It’s called labor for a reason, and so what if I’m not jumping for joy?

I never wrote David’s birth story, but here are the Cliffs Notes:
My first pregnancy was normal, healthy and relatively easy as far as pregnancies go. (Even though it did go on a little longer than I would have liked…) Labor and delivery was the same. Sure, there were moments of drama (and it went on a little longer than I would have liked…) but there were no major complications. Because everything went well, I had the delivery I’d planned on: a natural, drug-free delivery.

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My second pregnancy is also going well. There aren’t any complications or red flags, and my doctors appointments are routine. This week I had my glucose screening test for gestational diabetes. If you’re not familiar with this test, here’s an overview: you have to fast, then drink cup of juice that’s thick with sugar, and you can’t even have a sip of water to wash it down. Then, you wait an hour, give all that sugar some time to give you a headache and make you want to puke, and then have blood drawn to see how your body is reacting to the sugar. Oh, and also, you’re pregnant, so you spend the entire hour wondering why they couldn’t let you eat 50 grams of sugar in the form of Marshmallow Peeps rather than orange syrup.

The nurse asked her normal questions: do I have any swelling, headaches, nausea? Then she asked me if we have much to do before the baby gets here. Um. I don’t know! Do we? DO YOU HAVE A PAMPHLET?

After the appointment, my doctor told me I could go ahead and schedule the rest of my appointments since we’re at the stage where we get a check up every two weeks. I gulped. Are you serious? This is happening fast. 

The baby will be here before we know it. Which means I’ll be in labor before I know it.

I’ve been through the “giving birth” process before and, ok, I know I’m prone to exaggeration. I know I tend toward hyperbole. But hear this: childbirth is no joke.

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Before I go on, I want to be clear about something, I decided to have a drug-free delivery with David, but it isn’t because I think epidurals are bad or unhealthy for the mother or infant. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pain control and, to be honest, I didn’t even really do much research about it.

I decided to go drug-free for several reasons, the main one was just because that’s what I wanted to do. It’s how I imagined childbirth. If I dig deeper, it’s because I wanted to be as present as possible, I wanted to be able to walk, and having a catheter and a needle in my back make me cringe. Also, my mom and my sister did it, and I tend to just sort of do what they do. (Except, my mom recently gave up most carbs and I have to draw the line somewhere.)

Plus, I knew I could do it.

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When people asked me if I was nervous about labor, and I always said no, because I didn’t know what to expect. We took a class and I felt good. My water broke around 4:30 a.m. and David was born at 6:39 p.m. the next day. Labor was a breeze until noon, and then from noon to 6:39 p.m. I was screaming like an animal caught in a trap. For six and a half hours. My throat was sore for two days. The left side of my body ached, because every time I had a contraction I tried to rip my mattress off my bed.

It wasn’t blissful or peaceful; it was hard. It was exactly what God meant when he said, “I will multiply your pain in childbirth…”
When it was over, Tom didn’t say anything about being proud of me, he said he thought I was dying.

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In the classes and books about natural childbirth they show you all of these different positions you can get in and the way they describe them, they make it sound like getting in a pool or “slow dancing” with your husband will give you relief. Relief. Turns out, writers of “natural childbirth books” also use hyperbole.

This time, I plan to go drug free again. But this time, I’m nervous.

I’m hoping, really really hoping, that this labor is faster, maybe even easier. (My mom and sister have a few speedy deliveries under their belt. That’s what I deserve, ok?)
But even speedy childbirth is still childbirth, which means sweat will be involved. Maybe even tears, definitely blood.

I DO want to have another natural, drug-free labor, but I’m not going to pretend labor was some sort of beautiful, peaceful, spiritual experience that I can’t wait to go through again.

Can I use the word dread?

Since I’ve been through it before, I know all the bad parts, but I know the good parts, too. I know that it’ll be over at some point, and I know that at the end of it I’ll get a baby out of the deal. So I keep reminding myself of those two things.

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I also keep reminding myself that every labor is different, so the next labor won’t be just like the one I had with David. Probably, just like the last time around, I don’t really know what to expect.

But, still, I’m nervous.

I’d love to hear from other women. Am I the only one to feel this way? It seems like the “drug free” population feels like it has some sort of reputation to keep up, like we’re not allowed to say that labor was horrible and we’re nervous to go through it again. Most of the rhetoric about “natural childbirth” revolves around those words I already rejected: peaceful, spiritual, beautiful. Those words aren’t helpful. In fact, they make me laugh, roll my eyes, because are you kidding me?

