In case you missed The Journey Part 1: Pregnancy you can find it here: https://www.blissfullybeautifulbirth.com/post/the-journey-part-1-pregnancy
Everything is ready to go. You have your bags packed and ready for the big day, or perhaps you've just finished gathering all the needed supplies for your home birth. Every box on your pre birth to-do list has been checked off. You are feeling a lot of things. Anxious, nervous, excited, DONE. Maybe all at once. What do you do now? You wait for labor to begin. This is certainly not the most fun part of pregnancy for most of us. You may have an arbitrary due date but it literally means nothing. Only around 5% of women actually give birth on their due date. Maybe the waiting is less for you, mine have all come at 37 weeks (don't hate me.) Maybe you've watched your due date come and go with no sign of a baby. You've tried everything you can to coax baby out but baby isn't budging. You've eaten every spicy thing you can get your hands on, run over every speed bump and pot hole in your town, tested out that new breast pump, your husband is starting to feel used and what was that thing your mother's aunt's best friend swore put you into labor? You can't help but laugh at yourself. You know some of this stuff is bogus but your willing try any and everything if it means this baby will FINALLY just come out!
The truth is, childbirth is unpredictable for most of us. Maybe you've been having contractions for a while. Nothing strong enough to begin active labor. They come for a few hours and then just stop. Each time you are hopeful that this is it. Maybe your getting annoyed because these episodes are taking a toll on your body. They may be coming in the middle of the night or lasting for serval hours at a time. It's getting harder to rest. Your losing confidence. How am I going to have the strength to make it through real labor?
Stay strong! The contractions you are having may not be strong enough to dilate your cervix but thats usually one of the last things to happen anyways. I know a lot of doctors view cervical dilation as the be all end all of labor but thats simply not the whole truth! Those annoying pre labor contractions are helping a lot more than you know!
Pre labor contractions contribute to the softening (ripening) and thinning (effacement) of the cervix. Dilation is one of the last things to happen after the cervix has has moved into position, ripened and effaced. All those things are happening with those pre labor contractions. It can be so discouraging when your care provider tells you that you "haven't progressed" as far as dilation is concerned. Know that it means nothing. You can be completely closed and go into active labor the same day. I don't even ask for or allow cervical checks because I know its pointless! Also, just because you aren't having any pre labor contractions it doesn't mean that your cervix isn't moving into position or ripening or effacing! Some women never get pre labor (Braxton hicks) contractions!
Another contraction begins. Great. Here we go again. I wonder how long it will go this time before it stops again. This one feels different though. You really had to stop and focus and it seems like it lasted longer than the other ones. Your still not getting your hopes up though. It's started to feel like labor may never begin. You continue about your day like normal, stoping periodically for another contraction. Within a few hours your contractions have moved from 10 minutes to 6 minutes. Ok. Maybe this is the real deal! Your feeling uncomfortable with each wave (contraction) but nothing you can't manage. You discuss the possibility of calling your care provider. You are excited and ready for this to move along! Maybe your care provider advises you to come in or your midwife swings by to check in on you.
You know that going to the hospital too early can lead to unnecessary interventions and that one intervention can often lead to more interventions which may ultimately lead to a painful c-section and weeks of recovery time. Is it too early though? Your contractions are still coming 6 minutes apart but they are picking up in intensity and length. Instead of last 45 seconds they are lasting nearly a minute and a half now! The waves are taking your attention as they peak but overall you feel like yourself and your managing well so you decide to settle in for a bit longer. If you are planning a home birth your midwife might have arrived already or she asked you to check in when things began to pick up even more.
You've been laboring with relative ease for hours now and things feel like they are moving faster now. Your waves are coming about 4-5 minuted apart and lasting 1-1.5 minutes. They are now taking your full attention. Now is the time that you are really beginning to rely on your labor support. Maybe its just your husband or maybe you've hired a doula and she's by your side as well. You've made the decision to head to the hospital now. Thankfully you have the bags in the car already because you don't have it in you to handle anything other than getting through the waves.
You've now been triaged and admired to a labor room. You are 6 cm and maybe contemplating an epidural. Maybe you've taken birth classes and your well prepared to continue the very natural process of birth. If your at home with your midwife you might be in bed attempting to relax before things really kick in and you are no longer able to rest at all. You may not be able to sleep at all but your going to try. Maybe you are past that point and doing what you can to establish a steady, reliable rhythm. Birth tubs are incredible and relaxing.
