To tell his birth story, I have to first tell the birth story (the short version), of our daughter, Kinley Rae. When I was pregnant for the first time with my sweet little girl, my husband and I were very nervous about being first time parents. We were so concerned with the fact that we had never changed a diaper before, and had no clue how to swaddle, bathe, or just keep this tiny little human alive, that we didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the birth part. We took a birth class that taught us some breathing exercises, but we didn’t practice or remember much of anything we learned. I just figured that I would go to the hospital when it was time, eventually get an epidural just like almost everyone else I knew, and do whatever my doctors said. Pretty simple, right? Well here’s the thing I quickly discovered with giving birth. You can never plan on exactly how you think it will go, because there’s a good chance something will happen to throw a wrench in your plans.
I was a week overdue with Kinley Rae when I was induced at the hospital. After about 10 hours, I decided the contractions were starting to get pretty uncomfortable, and it was time for the magic epidural that would take all my pain away and make everything easier from then on. Fast forward to about an hour and three anesthesiologists later, plus 6 holes in my back from their various attempts, they all concluded that my body would not accept the epidural. I have scoliosis… and although I knew that, I had spoken to more than one anesthesiologist prior to labor and was assured that my scoliosis shouldn’t affect my ability to receive the epidural. Well, they were wrong, and now I was being told that the epidural wouldn’t work at all, and I would have to have a natural birth. Since I wasn’t planning on that, and hadn’t prepared for natural labor at all, this news was pretty terrifying to me. My sweet husband was even googling breathing techniques by my side as I battled my way through the end of labor. It was a long 19 hours, but I did it. Our little Kinley Rae Schriefer arrived on June 28, 2011 at 3:58pm. After that stressful experience, I realized that if and when I ever gave birth again, I would do things much differently…
Look at me, I’m drug free!
Three years later we found out I was pregnant with our little boy. I knew that since my scoliosis would not allow me to have an epidural, that I had to have a natural birth. I also knew that I didn’t want to have the same stressful labor that I had with Kinley Rae, so I began doing extensive research about drug-free birth. My Mom had natural births with both me and my brother, and had always encouraged me to try it, but I thought she was crazy. Why would I suffer through that if I could get the drugs and make it soooo much more tolerable? Well now I knew I didn’t have that choice, and if I was going to do it, I was going to prepare myself for it this time. So I started researching. I felt so fortunate that my sweet friend Lauren had just written a book about natural birth around the same time. “Natural Birth for the Mainstream Mama” was exactly what I needed. It’s a quick read, funny and very informative. It explained why certain interventions and medications should be avoided, and how to successfully overcome the pain to achieve a drug-free birth. It’s also directed at modern “mainstream” Moms, without being too hippie. I was so fortunate to have Lauren to talk to and ask advice from. She was like my natural birth mentor! I also watched “The Business of Being Born”, a documentary about natural and home births. If you ever want to punish your husband for something, make him watch this. Mine basically wanted to remove his eyeballs about half way through.
Through my research I learned so much! How Pitocin, the drug used to induce labor, can actually make your contractions more painful, compared to the natural contractions your body produces. More pain?! No thank you. I learned the negative side effects that can happen with an epidural, and how the c-section rate in our country has skyrocketed and almost become the norm versus a vaginal birth. On one hand thank goodness that we have c-sections, because sometimes they are medically necessary and can possibly save both the mother’s and the baby’s lives. But on the other hand, they are sometimes performed for reasons such as the convenience of the OB’s schedule, because a mother has been in labor for what they feel is “too long”, or for other reasons where they are perhaps not absolutely necessary.
I decided to join a midwife practice, after learning that midwives can sometimes be more sensitive and supportive to natural birthing mothers than OB’s. Through their referrals I also found a doula, a trained support person to help guide me through labor. We took another birth class for natural labor, and this time we paid attention! I still didn’t feel super confident with how to breathe, labor positions, or getting in the right mindset, so hiring the doula gave us the reassurance that someone would be there to support and guide us through. (I say “us” because the doula gave my husband almost as much support as she gave to me!)
