I love hearing other women’s birth stories, each is so unique and interesting. The female body is absolutely incredible and continues to blow my mind as my son grows and reaches new milestones. When I look at him I cannot believe that he grew inside of me, I just can’t. Every pregnancy, every delivery, and every child is a miracle in my eyes.
I found out I was pregnant on November 30, 2016 and I knew it was a boy. My husband and I waited to tell our family until Christmas, at which point I was still in my first trimester but it felt like the perfect time to share the news. We are a family of girls so of course, no one believed me when I said I was sure we were having a boy. When it came time to find out the sex, I got really scared that I was wrong, but I wasn’t! Boy indeed! My husband and I were ecstatic and my family was still in disbelief…. again, boys are VERY few and far between in my family.
My pregnancy was wonderful, and I know that I am fortunate to say so. In the beginning I had very mild nausea that only lasted a couple of weeks, and other than feeling a bit more tired, I really didn’t feel any different at all. To some, that probably sounds amazing, but being my first pregnancy, there were moments that I was worried because I didn’t feel any different. Those worries faded away as time went one, ultrasounds were had, and so on. I continued running every morning before work as I always did, and working out a couple of times a week in our neighborhood gym as well. I didn’t push myself and if I felt uncomfortable I would simply stop. My goal was to run up until 30 weeks before switching to walking and I actually made it to about 34! After that, I had constant pelvic pain that would intensify if I aggravated it with too much activity.
At my doctor’s appointment following my 30 week blood work, he told me that he noticed my blood platelets were low. This was the first and only “complication” in my pregnancy. There was no explanation for it, and there was no risk for me or for my baby. What it did mean was that it would have to be watched and if the numbers fell too low, an epidural would not be an option for me at the time of my labor and delivery. Let me first say that my “ideal” birth plan was a natural, hospital setting plan. I did not want pain medication and I did not want any interventions unless deemed necessary or an emergency. That was my goal and my doctor knew it. However, we (my doctor, husband, and I) agreed that it was important to have conversations regarding alternative birth possibilities in the event that things didn’t go as planned (as they rarely do I’ve gathered.) With that being said, we discussed having an epidural in length and what that might look like for me. A healthy individual usually has a blood platelet count around 150k or higher. My count at 30 weeks pregnant was about 120k and it continued to drop every two weeks. If it dropped below 100k, an anesthesiologist most likely would NOT recommend an epidural. At my 39 week check up, my doctor wanted to schedule a date for induction, which I really didn’t want either but sometimes you have to get the ball rolling artificially, and I understood that. IF I was to be induced, my doctor would give me a steroid shot that would help my body kick into “platelet production mode” so that my numbers might be high enough to get an epidural in case I decided I wanted one. That was the proactive “plan” in case my medication free “plan” didn’t work out.
At 39 weeks and 3 days my water broke around 5:00pm while I was outside playing with our dogs. I wasn’t having contractions and that morning at my appointment, I was only 1.5 cm dilated. I felt fine so I went inside, changed, and my husband was home from work, not long after. We ate dinner that I had already made and I called my doctor. He told us to go to the hospital and they would admit me. He also shared that unfortunately he had a personal obligation in the morning and that he would likely not be the doctor delivering my baby, which was sad but perfectly fine. When we got off the phone, I showered, my husband loaded the car and we left for the hospital.
When I was admitted to the hospital, it was about 7:30pm and I was still not having any contractions on my own. My doctor instructed the nurses to begin Pitocin at 4:00am if I still was not in labor. Also, since my water broke spontaneously, I did NOT receive any steroid shot. My blood was drawn and my blood platelet count was somewhere around 50-60k. Laughable really. I still remember the sweet nurse, probably in her early twenties, who came into my room to tell me that I was not a candidate for an epidural. I felt like she was scared that I was going to yell or cry or something, but at the time, I could have cared less. I didn’t want pain medication anyway, so this was just meant to be.
Que the “careful what you wish for lecture….”
Okay, here’s where my birth story gets honest. I apologize in advance if I crush any hopes and dreams that labor and delivery might feel “like intense period cramping and discomfort” as the internet likes to describe it. It might feel that way for some women, and it is absolutely different for each person so take each birth story you read with a grain of salt. Your story will NOT be like anyone else’s story.
