When I get the chance to share my birth stories with Birth Boot Camp students or anyone else who feels like humoring me, I often get the question, "How do I have a fast birth?" Usually I respond with, "If I knew the answer to that question, I would be living in a huge mansion." Then I pretend to throw my fast-birthing fairy dust their way, and we all have a good laugh.
I honestly have no idea how I've managed to have two quick and relatively easy (for labor) births so far. I feel like a large portion of my good fortune, is well, exactly that. I've had really good luck so far, and for that, I am immensely thankful. I'm really a wuss when it comes to pain, so I am glad that my labors didn't last too long.
In any case, I will share some of the things I did to prepare for my births, just in case someone finds any of these ideas helpful.
For birth #1:
I chose amazingly supportive care providers for the type of birth I was seeking. I wanted a natural birth in a hospital setting, so I chose the midwives with The Women's Specialists of Houston. At the time, they worked at St. Luke's. Now they attend births out of Texas Children's Pavilion for Women.
Following the advice of my midwives, I did my best to eat a good diet that consisted of food that was as close to its original form as possible. I also cooked most of my own meals, and I cut out all of the sweets. Even my beloved brownies. Especially my beloved brownies. I can brag that I did not have a single brownie when I was pregnant with my first baby. Of course, I was not perfect with my diet. There was still more to learn. I gained 35 pounds with this pregnancy.
I walked everyday for at least 30 minutes.
I took a thorough independent childbirth education class.
I learned the art of denial. Even though I was feeling pretty crampy for awhile, in my mind, I wasn't going to have a baby. Even though my midwife stripped my membranes, I wasn't going to have a baby. Even though my water had broken, I still wasn't going to have a baby. I just knew they were going to send me home because I wasn't having any contractions. Even though we were peacefully driving to the hospital to get checked out, I still wasn't going to have a baby. When the security guard asked me if I was going to Labor & Deliver to have a baby, I said, "I doubt it." When they hooked me up to the monitors and told me I was having contractions that were 2-3 minutes apart, I still wasn't having a baby. I told the nurse that I wasn't feeling anything, and she looked at me like I had two heads.
I FELT THEM. OH MY GOODNESS I FELT THEM!!!! I felt them so much that I started to shake and dry heave. I began to doubt whether or not I could do this anymore and "they" were all right that as soon as I felt my first contraction, I would be begging for the epidural. Only I didn't say anything other than, "I don't know if I can do this" to my poor husband. I wasn't even in a Labor and Delivery room yet. I was still in triage, and they were preparing my room. Robbie told me to "remember my sounds" and I started to moan. Or, rather, moo like a cow like I planned.
My room was finally ready, and they wheeled me to my room. Oh my goodness the breeze felt so good. As I was getting out of the wheelchair, I had a contraction. I just stood there in the middle of the room not knowing what to do. I think I reached out to thin air, and suddenly the midwife was there, hugging me tightly and swaying with me. Her embrace felt so good. She was so strong. She asked me if I wanted the tub. In my mind, I screamed, "YES!" I think all I managed was a nod, so she started running the water. The sound of it was wonderful. I made it to the bathroom and somehow I became naked. During the next contraction, I leaned over the sink to rock my hips back and forth. I remember the midwife telling me I was doing good, and I thought, "Huh? What am I doing? I'm just doing this. Doing this right here is all that exists right now." I didn't say anything out loud.
I made it into the tub, and it was wonderful. The midwife turned the lights off, and then Robbie was there. He vocalized with me, and it was wonderful. I didn't feel self-conscious or alone while he was with me. Having him there meant the world to me. The midwife stood by the wall and would remind me every now and then to relax my shoulders. Mostly it was me and my husband sounding together, with the whir of the jets in the tub and warm water relaxing me.
I visualized. I imagined standing on a beach next to the ocean. It was foggy. I was standing at the opening of a cave that was facing the ocean, and I held my baby in my arms. The wind was fierce, and the ocean waves would flow into the cave and flow back out. I imagined my uterus was the cave, and every time the wave would flow into the cave, and go back out, it was pulling my baby out a little bit more each time.
I made noise. I mooed like a cow. I mooed louder and louder and my sounds became more gritty and intense. Suddenly I was being pulled out of the tub, and I didn't know why. When I was standing upright, preparing to step over the edge, I said to whomever felt like listening, "I need to poop." The midwife said, "That's the baby, Sweetie." Somehow at that moment, I had absolutely no idea that needing to poop meant the baby was coming. That information had never been a part of my brain, ever. According to my brain at that very moment, that was the first time I had ever made that connection. Poop equals baby? Wha???
When I made it to the bed, the midwife checked me and proclaimed I was 9.5 cm with a little bit of lip. She said I could start giving little grunt pushes, and I believe I said, "Oh shit!" Which was the first thing I had said since I started feeling my contractions. I just couldn't wrap my mind around the fact that it was already time to push. I hadn't done any of the positions I learned in childbirth class. What happened to early labor? What about slow dancing? I didn't even do perineal massage!!! I never got around to it.
After a few little practice pushes, my cervix melted away and I pushed my baby out. Once she was born, she was placed directly on my chest. I marveled at how big her mouth was. Of course, she was screaming right in my face. It was wonderful! From the first contraction that I felt to the birth of my 8 lb 3 oz baby was 4.5 hours.
Here is where I think I was really lucky.
I was lucky that my contractions started so quickly after my water broke that I didn't need to be induced. I think back on that quite a bit that things could have been very different for me if my body hadn't gone into labor on its own after my water breaking.
I was lucky that I had a tub to labor in. I think having water and the ability to move freely helped my labor to speed along like it did.
