Natural birth is NOT easy. I admire Melissa’s story for its honesty; not all moms get that “birth high” after baby’s born, not all moms get to relax and enjoy their baby in the seconds after delivery, and not every natural birth happens as planned from start to finish. Ultimately, what really matters is having a healthy baby to snuggle and love. Melissa is mom to two baby girls, one of whom she lost shortly after birth. She’s a beautiful and tough mama, and is a Registered Nurse.
I was in disbelief going into labor.
I couldn’t believe the day was coming when I would meet my daughter, hear her cry, comfort her and watch her breathe her first breaths as she entered the world. This experience was wrought with much emotion as my husband and I collectively held our breath for the past nine months while my body grew our rainbow baby.
You see, just a few months before this precious baby was conceived our world came crashing down when we lost our first daughter, Reagan, shortly after she was born.
Reagan was diagnosed with severe defects that left her unable to breathe even a breath after she was born. Needless to say, we experienced a fact no parent ever wants to consider, much less become their reality…
Not all pregnancies end with a baby to take home from the hospital.
As those first signs of labor started kicking in, as much as my body was evidently ready to have this baby, I was not mentally ready for what was to come.
I was 38 weeks 4 days, full term by many counts and ready to pop at any minute. I had been walking around for several weeks at 3cm dilated and I was having plenty of practice contractions which were often times difficult to differentiate from the real deal. When my midwife informed me I was still dilated only to 3cm, I asked if she would be willing to strip my membranes in order to help things along. She was agreeable and performed the procedure only to state that she didn’t think she did a good job and would try again on Monday should I still be pregnant.
I certainly thought I would be seeing her again on Monday and left the office with my husband that day mentally preparing my to-do-list for the weekend ahead as we approached the final days before the baby was to arrive. We went home that afternoon and decided it was time to clean out the garden beds and do some other manual labor in the yard. I had a few contractions which seemed significant but I chocked it up to all the afternoon activity. No big deal. I went to bed that night anxious for a good night’s rest as I was quite worn out from the day.
Hours passed and I was unable to go to sleep, I was having contractions more often and started to have pressure in my bum which was becoming un-ignorable. Around midnight or so I climbed out of bed and started filling the tub, I soaked in the tub for a while hoping things would subside so I could get back to sleep and finally get some rest. After a couple of hours of increasing intensity my husband declared I was in labor from his warm comfy spot in bed. I was tired, irritated and certain he was in error. It couldn’t possibly be labor as the pain was different from what I could remember of my first labor.
We decided to start timing the contractions; it seemed they were coming every 3-4 minutes. My husband called the labor and delivery unit to see what we should do next (I had wanted to labor at home for as long as we both felt comfortable, but my husband was becoming increasingly anxious and repeatedly stated, “I’m not catching the baby!”).
They encouraged us to wait until contractions were about three minutes apart consistently for two hours, then to come in at that time. We passed the time getting our stuff ready in between contractions, I bounced on the birthing ball, we tidied up the house anticipating the arrival of my folks. Finally around 5:00 a.m. my husband decided it was time to go the hospital. I continued to drag my feet in spite of the growing intensity of the contractions, so I asked if we could walk around the neighborhood for a bit. We both chuckled anxiously as we walked in the dark of the morning reminiscing about our last moments as a couple and the whirlwind to come. Finally, my husband got me into the car and we drove to the hospital.
We arrived at shift change and I was not ready to go into the hospital. I decided to walk around the parking lot as staff came and went. After a half an hour or so and several drive-bys by the hospital security guard, my husband once again decided it was time to get moving. We anxiously entered the hospital, leaving my bag in the car as I still wasn’t convinced I was in labor. We got checked in and the nurse determined I was indeed in labor and dilated to 5cm. My husband and I were both simultaneously delighted and TOTALLY FREAKED OUT – this was really happening.
I shed a few tears of relief, hugged my husband and we called our families to let them know that our baby would be joining us earthside most likely that day. My parents got on the road while my husband’s family prepared to marry off their daughter the next day – so much joy and expectation!
We met the nurse who would be with us through the delivery of our daughter. She listened to our needs and was so careful with our fragile emotions as we explained our previous birth experience with Reagan. She was most kind and was totally on board to help however she could as we prepared to welcome our second child.
I expressed my desire to avoid an epidural as it had caused much drama resulting in several unwanted interventions during my last birthing experience. She was more than understanding and provided many encouraging words and helpful tips to help with the pain of a natural labor. She was truly a Godsend and an answer to many prayers for a supportive and understanding birth team.
After a few hours of labor my midwife arrived and determined I was dilated to a 7. She wanted to break my water to get things moving, as she had somewhere to be that day and wasn’t even planning to come in. I was agreeable as I was ready to get the worst of labor over. After that quick procedure things really began to escalate as I muddled through what is known as transition. After some time in the tub I felt the need to push and my husband notified the nurse who assisted me to the bed. The midwife came in and found me to be nearly fully dilated (There was a slight lip on my cervix) and she allowed me to push as I felt the need.
By this point I was utterly exhausted with little to give physically or emotionally. I do not function well without sleep and had been up all night with nothing to eat and little to drink. I passed the time with occasional pushes which my midwife deemed weren’t doing much, but I just couldn’t muster the energy for any significant pushes. I was so inside of my head at that point that it felt like an out-of-body experience. It was such an odd experience only really relatable by other moms who have experienced labor that way.
My husband kept encouraging me to push and as much as I wanted to tell him SHUT UP, I don’t even think I had the energy to speak in those moments. I desperately needed some encouragement and decided to call the woman who was my inspiration for natural labor and who is my biggest cheerleader in all things: my mom. She was driving with my father at that point. Her tender words of support and love were just what my worn out mind and body needed to hear. With her and my father on speaker phone, my husband by my side and nurse and midwife ready and waiting, I pushed with all my might for one final time and the baby was born in one fell swoop.
At 10:55 AM, Harper Annmarie was placed on my chest and I was in shock and awe. I could not believe what had just happened and don’t think I truly believed I was going to have a baby until I saw her and held her for myself.
It is difficult to express my emotions in those moments. I was so relieved to be done with labor, shocked to meet my baby girl, all the while being completely depleted physically.
I really just wanted to take a nap.
After a few minutes my midwife informed me she was unable to get the placenta out. It ended up being an excruciating 45 minutes more as my midwife continued to have me push (I thought I was DONE with labor), dug into my uterine wall and finally had to have the on-call OB come in to manually separate my placenta from the uterine wall; all still unmedicated and seemingly devoid of those wonderful endorphins new moms speak of.
Thankfully my husband was able to hold our baby through most of that first hour as I was getting stitched up, etcetera. Finally the time came when I was able to relax and begin to get to know this precious baby girl that God had blessed us with.
We were a family at last and we were so grateful to be holding our precious, beautiful, healthy daughter.
God is so good.