“Can someone please come and check me?” I asked.
“It hasn’t been an hour yet. We’ll come when it’s time,” replied the nurse through the intercom.
It had actually been an hour and twenty minutes, but who’s counting? I lay in the slightly elevated hospital bed, IV tubes, epidural tubes, and other paraphernalia stretched across my body, accompanied by the loud rhythmic beat of the fetal heart monitor. My husband sat tiredly in an uncomfortable chair next to my bed where he had spent the night listening to the blood pressure machine go off every half hour.
I was pregnant with my second child, and after a highly medicalized, but fast first birth (induction, epidural, baby out in just 5 hours), I knew I wanted to attempt a natural childbirth. As my due date came and went, my Dr. offered an induction, but I told her I just wanted to wait it out. My in-laws were going to descend upon our home within a few days, and we didn’t have a proper bed for my mom-in-law to sleep on (just a mattress on the floor), so my mom and I drove an hour away to an antique store to look for an iron bed. While walking and shopping for a few hours, I was having Braxton-Hicks (or so I thought), and wasn’t terribly concerned-I had been having them for several days.
Later that evening, while couch surfing, I felt a little *pop*, and a tiny gush of fluid. My DH and I were terribly excited, but didn’t know what to do next-there weren’t any contractions, and I wasn’t uncomfortable at all. So, we continued watching tv for about 45 minutes. I finally said “Maybe we should call someone?”, so we contacted the phone-a-nurse service. The OB on call (who was NOT my regular OB) called back in about 20 minutes and in a very crabby tone, essentially told me to haul it in to the ER-NOW. So, we laughed, packed leisurely, and moseyed to the hospital about 10 minutes away. I had one strong contraction while filling in all of that crazy paperwork, but was still not really uncomfortable.
I went into pre-term labor at 32 weeks. I had no idea I was 5 cm dilated or that I was even in labor to start with, until I mentioned I was having menstrual-like cramps at one of my routine checkups and my midwife checked me. I went straight to the hospital and was told the baby was going to come that night. The nurses had me hooked up to the monitors and would say, “You’re having a contraction.” And I’d say, “I am?” because I really didn’t feel anything. We tried to keep the baby in as long as possible and the neo-natal team was ready for the baby.
The baby never came that night, thank God. The longer she could stay in, the better. I stayed at the hospital for two and a half weeks, and the baby still never came. The contractions were not painful and would subside when I drank plenty of water and stayed in bed. The hospital finally decided to discharge (even though I remained at 5cm) since I had reached 35 weeks and the baby seemed healthy and my water still had not broken. Though they warned me that when my water broke, the baby would come fast and if I couldn’t make it to the hospital in time, to call 911.
I suppose the best place to start is when my irregular contractions that I had been feeling since Saturday night became very regular contractions Monday afternoon. I had gone into work that Monday only to be sent home because having contractions every 7-10 minutes was making my co-workers nervous. Needless to say I was officially on maternity leave. By Tuesday morning I was in what I considered full blown labor. My surges were consistent and time-able and some even made me stop and concentrate. Today was going to be the day!
Laboring at home for as long as possible was the plan…and we were off to a great start. Staying busy was key; from doing laundry, to last minute baby preparations, to taking the dogs to the park. I wanted to remain as active as possible for as long as possible. By about 11am my surges were to a point where small tasks around the house were no longer possible. At that point surges were spent rocking with Chris’ (my husband) support and leaning over the couch. Chris was a great support, reading our HypnoBirthing scripts and breathing with me through surges. By 11:30 surges were coming every 4 minutes, lasting about 45 seconds so we thought it was time to take a trip to my OB to see how far I had progressed. My OB’s office as well as the hospital I delivered at is roughly an hour from our house. When we got to the OB I had my very first vaginal check…I was 3cm and 100% effaced. My OB gave us the ok to head to the hospital…I however had other things in mind.
My daughter, still so little, was sleeping next to me, her little body curled up peacefully. As my contractions increased in intensity, I remember crying. I love her so much. I held her tight, and hoped that she would enjoy being a big sister. For a while, I watched TV and finished the article I was working on. I left my daughter to sleep as I got in the tub and felt the hot water soothe my laboring body. I prayed. For a smooth birth, for the intuition to tell me if something was wrong. When the water grew cold, I got up, and went back to bed.
It was cold in the apartment. Russia and the Ukraine were in the middle of a gas dispute. Our city’s central heating system was short of fuel, we were left in the cold. Outside, there was a fierce frost and a lot of snow. I was struggling to get the air conditioning in my apartment to blow hot air instead of cold, so that my baby would not be born into a cold space. I finally succeeded but it was still cold, so I turned the oven on and left its door open. Finally, things were starting to heat up.