I was lucky that my baby just happened to be in the optimal starting position without me having to try to do anything to move my baby. In fact, I didn't even know about Optimal Fetal Positioning or Spinning Babies.
I was very lucky to have such wonderful support. I couldn't have done it without my husband being there every step of the way, starting with his unwavering belief in my ability to give birth naturally.
For birth #2:
I chose an amazingly supportive care provider for the type of birth I was seeking. I wanted to have a natural birth at home, so I sought the services of a home birth midwife.
I hired a doula. This doula is also a really good friend of mine, so it seems really weird to me to say that I hired her, but I asked her to be at my birth. I just wanted her to be there.
I practiced the home study Hypnobabies program. It was so wonderfully relaxing. I was not yet a Birth Boot Camp Instructor at the time, so naturally, at this point I prefer Birth Boot Camp. However, I still love the Hypnobabies program although it was not the one I felt drawn to teach.
I worked even harder to have a better diet than before. My midwife really helped me to incorporate more greens, more protein, and fewer carbs. She advised me to be careful of my carbs. I tried, but I couldn't resist peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They were so good. Also, dark chocolate. So yummy. I gained 25 pounds.
I tried to exercise. I walked when I could, and I went up and down our stairs a lot. My midwife told me that 50 times a day wouldn't be too much.
I processed my fears. I was really afraid of having a 24 hour labor, and I would tell my husband. I was afraid of the pain and worried I would not be able to handle it. He expressed the utmost confidence in me. I was afraid that if I had a home birth transport that ended in Cesarean, people would be secretly satisfied and think that I got what I deserved for being such an advocate of natural childbirth. I never expressed that fear to anyone, but I processed it in my own way. I wrote that down somewhere and got those fears out of my heart.
I used denial to my advantage. I never prepared my birth pool because I was certain I would have time during labor. I figured I would need something to do to keep my mind off the contractions. When I thought my water had broken, and I couldn't go back to sleep, I started cleaning the kitchen. Once I was done with the kitchen, I opted to practice a relaxation on the couch. My contractions started when I was trying to do the Hypnobabies Deepening CD. I just couldn't get comfortable. Thinking back on it, it felt like I needed to go to the bathroom. It felt like something was being pushed up the wrong way when I would try to sit.
I was so uncomfortable, and I was frustrated at how uncomfortable I was. I just couldn't understand why I was SO UNCOMFORTABLE WHEN LABOR JUST STARTED. How could I be this uncomfortable already. I started blowing up the birth pool, and I didn't care that it might wake the neighbors. I couldn't sit while I was waiting. I had to be on hands and knees. I started rocking back and forth and bonking my head into the side of the pool. Somehow that felt good to me. Robbie came out of the bathroom, and saw me there. I was nearly in tears. I was so uncomfortable! He asked me about calling the midwife, and I just repeated, "I don't know! I don't know! I don't know!" He tried to get me to vocalize, but I argued that it was too soon for that. I think he talked to the midwife and he asked if she should come. I answered like before. "I don't know! I don't know! I don't know!" Then he asked if he should call the doula, and I said, "Yes! Tell her I am irrational." She would know what that meant. I remember him saying, "You want the doula but not the midwife?" In my mind, I wanted them to arrive at the same time. The doula lived further away.
Finally, I stopped being in denial and retreated to the shower. I asked Robbie to continue preparing the birth pool. I vocalized just like old times. I allowed myself to be as loud as I needed to be. My doula arrived, and she smelled so good. I knew she was there by the smell of essential oils. I thought, "Mmmm. Doula." Once she got there, I was honest with my feelings. I growled, "I hate this!" She reminded me of my baby, and asked me if I felt pushy. I thought that was a silly question since I had just started laboring. But as soon as she started asking me the sensations I was feeling, I started to be more aware of the sensations. I started to notice the feeling of needing to poop, so I yelled, "Poo poo!" At that point my midwife was there. She asked if she could check me. I didn't want to let her because I knew I was just 3 cm. I consented, and I noticed her fingers didn't get very far. At that point they were trying to convince me to get out of the shower and labor on the toilet. I didn't want to, but I did it anyway. I knew I needed to.
My midwife said I could push if I wanted to. I swear, if she never told me that, I'd still be in labor. I pushed for a few minutes, stood up, and Robbie suddenly was there. I feel like I was trying to walk, when my baby fell out of me. They helped me sit back down, and I had my baby in my arms. I was in shock. It happened so fast.
From the first contraction that I felt to the birth of my 9 lb 4 oz baby was 2 hours.
Here is where I think I was really lucky.
With this birth, I feel like my body took off without me. I didn't do anything to help my uterus work as efficiently as it did. That part is luck.
I had such amazing support. I had my husband, midwife, and doula who believed in me and created a safe place for me to let go and just birth. I didn't care about anything when they were there. I didn't need to care about anything. I could just be exactly who I was at that very moment, and that was a laboring woman. Things come out in labor sometimes: bad words, poop, gas, and most importantly, babies, but I felt secure that I could be anything and do or say whatever I needed to do or say without being judged for it.
I am also really lucky that I have been in the right places at the right times to meet some very special people who opened my eyes to the fact that there are OTHER ways to have a baby. Before being introduced to the wonderful world of natural childbirth, all I knew about were OBs, epidurals, and Cesareans. I didn't know women had options. I didn't know women could make their own choices. I didn't know that women were ALLOWED to give birth without epidurals. I didn't know natural childbirth was still around. I didn't know that midwives still existed.
I've learned a lot since then. I've been really lucky.