WHEN did this happen?! How do I have
a baby, no… a 6 month old? Where the HECK did these past 186 days go?
Oh wait. Thats right. They were devoured by sleepless nights and back-breaking days, and my own salty tears.
So lets celebrate it by reminiscing the amazing moments leading up to that magical moment I met my son.
**Warning. This post DOES give all the details! Read at your own risk! But I’m writing it for those who were like me, and read practically every birth story out there!
NOTE. I will often refer to “Bradley” throughout this post. This is a birthing method my husband and I now swear by. I can’t tell my story without explaining what I understood thanks to taking these classes. I am more than happy to answer any questions in the comments! Interested in classes for yourself?
I woke up at 11:15 from a deep sleep in sheer terror. I grasped my husband arm and squeezed it tight as the pain erupted deep in my body like nothing I had every experienced before. Crushing his arm with my fingernails, tears began to soar almost without control. Paralyzed, I held my breath. After what felt like the longest 60 seconds of my life, the pain withdrew like water escaping down a drain. I released my husbands arm and inhaled a refreshing, deep breath. “So this is what I’ve been preparing for…” I gathered up my courage along with my fear like a soldier going off to war.
I’ve never been to war. I’ve never fought in the face of real danger.
But I have given birth. We women, we mothers go off to war after training for 9 long months.
***For months my husband and I diligently prepared ourselves for the unknown. From the moment I saw the double lines on my pink pregnancy test, I was flooded with anxiety. Alongside my excitement for becoming a mother, and my husband a father, I had always feared giving birth. What woman doesn’t? The first person I looked to was my older sister, who had been “off to war” 2 times already, and was quickly approaching her third draft. She was my hero, because she had tackled each birth naturally. I listened carefully when she explained her battle tactics for a natural birth, The Bradley Method.
I’ve decided The Bradley Method should basically be renamed, The Husband Method. Or Knight in Shining Armor Method. The practices taught in Bradley in 90% about the man in the picture. (Of course, if someone did not have a man in this picture, they would be replaced with a doula, or a very very close family member or friend) I had my heart set on a natural birth since before I knew I was pregnant, but I only scraped the surface of what that meant. All that I did know what that it would possibly be the hardest battle I’d ever fight. I was right. ***
After the initial contraction that woke me from my sleep, there was no way I could rest. Without hesitation, I got up and turned on the shower and explained to my husband, who was hardly awake, that this was it…Go Time. While I was showering, I had 3 more contractions that nearly brought me to my knees. With each one, I desperately wanted to reach out to my husband for a mere sense of security and relief. It took everything inside of me not to cry, but instead, follow the instructions I learned for the past 12 weeks, and breathe. In our Bradley course, our teachers suggested putting together a playlist of relaxation music, which we listened to weeks prior to this point. I turned it on, and tried with everything to relax. Bradley would call this stage, First Stage. “This is it. I can do this. This is really hard, but I got this.”
Fast forward 2 hours. It is now about 2 am. I am dizzy, yet alert. I am starving, yet feel sick as a dog. I was freezing and shivering uncontrollably one minute, while the next I had sweat dripping down my back and felt like it was 110 degrees. We had been timing my contractions on a app on my phone and could see I was having them about 3-4 minutes apart for about 60-100 seconds each. At this time, my husband was wide awake and sat next to me holding my body through each contraction. It wasn’t long after contractions set in that I began to lose my bearings. I was warned by Bradley this might happen…Clothes were coming off, tears were streaming, and thoughts raced rapidly in my mind while on the outside my husband said later I was barely speaking. All these things that I was experiencing didn’t scare me, but confirmed that I was on the right path. Everything that was happening was healthy and normal. Although I was in pain, I felt at peace with it.