Several more hours have now passed. Maybe you decided to get the epidural and your now relaxing and waiting. Maybe you are continuing down the natural path. You are move in and out of the increasingly strong waves. You've established a coping rhythm. With each wave you are relaxing and releasing the best you can. Your labor support is reminding you periodically to relax your jaw, relax your bottom. As each wave comes to an end your are being soothed and told you are doing amazing. Here, drink some water.
As waves begin to come one right after the other your mind goes to another place. Nothing around you matters anymore. Your husbands touch is no longer tolerated but that nice cool rag is a welcome change. Maybe your feeling nauseous and can't bear the thought of the water being offered to you. Your voice is beginning to sound low and deep. On occasion you might lose focus and feel panicked. Is this ever going to end? I can't do this. I just can't. Relax momma, this is transition and it means your baby is so so close to being earth-side.
Your husband and doula see the panic rising and calmly soothe you back to your place of focus. These waves won't get on top of you. You are strong and you can birth your baby. Suddenly the urge to push overtakes you. You can't control it. Your body just takes over and does as nature intended. If you've had an epidural you may not feel that urge but most likely you will feel a change. You might begin to feel restless, hot or you may be feeling an increase in pressure. You might feel a little bit of panic or fear that the epidural is wearing off. The nurse checks you and discovers that you are ready to go! It's time to push!
So many things may be going through your head when it comes to pushing. How much longer until I hold my baby? Will it hurt? Will I tear? The ring of fire sounds really horrible. If you are having a natural birth you may not be thinking anything. Everything in your being is focused on birthing your baby. Mother Nature has taken over and you are just along for the ride. You don't need to be told when to push by anybody or anything other than your body. If you've had the epidural you will be coached by your nurse or care provider to push when a strong contraction is indicated one the monitor. You may be instructed to push a few times during the length of one contraction.
30 minutes have passed since you first felt the urge to push. Maybe the pushing has brought some welcome relief to your natural labor. A lot of women feel that way. Suddenly you begin to feel a lot of pressure in your bottom and as you continue to push you discover what the ring of fire feels like as the baby begins to crown. It won't be long now. The baby is no longer moving down and back up during rushes. This is it. Just one more push. Your baby is so close. Most likely your water has broken by now but if it hasn't you may be a part of a rare group of women that have babies born "en caul" or with the amniotic sack still in tact. This is a 1 in 80,000 occurrence and its beautiful!
You bear down and push with all your might and suddenly there is a huge sense of relief as your baby's head enters the world. One more little push and your beautiful baby is on your chest. Such an indescribable feeling. You've never felt a love like this. In a single moment all of your hard work, every contraction, all of the exhaustion, all of the nausea and every pregnancy related hardship becomes worth it. A single moment is all it takes. The moment that tiny little life is placed in your arms it all changes. This is your new reality. This is your present and your future. Not a day will go by that you won't think of this beautiful life more than you think of yourself. Welcome to motherhood.
I realize that I promised to explain more about why I don't fear childbirth but I just couldn't find a way to fit that into this post! Don't worry, this is a subject that I am very passionate about! I believe in empowering women to trust their body's ability to birth babies! This subject will be talked about a lot on this blog!
Some of you have read this blog post and realized that your birth was nothing like this. Perhaps you ended up needing a c-section or you are recovering from a traumatic birth experience. Please know that you are not alone in that. So many women have been in your shoes. My first birth was extremely traumatic. This is a BIG reason why I do what I do. Birth trauma breaks my heart and I believe that it shouldn't be this way. I believe that we can change that in this country. I believe we can reduce the c-section rate. I believe that every women deserves to be respected and listened to during labor. I believe that childbirth should focus on the good of the mother and baby and not on the timeline of a busy hospital.
I am beyond grateful for doctors and modern medicine. C-sections save lives. Sometimes they are necessary and in the best interest of mom and baby. Sometimes interventions are necessary to save lives. Unfortunately though c-section rates are way higher in America than they should be. Unnecessary interventions leading to c-sections are happening everyday. This is why normalizing birth is so important to me. We have created a society that fears childbirth and its hurting women. You matter. Your birth story matters. Your baby matters.
Spam me with your birth stories! I would love to hear them!!
Stay tuned for part 3!