My decision to birth free of intervention was one I made prior to even thinking about children. My mother attempted to have a home birth with me and succeeded with my younger sister, so choosing to forgo an epidural felt in alignment with how I was born. As a means of preparation, ( but who can really prepare yourself for birth!) I spent hours reading stories about other women who successfully birthed without medication, attended weekly prenatal yoga classes, and practiced breathing techniques.
My first daughter arrived two weeks early, which was surprising. In hindsight, I was in labor for a day prior to her birth and had chalked the general leaky feeling I was having to being positively enormous, pregnant, and probably incontinent. I arrived at the hospital 9+ centimeters dilated and met our baby girl an hour later. The ring of fire? Doesn’t even touch on the actual pain you experience in that moment. But it was over relatively quickly and I was flooded with awe for this brand new human. I never knew the depth of my strength until delivering our child and feel this is true for all moms – regardless of how you welcome your baby into the world.
My middle child, a boy, was born 19 months after our first. I don’t want to say that my labor was easy, because it certainly wasn’t, but my body knew what to do. I wasn’t scared of the experience like I was the first time around. Pushing doesn’t feel good, per se, but I needed to lean into the pain in order to deliver. I trusted that my body would do what it needed to do, and that would involve a significant amount of pain. Looking back on it, I remember the intensity of it, but not the pain. This time my water broke at home and he was born in the hospital two short hours later. In fact, I had nurses requesting to be in my room as they had never seen a woman voluntarily deliver without medication.
My third child is another girl. I went into labor while at Lurie Children’s Hospital with my first child who was terribly ill with the stomach flu. My husband and I sat in the ER waiting room holding a plastic tub in front of our daughter while timing my contractions. They were less than 5 minutes apart but I was unwilling to leave her so sick to go to Prentice alone. Thankfully we were able to pump her with enough fluids and anti-nausea medication to go home around 1:30 a.m.
My water broke at 2:30 a.m. My husband’s response was along the lines of “are you kidding me?” before heading to the kitchen to make a sandwich. This labor was by far the most challenging. I remember whispering to my husband that I was too tired to deliver this baby, too tired to push, too tired to do anything. But I somehow found the strength and delivered our largest baby, over 9 lbs, roughly 2 hours after my water breaking.
Once again I found myself in a room with nurses who had yet to experience an unmedicated delivery, but who were wonderful. I credit one of them with saving my life post-partum. She chose to stick around and do one final check before heading up to a scheduled C-section, only to discover I was hemorrhaging. Within seconds, the room filled with a medical team charged with saving my life. They whisked the baby away, inserted an IV to administer pain medication while they cleared blood clots out of my uterus. I had just delivered a baby and was now in the most excruciating pain of my life, convinced I might die. My husband assures me it lasted 10-20 minutes before they were able to staunch the bleeding, but in my head it felt like hours. We then regrouped with our family and baby girl, thankful that all was ok.