Giving birth is something completely natural and something women have been doing for as long as we can imagine, but yet it might seem like a daunting experience and so many of us give in to fear. This is my story of how I decided to have faith in my body, trusting my instincts and desire of having a natural birth experience.
I hope my birth story can serve as inspiration for any woman out there who wants to believe in herself and her body’s capability of childbirth. Giving birth is such an empowering experience and with some initial preparations it can definitely be on your terms. If you would like to know more about how I prepared for my labor, check out this post Preparing for a natural birth. This is my wonderful birth story.
Last day of pregnancy
I was in week 39 of my pregnancy and I woke up to, what I thought would be just another Saturday. I knew it was common for first-time pregnancies to go overdue by a week or two, so I wasn’t really expecting anything just yet. I had not felt any early contractions either or had any other signs of getting closer to labor. Two days ago I had visited my midwife for a checkup and she had told me that our baby was not yet down in proper exit position, however this could happen very quickly she informed me and we joked about baby coming out this weekend when she would be the one on duty.
So we started the day like we always did, I did my morning yoga before breakfast and this day for some reason I had decided to also record my session. I had no idea it would be my last morning yoga with 10 extra kilos and a huge belly! The plan for the day was to head over to my mum’s place, half an hour away and get the skiing equipment for Jakob. This was end of January and the snow had started to hit Sweden, finally allowing for some cross-country skiing.
After getting the stuff we decided to have lunch at the local cafe and I was starting to feel slightly uncomfortable every now and then, like I had to stop for 30 seconds and just let something pass. Some kind of cramp in my lower back, similar to menstrual pain. We had decided to go for a little walk after lunch but that was no fun in freezing temperatures as I had to walk very slowly and stop every now and then. I had a suspicion these were the early contractions I had read about, the ones that can appear a few weeks before labor. I had no idea what the real contractions would feel like, or any contractions for that sake as this was my first pregnancy.
During the afternoon these contractions were getting more and more intense and I was telling Jakob that it must be the early contractions and we’re probably a week or so away from labor. Luckily we had everything prepared. Our bags were packed, food prepared in the freezer and I had also written a last-minute list for Jakob, listing the things to bring that could not be packed beforehand. I was feeling pretty tired and was mostly resting for the remaining of the day, then we had an early night and by 9:30pm I was going to bed.
Getting into labor
Half an hour later, as Jakob had already fallen asleep and I was slowly getting there, I heard a loud popping sound from within me. Like a balloon popping! I threw myself out of the bed, wondering what the heck that was and then I felt a gush of warm water coming out. Oh and a lot of it! It was like opening the tap… “My water just broke” I yelled to poor Jakob who had just fallen into deep sleep, whilst I ran to the shower. I stayed in the shower for a while with water still leaking out whilst Jakob was mopping the floor…
We knew it wasn’t time to head to the hospital yet just because the water broke. We had been told it was better to wait until the contractions were strong and frequent (about four of them per 10 min) and get as much rest as possible at home. So I called my midwife from the shower, just to give her the heads up that we were most likely getting into labor. She confirmed it was better to stay at home for now as the contractions might slow down for a while upon the water breaking. Since my water was transparent and I was feeling calm about the situation there was nothing to worry about. We agreed to give her a call as and when the contractions were getting more intense and frequent. So we went back to bed. I still had a bit of water leaking out, so I wrapped a towel around me.
The contractions were rapidly coming back and becoming stronger for each hour. We spent the next 5 hours in bed, drifting in and out of sleep and I managed to get into my zone of breathing and just staying calm. I was approaching each contraction with a “yeees”, deep breathing and thinking about our baby (thinking positive thoughts is tricking the brain and body into having a positive experience, instead of focusing on the pain which would have resulted in the opposite). I was also feeling grateful for my comfortable bed, lying on the side and snuggling up between a couple of pillows. This actually allowed me to almost sleep through many of these contractions.
Heading to the hospital
Jakob was trying to time my contractions every now and then, although it was hard for him to figure out when they actually started as I was mostly breathing calmly through them. Around 4 am we decided it was time to head to the hospital though. My contractions were getting rather intense, frequent and lasted for about a minute each. To be honest, I wanted nothing but staying in my comfy bed and was definitely not keen on getting into a car… Somehow though, between the contractions, I managed to put some clothes on and with Jakob’s assistance got into the car. We had a 45 min drive to the hospital and due to these circumstances (leaving the house automatically starts a stress reaction in the body) my contractions were holding back a bit. This was actually a good thing because getting them in the car was very uncomfortable. I was telling Jakob that next time we’re having a baby I’m definitely not leaving the house!
We arrived to the hospital about 10 min before my midwife and another one was letting me inside and getting a room for us whilst Jakob was parking the car. Both Jakob and I were thinking to ourselves, thank goodness we are not giving birth with this woman as it was just not a fit and I could not see us communicating all my wishes for a natural birth to her. We were so grateful to have been able to sort all of this out with our midwife beforehand.
The show goes on…
It was quite difficult for me to walk and all I wanted was to lie down, so as soon as I got into our assigned room I just threw myself on the bed and continued to deal with my contractions. A little while later our midwife arrived and she thought it quite funny as it looked like I had just stumbled into this bed. I continued to lie on the side as it was what I was familiar with and it was working for me. After a while our midwife asked me if I wanted her to check on my progress, which I wanted, I just had to manage turning and positioning myself on the back. She found me to be 7 cm dilated, good progress! Then she made me turn to the other side as it is usually beneficial to switch position every now and then.
