There’s nothing quite like the nervous anticipation that leads up to your first birth; the longing to finally hold that baby, your baby, is unlike anything else (it could almost be compared to that Christmas Eve as a child when you just knew that Santa was bringing what you’d asked for, except way, way more exciting – and terrifying).
I had read countless natural childbirth books and blogs and everything else I could get my hands on for the past nine months and now, all there really was left to do was wait for… something to happen. I’d also read that usually first time mothers go past due and that, unlike what Hollywood portrays, having your water break before labor actually only happens to about 15% of women. Which was why I was pretty surprised when I woke up, 39+4 weeks, at 2:30am (like usual when you’re that pregnant) to pee and realized that something definitely felt different.
Sure enough, my water was leaking in small little gushes.
I woke Tyler up with the words “Babe – I’m pretty sure my water just broke!” to which he blearily said “Are you sure?”. Ha. Pretty dang sure, honey. But of course, he came around pretty quickly. I called my midwife group with shaking hands, nervous about which one would be on call since there were four in total; it turned out to be the one that I’d only met with one time during my entire pregnancy – and definitely hadn’t liked. I tried not to let that make me nervous.
We packed up our recently purchased Honda Odyssey and headed on the road for our half hour drive to the hospital.
Upon arrival, I went through all of the normal routine, making sure my water had actually broken (it had), doing an exam, etc. I was barely dilated so they had me walk around and bounce on the birthing ball for a while before getting me into a room.
My midwife came in about five hours after I arrived and I liked her about as little as I’d liked her in our prior meeting. She spoke of Pitocin and induction long before having any concrete medical reason to do so and she already had qualms about me getting into the special, no-medication birthing suite that most midwife patients who wanted natural births hoped to get into (the one Becca talks of is the same one, since we were at the same hospital about a month apart). In short, I was growing more and more disappointed.
The Birthing Suite I was never allowed into, even though it sat empty and I was a perfect candidate. I may still be a bit salty about it.
My contractions were definitely getting closer and more intense, so we knew things were going to happen at some point, I had to continually turn the midwife’s mentions of intervention down and it began to feel as if I was begging to do things naturally – something I really had never expected to have to do with a “midwife”.
To top things off, I had pretty severe back labor. I’d heard the term before going in because an acquaintance had told me to “forget natural birth” when I’d told them my plans stating “you have a bad back already, you’ll see; it’ll be too much.” *insert major eye roll here*. Well, Arwen was head down, but also face-up which was putting pressure on nerves and sending pain into my back. Back labor sounded bad when people talked about it, but I learned the hard way that it really is no joke.
I’d really love to say that I handled natural labor with the grace of all of the lovely, silent water birth videos I’d watched in preparation. I didn’t.
Actually, I’m pretty positive I sounded like I was dying – but my husband was incredible and was with me for every second that entire day (all 16 hours of labor). He held my hand, put pressure on my back, wiped my tears, literally held my body weight up while I was in the shower (which, by the way, was the BEST pain relief ever).
I firmly believe that I wouldn’t have made it through my natural labor without my husband as a support person and firm advocate in what I had gone in wanting to happen.
To make up for my disappointment of a midwife, my team of nurses and staff were just incredible. At different times of the day, I had nurses pray with me after finding out that I was a Christian. There was a technician who I later found out stayed past her shift to basically be my unpaid Doula. She showed me positions to try to ease the back labour, brought me essential oils and a diffuser, gave me encouraging words, and even took the phone and snapped pictures for my mom as Arwen was being brought into the world. I’m so grateful for all of the people God placed in that room.
In the end, at around hour 16 of labor, after pushing for close to an hour, I gave birth in the water entirely intervention and medication free to the most beautiful baby girl my (definitely biased) eyes had ever seen.
(Arwen Rose, 6 lbs even, 19 inches long)
I hardly tore at all; I had one stitch, but I didn’t even really need that. Everyone marveled at how energized I was and how alert the baby was. She latched on immediately and I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt as proud of myself as I did in those moments. My husband and I spent the “golden hour”, and about an hour after that, in the delivery room alone with our new baby, giving skin-to-skin and just marveling at what had just happened and who we now held in our arms.
At least in my life, there’s nothing in the world that can compare to the feeling of total elatedness that those hours held. My husband kept saying “you did it!” and I’d reply “I know, I don’t know how – but I did it!”. That night, though I should’ve been exhausted, I was up for over five hours after Ty had fallen asleep on the crappy hospital couch in our room, just staring at my baby girl and never wanting to put her down again.
We had to stay in the hospital for two days for GBS+ monitoring protocol as I only ended up with one round of antibiotics (I chose to only allow them when I was close to giving birth as I wanted one full dose, but didn’t want them continually administered every four hours and that’s what they are told to do).
Postpartum is no walk in the park, for sure. There’s a lot of blood (like, it’s only mildly horrific if I’m being honest), and the first poop is almost as terrifying as birth itself. All of that stuff’s pretty much true. But I was also amazed at how good I felt overall. I took some Tylenol for the afterbirth pains, but I was up and out of bed on my own immediately after delivering the placenta. By the next morning, I already was able to shower on my own and even went as far as blow drying my hair and throwing makeup on for all of those I JUST HAD A BABY!!! pictures that were sure to come.
It was pretty awesome.
In the week to follow, I didn’t really stay completely put. I drove to my house to get stuff (we stayed at my parent’s that first week), went to the pediatrician on day two (to find that she had already surpassed her birth weight, go breastmilk!), made a Target trip on day 3, and the list went on from there. Everyone was shocked that we were at church service when Arwen was just a week old.
As any first time parents, we worried how the parent life would look for us: Would our marriage change? The marriage itself was pretty new, considering I became pregnant only three months after our wedding. Would we be good parents? Would we ever have time for each other?
Yes, our marriage did change, but not like we had feared. We powered through each challenge together, whether it be those that accompanied PPD, the complete inability to cope with zero sleep, or the debates about the many choices that come with being a parent. It wasn’t always easy and we’re far from perfect, but we prayed through each trial and soon found ourselves on the other side.
As far as being good parents, we’ve come to the conclusion that all you can do is take life one crazy, toddler-chasing, beautiful day at a time. Even when you feel like you’re holding onto every precious second that you can get of their little lives, you suddenly realize that they went through six clothes sizes and are saying over a hundred words and you hardly remember when it all began.
Having time for each other is sometimes the hardest part, with all of the working we do, but it’s funny how having a kid makes your perspective change. For the most part, we’d much rather sit on the couch cuddling Arwen and watching “Coco” or “Moana” for the hundredth time as a family while quietly chatting about our weeks, than go on an expensive date without her.
Someone in the birthing room, about ten minutes after Arwen was born, jokingly said “So, you wanna do that again?!” and I immediately, without hesitation, said “Yes!”
… and I think that sums up my heart behind wanting a natural birth pretty perfectly:
Was it easy? No.
Was it worth it? 110%.
I’m currently 15 weeks pregnant with our second babe (who we’re not finding the gender of before birth, this go around) and we’re extremely excited to be planning a home birth with my favorite midwife from the practice I was a part of before (she left and started her own practice just for home birth). Look to this blog for many more posts regarding planning for a home birth and, if God wills it, another successful birth story!
Written by Jess