When did you realize you were really in labor?
The day before I actually gave birth was filled with intermittent tightening of my lower abdomen and back that would occasionally go into the tops of my thighs that lasted pretty continuously from 4 am to 11 pm, but I was able to walk around, nap, eat, and carry on about my day, just taking a deep breath if needed to get through it. By 11 pm, however, their intensity picked up enough where I could not sleep. The tightening intervals ranged anywhere from 10-20 minutes apart and were not consistent, but started getting to 5 to 4 to 3 minutes apart by 1 am. I spent the time from 11 pm to 1 am at home, using my exercise ball to lean forward onto with a heat pack on my low back, resting in a sitting position on a pillow on the floor and drinking water between each surge. When the pains were consistently 3-4 minutes apart and lasting for a minute each (thank you, Freya app for keeping track of this-highly recommend!) I woke my husband and called the midwife. She stayed with me on the phone for a few minutes, coaching me through a contraction or two, and suggested I get in the shower for relief and to see if we were really in labor. We called her 45 minutes later to confirm, yes, most definitely in labor and having more increased rectal pressure. She told us to come to the hospital and that she would meet us there. "Yes!" my husband and I told each other. "We're meeting our daughter today!"
What was the most challenging thing about going natural?
The most challenging thing about going natural was BREATHING. For whatever reason, as I continued laboring in the hospital and each surge picked up in intensity and duration, I found it difficult to get a good, deep inhale. I began panicking because I felt very short of breath and also in significant pain, but my midwife and husband were great in getting me to focus and slow my breathing. I found it easier to breathe in the shower, which is the first place I went after being admitted to labor and delivery and after some intermittent fetal monitoring. I would stand or deep squat through each surge with my husband pointing the showerhead at my low back and then rest on an exercise ball with me holding the showerhead to my lower abdomen in between surges. This is when I lost my mucus plug; my husband saw it before me and didn't realize what it was, but we were both relieved because we knew this meant progress! The midwife wanted to again check in on the baby so I moved from the shower to hands and knees on the bed with the head of the bed elevated to labor while they did some monitoring. There was some concern because the baby's heart rate would drop significantly low during each contraction, but would go right back up to the normal range and maintain during rest intervals. Despite awesome coaching from my team, my husband noticed that I was starting to look really pale and weak; at one point he thought I was going to pass out while laboring on the toilet. The nurse and midwife began administering me IV fluids and encouraged me to lie on my side to rest while getting some supplemental oxygen through a face mask. I started to improve and continued to labor and progressed over the next few hours until my midwife gave me the okay to start pushing, should I feel the "overwhelming urge," as she described it. Finally!
What was the most helpful thing you did to prepare for childbirth?
The most helpful thing my husband and I did to prepare was educating ourselves using the Mama Natural Birth Course and all affiliated resources; these were indispensable! I referenced the course and all the wonderful links attached throughout pregnancy and I was always able to find the answer that I needed. Along with education, I also drank red raspberry leaf tea religiously beginning week 36, per my midwife's recommendations, up to delivery day, starting with 2 cups per day at week 36 ramping up to 3 cups per day beginning week 38. The day before delivery, I doubled up the tea bags for each cup I drank; I think I only drank 1 or 2 cups of tea that day. I also was committed to my daily intake of dates beginning week 36 which became my dessert at night; 3 Medjool dates with peanut butter along with my tea; yum! I also read a lot of birth stories and watched birth videos which helped reduce my fears surrounding childbirth. I began to see it as truly a beautiful and natural process that allows you to meet your child. Seeing parents' faces in the videos after the baby's delivery made me excited to go through labor because hey, I wanted to meet my baby, too!
What surprised you about your birth?
The most surprising thing about my birth is how quickly I progressed. Although it felt like an absolute eternity, my labor was around 12 hours total from early labor to delivery of the placenta. I was really disappointed when I arrived at the hospital, feeling as if I were going to deliver within minutes, and my midwife told me that I was only 3 cm dilated. The positive side was that I was 80% effaced and baby was in 1st position so I knew we were on our way. Another surprise was that I pushed for 33 minutes before she was delivered which to me seems very quick considering I'm a first-time mom. I also only had to get 1 stitch; the midwife didn't even grade the "tear" because it was just on my vaginal tissue. Overall, just the success of the birth and how everything just unfolded into this wild and intense, yet purposeful event literally blew my mind. I actually achieved the birth I wanted not only for my baby but for myself.
Your body CAN do this. Your mind CAN do this. If you want to go natural, then DO IT. Don't let anyone get to you when they say, "you're crazy for not wanting drugs!" Rather, recognize that your body was made to do this and you can 100% go natural!
What pain relief strategies worked best?
THE SHOWER. Alternating spraying the hot water on my low back and abdomen while bouncing on an exercise ball got me through some of the most uncomfortable moments in my labor. Also, sitting on the toilet with one leg up on a supported peanut ball and standing alongside the bed with one knee supported on the bed helped. During surges, I would focus as much as possible on keeping my jaw relaxed and "breathing down into my pelvis" as my midwife coached me to do. Keeping my hips open, whether via deep squatting or in a hands-and-knees position also helped me get through the intense moments.
How did it feel to hold your baby for the first time?
Incredible. Absolutely the greatest moment of my life. She was placed right on my chest after delivery and the second I heard her little quiet fusses and then a few good cries, I was head-over-heels for her. I felt proud of myself for bringing her into the world, immense love for my husband for helping create her, and overwhelming joy and gratitude that she was here, she was safe, and she was ours!
What did you name your baby, and why?
We named her Erina
Yuvana. Erina was a name we found using a name generator on Google that combined different parts of my husband's and mine first, middle, and last names. We wanted her to have a unique name that stemmed from using parts of ours and/or our families within it. Erina, pronounced ur-EE-na, is my middle name, Erin, with an "a" added at the end. Yuvana is from her godfather's middle name, Yuvano, but with an "a" instead of an "o" at the end.
What advice can you give to other mamas who want to go natural?
The best advice I can give to mamas who want to go natural is to surround yourself with like-minded mamas, social media accounts, and professionals that support your desire to go natural. I was terrified of childbirth. It was the one reason initially holding me back from starting a family. I was so scared of the birth process, the pain, and the risk of tearing. However, the more I educated myself via this course, articles linked in the resources, and some pretty awesome free webinars and accounts found through Instagram, I just became less and less scared and more empowered and excited to experience this superpower we women have to bring life into this world. And the benefits to you and your baby from a natural birth are SO WORTH any fears or concerns you have! Your body CAN do this. Your mind CAN do this. If you want to go natural, then DO IT. Don't let anyone get to you when they say, "you're crazy for not wanting drugs!" Rather, recognize that your body was made to do this and you can 100% go natural!