Maggie D’s Almost-Natural Birth

Maggie D’s Almost-Natural Birth

Mama: Christina D.

Stats: 7 lbs. 3 oz., 20 inches

Type of Birth: Vaginal

Birth Location: Hospital

Primary Care: Obstetrician and Midwife

After 70 hours of unmedicated labor, I was being prepared for an epidural. The nurse on duty remarked to me, “You know, it seems like it’s always the well-prepared couple who comes in here with a birth plan and goals for unmedicated birth who get all the complications!” This is the story of how I almost gave birth naturally on my first try, and why I don’t regret saying yes to the epidural when I knew the time was right.

I was very adamant about wanting to have as natural a birth experience as possible, but I knew that there were a few odds against me. First of all, I was a first-time mama who had never attended a live birth, so my experience and knowledge were lacking. Second of all, I was a military spouse, so while my health care was completely covered, I had very few choices of where I would deliver and whose care I would be in. And third, my mother had four very long labors. So I was afraid that mine would tend to be long as well. Little did I know!

My husband and I dutifully took the only natural childbirth course offered in our town. While we enjoyed meeting other couples and learned a lot about the birthing process and how to use “comfort measures,” there were still some things we weren’t prepared for.  One thing we were not prepared for was how long early labor could last and still be within the range of what’s considered “normal.” We were certainly expecting to wait several hours before going to the hospital with our first labor. We were not expecting to wait days. 

After being dilated a good centimeter or a little more for a couple weeks, I lost my mucus plug and began having a lot of strange discharge. We went to the hospital just to get checked out, and they determined that the fluid was not amniotic fluid and sent us home. That was Saturday evening, and that night I started having what felt like real contractions. They started out 15 or 20 minutes apart and began getting closer together and more painful. Walking around intensified them. I knew they were too far apart, so I tried to get some rest, but all night the contractions were never more than 20 minutes apart and they were too strong for me to sleep through them, even after taking some Tylenol PM.

By morning I was exhausted and frustrated that they had refused to become more regular. My husband and I went out and walked at the grocery store, then walked at the mall after it opened, timing my contractions all the way. Soon they were consistently 10 minutes apart, then less.

By evening they were five minutes apart and lasting 45-60 seconds, and they were much more regular, but when we called the hospital, they said they preferred if we waited until they were 2-3 minutes apart. They recommended I take Tylenol PM again and try to rest. So Sunday night was the same story as Saturday night, except even less rest in between contractions.

Monday, we tried getting out and walking around again. All day the contractions would intensify, only to back off again. They never got into a consistent pattern for more than an hour. We were pretty frustrated by this point because I was positive these were labor contractions, and nothing would make them go away so I could get rest. 

Finally, in the middle of the night (technically, early Tuesday morning) the hospital told us we could come in with our contractions 4-5 minutes apart and lasting a good 60 seconds each time. They checked my cervix and found that I was about 4 centimeters dilated, and we were pretty excited thinking we would be admitted soon. They asked us to walk the hallways for an hour and continue timing the contractions. We walked for an hour and the contractions intensified and got closer together (about 3.5 minutes apart – Jonas had downloaded a handy iPad app to keep track of contractions and automatically average the times for us!) However, when I was re-checked, they said my cervix had not dilated any more and asked me to go home and labor there some more before being admitted.

By this point it had been three nights since I’d slept and we were pretty dejected. Laboring at home was terrible because I was so tired I couldn’t do much to deal with the pain, and the contractions were just about unbearable for me to go through lying down in bed. They continued to be 3.5-4 minutes apart, and we called back in a few hours and were given the ok to come back to the hospital. This time when they checked me they thought I was either 4 or 5 centimeters and asked me to walk around for an hour again before being admitted. We were so frustrated!

Apparently one of the on-call physicians heard the nurses talking about us and told them to just go ahead and admit us since they had plenty of rooms. Boy, were we thankful! Just knowing that we were on our way to actually getting through this and having our baby was enough to give me some more energy to labor actively.

