Two weeks ago, my husband came into our bedroom to find me on my knees in prayer. I was begging God to bring us our baby. I was crying and overwhelmed. The day before, we timed my contractions coming every 3-5 minutes... but they didn't hurt at all. When we called my OBGYN clinic, the nurse said since they weren't painful, it probably wasn't labor. On Friday, I kneeled over our bed tearfully because my stomach seemed to be hard as a rock all day, but I had no idea if that even meant anything. I wasn't hurting, and I was so confused. They say "you'll know" when you're in labor... but I was at a loss to describe what I was experiencing. My husband picked me up and drove us to the hospital, mostly to give me some peace of mind.
When we arrived at Baptist Hospital, I was taken to triage and hooked up to monitors. A little while later, my nurses came in with amused smiles on their faces. "Robyn, you're having contractions literally every minute. You're in labor and didn't even know it! Do you want to have your baby today?"
The first thing I said back was, "Thank God, I'm not crazy!" It took my husband and I about 15 seconds to agree to stay and have a baby that evening. The nurse said I was dilated to a 4, and she could feel my bag of water. We had the option to go home and wait for my water to break, or walk around in Labor and Delivery to see if it would break... or my doctor (who was thankfully on call that evening) could break it for me. We couldn't believe how many choices we had! We decided to walk around Labor and Delivery for a while to see if it would break. I really wanted to have a natural, drug-free birth, so we waited.
My brother, Mom, Dad and his girlfriend came to the hospital to hang out while we walked and waited. We played a few rounds of Uno over my hospital bed. If this is labor, I thought, this really isn't so bad!
My nurse came in to check on me around 11 that night. My doctor would be on call until 7 the next morning. I really wanted him to deliver my son, so we decided to have my doctor go ahead and break my water to "get the show on the road." At midnight, we kicked my family out and had my water broken. We invited Mom back in for a little while. I didn't feel any pain for about an hour, and then at 1:00 on the morning of July 1st, labor really kicked into gear. So began my natural childbirth.
At first, the contractions felt like severe menstrual cramps. They wrapped all the way around my lower belly and back. They took my breath away and I started having to focus on my breathing, but it was still tolerable. I labored while I walked around Labor and Delivery. My mom held my hand and my husband walked behind us. Every 4-ish minutes, I would stop, squeeze my mother's hand and breath deeply through each painful contraction. A little while later, the contractions got worse. I decided to try laboring over a birthing ball. It helped to continue moving through each contraction. I would lean into the ball with each pang and moan it out.
My husband stayed glued to my side. I have a history of anxiety and panic attacks. Daniel has become a pro at coaching my breathing through them, and he applied that experience to coaching me through birth. We didn't take any birthing classes. Some call that foolish... but God guided us through the whole process anyway.
Why a natural birth? In college, I watched a documentary called "The Business of Being Born" and it completely changed my perspective on childbirth. Women have been giving birth since the beginning of time. I wanted to experience childbirth as it's been experienced for ages. I wanted the freedom to labor where and how I wanted to. I wanted a drug-free baby. I wanted to see what I was capable of. I wanted to prove everyone wrong that said I wouldn't be able to do it.
After laboring with the ball for a while, I moved to the bathtub. We asked my mom to go to the waiting room so I could have a little privacy. The nurse filled the tub with steaming hot water, and my husband held my arm as I climbed in. The heat of the water helped. I endured contractions there for about another hour, changing position as they got more and more painful. Eventually, the pain got so intense that I had to move to cooler air. I was sweating profusely and couldn't stop moving.
As we moved back to the bed, Daniel asked if I wanted my hospital gown. The modesty I was so worried about at the beginning was totally gone. Any fear I had of being naked in front of the nurses evaporated with the steam of my bathwater.
I was experiencing back labor. My contractions sped up and I couldn't stand to lie on my back. I rolled to my side, squeezing my husband's hand to death and basically yelling through every contraction. The pain that initially felt like menstrual cramps started to feel like a knife going through my lower back. The nurses determined my son was "sunny side up" - putting most of the pressure from his head into my back instead of my belly. The nurses wanted me to try and rotate him myself before they intervened to push him over. They had me lie on my back and put my right leg over the left side of the bed. I contracted three times there... it was excruciating. Next, we did the same thing with my left leg - crossing it over my body to dangle off the right side of the bed. Again, excruciating... but miraculously it worked!
There came a point where the pain of contractions became so intense that I couldn't breathe. My husband could see the monitor that recorded the pace of my contractions. He told me to breathe in and out, and guesstimated when each contraction would be over based on the intensity shown on the screen. It helped to have someone count down to the end of each one, and remind me to breathe deeply.
Suddenly, I felt the urge to push. I told my nurse and she checked me. Sure enough I was dilated to nearly a 10. They told me to start pushing with each contraction. I pushed for an hour and a half. At one point I didn't think I could do it anymore. "Push through the pain," they coached. Everything would go black. I could hear my husband reminding me to breathe. I could feel the nurses’ hands on my legs. I could hear another nurse reminding me to push down and not through my back. I was still experiencing a lot of back labor, so "Push through the pain" made me push through my back - a total waste of energy. Eventually, I started pushing correctly. I could hardly breathe, but I could hear myself yelling. When I thought I couldn't do it anymore, a nurse did the most encouraging thing I could have asked for... She grabbed my hand and let me feel my son's head. "You're not doing nothing," she said, "You're doing great. It's working. You're so close!" I have no idea when my doctor came in or how many nurses were there to help.
Finally, at 8:10 a.m. on July 1st, after 8 hours of labor, August Wyatt Cisar was laid on my chest. I remember looking up at my husband and seeing tears in his eyes. That's when I realized I did it. I looked down and saw blonde hair and a tiny body. The euphoria that followed was overwhelming. All I could do was cry and kiss this tiny human laying on top of me.
My husband cut his umbilical cord. I delivered my placenta and the doctor taught us about the amazing organ that nourished our son for nine months. We had it put on ice and a local doula came by to pick it up and encapsulate it for me. (Some think that's totally gross... but think about it: Humans are the only mammals that don't consume their placentas. It helps replenish the mother's body with hormones, iron and other nutrients that were lost during childbirth. It improves mother's milk supply, and boosts postpartum energy levels... among other benefits.)
My natural birth was truly remarkable. It was excruciating, and I'll never exaggerate the 1-10 pain scale again. But I would absolutely do it the same way next time. The sense of empowerment I felt afterward is indescribable.
The staff at Baptist Hospital made the experience for me, too. One nurse was there for my entire night of labor, and stayed two hours after the end of her 12-hour shift to see me deliver our son. Even my doctor stayed late to see August's delivery through and get me patched up for recovery. Every staff member that took part in taking care of me showed us patience, kindness, grace and love.
We stayed in the hospital for 28 hours before going home. August was born a perfectly healthy little boy. He was 20.25 inches long and weighed 7 pounds 13 ounces. We praise God for His outstanding presence as I gave birth. He gave me the strength and perseverance to make it through, and gave my husband the right words to coach me the entire way. I am blown away by the experience of bringing life into this world, and I wouldn't change a thing.
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