I had also learned through my Bradley classes that the toilet was a great place to labor. We had planned on staying home for the first 2-3 stages of labor, or until we knew the signs that told us we needed to book it to the hospital. (Bradley teaches what to watch for to know when the woman is ready get to a hospital.) With each contraction, coming on stronger and stronger, I had less time in-between to catch my breath and stabilize myself. I knew what I was feeling although excruciating, was perfectly normal. These were symptoms that I would likely face in my first and late first stage of labor. I felt like with each contraction I was a few seconds away from vomiting, then as soon as I thought I couldn’t hold it in, the pain slowly lessened. I was hungry only 10 minutes before and now I couldn’t even think about eating. This is where it gets embarrassing. With each contraction, I knew it was perfectly normal to feel like I had to use the bathroom. This is why I say I labored ON THE toilet. The other reason I stayed on the toilet was because I had some bloody show. I knew that my mucus plug had broken and I was expecting my water to break at any minute.
I don’t know how to explain it, but the hours from midnight to 5 am went by in a flash. Yet, in the same breath, I can remember every second of those 60-120 second contractions. My husband was my hero. He knew, almost BETTER than I did, what to do to help me get through the pain. After laboring between the toilet and an exercise ball for a few hours, Ryan took notice to my “tell tale” signs that I was gearing towards transition stage of labor. (Meaning, -get to the hospital quick!- stage.) He stood next to me through each contraction, counting the seconds. SO helpful. Looking back, this seems like the best advise I would give any husband. “You’re almost half way babe. You’re doing great. I’m so proud of you. Almost done now…” With those words, I could manage to see the light at the end of the tunnel. And although he couldn’t take away my pain, it always felt more painful without him next to me. I can’t explain that. Months after my labor, I could look back and say that the few contractions I experienced alone were the most painful. Not because they were actually more painful, but because pain and loneliness together are unbearable. I also never felt more alone than when he left me through a contraction. I found myself praying quietly under my breath. Jesus.
At around 6:00 am, Ryan, without making me aware, quietly moved all our hospital gear to the car. “I think it’s time. We need to get you to the hospital.” I was relieved to hear him say it. He gently put my shoes on my feet and carried me down our steps and out to our car that was already warming. What a huge relief.
Bradley teaches the husband signs to watch for, telling him to get to the hospital, if that is your birthplace of choice. Signs the woman might portray such as, “Do not disturb me.” Loss of modesty, very slow walking, appearance of deep sleep in between contractions, and so on.
The 15 minute ride to the hospital was the longest stretch of time I felt though my entire 10 1/2 hours of labor. Hell, we’ll call it. I’ll never forget each bump, each break, each yellow light. When we reached the hospital, my husband ran in and came back out quickly with a wheelchair.
We left not a minute too soon. THANK YOU, Bradley. When we arrived, I felt bombarded by a swarm of questions, few meaningful ones. I became heated and angry, and not to mention short-tempered because contractions were now hardly 60 seconds apart. I could barely catch my breath before the pain came on again. I could scream at the next nurse that asked me if I had been to or around anyone that had traveled to Africa in the last 10 days. “Really?! How many times do I have to answer this??” It was likely only twice, but felt like an incredible waste of my precious breath to give. (My husband laughs when we talk about this too, and he swears it was at least 6 different times. )
When we got to my room, Ryan gently sat me down and reassured me he’d be right back. (He had left the car running in the breezeway with both doors open) The minute he walked out of the room, the nurse left me alone to change when I felt a huge rush of warmth run down my legs. “Nooooooo….” For a second, I was sure I had my period and I thought that blood had come down and covered the floor. I looked down and was relieved to see it was clear. “My water broke” I said to myself out loud. No one was around. Strangely enough, I had no idea what to do with myself. So, I popped my head out into the hallway. “Hey…uh…I think my water broke…?” A nurse out in the hall casually responded as she stared at her computer, “Bathroom’s down the hall.” Astonished, I came out and walked past her viewing a you tube video. (I could be wrong, I was practically a zombie, but this is what I remember) I shook my head and kept walking. When I got back into my room, the nurse, midwife and Ryan were all waiting for me. They could tell by the puddle on the floor what had happened. I crawled back onto the bed like an injured soldier. The nurse came in to draw my blood and with each prick I became colder and colder. Shivering and emotionless, I did all I could to conserve the little energy I had left. I knew I needed every. single. ounce.
