My son was born on August 2, 2016. : )
I had a non-medicated water birth at Natural Beginnings Birth Center with both Heidi and Ben. I love that place and all the staff! They are so supportive and skilled. I appreciated how hands-off the midwives and nurses were at the birth center during Heidi’s birth. They let me do my thing while periodically checking the baby’s heart rate and getting involved only when needed. I relied on the midwives and nurse much more heavily during Ben’s birth, and was amazed at their skill and compassionate care. It was interesting how different my two birth experiences were! Thankfully they were both positive (but challenging) experiences with great outcomes, and I’m so glad I chose the birth center and decided to go unmedicated for each of them.
It’s funny how many people have told me they think I’m brave or strong to go unmedicated, but I feel like women who have something go wrong during pregnancy or birth are the ones that are brave. I don’t think you have to be anything special to go unmedicated. In this day and age, you have to be fortunate enough to have an uncomplicated pregnancy without any major health issues, and you have to decide you want to go unmedicated. That’s it. It’s essential to stay hydrated and energized. It’s helpful if you have done your research and know what to expect, if you can find a way to stay calm and relaxed, and if you have a good support person.
I like to be in control of my body, and the idea of not being able to feel my legs and being confined to a bed freaks me out big time, not to mention all the risks and side effects of epidurals. It was the right choice for me and my babies. From a practical standpoint, unmedicated birth at a birth center or at home is less expensive than birth at the hospital. Everyone is different, and you need to do what is best for you. I’m amazed by all the women out there who have to be strong when things get out of their control and they have to deal with a birth situation that is not what they wanted, or if they have to handle something going wrong with their health or the baby’s health. Big hugs to any of you reading this who have had to go through something difficult during pregnancy or birth!
I think it’s unfortunate that our culture has this common idea that child birth is a horrible, painful thing that we have to numb away. While it can be scary and traumatic, it can also be beautiful and empowering. I found that focusing on my health and learning all I could about pregnancy, labor and birth helped make it a good experience for me. For example, if you read about the hormone relaxin, it makes things seem more doable. Relaxin helps your joints, ligaments and muscles stretch to accommodate the baby. How awesome is that!? For all the ladies scared to push a baby out of that tiny space, your body makes an amazing hormone that helps you stretch. Mother nature is amazing. I felt like the labor and delivery process was a wild journey that transported me to motherhood. I needed to experience labor and birth to learn to trust my instincts and surrender to my body’s power and fully emerge as a mother.
I like to think I have some sort of control over my health and made a big effort to have a healthy diet and lifestyle. I do my best to follow the Weston A. Price diet, and I strictly avoid gluten (starting after I had my first baby). The WAP diet focuses on eating a variety of unprocessed, organic and pasture-raised foods with an emphasis on healthy fats, including animal fats. I take a few supplements: Vit D, fish oil, magnesium, probiotics, and 42 fruits and vegetables capsules. I took these instead of a regular prenatal vitamin. I walk most days of the week, and did so for my whole pregnancy. I definitely think these things helped make birth (and pregnancy) easier.
Because I think comparisons are interesting, here are the stats for my two kids:
Gained around 35 lb during pregnancy
Born at 41 weeks, 4 days
Water broke about 24 hours before active labor started
11 hours of labor
7 lb 7.5oz
Gained around 30 lb during pregnancy
Born at 40 weeks, 6 days
Water broke at 7cm dilation
16 hours of labor
9 lb 3 oz
You can read about Heidi’s birth here. I had 2 full nights of prodromal labor with Heidi before the real deal happened on the third night and she was born in the early morning. Her birth went very smoothly once active labor started. Active labor was about 11 hours with her (3 days if you count early labor)!!! Ben was born 6 days past his due date, and it was about 16 hours from the start of labor to his birth, which was around 3:30pm. It was a pretty long labor for a 2nd baby! I was expecting maybe 5 or 6 hours since on average, a 2nd baby takes half as long as the first. My midwife had told me not to wait long to call since it’s the 2nd time moms who had long 1st labors that end up being surprised with a super fast delivery and have their baby in the car!
Ben’s birth story
Labor started before midnight. I waited about 2 hours before calling my midwife (I hated waking her up!), and she told me to take a bath or shower and see if things got more intense. They didn’t, so I didn’t call back and cleaned the whole house, ate and labored on my own until around 6am, when I woke up my husband and we took off for the birth center. My mother in law came over to stay with Heidi. The car ride wasn’t bad, and we watched the sun come up as we drove. Contractions were painful but manageable, and were around 3 minutes apart or less and 30-40 seconds long all night. I kept waiting for them to get more intense but there wasn’t a big change. I was dilated 5cm by the time we got to the birth center, which is what I expected. Early labor and the beginning of active labor felt easier with my 2nd baby, which was nice!
