What it’s like to give birth, and why YOU should share your birth story
Sharing your birth story with a tribe of women is something I find so beautiful. It allows us to bond, counsel, and (hopefully) laugh about the incredibly weird stuff that happens to us during and after childbirth.
It’s crazy to think how one wild, messy, emotional, and beautiful day becomes such a defining moment in our identity. Because to this precious little person, my name is “Mom” – and that, my friends, is sacred space.
For these reasons and more, it’s so important that we share our birth stories with one another – the ups and the downs. It lets each of us know that we are not alone in this experience, and bonds us to a larger community of women going back generations and generations.
So YES, when my friends get together with other moms, and there is a new mother in the mix, we can’t help but ask about her birth story:
“Vaginal delivery or c-section? How long was your labor? How was the pain? How did your spouse do? What was your recovery like?”
During each story we are leaning in, patiently listening, acknowledging, AND secretly chomping at the bit to tell our own birth story (it’s true and you know it).
👇 So if you want to know more of my birth story, and the lessons I learned, OR simply want to compare it to your own story, keep reading.
🤰My first pregnancy:
Awww. What an eager and happy first time mommy. ☺️
- Age: 28
- Carried a big, healthy baby boy to 41 weeks before I was induced. (He didn’t want to come out)
- Said YES! to the epidural when I was about 3cm dilated. (it sorta worked…)
- I labored in bed for a very long time + pushed for 3 hours, then…
- Ended up having a c-section anyway. His head was just too big no matter how motivated I was. 🤦♀️
- Had to get a second dose of the epidural, and I felt way more than I wanted during the surgery.
- My giant son was 9 lbs 12 oz at birth.
- I found my recovery after the c-section to be really awful and I didn’t feel that my body came back together until months after the procedure.
Birth Notes: An induction and a c-section wasn’t my ideal birth, but I really tried not to attach a lot of negative feelings or disappointment to it. It is what it is and I was overjoyed about the beautiful baby who had come into the world.
Though I always wondered, “if the birth had progressed differently would I have been able to have a vaginal birth?” I mean, I’m a 6 foot tall woman and there are plenty of smaller women who have delivered large babies. If I hadn’t laid in the bed for so many hours, would that have changed things?
Admittedly, it was my unanswered questions, and a birth experience that I didn’t love, that left me with a lot of “birth baggage” going into my second birth.
🤰 My second pregnancy:
6.5 years later. #getthisbabyoutofme
Birth Notes: You might not know this, but vaginal births after a previous c-section are not always recommended. But I had already decided that I wanted a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian). I truly believed that I was up to it and I wanted to avoid the challenging recovery that I experienced after my first birth. I put a lot of stock in the hope that the second baby would be smaller, and come faster than the first.
If that wasn’t enough, for this second birth, I got it in my head that I wanted to do it without pain meds. 😇
I wanted to know what those contractions really felt like and if I could handle it. I didn’t want to be confined to the bed after I had the epidural, the way I was with my first. So I had a plan to do everything I could to help that baby progress down the birth canal, like walking, squatting, and bouncing on an exercise ball.
See below to see how it turned out:
- Age: 35 (apparently that is old and I was classified as “advanced maternal age,” so that’s cool). 🤷♀️
- Went to the hopital at 6pm for a scheduled birth.
- Had to have my blood sugars monitored (had gestational diabetes).
- I was induced with a balloon catheter around 8pm (hear more about that in the full story below)
- I experienced light contractions and the catheter came out once I was 4cm dilated.
- Pitocin started at 4am. (no rest for the weary)
- Oh hello major contractions!
- Finally gave in and said YES to the epidural at 9cm, but it was too late. 😨
- …and now it’s go time. (did I mention no pain meds?).
- Pushed the baby out in about 3 pushes. 😮
- My baby girl was born at 7lbs, 5oz and very healthy. (2lbs lighter than my son)
- I found my recovery after the vaginal birth to be much better (though not without its challenges), and that my body came back together a few days after the procedure. (hear more in the full story)
Now if you’re thinking:
“But Katie, you gave me the bullet point version. I feel like you’re holding out on me.”
