I am exactly 1 year 8 weeks postpartum from my first, and so far only, birth of my son. I was advised, even before my birth, to write my birth story as soon as possible, so that I did not forget. However, I’ve continued to procrastinate. I’ve asked myself why. I’ve concluded that it is because I have had conflicting feelings. How do you write about something that you are still processing and don’t know how you feel?
I had a natural, un-medicated, home birth (I know I don’t win any medals). It was a life changing event. It was traumatic, empowering, challenging, and what was best for me. I think this is why it has been hard for me to process; how can it be all these things at once?
Pregnancy – Nauseating (literally) and joyful. From 7.5 weeks to around 16 weeks I had severe morning sickness. I tried ginger chews and tea, lemon, protein, carbs, vitamin B, and large quantities of honeydew and cantaloupes. I woke up an extra hour earlier every morning and my husband would bring me half a honeydew or cantaloupe in bed. I would then slowly walk to the bathroom to get ready for work where I would suck on ginger chews. That is how I started every work day. I would then go to work in a busy PICU where co-workers and patients would urgently tell me everything they needed as I tried not to vomit in their face. Around 20 weeks the nausea was gone, and the happy hormones kicked in! I felt this natural high and deep connection to my baby. From then on, I loved being pregnant!
Labor – I went on maternity leave 5 days before my labor started. I was antsy – I kept busy with organizing the nursery, installing the car seat, cleaning the car, going shopping, going to the movies, walking the streets, cleaning . . . and by also going to physical therapy, chiropractor, massage therapist, Dancing for Birth, and acupressure. After I returned home, from my Dancing for Birth class, I felt really crampy, and soon after felt my first contraction! I asked my mom to give me an acupressure treatment and had contractions 10 minutes apart that first hour. Afterward, I took a bath with contractions 5-7 minutes apart. They soon progressed to 3-5 minutes apart, and then I stopped keeping track. They were always at least a minute in length. I told my husband I was having contractions, he shut off the TV, and said “I should go to sleep then” (we were taught to do this in our Birth Boot Camp class), and I said “yeh, that’s not happening.” My midwife and her assistant came shortly after. I labored for 21 hours. I still feel cheated because I never experienced the early happy labor (you know when you’re excited, watch TV, go on walks, and spend quiet time with your husband . . .). I planned a water birth, so I labored in the birth pool for a large amount of my labor (which in hind-sight I really shouldn’t have done). I was nauseous most of my labor, so I refused food, and instead drank water and Kefir yogurt. Half-way through labor I received a liter of fluids to help with hydration. I received oxygen periodically (which I would quickly pull off because it was annoying). I screamed my husband’s name at least a hundred times because he HAD to apply almost continual counter-pressure to my back (yes, he too, was very sore the next day). The electric company decided to perform a scheduled power outage during labor, so after a couple of hours my midwife called to tell them she was doing a homebirth and the power needed to be turned on immediately, which it was shortly afterward. My mother did at least 6 loads of towels during labor because they gave me a new dry towel every hour when I went from the birth pool to the bathroom.
Birth – The pushing phase, though long, was my favorite phase. I felt this surge of energy (though still exhausted), nausea gone (and very hungry), and the ability to do something. It was intense, but productive. At one point my midwife asked me what I was afraid of and I thought “nothing, this just freaking hurts!” However, soon after I feel that things turned around for me psychologically and I was able to push through the pain. I finally labored on the toilet, which was the most productive for me. When birth was eminent, my midwife told me that I needed to move off the toilet, and I said “no”. She said I could not birth my baby in the toilet and I said “Watch me!” The midwife, midwife assistant, and my husband all lifted me and put me on a birth stool (This is one of my favorite humorous memories). The “ring of fire” sensation occurred soon after. I thought, “ok, ring of fire, I’m almost there, ok, slow down, let it stretch, nope, I’m too tired, if I don’t do this now, I won’t do it!” – So I powered through (which I later regretted), my baby was born, and I felt intense relief! He exited “sunny-side up”, hence the back labor. After the midwife unwrapped the cord from my baby’s body, I scooped him up and exclaimed “He’s so cute!” (Though, I really hadn’t even processed him yet). I looked over to my husband, who was beside me, and locked eyes with his teary eyes (when I think of this moment I get teary eyed myself). I then walked to and laid in my bed. Shortly after, I coughed my placenta out.
Postpartum – I had many second degree tears, and I was sutured at home. I also had swelling for many weeks after. I was not ready for the level of healing my body would have to do, while pregnant I only thought of the baby. Almost 5 months after my son’s birth, I still had not healed, and had to have reconstructive surgery. By 7 months, I finally healed. I also had issues breastfeeding initially, resulting in using a nipple shield for 2 months. I saw a lactation consultant around 10 days postpartum, and it was a game changer! My church members brought food for the first week and my family helped with cleaning and caring for me. My midwife also came to me for visits, which was also nice.
Some things that I would do differently next time would be refusing vaginal checks (once I said yes, they kept happening), labor more on the toilet and upright, avoid using water early in labor, hire a doula (that was one of the first things my husband also said he was doing next time), work on building up my abdominal muscles more in pregnancy, see a lactation consultant sooner if needed, have a freezer full of meals for postpartum, and have my husband take off more time from work.
I didn’t have the romantic water birth that I envisioned, but if I had, I might not have had that eye-connecting moment with my husband and they wouldn’t have had to lift me off the toilet (two of my favorite memories). My body took longer to heal than I could ever have imagined, but it also forced me to slow down. I had my natural un-medicated birth, but I can appreciate why some women choose a different route (and I even asked for it at one point during my labor). I thought I would return to work when my maternity leave ended, instead I stayed home with my son. Even though my son’s birth was hard, I would do it again. I am now at a place in my processing, that I see it as a challenge, and think about how I can do it better next time. My birth did not go as planned, as many life events often do not, but I remained an active participant, trusted my body, birthed my baby, and I am proud of that!
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