Maybe it’s the power of positive thinking.

Maybe it’s delusion.

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18 Comments

  1. ErinD March 14, 2013

    Amanda – I love to tell people my labor story because it really wasn’t that bad (I mean labor IS bad but compared to other stories mine wasn’t THAT bad). When I see pregnant women and labor comes up I light up and say, “let me tell you my story – it’s a good one!”. I went into labor at 5:30 AM and had Caleb at 2:53 PM same day. When I went into the hospital at 9 AM I was at 5 cm . At 1 PM I was experiencing pain in an area that I was not at all prepared to experience pain in (lets just say it wasn’t my back or my stomach). With tears streaming down my face I asked to be checked and that I was considering an epidural because it was so bad. The nurse told me that I probably wasn’t very far along still and not to factor in “checking me” into my epidural decision (thinking back now I should have pushed her harder but whatever). I screamed for the epidural – had to wait 1 more hour in excruciating iwillnotmentionwhere pain while they pumped me full of fluids for the epidural (turns out you have to have fluids in your system via IV first before they will do the epidural – lesson learned) and then they shoved that needle in my back and I cried with relief and was even chipper after that. Guess what? Turns out I was fully dialted 30 min. after the epidural (they hadn’t checked up again up until this point). I had to wait 30 more min. to push because my abodomen and legs were jelly but then I pushed for 30 and little Caleb was here!! I will definitely go for an epidural as soon as I’m admitted into the hospital with kiddo #2. I was able to walk and take a shower shortly after Caleb had all of his tests and got cleaned up so I didn’t miss out on anything afterwards because of the epidural. Just another story/perspective. Even though my nurse was a cotton-headed ninny muggins for not checking me earlier (I probably wouldn’t have done the epidural when I did if I was at 9 cm) I had Caleb is 9 hours with 30 min. of pushing and you can’t beat that. Best of luck to you and your new little one – whatever you decide you will do great!!

    Reply
    • amandakrieger March 15, 2013

      thanks for sharing! the weird thing about my labor is that it took FOREVER to get to 10cm, but i pushed less than 5 min. so pushing was, like, the easy part. lots of women say the opposite, which shows that every labor really IS different. thanks for sharing your story!

      Reply
  2. Erin March 14, 2013

    I did two with epid. and two without (last two). I’d totally go without if I had a choice again. I think epid. made my other labors so slower, no question. I liked actually knowing what I was feeling (although way painful!) I think I took the “don’t think about labor until I’m in it” approach, but yes, it’s always scary. Each one seemed to go quicker. Amazing how God makes us strong enough to do this! Loved your post…very honest and real. Just keep thinking “it’ll be done soon” and “a sweet baby”. 🙂

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  3. Meredith March 14, 2013

    Wonderful post!!! Man I laughed so many times in this one I cannot do my normal giggle recap. I think Danny said something similar after my labor. hahah.

    I was in the hardcore “drug free” club until they told me I had to get a C-section due to Addie’s heartrate like, stopping multiple times. I decided to get the epidural as I was progressing into 8cm, so that I could be awake during surgery instead of being put under (had I passed 8cm that’s what they’d have to do). So I like to consider myself having had a natural labor since I went MOST of the way naturally, though I don’t really belong in the club since I did have to get the epidural. Did I mention my doctors were AMAZING and I ended up avoiding surgery and getting to deliver her?!? That’s the best part of our birth story 🙂 🙂

    Anyway, no. I wouldn’t say labor was ANY of those adjectives used in the crunchy all-natural books. Those people probably didn’t have really long labors or complications or worry that their baby might not be OK. And probably weren’t 15 days late getting induced with that devil pitocin because their body wouldn’t progress on its own. “Peaceful” is about the last word I’d use to describe my feelings as I flipped and flopped into headstands with insanely difficult contractions to help regulate her heart rate as it slowed to a snail’s pace. Looking back I can use words like “miraculous” and “mind-blowing” and “wo-oow.”

