Editor’s note: We believe that all birth stories and all birth experiences matter. This post is part of an ongoing series of birth stories submitted by readers and fellow bloggers, featuring a diverse range of women and their birth experiences. Today I’m sharing Amber’s story of the natural and unmedicated delivery of her 36-week-old baby girl. If you would like to share your own birth story, please visit this post to learn how. ~Olivia
“Be prepared, but know that things do not always go according to plan.”
That was the general “warning” I received throughout all of my preparation for my natural, unmedicated childbirth. Little did I know that would end up being a description of my birth story.
At 36 weeks, 1 day, I woke up around 5:00 A.M. to use the bathroom. When I laid back down in bed to get some more sleep before getting up for the day, I had a contraction. In the 2 weeks prior to this, I had experienced a bit of Braxton-Hicks contractions. I don’t really know how to explain this contraction, except that it just felt different. It was not painful but uncomfortable. Still thinking that maybe it was a Braxton-Hicks contraction, I tried changing positions, walking around and drinking a cold glass of water. The contractions did not stop. At one point, I decided to start timing them. They were not very close together: 25-30 minutes apart.
Since my 36 week appointment was scheduled for 11:50 A.M. that day, my husband decided he would go to work and try to get as much done as possible just in case I was in labor. I continued to have contractions all morning, but I did not really time them because I knew they were not close together.
I left for my doctor’s appointment around 11:25 A.M. that morning, and I remember specifically having one contraction on the way there (looking back it probably was not the best idea to drive myself, even though they were mild and I was not in pain). While I was waiting, I had at least 2 contractions and another once I was back in the room. I did not really think about it at that time, but that meant the contractions were getting somewhat closer together (at least 4 within an hour).
The doctor examined me. She said I was not really dilated at all, maybe ½ cm, and I was around 50% effaced. She acted very nonchalant about my contractions and said maybe it meant something and maybe it didn’t, and that cramps and pains were very normal at this stage of labor. She told me the medical staff would not try to stop labor at this point in my pregnancy and, basically, just see what happens. I was pretty surprised by this reaction. I called my husband and told him, and he decided to stay at work for the day unless something major happened. I also updated my birth doula, who told me to stop timing anything unless they seem to seem pretty close together because I would drive myself crazy.
I spent the rest of the afternoon just lounging at home and watching television. I continued to have contractions. By late afternoon, some of the contractions were getting a bit more painful and uncomfortable but still pretty mild.
My husband got home from work around 5:00 P.M. We just hung out, ate dinner, and then he installed our infant car seat, just in case I was in labor. Around 6:30-7:00 that evening, I had a contraction that was a lot stronger and more painful. I went to use the bathroom and noticed I started losing my mucus plug. At that moment, I kind of freaked out because I had been contracting all day and now was losing my mucus plug, and I knew I was probably in labor (although I was still not 100% positive it was happening). I was also worried because I was still pre-term.
After speaking with my birth doula again, she told me this was most likely labor and to finish getting whatever we needed to get ready and to call her when the contractions were closer together. My husband got our car seat installed, and we decided to go for a walk. We also went to our local grocery store to get snacks for the hospital. I was having contractions during all of this. They were more painful, to the point where I sometimes had to kind of stop what I was doing for a couple seconds, but they still were very manageable. I also continued to lose my mucus plug throughout the contractions.
In an effort to try to get some rest, my husband and I decided to go to bed around 10:00 P.M. that night and see what happened. Shortly after we got into bed, I had a pretty painful contraction followed up shortly by another painful contraction and one more shortly after that. I then woke my husband and told him what was going on. I timed for an hour, and my contractions were every 5 minutes and lasted about a minute. They were painful at this point, and I was trying to use the pain management techniques I had learned about, which were not really helping me much.
At that point, I knew I was in active labor, and I woke my husband. He called our birth doula, and she said she would start getting ready to head over to our apartment. Everything after this, time wise, is kind of a blur to me. I was having horrible back labor. After about 1 ½ hours-2 hours of contractions, they turned into 2-3 minutes apart. By the time my birth doula got to my apartment, the contractions were closer to 2 minutes apart. I was in so much pain, and I was also nauseous. My doula decided we should leave for the hospital because I seemed to be progressing through active labor so quickly and she thought it would be best for us to get to the hospital and get in the room to start utilizing pain management techniques.
Again, the timing is a blur to me, but I believe we got to the hospital between 3:15-3:30 A.M. I was 4 cm dilated when I was first examined at the hospital. While I was in Triage, the nurse discovered my blood pressure was extremely high. I was kept in Triage and not sent to a Labor and Delivery room. To this day I do not really understand why, but my best guess is they were afraid my baby would be in distress and I would have an emergency c-section.
I spent the rest of my labor in Triage, hooked up to a fetal monitor and blood pressure cuff, unable to move around or get into various positions, and not being able to utilize any of the pain management techniques I had planned on using (tub/shower, stability ball, squat bar, walking, etc.). I had horrible back labor and laid on my side pretty much the entire time. My husband and doula did hip compressions to try to alleviate some of my pain. About an hour after I arrived, I was at 6 cm dilated. I vividly remember going through transition and what that felt like, which was so painful then but so awesome.
Around 5:15 A.M. (again the exact timing details are a blur), I had these contractions that almost made me feel as if my body was convulsing. My doula asked me if I was ready to push, to which I answered “I don’t know.” She immediately left the room to get a nurse, and my water broke. The nurse checked me, and I was fully dilated and ready to push. I was then rushed to a Labor and Delivery room (finally).
Once there, I was asked what position I wanted to push in. I chose to stay on my side because that had been the most comfortable position for me during my labor. I had to wait for my doctor to get there, which was kind of annoying, so my husband was helping me breathe through the contractions and not push. Finally, after about 15-20 minutes of pushing, my beautiful baby girl was born. She was born at 36 weeks, 2 days at 5:47 A.M., weighing 5lbs. 5oz. and 19 in. long. Thankfully, she was completely healthy and had no problems.
Having a natural, unmedicated birth was very important to me. I spent a lot of time and effort mentally preparing for the challenge. My labor and delivery definitely did not go according to plan, since my daughter was born early, and I was stuck in Triage and unable to utilize almost everything I learned during my pregnancy. However, I am so incredibly proud of myself for not giving up and achieving my goal, especially considering the circumstances. It was most certainly a lesson in expecting the unexpected.
I plan to have at least one more child, and next time I plan to look into hypnobirthing or relaxation and pain management techniques that can be used if you are attached to a monitor, just in case I am in a similar situation where I am not able to move around much. Since I seemed to move through active labor so quickly, I also plan to go to the hospital when my contractions are 5 minutes apart because I think I will feel better knowing I am there and in a Labor and Delivery room where I can begin natural pain management before my pain gets too out of control.
Amber lives in Cincinnati, Ohio (the Queen City), with her husband, Andy, and her beautiful baby girl, Briella. She is an attorney at a small law firm in the greater Cincinnati area, and she primarily practices real estate/real property law. Follow Amber’s adventures in balancing motherhood, a career, and her family’s wellness at Queen City Mama. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.