My 1st Baby: Natural Labor and Delivery
Nine and a half years ago I had my first baby. It was intense.
Because Andy made two different videos of the whole thing, I have two different takes on how everything went that day. The first just shows clips of the best parts of the day, and it is set to music. What a beautiful memory! The second shows what really happened. Andy narrates as the day goes along, documenting the real stuff. What a crazy long day ending in an exciting natural childbirth: our firstborn daughter!
I should post the videos so you can see how cute Andy looks. Not only is he so young and handsome, he has that “I’m gonna be a dad!” excitement in his voice and eyes.
It was one day after my due date. Contractions started at about 5 a.m. It was so distinct, I knew it had to be the beginning of labor. It was tight squeezing in my stomach that would start small, gain intensity, peak, and then slowly reduce intensity. Finally, the big day arrived!
At 5:45 a.m., I woke Andy. “You aren’t going to work today.”
“Why? Really?” he asked, suddenly wide awake.
“Yes. This is it.”
I was still excited at that point, still in a good mood. Andy called his work to let them know he needed a sub, took a shower, and packed up the car while I labored on the bed. I could tell I was in early labor because the contractions were a bit sporadic, some long, some short. Some close together, some 30 minutes apart.
Andy secretly set up a camera in the kitchen because I had already complained that I didn’t want him filming–it was distracting me from focusing on the contractions.
“She’s throwing up about–every 20 minutes,” he says in the video, as he washes my puke from our small gray trash can. See, I forgot about that part! I threw up so much throughout the whole pregnancy. In the first trimester, I had days when I threw up 30 times in 1 hour, just constant gagging and dry-heaving. Some days were better than others. I also threw up (water) every 20 minutes during labor and delivery.
By 12 p.m., Andy decided it was time for us to head to the hospital. He had been timing my contractions for more than 5 hours. I wasn’t sure I was ready. I didn’t want to go too soon, because the Bradley book recommends waiting until you are a “tigress,” meaning you are not smiling. If you smile for the camera when you take your “off to the hospital” selfie, you are not ready to go to the hospital, according to the Bradley book. You have to be at the “very serious” signpost.
In the video, I can see that Andy is filming me walking to the car and walking into the hospital. He holds the camera down low so I don’t know he is filming.
My contractions were so bad at that point, I had to lean on walls, desks, or Andy’s shoulders every few minutes and concentrate on breathing through the contraction. It was getting really difficult and I was really tired, not to mention that I hadn’t eaten since dinner the night before. An empty stomach is the worst enemy of a woman with morning sickness. I was getting very serious.
Check-in seemed to take forever. All these wristbands and papers and questions and the dreaded cervix check–all while I’m trying to breathe through contractions. “Six centimeters,” the resident doctor said. Only 6 cm dilated? I was sure I was going to be 8 or something, because I was so done. Thank God, 6 cm was enough to get checked in and get to my labor and delivery room.
Andy handed the nurses the birthing plan:
1. Prefer no internal monitor (do not break bag of waters)
2. Prefer no drugs (Bradley Method)
3. Prefer no i.v. (hep-lock only)
4. Prefer no episiotomy
Because it was my 1st, we packed all the stuff that the What to Expect When You’re Expecting book recommended we bring to the hospital: relaxing music, a deck of cards, a board game, extra changes of clothes, snacks for Andy, extra pillows, cameras–we had so many bags of stuff. (We didn’t use any of it. All we needed were toothbrushes, toiletries, pajamas, socks, baby clothes, and a change of clothes. And a car seat.)
Andy called my sister so she could leave work early and join us at the hospital. She was my second birthing coach.
Once I was finally settled in my room, all I wanted to do was lay on my side and breathe. I felt like a cat in labor, just wanting to be left alone in a quiet closet in the dark, with no one bothering me, so I could give birth to my kittens. Instead, every 20 minutes the nurses interrupted, turned on the bright lights, and asked me to sit up and lie on my back so they could record the baby’s heart rate. They strapped the external monitor to my stomach, which I was thankful for because I politely refused the internal monitor.
One nurse was really great. She held the strap on my stomach for the full 20 minutes so I could stay on my side for the contractions. None of the other nurses would do it, but she was amazing. God bless that woman!
When my sister arrived, it was about 3 p.m. Andy took off for a while to get some food and make phone calls. My sister is a very peaceful person, so it was really lovely to have her in the room with me. She spoke gently with the nurses on my behalf, and helped keep me calm during my contractions, which were getting more intense all the time. She thought of things like putting a cold washcloth on my forehead and feeding me ice chips so I wouldn’t get dehydrated from throwing up.
What was going on in my head during all of this? I don’t even know. At times, I was very calm and sure of what I was doing, mainly because of all the reading and preparation I had done ahead of time. But nothing could have prepared me for this. It was craziness! It was absolutely the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. It was harder than the LA Marathon because the marathon was over in less than five hours, but labor just kept going and going all day. Be over already, for the love of God!
By far, the worst part was the barfing. I had been barfing for 9 months. Can’t relate? Just imagine that you have food poisoning for 9 months. Every day. And that was me.
Contractions were pretty bad too. You know how you want to hold your breath when you do sit-ups or pull-ups, but you have to remind yourself to breathe? That’s what happens when the uterus involuntarily contracts. It’s like this long pulling exercise that takes a lot of oxygen. And just like a sit-up or a pull-up, if you are tensing your other muscles in your neck or elsewhere, it just makes the exercise more difficult. So for natural labor, the goal is to relax as much as possible, like pretending you are asleep, while the contraction starts, peaks, and resides, while breathing super deeply, like when you are sleeping. Face, arms, legs, stomach, eyelids, everything should be limp, except for the uterus. That way you get the most effective results from the uterus muscle.
My sister noticed that I was having trouble staying relaxed during contractions. “Relax your mouth, relax your neck, breathe deeply,” she continued to coach me in her quiet voice. I made it through another contraction and asked for more ice chips. The midwife came in and checked my cervix again.
“Seven,” she said. I wanted to tell her, “Oh come on, you have man hands! It’s got to be more than that!” But I held my tongue.
I wanted Andy to come back because I didn’t want to wonder where he was or worry about him missing the birth. It seemed like he’d been gone a long time. I missed him.
Oh, Lord Jesus, help me.
to be continued . . . tomorrow . . . Click Here to Read Part 2
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I share this story because it’s fun to share stories. I love hearing other women’s labor and delivery stories–each is so different and special. Each has traumatizing moments, but also joyous and humorous ones. Thank you for reading my story.
(P.S. I apologize–I said this post was coming a few days ago. Sorry for the delay!)
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way: Revised Edition