“I’m so glad everything went okay for you in the end. It’s so hard to explain to other women how scary giving birth is!”
Post birth, I was a bit taken back by these words. Scary? I hadn’t found the prospect or the process of birth scary at all. It was something I was prepared for, and honestly, looking forward to. I wanted to shout to the world and explain to women how NOT scary it is. Even though things didn’t quite go according to plan for me – I had been disappointed, but never afraid. I felt very in control and in the end I even felt empowered by the whole experience.
Now, before you begin to think that I am this extremely tough Amazon of a woman who takes pleasure in pain, let’s get this straight: I hate pain. Hate it. I have an extremely low pain threshold, and I’m a renowned hypochondriac. I could never get a tattoo even if I wanted one, as I’m very likely to faint when I get a small injection or a blood test taken. I can have a little cold and will act like I’m dying. Dr. Google has sent me into hysterics and the doctor’s office many a time – simply for me to find that the fatal diagnosis is merely a matter of a common cold or a bit of trapped gas (very sad, but unfortunately very true). Because of this, I had always thought that I would find labour extremely difficult – bordering on the unbearable.
Before I became pregnant, the birthing process wasn’t something I allowed myself to dwell on for very long at all. I would talk about it with others freely, but I would never think of myself going through it. When I became pregnant, however, the reality hit me, and I realised that I was going to have to face it in the end.
But how was I going to face it?
Here’s another fun fact about me: I also hate taking any kind of medication. Ironic, is it not? While having some mild symptoms may cause me to think my life is at stake, taking medication of any kind is enough to convince me that it is. More often than not I would rather suffer than to take pain medication.
I know, I’m strange – but it was these two sides to my being playing together in perfect discord that caused me to seek out alternatives to the pain medications commonly offered during the birthing process. I had read about epidurals, how they made it difficult to know when to push and increased the risk of tearing, an assisted delivery, or a cesarean. You also need to have a catheter inserted when you have a cesarean – something I’m honestly more afraid of than pain (it’s just a thing with me, I don’t get it either). I had also read that the baby could have traces of the medication in his system for a while after birth, affecting the baby’s ability to breastfeed. That was something I definitely didn’t want.
So after some research and long and careful thought, I decided I wanted to aim for as natural a delivery as possible. Whatever other people chose to do was fine with me, but this was what I wanted.
I told my midwife (whom I met at 36 weeks because we traveled from Singapore to my home country, Australia, to give birth), and she was very supportive. “Just tell them when you go in that you want a natural delivery, and they won’t even try to offer it to you.” Excellent. I was determined.
I had told myself the whole pregnancy that my baby was going to come early because I’d stayed so active, but at 39 weeks and 6 days my due date was looming and as yet nothing had happened. Looming due dates carry with them the threat of inducement and caesareans. I didn’t want either. I was feeling the pressure. Every time I saw someone they would comment on how long the baby was taking (even though he wasn’t even due yet!). Every, “Are you still here yet?” rocked me to my core. I didn’t want to still be rocking my baby bump. I felt like my body was letting me down.
I had been having quite strong contractions (or what I thought at the time were strong contractions – more like persistent period pain, radiating from the back to the front and lasting for about 1 minute at a time, but 15-60 minutes apart) for 2 weeks. At times the contractions had come so close together (7 minutes apart for 4 hours straight) that I was sure I was properly going into labour… but then they would just die down and I’d be left wondering when the real thing would take place. Because of the contractions, I was sure that I wouldn’t make it to this last appointment – yet there I sat, the day before my due date, meeting with the midwife. She examined me to see if my cervix had dilated at all. I absolutely hate vaginal examinations – and this was a painful examination, bringing on a rather intense contraction like no other contraction I had felt so far. I was reduced to sobs.
“Your cervix is thinning, but it hasn’t opened at all yet,” she explained, “The contractions are doing what they are supposed to be doing, it’s just happening slowly. I suspect it’ll start in the next couple of days – but you have until 10 days after your due date before we’ll induce you.”
Since I had been having all the contractions I was certain I would have dilated at least a little, but I hadn’t. There were now only 10 days before they would induce me. I had heard that an induction increased the intensity of the contractions and the risk of needing assistance. I didn’t want to be induced. I was determined that my body would make things happen naturally.
As lovely and sympathetic as my midwife was about the whole affair, I left the appointment sobbing and in low spirits. I hadn’t dilated at all, and there was the possibility that I would go overdue and need an induction. This wasn’t what I wanted. This wasn’t what I had prepared my body for. I was devastated by the fact that I wouldn’t be delivering by my due date, and in some twisted way I felt like a failure because of it. I was letting my baby down. I wasn’t strong enough.
