocin contractions and I knew I could only handle so much pain, especially if the labor went on for several days….which I knew many inductions did, so I also felt that even having a pain-med free birth would be difficult.
I called our doula Sarah the night we scheduled the induction and she told me that I needed to stay positive and start reading successful induction stories. So I spent the next couple days praying and trying to accept and prepare for the changed circumstances. I will say that one of the few good things about an induction is the chance to mentally prepare your self for what’s coming.
My husband and I checked into the hospital Monday night at 7pm to start the overnight cervadil. The nurse checked me and I was still only a fingertip dilated, 80% effaced and had a completely posterior cervix…which was the exact same as I had been for a whole month. This did very little to lift my spirits and I got even more frustrated with my body. “Why won’t you just go into labor?!”
Sarah had advised us to try and sleep as much as we could Monday night while the cervadil was in. So I took the sleeping pill the nurse offered and dosed off for a good 4 hours. The pill made me high as a kite, I have no memory of those 4 hours but my husband said I was laughing hysterically and gushing about my undying love for him (a little comic relief in a stressful time!)… I don’t think I would have slept otherwise because I was so nervous, so I think taking the pill was a good idea.
Tuesday morning they took the cervadil out and checked me….I was the EXACT same only my cervix had moved slightly. Ugh! The midwife on call suggested that we try a cervical ripening balloon. I had no idea what it was but she said if it worked it would get me to 4 cm. It was the first time she would be using one, but I was happy with the idea because it meant putting off the pitocin.
Basically, one balloon goes in the cervix and the other is outside (kind of like an “8” with the cervix opening being in the middle). They fill each of the two parts with saline and the top balloon will fall out once you get to 4cm. This mechanically opens the cervix instead of opening it with medicine.
And this crazy thing worked!
Within 3 hours I was up to 4 cms, and the balloon just fell out. Not only did it work, but it got active labor started. By 4 pm, I was dilated to a 6 and seeing real progress. My husband was staying in contact with Sarah the whole time, I didn’t want her to have to come too early and be sitting around so I kept putting it off. But she just showed up (the sign of a great doula!)! And it was PERFECT timing.
The contractions were starting to get really intense and I quickly realized all my research was not helping me. Sarah was a lifesaver! She was also able to show my husband know how to support and help me. We walked the halls and paced in my room. By 8 pm I was at at 9cm and I hadn’t had a drop of pitocin!
We were all so happy, thinking this baby will be here within the hour. The nurses were prepping the baby station and I was really focusing on each contraction, which were coming fast and hard at this point.
An hour later Lauren, the new midwife on call, checked me again. I was still only 9 cms. She said I should get in the tub to relax. So I did. The contractions seemed intense but were spacing further and further apart. An hour and a half later I still hadn’t seen any progress.
This is when things got a bit nasty and when the dreaded pitocin entered the picture. Up to this point the pain had been very manageable; difficult, intense and tiring, but I felt in control and that I had the strength to get through it.
The nurse started me on a low dose, but it didn’t make much of a change. She increased it every 15 minutes and by the end I was up to the highest dose possible. This was hell! I was still having my natural contractions, then immediately after I would have a pitocin contraction, which was 10 times worse than the natural one. This went on for 3 hours!
The midwife checked me and I was still only 9.5 cms! I was so done. I was begging for relief and she saw how tired I was. I still didn’t want an epidural, but I was fading fast and was toying with the idea of giving up. She gave me the option of turning off the pitocin to see if I could rest. I think she knew that I wouldn’t want to do that though, because it would mean dragging the whole thing out even longer, but by giving me the option and getting me to make the decision to keep going, it gave me an extra boost of strength. Something I was appreciative of later. So I started pacing the room again and bouncing on the yoga ball.
About 20 minutes later the baby had dropped down quite a bit so Lauren thought she might be able to manually open the cervix and told me to start pushing.
I don’t know if I was just too tired, but I really did not enjoy the pushing phase, I know many women do, but I really didn’t. I found it incredibly difficult and strenuous. At one point I was screaming bloody murder with each pushing contraction and Lauren just calmly looked up at me and sternly said, “you can spend all your energy screaming about it or your can spend your energy pushing this baby out.” It was just what I needed to hear! I started focusing on pushing and eventually my son was born at 5:33 am (36 hours after we’d gotten to the hospital). He was absolutely perfect. He was so alert and started rooting the second they placed him on my chest. I felt so much relief that it was over and that he was healthy. It truly was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.
It’s really hard to explain how this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, maybe even the most painful, but it was also the happiest day of my life. Something about the extreme emotions (both good and bad), the support I felt from my husband, family, Lauren and Sarah, the sense of achievement for doing it without pain meds and of course, seeing my son for the first time made this the most euphoric thing I’ve ever experienced. Even as I write that I know it doesn’t make sense, but I swear it’s true!