My first imperfectly perfect birth story

Countless times my heart has been touched by the beautiful birth stories shared by many brave parents.

Birth is this amazing journey of diving into unknown depths. It is a story of a family, of beautiful connections and experiences.

Pregnancy and birth give us many opportunities to learn more and grow stronger. Getting prepared and educated during pregnancy and for birth offers no guarantees but greatly improves our chances of having a positive and empowering experience. The kind of experience we desire for our new start. Read what I share about birth preparation here.

I choose to share with you my own birthing experiences not to give advice, not because all my decisions were right or my approaches- wise. I choose to share because I want you to know:

You are unique. Your child is special. Their arrival in this world is worth being shared and cherished. 

Birth reminds me of onions with their many layers and skins to peel. Here I share my birthing story, as briefly as I could.

My oldest son was born in 2012. He was born 13 days after the due date, 41w6d, and was 3736 g, 52 cm. A day before a scheduled induction. My labor lasted about 12 hours, from 5:30 am to 5:50 pm. I was 1 cm dilated since 38w and I gave birth 4 weeks later.

If I need to sum it up in a few sentences

I had a vaginal birth, with an episiotomy. Originally, I did not want an episiotomy and now I know it was a mistake. But as I felt stuck, I myself insisted on getting it done. I was desperate, exhausted, and in need of something and someone to help me. My doctor was reluctant at first. Now looking back, I wish he had assured me that I could have done it without the episiotomy. I wish that I had believed in myself more.

My first birthing experience can be labeled as normal, natural, by the books. Nothing concerning, no troubles, all finished well- I recovered fast and I and the baby were doing very well.  At the same time, it left some bitterness and scars, that I later could name as a trauma. It took me years to unwrap it and to allow myself some space to process it all.

Right after giving birth, I dived into my new life with a newborn and I didn’t give myself the grace and the time to ponder on my experience in order to be able to properly heal. I entered motherhood headfirst and pushed down the disappointment from my birth experience. It took a few years before I realized I needed to look back and explore more-  when I started preparing for my second birth.

My birth plan or my birth preferences

I do not remember all the details anymore. Roughly, I wanted a natural birth, no interventions, no episiotomy, if possible. I wanted to be informed in advance about anything they need to do. There was no epidural available at my clinic, which made me nervous at first, but the more I learned, the more I relaxed about not having the option. I know I wanted calm music. And help with breastfeeding. At the time I didn’t know about delayed umbilical cord clamping. 

Birth

When I got to week 38, the doctor told me I was 1 cm dilated and very close to the big day. Little I knew – I chose to believe that my baby was coming any time, which made the waiting much harder. The longest four weeks. At the same time, I could stay focused because I really wanted to avoid induction. 

After my due date, I went to the clinic every other day and had 20-min fetal monitoring each time. All looked great. In week 41 the doctor discussed induction, but because I wanted to wait as long as possible, willingly he agreed to wait till 42 full weeks, which was very encouraging. I truly did not need any additional pressure- the waiting was hard enough.

My last appointment was on Friday, 41 weeks and 5days. With a heavy heart, I agreed to go back on Monday morning for induction. Even though I desperately wanted to wait till the baby was ready, there was the fear of complications and simply- I wanted him to be born. At the same time, I was fearing the induction. I went back home motivated to find my calm ad my faith. I had a video chat with a close friend, who had had her first baby a few months before and I felt encouraged and supported. 

And

On Saturday morning I woke up at about 5 am.  I went to the toilet. I had some cramps similar to period pain. The contractions started and I remember staying on all fours. Then I lost my mucus plug. The contractions got stronger and more frequent. I do not really remember how I was feeling. Probably a mix of excitement, fear and unbelief- was that really it?

My husband was nervous and very supportive. We called the hospital about 8 am, they told me to go in. I wanted to walk to the clinic to calm myself down and to keep moving. During the walk my contractions reduced and I do not remember much of it. 

I first had an examination and I might have been at 1-2 cm still or 3 cm, not very encouraging. They admitted me. I had lost a small amount of amniotic fluid, so I was given an antibiotic drip to prevent infection- a regular procedure here. 

