If you missed my 4-part birth story, you can catch the whole she-bang starting here.
But if you've already read the saga, I'd like to wrap up by throwing just a few more things about my birth experience out there.
First, I know I possibly came off a little wonky when I posted all that shtuff about how we prepped for natural labor and delivery. But in hindsight, I'm SO GLAD we did all that prep and shtuff. While choosing a very pro-natural-birth obstetrician made it pretty unlikely I'd end up having an unnecessary c-section, I'm still glad I went into the whole thing with lots of knowledge on my side. It was comforting to know what to expect through the whole experience. So I'm glad I researched my butt off beforehand. Even though it made me a birth nerd/annoying know-it-all.
I'm still a little shocked by how fast my labor went. Sure, a 12-hour labor is no walk in the park, but it was still a bit shorter than the first-time-mom labor average, which is 16 hours. And I know from reading other birth stories that they can go wayyyy way longer than that. Going into it, I knew my mom and sister had short labors, so I was hoping I'd caught that gene. Turns out I did! Maybe it's the wide-birth-canal gene? We may never know.
My mom and sis were also pros at laboring without any pain meds. So maybe I got that from them too. All I know is that if my labor had been one of those insanely long ones, I'm almost certain I couldn't have done it without drugs. But by the time the pain got really intense, I only had a few hours left, so that made it very doable.
I never once asked for pain meds. Actually, there wasn't even a single moment where I thought... "I could really use some pain meds right now." Again, thank you short labor! And I suppose I should also thank my very supportive husband, our awesome doula, our cooperative baby, and all the other things that made a drug-free labor doable.
Don't get me wrong... I'm pretty proud of myself for doing it drug free. It was very painful at times. And the pain was ongoing for 12 hours. And you never quite know when the end is coming. So yeah, I'm proud. All my hard prep work and determination paid off!
And I'm happy. I'm pretty sure being able to feel the pain helped me progress faster. Being able to stand and walk around helped too. And laboring in the tub. All things I couldn't have done with an epidural. Plus, I was pretty bad at pushing even when I could feel what I was doing. Can you imagine how long I would have been pushing for if I hadn't been able to feel it? The answer is WAY longer, because I would have been pushing wrong the whole time.
A few folks have asked me, "On a scale of one to ten, how bad was the pain?" Which is actually quite difficult to answer. The contractions start off as a one, really. And then gradually work their way up. But it's not exactly excruciating pain. It's more just uncomfortable pain. You know how sometimes a really big gas bubble can hurt and there's really no position you can get in to make it better? You just have to ride it out. That's how the really intense contractions were. Just extremely uncomfortable. And my body was shaking uncontrollably, which again, was just uncomfortable. So maybe I'd call the absolute worse of them a nine? But you also get breaks in between each one. So, as long as I kept reminding myself the labor would eventually end, and also, before it did end, I'd get breaks between the contractions, the uncomfortableness and the intensity were very manageable. I guess what I'm trying to say is, labor is hard to rate on the "one to ten" pain scale.
In addition to fast laboring being in my genes, I think trying my very best to remain calm and relaxed really did help labor progress quickly. Relaxing my mind and my body relaxed my cervix. And going into it with all that preparation helped me to be relaxed since I knew, mostly, what to expect. The tub helped with relaxation too.
Also, John Paul being super low and sitting on my rectum (OW!) helped. That was just pure luck, methinks.
Oh, and you know what else helped? Basically not telling many people our due date. This way, we didn't have a bajillion people asking, "Where's that baby?" and stressing me out leading up to the due date. I even put a false due date on our registry. Is that sorta crazy? Actually, I don't even care. It kept the pesters away.
We also kept my state-of-health super hush. When I saw the bloody show, I barely told a soul. When contractions started a day before I actually went into labor, again, hush hush. When contractions started for reals and a family member called to ask what was up, we told them nothing of my progressing labor. (We sorta felt bad for lying, but, gosh darn, I wanted my privacy!) It wasn't until I was 5cm dilated, checking into the hospital that we decided to tell family. Ahh, and it was SO calming to do it that way.
Someone we did keep in the labor loop was our doula! First, she was a great help when I was confused about my bloody show and then again when we were confused about when we should leave for the hospital. And second, who else is she gonna tell? She's not related to us and isn't in any of our social circles, so we knew our secret was safe with her.
Let me just say, I'm so glad we hired a doula. She actually wasn't even with us for very long during the labor. We decided to just have her meet us at the hospital since we were doing a great job of laboring at home by ourselves. All told, she was with us for only about 6 hours. But her presence was exactly what we needed. I would have been so embarrassed to make all those noises and be all naked and stuff in front of someone that I knew (like my mom or MIL or sister), but pffffft, it didn't bother me one bit with our doula. That definitely helped me relax even more. And helped John relax too. Plus, she was a great help in the weeks leading up to the delivery AND she stopped in for a visit a week after the delivery and gave us this super cute wall art.
So yeah, I'd definitely recommend a doula to anyone. I will say that our personalities weren't an exact match. She was more tough love and let's get this done and I would have probably preferred someone who showered me with only compliments and encouragement during labor, but that didn't even matter. She rocked and I'm so glad she was with us.
I'm gonna be real here for a second. Tearing sucked. I feel like I tried my best, but still ended up tearing to a 2nd degree. Ok, so I maybe shouldn't have pushed him out while I was on my back. I had the option to squat or get on all fours or even stand, but I was too tired and went for the more tradition pushing position. Ah well! Anyway, I really didn't feel it when it happened. I did feel pain every once in a while when I was being stitched up and the doc would hit a spot that wasn't numbed. OUCH. And then it took a few days to feel comfortable sitting down. But now, it really doesn't hurt at all. And I probably shouldn't have been so nervous about it.
The days after delivering were not what I had expected. Here's the prob. As soon as John Paul was born, we gave our in-laws the OK to start driving to Memphis to see us. It was an 8-hour drive so we thought that would give us plenty of time to settle after the birth, hopefully nap a little, bond with our babe, and so on. What we didn't think about was how they were going to stay in town for 2 more days and want to be with us every possible moment. Which makes so much sense. They travelled far to meet their grandson. What else were they going to want to do? But this overwhelmed introverted little me a ton. In my opinion, just a few hours after birth alone with John and John Paul were not enough. I wish we'd had those first few days just the three of us. To establish nursing in private. To ride out my post partum hormones and emotions in private. (There was a lot of crying.) To bond with our baby in private. Basically, I wanted to be able to walk around my apartment with boobs out and not a care in the world. You can't do that when your in-laws are there during most of the waking hours. Oh well. I'd do it over if I could, but I can't. At least they got some early bonding time with our little man.
And then there was breastfeeding, which honestly needs a whole post of its own. But basically, it was way more challenging than I was expecting. For all the research I did on labor before he was born, you'd think I'd have been smart enough to read a nursing book. But nahhhh! I was convinced it would be easy and natural, a piece of cake. But as it turns out, John Paul and I were both newbs and needed a lot of help. And we're still not pros. But it's definitely gotten better!
That's probably all you ever wanted to know and more about my birth experience. At the very least, this is just a good way for me to document so that if -- but more hopefully when -- I'm going through all this again, I have a long list of reminders.
And that's all she wrote!