Sunday, June 7, 2009

What does giving birth feel like?

I think that's a very good question, one that Rixa asked in what I think is one of her most interesting blog posts. She does her best to explain the sensations she experienced as she gave birth to her two children. I recommend you read the whole thing, but I will share the questions she asks at the end:
  • What did labor and birth feel like for you?
  • What made labor more or less painful for you?
  • If you have experienced labors with and without Pitocin, how would you describe the difference between the two?
Even though they're not all positive -- after all, labor is a physical challenge like running a marathon -- I liked all of the comments on her post.

I have been in labor before but I don't think I can describe very well what it felt like. I know that for me the contractions (I like the word "surges") were more uncomfortable than painful. I breathed through them, and using counter pressure and a birth ball helped. It seems so long ago -- almost 31 months -- but in about two weeks I'll do it again, and hopefully I will experience reaching full dilation and pushing as well. After this baby comes out, I'm determined to write as much about it as I can while it is fresh in my memory. (I still plan on writing what I remember of Shboogoo's birth story. Having my doula's notes will be a big help.)

I'm getting so close to my due date; it should be obvious that this topic is on my mind and that I am excited. I have spent a lot of time getting ready for my VBAC and our new baby. I attended a "summer intensive" Preparation for Childbirth class for about 10 hours this weekend. The teacher gave us some wonderful handouts and ideas for birth plans, coping, etc. By the way, I have had some Braxton Hicks recently. I will have my cervix checked for the first time on Monday. I will keep you posted! [In the poll on the right you can predict our baby's gender.]

I would love to read your answers to the questions above. I also want to know:
  • Did you eat while you were in labor?
  • Is there anything you regret doing or would do differently? (For example, my neighbor wanted her epidural stopped after just 5 minutes. It hadn't worn off, so pushing was difficult to feel, and she wishes she hadn't had the epidural at all.)
  • What positions did you use for labor? For birth?
  • Did you tear? If not, what do you think prevented you from tearing?


  1. -When I went into labor, I was in the middle of making waffles for breakfast. I finished my waffle just before the contractions got so bad that I couldn't think about anything else.
    -I don't think I'd do anything differently. Originally with Robbie I thought I would try to go as long as possible without the epidural. It turned out I had a really low pain tolerance, and got it as soon as I could. For me, that was a good decision cause I wanted the birth to be as positive as possible so I'd be willing to do it again. Even with the epidural, my experience was less than positive, and for years I didn't want to do childbirth again.
    -I just laid in the bed, since I couldn't feel my legs, and I had to have other people hold my legs for me (Sam would always forget I couldn't control my legs, and would drop my leg after pushing for a bit, and I would almost fall off the bed)
    -Yes sir, I did tear!! I had 3rd degree tears, and it was very painful. I am impressed that it is possible to give birth without tearing.

  2. Those are a lot of questions! One thing that surprised me with my 2nd - an unmedicated birth - was the position that worked best for me was the more traditional one on my back. I trusted my midwife and my pushing was much more productive!

    I did eat in labor because I wasn't really sure I was in labor yet. I went out to Applebee's or something like that and ate a huge meal at about 6 pm and had him at 1:24 am. It was such an intense last 3 hrs the last thing on my mind was food. If I had a long, more calm labor I would have eaten.
    And... for me the pitocin induced contractions felt more scary, and I think that's why they hurt more than when I went into labor on my own the next time. If I do pitocin this time I'll make sure they turn it off once my labor is established.

  3. Warning: I don't know how to write short. ;)

    You've been doing Hypnobirthing, or similar, right? It really does change the whole experience when you understand what is going on in your body, you've practiced relaxing, you have someone supportive with you, and you (or your support) know some good ways to handle the surges. I got the epi pretty quickly with my first, but I'm a girl with an insanely low threshold for pain, and I didn't have any of the things I mentioned above.

    My 2nd and 3rd births were completely different as far as "pain" goes, but I took Hypnobirthing before my 2nd.

    It was intense, yes--very intense toward the end.
    It was hard.
    It encompassed my whole body.

