Anxious, scared, nervous – all words I would use to describe how I felt when I was pregnant and knowing that as I was counting down to meeting my little man I was also counting down to giving birth. I didn’t have any close friends that had given birth before and so I had only heard second count stories – a lot of them rather frightening IMO.
“Contractions are a pain I can’t describe.”
“I had such bad separation and tearing, I am not sure my body will ever be the same again.”
A few of the things I heard during my journey – these quotes accompanied with horror stories of episiotomies, emergency c sections, 24 hours of labour.
As I moved further along in my pregnancy, I started to deal with some issues. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, I was experiencing high blood pressure at times. Needless to say the fear of birth crept into my mind on a daily basis and I was having trouble actually enjoying the pregnancy.
But then it occurred to me that this is an experience I may never get to go through again and so instead of being afraid of what was to come I should try my best to enjoy every kick, every movement, every ultrasound photo. I should do my best to connect with the little bean that was growing by the day, that I was creating.
So instead of letting fear take over, I decided to take matters into my own hands and started to do certain things that made me embrace the experience instead.
I started doing daily meditation and breathing techniques which helped with my blood pressure. I made sure that I moved every day to keep my blood sugars low and to keep my body strong. I started doing prenatal yoga (which if you know me, you know I am not a big yoga person) to help with my flexibility. I started listening to hypno-birthing podcasts, particularly ones that focused on positive birth stories for all different kinds of birth (large babies, home births, c-sections) so that I could realize that no matter what happened with our birth, it could be a positive story.
On top of mentally and physically preparing as much as possible, I also wanted to have as much knowledge as possible. I know for some ignorance is bliss, but for this I wanted to understand all of the possibilities. I came up with a birth plan, did research on c-sections and how to make them a positive experience as well, came with a list of questions for my doctor for each checkup, asked if I could visit the birthing room when I visited the hospital. Having as much information as possible made me realize this wasn’t going to be a glamorous experience but I was feeling prepared and confident that my body wouldn’t let me down and I would be able to deliver a healthy baby boy.
Then came those unexplainably painful contractions at 12:30 on Christmas morning. The stories I had heard were right, this was a full body pain that I had never experienced before. There is no way to describe it – I won’t lie it is bad. I just had to keep reminding myself that it would only last a minute and then I would get a break, be it a short break but a welcomed one.
We made it to the hospital about an hour later and about 2 hours from when the contractions started I had an epidural put in and finally the pain subsided. By the time we made it to the hospital I was already 6cm dilated, we were in active labour.
Baby boy was sitting pretty high for quite some time and so the nurses told my husband and I to relax, we were in for a bit of a wait. I was actually able to get some sleep during this time (thank you modern medicine). Once in a while a nurse would come in to check baby and my vitals to make sure we were good. The team at the Squamish hospital was so incredible, making sure I was as comfortable as can be, and keeping me as calm as possible – even when the doctor told me that if the baby didn’t move further down we might have to do a c-section.
They started me on some oxytocin to try and move babe down and the incredible nurses helped me move into different positions. Since I had an epidural I couldn’t really use my legs so they worked with me to get me on hands and knees and on my side. They also helped me walk around a little bit.
12 hours after we arrived at the hospital the nurse casually checked me. I was 10 cm and after checking with the Dr. she came over and told me, ‘it’s time to push.’ The anxiety came over my body but it was quickly calmed when she started telling me how I was going to do it. I knew I had an incredible team with me that was going to make sure me and baby were safe.
I didn’t have the sensation that I needed to push now – maybe because of the epidural, but we started on my side. Deep breath in and then pushing as hard as I could for 10 seconds – and repeat. We then moved to my back and as soon as I got into this position (even though I had read all the terrible things about it) the baby’s head was starting to make it’s way out. The doctors and nurses were so positive – affirming me on every push that I was one step closer to meeting my baby boy while my husband lifted my leg to help out with every contraction.
“He has a lot of hair”, is the one thing I remember the doctor saying. The next thing I know she is passing this purple human to my husband who then placed our little man on my chest. 53 minutes after I started pushing our sweet Max was here.
Most of the labour was a blur. I do remember the relief of pushing out the placenta and a bit of pain being stitched up (I had two category 1 tears and one category 2). But I finally had my perfect little human in my arms.
He was weighed and because of my gestational diabetes his blood was checked. 9 pounds 9.5 ounces and 53 cm was the final outcome ( I knew he would be large but I didn’t think I would have the strength to birth a baby that large.) When everything was done we made our way to the postpartum room where we were going to spend our first night together as a family, which also happened to be our first Christmas together.
