I love this gorgeous mama’s infectiously positive outlook on natural birth! A mom of two, Allison, like many moms, realized after the birth of her first baby that she hadn’t been quite as prepared as she would have liked–that more knowledge and support could have totally changed her birth experience and her early relationship with her babe. Allison’s preparation for her second labor and delivery, which was natural and unmedicated, shows how education and a lot of determination can lead to an empowering birth experience. Allison is a doula, and her story enthusiastically proves that labor is nothing to fear!
I was so happy when Kelly asked me to be a part of her natural birth series!
As a birth doula (and even just as a mom before that), I find that the stories of how awesome natural birth really is are swept under the rug, or the mom is looked at as certifiably crazy.
I have gotten more than one eye roll when I tell people how awesome I truly feel natural childbirth is. And when I tell people that my job is to actually help moms achieve a natural birth? The conversations get interesting to say the least!
I wasn’t always that way.
When I was pregnant with my first, I found myself drowning in information. I bought a few books and by chapter three, I was either terrified of what could happen during birth or self-diagnosing myself with some weird ailment that effects every 1 in 1 millionth pregnancy. I turned to the internet and searched more direct topics only to come back with pages upon pages of information that left me feeling tired just trying to sort through it all.
My husband and I took the childbirth ed class at the hospital because we could get it over in one weekend and came up with the conclusion that I would just go with, “I’ll see how I feel when it happens,” and that’s where my research and education stopped.
Harper was born on Friday, September 21, 2012 and man, it was not what I expected. In the weeks leading up to Harper’s birth, my doctor was very encouraging. I was making great progress before labor had even started. I was dilated, I was effaced. I had it all going on except for the contractions that were needed to complete the job. Then one night I went to bed at 10, woke up at midnight having to using the bathroom but couldn’t, and quickly realized something else was going on.
The time between the first contraction and arriving at the hospital is a bit blurry. I do remember my husband insisting that we leave, while I insisted I wasn’t really in labor. It wasn’t the slow contractions I thought would be the signal of the start of labor. At the hospital a contraction dropped me to my knees outside the elevator.
By the time I was in our room I requested drugs the second I laid eyes on the nurse. I thought, “If it’s this bad now, I can’t take hours of this.”
I was 8 cm dilated when I arrived at the hospital. My daughter was born at 8lbs, 12oz, 21 inches long, just five hours after my first contraction.
I’ll add that my epidural was amazing. It worked like a charm and I felt next to no pain during Harper’s delivery. I had no real complications due to the epidural. Other than our nursing relationship being a bit rocky in the beginning I really couldn’t complain.
But there was something nagging at me.
There were times I would look back on it and think I really could have done it without the drugs if I had just educated myself. I would wonder why the nurse hadn’t just coached me better, hadn’t said it would only be an hour or two more, or suggested different ways to relieve the pain before I got the epidural. My poor husband, bless his heart, he wanted whatever would take away the pain he could see in my eyes.
I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I had been like a fly on the wall, watching my birth happen instead of making it happen.
I started reading blogs, joined forums and became obsessed with learning about evidence-based maternity practices. I read positive birth stories and listened to anyone who wanted to talk to me about natural birth. I loved hearing about how empowering it was for some women, or how they felt after letting their bodies do exactly what they were made to do without fighting it.
Could I actually feel that way? Instead of just feeling like I was going through the motions of giving birth?
I became determined to do everything I could to birth naturally the next time.
My son, Rowan, was born on May 21, 2014 (exactly 20 months after Harper was born) and once again it wasn’t what I expected.
At my 37 week appointment, I once again heard how well I was progressing. At 3.5 cm dilated, 80% effaced, I left with a prediction that I wouldn’t make my next appointment. However, when I walked into that office the next week, I wasn’t surprised. I felt like my story was repeating itself. My doctor offered another exam, which I normally would have declined but with my quick labor history, I needed to know where I stood. This time I was at 4 cm and after some careful consideration and discussion, we decided that stretching my cervix would probably do the trick to jump start my labor.
I left the office at 4:30 to go get something to eat, drop my daughter off with friends and walk around a bit. By 5:30 I started to notice the first few contractions.
