Natural childbirth is by far the most exhilarating experience I have ever had. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that something as simple as childbirth and motherhood could have a greater “thrill factor” than all the other things I’ve done.
My husband Dave and I took the HypnoBirthing class because my sister had taken it a few years earlier and recommended it. I was pretty sure I could cope with the discomfort of labor and childbirth, based on my marathon experience and the fact that my mother had done it eight times herself. I was surprised to discover that no marathon could’ve ever prepared me for my labor experience. As a first-time mom, I figured I’d be in labor for 12-24 hours, that I’d do most of the labor at home and get to the hospital when I was dilated to a 7 or 8 and push for maybe two hours and have a 6- or 7-pounder. I had been really diligent about exercise during pregnancy; I ran four times a week until the day before I went into labor, and I felt strong and healthy.
A few days after my “due date” I had an appointment with my midwife (on Friday afternoon). She checked my cervix and found that I was almost completely effaced but not yet dilated. I figured I’d go into labor the next week. Well, that night, I started feeling the cramping, and after a bit I realized there was actually some regularity to it and that it was labor. I followed the advice of the midwives and just tried to rest. I fell asleep for a few hours but then awoke at about 1:30 and was awake for the rest of the night. I was able to kind of doze between surges, and I just focused on relaxing and conserving my energy for later on. I got out of bed around 6 a.m. and started timing surges. They were between 3 and 5 minutes apart and were close to a minute long. I figured my body was making some progress. I tried to just do normal stuff throughout the day and at the same time keep things low-key so I didn’t waste any energy.
We finally decided to head to the hospital at around 10:30 on Saturday night, and by the time we walked through the doors, surges were 2-3 minutes apart and 1.5 minutes long. Surely, I must be close to delivery, I thought. The nurse checked me and informed me that I was dilated to 1/2 cm. “That’s it??” I thought. After all, I had been in labor for over 25 hours at that point. Fortunately they didn’t insist on admitting me, but they did suggest I get an injection to help me sleep. I was worried about the effect it might have on the baby, especially on alertness after birth, but they said it would wear off in 4-6 hours. After much deliberation, Dave and I decided I should get the shot. It didn’t stop the surges, but it sure made me sleep.
I woke up feeling rested, and, of course, the surges had not abated. Sunday was pretty much a repeat of Saturday—surges were long and intense, and then they would kind of fizzle for a bit, but not enough to allow me to sleep. I just did my deep breathing and relaxation during surges, and I kept changing positions. We did a bit of hypnosis here and there, and I spent some time in the jetted tub.
By around midnight, I was getting worn out again. Dave and my mom thought that I must be close to having the baby, but I thought it would just be a repeat of the previous night, and I thought, “This is going to go on for weeks, and I’ll have to go in every night and get a shot. How lame!!” So off we went to the hospital again, with surges at 2-3 minutes apart and about 1.5 minutes long AGAIN. And when the nurses examined me, they said, “You’re dilated to 1 cm” and I felt so let down. So I just wanted them to give me the shot so I could go home and sleep. They needed to get a 20-minute read on the fetal monitor before they could do that though, so they hooked me up and made me lie on the bed in the same position. It was hard enough to keep the monitor in place during surges for the initial 20 minutes, but then they said, “Although your baby’s heart rate is in the normal range (140s-150s), we aren’t seeing much fluctuation, and we want to make sure we get a read on the baby while it’s awake.” So they had me drink some apple juice to “wake up the baby,” which makes me nauseated on an empty stomach, and they kept me on the monitor for an hour and a half. Because I wasn’t free to move into more comfortable positions during surges, I began losing the ability to concentrate and cope with the discomfort. My legs were convulsing and I started going into shock. I was crying and told Dave I couldn’t do it. I didn’t feel any confidence in myself anymore. Dave became my hero at this point as he covered me with a blanket and softly rubbed my shoulders and hummed hymns until I calmed down. Without his level-headed support at this time, I would not have been able to get through my darkest hour of labor. I am so grateful for the best labor support I could’ve had.
They finally took me off the monitor, and they checked my cervix once more (and boy, was I ready to go home by then!), and voila I was dilated to 3.5 cm. They said they were going to admit me, and I was kind of disappointed because I figured I wouldn’t be progressing through the rest of labor very quickly, and being in the hospital would just mean that I had to go through a sleepless night. So I was admitted at 2:30 a.m. and they called my midwife, Claudia. Once I was in my room, I was able to move around freely; I changed positions from sitting on the birthing ball to squatting on my birthing stool (Dave made me a birthing stool!) to being on all fours to sitting in the jetted tub. Claudia was great—when the nurses came in every half hour to get the 5-minute read on the fetal monitor, she made sure they didn’t keep it on for too long or make me get into an uncomfortable position (e.g. lying down on the bed). She said she’d be happy to check my cervix at whatever intervals I chose. Amazingly, my labor began progressing at a “normal” rate—I had Claudia check me every hour or so, and I was dilating at least 1 cm per hour—there were no more labor stalls. Dave was wonderful labor support. He rubbed my back and did hypnosis when I needed it. We were able to work through the whole dilation stage of labor with no hiccups.
Claudia then announced that I was dilated to 10 cm at about 8:15 a.m. She said that if I pushed slightly during the next surge, I could probably rupture my membranes, which I did. I asked Claudia about pushing the baby out (since HypnoBirthing teaches to “breathe the baby down” and not push), and she said I should do whatever felt right to my body. And in my case, pushing felt right, so I started pushing at 8:34. After a grand total of 59.5 hours of labor including just 8 minutes of pushing, our 8 lb. 12 oz. baby was born at 8:42 a.m. Dave got to announce, “It’s a girl!” and cut the cord (after it stopped pulsating, of course). She was immediately placed on my belly so she could bond with her elated parents. I was also able to breastfeed her at this time. We spent about an hour and a half together as a family before everything got cleaned up.
Natural childbirth is the most amazing experience I’ve ever had. I am so overcome with gratitude for the factors that allowed Sariah’s birth to play out the way it did—first, my husband and his unfailing support, both in preparing for the birth in the preceding months by practicing relaxation and hypnosis, and during labor and birth; second, having a supportive and competent midwife who made it a priority to make our experience a natural one, not a medical one, and stick to what we had outlined in our birth plan; third, my body felt healthy and strong because I had run during my entire pregnancy; fourth, I wasn’t strep B positive so I was able to do most of my labor at home; and fifth, my membranes didn’t rupture until I was complete. I might also add that I had two midwives who assisted with the birth. Claudia was supposed to be off duty at 8:00, when the other midwife, Amy, arrived. Claudia was nice enough to stay though, and the two of them were fantastic. I am thrilled to join the ranks of HypnoBirthing moms.