They checked me and found out I was 7 centimeters dilated. The midwife said we timed it perfectly. SCORE. I looked at Ryan with pride that he had done everything just as we learned. I listened as Ryan calmly explained to the nurse and midwife our plan for a natural birth. He typed up our final request of our birth plan, (Just 2 hours before this) and I was impressed to see the nurses actually reading it. I was waiting for a roll of the eye, or a scoff, but didn’t see any of that. Bradley strongly suggests using a birth plan if choosing a natural birth in a hospital. The hospital is a hard place to give birth, naturally.
The next few hours seems a bit blurry to me. I was still continuing to have contractions every 60 seconds and sometimes less. They had now given me a monitor to wear around my stomach to read the baby’s heart rate and my contractions. I HATED this machine with every ounce of my being. It was all I could do not to curse and tear it off of me. It seemed to me, that because it was tight on my stomach, it was encouraging my contractions to come quicker and stronger. I can’t explain this either. It just did.
At some point, while I was in a contraction black hole, they decided it was best to wheel me to another room. This room was better equip for birth. At this point, I was beginning to hyperventilate and cry almost uncontrollably with my contractions. I was embarrassed at my own tears. I thought in this moment I would be stronger than this. “Christy, hold it together. You’re almost there. C’mon, stop crying you baby.” My nurse was amazing. My midwife was a godsend. My husband was my knight next to me. I remember telling my nurse, “I’m ready to push, I know I have to push, either that or I need to go to the bathroom.” Again, Bradley had taught me the signs to know I was entering the “pushing stage”. They checked my dilation but because I was only 9 centimeters they couldn’t allow me to start pushing. This was by far the most frustrating part. (Aside from the nurses and the Africa question, and the monitor, and yea and the contractions…) I should explain that It was frustrating because It felt as if everything inside of me was coming out in one big bowel movement, but having to hold it in with every muscle in your body. Looking back now, it’s similar to having an awful stomach bug where you go between diarrhea on the toilet and vomiting in the sink. Sorry. Truth.
Ryan says he remembers that this is where he noticed my contractions were double peaking. He says he was watching the monitor reading my contractions, and it reached its peak, or the highest it would measure and it just flatlined….and continued on. In other words my contractions were, literally, off the chart, not to mention happening one on top of the other. So instead of a 60 second contraction, I was having a 2-3 minute contractions with no break in between. He knew this was a good sign that we were coming towards the end, but he couldn’t hide that fact that he was scared for me. I was propped on the bed on my knees with my arms holding me up. As I held Ryan’s arm, I noticed briefly that his hand was shaking. I looked at him, concerned, and asked him why he was shaking? And before I could hear his answer, my body gave into anther contraction, like being hit by a speeding bus.
Both the nurse and midwife left me at this point to attend to a woman who was having an emergency C-section. The nurse told Ryan to call her if he felt I wasn’t ok. He called her after 5 minutes because he knew I couldn’t continue to “hold” the pushing feeling. (Plus my contractions were scaring the crap out of him.) When the midwife came back, she checked my dilation and gave me the “OK” to push. Hallelujah! Holy crap! This was where I thank God for my wonderful midwife and my awesome nurse. The nurse offered me different birthing positions to start trying. Bradley helps you practice several great birthing positions, so I was aware of how to get into positions. I also knew which one’s would likely help me give birth the quickest. We decided to start trying on the bar. (This sounds like a circus move, it’s actually not) The bar was similar to a squatting position, but I never did quite get the hang of it, so we scratched that and moved on. Because I was feeling so much pressure in my back, I felt like the only way I could handle myself was laying back holding my knees. I had hardly any strength left in me when I knew I needed it the most. I was spiraling out of control, and became frantic with each coming contraction. It was all I could do to cry and cringe and hold on from minute to minute.