I was still calm and focused and breathing through my contractions with a “yeees” and keeping a positive mind and Jakob was just next to me all the time. He had put my aroma diffuser on my bedside and I loved having the lavender aroma around me. It helped me relax. He was also regularly serving me with water when I was thirsty (I made sure to drink plenty of water not to get dehydrated) and coconut water for the extra energy. Both of them through a straw, as that made it so much easier.
The birth pool was not prepared when I arrived and I noticed my midwife and Jakob discussing the subject a few times during my labor. They were discussing where to put it as we had been given one of the smaller rooms. However, as I was doing so well and not really in the need for any pain relief, they were not stressing about it. Me neither to be honest. I actually don’t think I would have wanted to leave the bed and get into the pool. What I was doing was working for me and I wasn’t really keen on moving.
Finishing my birth marathon
Eventually the really strong contractions started and these were not so easy to just breath through, but I kept on doing what I was doing, still keeping calm. I was also pressing Jakob’s hand (pretty hard!) through each one of the contractions and I didn’t want him to leave my side. With these contractions I was feeling the urge to poo, something I had not expected. Then my midwife explained to me that I was now in the final stage of the delivery and she encouraged me to start pushing. I was so grateful she told me this as with that realization I switched tactics and instead of just trying to let the contractions pass as calmly as possible I was now working with them and pushing at the end of each one. It was a weird sensation, just like trying to poo.
With the encouragement of my midwife to push I got more confident in this new experience and gave it more strength each time. She told me a few times she could see the baby’s head half way out but it kept sliding back in again, which was good she assured me, as it would allow the mucous membranes around the cervix to stretch out and prevent any tearing.
Eventually at 10:24, about 12 hours since my water broke, I managed to push our baby girl out. Her eyes were very lively and she immediately started crying (which is a good sign of a healthy baby). Our midwife put her on top of my belly, as far up as the cord would allow us. There she stayed for the next hour or so. It was important to me not to cut the umbilical cord until it had gone fully white and all the blood had been transferred to our baby. This is associated with many benefits, including better establishment of red blood cell volume and better iron levels.
An hour later my placenta had still not come out and our midwife was getting slightly anxious about this as it might lead to heavy bleeding. The common practice was to give it about 30 min before intervening but she knew how important it was for me to get the first golden hour of quiet time with our baby (helps the bonding) and to cut the cord as late as possible. She also knew I didn’t want the routine injection of synthetic oxytocin which is supposed to help separate the placenta from the womb.
I preferred the natural way if possible and since she could feel it had already separated she gave me the options of getting out of bed to pee (which sometimes helps expelling the placenta) or to make me pee through an intervention of getting a catheter into my bladder. Although getting out of bed and naturally trying to pee meant we had to cut the cord, I still went for this option since it had been more than an hour and all blood seemed to have been transferred to our baby. I also took Cantharia from my homeopatic birth kit, which is supposed to create an expulsive action and preyed this placenta would come out on its own.
So I cut the cord myself which was a rather weird feeling (as it was quite chewy…) and got out of bed whilst Jakob got the opportunity to bond with our baby. I was visualizing the placenta coming out and telling myself out loud that it was on its way. Again, trying to trick my brain into believing this was happening which would make my body do it. I didn’t manage to pee though, nor was the placenta heading out. So I went back to bed, got our baby girl back and now that the cord was cut I could have her at my chest. Being skin to skin like this with your baby is actually something that naturally releases the hormone oxytocin.
Shortly after getting back into bed I felt a contraction coming and by pushing twice I managed to finally get the placenta out. Thankfully no intervention was needed and we could all relax. Our midwife also performed a quick check on my lower regions and noted that no tearing had taken place and that I was not in need of any stitches or extra care.
So my birthing marathon was over and I am so pleased I managed to get through it the natural way without any medical interventions or pain relief. This allowed me to stay fully present during the whole process. Our midwife told me I was probably the first one she had come across who commented on being hungry between the contractions of the final stage..! I was just so present and in tune with my body.
All I can say from this birth experience is WOW, I’m so amazed by the power of the female body and our ability to create a new life inside of us! It was so cool to be getting these super powers and to experience my body just taking over and making this delivery happen. I’m also quite surprised by my birthing position as I had imagined I would prefer an upright position and moving around a bit, which with the help of gravity could help bringing the baby down and out. Instead I felt like an animal, just lying there on the side and dealing with it, but for some reason it worked well for me. Maybe next time I’ll try something different, or maybe not…
I’m so happy I chose to believe in my body’s ability to guide me through this wonderful experience. I’m also pleased to have had a birth experience on my own terms, where I set the framework. Of course the unexpected can always happen, things you had not foreseen, but with some preparations and a plan B, you are more likely to have a positive birth scenario on your terms and not just becoming swept away by the hospital routines.
By being well informed and prepared I was able to step aside from most of the interventions and routines of the hospital. This gave me a quiet and stress-free environment to give birth in. The only check-ups performed were to find out how far along I was and to check our baby’s heart rate 3 times by the use of a hand held Doppler. I’m so grateful I knew my midwife from beforehand and that we had been able to go through what my ideal birth looked like and what the best case plan B would be. This allowed me to relax and focus on the labor. In this post I explain how I prepared for this throughout pregnancy Preparing for a natural birth.
I encourage all of you out there to read up on things beforehand, question the routines, educate yourself and then make the choices you think are best for yourself and your baby. Whether you want a natural birth or think you want some more assistance, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure you know what you want so that you are the one making the decisions. We all deserve a birth experience on our own terms and it can be a truly amazing and wonderful moment. There are too few positive stories out there so by sharing my birth story I aim to inspire you to trust yourself and your body. I hope you enjoyed it and I would love to hear your views and experiences of a natural birth!