A big delicious nutritious breakfast- I didn’t feel like eating but was gently encouraged to have. The yogurt was delicious! My husband was with me- nervous and excited. My parents-in-law were on the way and arrived at the clinic 1-2 hours later. Anyone who I wanted to support me was allowed in the room. At first, I thought it would be too embarrassing having anyone else but my husband present, but as my labor progressed I was really happy to receive more support.

Progressing

The contractions were coming, I was standing, walking, sitting on a chair, swaying. My husband and my mother-in-law took turns supporting me. My mother-in-law gave me the greatest low back massages during the contractions. I had my iPad and contacted family back home, I could somehow distract myself. All was going ok, I managed to deal ok.

Before noon I had one more check-up in the doctor’s office, I was slowly advancing. Later I had another check-up done by a midwife in my room and I was progressing. About 1 pm I was on my knees, leaning over the back of the bed which was upright. I was holding onto the back for support and the contractions were strong. In my own world- praying, asking for support, calling Jesus.

I vomited. Then, a gush of blood and waters. While preparing for birth, I thought I would be ashamed, mortified. Right there at that moment, all my worries and embarrassment disappeared. Realizing that I did not care at all was very liberating. I remember the midwives coming in and out, cleaning and setting things up. They took good care of me physically but I do not remember them speaking much to me. I was too far away in my own world.  

I felt the need to push, I told them but I should not have, I should have continued trusting the process and my body. Surely I could have avoided getting disturbed. I should have just followed my urges to push. I wish I knew better at that time. Now I imagine if I had done that, I could have won extra time in a position that was comfortable for me, and probably the baby could have come down even further and much faster. 

Once I told the midwives I want to push, they stopped me. A check-up to make sure I was fully dilated and then to the birthing bed, on my back. At this point, the monitor had been connected to me already. Here I was- kicked out of my cozy bubble, flat on my back, constantly monitored, in terrible low back pain.

I was convinced this was back labor. It was really intense and the pain was sharp. At some point, they might have pulled up the back of the bed a little but I didn’t feel a difference.

My husband was by the head of the bed, so was my mother-in-law, at some point my sister-in-law, who was then in her early pregnancy, entered too. I was glad they were there. 

I was feeling terrible in the position I was in, tied to the monitor. Trying to concentrate and to go back to slow breathing to calm down was not working, I was getting nowhere. The main midwife was very direct, told me I was not breathing properly, and kind of made fun of me. She was not intentionally mean, she was not attacking me. Right there I needed some soft gentle care and support and she was not the one to provide it. Sometimes the midwife did not address me directly but talked to me through my mother-in-law, which was not ok.

This part of the labor was more like “me vs them”, even though I didn’t want it to be that way. I only remember now my main midwife and not the rest of the staff. I am grateful for their hard work and I know they all meant well. But I was feeling alone, blamed, and mocked. I was like a trapped animal- eyes wide open, my body stiff.

 My husband was there all the time and he did his best to support me by saying I was doing ok, that everything was going to be fine, but I could feel he was scared, worried, and shaky himself. 

It took a very long time. The time stopped and I was agonizing inside. They asked me to push. I was trying to follow their guidance and it was hard. It was never good enough. I was not good enough. Giving up was all I could think of. I wanted a quick end, a fix, a way out.

Almost there

The doctor was called in. Here doctors are present for the very last part of labor. I remember my doctor standing over my left side. I trusted him. He was in a good mood, smiling. I told him that I could not do this anymore and asked him to cut me (we always communicated in oversimplified English). He laughed, he thought I was suggesting a c-section. I explained I wanted an episiotomy. He was hesitant at first, asked me to try again, I think I did. But I didn’t feel I was making any progress and insisted.

It must have been a psychological thing for me- I was exhausted, desperate, vulnerable. I was questioning my own ability to birth. I felt like the team betrayed me because I had expected them to provide the right emotional support for me. Now, years later, I realize I had desperately needed them to just do something to help me. I must have put all my hopes in the episiotomy. This experience helped me learn more about my own unresolved anger and other stuck feelings. 