Active labor lasted a long time. Ben’s head was turned to the side and it took forever for him to descend. The nurse (Jen) and midwife (Marcia) commented several times on how high up he was. I asked the nurse checked my dilation, she had trouble figuring out how he was positioned and said if his head molded, it might look like the cone was on the side of his head! It turned out that he was in a bizarre position, some variant of posterior, which typically means a longer and more painful labor and delivery with greater chance of tearing since the larger part of the head comes through first (yay)! His head wasn’t cone shaped at all, but there was a sort of dent on the back, lower right part of his head near his ear from where he was ramming into bone. It was super intense during transition and pushing, which made his labor much more challenging than Heidi’s.
I walked around outside the birth center a lot with my husband and my mom, and labored on the birth ball inside for several hours. I love how the birth center is right next to a big open field and a beautiful horse pasture surrounded by trees and crepe myrtles. It was calming to walk around outside in the early morning as the warm sun came up and the horses munched on grass. Contractions spaced out and were pretty manageable. Things weren’t happening as quickly as I had expected. Every time Jen came outside to check the baby’s heart rate with the doppler (about every 30 min), his heart beat was strong and steady, which was reassuring. I knew he was doing ok, and that calmed my nerves immensely. I felt that I could handle the pain as long as I knew he was doing well. Jen encouraged me to eat something to maintain my energy level. I had some delicious chicken broth that my friend Emma brought from her farm, some dried fruit, nuts and plenty of water. A few hours went by and things got more intense, and I needed someone pushing on my back during contractions.
My water broke on it’s own right after Jen checked to see how dilated I was. I felt a pop, which felt like the baby kicked really hard up high in my belly, and then I felt the water start to gush out. I was around 7cm dilated, and things got super intense after that, so I got in the tub. With my first birth, I didn’t really feel like I was experiencing pain per se, but I couldn’t say I felt the same during Ben’s labor! It was very challenging! Contractions and the pressure in my back felt super strong. I needed someone pushing hard on my back through every single contraction (thank you Emma)! Things were not happening sequentially like I expected (early labor, active labor, transition, pushing). I would feel like I was in transition and then contractions would get less intense and it felt like I was back in active labor. I would then feel pushy, but also not quite ready to actually push. With my first, I felt like my body just involuntarily started pushing and my job was just to stay calm and hold on for the ride. I didn’t feel like that with Ben. It was weird! It was confusing and worried me a bit. I wasn’t able to get in ‘the zone’ as easily as my first birth and had to rely on my birth assistants to help me through it.
Jen told me to squat, then kneel with one leg in front, then the other leg in front and rotate through while I was in the tub to try to work him into the right position so he could descend. When I did my right leg in front, the contractions felt a lot more painful because of his weird head position. Between contractions, I was able to relax, and I leaned back at one point and just let my arms float and go limp, and just totally let go and relax. I felt like I had fallen asleep for a few seconds when I was suddenly stirred awake by an oncoming contraction. It was bizarre. No one seemed to think I had actually fallen asleep, but I swear I did! The contraction after was crazy intense, and the nurse told me sometimes when there’s a long break in between the contraction after is really strong. She was right! I was getting really tired. A woman was laboring in the room next to me. She had come in several hours after me, and suddenly I could hear her baby crying. I was so jealous!!!!! I may have shouted some bad words. ; )
I was feeling desperate to put an end to my labor and be done with it. I felt a bit like a caged animal. Marcia and Jen asked me to get out of the tub and instructed me to try a bunch of different positions to try to get the baby to descend into the birth canal. They had me go through a few contractions on the toilet, then a few laying on my side with a peanut ball between my legs, then a few on the other side. By this point, things felt crazy intense and so very difficult. I just wanted to be done. I started joking about how I was ready for my epidural, though I knew they aren’t even available at the birth center. The hospital is only minutes away and I could have transferred there if needed. Marcia told me that she thought I would be pushing for a very long time, and to prepare for that. Ugh, really??? OK. I tried to stay calm and just focus on my breathing and relaxing every muscle in my body. I was doing some moaning by this point, and it somehow made it more manageable.
