Let me start by saying that my reasons for having a drug-free birth are probably a bit unconventional. They were largely based on my previous two birth experiences, and not a whole lot to do with trying to be a hero, or the potential risks, or because I’m a crazy granola crunching hippie (not that there’s anything wrong with granola hippies, I actually call quite a few of them my friends and I did encapsulate my placenta, so I guess I’m a bit of a hippie).
Let me give you a bit of history and Taylor and Syd’s births, as those experiences are primarily what helped me come to my decision to have a drug free birth with Hayden. I was induced with Taylor 1 week prior to her due date because of some slight irregularities in her heartbeat. I was a nervous first-time mom, and my doctor felt that to ease my mind and fears, induction would be perfectly safe and healthy for me and baby. So induced I was, and the experience ended up being quite clinical feeling in nature. At one point I had 4 different tubes running up me, and while it wasn’t necessarily a painful experience, it was very uncomfortable. I just remember feeling like I was sort of at the mercy of the nurses and my doctors, and not necessarily in control, laying there on the hospital bed unable to move and even feel enough to know when to push. At the end of a 5 hour labor I gave birth to a healthy baby girl and everything turned out beautifully, but I was left knowing that it wasn’t the experience I wanted next time.
Syd came fast and furious. I went into labor at 3 am and it was 6:30 am by the time contractions got painful enough that I thought I needed to go in to the hospital. I don’t think I necessarily have a high threshold for pain, it just wasn’t that intense of a labor. It was 7 am when we got to the hospital and to everyone’s surprise, I was already 9cm dilated. I had never intended to try and go drug free with this birth, and I was scared as hell to push without any drugs, so I asked for an epidural, to which they surprisingly agreed to give. By the time they got the epidural in and going, it was time for me to push and it never even took effect, something we discovered when the doctor went to stitch me up and I felt the first bit of needle hit me. I remember thinking that having to stay still during the insertion of the epidural, while riding out a contraction, was horrendous, and at the end wasn’t even worth it.
And I’m cheap, and paying for that epidural was definitely not worth it. Since we are self-insured, we have a high deductible, and then a 80/20 split after the deductible is met, so we still have to pay part of every procedure that takes place while in the hospital, and anesthesiologists are expensive.
If I look scared here, it’s because I was
Which lead me to my decision to not get an epidural with Hayden. I figured if my labor was anything like it was with Syd’s, I could tolerate it. It wouldn’t be a cake walk, but I felt confident that I could handle it.
I woke up at 2 am with slight contractions. Within an hour they were 15 minutes apart and I woke Art. My doctor had instructed me to go in as soon as they started to get more than slightly uncomfortable, and were consistently 10-15 minutes apart. So we called my mom and mother in law, and we got ready to head to the hospital.
By the time we got there and got checked in, I was only dilated to 2 cm. Womp womp. I was so disappointed because already my contractions were almost as intense as they had been with Syd, and I was barely at a 2. I told the nurses that I intended to go drug free and they all cheered me on and encouraged me, but I was scared guys. At about 4 cm I started crying, in a sad sort of whimpering way. I remember burying my head in Art’s shoulder and just saying over and over again, “I’m scared, I’m scared.” Everyone told me that now was the time to get the epidural if I wanted it, but by that point I dug my heels in and decided I needed to just continue with the plan.
And guys, I’ll be honest, the plan sucked. I had convinced myself that because this was my third baby, it was somehow going to be easier, quicker and less painful than the previous two. Never had it even occurred to me that it would be harder. But it was.
I did a lot of things to get through the contractions. I prayed A LOT. I asked God for strength, for courage, for Him to help ease the pain. I walked the halls of the maternity ward up and down for about an hour. The nurses had me check back in every 45 minutes to get hooked up to the monitor to make sure everything was okay, but in between being monitored I was free to walk around. I rocked back and forth in Art’s arms with him rubbing my back. But most of all I sat upright and swayed back and forth a lot. I can’t imagine having to lie down during a contraction the entire labor. When they had to check me each time, it was pure torture to be in that position during a contraction.
The first 2 hours I was at the hospital were grueling, and it seems to take my body forever just to get to 6 cm. When they checked me in, they noted that I had tested positive for B strep so I was going to have to get antibiotics right away. I wasn’t prepared for this, something my doctor must have completely forgotten to tell me at my last check up, and something I had forgot to ask about. I guess the third time around you just sort of take things a bit more casually, on both sides. Getting the IV was awful as always and I think the nurses doubted my ability to have a drug free birth based solely on my reaction to the IV, complete with sweat and tears. Once the IV was in and the antibiotics started flowing I calmed down a bit.
The last hour was definitely the hardest, when I experienced the most intense pain. I transitioned from 6-9 in that hour, and while the pain was never so intense that I “screamed”, I definitely remember doing a lot of moaning and tearing up. I was listening to music to get me through the first part of labor, but in this last hour I had to have almost complete silence. I turned off the music, and yelled at my mom to get out when she started to have a conversation on the phone with my dad about my progress. This is also the time when I yelled at Art to do something and not just stare at me. I know he was tired, but for a while in that last hour he was sort of in a trance at times and I just remember looking at him, just sort of staring through me as I tried to get through the pain and I got SO MAD. I told him to do something, anything, to at least show me he was in the game. Rub my back (he was afraid to touch me at that point), say encouraging words (he was afraid to say the wrong thing). I assured him doing nothing was the wrong thing to do
The thing I remember most vividly in that last hour or so is the counting. I was now hooked up to the monitor continuously, and I was watching that my contractions were lasting about 1 minute, and the most intense pain was from 20-30 seconds in, and then it started to subside. So I began counting, and I knew that if I could just make it to 25 seconds, I was half way through the hardest part and it would get better soon. I counted over and over again and it was seriously the biggest help. Within a few contractions I had Art, my mom and the nurses all counting with me.