I began Pitocin around 4:00am and OH. MY. GOSH. One common thing I had been told from other mamas who had been given Pitocin, was that it kicked their butt. Somewhere I read that labor being started artificially is like going from 0-100 in terms of the pain involved with your labor progression, versus going from say, 50-100 if labor started naturally. In theory if your labor started naturally, there’s a good part of it that would be behind you before you actually got admitted into the hospital thus, you only had about half way left to go before meeting baby. That theory always made sense to me though it was not very helpful.
Obviously, I have no idea if Pitocin really makes contractions more painful or not, but my contractions were painful to say the least. PAINFUL. The most intense pain I have ever felt in my life to be exact. They would take my breath away every single time. Yes, there are breaks in-between, but they are not long. Yes, you can breathe deep between each one and calm yourself, but it’s not long enough. Yes, you can change positions and elevate the pain to a degree, but it doesn’t last and it always returns. Laying in bed was not an option for me, it seemed to make things worse. Thank the Lord for the sweet nurse who switched all my monitors to a blue tooth cordless system, so I could stand up and move around. I will forever love her. Labor progressed pretty quickly in the beginning I thought. From 4:00am to 8:30am I made it to 8.5 cm dilated which I felt was fast! My husband was in charge of texting family and friends and after he told folks I was that far along, they expected to get a birth announcement text long before it actually happened. Unfortunately, things came to a halt around 9 – 9.5 cm for what felt like an eternity. I guess my body just wanted me to experience, in all its glory, what 9(ish) cm dilated contractions, with zero pain medication, felt like, for THREE hours.
At 12:10pm on August 8, 2017 my son was born after 30 minutes of pushing and only a small episiotomy. I could not have done this without my husband. That man held my entire body weight for over four hours, no exaggeration. He was my jungle gym. I would lean against him, hang onto him by his shoulders, squeeze his hands or arms, whatever. He helped me up and down and up and down as I could never get comfortable for longer than ten minutes. He watched me cry, moan, laugh, lose my breath, catch my breath, he saw it all. Also, modesties go out the window so quickly in a labor and delivery room.. my husband was there for all of that too. The entire time I was giving him the workout of his life, he still managed to coach me and be my cheerleader. If I said I was too tired, he said “no you’re not, you can do this.” If I said I wanted to give up, he reminded me it was almost over and our son was coming so soon. The emotional roller coaster of labor and delivery is insane but he kept my eyes forward and head in the game the entire time. I’m so thankful for him.
Now, here’s where I want to encourage ALL the moms-to-be out there who want a pain medication free birth. After my son was born, I felt AMAZING. I cannot stress enough how absolutely magical this experience was. The pain was horrible, intense, messy, etc. but the second my son was born, it was gone. Instantly gone in the blink of an eye and I was speechless! Here I had moaned, cried, and who knows what else for over 8 hours and it was over just like that. There was still the afterbirth and a few stitches but I never acknowledged the “pain” involved with those things IF there was any. Even more amazing, after it was all over and they took our son briefly to get cleaned up and checked out, I got up. I got up, walked to the bathroom, hugged my husband properly, stretched, it was incredible. Of course I was sore, and the soreness set in more over the next 24-48 hours but I honestly felt great. I remember my nurse coming into the room a few hours later and asking if I needed any prescription pain medication. My response was that I had a headache (probably from pushing I assumed) and I asked for some Advil. She just smiled and couldn’t believe how good I felt. On top of all of that, it is so gratifying to successfully accomplish a goal, right!? I did it! I wanted a natural birth, I planned on it, and I did it. Such a high.
I hope my story can help set some realistic expectations for labor and delivery if you choose to do it without pain medication. It will hurt and it will be hard, but YOU CAN DO IT. The payoff is in the recovery and it makes the whole process so worth it, in my opinion. My husband and I cannot wait to have another baby. We are not scarred from this experience, or afraid to go through it all again. In fact, we are excited to see how labor goes the second time around! There was so much fear and unknown territory in that labor and delivery room the first time that we can’t wait to see how the experience is different when we (God willing) go through it again.
One last thing, please remember that this is my story and yours will be different. And please, PLEASE, do what is best for you and your baby. There is not a person on this planet that can take away from the amazing job you do delivering your child, however you do it.