Before I got married, I never wanted to have my own children. I had heard too many horror stories about labour and how much pain you have to go through. I was terrified at the thought of a huge baby coming out of my body. It sounded horrifying. I thought that adoption was a much better and less painful route to motherhood.
But after I got married, I had a change of heart and longed to have my very own baby. Three months after our wedding, I conceived. I started to research as possible to try and change my mindset about childbirth. I was scared of going into labour and I hated that. I wanted to believe that labour was beautiful and natural, that you CAN have a beautiful labour, one without fear. I grew up with the women in my life telling me about their horrible childbirth experiences and talking about labour and birth in a very negative way. I didn’t want that for myself. Labour was inevitable so I wanted to make it a great experience.
About four months into my pregnancy, I found a book called Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way. It was a positive, empowering, and very informative book. One of my friends followed the techniques outlined in the book during her labour and delivery and she talked glowingly about her experience. Hearing a positive and beautiful labour story was huge for me. I read that book over and over again throughout my pregnancy to prepare my mind and did all the exercises the book recommended to prepare your body for labour. Slowly, I began to look forward to birth instead of dreading it.
Together, my husband and I decided that we wanted to have our baby at home. I was the first in my family to choose a homebirth so I was pretty nervous, but I felt that it would be so much better to have the baby at home than at the hospital.
My due date was September 15th. My pregnancy had been great with no complications, for which I was very thankful. Around 4 pm on my due date, I experienced my first contraction. It wasn’t very painful but it caught my attention and made me think that this might be the beginning of labour. I started timing the contractions and they were about ten to fifteen minutes apart but still not painful. I began to get excited.
Jacob, my husband, came home around 5:30 pm and we went about our evening normally. We went for a walk but I could not handle that for more than a short time. I was still having contractions.
We went to bed at 10 pm with my contractions ten minutes apart. By that time, I was pretty convinced that I was in labour but Jacob didn’t believe it. I tried to go to sleep and not get my hopes up. I had read that first-time mamas usually have fourteen-hour labours so I figured I still had a long way to go.
At 2 am, I woke up to a sharp pain…a contraction. I decided to get in the tub. My midwives had told me to take a bath if I ever thought I was in labour but wasn’t quite sure. They said that a bath would take away the contractions if they weren’t the real deal. But when I got out of the tub a little while later, I was still having contractions.
I woke up Jacob and told him that I thought I was in labour. He made me take another bath and asked if the contractions were still as strong or fading away. I told him I wasn’t sure. I was in pain, that’s all I knew. I got out of the tub and Jacob went to get the midwives’ binder. He read the section on discerning between real or false labour and then decided to time my contractions. After timing a few, he stared at me with a huge smile and a bit of shock on his face.
“Tina, your contractions are two to three minutes apart. You’re in active labour!”
We called the midwives to let them know what was going on, and they said they were on their way. Jacob ran to prepare our bed for the birth. After he had finished, I climbed on the bed and tried to remember all the things that I learned from my book. I got into the correct position and tried to breathe slowly and calmly. I tried to relax my whole body and picture my uterus as just a bag of muscles stretching. But nothing was working. I couldn’t control myself. It felt like my stomach was on fire. Jacob tried to calm me down but I couldn’t relax.
A couple of minutes later, I felt a very small urge to push. I was so confused. That was not supposed to be happening yet. But as I tried slightly pushing with the contraction, it didn’t hurt as much.
“Am I in the pushing stage already?” I wondered.
I told Jacob what I was feeling and he thought I was crazy. Obviously, it shouldn’t be time to push already. Active labour had just started. So I tried to put that out of my mind and attempted to relax and cope with my contractions. The pain was so bad that I started begging Jacob to take it away. He said that he hated hearing that so much because he wanted to help me but he couldn’t do anything to relieve me.
Justine, my midwife, got to our house around 4:30 am with a coffee and a muffin in hand, thinking this would be a long day. She wanted to check me right away but I didn’t let her. I was in way too much pain to lay still on my back while she performed the exam. She said that she had to check me so I eventually let her.
“You’re 10cm dilated and ready to push!” she exclaimed, “No wonder you’re in so much pain!”
My first thought was, wow, that’s it? I was in a lot of pain but I was expecting to be in labour much longer with a lot more pain. But now I had only one more stage to go through, pushing.
Justine quickly called the assistant midwife to come to the house. She got all of her equipment out that she needed to deliver the baby. Jacob was by my side the whole time which helped me emotionally. I was pushing at this point but they were very light pushing contractions and it felt good to push with the contraction. It felt so much better than the beginning stages of labour.
I really wanted to deliver my baby while squatting because I had read that was the best position. Squatting opens your pelvic outlet and reduces the likelihood of needing an episiotomy. I had practiced squatting during my pregnancy to build strength in my legs so I felt like I could do it. But after pushing in the squatting position for an hour, the midwives suggested that we try a different position since no progress was being made.
I attempted to get on the bed. Jacob tried lifting me under my armpits but his hands kept slipping because I was so sweaty. Eventually, I got on the bed somehow and sat up with my legs bent back to my chest. This position is when we finally saw progress with my pushing. Soon the baby’s head was crowning, and I could no longer restrain my screaming. I just let them all out as I birthed the baby’s head. Then one final push and the baby’s body was born after two exhausting hours of pushing.
They put the baby on my chest and asked Jacob to check whether we had a boy or girl. It was a girl! She was beautiful. She laid on me while I pushed my placenta out, which wasn’t too hard. Justine had to stitch me up a bit, but it was nothing too bad, thankfully. It wasn’t even considered a first-degree tear but she wanted to stitch me up just in case.
The midwives stayed with us for about two hours after birth. They showed me how to nurse and weighed my baby. I was able to get up fairly soon after the birth and take a shower, then got back in bed to nurse my baby girl. It was great to be home. I had no complications after and my baby was perfectly healthy too.
Being a mother was hard work. The first weeks postpartum were tough for me. I wasn’t madly in love with my daughter right away like I expected. But with time, things got easier. Day by day, I fell more and more in love with her.
At the time, when people asked how my labour went, I told them it was a huge nightmare. It was so painful. But after a while, I started to hate that I had that experience. It was hard for me that I hadn’t been able to take control of my body and relax through the contractions. Reading Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way had definitely filled me with lots of knowledge but I wasn’t able to have the labour I had worked hard for. I was very thankful that labour went so fast and that I had a healthy baby, but I decided that the next time I would force myself to do better. I wanted to be able to tell people that labour doesn’t need to be scary, but that it was something beautiful.
Tina’s second birth story will be on the blog soon!
This post is part of my blog series, Real Birth.
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