Labor of Love: A Birth Story
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All opinions are my own and should not be taken as medical advice in any regard. Please do your own research and make decisions based on what is best for you and your baby.
“Good morning, birthday boy.”
“Thank you, are you in labor?”
My sleepy husband doesn’t usually make sense if I wake him up at night, but this time he was spot on. I mean, he should have said ‘good morning,’ not ‘thank you,’ but hey, it was 4:00 AM on his birthday, Sunday, November 6th, 2016. I had been awake for a while feeling some fairly consistent contractions. They weren’t painful but they seemed different than the Braxton Hicks contractions I was used to experiencing. Plus, we were only 6 days from my due date, so there was no reason not to believe this was the real thing.
We decided to time the contractions and they were about 6 minutes apart.
I was prepared to deliver at the hospital near our home and they had instructed us to come in when I was experiencing contractions that were 5-1-1 (5 minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute, for at least one hour continually).
I was done being pregnant since about 30 weeks. If you’ve ever been pregnant, you probably know that “done” feeling. I was ready to not sleep with 7 pillows, not have heart burn, and not receive comments about my size. I was ready to bend over without putting as much distance between my knees as possible, eat a full meal and take deep breaths, and of course, hold my sweet baby.
I was so excited when I realized it was really happening. You look forward to meeting your baby the entire pregnancy and once it’s finally time it’s so surreal. Little did I know I’d still have to wait until Monday evening to meet my baby… That’s right. My labor lasted just short of 40 hours.
Disclaimer: my memory is fuzzy regarding some things like the length of time between events, but the things I do remember, I remember well.
Once Aaron and I determined I was indeed in early labor we decided to get get up and get ready. I took a shower and we made sure we had everything ready for the hospital that we would need. We took care of last minute things around the home since we would be gone for a couple nights and periodically we would time my contractions. We texted family and a few friends that I was in labor and that we wouldn’t be at church that morning.
We ate breakfast, relaxed and just waited for things to get real. I knew walking could speed things up so we went to the grocery store to get some snacks and to get me moving around a little. The contractions were uncomfortable at this point but nothing that stopped me in my tracks. I have an extremely high pain tolerance. Keep that in mind as I go on…
I’d also like to say, if you’re uncomfortable with labor and delivery details, you should not continue reading. I won’t intentionally be unnecessarily graphic but I am going to share details regarding my birth experience in hopes that it helps others. I loved reading other women’s birth stories when I was pregnant. I want my story to help someone else like I was helped by some of the many I read. I hope expecting mothers can learn from my mistakes and be encouraged by my outcome.
I had every intention of laboring at home as long as possible. I had come to the conclusion fairly early in my pregnancy that I wanted a natural birth. Many people hear that and think that means you don’t want a cesarean section. No, then I would say I want a vaginal birth. Natural means drug free. I knew I didn’t want an epidural or any sort of interventions. I wanted to allow my body to have the baby on its own without medical attention if at all possible.
I came to this conclusion after doing tons of reading and research. I know a lot of people are all for epidurals, and that’s fine. Everyone needs to do what’s right and safe for them and their baby. But I will say this, if you haven’t done any research on how medicine affects labor, I highly encourage you to before having a baby. Know what is necessary, know what you’re rights are, and be prepared to say no to unnecessary, and potentially harmful medical practices. There are so many and too many people think they have to give in to them.
I’m not writing this to persuade anyone in one direction or the other. I’m just telling my story, but that means not leaving out the fact that I had sound reason behind my decisions. I wasn’t just trying to be impressive or prove that I could tolerate an immense amount of pain. I didn’t know what to expect as far as the actual pain but I knew the benefits of birthing naturally so I made my decision.
If you want to learn more about natural labor I recommend watching The Business of Being Born. I completely disapprove of the fact that there are a couple curse words in it, but the factual information is very helpful and educational. It is graphic, but again, it’s for educational purposes. I wouldn’t watch it for fun on a date night.
In order to decrease the chances of stalling my labor by going to the hospital too early, I labored at home until I literally could not anymore. I may have waited to go into the hospital until my contractions were 3-1-1 instead of 5-1-1. This will sound crazy to most people, but I seriously wanted to pull up to the hospital crowning (crowning means the baby’s head is emerging and visible). I wanted to arrive at the hospital the last possible second to ensure there was no undue stress that would cause my labor to stall. I also knew that less time spent at the hospital meant less time for the medical staff to try to intervene with my labor. If the baby was right there, they had no choice but to catch! No time for anything else. That was the plan.
