This blog post is about my honest birth story as a first time mom
There is always a little expectation versus reality when it comes to most things in life. My birth story as a first time mom isn't all bad. Did it go as planned, not at all. Was I able to have the birth I wanted and envisioned for myself? Absolutely not. However I am now home recovering with a healthy baby and isn’t that the goal?
An Honest Birth Story (not meant to scare you)
I’m not here to scare or shame you, in-fact quite the opposite. With all the online depictions of beautiful natural births as well as the scary traumatic births, my birth story is somewhere in-between. As a first time mom I hope my story helps you or someone out there know it doesn't have to be all or nothing. Not all trauma is bad and there's beauty in the unexpected. Motherhood is an insane journey and the arrival of your baby is just part of it.
So often I find that what we see online or even hear in real life is a highlight reel of the best or worst of an experience.
I’m here to share with you my birth story honestly so that it may help you.
The Badge of Honor via Tragedy
We all know someone who is all too willing to share the birth story filled with the excruciating pain they endured. The crazy long hours they labored, or how much they tore down there. It almost feels like they are trying to scare you or is it misery loves company? Maybe it’s a little bit of both.
I like to believe they look at their experience as a badge of honor. Their labor and delivery was a gateway to motherhood and they endured it and you shall too.
But all deliveries are the gateway to motherhood and for some, motherhood begins differently. There are many ways to become a mom and no way is better than the other.
Women Were Built to Birth
There has been a recent trend of unmedicated births, home births, and water births. While I believe all births are miracles, there does seem to be a push for “natural” births online in recent years.
***I’m using the term natural to refer to these unmedicated births, but know that all births are natural.
I fell victim to the ideals of a natural birth. Personally I prefer minimal intervention with modern medical intervention when necessary. Am I shaming those who chose natural? No. Do I think we shouldn’t offer epidurals for women? Absolutely not. I just think we should have more clear unbiased information when it comes to making our choices. Whatever the choices we make as women should also be respected.
To be honest I’m deathly afraid of needles, hospitals, and drugs. My only real memories at hospitals are visiting dying relatives, friends recovering, and most recently my mom’s stroke, and later passing. I also have a fear of the unknown. My main concern with an epidural were all the horror stories I heard about them.
When thinking about labor and delivery, I truly wanted a natural birth at a hospital. They looked beautiful on Instagram. Even watching natural births on Youtube, it seemed doable to me. My body was built to birth and I could prepare for it like any physical endeavor. I journaled about my ideal birth story hoping to manifest it.
So, I armed myself with information and the dangers of epidurals, Pitocin, and all the modern medical interventions. The more I researched, the more I was sure that natural was the way to go. You can say I had information bias.
Women are built to birth and I am woman.
Let’s not forget women also died from childbirth frequently before modern medical interventions. If I was living a few decades ago, I’d be one of the fatalities and not here to share my birth story.
My Birth Plan (Preferences)
While I truly wanted a natural birth, I am also afraid of pain. My dentist told me I had a high pain tolerance and for the most part I do. It’s more the idea of things that freak me out than the pain. Therefore the best birth plan for me was to labor at home as long as possible (also encouraged because of Covid) and head to the hospital once I was in active labor.
I wanted to labor as long as possible without an epidural, but was open to it if I needed it to rest before pushing. We took online birth classes to prepare as much as we could. There was no reason for my labor to not go as planned.
The Real Birth Story
My birth story really began a few weeks before delivery. Prior to my due date, I had developed PUPPP rash in my third trimester. This caused a lot of sleepless nights and discomfort. Other than the relentless rash all over my body, I was perfectly healthy and so was the baby.
The week before my due date I was experiencing a lot of early labor signs and my doctor was able to do a slight membrane sweep because I was 1 centimeters dilated. I was told I could go into labor any hour or day now. Baby was also sitting extremely low. All signs pointed to a quick and early delivery.
A week went by and it was now my due date. I was pretty distraught because of how uncomfortable and tired I was. By now I thought I’d be home with a baby basking in all the perfect cozy newborn love that I saw online. Reality check that’s not how postpartum really looks, but that’s for another time.
My doctor was able to do a full membrane sweep on my due date and I was about 2-3 centimeters dilated. That night I had my final prenatal physical therapy session. During the session I walked on the treadmill and did a ton of TRX squats to encourage labor.
After my PT session Chris and I picked up some spicy jambalaya for dinner and we did perineal massages all to encourage labor.
That night at 10pm I noticed what I felt like were contractions. They were more intense than the cramping I’d been experiencing for a week and seemed to have a pattern. I also noticed discharge like my mucus plug might have broken apart. We went to bed around 11pm.
By 3 am it was clear I wouldn’t be getting much sleep. My contractions were becoming more intense and closer together. I decided to start timing them.
8 am we called my doctor and my contractions were lasting 1 minute and 5 minutes apart
9 am my contractions were coming at 3 minutes apart lasting 1 minute and had been for over an hour. It was time to head to the hospital.
Arriving at the hospital could not have gone smoother. The drive was painful and excruciating, but once we arrived everyone was incredibly kind and helpful.
My doctor called ahead and we were taken to triage to wait, answer questions, fill out paperwork, and get a Covid test.
