By: Lexie Allman of Lexsentials
I am finally ready to share my birth story. I needed some time to let it settle in. I will start by saying, it did not go as planned. I always envisioned my birth a certain way. I wanted it to be “natural” which I now refer to as “unmedicated” and was inspired to do so by my mom who did it four times and Bryan’s mom who did it three times. I thought that if they could do it, I could too. I created my “birth plan” in my third trimester and brought copies of it to my doctor’s office and to the hospital. My unmedicated birth plan included things such as “no epidural, no pitocin, no episiotomy, dad cuts the cord, delay the bath, immediate skin to skin, etc.”
I prepared in every way possible for my unmedicated birth plan…by reading all the books, seeing a chiropractor weekly and taking a hypnobirthing class which taught me affirmations, breathing exercises and meditations to practice daily. I read in one of my (many) pregnancy books that your birth plan should really be called your birth “preferences” and that you must be open minded to whatever comes your way.
Luckily, I went in with this mindset and knew that my plan was just my preference and if I HAD to get the drugs, I would. What all of my books and classes didn’t prepare me for was the fact that things may not go as planned for reasons such as the anatomy of your body, the way in which your cervix ended up dilating, and not because you simply can’t deal with the pain.
When reflecting on the birth, I asked Bryan to recap the details to me. While I was present and remembered all of it, I had trouble recalling the timing of when things progressed, probably because it was 24 hours of the hardest workout of my life. Even prior to getting the epidural (yes, I ended up getting it, more below…) I “hypnobirthed” for 12 hours without any drugs and that part is probably even more of a blur than post-epidural because I was SO focused on getting through the next contraction that my eyes were closed and I felt like I was in a trance-like state for most of it.
When Bryan emailed me over his version of the birth, I loved seeing his perspective, as my birth partner and father-to-be. After reading it (and crying) I decided to share his version, not only because he is wayyyy better of a writer than me, but also because he included things that I forgot about, but remembered fully after reading.
I’m sharing our story because I want other mama to be’s to know that if your birth does not go as planned, whatever your plan might be, it’s OK. You did not fail. You succeeded in having a healthy baby and that is all that matters.
The Birth Story (from Dad’s perspective, Bryan):
On Friday night we stayed in and ordered Chinese food, extra spicy, in hopes that it would induce labor. We stayed up kind of late that night, around 11 for Lex and 12 for me. I knew I should get to sleep but I was excited thinking this could be happening soon since we were 3 days past the due date and we started seeing some indications. A few hours later at 1:45 am the contractions began, and we started timing them. They were pretty intense and consistently 3-4 minutes apart and 1 minute in length so after 3 hours we decided to head in to the hospital (Monmouth Medical Center).
We were surprised to learn that Lex was only dilated to 3cm when we got in. The contractions were painful and consistent, so we thought we’d be further along. We were admitted and began laboring in the labor room at about 5:30 am. I grabbed an iced coffee as I hadn’t slept much and our doula, Dr. Kyle, came in and met us at this time.
Lexie fought through each contraction while we supported her. We tried different positions: on the ball, on all fours, standing and sitting in the tub. Every contraction was a challenge, a mountain to climb, with Lexie fighting to breathe through it and last until it passed. Myself and the doula put pressure on her back, actively pushing to ease her pain every single contraction every 3-4 minutes. At about 10 am Lexie started to say things like I need the epidural and I don’t know how many more contractions I can take, but we held off and took them one at a time.
She measured 5cm at around 10:30. We couldn’t believe it wasn’t further along and thought it would all happen much faster than it did. Without any medication and in back labor (baby facing up instead of down) Lexie was feeling intense pain each and every contraction, which were consistently and relentlessly every few minutes.
I was even getting fatigued since I was on my feet for hours on high alert, bending and pushing on her lower back in every position, supporting her standing, reaching in to the tub and reacting quickly to find a bag to catch her vomit a bunch of times. She kept going quickly from very hot to shivering then hot again, so I’d grab a blanket and then take it off. Lexie kept asking the doctor when they were going to measure again to see how dilated she was. At around 11:30 we felt she must be 10cm by now, but she measured just 7 cm. We felt like we were in intense labor for hours and hours, but we were progressing and Lexie was managing to get by without medication so we were pleased.
We stayed positive, took contractions one at a time, and rode each out like a wave as they came and went. We kept switching positions but none were really helpful. Essential oils and calming music helped distract from the pain and focus on the task. The hypnobirthing affirmations were especially helpful and were often played on loop. “My birth will be easy and my body is just the right size for my baby”. It was not easy. All we could do was stay positive and take it one contraction at a time.