    Can’t believe you’re already this far along! Can’t wait for your new birth story. If God gives us more children I imagine I’ll try to go au-natural again, although honestly now that I know what the epidural can do…….. it’ll be tempting. 🙂

    Reply
  4. Lynsie March 14, 2013

    I did have epidurals with both of mine, I guess you can call it having one with Will. I got my epidural after 12 hours of laboring at home and he came 45 minutes after they put it in, so it wasn’t really all that useful. It seems to me that when I have heard people say “I would like to go natural, but am open to an epidural” like I myself did, they end up getting one. So I say way to go taking the stance of no meds. It just seems that since it is so hard, and different from any other thing/pain you have ever experienced once it starts happening if you have the idea in your mind like I did that you will do an epidural if it gets too rough, then you say give me the drugs in the moment. I’ve encouraged people that if they really don’t want an epidural don’t be open to the idea, just decide that you won’t do it and have that “I will get through it and it will eventually be over” attitude. Good post, thanks for sharing!

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  5. Britt K March 14, 2013

    You are so brave! I always cry when I read birth stories or summaries or pretty much anything about it at all. Tearing up now 🙂 I think you’re allowed to feel and say whatever you want. It’s one of those things none of us has any control over and everyone responds differently. Thanks for sharing, all the best wishes for you your family and your soon to be little one, and even possibly for a “beautiful” labor experience.

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  6. Katie Duerson March 14, 2013

    Amanda, I had two natural child births as well. I wanted to tell you that what you’re feeling is normal. I had a really great experience the first time, tough because like you said its Labor, but no glitches in overall a really good birth. however when I got close to delivering the second time around, I was also super nervous and feeling unsure about myself. I knew I could do it, but that part of you that knows how hard it is still there, and does make it seem worse. but to encourage you, labor will begin again and you’ll realize that your body knows what to do, and that it’s not as hard as you thought it might be. I did do a lot of reading and research before my birth, only because that’s just my personality with that kind of thing. but out of everything that I read, I most recommend Ina May Gaskins’ guide to childbirth, and MarieMongan’s hypnobirthing. the only thing I really took from hypnobirthing, what’s the practice and ability to stay calm when things start to get a little hairy, and by that I mean when things get really tough in the transition part of labor. their theory is fear + tension = pain. As long as you can stay calm and keep breathing, your body won’t tense up too much, and pain really is less. that was my experience with it. labor was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but it wasn’t as bad when I stay very calm, and kept breathing deeply. sorry about all the crazy grammar and lower case letters. I’m typing this from my phone. This also may have been more unsolicited advice than you were expecting. if you ever want to ask questions or talk about it, I love to. you’re going to do great. you’re 1 tough cookie!

    Reply
  7. Rachel March 14, 2013

    Amanda, my VBAC with Maggie was ‘natural’ and it hurt like a b*tch. Nothing earthy or peaceful about it. My motivation was mostly similar to yours- that I wanted to be present, wanted to move around, needles bother me, and that’s what my mom did. In the end, the biggest motivation was to help avoid another c-section.

    Although labor is not looming in my near future, I do plan to go the drug-free VBAC route again when the time comes. And, I will absolutely dread it. You sound normal to me.

    Also, you’ll do great! It’ll be faster! Easier! I hope!

    Reply
  8. Sarah March 14, 2013

    Amanda,

    Great story – I also love hearing other people’s labor stories and am so proud of EVERY woman who becomes a Mommy, drugs or not, it’s no joke. I will say I was induced with Pitocin and went as long as I could – wasn’t checked before my epidural but we estimate I was around 5-6cm. I will say what is probably super-annoying to some Mamas but I definitely felt that my birth story was spiritual, peaceful, and absolutely beautiful. Was it laborious? Absolutely – the name is fitting. However, the epidural provided such sweet relief and I was able to push her out 5 hours later and in just 15 minutes. I definitely think that the epidural helped me relax as I had been in labor for 14 hours with very slow progression up to that point. I felt absolutely present, strong, and focused when it was time to push but I also felt relaxed (although that may have been my exhaustion -ha.) Good luck to you!!

    Reply
  9. Lindsey C March 14, 2013

    Thanks for sharing! I ended up having a crazy labor ending in a c-section … and it always bugged me when “natural” mamas talked about how “blissful” their labors were. Thanks for keeping it real! (And you’ll do fine the second go ’round as well… because you’re awesome. 🙂 )

    Reply
  10. Jessamyn Peace March 14, 2013

    Being so close to the birth experience, I loved this post! I laughed out loud when you said you tried to rip the mattress of the bed! 🙂 My labor was 32 hours from my water breaking, and 18 hours from when they had to give me pitocin (since labor wasn’t really going anywhere on its own). I was similar to you in that all the women in my family have done natural labor so I figured I could do it too… about 2-3 hours before her birth (I was so crazy I don’t know what time it was) I thought I wasn’t going to make it, since I was only dilated to 5 cm 28 hours after my water breaking and figured that the baby was never coming out of there, but then dilated from a 7 to 10 in an hour and pushed for 15 minutes. I LOVED pushing!! If Jordan hadn’t been as awesome as he was during my labor and my doctor hadn’t diverted me several times from the epidural option, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it. Next time around I’ll go drug-free again since recovery was a breeze, but I’ll dread it just like you are now! You can do it though!