Well, if you want the “girl version” of the story, including my sarcasm and “real deal” commentary, then here is the version I made just for you. Listen to me tell it like we were in the room together, OR read the text version below.
CLICK to play the real deal, no holding back, but equally humorous version of my birth story.
Katie's Birth Story - text version
I went in to the hospital at about 6pm to get started with the induction. My son and husband came with me, they helped me get situated in the room, and then they left together so my son could go to my mom’s house for the night. After they left, the real fun began. Start the labor clock at 8pm.
The doctor used a physical induction method with something called a Cook’s catheter. It is designed to help thin and dilate the cervix. A thin-ish surgical tube with a balloon on the end is inserted through the cervix and into the uterus and gets filled up with saline. The balloon gets filled until it is about 4 cm in diameter. Once the cervix dilates to about 4 cm, the balloon will fall out.
But during the hours while I was waiting for that to happen, I got to enjoy three long tubes dangling out of my vagina. 🙅♀️ Let me tell you, peeing was not easy. I experienced some light contractions.
While the catheter was doing its job, my husband and I hung out in the hospital room and watched a movie. Except for those contractions (totally manageable), everything was pretty uneventful and he left around 10pm, with a plan of coming back at 6am, because that was when my doctor said she would start the Pitocin. (if you’re not familiar, it’s a synthetic hormone doctors use to kickstart the labor process)
Things got interesting after my husband left.
The nurse came to check my progress by tugging on those surgical tubes attached to the catheter. That thing popped right out and it made me say “WHOA!” as if it was really painful. But really, it just surprised me.
Since the balloon came out of my cervix, that meant that I was already dilated to 4cm. Considering that I caved at 3cm and asked for an epidural during my first birth, I was pretty proud of myself. ☺️
I distracted myself by timing my contractions on an app on my phone. The contractions eventually slowed, and the doctor who checked me said that the only way to get me to dilate was to start the Pitocin. She said that she would be back around 3am to get it started.
Suddenly, I was freaking out because my husband wasn’t there with me.
I remembered how painful my contractions were from the Pitocin with my first birth and I was scared about what was about to happen. I counted down the minutes until I called my husband at 4am on the dot ( 2 hours earlier than planned). He must have lept to the phone because it barely rang, “Hey, is everything okay!?” “Everything is fine,” I said, “but please come to the hospital now and be with me!” …Apparently I’m super polite even while giving birth. 💁♀️
The real fun began once the Pitocin started.
At this point it’s 4am, I’ve barely slept, and I’m about 5cm dilated. As the nurse cranked up the Pitocin over the course of several hours, the contractions got stronger and stronger.
I focused on tracking the contractions with my app, squatting between the contractions, bouncing and rolling my hips on the exercise ball, and walking back and forth across the room (something I couldn’t do in my first birth because I was stuck in bed with the epidural).
Around 7am, I could barely walk or move because the contractions were SO strong and SO painful. I remember sitting on the exercise ball with my shoulders clenched up to my ears, my hands gripping my knees, and exhaling while counting down from five in my head.
Once the pain become so overwhelming that I began to cry 😢. I was at the point where I didn’t think I could take anymore.
I caved and told the nurse I was ready for an epidural, but I wanted the doctor to check me first to see how far along I was. If I was 10cm dilated, I wasn’t about to get a shot in the spine when we were almost finished.
Turns out that my doctor was speaking to a group of doctors at a seminar at the hospital that morning and she wouldn’t be finished until 7:30am. So I just continued to labor until she came. Yes, the contractions were very painful at this point, but at least I had a time in my head where it could end.
Finally, around 8am, my doctor shows up.
She happens to be wearing a skirt, tights, and some knee-high leather boots. 🤦♀️ I somehow manage to get myself up onto the bed and shit is getting real at this point.
