My Birth Story: Megan
Birth used to conjure up the cliche imagery of a watermelon through a grapefruit for me. I would shiver at the thought and then rush to change the subject. I wasn’t that interested, until my body was on a countdown to B-Day.
And then one conversation in the break room at work put me on a very different path that would ultimately transform how I experienced pregnancy, birth, and myself. My badass friend (and co-founder of Baby Boldly) Natalie was pregnant and on her own birth journey (read her story here) and I got to pick her brain throughout her pregnancy. When she shared her plans with me for an unmedicated birth, I remember admiring her determination with shock and awe. I also remember laughing at myself saying, “that sounds nice but I just don’t think I’d have the pain tolerance.” After humoring me, Natalie explained she had done some birth style research (she’s such a researcher, me not so much) and landed on the Bradley Method. As she shared the philosophy, I found it intriguing, but didn’t put much more thought to it. After all, I was planning a wedding and not on the baby train yet.
A couple years later, when it was my turn to think about birth styles, I naturally conjured up that break room conversation and read more about the Bradley Method. I liked what I read. The approach was centered on partner-coached birth, almost like a team sport. Through Bradley, both my husband and I could feel prepared, informed and confident. I was really interested in the unmedicated aspect, but it still kind of scared me a bit. So my mantra continued to be “I’ll try it and do my best. I can always change my mind and that’s OK.”
The course was a commitment! 2.5 hours a week for 12 weeks...but in the end, I think that prolonged program was necessary to help me feel at ease about birth. And I learned so much about my body! Did you know how amazing women’s nipples are!? If you don’t, you should check this out. Thanks to Bradley, I had a birth plan and felt very empowered walking into my first birth. I knew how to advocate for myself and my baby, and so did my husband. We were ready.
My pregnancy was pretty much “by the book”. Because my maternity leave was unpaid, I worked up until the “last” day - two days before my due date. I wanted to go into labor that week because I knew if I went past my due date by a week, my OB would start talking about induction and I wanted to avoid that. The day before my due date I tried some of the “old wives’ tales” and I tell you, those wives deserve more credit! Within a couple hours of eating pineapple, drinking red raspberry leaf tea and walking, I felt some new movements. I called my husband (who was planning to stay at work late) and told him I thought he should come home as normal, just in case. I got in the bath.
A couple hours later when I got out of the bath (I loooove baths, ok?), I knew it had officially begun. Contractions were frequent, but not steady yet. I decided to get in bed and try to sleep, I wanted to labor at home as long as possible for comfort and relaxation.
After about 1.5 hours of no sleeping, the contractions were getting closer together and my husband started packing the car. He made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to get some carbs in since the hospital won’t let you eat during labor. (And I am a hobbit when it comes to food - prefer a meal every 2-3 hours.) I remember eating that PB&J, like a tribute to my ending “childhood,” bouncing on my birth ball giggling to myself thinking how no one ever showed this side of labor in the movies.
We drove to the hospital with a towel down, seat reclined and NO music because, contractions. I needed to focus! Upon arrival I got sent to the pre-labor area where they had to make sure I was “really in labor”. I remember feeling super salty in that moment. Excuse me but there’s NO question what’s happening here...but protocol is protocol.
When an inexperienced nurse checked me, it hurt. Since she was unsure on my dilation, another one came in and checked me again, which also hurt. A few minutes later, my water broke. And it was NEON GREEN. I remember asking “Is that normal?” and the newbie nurse with wide eyes said..”Not really..” Grrrrreat.
They informed us that our baby had a meconium (he pooped inside the womb) and now we were in a minor emergency category. As soon as he is born, he’ll have to be seen by a neonatologist to ensure he doesn’t swallow or inhale the meconium, they explained. I remember feeling somewhat anxious, but still mostly focused on the matter at hand: labor.
Because I was clearly in labor now, *eye roll* I was taken back to a L&D room and it was ON. The contractions became more intense and I started using some of the techniques I learned in Bradley classes. I labored in the shower. I was on all fours on the bed. I tried the birth bar. What felt best was standing and moving. After the shower I couldn’t be bothered to put my gown back on so I just walked around laboring stark naked, with zero awareness as to who came in and out and saw me in all my glory. Birth is funny like that.
Standing and walking evolved into squats. As a contraction would come on, I would get into position at the side of the bed. My husband behind me, arms outstretched and supporting me, did every single squat with me throughout the entire contraction. Then I’d take a break by laying forward on the bed until the next contraction hit. I stalled at 9cm so the squats went on for about 3 hours - with contractions 1 minute apart. Our thighs were sore for days! (Well, my everything was sore for days - but my husband loves to talk about his sore thighs...)
I’m going to be honest, it hurt like hell - enough to make me vomit - and I’m sure I scared everyone on the floor with my moans/yells. But I never considered getting an epidural. It’s almost like I forgot it was an even option. Throughout the Bradley course, my mind became firmly set in unmedicated birth and my mantra changed to “I will do this, because I am strong.” Damn right.
It was time to push. Funny enough, I instinctively rolled onto my back - even though in Bradley they say that’s the worst position for birth. It felt right. And right then, there was a hospital shift change. All new nurses came in, as well as a new doctor from my practice. It so happened to be the OB I had least connected with during prenatal care. Another *eye roll* but ‘oh well!’ This baby was coming, warm and fuzzy doctor vibes or not!
I felt like I said “You! Grab my leg… You! Grab my other leg…” I have no idea who they were, but they were wonderful. On the first few pushes (and I can laugh at it now) I was so LOUD. The nurse said to me ever so sweetly, ”Megan, all of that energy coming out of your mouth, I want you to push it down.” It worked! He was crowning! But all those squats and 3 hours of transition and I was losing steam. My doctor could tell.
Right then, my doctor paused and took my hand in hers. She brought my hand down to touch the top of my baby’s head and said, “Feel that? That is your baby. He is right here and ready to meet you. Just one more push and you get to see him. I know you can do it.”
Wow. That was all the motivation I needed. One more push and here he was!
For a second. Then he was whisked away by the neonatologist over to the table. And there was silence. He hadn’t screamed yet. Just as panic was rising in my throat, I heard the most beautiful piercing cry (which I’ve come to know very well now). I could see my husband taking pictures and leaning over the doctors as they did APGAR, weighed him and wrapped him up for me. As that was happening, the doctor stitched up my tearing. I had so much adrenaline pumping, I barely even noticed.
Because of the meconium, I didn’t get to do immediate skin to skin, my husband didn’t get to cut the umbilical cord, and we didn’t get to keep the cord attached for a prolonged period as we had hoped. But I’m so grateful for how our hospital handled the situation. It didn’t all go as planned but in the grand scheme, it was a beautiful birth.
When B was handed to me, I was still amped up from what I had just physically accomplished. I remember inspecting him and trying to satisfy nine months of curiosity. I didn’t break down crying like I thought I might. I felt powerful love, joy and, I just felt powerful.
That powerful momma I was on day one has eluded me so many times. I’ve sobbed to family, friends and complete strangers about my failings as a mother. I am not a perfect mother. And there’s no such thing. But becoming a mother, and the physical experience of an unmedicated birth, ignited my she-strength. I hope I get to do it again one day. But if not, I still get to say as often as I want for the rest of my life, “I can do that. I gave birth, so I can do anything.” And I can.