I had my February 2007 daughter as a natural childbirth in a hospital (her story is here), and when we became pregnant again, I decided that we would look into leaving that hospital and moving to a local birthing center.
We stayed with the hospital until our 20 week ultrasound when we found out we were having a baby boy. At that point, because everything looked great and I was already sick of the 30+ minute drives to the hospital (that never had their appointments on time), I called the birthing center.
This birthing center is attached to a small hospital in the next town over to us. As a comparison, it has about 500 births a year compared to my former hospital’s 4000. The women’s practice in this hospital is small (one midwife; one OB/GYN). I signed up to be under their midwife on staff. As of the first appointment, I knew I had made the right decision. Finally, I was talking to someone who was on the same level as me regarding childbirth and actually wanted to discuss my birth plans!
May 16, 2006 (the day before Moses was born)
Moses was 8 days overdue and was scheduled for an induction on May 19. I was 2cm dilated and 90% effaced. I tried to talk to our doctor about getting an extension on the induction date, but she wouldn’t budge. I was very concerned about going for an induction because I had heard that it was more difficult to have a natural delivery after having an induction. After trying everything (or so it seemed) to get labour started (stair walking, bumpy car rides, two acupuncture appointments, herbal concoctions, talking to Moses, talking to my body, talking to Spirit, etc….), I decided that the next morning, I would try the castor oil induction (which I heard could be brutal due to the diarrhea that it may cause, but I was getting desperate).
That night, I cried and was quite emotional because I was wondering if I was in some way preventing labour from starting. Was I scared? Was I just not ready? I had a good cry and created a birth collage with intentions for how I wanted the birth to go. (i.e., that I would be supported, that my body knew how to give birth, that the birth would be what it will be). I talked to my good friend, Shelley, and she said that she would do some long-distance Reiki on me that evening.
A few months into the pregnancy, my husband James and I decided that we wanted to have a natural childbirth, and we signed up for Bradley Method Husband Coached Childbirth classes. We created a birth plan and brought it to my OB’s office and the doctors there seemed to be very willing to accommodate our natural birth preferences. There was even a Certified Nurse Midwife working with the practice who we could choose to have our appointments with and have at our hospital birth. We were following the diet and exercise plan from the classes and our pregnancy was progressing perfectly.
At 28 weeks I was required to take a Glucose Tolerance Test. They called me and told me that my blood sugars were so high, I was automatically being diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes with no further testing. This diagnosis changed the way my pregnancy was treated from that point on. I didn’t have to change my diet much in order to control the blood sugar, and I stuck to my regular exercise every day.
I had been feeling a little bit “off” on Monday and Tuesday, but tried not to dwell on it or let it get my hopes up or anything. I had a few braxton hicks contractions that were uncomfortable, but not painful, and again, tried not to think anything of it.
I had a midwife appointment Tuesday afternoon. Even though I know it doesn’t mean much, I asked her to check me because I was curious. I was 2.5cm dilated and 40% effaced. Interestingly, Lena had been transverse and posterior, meaning she was facing the side and front instead of the back. Facing backwards is optimal for labor and birth. Well, Lynda could tell when she checked me that her head was actually anterior, which is what we want. So, she basically had her head turned to the side, which was good. Lynda offered to strip my membranes. I entertained the thought, but really just wanted this labor to start on its own. So, I declined and grudgingly set up a 41 week appointment for next week.
I went to sleep that night resigning myself to further days of pregnancy.
Sunday 10th of June, I noticed bub wasn’t moving all that much, so I rang the delivery suite and they told me to come in to get bub monitored. It was about 4.30pm and Matt(my husband) had started dinner, so we got the kids organised and took their dinner over to my mum’s house. On the way to mum’s I started having some painful contractions, but I put them down to being braxton hicks because they were so irregular. I had also gone into hospital on the Friday due to prelabour and this felt much the same.
We got to hospital at 6.15pm, drank some juice and sat around. The contractions started coming more frequently, every 2 mins and were fairly painful. Bub gave a few good kicks and we had to wait around to be examined before they would let me go home. At this stage the braxton hicks were getting a bit bitey but I didn’t have my hopes up after only being 1cm dilated on Friday. The midwife wanted to do an internal check before I was allowed to go and said I was 3cm. Just as she was telling me the bag of waters were bulging, they popped and I was 4cm, she told me I wouldn’t be going home.
Birth is inspiring, amazing, and empowering. This website shares a collection of real natural birth experiences from you, the readers. Births the way nature intended. No pitocin. No epidural. Just the beauty (and intensity!) of the human body at work. Whether you've had one natural birth, five natural births, or are considering natural birth in the future, our hope is you will find courage and joy in these stories. Enjoy.
Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor's Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices
Ina May's Guide to Childbirth