We stopped to get my husband a sandwich (he’s going to kill me for putting that part in there!) and by 6:30 I told him to eat quick and call the doctor. Things were moving quickly and I didn’t want to wait. At this point we were actually sitting in the parking lot of the hospital. I knew this one was going to be quick and I wanted to do it natural (just not on the side of the highway natural).
From that point on, I really didn’t want to sit. Standing and swaying was my drug. It just felt natural for me to do, so I did.
When my doctor met us he was surprised that I was smiling and still handling my contractions easily. He checked me, declared I was at 8 cm and 2 seconds later my water broke. It was also the moment I thought I was going to lose it. The mild pains that were almost nonexistent when I stood and moved around became more and more painful and my head was spinning. I just couldn’t get on top of the contractions and I didn’t feel like I was getting a break in between, like I had been before my water broke. I started crying and saying, “I should have gotten the drugs!” (actually I was yelling it). Then my husband stepped up. He assured me that I was doing it, and I was doing it just how I had wanted. He helped put counter pressure on my back and moved me into a different position. He even gracefully held the barf bag until my waves of nausea passed.
Without his support, that might have been my breaking point.
As a doula, I now know that this is a pivotal moment in a woman’s labor. It’s exactly why they call it transition. Not only is your labor transitioning, your mental state is transitioning. With some good support and a determination like no other, you really can get yourself past that feeling of being completely overwhelmed.
So there I was, laboring in what I thought was the most idiotic way of doing the whole childbirth thing, and suddenly it all just kind of stopped.
The nurse stopped her charting for a few minutes and said, “Let me know before you start pushing.” I should have listened more carefully because at this point I thought it was still going to be hours, but those few minutes of rest gave me back my clarity. Then, just as the contractions suddenly slowed, the urge to push came on fast and strong.
The room became a flurry of supplies, the doctor moving, people yelling encouragement and me essentially just letting my body do its thing. Five good pushes and my son was born at 9lbs even, 21 inches long.
Just three hours after my first contraction.
I can’t even really describe what it felt like to have a 9 pound baby without drugs.
Was it painful?
Yes, but ask me to describe it to you and I can’t.
I honestly don’t remember feeling that “ring of fire”, or even very much pressure.
I do vividly remember how amazing I felt after he was placed on my chest and my husband turned to me and said, “You did it, and you did it exactly how you wanted to.” I was grateful for that moment. It was so surreal yet so empowering.
People say all the time I was able to do it without medication or intervention because it all happened so quickly. Maybe that’s true, but even if it’s longer next time, I won’t do it any other way.
There were so many vast differences in my birth stories. I pushed for 2 hours with Harper, Rowan, mere minutes. Harper’s numb delivery gave me a nice little tear that left me with a bunch of stitches, Rowan’s didn’t. I felt better immediately after Rowan’s delivery, Harper’s took me a bit to even want to get up. With Harper, I had some difficulties feeling connected to her (something that is very hard for me to admit but its actually more common than you would think), which in turn gave us that rocky start to nursing. I say Rowan came out, found the boob and didn’t want to leave for 14 months. Honestly, my recovery was better, we had no issues with breastfeeding and we had no trouble bonding or feeling connected. I didn’t feel like I was just a part of his birth story…I was the main character in his birth story.
When moms ask me about my experience, I’m so excited to tell them that it seriously rocked. It was awesome. It was the coolest thing I have ever done. I can’t stop smiling about it even writing this. I will 100% do it again. In a heartbeat.
So what advice can I offer to those new mamas-to-be who may be considering this crazy thing called natural childbirth?
Do it. Do it 100 times over.
But do your research first. Educate yourself. Read positive birth stories. Kind of like this one! Find a childbirth education class/care provider/birth place that aligns with your desire to birth naturally.
I’m probably tooting my own horn here but hire a doula. Seriously. Just do it. We love what we do so very much and that makes us good at it. There are so many amazing ways a doula can help you and your partner; from giving you informational support during your pregnancy, to emotional and physical support in the birth room.
Most importantly, believe in yourself. Believe that you and your body really can birth a baby as naturally as you want to.
You can do this.
You were created for it mama.