    Moaning felt good.
    Counter pressure felt good.
    Hanging on my husband, or kneeling on the bed with my knees spread and then laying down with my tummy between my knees, and just going deep inside psychologically, felt good.

    But I wouldn't have known any of those things ahead of time. I just followed my body. It knows what it needs!

    After each surge was so empowering. I did it! I can do it again! I can do this!

    That time to rest in between was so important. I would hate having Pit b/c I've heard it makes them come much faster. I NEEDED to know there would be an end, a break.

    Transition is hard because surges are the most intense AND there's not much of a break. But it usually only last 10-15 minutes or so, and honestly, it feels like much less.

    Tearing: I did not tear with my 3rd, and I cannot describe to you what a difference it makes. I wish so much that this was emphasized more because doctors just don't know how to help you not tear--they think most women are "too small" and so they cut them, claiming it's better than a tear. I've had both (cut and tear) and they're both horrible, I can't compare them, except that I've heard jagged tears heal stronger than straight cuts.

    I attribute it to 1) My midwife knew what to do. She used olive oil and applied pressure in all the right places and urged me to go slow, and 2) Pushing slowly. It's so hard because you just want to get that baby out and get it over with, but it makes such a huge difference. If you've read my birth story, you already know all this, but, yeah, just go deep inside, breath down and out through your mouth, slowly. My friend says to blow raspberries, but I don't think I did that.

    Oh, and I was on my hands and knees and I've heard that's a great position to prevent tearing. It's just the position my body naturally gets in for pushing.

    Good luck girl! Sorry for the novel. I can't help myself, I think it's a disease.

  4. They didn't let me eat while in labor because of the pitocen (which, by the way, I absolutely hated - probably because I was trying to do it all without pain meds and it made it way harder). I was able to drink and have ice chips though. I was in labor overnight so it didn't really matter to me anyway. I would try next time not to have the pitocen. I still want to go natural. I would also ask for an internal monitor first thing because another part of the reason I don't think I was able to go the whole way without an epidural is that they had to keep messing with the monitor. And yes, I tore. And yes, it hurt later, though I'm sure it's none too comfortable recovering from a c-section either, so pick your pain!

  5. Hey Manda! Childbirth is amazing and beautiful--I am fascinated with it. I wish the best to you in your upcoming labor! :)
    I've had 3 VERY different labors, all very good experiences. With each one, I knew that it was what was best for that delivery.
    -With Talia, I wanted to go natural, but when I got to the hospital, I was in transition (dilated to a 7) and I knew I was going to start throwing up if I didn't get an epidural. I also knew that I wouldn't have the strength to push if I was sick, so I asked for an epidural.
    -With Makaela, I was prepared to go through labor at home, with a birthing ball, a bath, etc. like I did with Talia, and I did, for about 45 minutes. Then I realized that it was completely different and the baby was coming SOON. I woke up with my first contraction at 10:44 pm and delivered her at 12:59. I didn't have an epidural with her and I was amazed at how the body natural takes care of itself.
    -With Blake, I was induced because I had kidney issues. I didn't think that pitocin was as bad as I had heard from everyone. I had a good experience with it. My experience was unique though, once I had my epidural, it was the first time in a month that I couldn't feel my kidneys "exploding" and I immediately went to sleep. When I woke up, it was because I felt pressure and it was time to push.
    -I wanted to share all my experiences because I truly feel that the best thing is just to listen to your body and trust your dr. or midwife and to make the best decisions for your individual birth. Childbirth is definitely not a "one size fits all" deal.
    -I never ate during labor, only because my body never told me it needed it.
    -I had minimal tearing with each delivery...I believe it was because of perineal massage. It may be tmi, but I believe it really helps.
    You'll do great! I can't wait to see pics of the new little one!