Later that day my mucus plug came out. The midwife had said this might happen, since she went poking around down there. This is good,” I told myself, “this means that the delivery will be soon. Probably tonight.”
I went to a Bible study later that night. Everyone said they were surprised to see me. I groaned inwardly. I didn’t want to still be there. I wanted my body to start pushing this baby out now.
A few more days passed, and it was now 4 days past my delivery date. I had my bloody show, but still no more intense contractions. Throughout the night I had had quite a bit of bleeding, so to be sure I called the midwife. As we suspected they called us in, just to be sure. It was 4:30am. We were both sure it was probably nothing serious and we would be back in the morning, but we took the hospital bag just in case.
They set me up on the heart rate monitor and had a look at my bleeding. The bleeding was nothing to worry about, they said – but they would need to check my heart rate for 20 minutes as part of protocol.
About 10 minutes into the observation I had a contraction, and we listened in horror as the baby’s heart rate dropped dramatically. The midwife looked worried. “We’re going to have to keep you in, and see if that happens again. If it happens again, we’re going to have to look at giving you a caesarean.”
No no no. That wasn’t what I wanted. Tears rolled down my cheeks. “You just need to remember that having a healthy baby is what matters.” My husband said calmly as he massaged my shoulder.
Just then I started to feel another contraction creeping up, and we all held our breath as the nurse watched the read out intently. Thankfully this time the baby’s heart rate stayed stable.
“Ok, you won’t need a caesarean!” The midwife said as I let out a sigh of relief, “Now just let me examine you to see if you have dilated, and you can go on your way.”
I couldn’t think of anything worse at this point (I hate those examinations!), but I was ready to go and have a coffee and breakfast now. I tried to take my mind off of the whole process by talking about what we would have for breakfast afterwards while she probed – because, you know, breakfast and vaginal examinations are such great topics to throw together. Unfortunately my concentration was cut off by a particularly painful contraction mid examination.
“Your waters have broken,” the midwife said calmly.
“What?!” I exclaimed, “but I didn’t even feel them break!”
“I can’t feel the water bag. It must have broken.”
My heart sank. I knew what this meant.
“We’re going to have to induce you. This baby has to come out today.”
And with that, I was whisked off to the birthing suite. I guess I was going to be staying after all.
I had no idea what to expect. Induction had not been a part of my plan, so I didn’t research much on it. All I knew (from what I had been told) was that it was going to be more intense and painful – but since I had nothing to compare it to, I was fine with that. I mean, birth is intense and painful anyway right? I was disappointed with the fact this was happening, but I wasn’t afraid. I was so ready.
Actually, I take that back. I was frightened and annoyed – with the drip that I had to have put in. Yeah, that’s right – the drip. I was hooked up to a drip and I hated it. What can I say? I hate needles and things hanging out of me – which is mostly the reason I was so against having an epidural.
I was hooked up to a drip and the induction started around 9:30am.
The midwife assigned to me, Jane, was a kind but thorough woman. She had a “no-nonsense” air about her, but at the same time I could tell she was one who understood and was sympathetic to what I was going through. I was so glad she was going to be there the whole time.
“We’re going to have to do the internal examination again…” She started.
“Oh, please no!” I groaned, “They just did one!”
“Yes, but I really need to check for myself.” She explained.
“I’d really love it if I didn’t have to have another one.” I pleaded.
“Well, we’ll see – but if there’s still some water bag left you aren’t going to be able to push out this baby,” she said, and she proceeded to call the head midwife.
The head midwife came in to explain the whole procedure to me, and when she had finished, said, “Now, I really think you should consider an epidural…”
“I don’t want an epidural,” I came back quickly.
“Look, these contraction are going to come thick and fast. I’m going to keep turning this up until you are in full labour. Four contractions every ten minutes. This baby has to come today.”
“I don’t want an epidural,” I insisted. I was getting angry now.
“Seeing the way you reacted to having another internal examination, you really should consider pain medication.” She insisted.
“Look…” I began, but before I could voice my convictions again, my husband now came to my defense. “Look, my wife hates examinations. She may not seem tough, and she might cry, but she’s a lot tougher than she looks.”
At that moment I was so thankful for my husband being there to be my voice. Honestly, so much love.
The head midwife left, and I was left with Jane. “I don’t want to be asked about having an epidural again.” I said, ” It’s ruining my concentration.”
“I respect that,” Jane said, “You won’t be asked again.”
The head midwife came back in to go ahead with the internal examination. “Since you hate examinations so much, how about just taking the gas?” She suggested.
