If I had to describe my son’s birth in three words, they would be:
1. Long. I was in intense labor (we’re talking can’t sleep and occasionally vomiting level of intensity) for about 53 hours before my son finally arrived!
2. Empowering. This is not a word you often hear used to describe childbirth but definitely one I felt and still feel deeply. There is nothing quite like bringing a child into this world, and knowing that it was your body that carried and nourished him for months and months. You faced your darkest fears during the hours of grueling labor and you pushed your brains out, all the while terrified that you would not actually be able to get him out. And then, somehow, you did it! It is arguably the hardest and most rewarding thing you will ever do in your life, and you will never see yourself the same way again. And I believe women who have an assisted vaginal birth or Cesarian should feel exactly the same amount of pride and empowerment. You did what you had to do to bring your child alive and healthy into this world. You are amazing! So no matter what kind of birth you had, just repeat after me and believe it: “I am woman. Hear me roar!!!”
3. Painful. Pain is definitely something most first time moms-to-be worry about, and for good reason. Whether you have a vaginal birth or Cesarian, there will be some amount of pain before, during, and/or after the birth. I use the word “pain” because I frankly get really annoyed when it’s referred to as “discomfort.” Seriously? A bit of gas is discomfort. Going through any amount of labor or birth unmedicated, and recovering from it is a bit beyond discomfort if you ask me. That said, how you manage the pain and how you perceive it will make all the difference in the world. This is why I pursued the very enticing childbirth method called Hypnobabies.
I had heard about hypnobirthing before becoming pregnant, and it sounded amazing. That self-hypnosis could ease or negate any pain during labor and birth? YES, PLEASE! SIGN ME UP!!!
Hypnobabies courses can be quite pricey and we were already required to take a Lamaze course at the hospital where we were planning to give birth, so instead I ordered the home study course which consisted of a text book, work book, and lots of CDs. With the CDs, you would just lay down, close your eyes, and listen to the woman telling you in soothing voice how to relax and focus and only feel pressure. Sometimes I fell asleep. It was pretty awesome. There were a lot of scripts for your partner to read to you, giving you cues to “turn off your light switch” which was to signal your body to relax and be numbed by “powerful anesthesia.”
All the Hypnobabies materials warned that you were to practice A LOT or it would not work. We definitely did not practice enough. Hypnobabies definitely helped me to relax and get through the first two-thirds of labor, but once we got toward the end, wow, I was a big hot mess.
After laboring away at home for about 12 hours, we decided to call and check in with our midwife when my contractions were 1 minute long and about 5 minutes apart for a couple of hours. She said to call back when we were at 2-3 minutes apart for a few hours, and mentioned that it would probably take a while. Boy, oh boy, did it! It took about 30 hours to be exact! Hopping in the cab at 1am for our 30-minute commute into Manhattan at that point was about the worst thing I could imagine. Pure torture. I see the appeal of a home birth for that reason alone!
We finally got to St. Luke’s and I was thrilled to hear I was already at 5 centimeters! I thought we’d be done in no time! Luckily the Birthing Center (a 3-room natural birthing facility within the hospital) was completely empty, and our angel of a midwife met us up there and helped me labor for another 10 grueling hours.
I cannot emphasize it enough that you need to pick your care provider and birthing support system very carefully. They can mean the difference between a wonderful experience and a scary, stressful and horrendous one. Figure out the birth you want, and choose a doctor or midwife who supports that (but do your homework and be prepared for any kind of birth, since anything can happen). If you want to and have the resources, hire a doula. Most partners, no matter how much they study and how loving and supportive they are, will be relatively useless. It’s just a fact that you need to keep in mind.
By this point I hadn’t slept in over 2 days, my Hypnobabies practices had been thrown out the window, and I was like a wild lioness during each contraction. My whole body was just overwhelmed with such intense pain. Nature took over. Screaming, cursing, you name it. And then the wave passed and I’m joking with my husband and sipping on chicken broth for a few minutes until the next wave hits you like a freight train.
Our midwife kept helping me to relax, and giving me various “exercises” to do to get my little one to drop down and help me dilate more. She had me doing bounces on very low medicine balls, lunges down the hallways, and these excruciating squats while hanging onto the hallway handrails during contractions. It was nothing short of torture, but I can promise you had we been in a regular labor ward, I would have ended up with an epidural and eventually a Cesarian. Neither of which I wanted. Our midwife was amazing. She never once offered pain medication or a transfer. She finally broke my water, and after two hours of pushing my 8 pound bouncing baby boy was born at 1:13 PM on Christmas Day.
I remember a comment the doctor who confirmed our pregnancy made to me (suffice it to say we didn’t return to that doctor), “You aren’t given an award for giving birth naturally. Why put yourself through that?” If he asked me that again now I’d say, “It was a small price to pay to give my son the best birth he could possibly have.” It was insanely painful, but doubly so it was exhilarating, emotional and empowering. I pushed my body and mind to their limits and no one can take the mama pride I have for what I have accomplished for my family. I plan to do the same for our next child, but let’s just say I really hope he comes out a lot quicker…
Heather Tomoyasu is a blogger on her site US-Japan Fam, owner of Miny Moe (multi-brand variety packs that allow parents to find the best brand for THEIR baby), author of “Legit Ways to Make Money From Home” (available on Kindle and iTunes), founder of Tunes 4 Bay Ridge Tots, writer for Mommy Nearest, and mommy to a yummy toddler! You can follow and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.