The last time they came and checked me I was at a 10, and then it all happened so fast. My doctor rushed in, they pulled out the stirrups and told me to slide down, and my doctor told me on the next contraction to start pushing. I remember having a very real “what the eff?!?” moment. I felt like there was no time to prepare, even though I had prepared for months theoretically. The part I most feared was here and it was time for me to perform, and that terrified me to no end. I started crying, after enduring 7 hours of labor and looked at my doctor and just flat out said, “I’m scared, I can’t do this.” She could tell I was terrified and just told me I had to and that I was the only one that could get this baby out. She was so serious and stern and it was exactly what I needed to hear. Art also reminded me that we now were going to see if I was carrying a boy or girl, and that was a pretty big incentive to start pushing.
So when that next contraction came I pushed like crazy. I pushed twice during that first contraction and got the crown of his head out. In the next contraction, I got his head out in the first push, and then one more push and his shoulders and body came out. 2 contractions, 4 pushes, and 4 minutes later, Hayden was born, at 9:20 am. Art yelled “It’s a boy!” (I think my doctor forgot we didn’t know so Art made the announcement), and they put him on my chest and I immediately thought he looked just like Syd. He was just beautiful.
He wasn’t breathing at first so the baby nurse started suctioning and rubbing him on my chest and within a few seconds he let out a wail and started breathing. I remember once I knew he was alright, then feeling intense pain though. I started yelling “it hurts, it hurts! Why does it hurt so much?” I remember when they pulled Syd out I felt an immediate rush of relief, but with Hayden the pain was not subsiding once I delivered him, and seemed to be getting worse. My doctor tugged on the umbilical cord and asked if it hurt and I screamed. They then helped me deliver the placenta, which was such intense pain, and once that was out I finally felt better. I remember being in so much pain that I couldn’t even touch him and I kept saying to him, “I’m so sorry baby, mommy will hold you in just a minute.” The nurses were just sort of holding him on my chest for the time being because I couldn’t even move. I later learned that the pain of delivering the placenta usually gets more intense with each baby because more scar tissue builds up. Anyone else experience this?
So once that God awful pain was over, I held him skin to skin for quite a while before they started to examine him, at least 20 minutes I would say, and I nursed for the first time, which he took to right out of the womb (later we would have some issues with him latching but immediately he did just fine). We stayed in the labor and delivery room for about an hour, just the three of us, and the staff of course, and by that time my mother in law had picked up the kids and they came to meet their baby brother.
Taylor was immediately smitten and took over as big sister right away. Syd was not so sure and looked really scared. He made Taylor come with him to say hi to the baby, and he didn’t want to hold him at first. Both of their reactions were so true to each of their personalities in general; mothering and nurturing, and apprehensive and shy. I remember feeling so beyond complete when all 5 of us were together for the first time. I know that sounds cheesy and all, but it was true. It just felt right, natural. Like he had always been a part of us, we were just waiting for him to arrive. And you know what? 6 weeks later, and it still feels that way.
Recovery in the first 24 hours went really well, and I do think it was because I was able to get up and move around right after the birth, primarily due to the drug free birth. Healing in general was the same as with the other two.
Friends have asked if I would go drug free again, and quite honestly, I’m not so sure. Yes, I am glad I experienced it at least once. I felt so proud of myself afterwards and elated that I had done it. I was impressed with my body’s ability to work as nature intended it to work, without intervention from medicine. But I was also a bit traumatized by the experience. It was a really scary feeling, and as much as I felt in control, I also felt completely vulnerable and out of control if that makes sense. The pain was what it was and there wasn’t anything I could do about it but just bear through it. That’s a pretty humbling experience in and of itself. At one point during the labor I looked at Art and with gritted teeth said, “I don’t want to ever, ever do this again.” And my God I mean it. I think if your intent is to go drug free, then you should try it, but I don’t think it’s a badge of honor that I need to carry around. At the end of the day, no one really cares how he came to be in this world, via C-section, vaginal, drugs or no drugs. He’s here, he’s healthy, and he’s perfect.
If you’ve read any of my postpartum journey on my other blog, you may know that I’ve dealt with Postpartum Depression after both of my previous deliveries. This time around I decided to encapsulate my placenta, you can read about it here, to help with the PPD. Six weeks postpartum and I am feeling as great as a tired momma of 3 can feel during this stage. I have had no signs of the PPD creeping back in. A lot of it has to do with the place in my life right now, I’m older and wiser and more experienced as a mother. But I feel like a lot of my good health this time around has to do with those pills, even if my OB doesn’t think so. At any rate, weather it’s hocus pocus, a placebo effect, or they are actually working, I’m happy and in love with this little guy, and I finally know what it feels like to be on a baby-moon.