I’ll never forget, in between contractions the nurse basically took me by the shoulders, grabbed me and said, “Listen, I know that this is the most pain you’ve ever gone through, and I know you’re scared. But if you want to meet your son quickly, you need to take the pain and the fear and with each contraction turn it into your push.” It made complete sense. I put my game face on and faced the fear like she said. With the next contraction, I sternly ordered, “Ok. Let’s go” and my teammates cheered me on, held my hands and I held my knees back and they yelled “PUSH PUSH PUSH PUSH”. Yup, just like the movies.
I swear 3 hours had gone by. This was taking FORever. I figured with the excitement and yelling, that our son was practically hanging out and all I had left to do was sneeze and it was over. I was wrong. I was merely approaching the tip of the iceberg. With each 60 second contraction, I pushed with every ounce I had in me. I was beyond devastated when the midwife told me, that although I was doing great, his head wasn’t crowning yet. In fact, she found that my second bag of waters was still in tact! By now, I was so discouraged with no sign of his head, that I wanted to sit back and take a break. I remember asking the nurse and midwife time and time again, “When do I get a break? I need a break! When??” They handled me so well. I’m so glad they didn’t laugh. This was NOT a laughing matter.
By now the sun was up, and I had no concept of time. As far as I was aware, it was still 6:30 or 7:00. It was actually closer to 11:00 am. Ryan was completely exhausted, but he never showed any sign of that to me. (Not that I was paying close attention…) Neither of us had slept nor eaten since 11 pm the night before, and Ryan’s adrenaline was starting to slow down. (Not eating or drinking is not encouraged by Bradley. You should be well hydrated!)
The midwife gave me a pep talk. I had brought vitamin E oil for her to use, and I was glad she did. With her instructions I could learn how to properly lean into the push and push most effectively because of how she guided me. I can’t really go into more detail. I just remember at one point, she exclaimed, “That’s it! You’re doing it! You’ve got it!.” So, after an hour and a half of pushing, I finally learned what I was doing and began pushing effectively. I tried not to be discouraged when Ryan said we had been pushing for almost 2 hours. He reminded me that this would be the hardest part, and it would go faster now that I learned what I was doing. We learned in class that it wasn’t at all unusual for first time moms to spend 3+ hours learning “how to push” before actually moving the baby out. He said, “You’re doing fantastic. You’re almost there. This is it, you’re almost done. Are you ready to meet our son?” Those were the words I needed to hear.
When I realized that my hours of labor were nearing the end, I began to kick it into high gear. Although the contractions were still painful as ever, I now understood that I could use the pain to turn it into something meaningful. At the start of each contraction, I gave the command to my teammates, ” C’mon, let’s go.” or just “Ok!” I pushed with every ounce that I had in me. Yes, it is true that it feels like you’re pushing out the worst poo in your life…but lets take that times 10. Or 100. The pain was immense, but the adrenaline was stronger. Similar to coming to the end of a marathon. You may have been walking a few hundred yards back, but when you see that finish line and crowds cheering you on, you can’t help but smile and give it all you have to finish and finish strong.
And finish strong I did. After maybe 10-15 good pushes, he was home, in my arms. That moment still brings tears to my eyes. I burst into tears from the second he was in the midwife’s arms. Partly because I crossed the finish line, and the other part was the overwhelming, unexplainable joy of holding a perfect, handsome, miracle in my arms. My husband was next to me, and he was crying as well. The three of us, a family at last, celebrating through our tears. We looked at each other and couldn’t put into words how amazing he looked to us. He was more perfect than we could have dreamed up. Nothing about him was impure, no part of him was damaged or dull. My son, my gift, my treasure, my heart outside my body.
I hope you “enjoyed” this birth story. Please comment below if you did! I’d love to answer any questions you have about Bradley and natural birth.