It was like climbing a mountain… the first time I got up the mountain, but it wasn’t pretty. I hadn’t trained for it, or had any of the necessary tools to make it to the top. This time I was going to learn, train and have the right tools to climb that mountain like a pro.
Now let’s be completely honest…
It would be easy for me to get up on my high horse, touting how incredible and better natural birth is, and act like I’m a better person for choosing it. But that would be B.S. Yes, I learned incredible things about how great natural birth can be. How great it is for you and your baby’s health, well-being and recovery, and how it can drastically cut your chances of needing a c-section. (By the way, I especially wanted to avoid a c-section since my body wouldn’t accept the epidural, there was a chance it also wouldn’t accept a spinal, and I would have to be put completely under general anesthesia. This was another motivator towards a natural birth.) HOWEVER… if I didn’t have scoliosis, and had I been able to successfully receive the epidural with my first child, and had a healthy delivery… I never would’ve pursued having a natural birth for my 2nd child. I would’ve been totally happy to get the epidural the 2nd time as well. I would’ve been shouting for an epidural so fast and high-fiving the anesthesiosolists that hooked me up with the magic juice. So that’s the truth.
Braxton Hicks were coming and going for my last few weeks of pregnancy, sometimes even down to 3 minutes apart. I was past my due date, and the midwives would allow me to go to 42 weeks before they’d induce me. Now I really didn’t want to be induced, so I started trying every natural method I could find to bring on my contractions. Taking long walks, eating pineapple, drinking raspberry leaf tea, acupressure points, and some homeopathic tablets from Whole Foods that my Midwife recommended. I was 41 1/2 weeks when I could feel my contractions getting a little more uncomfortable. It was about 10pm on Saturday night, and they were still tolerable, so I figured we would go to bed and get some rest to prepare for the big marathon of labor. The next day the contractions still felt the same. I scheduled a prenatal massage in the afternoon to try and induce labor naturally. It did seem to help, and by 5pm I called my wonderful doula, Odile, and decided that they were strong enough to go to the hospital. When we got there, Odile met us right away in the monitoring room. I wasn’t sure if they’d keep me, or decide that I wasn’t far enough along and send me home. The midwife examined me and informed me that I was 5cm dilated, and would be admitted and transferred to the labor room. Phew! I was much farther than I thought I was. Once in the labor room, I was able to have soft music playing from my iphone, the lights dimmed, and I even labored in a birthing tub. Yup, I went there. I was such a hippie. I told Joe that if you would’ve told me 5 years ago that I would be having a natural labor and sitting in a labor tub I would’ve thought you were crazy! But I learned that being in water can help with relaxation and pain relief, so I was all about it! (I was a little uncomfortable with giving birth in the tub, so for that I moved to the bed.) From there I labored with the amazing help of my doula and my husband. They were so supportive and helped move me towards more comfortable positions and supported me with whatever I needed. It was incredibly challenging and I definitely felt like giving up towards the end (although that really wasn’t an option), but I did it! Beckham Chase Schriefer was born at 8:46pm on August 16, 2015. He’s beautiful and looks so much like his big sister!
I have learned so much through my two very different natural births. I am so happy and proud that I was able to have the natural birth that I wanted. So what do I think of the way YOU gave birth? Whether you gave birth via a c-section, with the help of an epidural or other medications or interventions, or if you gave birth naturally, whether it was intended or not… I think it’s beautiful. Natural birth was right for me, but I know it’s not for everyone. However you brought your baby into this world is incredible and you should feel proud and accomplished. Us Moms go through so much through carrying our babies for 9 months… the stress of delivery and recovery… the stress of caring for your baby and making the right decisions. No matter how you brought your baby into this world it is an impressive accomplishment full of ups and downs, pain and joy. So be proud of your birth story, it is uniquely and beautifully yours.