My labor and delivery with Sebastien was unusually fast for a first-time mom. My doctor tells me that I had him as fast as a mother typically has their second child. She also warned me that this baby will likely come twice as fast… and that scares the meconium (baby’s first shit) out of me.
I had a lot of fear in my first birth.
To begin, I wasn’t even 38 weeks yet so I was in shock that it was actually happening. It seemed like every person in my life warned me that I would go overdue, so that’s just what I expected. I wasn’t even sure I was in labor initially, therefore I was convinced the hospital was going to send me home and tell me it was a false alarm. It turns out I was already 4cm. Soon after I was admitted, I went from 4-9 cm so fast (felt like 0-100) that my mind didn’t have time to catch up to what my body was going through.
I so badly wanted to be this cool, powerful, zen mama giving birth with a flower crown on in the woods who says, “Oh, it’s not as bad as everyone says it is, hehe!” afterwards, as cartoon deer lick the baby clean while birds sing in harmony a sweet, chirpy rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, but sadly, no. Not me at all. Was that an unrealistic goal?
I didn’t go into ‘Labor & Delivery’ with a “birth plan”. My nurse asked me early on if I had one and I said that my only plan was to be open to different methods of pain relief. She specifically asked me if I wanted a drug-free birth to which I told her not necessarily, I just want to see how I do first. My only rule going in was that everyone let my husband, Nic, announce the sex of our baby. Little did I know, that wouldn’t be my only demand. (I believe my exact words were, “DON’T ANYBODY F*CKING TOUCH ME.”)
I completely freaked out when I hit transitional labor, even though I learned all about it in prenatal class. I honestly believed I was going to die from the pain. I suddenly had no concept of time and I basically went into survival mode. I was swearing, crying, begging for help, and wondering in that moment why anyone ever chooses to have a baby. I had never been more scared in my life.
I had the dreaded back labor, the contractions were on top of one another at one point with hardly any breaks in between, and none of the natural pain relief methods provided me any relief.
- sterile water injections in my back (“that didn’t do sh*t!”)
- various positions (“hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it”)
- using a yoga ball (“F your ball!”)
- getting in the bath (“get me out of here!”)
- turning on the shower (“make it stop!”)
And of course, massage was out of the question due to my DFTM (“don’t f*cking touch me”) rule which applied to everyone.
It was too late for morphine, so I huffed nitrous oxide which, if anything, allowed me to concentrate on my breathing, but also made me feel wasted. Eventually, I screamed for the epidural and went into full panic-mode when the nurse informed me, “You can’t.”
I had been warned previously that sometimes epidurals don’t work and I also was aware of the risks, however, I was not prepared to be told no.
But I was terrified to push without it.
Thankfully, my saint of a doctor said it was still an option to me since my water still hadn’t broke. The other good news was that the anesthesiologist was available (in hospital terms that means he will still take 45 minutes to an hour to get there) so she gave me two options. She could either break my water right then and there, and I could push. Or I could wait for the epidural, then she would break my water and I could push.
I opted for the epidural, which at my hospital is a “mobile” epidural meaning it cuts the pain but the patient can still feel their legs and move around. For me, it was exactly what I needed to give me the confidence to continue and helped me relax enough to concentrate on pushing.
Sebastien was born just after midnight, only 45 minutes after my mobile epidural. From the moment I was assessed to the moment he was born, it was less than 4-and-a-half hours.
For the rest of our hospital stay, I kept being congratulated by nurses who heard I had an “amazing” birth. I was grateful to find out my experience was considered pretty ideal. At the same time, it made me feel bad about feeling traumatized by it, since it clearly could have been worse. I was proud of myself and I couldn’t believe I did that (even though I know women have been doing this since the beginning of time). But I still felt like I had went through something I thought I had studied so much for, only to find out I wasn’t prepared mentally or physically at all.
It’s a huge reason that I wasn’t ready to even think about getting pregnant again until Sebastien was 18-months-old.
So now being about 6 weeks away from my due date with my second baby, these feelings are coming back. I’ve been having anxiety over it since I hit the third trimester. When I first got pregnant, my due date seemed forever away so I didn’t let myself focus on it but now that it’s getting closer, it’s all I think about. While I know I’ve done it before and therefore I will be able to do it again, it doesn’t mean I’m fearless.
I’m scared of the pain, of having back labor again, how fast it might happen, of my husband missing it, of no one answering their phones and not having anyone to watch our son, not making it to the hospital, having a highway baby, emergency interventions, something going wrong…
Not being able to control it is difficult for someone who is a planner.
While I’m sure these worries are normal, I don’t want them to consume me like they have been. I realized recently that I can’t live the last weeks of my pregnancy this way. I want to enjoy this final stretch since this is likely going to be my last time being pregnant. I can’t wait for this little guy to be in our lives but until then, I don’t want to worry every second anticipating how he will get here. In fact, I want to be excited about labor and delivery instead of dreading it!
I’m determined to avoid all the panic and fear this time, especially now that I’ve been learning more about how that can actually stall labor and make it more painful. So, I started reading Ina May Gaskin’s ‘Guide to Childbirth’ as a way to hopefully empower myself. I know I can’t control anything but my mindset, and the more I read about the mind/body connection, the more I realize it should not be underestimated.
Some of the birth stories are a little ‘out there’ for me, but one thing I’m liking so far about the book is that they call contractions “rushes”. Contraction literally means to get smaller, when what you want is to open up in labor. Another thing I find comforting is how she explains that pain from labor is different than pain from injury. Pain from an injury or illness is a signal that something is wrong with your body. Yes, contractions hurt but it means your body is working hard to do what it’s supposed to do. I am going to have to repeat that to myself over and over.
I hope this time by visualizing the right things, I won’t be as scared of the pain I’m feeling, especially if I understand exactly what’s happening.
I also signed up for prenatal yoga to ease my anxiety. Yoga has always been a huge stress reliever for me, plus stretching out my muscles in preparation isn’t a bad idea either. Great for the mind and body. I didn’t do anything for myself like this when I was pregnant with Sebastien; now I wish I had.
Finally, I’m just really hoping that everything will just feel more familiar this time instead of new and scary. The truth is, nobody knows how it will go. All I know is worrying about it is just a waste of energy and ultimately won’t change the outcome. Giving birth is inevitable, and I know from experience that the reward will be worth it!
I just wish my husband could take this one, since I did the last one. 😉
xo – Bri
[photo credit: Witzia Schafer]