An unfortunate dip in the baby’s heart rate meant I had to be kept on monitors for quite a long time, which seemed to limit my progress, but as soon as they were off, I started progressing really well. Soon I was at 5 centimeters, and a few hours later I hit 7.

This is where we started to run into problems. I began having transition contractions and in the hours between 5 and 7 centimeters, my labor went from mainly front to mainly back labor. Between the baby’s struggling to find the right position and the uncontrollable shaking and nausea, I was having a really hard time dealing with the pain. We tried different positions, using the ball, getting in the warm shower, everything we could think of. But when more than an hour of this labor went by and I had not progressed at all, I told my husband we needed to consider getting me some help. At first, the midwife on duty suggested we try breaking my bag of waters to try and speed things along. However, it turned out that the baby’s head was so low in my pelvis that it was blocking any water from coming out! I had not slept in almost 70 hours and the exhaustion turned out to be my biggest obstacle to completing the birth with no painkillers. 

I asked them to place an epidural, hoping and praying that I might still be able to feel some of my labor since they are often not 100% effective. Getting the epidural put in was terrifying, and it came with so much more – monitors, a foley catheter, and a saline lock, which turned out to be really difficult for them to get in – the first one they had placed pumped fluids into my arm tissue and they tried unsuccessfully on the other arm until I suggested they try the veins in the back of my hand instead. And of course, I had to go through a few transition contractions during the procedure, and holding still in a hunched position during contractions was awful! But once the epidural was placed successfully, I was able to relax and get a little rest. I was actually happy that it was not 100% effective. I could still feel my contractions on my left side and had some sensation in my pelvis. The epidural did not eliminate my pain, but it made it manageable.

Once I relaxed, they started me on the lowest dose of Pitocin, and I progressed rapidly from 7 to 9.5 centimeters, and before I knew it I was at 10 and it was time to push. Pushing was definitely the best part of the experience. Because I could still feel my contractions and had the urge to push, it was only about 40 minutes before she was crowning, and then she was out! She was born at 10:17pm, after approximately 72 hours of labor.

It was during the afterbirth that I was most glad I had received the epidural. I had a couple of tears and needed to be stitched up while they cleaned the baby up. But the big problem showed up when I delivered the placenta. I was six days past due and it fragmented on its way out. The doctor had to spend quite a long time searching for all the fragments and getting them out, and I can’t imagine how much more painful that would have been had I not had the epidural. They also continued to give me Pitocin after the birth because I lost a lot of blood, and the contractions I’d been having with Pitocin were very intense even with the epidural in place. 

In spite of all of this, the staff still did their best to accommodate as many of our wishes as possible. When Maggie came out all covered in green from meconium and the doctor shouted “NICU!” a virtual SWAT team of nurses burst into the room and took care of her. They allowed my husband to stay beside her, stroking her hair and singing to her. As soon as she was clean enough, they got her over to me and we were able to breastfeed her within her first hour of life and I held her skin-to-skin while I was being cleaned and stitched up. If I had not agreed to get the epidural, I would have certainly been too exhausted and in pain to enjoy those first special moments. 

In the end, I definitely think getting the epidural was the right call. It was more important to my husband and to me that we be able to enjoy our birthing experience and be ready to enjoy our daughter when she was born than it was to cross the finish line with no painkillers just for the sake of being tough. However, I plan to give birth to baby #2 later this year with no epidural. Armed with more information, experience, and confidence in my body, I know that I can have the natural birth I’ve dreamed of having!


Have any of you had a natural birth after having one or more medicated births? What differences helped you to give birth without medication or interventions?

5 Responses to Maggie D’s Almost-Natural Birth

  1. Pingback: Productive Weekend | love is bigger

  2. Maggie look like such a perfect little doll in those photos! Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. Brianna Laughman Reply

    I like how you were accepting of the changes and went with the flow. It seems most women are one way or the other and are disappointed when it doesn’t work out how they want. Thank You for sharing!

  4. Pingback: Third Time's the Charm: Judah's Birth Story Mama Say What?! | Mama Say What?!

  5. Pingback: Faith, Hope, and Love: My Breastfeeding Journey Mama Say What?! | Mama Say What?!

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