When I was pregnant I was looking forward to experiencing labor for the first time. I knew it would be difficult, but I also knew it would go beautifully. Being the Type A personality that I am, I did everything possible to prepare to ensure I would rock it and maybe even enjoy it.
To prepare mentally I took birth classes, read everything labor related that I could get my hands on and listened to positive birth affirmations. To get my body ready physically, I did acupuncture, received chiropractic care and did specific exercises for optimal baby positioning.
I didn’t have much fear surrounding the labor process and hypnobirthing classes helped reaffirm for me the idea that our bodies are, “made to do this”. I looked forward to sharing my experience with others, and was excited to start my health and wellness blog so I could launch it with the information of how I prepared for labor. I thought I would share how I prepared and say, “Look at everything I did, it really works! You can have an unmedicated birth too. Drugs are for suckers!”
Well – spoiler alert – things did not go as planned and my labor turned out to be a complete sh*t show. To make a long 33 hour labor story short, I was induced ten days past my due date. I had to have my water broken and I labored for nine hours with no medicine. I wasn’t progressing and couldn’t take the pain so I chose to get an epidural. That epidural failed after a few hours and I had to get another one. After many more hours the midwife declared my son was stuck and I had to have an episiotomy. More time passed and he still was stuck so he had to be vacuumed out. Meconium was found during labor so NICU nurses were on standby and he had to be rushed to them immediately after birth to ensure he didn’t ingest any of the meconium. Two hours after labor I had a grand mal seizure and went unconscious. I came to and our room was full of doctors and nurses. I had no idea what had happened and was terrified. They rushed me to get a CT scan and then I had to go to the ICU. I was put on medicine to prevent another seizure. The effects of the medicine rendered me unable to take care of my son for the first three days of his life.
Like I said, complete sh*t show. Thankfully, and most importantly, baby boy and myself are healthy but it was a crazy couple of days. I was in complete shock at what had happened. Thankfully our brains have mercy on us and help us forget most of the pain and I quickly forgot most of the experience. It has taken a lot of reflection, tears, and PTSD therapy to work through the emotions and come to a place of acceptance that my labor didn’t go as I had originally planned.
Now I still want to share about my labor but with a different intention. My message to all moms and moms-to-be is: How your labor unfolds is not completely up to you and all you can do is your best. There is no right or wrong way to have a baby. Whatever path your labor takes, you are no less of a woman or a mom. There will be things you can control and some you cannot. You are still a strong badass if you can’t take the pain and need an epidural. Your body is still perfect if you need a c-section. It doesn’t really matter how your baby comes out as long as it’s as safely as possible.
After talking to many other moms about our labor experiences, I realized how many have had birth trauma. There is so much pressure to have this “amazing birth” that one can unintentionally set themselves up to be disappointed if it doesn’t turn out as expected. Especially in the natural health community that I am in, there is a huge emphasis on having an unmedicated birth. The importance of newborn routines such as delayed cord clamping and immediate skin to skin are thoroughly stressed. While these routines are certainly beneficial, they are not always possible. If the situation doesn’t allow you to do these procedures, your baby will be fine. Due to the meconium issue we were not able to do delayed cord clamping or immediate skin to skin. My milk came in fine and my son latched beautifully and we have had no issues with bonding.
Looking at the experience now, here are my lessons learned:
Put Your Expectations in Check. While I still strongly believe in the benefits of everything I did to prepare, be clear on the expectation you are placing on the end result. If we decide to have another baby, I will still do chiropractic care, acupuncture and affirmations but I will put less pressure on how they will effect my labor. I think part of me thought my son would slide right out with how much physical preparation I had done.
Prepare for the Unexpected. Getting educated beforehand on any and all potential decisions that may arise during labor can make game time decisions a lot less stressful. I was thankful that both my husband and I knew the implications and potential side effects of everything that we chose to do/had to do. When you are in the throes of labor, you will not want to waste your very little mental energy trying to understand a certain labor option.
Divorce Your Birth Plan. Yes, make a birth plan. Research what you want for yourself and baby but realize your birth plan is the best case scenario. Don’t be married to it and realize however labor may unfold is the way it is supposed to happen. Plans are made to be changed.
Consider a Doula. We had a doula and she was a godsend. A doula provides emotional support for you and your partner. They have a thorough understanding of labor and are educated in techniques to help ease labor pain. She made sure my husband was fed and stayed with me so he could take much needed breaks during those 33 hours. When times got rough she was there to support my husband since I was not in a mental state to comfort him and for that, she was worth every penny.
There is Nothing Wrong With You. I came out out my labor traumatized and feeling every emotion but most strongly, I felt like a failure. While my situation was an extreme case, feeling disappointment in how your labor went is not rare. I felt guilt. I blamed myself for how my labor unfolded. I was mad. Why did my body fail me? I kept going back to how prepared I was and I felt like I missed something. I was bitter I had to be induced and have my water broken and that my labor did not start on it’s own. There are so many factors that affect how your baby will be born. Give yourself grace and realize there is nothing wrong with you or your body. You can only do so much and the rest is out of your hands.
Get Help if You Think You Need It. Going to talk to a professional is the best thing you can do if you think you need help processing your birth. Leaving it unresolved can be a factor that may lead to postpartum depression. My husband and I went to therapy shortly after my son was born so everything was fresh in our minds. Even if nothing crazy happens during your birth, you may still have some feelings to work through if things didn’t go as planned. It’s best to handle them as soon as you can, or else they will certainly pop up down the road, especially if you want to get pregnant again. I had never been to therapy but found it incredibly healing.
My labor has taught me a lot about myself and I do believe everything happens for a reason. I hope the lessons I learned can help save women from learning them the hard way. I want women to be more gentle on themselves and their expectations of birth. I still believe birth is one of the most incredible experiences in the world and it was absolutely worth it having my son here now.