I love the look.
Eye brows raise. They begin shaking their heads. Skepticism begins to cross their face. Then they mutter something about people with a high pain tolerance.
If only, people. If only.
My eyes well with tears when I stub my toe. I ask the dentist for gas when I get a teeth cleaning. Hang nails make me feel like I can sympathize with people with chronic pain. And I need a good glass or two of wine before I can even think about plucking my eyebrows.
I am the furthest thing from tough.
Unfortunately this is what the majority of people deduce when I tell them I had a natural and pain free birth.
So, this is a take on pain free birthing that has no foundation or research other than my own experience and opinion.
It’s more than possible. My biggest ‘ah-ha’ moment was when I was pregnant with #1. A lady at my work told me to read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. It was amazing. Not at all what I’d heard from my mom, TV, and (in the great American past time of telling every pregnant person we see our worst pregnancy/birth story)everyone and their dog.
It was empowering, and it shed possibility on an otherwise impossible feat.
As the Big Day approached I considered hiring a doula, but the Hubs and I both felt like it was a lot of money- and after all, what did she really do anyways?? It was like buying the extended warranty, or renters insurance. Unnecessary.
Wrong again. Got to the hospital at 39 weeks and 4 days. After they’d stripped my membranes twice (although I wasn’t even to my due date…) I was at 2cm. “Lets just break your water to get things moving!” Said my trusted OB, with whom I’d just discussed my desire to have natural labor a few days prior. “OK!” says the patient. … 6 hours later after the most intense pain I’ve ever felt and finding out I was at a whopping 4 cm- Epidural please!!
I loved my epidural man. To this day I remember his name. Tom. Tom the Giver of Bliss. I would have done anything for that man after he took my pain away. In my blissed out (read: drugged up) state I wondered, ‘who in the HELL would (COULD) do this without medication???’
Almost 2 hours of pushing- to this day that 2 hours is the hardest, most exhausting work I’ve ever done in my life- and 3rd degree tearing… #1 was here!
After that I had a different take on the whole Ina May Blah Blah Blah. What a load of crap! What were those farm people smoking anyways?
Flash forward 5 months later to me holding a positive pregnancy test- and I already know my birth plan. Check in. Hook up. Chill out. Push. And, I did. #2′s due date was December 28th. But, I was sure he would be born on Christmas. I thought that was the worst thing ever. So, my ever helpful OB said, ‘Not a problem! We’ll just sweep those membranes at 38 weeks and get things going!” It worked. That night I was in the hospital with my epidural chugging along. Watching ‘National Lampoons Christmas Vacation’ with my entire family until it was time to push. 7 minutes of pushing and #2 was born. Not the ultimate birth story, but to be honest I look back on that with happiness. It was peaceful, and fun, and had a happy ending. Well, sort of. Because of my impatience my son was born before he was ready. Whether the following would have happened whether we was born when he was supposed to- we’ll never know. We had incompatible blood types. He had horrible jaundice. Hospitalization, blood transfusion, talk of brain damage kind of jaundice. And I will never know if it was because of my insistence and my OB’s compliance.
Before I was even pregnant the 3rd time I knew I wanted it to be different. I threw myself into studying Hypnobirthing. It made sense. When they explained why a laboring women feels pain- because she’s fighting her own body- I understood. I listened to ‘Rainbow Relaxation’ almost every night, had affirmations taped all over my house. (At Hubs request I kept the ones about my cervix for places where random company couldn’t see them.) My same oh-so-cooperative OB seemed fairly on board. He’d make funny jokes about getting to see me ‘climb the walls in pain’. But, it was all in good fun… right? Then at 37 weeks I came in and he announced that baby was “too big!”, and that he wanted to strip my membranes at my 38 week appointment. What?? I reminded him about the last birth- how stripping them puts me into labor right away. How I wanted to start spontaneous labor this time. He said, “Fine. I’ll let you go till 39 weeks.” Gee, what a giver. I left the office in tears. Called literally every OB in Spokane that takes our insurance. No one would take me. I emailed the Hypnobirthing teacher that I’d never met- begging for help. She invited me over to her house, called her own doctor and persuaded her to take me. Found a doula that would charge what we could afford. And in a matter of days my angel had turned what seemed to be a hopeless situation into an even better one than before!!
Labor started 4 days after my due date. After a few false alarms (which is very embarrassing when it’s your 3rd baby) I was a little hesitant to call this ‘It’. Around 4pm we called the doula, she got there around 6. Hung out at home. I loved standing and swaying. My kids were watching 101 Dalmatians, and Hubs was cleaning the car. (Nesting?) At one point I asked her where he was and she said, “I saw him go outside with a bottle of Windex and paper towels.” Only Hubs. We hung out there til the kids went to bed, and the neighbor came over. On the way to the hospital the contractions were getting intense. Got there, and went to the triage. Where I was a 4. Great. They wanted me to walk the halls for a bit. We did. Fell into a great routine where I would sort of dance with Hubs while my doula rubbed my back. Went back to triage and they said I was a 6, so we were good to go. The nurse in triage announced she wanted to start me on Pitocin to ‘get things moving’. You know, since I was only progressing 2cm an hour. My husband politely told her to shut up and get us a room. She got her walkie talkie out and asked for a nurse to come take me back, and then told everyone listening that “Mom here is going to try to be a rock star and do it natural.” Why-i-oughta….
It took awhile for labor to pick up again- which I blame completely on the customer service orientated nurse from you-know-where.
But, once it did all my practice and affirmations kicked in. When I’d feel a contraction coming I would grab Hubs, lean into him, Doula just knew she needed to rub my back and tell me things like, ‘Just like that’, and ‘Perfect’. I was listening to worship music, and began to whisper sing the songs. When it came time to push it was intense. Like when you throw up. There’s no way you could stop it. You just let your body take over. It doesn’t hurt at all. It’s just…. intense. And then she was here. No one knew she was a she. We called her Pico. But, when Hubs (who had shoved the random doctor who showed up out of the way in order to catch his baby with his bare hands- God, I love that man.) handed our baby to me and said, “here’s your baby… girl.” I said, “I know.” And then cried. Because I did it. Because in that moment a whole new world was opened up to me. Where all the things that I’d been told were impossible were suddenly quite attainable.
It changed me. And, I think that’s how God planned it. That transition from Me to Mom is huge. And if we let that empowerment be stolen from us- we walk into motherhood without that Confidence, and it’s a shame.
Because I’ve had it both ways. I’ve had the most awful pain ever- and I’ve had no pain. The difference?? Relaxation. Relaxing every single muscle and letting my body do it. No, not letting- trusting. I trusted when it got crazy intense and I had the choice to freak out or stay in the moment that my body that God made in His image- would not do me wrong.
I don’t think every woman should have that birth. I think every woman should have the exact birth she wants. If that mean having a birth plan like #2- awesome.
But, I think that telling women that #3′s kind of birth is impossible or rare is a shame.
I want to tell every pregnant woman I see- not about the horror stories, but that birth is fun. It’s so cool. To enjoy it, and embrace it, and make it yours.
…oh and the nurse? The snotty one? Came into my room the next day and said she’d heard from numerous other nurses how incredible it was to watch the birth. I told her it was unfortunate she was such a b**** and missed the experience. No, not really. But, wouldn’t that have been funny??