Every expectant mom has reservations and anxiety when it comes to giving birth, especially at the thought of doing it naturally (without an epidural). This is precisely why I wanted to share my own natural birth story with you because I’ve been where you are, and it is possible to have a positive natural birth experience. I’m hoping my own natural birth story will provide a ray of hope for those who need it and inspiration for all moms-to-be to realize their own inner strength and capability.
No one, I mean no one, was looking forward to my daughter’s “birth day” more than me. A day that had been at least 6 years in the making. My husband and I began “trying” for a sibling for our daughter once she hit two-and-a-half years because we didn’t want our children to have large age gaps between them.
The journey to that momentous occasion wasn’t easy. My husband and I went through several failed IUI’s (intrauterine inseminations) – I’d say at least eight – and one round of IVF. Finally, we conceived through IVF. You can read about our experiences in these posts:
- My IVF Process: How We Got Our Rainbow Baby
- Making Baby #2: My Frozen Embryo Transfer Cycle Protocol
- Making Baby #2: My Frozen Embryo Transfer Experience
- Making Baby #2: My Post-Egg Retrieval Experience; Survival Tips
A Whole New Kind of Pregnancy
This pregnancy was different from my previous one from the very beginning. There were several things that led me to believe I would deliver early and not have to be induced like I was with my oldest daughter.
The strongest indication that things might not go as planned was my diagnosis of having a short cervix, which means that the fetus isn’t as well-protected and dilation can occur sooner than desired. This followed me throughout my entire pregnancy, and I had to take vaginal progesterone suppositories as well as being placed on pelvic rest because of it.
I was also dilated 2 centimeters as early as 34 weeks, and my baby’s head was low and pressing on my cervix for several weeks. I’d had previous conversations with my OB about my expectations for birth, and I strongly wished to avoid being induced.
Since I was induced with my first pregnancy, I felt like I was robbed of the natural birth experience. I didn’t know what it felt like to go into labor on my own. That experience made me feel like I didn’t have control of one of the most momentous occasions of my life. My OB understood my perspective and respected it.
At week 36, my weekly cervical checks began. In between doctor’s appointments, I did everything to try to get things moving. From walking to squats to eating an insane amount of dates. I even used a personal massager. Unfortunately, all of my efforts only led to inconsistent contractions that did little to dilate my cervix. Week 39 came and went with no changes.
Week 40 arrived, and I was still pregnant. That’s when my OB and I made a plan: if I didn’t go into labor on my own, we would schedule my induction for Week 41. In the end, it turned out to be Week 41 plus one day because both my OB and I wanted her to be there for the delivery. She was extremely supportive throughout my entire journey.
My OB predicted it would be quick labor and delivery, yet I was skeptical because of how my body responded to the induction medication with my oldest daughter. With her, it took 23 hours from start to finish until I was able to hold her in my arms. So nothing could have prepared me for giving birth that day let alone in a matter of hours.
Although my induction was scheduled, I had to call the hospital at 6:00 a.m. to see if a delivery room was available. Apparently, quite a few women on Long Island were having babies that day! After several calls every hour, followed by my OB calling (Yelling at them, “She’s post-date. She needs to get in NOW!”), I was finally called to come in at 1:30 p.m. for my induction.
Thankfully, I was still working, so that kept me busy while I was waiting. Plus, I didn’t waste my PTO (paid time off). I’d need it all for when I went on maternity leave. After I logged out of work, I drove myself to the hospital. Yup. I. Drove. My. Self. My husband, who knew the day was coming, wasn’t showered or ready. 🙄
At the Hospital
1:45 p.m. – I arrived at the hospital. After being checked in, we got in our room around 2:45 p.m.
3:12 p.m. – The nurse got everything reading and I was started on IVs. I had my initial vaginal exam and was 3-4 cm dilated and 80-90% effaced.
3:50 p.m. – They gave me my first dose of Pitocin
4:11 p.m. – I was given antibiotics since I had tested positive for Group B Strep. IV antibiotics were required to prevent the baby from becoming infected. I could immediately taste the antibiotic in my mouth. (It was gross).
In between this time, my husband snuck in our oldest for a visit. The hospital didn’t allow visitors (even siblings) in the Labor & Delivery unit. After she left, I was asked if I’d want an epidural. I declined since I wasn’t feeling any pain, even though the monitors showed I was having strong contractions. The nurses were shocked, and they called my OB for further instructions – whether to increase Pitocin or not.
5:43 p.m. – I was 4 centimeters dilated and 90% effaced. The nurses gave me a little more Pitocin.
The Night Shift
7:00 p.m. My nurse changed to Lisa Lopez. A previous nurse informed her of my status. Up until then, I was fine…and then not too long afterward, things quickly changed. My contractions got much stronger and more intense. It was crazy how rapidly everything started progressing!
When the doctor came in to check me, she said, “Wow, you look a lot different from when I last came in a few minutes ago.” I was hot and sweating from the pain. The contractions were so strong, I could see my stomach tightening around the baby. It looked like something from an alien movie.
At this point, I asked for an epidural. Unbeknownst to me, I asked about an hour too late. At first, I was told the anesthesiologist was with someone else and he would come to me shortly. Little did I know, this was the nurse’s way of trying to keep me calm because they already knew it was too late.
