When did you realize you were really in labor?
Honestly, it wasn't until I was in the hospital and they confirmed that I was dilated to a 5, I had feared that everything prior to that was false labor, as it had been the few days before. I was really doubtful that I would go into labor by myself, given my prior birth being induced with no sign of labor in sight. Also, the only "classic sign" of labor I had was contractions, no nausea, no diarrhea, no broken waters, just contractions that intensified throughout the night and early day.
What was the most challenging thing about going natural?
The worst part of the whole labor was the last 3 or 4 contractions where I had the very intense urge to push and I was waiting for the OB to get there. Having not made it to the pushing stage with my first birth, I was almost not sure how to push, even though I had that urge. In fact, I really held back when I should have relaxed and let the FEAR take over. In hindsight, I wouldn't have waited for them, and let my instinct take over (Sorry, Doc.)
Also, I was having a VBAC, which I knew the best thing for me to do was to go natural, as I wanted to avoid the cascade of interventions that led to the c-section with my first.
What was the most helpful thing you did to prepare for childbirth?
Research, reading peer experiences in VBAC groups, prayer, and chiropractic care.
Also, picking a provider that was on board with a VBAC and not just "tolerant". In fact, I switched drs. at 34 weeks because my OB at the time pulled a "bait and switch" on me at the time and scheduled a repeat c-section for me without my knowledge and consent, claiming we had never discussed a VBAC, when in fact, we had discussed it at length at every other prenatal appointment (at their practice, you alternate between the OB and the LPN). When she called me (almost bullying me claiming we had never talked about it) I dropped her that day and moved my business to another practice at that same hospital. Best decision I ever made.
What surprised you about your birth?
It was not as bad as I had imagined.
In fact, my first birth (hospital induction, pitocin, cascade of interventions, leading to an "unneccessarean") labor was much harder than this one.
Do what you can to take care of your body, mind, and soul, on those days leading up to your labor.
What pain relief strategies worked best?
Lamaze, counter pressure, and relaxation techniques. Also, I was able to visit my chiropractor during labor, and I feel like that was one thing that really helped, because if baby is in a good position, then birth will likely go very smoothly. Thankfully, my husband was a great coach (he read the book by Dr. Robert Bradley) and stayed by my side the whole time and was very supportive and gave me great words of wisdom when I felt like giving up. It's funny how you read about labor and how they say, most of the time in transition, you will get to a point where you feel like giving up, and I did get there a few times, and I vaguely remember telling him I cannot do it anymore, and he was always really gentle and affirmed that I could do it, because I WAS doing it.
Also, I had a few birth affirmations floating through my mind on an almost constant basis that was really helpful to allow the pain to do it's job and make even the hardest parts not so hard.
What position did you end up delivering in?
"Classic" position. At the time, that's what they told me to do (yeah, yeah, i know...), and it was what felt right, I was so ready to push, I almost didn't care.
How did it feel to hold your baby for the first time?
There is nothing better, I don't think, than being able to have that baby right there the moment they are born and getting to be the person to stare them in their face first and feel the warmth of their skin on you. With my first (a c-section), She was whisked from me and wiped off, and wrapped up, and I feel like 10 people got to hold her before me, and still looking back, it makes me very sad.
What advice can you give to other mamas who want to go natural?
Do what you can to take care of your body, mind, and soul, on those days leading up to your labor. We prayed almost nightly for a good outcome for me and baby. I had a huge amount of supplements I took every day to keep my body healthy and walked about a mile a day, and really kept up on chiro care throughout my whole pregnancy. Also, being sure to keep negative thoughts and negative comments from others from ruining our experience was key. Also, I'll give Genevieve's book a plug here too, as it was a great resource for those wanting a natural pregnancy and birth, compared to some of the more mainstream books which I feel push things that are either unnecessary or not naturally minded.