From the beginning I figured it would be best to hold my “birth plan” with open hands. I truly did not want to come in with a list of demands for my nurses. Mostly I just wanted to experience it all. I wanted to be fully present to the birth of our child. If I had found that I couldn’t be fully present because the pain was too great, then I planned to get an epidural. But until that time, to me, “fully present” meant embracing the experience without medication and remembering that it was something my body was meant to do.
I found it so helpful to remember back to our birth class when we learned that the pain of childbirth is not like other pain that we experience. Rather than something that is done to you against your will, they reminded us that the pain of birth is a sort of side effect of your body bringing your baby into the world. Seeing it that way was so so helpful for me.
I was very uncomfortable sitting in bed, so when I was finally allowed to get up, I took advantage of the birthing ball my nurse brought me and I sat and rocked back and forth on it to ease the discomfort of each contraction. Because of being hooked up to the monitors and IV, it was pretty difficult to move around the room, but I found I was most comfortable sitting on the ball anyway.
I found that for me, the most helpful thing was to focus on my breathing. I found myself going inwards, closing my eyes and just breathing my way through each contraction. Deep breath in, deep breath out. Over and over. It felt a lot like yoga – breathing through the discomfort, taking my time, and not letting myself get too worked up as things got more difficult.
Since I’d taught at Creative Mornings that day (and had to talk over loud music the whole time), my voice had been more strained than usual, so I found that my throat was feeling dry and scratchy as I tried to breathe through each contraction. It took a lot of concentration to keep my breath under control so I wouldn’t start coughing. It was a frustrating distraction, but one that probably helped me maintain that calmer breath throughout my labor. My nurse did have to remind me a couple times to calm my breath and keep it under control though.
Tim was extraordinarily helpful throughout my entire labor. He held my hand nearly the entire time and encouraged me through each contraction. In the beginning when I used the birthing ball I found it was helpful for him to rub my lower back as each contraction was fading. Any other time it felt sort of irritating to be touched, but that firm pressure on my back at the end of each contraction helped me feel like they were fading more quickly.
Tim also took it upon himself to watch the monitor and let me know how my contractions were progressing. He only made the mistake once of warning me when a contraction was coming and I quickly told him, “I can FEEL when they’re coming. Don’t tell me that again!” Poor guy. The rest of the time he just watched the monitor and would tell me when a contraction was waning.
Even though I could usually tell that the wave of a contraction had reached its peak and was on its way out, it was so helpful to have him reassuring me that I was almost done with that particular one. He would also tell me when I’d gotten through a really strong contraction – his enthusiasm and encouragement was truly wonderful. “Babe! You beasted that one! That was a big contraction! You’ve got one more under your belt. One step closer to meeting our baby.”
It was also really helpful to have Tim breathing with me, especially when my contractions got a lot stronger. He would hold my hand and breathe along with me through each one. This kept me focused and kept me from breathing too quickly. There was one particular time when my nurse told me my breathing wasn’t good. It was starting to get away from me as the pain got more intense. Whatever it was that she said really helped me to slow down and lower the tone of my breathing which helped each contraction feel more productive.
Since I was hooked up to the monitors and IV, which made it harder to move around, I just went back and forth between sitting up in bed and sitting on the birthing ball, depending on what felt most comfortable at the time.
In our bag I had packed a list of scripture verses to carry me through when things got more difficult. I didn’t know if I would actually look at them, but I knew I wanted to have them on-hand in case I needed a reminder or some encouragement. At one calmer part of the night, I asked Tim to grab that sheet of paper and I read through a couple of them and underlined the ones that stood out. Looking back at my list, I focused ones that had to do with fear – or more accurately the lack of fear in that moment.
Isaiah 41:10 was one of those, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” I remember reading and re-reading those words “do not fear” and “I am with you” a few times in between contractions.
The details get a little fuzzy in my brain as the night went on, but I remember being told I was at 5-6cm and that I needed to lean over on my right side so that I’d thin out more on that side to even things out. As I progressed and got closer to 8cm I remember alternating between holding Tim’s hand and gripping the rails on the side of my bed. I found myself gripping the rails even in between contractions and once I realized it, I found that my hand was cramping up and needed Tim to massage the tightness away.
Because the details are so fuzzy to me, I don’t really remember the order that everything happened in relation to how dilated I was. At one point the overnight Doctor gave me the option that she could go ahead and break my water for me, which would speed things up a bit, but would also make the contractions stronger. When I hesitated, she reassured me that there was absolutely no rush and I could wait for my water to break on its own if I wanted.
After an epidural, having the doctor break my water was the other thing that really gave me the heebie jeebies, so I decided to wait on that one. Before the doctor had even left the room though I felt that sort of “gush of fluid” they talk about and I remember saying, “I think the baby heard you! I think my water just broke!”
Read the next part of our story here.