I knew the examination was going to be a bad experience for me, and the contractions were coming quicker now – so that gas tube started to look real good. Besides, the gas would leave my body right away anyway – I could just use it for the examination.
“Okay,” I sighed.
The midwives ran about getting the gas ready and started explaining to me how to use it.
“Wait, what?” the instructions all became a blur to me just as soon as they were out of the midwives mouths, “Wait, never mind. I can’t be bothered with it and I don’t want it. This isn’t part of my plan.”
I breathed deeply in and out to relax myself, as my husband rubbed my shoulder. I knew this was going to be bad. The contractions were fairly consistent now, and chances were I was going to have a contraction while they were examining me. I knew from my previous experience that that was particularly unpleasant. I took deep breaths and readied myself. “This is okay,” I reassured myself, “You are going to be okay. It’s going to be over quickly.”
The midwives examined me, “Your waters haven’t completely broken. I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to break them, or this baby isn’t coming out.” They went in with a little tool and broke my waters (after the expected, painful contraction had passed), and the waters gushed out over me and the bed in one big rush. It actually felt like such a pleasant relief.
I was still really hungry at this point, so after things were settled, I told my husband to go get us both some breakfast. I knew he especially was going to need something to eat if he was going to stay there and be my support. Almost as soon as he left however, the contractions started to get really close together. By the time he returned, labour was in full swing (four contractions every ten minutes) and I wasn’t hungry at all. In fact, I felt quite nauseous.
Hubby never did get to eat his breakfast.
At this point, I felt very in control. Every time I felt a contraction coming I would breath very slowly and deeply in – and then slowly let the air out. In between contractions I would chat and laugh with the midwives (various midwives came in and out to assist), walk around, and try different positions. Though in the beginning I tried using the ball and walked around a lot, I ended up mostly either kneeling on the bed leaning against the back or laying on my side with my knees curled up. During the contractions my husband would speak to me while rubbing my back or stroking my head.
Things changed rapidly. Suddenly I didn’t want to be touched and I didn’t want to change positions. Now I didn’t feel in control – I felt like I wasn’t going through it at all. I felt like I was in a world of my own. People were coming and going, and although I could hear what was going on, they made no difference to me. I lay on my side with my knees curled up, and during each contraction I continued to breathe deeply in and out – eyes closed, stroking my fingers through my hair or rubbing my own back, and muttering to myself like a crazy person, “This is good. This is good. Baby is coming! Just think about it!”
In between the contractions I fell asleep. There wasn’t much time between contractions, but each time I fell asleep. I was exhausted. A few times I muttered to my husband, “I feel like a drunk person. I feel like I’m on drugs.” I felt like I was on drugs. Like I was having an out of body experience, and the pain was not my own, but someone else’s.
At one point another midwife came in. As I was having a contraction she got in my face, “Just breathe…”
“I AM breathing! Leave me alone!” I yelled. I found her advice annoying and it was making me lose concentration. I did apologise for yelling after the contraction.
I couldn’t tell how much time had passed since labour begun (it honestly felt like no time at all), but around the 4 hour mark, things got more intense.
“I need to PUSH!” I yelled, “There’s so much PRESSURE!”
“This is good!” the midwife said, “but don’t push yet, your body isn’t ready. You’ll know when it is.”
“But it feels ready nooooow.” I wailed. It went on like that for a while. I was so frustrated with not being able to push yet, as the pressure was terrible. As I had through the whole thing, I just kept breathing deeply – in and out.
Before long (though waiting felt like an eternity) it came time to push. The position I chose was the one I had adopted the majority of the time – laying on my side with my knees drawn up. Every contraction was accompanied by a loud “PUSH!” from several midwives.
As I kept pushing, more midwives began to stream in to help, and they even called the doctor in.
Something wasn’t right.
“You need to get this baby out. Just a few good pushes and you got this. You’ve been pushing for an hour. Your baby is getting distressed.”
An hour? Had it really been an hour? It didn’t feel like it. I didn’t want to have any assistance, so through three more contractions I pushed with all my might. On the last contraction, the baby’s heart rate dipped dangerously low.
“This baby has to come out.” the doctor explained calmly, “He’s been in the birth canal too long. He’s getting distressed. I’m going to have to make a small cut and vacuum him out.” They went about the preparations, gave me a local to the perineum, made the cut, and placed the vacuum on his head, creating some tension.
What followed was the most excruciating few minutes of my life.
“THE CONTRACTION WON’T COME!” I screamed. “MAKE IT COME!”
While I was cut and they were pulling slightly on his head, the urge to push wouldn’t come, and the pressure was terrible. In all of my labour, this was honestly the only part that felt truly unbearable.
