She’s here! Someone pinch me because it almost feels too good to be true. On Saturday, November 21, Beatrice Willow Shipper entered this world and changed our lives forever. As promised, I have lots of baby related news and stories to share this week (ok, maybe more than a week), so sit back and get ready for loooots of baby pictures. Oh the cuteness. Lord have mercy. This is gonna be fun.
To explain why Bea’s birth was so wonderful I have to go back a few years. When I was pregnant with Theodore, Mike and I went through this 10 week course on the Bradley Method of labor, taught by our fabulous doula, Katie. The point of this class was to prepare couples for natural, unmedicated labor. We left that class excited and ready for a labor and birth experience that included birthing balls, a birthing tub, and oh, I don’t know, things like a packed bag for the hospital stay. We were ambitious and hopeful.
And then I went into labor with Theo…at 32 weeks. I got my unmedicated labor, but it was not the experience we had hoped for. No birthing ball. Definitely no tub (you have to be at least 37 weeks). No hospital bag. We didn’t even get to go to the hospital of our choice or use the midwife who had cared for me throughout the pregnancy.
Oh well, there was always next time, right?
Fast forward two years to Oliver’s birth. I made it to 36 weeks this time, but had developed HELLPS and was super sick. Again, we were able to achieve an unmedicated birth, but didn’t get the natural labor experience we had so hoped for because of all the craziness. Instead of dimmed lights and deep breathing, I experienced an emergency ambulance ride, tons of blood work, and words like “seizure” and “death” were volleyed around.
So when we walked into the hospital last Saturday, I only knew two things: I was planning on having another unmedicated birth (no epidural), but beyond that, I hoped for very little from my original, now five-year-old birthing plan. (And, full disclosure, I was being induced. No shame in my game, it was time for baby to come out. I knew it, my body knew it, and baby girl was about to know it.)
So my surprise and delight at being asked if I would like to use the hospital’s birthing tub for labor cannot be overstated. I was completely thrilled. After everything we’ve been through, after so many hopes being crushed by past experiences, it felt so good to finally experience a normal labor. In fact, it felt beyond good. Words like grateful and stunned come to mind.
So here is my quick soap box about natural birth. I believe that all women can do it, but I also recognize that not all women want to do it (and I 100% respect women’s right to make that choice), nor do all medical situations allow for natural birth (ie you might be able to do it, but it wouldn’t be the safest option). I hope that no matter what side of the fence you find yourself on, that you can enjoy reading my experience without feeling defensive about your own. I’m a firm believer that we can’t use other people’s decisions as a silent criticism of our own. That’s not fair to anyone, and it just puts us at odds with each other which is totally unnecessary. We’ve got to support each other in this! Because…having kids is hard, no matter which way you slice it!
Anyways, back to the birth story…
I started laboring on the birthing ball and was really finding my groove. But then my doula suggested that I move to the shower while the tub (The tub! I still can’t believe it…) was being filled. The heat of the water really felt good and seemed to help the craaaazy shaking I was experiencing due to the pitocin I was given earlier to help labor begin. (My brother said I looked like a crack addict going through withdrawal so….And yes, my brother was with us during labor! He was in the room until my water broke and then stayed the remainder of the time in the waiting room. Josh has been the first person on the scene for all three of my deliveries :-).)
I moved on to the tub once it was filled. I was surprised that the water didn’t actually alleviate the pain as I had expected. What it did do, however, was allow my mind and body to stay calm and relaxed in between contractions. This, was huge. When you have an unmedicated birth, you are incredibly aware, which is awesome. But, this awareness can also cause you to be too in your head and you can start to psyche yourself out, which is really bad for labor. So the fact that the water helped me stay calm and in the moment (and not in my head) was incredibly cool. But the coolest part was yet to come (Ah! I’m getting excited just thinking about it.)
So I’m laboring away in the tub and it’s moving along pretty quickly. I’m surrounded by my husband, doula, and sister in law who are all being incredibly supportive and offering counter pressure on my back when I need it. It was a very communal and special thing. Then, with a push, I saw my daughter’s head in the water. With one more, I was able to reach down and pull her up to my chest. Words just can’t describe.
It will probably always be one of the most incredible experiences of my life.
We stayed in the tub for quite awhile afterwards. My midwife did all the necessary post-birth stuff with me in the tub, holding onto Bea and wrapped in towels.
Once we got out of the tub, we continued to stay skin-to-skin for the next hour, which was actually normal procedure for the hospital I was in (so cool).
All in all, it was the most supportive, calm, and respectful birth I’ve had. I’m over the top grateful for the people who helped make Bea’s birth so wonderful.
Can I have a special word with you mommas out there?
Pregnancy, labor, and delivery are such wild and crazy rides. There is so much we don’t know and so much we can’t control. I still can’t fully wrap my head around why some things happen the way they do. Why my body behaves the way it does, and why I can’t just seem to have a straight-forward pregnancy and labor experience. I don’t understand why Theo came so early, or why I got so sick with Oliver, or why I was so miserable with Bea’s pregnancy.
I never would have thought that I’d be the person entertaining the idea of an induction, let alone going through with it. But that is so typical of motherhood, isn’t it? It surprises you in a million different ways at just how hard it really is. Seriously. This is not for the faint of heart. It surprises you in the compromises you make.
But most importantly, it surprises you by revealing just how tough you are.
We live in a society with some pretty jacked up ideas about pregnancy and birth. We don’t trust the pregnant mom to know her own body, which creates this viscous cycle where pregnant moms then believe they don’t know their own bodies. We treat pregnancy like and illness instead of something completely natural. We intervene out of convenience instead of need. We fail to adhere to modern research that is more supportive of mom and less supportive of current methodologies.
But here is the thing, no matter your path, no matter the decisions you ultimately make, you can do this. Pregnancy and labor is hard, like helluva lot harder than anything else, but that’s ok, because you’re tougher-stronger-braver than it is hard. So find some people to surround yourself with who will support you and honor you during your pregnancy and delivery. Arm yourself with as much education as you can because if you don’t know your options than you really don’t have any options.
Have a natural birth. Have a c-section. Have a non-epidural, pitocin induced-labor like me. Whatever. No matter the decision, it should be your decision. Listen to your body, listen to good research, and in the end – believe in yourself and your body’s amazing abilities.
And when all else fails, if you can’t feel good about your labor, then feel good about your hard work. Because you just grew a human being, dangit!
We have a secret in our culture, it’s not that birth is painful, it’s that women are strong. -Laura Stavoe Harm