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My birth story: I wanted an unmedicated birth but back labor changed my mind

I was strong. I was powerful. I was beautiful. I'd done it!

birth-story-back-labor

I'm a planner, so one of the things that made me most anxious while pregnant with my first daughter was that I wasn't able to plan for when and how I would actually go into labor.

I did what I could to create some sense of control: created a birth plan and with my husband, attended a series of hypnobirthing workshops and committed to having an unmedicated, vaginal birth. I also planned ahead that I wanted an intimate birth, opting to have only my husband and cousin, who happens to be a labor and delivery nurse, in the room with me and my doctor.

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I even changed medical practices around week 20 from a big ob/gyn practice to a doctor of osteopathy specifically because she had her own practice and attended all of her own births (except in emergency situations).

I felt prepared by 37 weeks. But I was starting to get very uncomfortable, in part because I had been diagnosed—later in my pregnancy than is optimal—with hypothyroidism. I had gained a lot of weight (my body weight increased by 44%!) and was very swollen.

Sleeping, as happens for many in late pregnancy, was rather challenging so I wasn't too surprised when I awoke on a Sunday morning at 38 weeks, and my husband told me I had been groaning some in my sleep. I commented that my back was bothering me a bit, so I got out of bed to sit on an exercise ball to rotate my hips.

My water broke

I chatted with my husband about our plans for the day while moving my body in small circles on the exercise ball. When I stood to go take a shower, I felt a little stream down my leg.

I jumped from the surprise and told my husband, who asked if I'd accidentally peed. I laughed, and when I did, I started to gush. My water had broken!

With hypnobirthing as my birth plan, I'd planned to stay home to labor as long as possible before arriving at this hospital. However, when I called my doctor, she shared that I'd need to make it into the hospital sooner as my water breaking spontaneously meant I was at risk of a prolapsed cord. And, for the safety of the baby and me, I would definitely be delivering the baby that day.

I was told to arrive at the hospital within the hour, so I showered, ate breakfast, and sent some final work emails, enjoying a final few moments of quiet to prepare myself mentally and emotionally.

I didn't feel any contractions at first. It wasn't until we pulled up to the hospital parking garage that I become very uncomfortable. But the contractions didn't feel like it was coming from my belly as I expected, but rather my back—and they came on super strong.

My birth plan changed

Once the back labor pains started, I discovered there was no time to practice hypnosis and relaxation techniques I'd learned because the contractions came on so strong and fast. From the start, each contraction lasted over a minute with only 30 seconds in between. I could barely catch my breath between them.

My husband tried lower back massages, but nothing eased the pain. The nurses felt I must be progressing quickly based on the rate of my contractions, and the fact that my water had already broken. But when my cervix was checked a couple of hours into labor, I was only a fingertip dilated—about one centimeter.

My body had made no progress despite all the pain and work. I felt defeated, and I was already exhausted. By early afternoon I had only progressed to one and a half centimeters and 10 centimeters felt like a lifetime away. And so I made the decision to get an epidural.

Almost immediately, the back pain lessened, and I was able to relax. Over the next two hours, I went in and out of napping, and the next time my cervix was checked, I was at eight and a half centimeters. I'm so happy I trusted my gut and got the epidural because, without it, my body was too tense to progress.

Time to push

At 6:20 pm, it was time to push!

I surprised myself by asking for a mirror when I started to push so I could see the progress I was making. It was so empowering. The excitement and anticipation of meeting my daughter after nine months of waiting outweighed any fear, pain or anxiousness I felt. I was able to see my daughter's head start to emerge with each contraction and push, and it motivated me so much.

Perhaps I was a bit too motivated, though, because I pushed for only twenty minutes and then my beautiful, chubby-cheeked, 8-pound little girl was born.

My cousin commented that I smiled during the entire birth. It was so much more peaceful and calm than I ever expected, and writing this now brings me right back to the joy I felt in that moment.

I was strong. I was powerful. I was beautiful. I'd done it!

After my husband cut the cord and my daughter and I were enjoying some skin-to-skin time, the doctor stitched up the tears I had from such a quick delivery. (The tears healed well, and my baby was so worth it!) All in all, the birth of my daughter was the most amazing experience of my life. Words really can't explain the love I feel for her and how immediate it developed.

And so for the mama reading this essay, I wish you a similarly empowering birth story. To the planner, remember that the best-laid plans may go awry and that's okay. Be open to it and focus on the outcome—a healthy baby and mama. Be open to your needs and wants changing in the process, too.

As a first-time mama, I thought I knew exactly how I wanted my birth to go but once in it, I trusted myself to change courses. In so many ways, it was the best preparation for being a mother. You've got this, mama.

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These are the best bath time products you can get for under $20

These budget-friendly products really make a splash.

With babies and toddlers, bath time is about so much more than washing off: It's an opportunity for fun, sensory play and sweet bonding moments—with the added benefit of a cuddly, clean baby afterward.

Because bathing your baby is part business, part playtime, you're going to want products that can help with both of those activities. After countless bath times, here are the products that our editors think really make a splash. (Better yet, each item is less than $20!)

Comforts Bath Wash & Shampoo

Comforts Baby Wash & Shampoo

Made with oat extract, this bath wash and shampoo combo is designed to leave delicate skin cleansed and nourished. You and your baby will both appreciate the tear-free formula—so you can really focus on the bath time fun.

Munckin Soft Spot Bath Mat

Munchkin slip mat

When your little one is splish-splashing in the bath, help keep them from also sliding around with a soft, anti-slip bath mat. With strong suction cups to keep it in place and extra cushion to make bath time even more comfortable for your little one, this is an essential in our books.

Comforts Baby Lotion

Comforts baby lotion

For most of us, the bath time ritual continues when your baby is out of the tub when you want to moisturize their freshly cleaned skin. We look for lotions that are hypoallergenic, nourishing and designed to protect their skin.

The First Years Stack Up Cups

First year stack cups

When it comes to bath toys, nothing beats the classic set of stackable cups: Sort them by size, practice pouring water, pile them high—your little one will have fun with these every single bath time.

Comforts Baby Oil

Comforts baby oil

For dry skin that needs a little extra TLC, our team loves Comforts' fast-absorbing baby oil aloe vera and vitamin E. Pro tip: When applied right after drying off your baby, the absorption is even more effective.

KidCo Bath Toy Organizer

KidCo Bath Organizer

Between bathing supplies, wash rags, toys and more, the tub sure can get crowded in a hurry. We like that this organizer gives your little one space to play and bathe while still keeping everything you need within reach.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Life

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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