Since it was 11:30 am and it usually takes an hour to dilate each cm, Dr. Kyle and I surmised that we’d push in 3 hours and have the baby around 1:30. Again, way off. The last few centimeters progressed very slowly and painfully, as this continued and Lexie kept wanting to get remeasured. Finally the doctor said 9.5… then said no maybe it’s 9. Ok, almost there. The last cm took forever. The next time we measured it was still 9. Then the doctor said one section of the cervix was being stubborn and asymmetrically dilated and she had to manually assist to open it up.
Since we were nearly 10cm and to assist with manually opening the cervix, it was time to push. By this time it was almost 5:00 pm. Told it was time to push, and at nearly complete exhaustion, Lexie was ready to give it all she had as she was so tired of laboring and wanted it to be over. We kept saying we’re almost there and we’re going to meet our baby girl so soon. This part was painful as Lex had to continue fighting through contractions without medication while pushing and having the doctors hand inside her and manually opening up the cervix. We finally got it opened to 10 cm and the doctor said ok let’s push now.
Once again I thought this must be about to happen finally, but it seemed like it was still going to be very difficult and I didn’t know how it would work. Lex was extremely exhausted from all of the back labor contractions for all of these hours and little sleep, but was up for pushing if it would end soon. Lex pushed for 15 minutes, and each was very painful, and it started to feel like it wasn’t close to happening. The doctor explained the challenge that the baby was facing upwards, had a more difficult path through the canal and had to come down and rotate through her narrow pelvis.
At this point we realized we weren’t close and would need to push for a few hours to get her through the canal. Getting the epidural seemed like the only option due to the exhaustion so we all agreed to do it. The hospital staff put it in motion and we waited just a short while, still fighting through contractions, for the anesthesiologist to arrive and give the epidural. Once it kicked in, Lexie was completely relieved of pain and could no longer even feel the contractions, which kept happening as we could only see on the computer screen. Lexie’s parents arrived and entered the room, and we had 2-3 hours to rest. I went for a walk and called my family, and everyone rested for a bit. We knew at this point that this labor was above average in difficulty and we were having a hard time, but remained calm, focused and positive. We rested from about 6:30-9:30.
At 10:00 pm we started to push again. We pushed for 10 seconds during each contraction, and while the contractions weren’t painful after the epidural the pushing still took everything she had. She had to learn how to breathe and push in the right way. We pushed in different positions, starting on all fours, then with Lex pulling on her legs and on bars on the bed. This again took longer than expected as we pushed for hours and kept feeling like we were getting close.
The baby started to make her way through the canal. Eventually the doctor could easily touch her head and Lexie reached in and touched it too. We could see her long dark hair, and they wheeled in a mirror so Lexie could see. We kept pushing and pushing. The doctor explained that the head was coming down then going back in, and he kept leaving the room so we knew it wasn’t happening yet. At 11:00 -11:30 we thought we were on the verge, and understood that if we had the baby before midnight we’d get one less day in the hospital. The nurses predicted it would happen before midnight, but it seemed like it would be close. Nope.
The baby’s head finally crowned at 12:30 am and we kept pushing. The doctor looked at his clock a few times after telling us it’s not good to push in this position for more than 3 hours, which we were approaching at 1:00 am. Lexie kept pushing like each one was her last, doing an amazing job and giving it her all despite exhaustion. We finally got there and the doctor pulled out all of his tools and got ready. Then we still had some more pushes.
I started to worry, it seemed like it wasn’t possible and I started to think maybe we should get a C-section to be safe. Eventually, the doctor explained the challenge and suggested that we should consider using forceps or suction to assist with the baby coming out, and recommended forceps. We had been told months before that our doctor was particularly very talented at these procedures, so despite concerns we did feel good about taking his recommendation, plus we felt it was nearly our last resort and we had to finally get this baby out safely.
At 1:02 am Lexie gave an enormous push and with the help of the doctor the baby’s head came out. He told her to stop pushing, and then her shoulder and one arm came out and then the rest of her body came out. The doctor and nurses quickly snipped and tied the umbilical cord, wiped her clean and placed baby Parker on mommy’s chest. Lex seemed to be in shock, so relieved that it was over and it finally happened, and so happy to see her baby. I was immediately overcome with emotion, relief and happiness. The first thing I said when I saw her was “she’s perfect.” Lexie repeatedly said “oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness, it’s her, you’re here!.” There were about 20 hospital staff in the room but I didn’t take my eyes off of Lexie and Parker. Nothing else in the room mattered. We held our tiny little baby girl and looked at her. It was the best moment of our lives.
