I was recently reading the birth story of a friend and it inspired me to write my own. It’s true what most moms say, the details tend to get a bit foggy over time and though I remember the chronology of events, I can’t say that I remember exactly what it felt like.
What I do know is that I had a 100% natural birth. No epidural.
If I could give you one piece of advice, it would be to decide early on if you want the epidural or not as it’s no longer an option once you dilate past a certain cm! I left it pretty open ended which kinda screwed me up a little as the nurse kept coming into the labour room to ask if I wanted it. And after a point, I was in no position to decide for I was not in the right frame of mind.
So yes, decide! That way you can mentally prepare yourself when you go into labour. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe in keeping an open mind when it comes to your labour plan because sometimes, things don’t turn out the way you want it to and you may need to trust your doctor and take a different course of action. And that’s okay.
Whatever it is that you decide on, the kind of birth you want – natural, normal, or C-section, I strongly believe that it’s a personal choice and no other person should judge you for it. But if you’ve opted to go for a natural birth, then I feel it’s important for me to let you know based on my personal experience that labour is a true test of the power of the mind! Our bodies are designed to do what it’s supposed to, it’s our mind that manages the intensity of labour pain.
Sorry about that slight deviation. Now back to my birth story. It began right after dinner about 9ish pm when I started feeling something like mild period cramps. I went to the bathroom and found bloodstains on my panties, which at the time, I thought was completely normal. The day before, my doctor told me during my membrane sweeping that some cramping and bleeding might occur so I ignored it.
However, as the night progressed, I felt the cramps more often and more intensely. I still wasn’t sure if they were contractions because I heard, contractions usually began at the back and made their way to the front, and I felt nothing close to that. My back was completely fine. Close to midnight, we started timing the “cramps”; they were about 20 minutes apart, then 15 minutes, followed by 10 minutes. That was when I called my sister and brother in law (who’s a doctor) to ask if they were contractions. Every time the sensation came, I would have to pause and wasn’t able to speak and that was when they told me to make my way to the hospital.
My hospital bag was already packed, but before I left, I was determined to take a long shower and thoroughly wash my hair. If the baby was indeed coming, this might be my last opportunity for a while! (More on on this in another article.) So yeah, in the midst of all the contractions, I sat on a stool and took a shower. Everytime the pain came, I’d point the shower towards my abdomen which seemed to help.
By the time we got to the hospital, it was already 2ish am and I remember still questioning if I was having contractions. The first thing I said when I went to the nurses’ station was “I’m not sure if I am having contractions but….” And before I could finish my sentence, I was head down on the counter. The nurse merely replied “Yup!” and immediately escorted me into the labour room where they checked me (what felt like a whole fist through my vagina) and true enough, I was 3 cm dilated.
I was then given an enema, strapped to a machine to keep track of my contractions and baby’s heartbeat, and hooked onto an antibiotic drip bag (because I was previously tested positive for Group B Strep). Here I was thinking I could move about to get the labour going but nope, I was bed ridden the moment I got to the hospital. My contractions came in fast and strong. So strong that at one point, it got my acid reflux going (something that I suffered towards the end of my pregnancy)and my entire dinner came out. I couldn’t eat fish for a long while after that experience.
The goal was to get to 10cm and honestly somewhere along the line, I wasn’t sure if I was even going to make it. This was when I truly understood the power of my mind. In that few hours, the nurse came in and out to check on my dilation and ask if I wanted the epidural. I said no the first few times but by the time I was about 5 cm dilated, I was ready to give in because the contractions were overwhelming. Thankfully, I had discussed with Jon (my husband) prior to labour how I was keen on wanting a natural birth. And because both baby and I were physically in a good place, even in silence, when I didn’t give the nurse a direct answer, Jon knew that I would have wanted a natural birth and sent the nurse away. I feel that it’s important to have that discussion with your partner or the person who’s going to be in the labour room with you so that you’re both on the same page.
As mentioned earlier, my contractions came in fast and strong but each one felt different. There were times I could focus on my breathing and the contraction felt bearable but other times, I would just tense up and started kicking and squeezing (or rather crushing) my husband’s hand. That was when I knew I really needed to control my mind in order to manage my contractions; maybe this is why people go for hypnobirthing classes. It worked a few times and with the help of the laughing gas, I could relax a little. But as I was nearing the 10cm mark, that to me, was the hardest, most challenging part of labour; to NOT PUSH when all you feel like doing is to PUSH. At 7, 8 and 9 cm, I felt like taking a massive dump but had to hold it in real good! This part was all mental. I was moving around the bed so much; I probably looked like I was possessed. I had to focus on NOT PUSHING by letting out short breaths and kept reminding myself that if I push now, I’d tear my vagina up to my a**hole!
Then I felt a surge of warm water gushing out and that was when I knew my waterbag had broken. The nurses who were taking care of me throughout the night were replaced by a new batch of nurses as morning had arrived. As the clock struck 8 am, hearing the words “10 cm” and “push” were music to my ears! I was so ready to get this baby out! Of course, my first few pushes were all wrong; I was red faced and grunting and not focusing the energy to the right place. This again was all mental. I had to listen to the nurse’s cue in order to ride the contraction, take a deep breath, focus my energy towards my womb and picture the baby coming out. When I finally got the method of pushing right, I kept focusing on doing the same thing every time I was told to take a deep breath and push. It really required a whole lot of stamina! Thank goodness I had worked out throughout my pregnancy because it really helped.
If I remember correctly, it felt like my body was being ripped from the inside. I don’t mean to scare you but having gone through that, I now fully understand how powerful our mind is and how if we train it and learn to control it, we can pretty much do anything we set our minds to. No word can perfectly describe that feeling or experience but I can now confidently tell you that I know just how strong a woman can be; not just physically but mentally. And of course, I have never loved and appreciated my mother more than ever.
After about half an hour of pushing, Miles was welcomed into the world at 3.22 kgs. I remember the first thing that came into mind when they placed Miles in my arms; oh wow, he’s really big! Followed by a surge of warmth, this time, not through my vagina but my heart.