When did you realize you were really in labor?
I knew that I was in labor when my water broke. I didn't feel my best that morning and my husband thought it might be signs of early labor but I didn't feel any contractions or have any obvious signs that the books mention. My water broke and within the next hour contractions were 5 minutes apart lasting about a minute.
What was the most challenging thing about going natural?
The most challenging thing was staying hydrated and eating food. I was slightly dehydrated that morning (so I started at a deficit) and ended up vomiting during every contraction. I just didn't have the mental capacity to completely relax my body and force myself to drink water. Very early on I knew that I would need an IV at the hospital because I couldn't keep anything down.
What was the most helpful thing you did to prepare for childbirth?
The most helpful thing was taking my birthing class early. I reached out to a local doula who is also a Bradley Certified Instructor at the beginning of my second trimester for information and she happened to arranging a class and offered us a seat. This gave us plenty of time to talk to our doctors about options as they came up in class, gave us time to conduct research, and plenty of time to practice and visualize the labor and birth.
What surprised you about your birth?
I was surprised at how fast it went! Only 6 hours! I had mentally prepared to have a long, hard labor because it was my first and I had an anterior placenta. The hospital was 2 hours away so our plan was to leave as soon as I knew that I was in labor and get a hotel room in town and do most of the laboring there. There was no need. We got to the hospital 3 hours after my water broke and I was 7 centimeters. 3 more hours and our daughter was born. I was also surprised at how hard it was to figure out the proper way to push. I had read that it uses the same muscles as a bowel movement, but to me it was a totally different group of muscles that I had to activate. It took me a couple of pushes to figure it out.
What pain relief strategies worked best?
Labor wasn't that painful to me. The contractions were intense and required focus, but they weren't painful. The only time they hurt was when the hospital had the monitors on my belly. The best pain relief was counter pressure on my back. Good thing my husband is strong! The first time that I thought "ouch! I can't do this" was when the baby was crowning and two more pushes and she was in my arms. I also only labored for 6 hours!
What position did you end up delivering in?
The hospital originally wanted me to deliver on my side, but I had a hard time figuring out how to push, it just didn't feel right so they moved me onto my back and that is how I delivered. It wasn't the most comfortable and I didn't have the energy to pull my legs back like they wanted. I would have liked to try squatting or on hands and knees but I only pushed for about 15 minutes anyway. Next time we will try these other positions.
How did it feel to hold your baby for the first time?
I was shocked to find out that it was a girl. We waited to find out the sex and everyone thought that it was going to be a boy so we were very surprised. I didn't get that amazing feeling that everyone talks about, it took me a few weeks to bond with the baby and really feel that she was mine (because of complications) and only now, 1 year later do I feel that overwhelming love. Breastfeeding and skin to skin contact was the best way to feel connected.
What advice can you give to other mamas who want to go natural?
Do Spinning Babies' daily exercises, drink red raspberry leaf tea, and practice relaxing. Find a good class or meet with a doula before hand to get personalized advice. For example, we live in a rural area and the drive to the hospital is 2 hours. Our instructor told us to really think about how I was going to labor in the car, to practice relaxing in the car, and (of course, have an emergency bag). I followed her advice and labored in the car without any problem! Research how to bond with the baby after a complicated birth. This wasn't discussed in my class and I only knew about it from The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I had a severe case of uterine atony and while I would call my stage 1 and 2 of labor amazing and exactly what I wanted, stage 3 and the managing of the hemorrhage was the most painful experience of my life and disrupted that immediate bonding with the baby. Because of WAoB I knew that my lack of feelings for the baby was natural and what to do to promote bonding.