Emily, age 24:

Russ and I went to my 37 week appointment 1:30 p.m. At my 36 week appointment I was already dilated to a 4 and 80% effaced. We were so anxious to hear if I had progressed further, and Russ said a few times on the way there "I bet you're a 6 now."
He was right. The doctor checked me and confirmed that I was now dilated to a 6. The doctor looked shocked, I tell you, you never get used to that reaction. He and the nurse questioned me about my contractions. I told them, truthfully, I had false labor contractions the night before for a couple hours, and I thought I felt like what might have been a contraction waddling through Old Navy the day before, but I wasn't sure. Everyone says, "you'll know" and I didn't, yet.

The doctor said it was time to get to the hospital. He let me know that I also tested positive for Strep B and that it was imperative I get a treatment of penicillin before the baby was born. He said the treatment takes four hours and at this point we've gotta get down there and get it started. He told us to go home get our gear and to not take more than an hour because-- "that's one bulgy bag of water you've got in there." Three weeks early or not, Hayes was on his way.
Russ and I drove home to get our bags. He gave me a blessing of comfort, stamina, strength, and the will-power to do this according to my goal -- naturally.

At 3:00 we got to the hospital. The admitting nurse stared at me blankly... "So, you're not having contractions, but you're dilated to a 6?" Yeah yeah lady, I know, it's not normal. By 3:00 I had heard PLENTY of non-believers express the utter impossibility of it all.
They monitored my contractions for awhile... they were coming consistently but once again, they're standing there puzzled because I am sitting there smiling, talking, and cracking jokes and shouldn't I bet yelling like an Amazonian woman by now? They FINALLY start my round of penicillin, and tell me that it needs to run its course for 4 hours [4 - 8 p.m.] At this point I am dilated to a 7, and my water is still hanging in there.

By 8 p.m. the penicillin treatment is done. My contractions are starting to pick up on their own by now, but I had only dilated to an 8 since 4 p.m. I think we all knew this could take all night if I didn't get some pitocin. I know it was probably the worst decision for someone planning a natural delivery. But, every half-hour the nurse came in an upped pitocin until I was at 7mL, which is nuts, I should sue! Then in comes the Dr. with a crochet hook.

The moment my water broke, I felt what I had been waiting for: a crampy, wringing-out contraction. I had definitely had contractions before, but holy smokes, this is what "you'll just know" about. Time to start Lamaze breathing. For the first hour of full-blown contractions I felt pretty good, I was staying on top of them, resting in between, staying relaxed. Yeah, just wait a sec.

At 9:00 p.m. the nurse checked me and I was now dilated to 9 cm and 90% effaced.
The second hour of contractions are causing the worst pain I have ever experienced, thirty seconds at a time, each a minute apart. They are coming down on me like waves, every time I get pushed under and can't find enough time to come up for air before the next. I can barely hold my head up in between, I'm so tired. So, Russ holds me.
The baby's oxygen is dropping so they make me wear the mask.
I feel completely defeated.
Russ and my mom are saying "hee hoo hee hoo hee hoo." and I am saying "heehooahheahahoahaouchhh." I say a prayer.
After that, wiith my trusty coaches' help, I am able to breathe and relax through the rest of my contractions.

10 p.m.
BANG. Every muscle, bone, and vein in my body tells me it's time to push.
The nurse confirms that I am now at 10 cm then says, "The Dr. went home but I just paged him and he'll be right back."
As soon as this overwhelming need to push comes, there is really no stopping me now. The nurse says we can start pushing without the Dr. and at this point I'm like "Who? Give me the stirrups!" Every time I feel a contraction coming, I hold my breath and push my heart out. Finally, after two hours of helplessly breathing through contractions, now I get to put my back into and actually do something about it, and I love it!

With every push I feel mounting pressure, but it's the most amazing feeling in the world! For the next hour, it's three rounds of pushing per contraction and then literally gasping for air.
My mom sees his little head first and I feel like a million bucks. I know I can do this, and we're all so ready to meet this little guy. At this point I am totally owning this push-fest. In fact I own this whole room, this hospital even, I am on a serious high. I've got a group of nurses watching my every push, and they're all cheering me on. I know what a good push feels like, and I know what a useless one feels like. If I don't get a good push in, I make myself do an extra one. [If only I had this motivation at the gym.]

After the quickest hour of my life, finally Russ catches a glimpse of Hayes' face. The Dr. says "Stop Pushing!" At this point I don't know if I can, my body is doing all the work, I am just guiding the pressure it's creating. I figure out a way somehow and then he says "Push now! Hard!" and I hear a cry.
Russ is sobbing and can barely see to cut the cord, but he does, and Dr. lays Hayes on my chest and I feel like I've known him forever, and he is mine!

From that moment on Hayes swept us away. We are so caught up in him and his crazy arm flails, his toots, his big beautiful blue eyes, and his ear-to-ear smiles. Every moment I look at Hayes I am reminded that God lives, and He loves us. I know deep and intense pain, but I also know that there is opposition in all things. Every moment of pain made room for me to be able to feel the equal and opposite in love and joy.

I know it is not the popular choice to have a baby the way I did. In fact, I was told that only 1% of hospital deliveries are natural by choice. But, it was a choice, and I am so grateful for the people in my life that supported my goal from the beginning.
So, was it worth it? Absolutely. But, not because it was a natural delivery, because I don't think that one way is better than another, they're simply two different choices. But, because it was for Hayes. And I've come to learn real quick that I would do just about anything for that little man.

1. When did you decide you wanted to deliver your baby naturally?
It was always something I wanted to at least try, I really committed to it when I learned I was pregnant.

2. What reasons or factors went into your decision?

I realized that I needed to be prepared for any kind of delivery, I knew if I didn't try it with my first I probably wouldn't with my subsequent deliveries. And after a nasty reaction to meds during my wisdom teeth removal, I didn't want to stress about how I may react to medications during childbirth.

3. What did you do to prepare for natural childbirth? (midwife, classes, methods, books, etc.)

4. What was the hardest part of your experience - before, during, or after childbirth?
Transitioning. Contractions at 9 cm with pitocin is trying. It really is true though, as soon as you're ready to throw in the towel, you're probably ready to push.

5. What was most helpful to you during labor to help make pain from contractions manageable?
Having my mom in my face basically forcing me to follow her breathing patterns. I was holding my breath and tensing my shoulders otherwise, which doesn't help.

6. What do you wish you would have known going into delivery?
Nurses and doctors don't exactly weigh options with you. They choose what they think is best, and you better be on your toes if you want something else. Always ask "What are my other options?"

7. Is there anything you would have done differently?
Being inexperienced, I didn't realize how much pressure I put on my husband and mom to help me through, and I wish I would have had a midwife there to take some of that pressure off. If my mom didn't know breathing patterns, we would have been screwed. In the heat of the moment neither of us remembered what we learned in Lamaze.

8. What did you feel were the positive benefits to your natural childbirth - were the benefits what you expected?
The amazing natural high you get for DAYS after! I had no "baby blues" or postpartum depression. I felt like a warrior woman and still feel that after accomplishing this, I can do anything!

9. Is natural childbirth something you recommend to other mothers, or something you'd do again?
Of course, it is an absolute life-changing experience! I think every mom should plan for any outcome and see how far she can take herself. I think everyone would be surprised at their reserve of power and ability!

10. What advice do you have for other mothers interested in natural childbirth?
Do what feels right to you, use your intuition! Study it out, explore lots of methods, and make sure you have a support system!

Contact Emily at her blog http://emilyframe.blogspot.com

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