I labored at home all day while relaxing as much as possible. I drank as much water as I possibly could (I didn’t want to have to get an IV and staying hydrated while in labor is so important and also very difficult), I ate when I was hungry and basically stared at the clock and timed my contractions.
Finally, Sunday evening the contractions started getting closer together and much, much stronger. Aaron and I went on a walk around the neighborhood to keep encouraging progress. Looking back, I would say this was a mistake. I wish I had just rested as much as possible because I had no idea what the night held in store for me.
I ended up being awake all night. The contractions became so intense and so frequent that I couldn’t even doze off before another one would come and I would have to move to get some sort of relief. If you have ever been in labor (in the thick of it, not just the beginning stages of early labor), you know it’s almost impossible to hold still when you have a contraction.
I would walk, squat, sway, sit on the birthing ball, and Aaron and I even tried Rebozo sifting to help with each contraction. Aaron would apply counter pressure to my back. Although I didn’t really have back labor as much, this was helpful at times. Lots of women find a flow for what helps them be comfortable during contractions and do that until the cows come home (or until their baby is born), but for me, something would help me be slightly more comfortable for a few contractions and then it would suddenly be the worst idea ever and I had to stop.
Aaron got some cat naps that night and I really tried to let him sleep. I knew he needed energy to help me get through this. Some time in the early morning something changed. I still don’t know if this is when my water broke or what, but there was one contraction that put the rest so far to shame. I was trying to lay on our bed and rest between contractions, but then this one came and it brought me to my feet screaming. I was actually trying to get away from the pain and away from my body. If you’ve never felt that way, I hope you never do. The desire to exit your own flesh and the depressing realization that you can’t are such horribly overwhelming and contradictory emotions.
Aaron woke up to this one contraction and from then on, we were both on our feet and working hard until the baby arrived. Mind you, this is still over 12 hours before the big debut.
I jumped off the bed and went to the bathroom. I don’t know if I thought I’d find my baby in my shorts or what but I felt like I had to make sure everything was ok. This is how incredible that one contraction was. There wasn’t anything new from what I could tell but definitely some liquid which I assumed was normal.
From that contraction on, they only increased in intensity and frequency. They quickly became 4 minutes apart and each contraction easily lasted over one minute. I labored through the most intense pain I had ever felt in my life for hours upon hours.
I continued doing whatever helped me feel comfortable at the moment and Aaron did whatever he could to help me.
Come 5:00am (roughly, not so sure, guys), my contractions were about 3 minutes apart and the pain cannot be expressed with words. I felt really good about the labor so far. Sounds odd, I know, but now that I knew what the pain was like I had kind of come to terms with it and felt like I could definitely handle it. I was happy with how I was responding to the contractions (allowing them to go through my body and move the baby down in stead of clenching up and fighting them which is so much harder to do than it may sound) and thought, “surely I’m at a 6 by now.” Centimeters, that is.
If you don’t know, when a woman is in labor, she doesn’t begin to actually push the baby out until her cervix is dilated to 10 centimeters. You can thank unrealistic movies for convincing everyone that a woman begins pushing the second she goes into labor or right after her water breaks (which isn’t even most common way to find out you’re in labor).
As long as I had been in labor, as long as my contractions were, and as frequently as they were coming, I was so sure I was getting extremely close to delivery. Aaron and I began discussing heading to the hospital.
No later than 8:00 AM (not exactly sure what time, little too focused on being in labor) we got in the car and went to the hospital. Worst. Car. Ride. Ever.
When we arrived to the labor and delivery floor I could tell the front desk ladies didn’t think they needed to rush with me. I think just because I was still polite, able to speak between contractions, and not cursing at them, they assumed I could wait. Reality is that most women just act wild when their labor gets intense so they assumed I wasn’t that far along. I was keeping myself together for the most part other than hunching over during contractions and whispering to Aaron to make them hurry.
They couldn’t find my paperwork even though I had sent it in weeks in advance. This was a mistake on their end, and once they figured it out they got me in a room, gave me a robe and wanted to get me hooked up to monitor my contractions and check for dilation.
To my absolute surprise, I was dilated to “1, maybe 1.5.”
Hahahaha, ok but seriously what am I at?