Disclaimer: Some of these are my raw labor & birth photos. They are not glamorous like many other bloggers birth story photos. I was not wearing makeup and my hair was not done. I am not posing or smiling, but Bry is (not going to lie, I LOLd when I saw him smiling away in the selfies he took during these moments…quite the contrast between his state of being vs. mine). I was in and out of the tub, sweating, shivering, swollen (VERY, my dad said I was unrecognizable by the time he came into the room around hour 14), throwing up, etc…but I love these photos so much and how they capture the reality of my experience and the hours leading up to the best moment of my life. There are a few mixed in from the days following in the hospital and from the professional baby photographer at the hospital.
Notes from mama:
The day before the night that labor started, I did have some signs leading up. I had made my strong brew red raspberry leaf tea for the second day in a row and threw up after drinking it. Also, my right leg was aching all day, similar to how my upper legs would ache pre-period but full leg and more intense and I had some lower back period-like cramps on and off all day.
I was in back labor the whole time and never felt a single contraction in the front.
As you can see my birth took many unexpected turns, most of which I did not realize how high risk they were until after she was born (which is probably a good thing). Bry’s story doesn’t include that during pushing the baby had meconium indicating that she was under fetal distress and also low oxygen so I had to wear an oxygen mask in between each push. I was on IV fluids pretty much all day because I was throwing up non-stop and then eventually they also gave me anti-nausea medicine.
While the birth was definitely long and tough, I felt so motivated the whole time to see my baby and was so focused on getting through the next contraction that I never really had time to stop and think about what was going on. I didn’t feel fear up until the last hour of pushing when I kept looking up at Bry for reassurance that things were going to be OK. By this point, I started to think that we might never meet our baby.
I had given in to every intervention, was trying my hardest every step of the way and it really just felt like it was never going to happen. However, the real fear and worry settled in more-so after the birth for me when nurses came into my room asking me to tell them more about what happened because they saw the notes in my file, when I started researching forceps, meconium, etc. (bad idea), and when other people used the term “traumatic” to describe my birth.
I will write another post on my postpartum recovery and transition but one of my main fears that I couldn’t let go was that the birth was indeed traumatic for Parker and that she was stressed and scared and remembers it. I’m trying my best to let that go but the thought still resurfaces from time to time, usually on the harder days. ALL of that said, it was still the best day of my life and I will never ever forget the moment when I saw her little body for the first time as they placed her on my chest. It’s the most vivid memory and I replay it constantly.
I feel like the entire 24 hours leading up to it were a crazy blur and that I “woke up” in that moment. Every second was worth it and yes I would do it all again. I was in complete shock. I just held her on my chest with her head nuzzled into my neck, feeling her little body and then after some time realized I hadn’t even seen her face yet. When I finally did, she looked right up at me and knew that I was hers and in that quick moment she became my perfect little everything that I had been waiting for my whole life. The moments after of more skin to skin, breastfeeding and pure bliss with her and Bry are my most cherished memories.
If you are expecting
If you are expecting, I do not want you to read my story and feel worried to give birth. While my labor was very long and I had many interventions, I still think that it was a beautiful experience and you might not believe me but I am excited to do it again (…one day, not any time soon).
I’m happy that I experienced it the way I did. With basically 12 hours unmedicated and 12 hours medicated, I was able to see and compare both ways of giving birth. Would I choose to labor for 12 full hours unmedicated if I could go back? No, I probably would have labored unmedicated for an hour or so to experience it (yes, just an hour would have still been challenging and more than enough to show me what it felt like) but would have gotten the epidural sooner if I knew that I was going to need it anyways for the reasons that came up. I was told prior to making my decision to attempt an unmedicated birth that if I got the epidural right away, I could watch netflix n chill until it was time to push.
Does that sound more appealing than the wild roller coaster I went on? It certainly sounds more relaxing, and for baby #2, that might be the way to go, but for baby #1, I needed to give the unmedicated journey my absolute all because that was what I wanted and I am content knowing that I tried my best.
This is my story and you will have your own and it will probably be very different so do not worry, do whatever YOU want to do with no guilt or shame, and you will be just fine 🙂