Sure enough, when the doctor checked my progress, I was just shy of 10cm and it was time to have the baby. Good thing, because my body was telling me that it was time to push out the baby! The waves of pain were immense at this point and it felt like there were only about 20 seconds between each contraction.
Oh but wait. Doc decides that she needs to go change her outfit. 🤨
While she is gone, I am laying on the table absolutely freaking out, vocalizing the pain and everything. My helpful nurse tells me, “try not to push, honey.”
15 MINUTES LATER…
The doctor returns in her birth-appropriate outfit and it is time to start pushing.
I had that baby out in about 3 good pushes. I vividly remember the searing pain pushing her head out (that was my vagina stretching to capacity and then tearing), and then the strange and much less painful sensation of her shoulders and body sliding out.
A wave of complete relief washed over me and that tiny baby was passed to me from between my legs and over my body. I said, “this is her!” The pain was over and I felt completely peaceful and calm.
🙋♀️ Birthing story side note: It was SO strange to go from being overcome with pain to smiling in a matter of 5 seconds. Oxytocin (bonding hormone) is awesome.
OK so the pain wasn’t completely over once the baby was out. I had a small tear that required stitches and some “skid marks” (smaller tears not requiring stitches) from the baby coming out so quickly. Since I didn’t have an epidural, I had to get several shots of lidocaine to numb the area while the doctor stitched it up.
In case you’re not clear on what exactly happened, my vagina stretched so far that it ripped and tore, and the doctor had to give me numbing injections in my vagina and repair it with internal and external stitches. It hurt as much as you think, but I guess it is a small price to pay. But from what I’ve heard from other moms, it could have been worse.
[end gory details]
Experiencing the pain of childbirth is weird.
It is SO TERRIBLE, you think that you would have a lasting trauma from it. Like the way you might if someone sawed off your leg. But for me, I didn’t have any lasting trauma.
Once I pushed the baby out, the pain immediately stopped, and I was hit with a wave of relief and happiness. Once I had the baby in my arms, I was calm.
Would I do it this way again? I’m not sure. I might go for the epidural once the contractions really got strong, because damn, it was INTENSE.
🐈 You know how pregnant cats run away for a few days and go give birth alone under a pine tree somewhere? This is kind of how my birth felt. I pretty much handled that shit on my own.
And did you notice how my husband barely plays a part in this birth story? It’s not because he wasn’t there (or being incredibly supportive), but once the contractions got really painful, I was SO inside of myself and inside my own head, that I barely remember anything else.
Overall, I’m glad to know that I can survive childbirth without an epidural, but I didn’t win any life hero points from enduring the pain. Though my husband says I should be awarded with the🎖 #vadgeofhonor. 😅
While I was pregnant, I read tons of birth stories on blogs like this one and I feel like each of them helped me in some way. It is so cathartic to share your unique human experience. Sharing our stories allows us to strengthen our bonds with each other and create a web of connection among all the other women in the world. Your experience is so special, and I hope I get the chance to hear it.
P. S. Hey, Moms who will never experience childbirth. I see you. You matter.
I recognize the pain you feel because I have experienced infertility. I know women who have suffered miscarriage after miscarriage. I know women who have never been able to conceive, despite doing everything they could to make it happen.
I know women who never found the right partner and missed the chance in their lives to have a baby. I know women who did the world’s most generous thing, and adopted a child into their heart and home. YOU are still part of the connected web of women because of your own unique story. Your story is important.
I see you. You matter. 💚
So, what’s your story? How did it go? What are the nuggets of woman-wisdom you have to share with a first-time mom?
OR in the reverse, what are the scary things most women don’t tell a first-time mom?
I would love to hear it in the comments!
Hi, my name is Katie. I’m a busy working mom, fit foodie, and lover of life. While there is no instruction manual for being a great parent, I hope is that the stories and information I share inspire your day, and help you show up strong for yourself and your family. Cheers!
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