Yeah, she wasn’t joking. Over 24 hours of labor and I was hardly dilated to 1 centimeter. This kind of floored me. I received an IV (you have to choose your battles wisely). They left me alone for a couple hours to just labor. Not much else you can do for someone who wants to deliver naturally. Otherwise, they would have likely offered/requested to break my water (which speeds things up with labor) or began giving me pitocin (the drug that causes contractions or encourages and intensifies already existing contractions).
Then my doctor comes in to see me. She checked the records from the monitor, said she didn’t like the way my baby’s heart rate was slightly dropping after each contraction and she wanted to break my water to insert a scalp electrode to begin internal fetal heart rate monitoring. Feel free to look that up if you’re interested in learning about the process.
Aaron and I decided we didn’t want to do that at this time. It was an intervention I wasn’t interested in having at the moment. Once your water has broken, you’re considered to be at a higher risk for infection. When they break your water in the hospital, they immediately give you 12 hours to have the baby or they will likely order a cesarean section. I also knew the water being broken made labor much more intense and I wasn’t ready to take on more.
With as much disapproval as she could muster in her voice and as much rudeness that is humanly possible, my doctor said, “It’s not leaving the table.” In other words, she was going to continue insisting that this take place and I wouldn’t get her to let it go.
Little background on my doctor – she was a very impersonal, detached, curt, abrasive person. When I told her at a prenatal appointment that I wanted to have as natural of a birth as possible she discouraged me with the analogy, “Ok, natural birth is like running a marathon without training.”
She had no sympathy, no bedside manner and certainly no patience for me when I didn’t want to comply with her order.
After being in my room for a while hooked up to the machine (which simply monitors the baby’s heart rate and the frequency and length (not intensity) of contractions) my contractions quickly became about 2 minutes apart…or less. They were each lasting a minute and a half, and at times, double-peaking. I was showing all the signs of being in transition or at least knocking on its door. Transition is the phase in labor when a woman dilates from 7 centimeters to 10 centimeters, and is then ready to begin pushing.
They came and checked me for dilation again. 2 centimeters. This felt like a cruel joke. How were my contraction so long and so close together but I had made hardly any progress?
This time, my doctor checked and she said she felt a tear in my bag of water (sack, whatever you want to call it). She got pretty upset and asked me when it broke, but I honestly had no idea. We never had the “looks like you peed your pants” water break which is why I assume my baby’s head was plugging the tear.
I continued to labor.
As the day went on I had no understanding of time. All I could understand was how dilated I was and how far that meant I was to being done with this torture. No, I’m not being dramatic. It was actually that bad.
The hours that went by didn’t seem to bring me any closer to holding my baby, but they were so effective in draining the life from me. I finally looked at Aaron and told him, “I don’t think I can do this anymore.” He was so sweet and tried to encourage me to just stay with it and reminded me of how important it was to me to have a natural birth. This is all stuff we had already rehearsed in the event that I should ask for drugs at any point. He did good.
I looked at him and I explained very calmly to him that I didn’t think I would make it to the pushing stage if I continued to labor on my own. The hospital doesn’t allow you to eat once you get admitted so I had no strength, I hadn’t slept at all the previous night (ever done that? Yeah, it’s insane), and to boot, I was in the worst pain of my life and it was taking everything in me to just stay coherent for each contraction.
The only way I was finding any sort of comfort (man, I use that term loosely! Please don’t think I was actually comfortable, this is just the only thing that helped me survive each contraction.) was by going into a deep squat while holding onto the bed’s railing. Of course, after each contraction I had to stand back up, and this was taking all the strength I had.
I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t lay down. They wouldn’t let me walk the hall. I was literally just stuck in my room, attached to the machine, swaying and then squatting when a contraction would come.
They eventually became only one minute apart and I think that’s actually when I told Aaron I couldn’t take anymore.
Had I been at 7cm or 8cm, that would have given me hope. But the fact that I was only at a 2 after so many hours of labor and I wasn’t progressing any faster didn’t help me believe things were about to change anytime soon. And that was the biggest problem. Time. Not the pain, but how long I had to endure the pain. Without food. Without sleep. With a full belly and a restful night I’m confident I could have hung in there had I known that delivery was right around the corner, but it wasn’t. Plus the looming pressure from my doctor to accept interventions because in her opinion, things weren’t going well, was just all so much.
