Video Interview With Martha
When did you realize you were really in labor?
My original plan was for a birth center birth but, due to some complications, I had to be induced at 37 weeks. The process was long. I got in late Tuesday evening and had 3 rounds of Cervidil, each for 12 hours before Pitocin began at noon on Thursday. My waters broke 30 mins later but nothing happened beyond the mild cramping I had in the days prior. 7 hours later, at the full dose of Pitocin, the contractions hit very suddenly - going from a 3-level intensity to a 7. Five-and-a-half hours after that initial, intense contraction, baby was born.
What was the most challenging thing about going natural?
Being induced and in a hospital made it the most challenging. Since this is my first I have no comparison but I hear Pitocin labor and spontaneous labor are night and day different. With Pitocin, the contractions are artificial and hit hard and fast. There are breaks but they are hard to notice and still rather painful (like a 6/7 intensity... not bad, but not really the pause I pictured (maybe this is true for spontaneous labor too). I asked the nurse to stop the Pitocin since my doctor said that would be ok, but she said my labor would stop. So she turned it down a little and I think it may have helped. But down from a 20 to like a 16... not much at all. Also, being in a hospital meant I was pretty limited. I was hooked up to stuff (yes, I tried not to be) - so I couldn't use the shower and there were chords, wires, and tubing everywhere! Which is just a bit of a nuisance/ annoyance. I could labor next to my bed and be unplugged from monitors for a max of 30 mins though. And the nurses, while they respected some things also did a lot of it their way because they simply aren't used to people (especially inductions) that are geared to want to go natural.
What was the most helpful thing you did to prepare for childbirth?
There are two (jk, three) things that helped the most. The greatest was taking the birth class - knowing the different stages of labor, having basic, general knowledge, and knowing options were very empowering. And knowing that asking for pain meds likely means you are almost there was good to keep in mind. Also watching the birth videos were helpful. I hated doing it but I do think it helped me and my husband be prepared in a way we wouldn't have been otherwise or by just doing the course videos.
The second thing was almost daily practicing my emotional reaction to contractions, curve balls, etc. I tried to go over various scenarios and emotions mentally so that it wouldn't feel so new during labor. I had a notebook with all kinds of encouragement from people I talked to, quotes from the class, my "why", Bible verses, pictures, etc. I read some of those every day. I still struggled, but if I hadn't prepared emotionally I think it would've been a disaster.
The third thing was doing Spinning Babies exercises to get baby in the optimal position. We were LOA going into labor so that was a blessing.
What surprised you about your birth?
The emotional battle. I had prepared because it's what I was most nervous about. I'm a pretty emotional/ intuitive person - I wouldn't consider myself an emotional rock. Nor would I say I'm fragile... but maybe more given to feelings than the average person (??). During active labor I was managing... just barely sometimes but I was managing. But transition broke me. I was tested to my limit physically but pushed over the edge emotionally. By the time my baby was born I was emotionally so checked out and in shock from the pain that I wasn't ** truly present ** when my baby was born. I didn't care he was there. All I wanted was to take back time and get an epidural. I was mad. The birth classes says, "No one regrets a natural delivery." Well, I did. The moment I looked forward to the most felt robbed by blinding pain. It wasn't the picture-perfect moment I so badly wanted. I'd trade a lot to have been there emotionally. But, the class is probably more talking about spontaneous labor and not so much induction. I've battled hard with this feeling and don't know how to reconcile it. While I can finally say I'm proud of myself, and while my recovery was so quick (the nurses couldn't believe the pep in my step), I still don't know if it was the right choice for me to NOT to get an epidural. (Oh, and I asked! But when I did I was 10 cm dilated! hahaha).
I also was surprised at how confusing it was to push. I don't think the class does it justice (at least when I took it in 2021). I had no clue what I was doing and the nurses didn't explain how to do it well. I had done some research but wish I had done more. So look into that!
Just know that, no matter how your story ends up, you poured your heart into a challenge that gave another human life. And when you look back and ponder regrets and "should-haves" realize that the gift of life and love far outweighs the need for things to be ideal. You got this mama!
What pain relief strategies worked best?
In the beginning I sat on the birth ball while hubby massaged my lower back with the tennis balls in a sock. Later it was counter pressure from the hubby with me on my hands and knees. The hip squeeze would've been amazing during transition but he couldn't reach me on the toilet! I also squeezed a comb during contractions for that deferred pain concept - I don't know if it helped but it was something to do and I did it until pushing so it must've kind of helped!
How did it feel to hold your baby for the first time?
Well, you already kind of know, but my main emotion was anger. I was mad that my pain was so intense I couldn't enjoy the moment. It wasn't the rush of oxytocin - just regret and wishing I could escape somehow (I also learned from others that artificial oxytocin... Pitocin... can mess with this "feeling"). It was frustrating because I asked for skin to skin but only got that for a minute or two and when I did have it, I was flat on my back and could only awkwardly see the top of baby's head as I looked down my body.
That being said there were some sweet moments. The gender was a surprise and when the doctor called out, "it's a boy!" I remember looking at my husband in disbelief but was also so excited (I kind of wanted a boy!). When they put baby on me, while it was only for a minute I remember feeling the warmth and wetness and thinking it was a sweet, comforting feeling. About 36 hours later is when I truly held my baby for the first time and just gazed at him (not for a feeding or change... just to hold him). And THAT was magical. It was just me and him in the room and I picked him up and said, "I'm so sorry I didn't want you. I love you so much!" and bawled huge, ugly, tears of joy. (He was a HUGE surprise pregnancy and I struggled to be content with God's timing of it all). From then on we bonded so well and 15 months later we still get a long swimmingly. :)
What did you name your baby, and why?
Calvin - My grandfather is dear to me and his name is Alvin. I wanted to use that somehow and found we really like the name Calvin, so that worked out well. And then he has my husband's first name for his middle name.
What advice can you give to other mamas who want to go natural?
Generally, I'd say take a birth class, know your options (and stand up for them if needed), but most of all, prepare emotionally. Have motivation written down and physically near by to access during labor (doesn't help when it's across the room like ours was). Have someone read things to you if you can't read them yourself. Or find motivational pictures or objects - whatever helps you. At the end of the day, your body knows what it's doing and can give birth "on it's own" in a sense, the real battle is emotional, so exercise daily for that part too. Envision working through different scenarios and emotions, both good and not as ideal.
To those who are being induced please learn from me! First, get a doula. I cannot emphasize this enough. We tried but all the ones we found were booked, didn't drive that far, or didn't feel like a good fit. Looking back I'd rather just have one, even if they may not be the best-fit personality-wise. Especially for induction, you need one person for physical support and one for emotional. My poor hubby could only do so much at one time. A doula must be worth every dollar spent, I'm sure! Also, INSIST (or have your spouse/ doula insist) on dropping the Pitocin once you are in active labor. It may slow things down but then it should hopefully be more bearable. I was too "in the zone" to force the issue and wish I had them turn it down way more! I've heard of others who were induced say that having the Pitocin reduced or off made all the difference. I think once your body gets to a certain point there's little chance of labor completely stalling or stopping. So keep pestering them! :D
** I realize this isn't the most positive birth story that's just dripping with motivation. Sorry! I'm just being honest about my experience. Especially with being induced; I didn't find a lot of stories on here about induction. Just know that, no matter how your story ends up, you poured your heart into a challenge that gave another human life. And when you look back and ponder regrets and "should-haves" realize that the gift of life and love far outweighs the need for things to be ideal. You got this mama!