Marcia asked me to lie on my back and told me to push as hard as I could even though I didn’t feel pushy, and she manually helped get Ben under my pubic bone, and he started descending very quickly after that. It seriously felt like he moved half a foot during that push! YES! It was wild!!! I am so thankful for my midwife and the nurse’s skilled assistance. Marcia told me afterward that if he had continued to stay high up and not descend, we would have had to transfer to the hospital and possibly do a c section. She also told me that in all 20 years of experience, she had never seen a baby descend so quickly from so high up (practically in my throat, she said). Everyone was cheering me on, and it was so encouraging to make real progress. I was SO glad to turn the corner, though of course pushing is no piece of cake.
Once he started descending, it was maybe 30 minutes before he was born, so the pushing stage was a lot shorter than with my 1st baby. I got back in the tub in a squatting position, and held Aaron’s hands through contractions. I purposely went really slow during crowning, fighting the urge to just get it over with like I did the first time around. Because of his position, it felt like the baby’s head was crazy big and I was sure things would never be the same down there! I stayed in a squatting position in the tub, which my midwife said would help prevent tearing, and it did, unbelievably! I was SO happy about this and could hardly believe it, especially with his weird position. This may be too much info for some people, though if you are still reading than you are clearly interested in the nitty gritty of birth!
Out popped a bouyant baby boy, covered in vernix, and I grabbed him out of the water. I cried tears of happiness and relief, and looked at the amazed expressions of my mom, Emma and Aaron. I was SO GLAD TO BE DONE! I couldn’t believe how big he was! He was chubby and pink and started crying. It’s crazy how quickly I felt love for my sweet baby boy. Oxytocin explosion! I stayed in the tub, holding Ben and admired his chubby fingers. He was all slippery. Heidi had lost her vernix and had long, wrinkled fingers that had surprised me. It was interesting how different they looked at birth! Heidi had a cone head, but Ben didn’t at all.
Marcia asked me to push to get the placenta out, and put it in a metal bowl that floated next to me in the water. Aaron cut the cord after it had finished transferring the last bit of blood to the baby. Jen brought me some warm towels and I climbed into the bed with the baby and started working on breastfeeding, and he caught on pretty quickly. We spent the next hour admiring our little guy, taking pictures and celebrating the end of a long, hard labor. Jen came back in to measure him and I was shocked to find he was over 9 pounds! Whaaaat?! How did a baby that big flip around in my belly at 39.5 weeks!? He flipped breech a few days before my due date and thankfully flipped back over a couple of days later. We stayed at the birth center for a few hours, and my mother in law brought Heidi to meet her new brother. It was adorable the way she ran into the room jumping up and down and squeaking. She touched his little feet and his head and said, “Awwww, cuuuute.” It was heart melting.
I probably would have ended up with a c section had I been at a hospital with a less supportive team. Besides my husband, I also had my mom and dear friend, Emma, with me. Emma is training to become a doula, and she was an amazing help to me. I relied on all of them to help me get through it, and I was so glad I had each of them there. Ben’s labor felt a lot more challenging then Heidi’s and I had to really dig deep for the strength to get through it. I was thankful for the midwife and nurse’s skilled instructions and assistance. Despite Ben being almost 2 pounds bigger than Heidi, the recovery has been easier this time around, which was a great surprise! It was a more arduous labor, but the end result was great!
My friend and doula, Emma, got some great shots with my camera. Thank you, Emma!!!
We headed home and I haven’t had a full night’s sleep since! haha Not complaining, that just comes with the territory. ; ) Ben is 6 weeks old now and the sleep deprivation headache is starting to fade, thank goodness. Being a mom to two kids has been great so far.
I feel really good now, and was pretty much all healed up by 2 weeks. Breastfeeding had a more painful start this time, but has gotten easier. Ben didn’t have as great a latch at first but has improved. I didn’t have any pain at all nursing Heidi unless she was teething, and I nursed her until just shy of her 2nd birthday. I’m planning to do the same or a bit longer for Ben. He’s a happy, easy-going baby just like his sister was. He barely spits up at all but has a lot of gas. I swear he sounds like a full grown man when he passes gas! He’s huge and is keeping me busy feeding him. He’s in the 99th percentile for length and 95th for weight. I guess that makes sense if you see his daddy, who is a big guy and 6’5″. I’m falling more and more in love with Mr. Ben and he’s been giving me some amazing gummy smiles lately.
Working on a smile! #6weeksold #smile #babyboy #firstsmile #hiccups A video posted by Jenny Tenney Goss (@jennytenneyphotography) on
That’s all I’ve got for now. Thanks for reading!
Anyone else have a posterior baby or notice significant differences between the birth of your children? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!