Aaron and I decided to order an epidural so I could lay down (I’m being super transparent here. I didn’t want an epidural to stop the pain, I just needed a way to allow my body to rest and when contractions are rolling through you, you cannot rest.) So if it encourages anyone who would like a natural birth, you can tolerate the pain! However, you cannot expect your body to perform optimally in the type of circumstance I was in. My legs were literally shaking underneath me due to exhaustion. I felt like I was constantly on the verge of passing out, and I knew if I had, they would have been very concerned and taken additional action.
We also agreed to allow them to insert the electrode. After a few hours, Evelyn’s heart rate was not improving (it also wasn’t getting any “worse” or different) so to appease them, we figured if my water had broken already anyway, we might as well let them have a closer look at her. After all, our absolute goal was to bring her into the world safely. The goal was to have a healthy baby and mom, the route we wanted to take to achieve that was a natural birth. All along I had told Aaron that it wouldn’t be at the expense of our daughter. I was willing to have a c-section if it were needed.
The anesthesiologist came in and gave me the epidural sometime between 2:00 and 3:00 PM. I’ve heard that they’re painful to receive, but I didn’t feel it. The contractions won the pain war by juuust a bit. My guess is, if you could tell your epidural was painful, you had it before your labor became as intense as possible.
I was finally able to lay back and just rest my body. It was so relieving but also a little disappointing because I was concerned with what would come next. Often times an epidural can stall out labor and cause the mother to not progress. This is when pitocin is typically introduced to combat the epidural and the two drugs constantly fight to numb your labor, and force it forward.
Then my sweet nurse, Joyce, came in and was prepared to insert the electrode for internal monitoring. She checked me for dilation first and I was at 9.5cm.
You read that right!
I kid you not! She was as shocked as we were! I had only had the epidural maybe an hour before she came in which meant I progressed from the 2 I was at to 9.5 rapidly, with an epidural. This is so supernatural. I hope you can appreciate how unusually amazing this was. If not, well, I can.
Joyce said never mind on the electrode because we needed to get me ready to push. By this time it was probably somewhere between 3:00 and 4:00 PM. Everything seemed to shift into fast forward from that point on. They brought a basinet into my room, all the equipment that was needed for delivery, and a bunch of random people came in. There were at least 4, maybe 5 people in the room when I delivered. Plus my husband.
I began pushing with contractions and this went on for maybe an hour. Maybe more?
I remember Joyce rubbing my foot between contractions. I was so thankful to have her as my nurse. I remember adrenaline pumping through me like never before. I remember Aaron yelling at me that I was doing a good job every time I would push.
I tried to convince Joyce to deliver my baby for me, but she said she could get in trouble if she didn’t call my doctor. I was trying to find a way to not have to see her again. She was so heartless at such an important time in our lives.
“I can see hair!” Joyce let us know.
My baby had hair! Not surprising, knowing my husband.
My doctor came in, put gloves on, and was ready to catch as I continued to push during contractions. Between contractions she was complaining to the other medical staff about how many babies she had to deliver that day. Complaining. This was my doctor. I would think she would be excited or proud to have brought so many precious lives into the world that day, but no. She was obviously fed up and ready to get off work. That’s all it was to her. A good paying job.
I can’t tell you how many times I pushed, but when my doctor said, “baby’s heart rate just dropped so we need to get her out on this next one.” I gave it everything I had. All that was left in me. Which I didn’t think was enough.
And there she was. Evelyn Darling Mendoza. The most beautiful baby girl I had ever seen.
I immediately noticed she had my chin dimple and otherwise decided she didn’t look much like me, but still loved her more than I ever could have imagined was possible.
Aaron wasn’t interested in cutting the cord and I wasn’t interested in him passing out, so we let that go.
I did tear. If I remember correctly, 3rd degree (there are only 4). That final push was no joke, but it didn’t help that my doctor forced Evelyn’s head out with her hands. I was disappointed with that later because I can’t help but wonder if she was just rushing me to get it over with.
I received stitches as they cleaned Evelyn up, weighed her, and documented her vitals. Also a disappointment. I had requested that they hand her to me immediately once she was born, and they said they would. They didn’t.
6 pounds, 13 ounces. At 6:00 PM on November 7th, 2016, I heard the sweetest little cry I’ve ever heard and was so happy to hear after such a long and exhausting labor. 38 hours to be exact, with the last few having an epidural.
