My Natural Birth Story
This is something that I’ve wanted to write about for a long time. I‘m pretty well read on the topic, see so many benefits to it and love sharing my own personal experience. But I’ve refrained. And considered. And started posts. And deleted posts. Mainly because it can be a very touchy subject, and I don’t want to offend anybody. But at the same time, I know that having a significant amount of personal experience to share could potentially help another woman, so here it goes…
Let’s just get a few things said so that there is no confusion: any woman who has pushed out a baby OR had a baby extracted from her is an absolute superhero in my eyes. Any woman who has gone through fertility treatments is emotionally, physically and mentally braver that I could ever hope to be. Any woman who has longed for a baby, but for whatever reason cannot carry one herself is stronger than I can express. Any woman who has gone through the long, arduous, expensive task of adopting a child into their own life, family and home is a hero.
However, when it comes to having kids, one of the things that I have the most experience with is birthing babies naturally, so that’s what I feel I can write about. I can’t talk about anyone else’s experience by my own, so here it goes.
Having a baby at a birth center
All of my boys were born at free-standing birth centers. Three of them were born in New Hampshire and one was born here in Brooklyn. If I could go back in time, there is little that I would change about each of my births, but [before I had babies] whenever I had envisioned myself being pregnant, in labor and delivery, I always pictured myself in a hospital. I thought that I’d take all the meds, be in a hospital gown and watch F.R.I.E.N.D.S. while we waited for the baby to come. Seriously. Things could not have been farther from that scenario.
Originally, I didn’t want a birth center birth. It sounded unsafe and a little too crunchy for me. Giving birth in a house? Having a waterbirth? No drugs? No thanks. I’ll pass. However, we didn’t have insurance when I found myself pregnant with my first (my job didn’t offer it and Seth was just finishing up his degree at UNH and doing an internship) so we ended up choosing to have the baby at the birth center because honestly, it was the cheapest option.
But the more visits I had with the midwife and the more information that I learned about hospital birth, the more comfortable I became the idea of a birth-center birth and a midwife. I respect, appreciate and admire all of the amazing things that doctors all over the world do on the daily, but I also don’t at all regret my decision to have a midwives deliver my babies. I am so thankful for each of them.
I am a big believer in “to each their own”. When it comes to birth, nutrition, screen time, exercise, strollers, budgets, tummy time, pacifiers - you do you. My own way of doing things is a mixed bag. Some of my parenting choices may seem to contradict each other, but we do what works for us. And something that works now may not have worked a few years ago. Everything is in constant flux, and I’m okay with that. I’ve learned that you can’t judge someone by their actions because you are not in their shoes.
Allow me to reiterate; you’re not in their exact shoes at that exact moment, so we absolutely shouldn’t judge anyone for their choices. How many of us have been in a situation where we make a decision that we normally wouldn’t make or do something that is completely out of character? Sometimes you just do for the sake of survival or because of stress. We can’t hold it together 100% of the time. That’s impossible. But that doesn’t make us bad people, it makes us human. I never thought I’d be one to have the toddler that has an hour-long screaming at the top-of-his-lungs tantrum. I never thought I’d hate breastfeeding. I never thought I’d have anxiety. I never thought I’d dislike my child. I never thought I’d give up alcohol, but here we are. All that to say, just because I did things a certain way doesn’t mean that I’m by any means looking down on the way that things unfolded for you.
I chose to take a hypnobirthing class, labor and deliver naturally, birth in the water and opt for immediate skin to skin and delayed cord clamping for our first.
Honestly, while I believe in many of the fundamentals of hypnobirthing, MY hypnobirthing class was not the best. It was taught by the same person who taught all of the birth classes at our local hospital and I'm not quite sure she believed that hypnobirthing worked. My recommendation: take the class with someone who is certified in hypnobirthing. They know how to teach better than anyone else, and many have personal experience in using the hypnobirthing method to deliver their own babies.
Laboring naturally seemed like a piece of cake at first. I woke up having mild contractions, stayed at home, my midwife came over and checked me, I watched TV. Piece of cake. This was going to be a cinch. Well that was EARLY labor. Come 7 or 8pm, I was no longer able to talk through a contraction, and that went on for a few hours. “Get some rest” my midwife said (yeah right), so I tried but by midnight I was asking Seth to take me to the hospital (which, as I’ve said was NOT the plan). Instead, he called my midwife who told him to bring me to the birth center.
I don’t remember many specifics, but baby was posterior so I had crazy intense back labor so she suggested getting into the birth pool. Being in the water was the only thing that helped. I was in the birthing pool for about an hour before Hudson was born. One thing that didn’t go quite as expected was Seth’s role in this whole process. He was so supportive and agreed to do anything that I needed, but the original plan was for me to birth in the pool ALONE. Well, after getting into the pool and realizing that it had no handles for me to hold onto, I called him off of the sidelines and onto the field. I was too buoyant in the water, and needed to be grounded somehow to push, so in he got. Without question or complaint, may I add. I’ve never seen him move so fast.
Skin to Skin Contact
Things have changed a lot in the past 5-10 years, but oftentimes when babies were born, they would be whisked away to be cleaned up and then brought back to mama. But the benefits of leaving baby on their mother’s chest are amazing. It’s an immediate chance to bond. It helps to regulate the baby’s breathing and temperature, it’s comforting for them to hear their mama’s heartbeat, it encourages nursing and more. Before I had a baby I thought I’d be grossed out by a slimy, slippery baby but nothing could be farther from the truth. I didn’t care about all that, all I cared about was my sweet, chunky baby and the fact that I was no longer in labor (also, the vernix that covers the baby’s skin in utero and after birth is really good for the baby).
After birth, the umbilical cord (which attaches the baby to the mother via the placenta) continues to pulse and give baby vital nutrients, blood and oxygen. I always thought that immediately after the baby was born, the cord was cut (and I think oftentimes this is the practice) but we chose to wait until after the cord stopped pulsing to have the cord cut (called delayed cord clamping or DCC) because we wanted to be sure that the baby received all of those vital elements. Americanpregnancy.org states that “DCC allows more blood to transfer from the placenta to the baby, sometimes increasing the child’s blood volume by up to a third”. If you have a pre-term baby or a baby who is suffering from asphyxiation, DCC may not be the best choice, but luckily neither of those issues were a problem for us.*
How you end up doing it may look very different (or similar, who knows!) but my point is that we each make choices based on what we think is best for us. If you end up making choices that you love but are completely different than mine, GREAT! I’m not going to tell you that your choice is wrong because I’M NOT YOU. Only you know what is best for you, and I respect that. All I’m trying to do is let you know what worked for ME with the hope that it could help someone else to make an informed decision about what they want. All that we really want at the end of the day is a healthy baby and a healthy mama, right? It doesn’t matter how you run the race, what matters is that you crossed the finish line.
* I’m not a doctor so please don’t consider this medical advice