Every few hours a wonderful nurse would come by to help us with latching and feeding. We were struggling a little with this, but thankfully I had collected some colostrum and we could feed him that in the meantime. Any questions we had were answered, any bell we rang a kind nurse would be there right away to help. I was bleeding, and in pain, and starting to realize my whole life had changed forever – but I felt at peace knowing that we had help.
And after one night of recovery, and a test to make sure we could put Max in his car seat properly, we headed home to start our new life together, and to finally open our Christmas presents, even though we already had the best gift of all.
My tips for a positive pregnancy and birth experience
Let me start off by saying I was pretty open and honest throughout my pregnancy that I didn’t love the experience. I was dealing with really bad indigestion from day 1 (everyone told me this means my baby would have a lot of hair -and he did). I was then diagnosed with gestational diabetes and so was on a pretty strict diet for most of the pregnancy. But as I got closer to the end I tried to embrace the experience. I reminded myself how lucky I am to be able to experience growing a human inside me. I would find ways to try and connect with my baby through reading or chats. I would gently poke to get a kick back. I realized these were moments for the two of us that no one else would get to experience and that was pretty special.
Secondly as I share my tips and things that helped me throughout my pregnancy and birth I realize that every woman’s experience is different. What worked for me may not work for someone else and that is ok, but these are tips that were either passed down to me or that I did some research to prepare myself for the best labour (and recovery) possible, so here we go.
1. Do your research
As the old saying goes ‘ignorance is bliss’ – not when it comes to giving birth. I was so anxious and scared that I figured I wanted to have all the information possible so I could know exactly what might happen and how to best prepare for it. I took my first prenatal birthing class when I was only 15 weeks. I took a prepare to push course at 36. I watched different videos and read articles on best birth positions, breathing techniques, how to avoid tearing, how to have a positive c-section – you name it. But I also tried my hardest not to let my anxiety completely take over and when I saw something that made me nervous I would go to my doctors appointments prepared with questions. I realized that giving birth was completely out of my control, and that was ok because I was as mentally prepared for any situation that could come up and that gave me some comfort. I also came up with a birth plan. Thankfully I didn’t have to use it – but I was prepared to ask questions and understand options in case labour didn’t go as planned.
2. Find something that can help keep you calm
I was so afraid every time I went to the doctors office that I would be diagnosed with high blood pressure that I ended up having high blood pressure. I ended up having to go for 2 tests for hypertension. In my third trimester I finally decided to take matters into my own hands. I started listening to the calm podcast and practiced meditating. On top of that I started watching youtube videos for labour breathing techniques that I could use to stay calm but also to help with pushing. The hypno-birthing J breathing technique really helped me focus on pushing down and relaxing my pelvic floor during labour
Gestational Diabetes proved to be a curse but also a blessing. It forced me to move everyday, even just for a 15 minute walk. This helped keep me in the best shape possible right up until birth – I also did a lot of nature walks, which helped me get out for fresh air. I also credit the working out in helping my post birth recovery go pretty smoothly.
4. Listen to some hypno-birthing and positive birth stories
I only discovered hypno-birthing late in my pregnancy so I never ended up taking a course ( I think I will if we have another baby). But even the podcasts were a huge help for me. I remember the first podcast focused around how your body is creating the right baby for you – and that your body is preparing for that baby. This was a mantra that I carried with me throughout the pregnancy – even when my baby was measuring over 7 pounds at 32 weeks. On top of that I listened to podcasts of positive birth stories for everything from having a big baby to c-section. This made me realize that no matter what experience I had with child birth, I could make it a positive experience.
5. Change your langage
Another very helpful podcast that I listened to was on language and the importance of that in having a positive experience. Instead of talking about labour in a negative way I would try focus on the positive. The podcast spoke about not using language like where is your pain, because then you will focus on that. Instead try and find ways to focus on what feels good, or what steps you can take to feel better. I wasn’t so concerned about contractions, but I have heard of some people calling them waves or surges to make them more positive.
6. End the day with daily affirmation
Every morning when I woke up I would come up with a daily affirmation or mantra. Something along the lines of ‘Every day (or every push) brings me closer to meeting my baby’ or ‘I am growing the right baby for my body’. I found some others online that helped me throughout my pregnancy and that I even had in my head as I was in labour to help me get through.
These again are just a few things that helped me during my pregnancy and childbirth. Every women’s experience is different and what helped me might not help you but I was able to (mostly) change the narrative from negative to positive. Sure I was still scared of childbirth, but these steps helped me believe in my ability to get through it – and guess what? We did.
Good luck mommas you got this