My Unexpectedly, Entirely Natural Birth Story (Pt 2)

[Don’t start in the middle of things! Read part 1 here]

We’ve arrived in the delivery room alongside a team of nurses. I can’t remember exactly when, but to my great relief Stephen has appeared by my side too. A saline drip is being administered through an IV, a fetal heart rate monitor is strapped around my stomach, machines are beeping on either side of me. I’m told the on-call doctor is on their way and that our family members are starting to arrive in the waiting area. Everything that’s happening is feeling very real now.

In my final months of pregnancy, as I prepared for labor and spoke with my doula about a birth plan (which I had written and intended to bring with me for the nurses), some of my biggest concerns were the amount of pain I’d be able to endure and what kind of tearing I’d experience. I wanted to have as pain-free a birth experience as possible, which in my mind meant a medicated birth.

But in the chaos of it all, I hadn’t brought my birth plan with me, and it didn’t matter much at this point anyway. It’s too late for pitocin or an epidural to be useful. I’d be having this baby without so much as a Tylenol in my system.

The one thing on my birth plan that can be executed are warm compresses, which are supposed to help with preventing tearing. Cynthya and Stephen get to work on applying those as my contractions and the baby are being monitored. I’m told that when the next contraction comes, it’s time to push.

Cynthya prepares me as the next contraction ramps up. “Are you in a comfortable position? Is there another way you’d like to be? OK, remember big inhale and push on the exhale. Are we ready?”

How could I ever really be ready for what’s about to happen?

The first attempt to push is futile, the baby hardly budges. But now I have an idea of what the pain feels like, and it fucking HURTS. They say the worst part is pushing out the head, an extremely painful sensation coined “the ring of fire.” I certainly feel the fire. The room feels 10 degrees hotter now. Cynthya sets up a small fan aiming at my face and puts a cool rag on my head. I tell the room I want to try a different position, on my hands and knees.

My team of nurses helps reorganize chords, wires, and my IV to get me in position. The next contractions is coming, it’s building, it’s here. I push with the contraction, but as that ring of fire pain intensifies, I back off. Hands and knees is NOT the position I want to be in.

I move back to being upright on my back and slightly reclined. In between contractions I’m silently panicking over when the next one will come. The downtime in between pushing is nice, but I’m waning. With each attempt, I increasingly feel I won’t be able to do this.

Meanwhile, around me the nurses, Cynthya, and Stephen seem to be enjoying casual chitchat. It makes the air in the room more comfortable, how calm and casual everyone is. But as the next contraction comes, I want to yell for everyone to shut up. If all I can focus on is my pain, that’s all they should be focused on too.

The next couple of contractions go the same way. Cynthya and Stephen are set up on either side of me, helping to hold my legs in position. As each contraction comes I’m grabbing behind my knees, pulling them back towards me and scrunching my upper body forward. I exhale for five seconds, pushing through my breath.

The ring of fire is too intense. I’m backing off from the pain, not pushing as hard as I can or as hard as I should. My team around me is telling me the same things; remember to pull your knees back, push through the contraction as hard as you can for as long as you can, he’s right there, you’re so close, really bear down through this next one.

I’m tearing up as this information is being relayed to me yet again. I feel like I’m doing all of that, but it’s not enough to get this baby out. I’m not going to be able to be strong enough bear the pain to get this baby out.

“I cant! I can’t do this. I can’t do this,” I’m repeating through tears flowing down my cheeks.

“Yes you can! Yes, you can,” the chorus echos around me.

“No. I can’t I really can’t. What are my options, because I can’t do this.”

“There are no options, you have to do this.”

“Hannah, breath. Look at me,” Cynthya says, coming into focus for me. “You can do this. And guess what? When you do, you get to meet your baby. Remember what you told me a couple weeks ago, how you’re just eager to meet the baby? Well you’re minutes away from meeting your baby. But to meet him, you have to push through the pain.”

The midwife follows up this pep talk with a gentle reminder, the baby is going through this too, and he’s in some distress. His heart rate is beginning to drop a little bit.

Between Cynthya and the midwife, I know I really have to give my all to these next couple of contractions. And that’s exactly what I do. It’s all I can do.

I’m pushing hard, and pushing past the five second mark to eight seconds, ten seconds… “There you go! That’s it!” The encouragement from around the room keeps me going, the look on their faces is all I need to know he’s really coming now.

One more push, just like that. I’ve been counting in my head, but this time is different. I loose count, the seconds don’t matter anymore. I’m just pushing with everything I have. The pain is so intense it’s blinding, consuming all my thoughts and senses. And suddenly, there’s relief. He’s here.

At 11:36am on Monday, February 13th, Hendrix Knighton Apple makes his entrance into our world. Stephen’s crying. Cynthya is snapping photos down by my crotch. The nurses and midwife seems to be bustling around me. I’m looking around, asking, “Is he out? All of him?”

“He’s here, all of him,” a nurse says as I’m handed my baby. 5 pounds and 10 ounces of pure joy. I put him on my bare chest. Stephen and I are staring at each other and staring at him, in instant awe of this little life now before us. Everything they tell you is true. The love? Immediate and unconditional. The pain? Entirely forgotten. The strength of female body? Incredible and unmatched.

Thank you for reading my birth story! I feel beyond proud of myself for delivering vaginally and unmedicated. It was never what I expected of myself and the most beautiful life experience. He is a reminder every day that I’m stronger than I think!

When I’ve shared my birth story with friends and family, there are a few other details I mention, so I’ll share here for those who are interested in more of our family’s story.

Beyond his birth:

The Afterbirth

After giving birth to Hendrix, next was the placenta, which we decided to keep. To do so, we brought a styrofoam cooler with us to the hospital. Where we gave birth, they provided a Tupperware-like container when we requested to keep the placenta, but we were prepared with large ziplock bags as well. After Stephen’s dad and stepmom met the baby, we asked them to take it home and put it in our freezer for us.

I initially had hoped to use my placenta to grow a plant or tree which I later would have wanted to plant by my mom’s graveside, where a majority of her ashes are buried. To me it symbolizes the beauty of life and death, and in my eyes was a way to really let my mom and Hendrix meet. The cemetery my mom is buried in doesn’t allow for planting things in the ground, so instead I plant to grow a plant with my placenta and some of my mom’s ashes in the soil. Stay tuned, maybe I’ll blog about this once I execute the idea!

Perineal Tearing

Hendrix has truly been an easy baby on me since the minute he came out! I experienced very little tearing and only slight bruising from his birth, requiring no stitches.

NICU Experience

Shortly after his birth, doctors noticed Hendrix was breathing heavily. Concerned with a small amount of fluid in his lungs, especially with the fact that meconium was present when my water broke lending to the possibility of fecal matter being inhaled by the baby, he was admitted to the NICU. He went on to spend the first five days of his life in the NICU with a tachypnea diagnosis. We were finally able to be home as a family Friday, February 17th.

Thanks again for reading my birth story, especially if you made it this far!