After what seemed like an eternity, the last contraction came and I pushed with all my might. At 3:33pm, I caught the first glimpse of my boy as they held him up, and thought my heart might explode.
“He’s perfect,” my husband said as he kissed me through heavy sobs, “He’s beautiful. You did so well, honey. Our boy is so perfect.”
Because his heart rate had dropped so low, they had to take him to check him over. They started to stitch me up, but all I could think of was my baby. I was still feeling quite high, and kept saying over and over, “Can I have my baby? I just want my baby.”
They finally placed him on my chest to breast feed. We watched in awe with hearts bursting as our newborn son crawled up from my belly to take a feed. We stayed that way for one full hour before I gave him to my husband to hold and I went to have a shower. Birth is very messy business.
After my shower they brought me something to eat – which by now I was very thankful for. I hadn’t eaten all day, and I was starving. As I ate I began to feel the hormones that had carried me through labour begin to leave me, and my body come down off the high I had been on. I was left feeling exhausted, my body aching, like I had run a marathon. Suddenly I wasn’t feeling so brave. I just wanted to curl up and sleep. We moved to the maternity ward to settle in.
Before my husband left for the night, he turned to me with tears in his eyes, “This is the best day of my life. I’m sorry, but I think it’s even better than the day we got married. I feel so much more in love with you than the day we married. I’m feeling so much love. It’s like there was a plug in my emotions, and that has been pulled out. I feel like I am a completely different person. I’m so excited to be starting a family with you.”
Everyone tells you exactly what you will feel when your baby is born, but you really can’t understand it until it happens. That overwhelming love you feel when you gaze on your newborn – nothing can describe it, and nothing can prepare you for it.
Like my husband had said, I felt like I had changed into a completely different person. I couldn’t stop looking at our baby, crying tears of happiness, and praying to God – thanking Him for giving me such a perfect baby boy, and asking for wisdom to be the mother he needed.
I knew that this was only the beginning.
Even though things didn’t go entirely the way I planned, I was still able to have a positive birthing experience and not be afraid in the process. Because I didn’t want to have pain medication, I looked up how the method of “hypno birthing” worked and kind of created my own coping mechanism. Here are some simple things that helped me:
How to Lose the Fear of Labour:
1. Think of delivery positively. Every time your mind wanders to think about your delivery, force it to think of it in only a positive way. Say things to yourself like, “Women have been doing this for thousands of years and have been okay,” “God made my body to give birth to a baby, it knows what to do,” “I am strong enough,” and, “It may be painful, but it’s only for a day.”
2. Ready yourself for complications. I can’t say I was particularly ready for complications, but I had my mind so set to cope with the labour that I was able to find it a positive experience despite all the complications and interventions. Tell yourself that you will fight for your rights to a natural-as-possible birth, but in the end it is the health of the baby that matters.
3. Educate yourself. At first I avoided birth stories, thinking they would scare me, but I started to read them and found that knowledge was power. They encouraged me. It helped me realise that things could go “wrong” and still be okay. It helped me to know different situations and not to stress about them. I would recommend going to Birth Without Fear and reading some positive birth stories with different scenarios!
4. Relax. Stress is the enemy of a natural birth, as stress inhibits the natural “feel-good” hormones that your body releases to help you cope with pain. The more relaxed you are, the less pain you are likely to feel.
5. Breathe. Whenever you think of labour, practice breathing. In-two-three, Out-two three. Think happy thoughts and take deep breaths. These will calm you, and because you have practiced, it will come naturally during labour.
6. Get support. Have a birth partner who knows what you want and can vouch for you and your birth plan when you aren’t feeling so lucid. There were times when I was completely out of it, and it was so reassuring to know hubby would stand up for me. Even if you have to get a doula, having a support is extremely valuable. I honestly don’t know how I would have stayed calm without my husband’s full attention and support!
7. Give yourself good thoughts to focus on during labour. I told myself to think of contractions as a good thing, telling myself whenever the pain began to feel too much, “This is good, with each contraction, the baby comes closer.” I also gave myself scriptures to think of, such as Psalm 113 and John 16:21. These spoke to me that God keeps His promises and has great power, and that sorrow in labour is only for a moment and is quickly forgotten. I said these to myself in my head during labour.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:20, 21).
“Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised! The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 113)
8. Pray. Pray specifically for how you want your labour to go – I wish I had done more of this. I prayed for a healthy baby, and for “things to go well,” but I didn’t pray for the specifics of how I wanted the birth to go down. Pray specifically for what you want to happen. Often things are a case of, “you have not because you ask not” (James 4:2).
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