    Reply
  11. Grammy March 15, 2013

    Nerves must be part of the delivery process. With David, I was the most nervous. You’ll do fine. I can’t wait to meet Mary Virginia. The thing with your second child is that you always have the first child on your mind. Not the delivery part, the part about leaving them behind and having to come home with another member of your family. Welcome Home!!

    Reply
  12. Sarah O'Dell March 15, 2013

    You are awesome. Way braver than me. Ever. I’m a drug person always – headaches all the way to labor. I do not handle pain well. With Logan, I went into the hospital at 6:00 am and had my epidural at 8:00. Then I took a nap until noon when they told me it was time to push. Larry always talks about how easy I had it, getting to take a nap and all (I usually hit him when he says things like this, but…the nap was nice. Not going to lie. Even if people had to move my legs around for me) But still, I always say – labor is horrible, but it’s only one day. Pregnancy is nine long, miserable months. “Always” is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but I’ve said it before.

    Here’s the part of my birth story that I like to tell – I woke up about 3:30 in labor and woke Larry up about an hour later. Having heard so many times about how long labor takes, when I told him we needed to go to the hospital he said “Do I have time to cut my hair first?” While he was cutting his hair, my water broke and the contractions got PAIN. FUL. I was like, “Ok, we need to get going….” and he said “Ok. Just let me throw some things in a bag.” Next time, he is going to be better instructed in how to behave.

    Reply
  13. Laura @ Mommy Run Fast March 15, 2013

    I had a natural birth too, and it was hard but doable. I’d also do it again! You’re right that every birth is different. I also remember the one point drilled into us in Bradley classes was to relax. All the breathing practice we did was largely to help us remember how to take deep breaths and send messages to our body to relax… the more you are uptight/stressed/worried, the pain also increases (think of a massage on tight/stressed muscles vs loose ones). But it’s certainly normal to dread it!
    I’ll be thinking of you and praying for an extra easy, smooth delivery!! 🙂

    Reply
  14. Megan March 22, 2013

    It’s totally normal to be anywhere on the scale of slightly apprehensive to terrified about birth. It is HARD and out of your control and has a whole other life involved. But God gave us some crazy mom hormones to get us through it and make it worth it and even blur the memories eventually. Just get into your head and prepare yourself like you would any other physical challenge. The midwives I work with say you need to surround yourself with people who will love, encourage, and massage you through it and to remember to stay upright, mobile, and wet (shower is great, tub is greater). They also say 90% of women have a normal, uncomplicated birth within 24-48 hours. And your second is almost guaranteed to be faster. Maybe the fastest birth, surprisingly (see Andrea). Give Tom some key things to say to encourage you (or just what not to say) and keep your eye on the prize. You can do it!

    Reply
  15. […] didn’t really expect these differences. Even though I’m hoping labor is different and this baby won’t be quite so opinionated so early on, I didn’t think […]

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  16. Jocelyn Perkins May 9, 2013

    I’m pretty sure I know EXACTLY how you feel. I had a home birth with my first. My mom did it, my sister did it, I can do it, right? When my midwife asked me how I pictured my birth, I said, “I don’t know…peaceful?” I wasn’t nervous. And I had a very normal labor and delivery. 12 hours, 30 min of pushing. But oh wow, it was excruciating. I shook for days afterwards when I remembered the pain. And after a lot of thinking and talking and praying, I’m doing a home birth AGAIN with this second one. I dread it. I hope it’ll be shorter. I hope it’ll be easier. But even if it is, I know it will be painful, and I’ll reach the point where I don’t think I can go any longer. So I dread it. But I feel like I can’t tell people that, because they will say “Then why don’t you just get an epidural?” Or they will say, “Oh, don’t worry! Your body was made for this. You can do it.” (I KNOW I can do it. I just am not looking forward to it!) Anyway, thanks for sharing your perspective! It really helps to know I’m not the only one.

    Reply

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