Hey, all my followers! If you didn’t already know our family has added a new baby to the clan and we are managing pretty well. One thing I loved reading about when I was pregnant were other woman’s birth stories. I was fascinated (after giving birth once before) how millions of women get through labour without a lick of medication. My Mom being one of them.
As some of you know I have an older child. When I gave birth to her it was a long labour. Before going into labour I sat on the fence about having an epidural or not. It didn’t take me long into the labour process to decide labour pains were not for me and I tapped out, or tapped-in to an epidural. The epidural was amazing and I pushed my kid out in less than 10 minutes with no pain. The epidural took a long time to wear off but I didn’t mind, I was tired and in the la-la land of being a new mom.
However, after the epidural wore off I found the recovery to be brutal. I had serious bruising and a second degree tear, on top of tremendous swelling. I carried around a blow up donut for weeks as I was too sore to sit. To top it off, the first bowel movement felt like it tore me in two, and completely ripped out my stitches. TMI? This is the nitty-gritty!
At my 6 week appointment after having my first child I was still very sore, and although healing properly, told myself I would never go through that again.
So here we are in 2018 and I am pregnant with my second. This time I decided the epidural was probably what caused me so much strife with baby #1. For one, I could not feel a thing throughout the pushing stage and attribute this to the damage I did to my nether regions. Being my first labour experience I pushed that kid out so quick and didn’t think about what I was doing to my body. No one told me to slow down, and I didn’t. Get her out. I had my daughter at roughly 9:30 pm (after less than 10 minutes of pushing) and still could not feel anything around 1-2 am.
The second reason I decided against an epidural is I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. A wee bit crazy, but in my head I needed to prove to myself I could stick with this goal. This would be my last pregnancy, and my last opportunity to follow through with this.
I created a simple plan: stay at home as long as possible, do not go to the hospital until I think I’m around 7 cm, no epidural, try not to rip/tear.
With my first pregnancy I arrived at the hospital at 5 cm so this time around I planned on hanging on at home longer than I did the first time, which I hoped would get me to my 7 cm goal. Having one labour under your belt definitely makes this process a bit easier.
To stick to my plan I started listening to Hypno-birthing audio. If this is up your alley you can find free audio online, which is where I located the Marie Mongan audio I used the most. I also purchased some audio through itunes.
Each night I listened to these audio clips (roughly 20-30 minutes long) and it helped me fall asleep, which was an added bonus. When it came time to labour kid #2 I listened to the audio in the beginning stages of labour while at home, but once I was in the thick of it I didn’t pull my ipod out. I did, however, use the breathing techniques I learned throughout the whole process, so I do consider it a positive tool, and highly recommend.
The second prep medium I used were books. My favourite was “Guide to Childbirth” by Ina May Gaskin, a very ‘grass roots’ book I highly recommend to all pregnant women no matter what your birth plan entails. Knowing millions of women give birth everyday without an epidural is one thing, but reading birth stories, and having some statistics on epidural vs non-epidural was enlightening, among other things. Having given birth once before I was still oblivious to certain techniques and positions that could make the labour faster, and less painful. I knew from labour number one ignorance is not bliss.
The third, and final piece of this puzzle, I hired a doula. A doula is a birth coach (no formal medical training, and will not replace your ob or midwife) who helps you (and your partner) through the process as best as they can. They will apply counter pressure, get you water/food, help explain your wishes to the hospital staff, help you after the birth, even come to your home to help when you are released from the hospital etc. etc. Side Note: ensure you research your doula thoroughly – I was very lucky and loved my doula. Your doula does not have to replace a birth partner you have already selected, but is an additional resource. If you are taken into an emergency c-section (for example) your doula can stay with you while your primary birth partner stays with the baby.
Now let’s get to the real nitty-gritty. It’s why you are here, right?
Sunday evening I had mild contractions that started after going for a walk with my family. I recognized the beginning stages and warned my family to keep their phones on.
Monday throughout the day the pain went away so Hubby, dear daughter (DD) and I took a long hike in the woods, then relaxed the rest of the day. My mucus plug started to come out that evening in the form of brownish blood; think of the end of your period type.
Monday night contractions were pretty consistent but approximately 10 minutes apart. Just annoying enough to prevent sleep but not close enough to get you very far. Around 2 am I started to lose bright red blood. This put me in a bit of a panic. Bright red blood is always something to watch when you are pregnant. I went down to the main floor to grab some food (always starving!) and called L&D. After speaking with the nurse I was advised as long as the baby was moving around this was probably my cervix changing, but I could come in for a check up if I wanted. As soon as you are asked ‘how often is baby moving?’ don’t you find it so hard to remember the last time you felt movement?!
I drank a glass of orange juice and got dressed to go to the hospital. The big hurtle was I had a toddler asleep so I either woke everyone up, or I drove myself to the hospital and hoped the contractions didn’t get much stronger so I could get my butt back home. After talking it over with hubby the wee babe started to move around (sweet relief) so I went back to bed.
