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Planning, Protocols, and Processing - Julia's Natural Hospital Birth of First Baby Mary

As someone who likes to plan and prepare, I started doing research and reading books as soon as I found out I was pregnant. I decided by my second trimester that I wanted to pursue a birth experience that was as natural as possible in the hospital setting. The books that really helped me were Made for This by Mary Haseltine, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League, and Natural Hospital Birth by Cynthia Gabriel. What helped us prepare the most, though, was the Kopa Birth class, which we took online. Starting in the middle of my second trimester, I spent around 10 minutes every night practicing total relaxation. I practiced different labor positions, tried listening to different music, and practiced relaxing to different prompts.

I was blessed to have a straightforward and relatively uncomplicated pregnancy. I was able to continue going on light jogs up until the beginning of my third trimester and to do pregnancy pilates until a week before I gave birth. I even travelled to Hawaii for work in my third trimester!

In the last month before my baby was born, I had near constant Braxton Hicks contractions. I was really looking forward to meeting my baby and to not being pregnant anymore, so I was disappointed when my due date came and passed. The evening after my due date, I thought I lost some of my mucus plug, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. I was up that night with very mild contractions and was able to sleep on and off until about 2 a.m. the next morning. I got up around then, filled my water bottle, and situated myself on my birth ball in front of the television where I watched Gilmore Girls for a couple of hours.

Eventually, my husband woke up and we spent the morning and afternoon watching TV, eating macaroni and cheese (maybe not the best choice, but that is what sounded good to me!), playing games, and walking around the house. Throughout this time, I was timing my contractions. They were consistently 3-5 minutes apart and 45-55 seconds long. My contractions picked up after we took our dog on a slow walk around the neighborhood, so we decided to head to the hospital.

In the car, my contractions spaced out again and I could sense that I was not far enough along. At the hospital, I was given a cervical check and I was 3.5 cm dilated. They gave us the option of staying there or going home. I wanted to stay there just because I wanted to be done with labor, but my husband made the decision to go home. Looking back, I am so thankful for his decision because he made it out of knowing what type of birth I was hoping for and how to best support that.

When we returned home, I had been in early labor for around 17 hours. I was exhausted and extremely discouraged. I decided to stop timing my contractions, which was a very good idea for to get my analytic mind to relax. To promote more relaxation, my husband drew up a bath for me. I remember thinking that I was not doing as well coping with the contractions in the bath, so I got out. I was exhausted physically and mentally. My contractions were picking up in intensity, but I just thought I was doing worse with relaxation. Because I had been up for almost a whole day, my husband encouraged me to lay down to try to get some sleep. Right after I laid down, I had an intense contraction and while my husband was applying counter pressure, I felt my water break. It felt exactly like how you'd imagine it popping!

I got up and there was fluid all over, so I moved to the toilet where I stayed while my husband packed up the car again. Instantly, my contractions were almost back to back and extremely intense. I was so focused on them that I do not even remember getting from the house to the car then to the hospital!

We got to the hospital and I skipped triage and went straight into a delivery room. It was unfortunate timing when we arrived because we were within 20 minutes of a shift change. So at one point, there were 9 people in the room asking me questions. I was in the bed, which was the worst possible position for these near constant contractions, my blood was being drawn, my IV was placed, and I was being peppered with questions. At one point, a "traveling doctor" came in and refused to listen to my husband's answers to questions about how far apart my contractions were. She also made comments about how high my blood pressure was (no wonder it was high!!) and how I needed to breathe a certain way "if I wanted to do this naturally".

Eventually everyone left and our nurse came in. She immediately asked us questions about our birth plan, which reassured us, and got me a birth ball. The doctor who checked me earlier that day checked me again, and this time I was 8.5 cm dilated! I had opened five cm in about four hours. My husband helped me get out of bed (finally!!!) and into the bathroom. There, I was on the toilet again with back to back contractions for a while. Eventually, I made it to the birth ball.

My contractions slowed down and spaced apart, so in the chaos of admitting me and all the people, I was going through transition. After a little while, I felt my body starting to push. This urge got stronger with every contraction, so my nurse prepared the bed for pushing. I got back into the bed and the doctor returned. I pushed in the way that they instructed me to, and this made it the most difficult part of labor. After about an hour or so, my baby was close to being born. At some point, they saw some meconium in my fluid that had been leaking. So per the hospital's policy, the doctor called a NICU team over and they prepared to clear my baby's airways. After a few more pushes, my baby was crowning. A few agonizing pushes later and 27 hours after my labor started, baby Mary was born!

Because of the hospital's protocol, my baby was quickly given to the NICU team. Within a few minutes, they placed her back on my chest and I got to see her for the first time! There, we snuggled and worked on breastfeeding, while the doctor stitched up the second degree tears I had. Within an hour and half after birth, I was out of bed and walking around the room. In that time, my husband held our baby for the first time, and I will never forget the joy in that moment. As much as I wish that I had seen God more throughout my labor, I saw Him in the most beautiful way then.

I have so much to be thankful for - a beautiful and healthy baby, a relatively smooth delivery, and much more. However, there are some moments I play back in my head that I wish could've been different. I am thankful, but I am still working through some disappointment where my desires for the birth of my baby conflicted with hospital policy. I wish I would have been supported in pushing a different position. I wish that my baby's cord could've pulsed longer. I wish that I would have been able to hold her immediately. I wish that I wasn't given IV fluid so that my baby's initial latch would've been easier. I know that if I am blessed with another uncomplicated pregnancy, I will be choosing a different environment and provider for my birth.

Julia and her husband live on East Coast with their baby and dog. Julia loves spending time with her family, running, and working part time as a software engineer.


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