The pain intensified, and I asked for an epidural again.
The Urge to Poop Brings on a Baby
At one point in between contractions, I told my nurse I felt like I had to poop. That’s when she went to get a doctor. I overheard them discussing whether or not to call my OB, who was a five-minute drive away having dinner with her family. She was confident I wasn’t going to give birth until later that evening, and not when I had.
For those of you who aren’t aware, the urge to poop is a sign you’re ready to push. My best friend told me that’s what it would feel like, and she was right. I repeatedly expressed to my nurse that I needed to poop. The urge was OVERWHELMING! The only relief was to push. I had to do what my body was telling me to.
Where is Everybody?
The nurses were very accommodating during this phase of my labor. They allowed me to move and change positions when I asked so that I could be comfortable. It helped move things along more easily too. If I’d had an epidural, I wouldn’t have been able to do that.
The contractions continued to intensify. My husband wasn’t yet back from dropping my daughter at her grandma’s.
My doctor wasn’t there… That made me nervous.
The nurse asked me to call my husband in between contractions, and I did. He was on the parkway not far away. I kept telling the nurse if he didn’t make it, I’d kill him. She said “You’re not going to do anything except have this baby. Now, tell me an affirmation you usually tell yourself.”
Caught off guard and in pain, I responded, “I don’t have one.” She said, “How about, I’m a strong Black woman?” If I’m being honest, it sounded so cliche at the moment, and I felt silly saying it.
To be honest, I was SCARED to give birth without any medication. My plan was to have an epidural, but God planned things a little differently. I was about to have a natural birth.
I think I even asked if I was going to have to give birth without one. The doctor and nurse looked at me, empathetically shaking their heads yes. However, they were confident I could do it. I mean, I’m not the first woman to have a natural unmedicated birth, right?
The Sensations and Feverish Intensity of Unmedicated Birth
As I was pushing, my husband strolled in like I wasn’t in the middle of pushing out our baby. I vaguely remember him pointing to himself when the nurse and the attending doctor told him to hurry and come in. A few minutes later, my doctor arrived. By that time, the baby’s head was peaking out. Everything went so quickly, and I paid attention to the cues my body was giving me.
It felt natural to just push, and I felt that pushing was the only way I would get relief. It was easier this time around. My body just did what it was supposed to do. Apparently, pooping during childbirth is a thing – a good thing. It means you’re pushing correctly, and I did it. I pushed my baby out with the sac intact in about 10 minutes. She was healthy and breathtakingly perfect.
During labor, I tore off my gown. I was NAKED, and quite frankly, I didn’t care. I got so hot that I took off my very expensive glasses and flung them somewhere. The heat was so overwhelming that I didn’t want anything on me. I kept repeating, “I need a cold. I need a cold.”
Nurses drenched a towel in ice-cold water and rang it out over me, which helped tremendously. I requested oxygen to help manage the pain, but it didn’t help. I ended up tearing my mask off. I also sat on my phone the entire time, apparently. My husband found it under my butt covered in sweat. I can say, it was not my most dignified hour.
Have you heard people talk about the “ring of fire”? I can’t say that I felt that, but I also didn’t feel the doctor stitching me up afterward, either. I’ll chalk that up to the adrenaline.
Related: What You Need to Know About Natural Birth
I’m Finally Holding My Rainbow Baby
We welcomed our baby girl into the world on February 20, 2020, at 7:59 p.m. She was a perfect 6 lbs, 15.6 oz, and measured 19 inches long.
I requested delayed cord clamping for personal reasons, and my baby girl was immediately laid on my chest for skin-to-skin. It was such an amazing feeling. Again, it was a completely different experience from my first time giving birth, where they gave my oldest daughter to my husband first. This time, I held her for as long as the nurses allowed me to. I didn’t want to let her go! The nurses practically had to pry her away so she could be weighed and measured. Here she was, my sweet miracle baby.
My labor lasted less than 4 hours, from the beginning of my induction until the moment I pushed her out. It may not seem like it, but that was quick! Even my doctor, who was sure I would have a quick and easy delivery, was surprised by that timing.
Accidental Unmedicated Birth
I gave birth without an epidural because my pain tolerance is high, and I didn’t realize I was in active labor due to my previous induction.
It’s typically harder to have an unmedicated birth with induction because Pitocin makes the contractions faster and more intense. With my first daughter, I could not tolerate the pain at all. I believe the difference between my two birthing experiences was that my body just wasn’t ready with my oldest daughter.
I say that because, at the time of induction, my cervix was long and closed. I had to have medication (Cervidil) to first ripen my cervix, and then lots of Pitocin to get contractions going to help open it up. It was a long process – 23 hours. Eight hours of that time was spent unmedicated, and I felt every contraction.
Yes, I Would do it Again!
I’ve been through two very different labors. If given the choice between having an epidural or going without, I would definitely choose an unmedicated birth again.
As I process this birth and the journey that led to this moment, I feel so much gratitude for every struggle that I experienced along the way. I couldn’t see it at the time, but all of the tears, pain, and heartache were worth it. Not only did my birth journey teach me many invaluable lessons, but it also gave me the strength and determination to push through what felt like an impossible situation.
If you’re currently facing this decision and want to reach out, please contact me. You are stronger than you think you are, and you’re going to make a wonderful mother.