  6. I think I've been blessed with relatively easy labors with my girls.
    With Macey I felt like I was having cramps, and wasn't sure if they were contractions. Kevin took me to the hospital, even though I was sure they would send me home- they weren't consistent, and I really didn't think I was in labor. But I was- I was dialated to a 5+ and 100% effaced with baby's head at a station 0. They took me right to the delivery room. I got an epidural right away, even though I wasn't in much pain, because I knew I would enjoy her birth more that way. I pushed for 20 minutes and we are forcept survivors, because they were worred the cord might be around her neck. I was in labor for a total of 6 hours from my 1st contraction to delivery.
    Since I had a fast delivery for my 1st baby, they thought my next baby would come even faster- they said the time would cut in half. Here in Oregon we live about 30 minutes from the hospital, and since I was progressing and the baby's head was so low, my doctor had me schedule a day to be induced. They wanted to make sure I was in the hospital when the baby came.
    They started me on the pitocin, which I had no problems with- I did have a problem getting my epidural, they are very anti-epidural here, so I only ended up having it for the last hour- which was fine, I wasn't in a lot of pain. She was born 3 hours after we got there. I pushed for 6 minutes. They talked about using forcepts or the vacuum on her as well, even though I hadn't pushed for very long. Apparantly my babies move so fast down the birth canal it stuns them.
    I didn't eat while in labor with Macey, and with Allyson they had a labor menu of broths, liquids and jello- so I did eat some of those things.
    I loved my epidurals- and truly enjoyed both of my labor experiences!
    I would prefer to go into labor on my own, I think that's a little more exciting than knowing the day your baby will come- as you get older, life doesn't have as many fun surprises- but I definitely don't want to have any of my babies in the car- so we'll see how things progress the next time I'm pregnant!
    Good luck with everything. Choose to do whatever feels right to you- it's okay that we all have different views- there's not one right way to have a baby. :)

  7. I just watched the video from my labor and birth yesterday and it was so amazing! I wasn't expecting to cry but I did all over again when I heard that little cry and saw the baby in the doctor's hands. It was also really interesting to listen to my sounds right there at the very end. I had a high pitched last scream before he came out, but even after he was out, I still was making a shaking "ooooooohhhhhh" sound for a bit. I just remember that it felt SO incredible to feel him sliding out... it was such a relief but also just amazing to think, "he's here! I'll be able to hold my baby in my arms!" I didn't have an epidural and I'm very glad I didn't. It was very empowering for me to feel the contractions and work through them and so rewarding to be able to feel my baby being born. Most of my labor was not very hard. I walked the halls a lot and would stop and breathe slowly through my contractions. Once in transition, I absolutely HATED being in the bed. When I had to go to the bed I did not want to. It really made a difference for me as far as the contractions went. Lying in the bed, I was on my side and I had a hard time through the contractions. I HAD to moan through them and my doula helped remind me to keep my tones slow and as low as I could. So I was moaning loudly through each contraction while in the bed, whereas when I got up to use the bathroom, I was able to breathe through the contractions silently when they came (with my husband's help.) I liked standing up, pushing on the sink the best. I dreaded having to go lay back on that bed. I was at a 9 for three hours and finally the doctor gave me some pitocin (for the first time) to help me progress. I didn't really notice any effects from the pitocin that late in the labor stages. I went to a 10, but the baby was still high up and his heart rate started to fall. I was having pushing contractions by then, but they asked me if I could just breathe through them until his heart rate went up. Turns out my baby was posterior and finally was turned and he came out quickly after that. I had been pushing for about 20-30 minutes before he was turned and when I started pushing, it was so hard to do, just laying there on the bed, I practically screamed at the nurses, "There has got to be SOMETHING I can pull on or hang on to to help me out here!!!" One quickly went and got a short band of material rope and she gave me one end while she pulled on the other end while I was pushing. My doula and my husband were standing on either side of me with my feet in their hands and they would push against them while I was pushing as well, all of which did help. During labor, I brought a bag of nuts and craisins and such and some wheat thins, and I ate a little bit, but not too much, simply because I wasn't really thinking about food, nor was I very hungry. For my next birth experience, I want to try a homebirth, and I definitely do not want to be confined to a bed at the end!!!

  8. oh and I did tear, I had third degree tears... I had requested not to have an episiotomy. I don't know if I tore because my baby had a big head (which he did and still does) or if I was too stressed/tight or a combination of both. I would be interested in learning more about the perineal massage and am curious as to what recovery feels like NOT tearing during delivery...


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