The transition from having a baby inside your belly to having a baby on top of your belly is an amazing and exhausting experience. My mom had four natural births, and I grew up on a farm around sheep giving birth to lambs every spring, so I assumed that I would do natural birth as well.
When I was six months pregnant, I came across more information about the Bradley method of natural childbirth (see more at: The Bradley Method Website), and my husband and I signed up for a class that ended on November 14. The empowerment I felt from learning how labor functions and how my body works during labor gave me strength to not hardly be afraid of the pain of giving birth to a child. Dr. Bradley believed that women can give birth naturally most of the time if they’re given support and good coaching; he designated the coach to be the baby’s father.
The Bradley Method gives you a lot more homework than most birthing classes. I had to watch my diet and eat lots of protein. I had to do daily exercises, such as Kegel exercises and pelvic rocks. My husband and I were supposed to practice relaxation techniques and labor rehearsals (these were harder to fit in because we were finishing up the floors in our home—going from old beige carpet to maple laminate floors; we did some almost every day.) We attended seven weeks of classes, up until our due date of November 7. Having to do all this homework gave me the mindset that I owned my birthing experience and could greatly influence it by my actions and attitudes instead of it being something done to me. Having to work together to prepare for the labor brought my husband and I closer together. We describe the labor as “our labor” not just “my labor.”
Stephen had been telling our baby he had to wait to come until “Daddy was finished putting in the laminate floor,” in our house. We thought we would get this project done in about a month, but it took over three months and a lot more help and time. We finally hired my second cousin to help us do the final room on Friday, November 10th, and Stephen did the final boards on Saturday, November 11. On Saturday early signs of labor started showing up: bloody show, some contractions, but I kept moving, helping Stephen with the floor, working on Christmas cards, and staying busy. Stephen stayed up until 11:30pm that night putting on trim and doing some of the final touches.
In the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, November 12th, my contractions started to get more consistent and somewhat painful, so I was not able to sleep. I got up around 2:30am, went down to the kitchen and started timing the contractions. After an hour I went back to bed and just rested.
Sunday was a rainy November day in the 50s. My niece was being baptized; however, with contractions coming every 4 to 10 minutes, we decided to stay home. One of my favorite spots to labor that day was in front of our bathroom window. I would open the window, and smell the leafy fresh air as I stood and had my husband messaging and doing counter pressure on my lower back. The back labor started on Sunday, and it was worse on Monday.
We were checking in with our nurse/midwife friend of ours to get advice about if we should go to the hospital, and the contractions never got as close as she said they should before we went; however, toward the end of the day we decided to go to the hospital to see how much progress we had made.
We went to the hospital around 5pm and had to go to triage where they checked my contractions and the baby’s heartbeat for about an hour. We talked to the nurse (who goes to our church) and then met with the doctor and after he told us that we were 3 cm dilated, 90% effaced, and minus one station, so we decided to go back home. They were not that happy to see us leave, but since my water bag was still intact we just had to sign some papers and then head home. (Our midwife friend and our Bradley teacher told us that we should be at least 5cm dialated before staying at the hospital). The adrenaline of going to the hospital slowed my contractions way down, and I actually was able to sleep soundly that night, about 4 to 5 hours. I kept eating (chocolate pudding and broth were my favorites) and then in the morning contractions started up again, and they were really in my back this time.
Monday morning contractions kept going and Stephen messaged my back for hours! To give Stephen a break, I would take long showers, where I could handle the contractions myself with the help of the hot water.
My goal was to go to our 2pm doctor appointment if labor didn’t pick up.
I kept eating— broth and chocolate pudding…and lots of Shaklee Performance drink (better than Gatorade).
We packed up our bags again and headed out to the 2pm appointment with the doctor. They hooked us up to the baby monitor for the non-stress test — which checked my contractions and Joel’s heartbeat. They left us there an hour— the kind nurse brought me juice and teddy grams. Stephen played music, and I was able to relax.
When the doctor checked my cervix, I was 7 cm dialated! “Let’s have this baby!”
She called ahead to the hospital, and we both were ready to go this time.
Around 4pm we arrived at the hospital, and I ate a banana, energy bar, and more water and performance drink before we went in (since they only let me drink clear liquids). We talked with a brand-new grandma as we walked in — she was bringing in a huge balloon celebrating a baby girl; she was impressed we were walking into the hospital. (I just had to pause between contractions).
Our friends Judy and Rich met us at the hospital and got some photos of us! We headed up stairs, didn’t have to do triage at all, and they took us to a relaxing labor room— dim lights, the relaxing music channel on the tv with pictures of nature (it lifted my spirits!)
The nurse — Margaret — had an English accent and 40 years of experience and since I was already 7 cm, she just put me to bed to get my blood pressure down (it was going over 100). So I rested and didn’t feel any hard contractions for about a couple hours. This break sure helped!
