When did you realize you were really in labor?
I actually had A LOT of prodromal labor this time around. This baby faked us out so many times, that I wasn't sure what to believe. It was frustrating because I have a three-year-old, Addison, and had to let my mother know when to come to pick her up. Luckily, my mother is a teacher and was done with the school year. Anyhow, at about 2:00 AM, I began having light contractions (again). I tried to go back to sleep, but it was difficult. Once 6:00 AM rolled around and my boyfriend was due to get up for work, I told him he'd better stay home. I was almost certain it was the real deal because the contractions were becoming more intense. My mother picked Addison up, and I labored at home for as long as I could stand. I was waiting for my boyfriend to get ready to leave for the birth center and all of a sudden everything picked up more, and I had that "now I'm sort of nervous" feeling, which may have been a transition. We packed up the car and headed for the birthing center, about 20 minutes away.
What was the most challenging thing about going natural?
I had a hospital birth with my first baby, Addison, and she has a different father that was, let's say... very unsupportive. I was also only 19-years-old. I didn't have the support to have her naturally, and I began educating myself about natural childbirth when it was too late. Sure enough, I went to the hospital and readily got an epidural. This second baby, Carina, has an amazing father. He is truly an amazing man, and he's much older and more mature. The most difficult part of a natural childbirth is to be sure you have the love and support you need, and it is important to educate oneself - prepare, prepare, prepare. I wanted to erase the idea that it is "normal" to have one's baby in the hospital - it's not. Women can be having their babies at home unless they are high risk and must deliver in the hospital with an OBGYN! It was sometimes difficult to deal with friends' and family members' reactions (and remarks!) to our decision in having our baby out of the hospital. Not only did I have to convince myself that it truly was the best thing for myself and the baby, but I had to convince my boyfriend that it was the best for all of us.
What was the most helpful thing you did to prepare for childbirth?
The most helpful thing I did to prepare for childbirth was read. Genevieve, your book was so helpful to me. I drank that red raspberry leaf tea, and I ate those dates! I would not have known about these ideas if I had not watched your videos and read your book. I also love Ina May Gaskin - she is fantastic. I also read the Bradley book and this helped me sort of "re-frame" my mind on birth as well. I had to explore my thoughts and opinions on, arguably, one of the most important topics there are - childbirth! It was helpful to watch and read other women's birth stories, and that's why I feel it is important that I share mine.
What surprised you about your birth?
The entire birth was surprising! Carina sent us through some twists & turns - and I was READY. My first pregnancy was a breeze, but this second pregnancy was terrible! I had Carina right on her due date, 6.6.18. What are the odds? When we got to the birth center, I was seven centimeters! That was so encouraging to me. The midwives filled up the birth pool, and I got into it with my boyfriend. I continued to breathe through the contractions and the midwife said: "I think we should get out and sit on the toilet." I looked at her like: "WHAT. You want me to move?" Sure enough, we got out, and I sat on the toilet for a few contractions. Then I went to the bed for more contractions. At this point, I felt like I needed to push, laying down with my face planted in my boyfriend's chest. I pushed a few times on the bed on my side with my leg in the air, which of course, was not very effective. The midwife told me to get on the birthing stool. I sat on the birthing stool, with my boyfriend sitting on the bed behind me, holding me. I pushed, and pushed, and pushed on that birthing stool. I felt the ring of fire, and my pushing was strong, but it didn't feel like "enough" was happening. Then, my midwife said with some urgency: "Okay, Kristen, we're going to try something else. Get on your knees!" They helped me to the floor, on my knees. I had to put one leg up for a push, and put the other leg up for another push, and out she came - but not entirely. She had been stuck at the shoulders, and that was why I had to get into a special position. We got the shoulders out, but then she was stuck AGAIN at the chest. I did another push, and she was out. She was fine, and she just needed a couple breaths with the ambu-bag to get going. I sat on the bed with her, without too much rush to get the placenta out. The midwife said I had a very large placenta, and one of the longest umbilical cords she had ever seen! The baby's side of the placenta was the most beautiful blue color, and I decided to donate the placenta. The midwife said: "Any guesses on the weight?" I guessed about eight pounds, as did my mother and my boyfriend. The midwife said: "I think she's well over ten pounds. We all looked at her, shocked. The midwife weighed Carina and we found out that she was 10 lbs 8 oz! They had no idea how large she was, because my placenta was in the front (an anterior placenta, just like your second pregnancy with Paloma). Addison, my eldest, was only 7 lbs 7 oz when she was born, so I absolutely did not expect this. I looked at my boyfriend and said: "No wonder I was so miserable with this pregnancy!" I had hip problems, and many aches & pains. Carina Rose is now two months old, thriving, and she loves to eat!
The midwives were there to help and support us through the birthing process and intervened when absolutely necessary. They let me own my birth, and I loved them for that.
What pain relief strategies worked best?
The best pain relief strategy that worked best for me was my boyfriend. I told him to wear his same cologne that he wore when I met him, Armani Code. He somehow knew what to do for me. He knew how to hold me. He was so in-tune to me, and it made me feel so safe & so happy. I did the best I could in telling myself that this was not "pain". This was my body doing what it was supposed to do, and every contraction got me closer to holding my baby.
What position did you end up delivering in?
I pushed out my 10 lbs 8 oz baby girl on my hands and knees on the hardwood floor!
How did it feel to hold your baby for the first time?
Due to the shoulder dystocia and some possible cord compression, I turned around and sat on the floor patiently while the midwives gave the baby a couple breaths to help her get going on her own. I looked at the midwife and said: "Is she alright now?" She nodded, and I took my baby from the floor and held her into my chest. You get this beautiful, instinctual feeling of: this is MY baby. I carried her over to the bed to lie down with her and my boyfriend. The first birth with my eldest, Addison, at the hospital felt like a procedure - like everyone else knew what was going on BUT me. The second birth with Carina was MINE. No one "did" anything to me. The midwives were there to help and support us through the birthing process and intervened when absolutely necessary. They let me own my birth, and I loved them for that.
What advice can you give to other mamas who want to go natural?
Knowledge is power.