Saturday, October 10, 2009

what labor feels like

before i had my first baby 10 months ago, i remember asking a friend with 2 kids what labor feels like.  i asked,"is it like crampy or burning or tearing or what?" and she said,"yes, all of those."----gulp.  and this coming from someone that had 2 medicated births...i knew i was in for a challenge as i was planning for an unmedicated homebirth.

i wish i had known i was doing this actual post back during my homebirth labor, in which case, i would have asked my doula to take notes as i called out every single variety of sensations i was having.   it's true that amnesia of the pain sets in after the birth. but i'm going to try my best here.

labor, for me, came on like menstrual cramps in my low back (i'm going to continue to use the word cramp, but what i am describing is the menstrual kind, not the stabbing or gassy kind).   these were different from the frontal uncomfortable braxton hicks cramps i was having all day that day.   i knew the labor contractions were new and different, because they were timing out consistently (as compared to braxton hicks which were more random and just a hardening of the belly like a turtle shell).

the first couple hours, the cramping (again that dull menstrual feeling--but much stronger) came on quickly and intensely.   3 hours in (which flew by in a blink), i was on my side in bed, with a body pillow, semi-yodeling on my out breaths.   i took a bradley class but i could not, for the life of me, be quiet when breathing out.   i always moaned or yodeled.   i had a hard time standing as every time a contraction came on, i would keel over to hold onto something, get an intense cramping/pressure in my uterus, need to sort of bend my convulsing legs slightly, and end up on my tip-toes to get through the contraction. shower didn't really help....was hard to stand.

once i got into my rented birthing tub, i had the urge to push---so i did, and i saw my plug shoot out/my water broke.   this was all somewhat relieving because i was able to move into a different sensation that felt a little more proactive and controllable.   it's so strange how one minute you think the repeated crampy contractions feel like they're lasting forever, and then out of nowhere you have the urge to push.

i am skipping details of my birth story (which i will write about later) in order to only focus on the feelings in this post.

my labor was very short for a first baby (6 hours), and so ok----back to the pushing.    i tried squatting, side lying, sitting on the toilet, but ended up on my back in bed (the last place i wanted/envisioned).   i really needed to be able to be very well supported while pushing, because it takes extreme energy and focus.   i would have needed to be a body builder to hold onto my husband while squatting and trying to push---when i tried, all of the focus/energy was on just supporting my upper body, instead of on pushing, during a contraction...not good.

when you are in the pushing phase, you wait for a contraction to come on (they are happening approximately every 2 minutes at his point), and when it does, you want to be focused and ready.   you are in position (me on my bed with both legs jacked up--2 different people were holding them), and you feel the contraction/cramping coming on, so you take a deep breath and push like your life depends on it in a very focused area (this comes naturally).   i guess it could be compared to having a very constipated bowel movement with all of your abs and pelvic muscles engaged.   you get about 2-3 pushes in before the contraction ends and you have to wait for the next one.   some people push 5 minutes, i pushed 3.5 hours (which is HIGHLY unusual--i was distracted by vomiting and baby's foot kicking up under a rib causing sharp cramping).

here's the part no one talks about---when the baby's head is just reaching it's largest circumference at your vaginal opening, if you don't get it out during that just hang out (la-la-la) and wait a couple minutes until the next contraction.   i'm not gonna lie to you, this is when i was screaming bloody murder (and thought my neighbors might call the cops)---see photo above.   in the multitude of resources that i studied before birth, i never read about the huge head just sitting there while you wait 2 minutes for the next contraction to come on.  it is a hot, burning, stretching feeling.   i think it took me about 2-3 more contractions to get the head out.  after that, the rest of the baby's body is pie.   the doctor is in full effect helping glide the head and shoulders out gently.  my son's cord was wrapped around his neck, but this is not uncommon and not a problem unless it gets pinched somewhere (and restricts oxygen flow). the fetal heart monitor would have alerted us had there been a problem here.

once the baby is out, you are so awash in endorphins and oxytocin bliss, that the stitches (if you have to get any--i had 4 after a local novocaine shot) and the placenta coming out are like complete non-events. you basically do not feel them.  even the entire labor quickly vanishes from your mind.  it's the most bizarre and wonderful thing.

i must say that people probably do not talk about true labor details for 3 reasons: a. most do not have unmedicated births, b. you honestly do get amnesia about it, and c. it sounds scary.

i will write more later in how this was the most amazing experience of my life, and that i recommend it for anyone that is interested.

these are the positives of labor :

--you are in another dimension, so hours fly by in what feels like minutes
--the pain stops between contractions, so it is bearable
--your body naturally provides the endorphins you need to relieve you
--you know the pain will stop in the near future
--you are doing this to receive life's greatest gift (why should it be easy-breezy?)
--the pain is no where near as bad as society makes it out to be (my pain expectations were so high that i was relieved that it wasn't that bad)

as a comparison, i am having nerve pain in my arm right now and it is 100 times worse than natural childbirth.  particularly because it is non-stop, and i don't know if or when it will get better.

here is my stating-the-obvious disclaimer : this was my experience and everyone has a different one.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your birth story here. I'm currently at 37.5 weeks in my pregnancy and looking forward to my own home birth within the next month or so. I just wanted to let you know how incredibly helpful it is to read about experiences like yours. I'm enjoying your blog and will check back regularly for more of your tips and insights. Jennifer