Needless to say, we were completely exhausted. I had officially gone over 38 hours without sleep, and hardly got a few hours her first night with us. Hospitals do not let you sleep! Not to mention Evelyn’s issues with feeding, we had a really rough first several weeks with her. Welcome to motherhood, Sydney!
I’ve heard women say they wouldn’t change anything about their labor even when it was a terrible one. What I think they mean, and what I’m going to say is, I would do it all over again every single day to bring my daughter into this world, but I would change almost every aspect of it if I could. So would I change the outcome? No. Would I change the process? Yes.
My daughter’s birth was nothing I could have prepared myself for and nothing like I had hoped for. I’m not ashamed to say it was a horrible labor. I know what I went through for her and I know she was worth it. I just don’t believe that means I can’t say I wanted something different.
I realize I don’t have the worst experience and I’m in no way trying to compare scars or gain sympathy. I went home with a perfectly healthy baby and that’s unfortunately something too many people miss out on. I am absolutely honored to be a mother today. There are many women that should be, and are not. That breaks my heart. So please don’t think I’m unthankful in that regard. You don’t have to approve of the way something was achieved in order to show appreciation for it’s existence.
I love my daughter with all my heart and I’m humbled that God has allowed me to be her mother.
Things I would change & recommend to you if you want a natural birth.
I wanted to include what I would go back and change or do differently if I could. Clearly, I cannot, but you can if you find yourself in my shoes.
My medical support.
Surprised? I wish I had done more research on switching doctors. I allowed insurance to narrow my options down drastically and I ended up very unhappy with my medical “support.”
Little tidbit, you can fire your nurse if you don’t like them. I wish I had pressed harder to have my doctor “fired.” Lesson learned.
In line with my first point, I would probably go with a midwife instead of a doctor. Midwives are specifically equipped to assist you through a natural brith. Doctors are trained to administer medicine. If that’s not what you want during your labor and delivery, you may be seeing the wrong person. You can always roll up to a hospital last minute if you needed to but birthing centers don’t exactly have an ER.
There are so many great things about medicine and hospitals. They constantly save the lives of the sick and wounded, but a woman in labor is not sick, nor is she wounded. The medical community has taken a natural event in life and made it a medical ordeal. They also make too many decisions based on avoiding a lawsuit. The increase in cesarean sections across the country is not a coincidence or proof that women cannot handle having babies. Cesarean sections should be a last resort but they are frequently used as a convenience. There are too many options for unnecessary medical interventions as it relates to labor.
I had a really healthy pregnancy with no complications whatsoever. I was a prime candidate for a natural birth, yet I was still treated as if I had medical conditions and issues the second I walked into the hospital. The pressure I felt to allow interventions during my labor was not something I wanted to deal with. If you want to enjoy a natural birth, I would seriously consider a birthing center or research the statistics of the hospital you would deliver at. Find out what the practice has taught the doctors working there. See if it lines up with what you want for your birth. I do wish I had gone to a birthing center where my decision to labor naturally would have been respected.
If I could go back and change just one thing, I honestly think it would have been to hire a doula. If you want to be at a hospital for the comfort of having medicine readily available in case you or your baby needs it but you still want a natural birth, a doula can be a huge help. They are trained to help you through natural labor no matter where you choose to deliver. I believe if I had a doula with me during my labor I would have had some peace of mind when things weren’t going as I thought they should. When I wasn’t progressing, I’m confident a doula would have helped me understand what my body was experiencing. They also are trained with natural techniques to help move labor along.
Seriously consider a doula if you want a natural birth and do not have someone highly educated and qualified to help you.
I wanted to include some helpful and encouraging links as well. I hope you can find time to enjoy reading the articles below.
5 Ways to Use a Rebozo During Labor by Modern Alternative Pregnancy (this is the technique I mentioned that helped me a lot during labor)
110 Positive Natural Birth Stories by Affording Motherhood
How to Labor at Home as Long as Possible by Mother Rising
How to Have a Successful Natural Birth by Sew Many Ways Kimi
If you’re still reading… With great hesitancy I share this with the world. Thank you so much for reading this extremely personal experience of mine. I hope it helps someone looking to have a natural birth or at least encourages expecting moms to research their options.
You cannot control your labor, but you can do your best to have the birth experience you want.
Did you have a natural birth? How did your birth compare to your expectations?
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