Contractions continued at the same rate (approx. 10 minutes apart) and at 6am I felt ‘something’ and knew my water was about to break. I jumped out of bed, hollering ‘oh shit’ and my water poured all over the floor. Hubby flew out of bed, running into my daughter’s room, ‘Wake up! Get a sweater! We got to go!’ Silly man… I told my daughter to go back to bed and hubby helped me strip down. I spent the next 30-40 minutes in the shower. I didn’t find the shower overly helped with the contractions but it was a nice distraction. Side note: with kid #1 there was no dramatic gush like there was with this labour. A mere trickle down my leg was the only sign the first time around.
Spending so much time in the shower really panicked ‘the husband’. I think he was convinced I would leave it too long and he’d be delivering a baby on the side of the highway. For anyone who knows my husband, this would be the worst thing to ever happen in his world as blood makes him pass out. Me, I get a kick at the thought.
Just before 9 am I decided we could probably head to the hospital. Contractions were roughly 4-5 minutes apart, they were lasting less than a minute, but were intense. I found standing to be the only comfortable position at this stage and I had to do partial squats throughout every contraction. Obs typically tell you to go to the hospital when contractions are 5 minutes apart, last for one minute and have been on this trend for an hour. This is a rough guide and I have never fallen into these exact parameters.
The car ride…. death. It took me two contractions to get in the car as I knew sitting was going to be joyful. It sure was. Hubby drove like Mario Andretti which didn’t help the situation. All the way to the hospital I was thinking – you have to be 7 cm, you have to be 7 cm. In all honesty if I got to the hospital and was told I was 4 or 5 cm I may have gotten the epidural after all. Contractions were at their height of intensity and held this level for the duration of the labour.
We arrived at the hospital (our doula was waiting for us as we had called her when my water broke) and similar to my first child we were taken directly to the delivery room as I had handed in my paperwork weeks in advance.
By the time I changed into a hospital gown (with help from our doula), met my nurses and had all the intro tests done (cervix dilation, blood pressure, blood… whatever else) this baby was getting pretty close. Thankfully, I was 7 cm when we arrived! I was asked if I wanted an epidural so I kept my mouth shut and hubby and our doula passed along my wish to have an un-medicated birth. This was in my birth plan handed to the hospital but they always double check.
During contractions I stood and hung off my husbands neck, completing mini squats to ease pressure. My doula used a few tactics to ease the cramping radiating throughout my lower back.
The nurses told me to let them know when I felt like I could push, and although I felt a jack hammer worth of pressure with each contraction I did not feel the need to push. Being trained as they are, they saw something in me that I didn’t and I was asked to get on the bed for them to check me. That did it. Turns out this baby was ready to come out.
So, here I am, lying on my side (that’s as far as I made it onto the bed), with the nurses, my doula and my husband all telling me to get on my back so they can check me, and my contractions are on top of each other. There was no moving to be happening on my end. I had heard (thanks Gaskin) when you change positions it will be more intense for a few contractions – you are telling me! I didn’t actually say the words ‘shut up’ but I implied it to all those wonderful people who were trying to get me onto my back. Unfortunately, I felt a massive urge to push and didn’t feel like I could move. Also, the ob was not there yet. For some reason I needed to squeeze my legs shut with each contraction; counter-intuitive but what my body wanted.
For all women who have had a natural childbirth, or those whose epidurals wore off, when you feel the need to push, you need to bloody push. As the ob was not there yet they were telling me not to push… yah, sorry…. it’s happening. I flipped onto my back, stirrups came out, and luckily, the ob walked in.
It took 7 minutes (I remember three pushes, but it could have been more) for the baby to come out. Not surprisingly, I once again had a second degree tear, and apparently I made a face when that happened (as per my husband) but I don’t remember it. The most vivid thing in my mind is not the pain but how much my legs were shaking. They were like leaves in a wind storm and I couldn’t get them to stop!
Hubby (who I mentioned is not good with blood) had sat at my head and held my hands throughout the journey, but once they started talking about stitches he was gone to get me food and a tea. Good man.
Placenta out. Stitches done.
Our healthy baby boy was born 8lbs 6oz at 38 weeks 5 days at 10:37 am.
The experience without the epidural was a quick and, although intense, positive one. After being stitched up I headed to the postpartum room where I immediately took a shower and felt instantly myself.
Here I am a month later and the healing this time around has been night and day compared to my first labour experience. I attribute this to no epidural, and it being my second labour. As I mentioned, 6 weeks into healing with my first child I did not feel 100%, whereas this time around it took less than a week! Knowledge is power so this time around I also had the nurses give me stool softeners and milk of magnesia so the first BM wasn’t something out of my nightmares. Don’t skip the stool softeners.
If you are on the fence about having an epidural I highly recommend a few of the tools I used. I was not able to complete the labour without the epidural the first time around, but I had a beautiful baby girl, and for that I’m a superstar. No matter how these babies enter the world, it really doesn’t matter. We are creating a life!