This post mentions/discusses miscarriage, the birth experience, and medical care. If this post is triggering for you, please feel free to skip it and enjoy one of these completely different topics instead: Shoutout to Black Women Farmers ,Just Your Basic Spooky Hippie, or My Sustainability Journey
Why I Am Sharing My Birth Story
If you know me, you know that I talk very candidly about childbirth, breastfeeding, sex, menstruation, and my body. You might wonder “why?”.
Part of it is a subtle rebellion. Society often attempts to dictate when, and how, we as women can talk about our bodies. But by normalizing our bodies as an everyday topic, we push back against this ridiculous taboo.
The other reason is because they are topics important to me. Important to me as a woman and important to me as a representative of women.
Because of Feminism
Simply put, feminism is at the root.
I recently wrote about how social and cultural stigmas of menstruation impact the functioning of society. If you have read this post, you know that there are concerning gaps with our education of women’s health.
I am quick to share my birth story with family, close friends, and co-workers. My bluntness may have traumatized a few people (Sorry, but also not entirely sorry). I strive for honesty so people can learn. What I have found most difficult about pregnancy and childbirth is not my lack of knowledge. The most difficult part is that most people are gatekeeping the experience as something shameful or not important.
In staying true to my authentic self, I am sharing my birth story with you today. I share my story in solidarity. I share my story to normalize this narrative. And I share my story to help educate.
Celebrating A Successful Birth Story
I would be remiss to not reflect on the journey that brought me to the day I birthed my daughter. Nearly two years ago, I shared mine and my husband’s experience of two back-to-back miscarriages.
Sharing my story about experiencing miscarriages was something that I did for my own healing. But it was also motivated by my mission to speak openly and bluntly about stories impacting women’s health. To push narratives that are not being shared enough and that leave women to struggle alone.
And while I did not birth those babies, their conception is an important part of this journey. I carry them with me always.
When Your Water Breaks at 3 AM
Between 10-15% of women have their water break naturally. Typically, contractions start first and it is common to have your water broken by your medical provider.
Of course, I had to be an overachiever and be in the 10-15% of women. . .
At about 3:00 am the day before R. was born, I woke up with a dull cramping in my lower pelvis. The pain was comparable to mild period cramps. The pain level was minimal; but I could still keep falling back to sleep and ignore them for awhile.
Eventually, I got up to go to the bathroom and as soon as I sat on the toilet there was a distinct and very cliche “gush” of water that literally fell out of my vagina. When your water breaks, the rate that the amniotic fluid leaks out can differ among women, but when it is a gush, it is very obvious that you did not pee. After the gush, I stood up to wipe and also confirmed that I had a bloody show. This is basically some light bleeding (similar to spotting) that is light red in color.
Whelp! It was showtime!
I immediately called my midwife for instructions on what to do next. My plan was to labor at home for as long as possible before heading to the hospital. But I still needed some instruction.
My midwife told me to use this time to hydrate and get as much rest as I could. Since the contractions weren’t really in full motion yet, I had some time. She would then check in with me around 10am to see how things were progressing.
I was excited – but very calm.
At this point, I finally headed back upstairs to wake up my husband, M. and fill him in on what was going on.
When You Tried EVERYTHING
10:00am arrived and you will quickly share my disappointment. At this point, I was having one contraction about every hour and half. The pain was still like mild period cramping. I brilliantly thought that I had an incredible pain tolerance! (If you have given birth you are probably laughing at me right now. It’s okay, you are allowed.)
When I next spoke to my midwife I found out that this is NOT normal, I should have been having way more contractions, increasing in intensity and frequency (given that my water broke on its own). The fact that I was not was actually problematic.
When your water breaks ahead of labor, there are some additional complications that can occur. The “water” is your amniotic fluid, which is cushioning and protecting your baby, and also keeping out infections. But, without that fluid, you and your baby don’t have the same protections. I needed to give birth within 24 hours because of the increased risk of infection to both myself and my daughter.
My Body Missed the Memo
For some reason, my oxytocin was not kicking in and my contractions just were not happening.
I was given until noon and was told to try a variety of different techniques to stimulate the release of oxytocin. Hopefully, this would jumpstart my contractions.
Trust me when I said we (my. husband and I) tried EVERYTHING.
With my water breaking naturally I thought I was going to labor quickly and my daughter would be born soon after. But now I was starting to feel anxious, because things weren’t going according to plan.