When Bri, the new nurse came on at 7pm, she wanted to get me up and going and “have this baby!” I was still so tired, I stood up to her and asked for 30 more minutes of rest, and then my contractions started getting harder again. I made it to 8cm dilated and talked with the doctor.
Bri got us up and walking, so we went and saw Mom and Judy; I was happy they were there— praying and being ready to help, if needed.
At home we had reached out to our neighbor, Meghan, to see if she could come be a support person, if Stephen got too tired. She brought food and took over messaging my back around 10:30pm because Stephen’s arms were dead tired ( he had to have his arms and neck adjusted the following Saturday) and he just needed to rest.
I kept leaning against the wall during contractions and I would lay on the bed, but then jump up when a contraction came because leaning against the wall and pedaling like with a bike helped ease the back labor pain. Meghan and Bri tried a rolling technique that was sort of helpful.
At 10:30pm, I was still at 8cm, so we had the doctor come and break my water bag. I didn’t feel anything, and there wasn’t much water coming out. Contractions got stronger and more frequent. Only once did I ask if there was anything else we could do to make the baby come faster, but then I just kept going.
I had a little bit of self-doubt, but then I threw up a bunch of water and apple juice and felt so much better. I got a second wind. Making noises helped a lot; I got louder as labor went along.
Around 1 AM, I was 9 cm dilated, and the cervix started swelling, so I had to stay in the bed with the peanut ball under my legs to help the cervix not swell more. This was the part that hurts the most. Because I had to have contractions while laying on my desk back.
This is when I had my third wind, when I felt like I had to do spiritual warfare and pray and ask God that the cervix pull out of the way. This is the time when I shouted out a prayer–telling the cervix to move out of the way,and then that’s when I knew I need my mom in there. So we called my mom in (she, Judy and Rich had been waiting and praying in the waiting room), and I had her pray ourloud for me and the baby. The prayers were so comforting and they worked!
Then I wanted to start to push, but I wasn’t supposed to push yet so this was the really hard part. It was like trying to hold back a huge poop, and a few times I didn’t know how to hold back from pushing. Doing horse lips (blowing through your lips to make that flapping sound) helped me get through this, along with Stephen’s encouragement. Having practiced for labor helped Stephen and I feel comfortable with the different movements and activities we could do to help with labor.
Next I shouted, “Don’t tell me not to push because that does not help— encourage me instead!!” That was the closest I got to flipping out.
Then the doctor arrived, and she very quietly said around 2 AM “you can push.”
I was SO happy to push!!! And finally being able to push was amazing!!
Stephen and I had practiced breathing for pushing together, so I followed him when we were pushing — even though all the nurses were telling me when to push. Stephen was an amazing coach— he stayed calm, he kept messaging my back even when it hurt his arms.
I pushed for 15 minutes and Joel was born at 2:20! The doctor said, “We need to do an episeotomy — because his head was so big. I wanted to see our baby, so I said, “Sure!!” Once she made the cut, then they told me to give one more huge push with the next contraction—and then Joel was out!
Joel started crying, and I asked, “Can I touch him?!” So the doctor let me touch his back, and then she handed him off to the NICU people who cleaned off the merconium. Thankfully he didn’t breathe any in — he just was brownish/gray but then he was pink after they cleaned him up.
I remember looking over at the warmer and seeing his arms and legs working / moving gracefully and vigorously as he cried a little bit. His Apgar score was 8/9, and after 20 minutes or so, once he had a diaper on— I said, “You don’t need to swaddle him— I want to hold him!” They placed him on my chest and he started looking around to nurse, which he did quickly!
Stephen and I just hugged and smiled at each other— our son was born, and was doing well! Stephen teared up. I was so relieved to not have anymore back pain. I didn’t feel the doctor stitch me up; she complimented me— “Well done!” Joel was 9 lbs. 8 oz., 23 inches long (the nurse measured him three times to make sure she did it correctly!), and completely perfect.
I asked for food, and Stephen gave me a turkey sandwich from 7-11 and apple juice; I hadn’t hardly eaten sub sandwiches during my pregnancy, so that sandwich tasted so good.
Joel nursed and slept on my chest until we had to move upstairs to the Mother and Baby Unit; he started making these high pitched happy sounds —- “Ahhhh” high at the start and going lower at the end. Our nurse, Bri, asked “What is that sound!?” We said, “The baby is making it!” She responded: “I have never heard a baby sound like that before!”
As she pushed us through the hallways toward our new room, I held Joel and beamed triumphantly at the nurses we passed. All that labor was worth it; our boy is worth doing that 1,000 times. I was and am so glad Joel had arrived!
Joel was born early in the morning of November 14th, the last day of our Bradley class, so my husband went to class that night and told them our story: Natural childbirth helped our son be alert and ready to nurse right after he was born; it set him up for a healthy, full life. We are so thankful that our birth story worked out the way it did; 50 hours was a long time to labor, but our boy was large and needed time to transition from the womb into the outside world. We gave him the time he needed, and seeing our little boy’s face made the labor seem not long at all!
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