At this point my contractions slowed to 4 minutes apart, but I was not getting much relief in between contractions. Now I know I was experiencing back labor because Lilian was sunny side up. I was also checked and they said I was about 4 centimeters dilated. Not quite in active labor, but they’d admit me.
It’s also important to note that I was told we couldn’t take my placenta home because of my health history. A major disappointment since we already arranged for placenta encapsulation.
Labor and Delivery
We were taken to a beautiful labor and delivery room and met the nicest nurses that would be taking care of me. I had my doula, Chris, and everything I needed to labor as comfortably as possible.
Because of my membrane sweep and wishes for minimal intervention, they allowed me to labor as uninterrupted as possible.
I was very nervous about having an epidural, but had wanted the option if laboring became too painful or I was too exhausted. So my amazing nurse brought the anesthesiologist in to speak with me and explain in detail how the epidural would be administered as well as listened to my concerns.
Continuing to labor naturally, I was hoping to have progressed more, but by the evening I was nowhere near pushing, so I asked for the epidural.
My anesthesiologist was so incredibly gentle and patient with me. Once the epidural was in I felt instant relief. There was still a little pain because of my back labor, but nothing compared to my contractions I was feeling prior to the epidural.
Because of the epidural I wasn’t able to get up and move around, but I did request to be adjusted and moved every 30 minutes to an hour to keep labor moving. I was also able to rest for the first time in weeks.
We were all sure I’d be ready to push in the morning.
The Third Day
My doctor came in and checked on me. I was 6 centimeters dilated and we were confident there’d be a baby soon. We decided to break my water to hopefully move things along.
After breaking my water my contractions progressed and while I didn’t feel much, I did feel some and noticed my back labor. It was all manageable.
A few hours later, I started to feel a headache and mentioned it as my nurse passed by. She asked if I normally get headaches and I said no, but I also hadn't eaten in days now and was tired. She brought me a Tylenol and told me to take it.
My nurse came in to tell me that my doctor wanted to start Pitocin to try and move things along since I’d been laboring for so long. Because I trust my doctor and she knew my wishes I agreed.
Soon after I started to throw up. This seemed normal because I had heard that the medications could cause nausea.
Some time went by and I noticed I was having trouble seeing. My body was cold and I was shaking. I thought the shaking was part of labor and that I was getting close to pushing. By now I was 9 centimeters dilated and 100 percent effaced. We were waiting for that “I gotta poop” feeling to start pushing.
At some point during all this my nurse came in to take blood samples and urine for some tests. My doctor had a few concerns and just wanted to check.
Early Saturday evening my doctor came in and I saw the look in her eyes. I just knew there was something wrong. She told me I had developed preeclampsia and she would have to do a c-section immediately.
My blood pressure was suddenly elevated. Prior to this I had good blood pressure that was steady through all the contractions and stress. I asked if we could wait just a little longer. I was 9 centimeters dilated and so close!
But my doctor said no. She had waited as long as it was safe and she wouldn’t perform a c-section unless it was necessary. I knew that if she was pushing for a c-section it was serious. So off we went.
Once the decision was made everything moved super fast. I was taken to surgery immediately and within minutes I heard my doctor say, “Do you see her?”
I couldn’t see at this point and I didn’t see my daughter, but I heard her cry for the first time. By this point my vision had gotten so bad I had a hard time making anything out. I was also having difficulty breathing and my entire body was shaking. The shaking is normal and part of delivery, but it was intense.
I made a comment about how intensely I was shaking and the new anesthesiologist gave me something in my IV without my consent. She then proceeded to place an oxygen mask over my Covid mask because of my breathing. This made breathing even harder and I felt like I was suffocating till Chris finally stepped in and she removed my face mask to properly place the oxygen mask over my nose and mouth.
Chris was then taken to cut the umbilical cord and be with Lilian while they stitched me up. After I was stitched up, they wheeled me to observation where they monitored me for hemorrhaging and other complications.
Finally I was able to hold Lilian and see her for the first time.
Focusing on Gratitude
While my initial experience was traumatic, I don’t want to focus on the trauma or all that went wrong. I choose to focus on how things went right and the gratitude I feel toward my doctor and nurses. What happened happened and I have to heal and move forward.
My body gave out and I did what I could and while I didn’t have the birth I hoped for, I’m alive today and my baby is healthy and happy. Throughout my labor I was well cared for with compassion and that's all I truly wanted from my birth experience.
While I still have a bit of recovery and there’s a lot to still work through, I’m grateful for how things transpired because it could have been so much worse. We joke now how my doctor saved my vagina because after pulling Lilian out, she said there was no way Lilian would have come out vaginally and we would have ended up with a c-section, luckily I didn’t have to start pushing before surgery.
The end goal: having a healthy baby, achieved.
Thank you so much for sharing your story! I had a similar experience with my daughter’s birth and it was just SO MUCH. You are such a strong mama and thank you so much for shining a light on your experience in raising Lillian, both the good and challenging. You are such an inspiration and I am deeply grateful for your voice in the midst of all the different resources that is out there.
It’s just one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. Know you are not alone and you will get through this.