First, let me introduce you to my little angel, Bradley Ayrton Stepan.
The day I found out I was pregnant, I immediately began researching and talking to others about their birth experiences. Overwhelmingly, I would hear horror stories of pregnancies plagued by morning sickness and birth stories described as nothing short of traumatic. I used this as fuel to find a way to avoid having this experience. While I realize that some of my experience was pure luck (no morning sickness or weird cravings), I did everything I could to prepare my body physically and my mind mentally for the next 9 months. Upon researching all the routine interventions and drugs, I knew that was not the route I wanted to go. When I found out how an epidural worked, I feared not being able to feel the lower half of my body more than any sort of pain that labor could cause. I not only wanted my experience to be positive, but I wanted to give my son the best possible start to his life!
I was introduced to the Bradley Method and my husband and I promptly signed up for a 12 week course where we learned so much about child birth! It gave me the confidence to trust my body and empowered me with methods to cope with the impending “pains” associated with labor. Even when people told me I was crazy and “to just get the epidural” it made me more sure that I wanted to give birth without any drugs or interventions. Unlike most people, I never feared labor or delivery, I was just excited for the challenge and was determined not to become a statistic of the “Business of Being Born”!
Okay, now to my actual birth story…
I woke up on Thursday morning (June 5th) around 4am with some pretty intense back pain so my husband began to rub my back. I laid in bed awhile and then lost my mucus plug around 6am. I was leaking some fluids but there was no gush so I didn’t know if it was my bag of waters leaking or what… Knowing these could all be signs of labor, I decided to take a hot shower which really helped with my back pain. After showering, I just started my morning a bit early and made myself a bagel with cream cheese (a hearty breakfast in case this was the real deal).
Around 7am, I began having some pretty strong stomach cramps which I thought may be contractions. I told my husband that I thought I was having some contractions but that he should just go to work and I’d let him know if and when I thought my labor was progressing. Thankfully, since he was scheduled to attend a 2 hour class (where he wouldn’t have cell phone access), he decided to stay home with me just in case “this was it”. He eagerly fired up his “Contractionator” app and kicked into coach mode.
My contractions seemed rather irregular, happening every 2-7 minutes and lasting between 30-60 seconds.
We decided to grab some drinks at my favorite coffee shop, Beaver Brew Cafe, and as soon as I began drinking my favorite drink (blended spiced chai with almond milk), I suddenly felt so dehydrated and only wanted water (if you know me, I don’t ever not finish my chai). Upon our arrival home, I had a 4 minute long (double peaking) contraction that had me wincing on the bed followed by severe nausea. Mike insisted it was time to leave for the hospital but I thought there was no way that “this was it”… I honestly wasn’t even sure until 8:30am that I was having real legit contractions! I was convinced they would send us home upon arrival. I decided to give in and be that first-time mom who shows up only 3 or 4cm dilated. I felt okay in the car ride (between contractions) so my husband suggested going for a walk in the park before heading to the hospital. Since my next contraction was pretty intense, we decided to just go straight to the hospital and check in (around 9:30am).
Upon admission, I was immediately asked what I wanted to do for pain management and my husband chimed in “hugs not drugs” and I confidently handed over my birth plan. It seemed like the nurse was annoyed that it may be a long and dramatic natural birth… but upon her initial exam, she determined I was fully effaced, 8cm dilated and apparently my water had broken (only a little came out since he was already so low… the rest gushed out as I was delivering). Mike was parking the car and bringing up our bags when I was checked. When he got back to the room, our nurse (Kendra) told him the exciting news that his “rock star wife” was at 8cm and almost ready to push! We felt as though we narrowly escaped an accidental home or park birth and I proceeded to queue up my “Push Playlist”.
My OB doctor (David Amsbury) was in surgery so Erica Riordan (the midwife on call) came to help with the start of second stage (pushing) around 10am. I pushed for approximately 45 minutes and doctor Amsbury made it to the room just in time to deliver my baby at 10:45am! Pushing was intense and didn’t feel like I expected. I definitely had moments of doubt in my body’s ability and could feel I was fighting against the contractions. Although I knew laying on my back wasn’t the ideal position, I felt so weak and nauseous I couldn’t even hold my legs back myself never mind able to try squatting or kneeling on all fours. My husband was an awesome coach and helped me stay focused and have the courage to push with all my might! When baby crowned, they asked if I wanted to feel his head but I declined in fear I would pass out! My doctor told us to make note of what song was playing because this would be my last push to get baby out (the song happened to be “Cold One” by Eric Church). I kept my eyes closed until I felt the last bit of his body slide out and he had been placed on my chest!
I really didn’t have any time to comprehend or accept which stage of labor I was in which was probably a blessing in disguise helping me to follow my birth plan! I never once even wanted an epidural or any sort of drugs… Being so mentally prepared (thanks to taking the Bradley Method Class) definitely helped me to manage and understand the pain/discomfort I was experiencing. It honestly wasn’t nearly as painful/traumatizing as everyone told me it would be… I think it’s mostly mind over matter (our bodies were MADE to do this)! I was also lucky to have no tearing and could walk minutes after delivery and was only a little sore the next day. I barely felt the placenta come out and luckily did not have to see what it looked like as I don’t think my weak stomach could’ve handled it. They waited until the cord stopped pulsing and Dr. Amsbury convinced my husband to cut the cord (Mike thought that medical procedures should be left to the professionals… he would not ask Dr. Amsbury to jam radar on the B-52 lol).
I couldn’t be happier with how my labor and delivery went and was relieved we made it to the hospital in time! I’m convinced my commitment to stay physically active throughout my pregnancy helped my body prepare for birth! From the weekly prenatal fitness classes to doing the elliptical or walking the track, I tried to stay fit and on my feet (until the day before I delivered)! I started drinking Red Raspberry Leaf Tea (known to tone the uterus) around 23 weeks starting out at a frequency of 1 cup a day to 4 a day closer to my due date! I also started taking Evening Primrose Oil (by mouth only) at 36 weeks, increasing from once to three times daily. I also tried all the typical witchcraft like eating pineapple and spicy food, bouncing on a fitness ball and did tons of walking… Not sure if they really helped but I’m sure they didn’t hurt!
I hope sharing my story may empower other mammas-to-be to trust their bodies and prepare for a positive natural birth experience! It’s truly amazing what our bodies are capable of doing… I’m still in awe of the whole experience.