After the episiotomy, two or three more pushes and the baby arrived. I vividly remember his little body being brought up in the air. But right there, at this moment, maybe for 30 seconds, maybe just 10 seconds or a whole minute, I could feel nothing. The moment I have been waiting for so long and dreaming about – here I was, seeing my baby for the first time- and I felt numb. An empty vessel. Emotionless mess. Blank.

My husband was crying with relief, elevated and so grateful. He hugged me, thanked me. My mother-in-law tearing up seeing her first grandchild. My sister-in-law, happy, relieved, anticipating her own birth story.

I had him on my chest and in seconds the waves of love hormones started to overwhelm me- I was back in my body and mind, true to myself, back to my essence, whispering loving words, showering my newborn with all my love and attention. 

The third stage of labor

I don’t remember how long it took to have the placenta out but it was not long. As the doctor was stitching me I felt the needle but I didn’t care. The baby got measured, right next to my bed, and my husband was with him. After the pediatrician checked him, my husband could hold him. My father-in-law after patiently pacing through the waiting room the whole day was finally allowed to enter. I can never forget his excitement as he was entering the room rushing to see the baby. Everyone had their turn holding him and taking photos. My parents met him via a video chat. An amazing indescribable joy.

Two hours of rest on the bed for me. I was able to hold the baby for a while before he was taken to the nursery. The rule at the clinic was to keep and observe the newborns overnight and I didn’t insist on having him with me. Everyone recommended a good rest and I just took their advice. That night I was so overwhelmed with emotions that I could not sleep, at all. I kept hearing a baby crying and wondered if it was my baby. It was the longest night ever. If I could turn back time, I would never ever choose to be separated from him. In the morning I got him in my arms and we never separated.

I had a single room- small and simple, perfect for me. My husband and my mother-in-law could visit and hang around all day the next day. The following days of overwhelming joy and heartfelt gratitude cannot be described in words.

During our hospital stay, the midwives checked on us often, day and night. They encouraged breastfeeding, helped with latching, etc. The food was served in my room, except for once when all the new moms had breakfast together.

The baby got some milk formula in the beginning (I wish they had explained more in advance and gave me the option to opt out) and they kept bringing clean bottles in my room if I wanted to give him more until breastfeeding was better established. Breastfeeding was very hard in the beginning- much more painful than I had expected, but I was confident we would make it. I didn’t substitute any formula and kept returning the bottles clean. 

Some of the mistakes I made:

  • not spending enough time preparing for the birthing process- I read a lot of stories, but not enough positive stories
  • not practicing breathing techniques enough
  • focusing on the practical stuff, on things that are easy to figure out later, and I did not invest enough time in my mental and emotional preparation
  • not attending the birth preparation class at my clinic 
  • I did some maternity yoga and breathing exercises but I should have done more
  • believing that the midwives at the clinic would guide me more, would support me more. I didn’t take full responsibility for my labor.

What I did well:

  • yoga classes at my clinic- that is how I fell in love with yoga, how I made a few new friends and got wonderful support from the midwives leading the yoga classes
  • taking long walks, stayed active, enjoyed nature
  • I did my best to work on the relationship with my partner and to involve him in the whole process.
  • I listened to my body, followed my own pace, and rested well.

As I was writing down my first birth, years after it happened, my ear buzzing (tinnitus) got stronger, which is a sign for me that I was dealing with the emotions coming up while I was reliving the whole experience. I am glad that I finally managed to release some of my stuck emotions.

As I was writing and rewriting this story, I was getting ready for my third birth and I read Alexia Leachman`s book Fearless Birthing. There she talks about the importance of our emotional state- the emotional landscape- before, during conception, pregnancy and birth. And the lightbulb went on- here, I knew it. During my pregnancy, I went through a big life change and it did affect my emotional resilience. My own self-image changed- from capable and empowered to dependent. From emotionally strong to weaker, which definitely made me more prone to traumas.

Takeaway:

Find out what helps you explore and process your feelings and emotions. Prepare physically, mentally and emotionally. Trust yourself and spend time with yourself and for yourself. 

I do recommend Alexia Leachman‘s work- her website offers great resources and her book is a great way to work through your own experiences. This is not an affiliate link.

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