When Pitocin is A PMSing Bitch
Surprise surprise, noon comes around and there was little change to my contractions. So, we headed to the hospital where I was going to have to be induced with Pitocin, which is a synthetic form of oxytocin.
Now, my goal was to labor at home for as long as possible and then have an unmedicated birth, using pain management techniques I learned from The Naked Doula.
As soon as Pitocin came into the picture, all of those goals were put off the table. (I do want to mention that you can have an unmedicated birth while on Pitocin. But I was not prepared to tackle anything other than a birth without interventions.)
I do want to be clear. Although I have my preferences, I am not against interventions. What is important with interventions is that they are chosen with informed consent and that they are used appropriately. I won’t dive into that full discussion today, but know that despite reservations, I accepted the intervention from necessity.
Pitocin Fucking Sucks
I am not trying to scare you away from using Pitocin, but the reality is that it is a very powerful drug that makes pain management very difficult. My primary physician describes it as “contractions on steroids” and your ability to manage pain on Pitocin vs natural contractions can be very different.
I had heard that contractions induced by Pitocin could be difficult, but I really did not have any comprehension of the the intensity.
Even on Pitocin, I dilated slowly, and I reached the point where I was screaming uncontrollably during a contraction, and still had several more levels to go of them upping the dosage. I no longer had any control over my pain management and I knew, at that point, that I needed help. I asked for an epidural.
When Drugs Save the Day
I had done a lot of research on epidurals prior to going into labor, so I was able to make an informed decision when I asked to receive one. My hospital absolutely respected my birth plan – they never pushed for pain medication, allowing it to be 100% my decision when I asked for it. For this I am grateful.
But, despite it being my decision, I was still disappointed in asking for an epidural. I was not disappointed in myself, I simply was disappointed that I was not going to have the birthing experience I had hoped for. But I recognized that I was not in a place to be able to have that “planned” birth. The moment my contractions failed to improve throughout my early labor, my plan starting moving on a different trajectory.
The two biggest pieces of advice I could give for birthing a tiny human would be 1) educate yourself as much as possible and make sure you have informed consent of every decision, 2) plan for your ideal birth, but be open to changing that plan if necessary.
Women Supporting Women
After asking for the epidural, I was lucky and received it quickly. Sitting still was one of the hardest things. To insert the needle in your back, you cannot move. Understandably, so you don’t jerk suddenly and damage your back. But, this was an unprecedented challenge when I had contractions every minute that I could barely tolerate.
My labor and delivery nurse was the epitome of women supporting women. I remember her putting herself at eye level with me locking her gaze with mine. As soon as that next contraction hit, she was all that I focused on and she gently coached me through it. The entire time, she was looking at me with a look that all women can understand. The look that says ” you are not alone and we will rock this together.” And with her help, combined with a deep inner strength I didn’t know I had, I sat perfectly still, through active contractions, while I received the epidural.
Once it took effect, my body could finally rest. It still took a little time for me to finish dilating enough. But once R. was ready to come out, I gave birth to her after pushing for only 40 minutes.
Yes, I pushed on my back, held my breath, and had a second degree tear. All things I wanted to avoid, but I have more thoughts about that for another day.
When You Regret Nothing
A lot of things happened during my birth experience that were exactly what I did not want to happen. I pushed on my back, I have no clue what natural contractions feel like, I needed an epidural, etc. I am disappointed in that. But I don’t regret my birthing experience.
Here is why:
The interventions I received were medically necessary and, ultimately outside of my control.
Every decision I made I consented to after asking questions and accessing the situation. I was in agreement with my modified birth plan.
The end result was the safe birth of a healthy daughter. As soon as I pushed her out she was immediately placed on my chest for skin to skin. That beautiful moment affirmed that it was all worth every imperfect moment. I will never forget the warmth and weight of her in my arms for the first time.
The biggest “prep” that I did before giving birth, was to educate myself as much as possible, so I knew what different outcomes would consist of. I may not have had the birth I was “planning” on, but I was able to feel comfortable in each deviation from that plan.
Most of us in The Ordinary Hippie Community come from more individualistic societies, which means many of us don’t have a community to turn to when it comes to the topic of birth and children. Let’s be that community for one another. As with any of the topics that I cover, I always have an open door mindset. Please feel free to reach out through any of my platforms with your own experiences, questions, or if you just want to talk.
I also encourage those who are comfortable to share their experiences in the comments, so that we can be in solidarity together and learn together.