When did you realize you were really in labor?
After feeling crampy off and on all day, around 5 p.m. I started to get consistent contractions, every fifteen minutes or so, that were painful enough that I had to stop and breath through. My husband arrived from work an hour later and started timing them...they were every ten minutes by then. By about 8:00 they had continued to become more painful, and were seven minutes apart...that was when we felt pretty confident that this was really it, and called my mom to come over for support.
What was the most challenging thing about going natural?
The pain! My baby's head was coming down at an awkward angle, and causing intense back labour right from the start until he was born, 20 hours later.
What was the most helpful thing you did to prepare for childbirth?
I couldn't pick just one - daily walks and prenatal/birth preparation yoga videos; watching birth videos, reading stories, and talking to moms about their experiences; taking the Mama Natural birth course (with my husband - that was key, so that he knew what to expect - his support during labour was amazing!).
What surprised you about your birth?
The incredible ending!
After 20 hours, my body was totally ready to go but my baby's head just wouldn't find the right position. We had already tried the rebozo and every position the midwives could think of during contractions, but he just wouldn't budge.
When my labour started to slow down from exhaustion, my midwives suggested that we transfer to the hospital to consider what our options might be ...either pain management so I could rest, or something to strengthen contractions. Disappointed, but confident that it was the best decision, I prepared to leave. Just as the midwives' equipment was packed and the cars running, I suddenly had several intense contractions on top of each other.
I wanted to use the bathroom before we left, and while I sat on the toilet, in the worst pain yet, my baby moved. I squatted and shrieked. From the next room, the midwives recognized that "pushing sound", and whisked their supplies back inside. My son was born 20 minutes later, at home and entirely naturally, which thrilled and surprised us all!
Educate yourself, commit to your goals, and remember that you were designed for this.
What pain relief strategies worked best?
My favourite position to ease contractions was on my knees, leaning forward on a birthing ball, with my husband or mom putting pressure on my back, and squeezing the hands of the other. Olive oil infused with lavender essential oil, rubbed on my back, was extremely comforting. Sitting on the toilet was helpful at times, as was a hot bath or shower.
What position did you end up delivering in?
I started pushing in a squat, then moved to sitting on the edge of the bed, with my feet propped up on a birthing stool. However, my baby was coming so quickly that the midwives wanted to slow things down minimize tearing, so they had me lay back on the bed. I delivered side lying, with my husband supporting one leg.
How did it feel to hold your baby for the first time?
Indescribably wonderful! I don't remember what I was thinking, but I was laughing and crying and saying, "oh baby, baby, I'm here, mommy's here!". One moment of clarity that broke through my histeria was when, seconds after birth, I felt a warm gush of liquid on my belly. I was alarmed at first, and said, "something just...oh. Ha, I think he peed on me!" - we all laughed.
What advice can you give to other mamas who want to go natural?
Educate yourself, commit to your goals, and remember that you were designed for this. Always keep in mind that the goal is a healthy baby, and even if things don't go as hoped for, that in doing what's best for him or her - even intervening when necessary - you are achieving the ultimate goal. Being informed and striving for your most natural birth possible, will allow you to make those difficult decisions, if necessary, with confidence.