I did it! She is here and she is amazing.
I think it is so important to tell my birth story so I can process it, learn from it and heal from it. Spoiler alert- everything was “fine” in the sense that everyone was healthy and our lives were never in danger, for which I am so so grateful. However, I believe there is emotional recovery after any birth, especially when it doesn’t go as expected (as in this case).
I had an unexpectedly unmedicated birth- as in NO epidural- and I am floored. That was not my plan. Au naturale in my mind was reserved for the strong, the warrior women, those that had the amazing ability to rise above the pain and perceive it as purposeful. Women who believed they could do anything. I couldn’t hold a candle to those anomalies. I had wished I could be like that with my first birth, but after experiencing contractions with my first daughter and quickly asking for an epidural, it wasn’t on my radar to try to go without.
Now I realize that anyone can do it, and that it’s possible to come out of it without PTSD. That may sound dramatic, but I am not making light of a mental health disorder. I had labeled myself as someone with a “low pain tolerance,” and a big fear leading up to labor was that I would be traumatized by the pain of contractions if unmedicated. After listening to dozens of birth and postpartum stories on podcasts and experiencing labor with my first child, I really thought it was best to “get the drugs.” I wanted to do what I could to prevent the postpartum mood disorders often contributed to by traumatic birth experiences. These issues are real and often unspoken about.
On to my story.
My contractions started at home at 1 am on Thursday, 6/6/19 (one day past my due date). They began at about 15 minutes apart and over the next 2 hrs they quickened to 10 min apart, but I was able to breathe through them in bed. At 3 am I took a shower and by the time I got out they were 5 min apart. I called my mom to come over and stay with our 2-year-old so we could head to the hospital. About 45 min later, we left for the hospital and the contractions were 3-4 min apart (yikes!! “Guess I should have called sooner,” I thought).
The car ride was NOT fun. I had my Peace and Calming and Stress Away essential oils with me and I was trying to inhale them when I could, hoping they would help keep me from freaking out. I did get little breaks between contractions but it was kind of a bumpy ride and my moaning sounds turned gutteral. My poor husband just drove on, cursing at red lights with no one else waiting at the cross streets, not being able to help me from the front seat. The AC in the car was broken so we had the windows down, and now we laugh that the people of West Chester, PA got to experience my contractions with me.
I was in between contractions when we pulled up to the hospital, so I got out quickly. I walked in on my own but quickly got on all fours in the lobby to have another contraction. The security guard spoke to the nurse that was there, who then said something into a radio. When the contraction was over, there was a wheelchair waiting for me.
I looked up and 3 labor and delivery nurses were scurrying towards me; they introduced themselves and whisked me to the elevator. I was able to transfer to the bed before another contraction began. Then they checked me and I was dilated NINE CENTIMETERS.
I was completely shocked. I actually yelled out “WHAT!?” I knew I felt bad but not that much worse than my first birth and I arrived at 4.5 cm that time. (I found out later it was likely because my water broke with my first, so contractions felt more intense sooner).
I immediately said “Will I be able to get an epidural!?!” And the nurse said “We will do everything in our power.” But her facial expression said “it doesn’t look good.” They started to put an IV in, but I knew they needed to get a liter of fluid in me before the anesthesiologist would even come.
Of course, this set off kind of a panic in me- there’s no way I could do this- I didn’t plan for this! I’m not cut out for this! I should have left home sooner! My contractions were intensifying and I was really yelling loudly through them. There was the voice of a nurse saying “just take it one contraction at a time,” and “that’s it, you’re doing great, don’t forget to breathe deep.” I tried to take the advice. I asked for an epidural again. Nurse Maggie replied lovingly (like she was letting me down easy), “let’s have a baby instead.” At some point during these painful contractions my water broke. The intensity rose after that.
Before I knew it, my body was pushing. I was bearing down involuntarily. Someone said “you’re pushing, you either need to try to NOT push or get on your back because we can’t catch a baby with you on your side like that.” Getting from my side to my back seemed like an impossible feat, but they helped me do it.
This is the point when the deeper groans and yells became higher pitched and desperate-sounding. I tried to control it back down. I said, “I can’t do this!!” And they informed me that I already was. They said, “we can see the head, the heads right there, we’re having a baby so soon.”
My body convulsed again and I ROARED this baby out in about 3 pushes. I had no idea how fast she was coming, but once I could feel the head come out I knew the more I pushed the faster it would all be over. The only way out of this was THROUGH. My body did most of the work, but I was able to help it along and it felt better to bear down vs. fighting the impulse. The Doctor let out an audible “Whoa” because she came out so fast. He held her upright while a nurse did a sternal rub until she started crying. They laid her on my lower belly because they said the cord wasn’t very long. She was here. My labor was 4 hours long and the baby came 4 minutes after my water broke.
This was the most physically difficult thing I have ever done. It was the craziest day- well, 4 hours- of my life. She was born 15-20 minutes after arriving at the hospital. After they laid her on my belly I was just in shock. What on earth just happened!? She’s here!? Already!? My shock was apparent to the staff and they really seemed to get a kick out of it. The mood in the room was like finishing a marathon- lots of relieved sighs and congratulations. I’ve heard of a “birth high,” and I don’t know if this was it. But there was an overwhelming sense of relief accompanying the initial shock- I was definitely happy it was over.
I looked over at my husband, who throughout the process was standing next to my bed and encouraging me. He was crying tears of awe and joy and relief. I will never forget this moment as it is the first time in my recollection that I have ever seen him cry. I’ve seen glossy eyes (like when he proposed), and I’ve seen him wipe potential tears from his eyes (like at my Dad’s funeral), but never active, unabashed tears. It was uncensored and genuine and my favorite moment I think we’ve ever shared together. About an hour later it sunk in for me, and that’s when I started crying.
She is here and perfect and we are so grateful.
Maryn Mae, our little junebug.
Born at 5:07 am on 6/6/19
7 lbs, 10 oz
I want to mention that this is not meant as an endorsement of unmedicated birth. Next time I plan to get there sooner so I have more options. I do encourage anyone to keep an open mind about how your birth story will unfold, though. Birth preferences are great to have, and knowing your options and how to advocate for yourself is priceless. But things don’t always go as planned. I have two daughters now with two totally different birth stories, and they are both just right for them. I am so fortunate to have had healthy births in environments where I felt safe. If something like this happens to anyone reading this- don’t be so afraid like I was! You’ll get through it. You’ll do it because you have to. You’ll learn and grow from it because you choose to.