Before we begin: My natural, non-intervention hospital birth is solely my story to share. I don’t have all the answers for birth and I’m not condoning the mothers whose birth experience is different from mine. I simply want to share my story in hopes that you can find some value, whether you’re expecting or not, because I found great value in the birth stories of mothers who’ve walked this road before me. I’m not a medical doctor and am not giving medical advice.
I’ve tooled around with the idea of sharing more details on the birth of my first son, Vaughn. My heart is protected around my birth experience (and I’m sure a lot of other moms can agree – whether you had a positive experience or not). Fortunately, I did have a positive birth.
Birth is intimate
It’s a sacred time between not only you, your spouse and your birth team, but between you, yourself, and God.
Like my sister-in-law said so well, the “veil” between our world and the spiritual world is quite thin during the weeks leading up to, during, and after birth.
I want to share my experience because I’ve learned A LOT on what to expect in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum from other mothers being vulnerable and sharing their own birth experience. I’m currently pregnant with my second son, and with both pregnancies, I find myself eager to listen to (and watch!) birth story after birth story. For me, it’s very, very helpful to hear other mothers voice their journey as if they’re walking through it in real time.
There’s that something about birth where it feels like it happened just minutes ago.
Have you ever heard a mother explain reaching the “primal state” during labor? It’s a real thing. There’s a part of you, the DEEPER you, who is brought to the forefront during labor. She’s raw, pure, and invincible. She’s close to God in those challenging moments during labor. She’s present, wholesomely present.
What my pregnancy looked like
My husband and I had just moved to a new town in East Tennessee when we found out the big news. Like a fish out of water, we had to settle ourselves into this new area with full force. New jobs, new housing, and oh yeah, figuring out where we were going to deliver our baby?
There were no separate birth centers in our town, and I wasn’t truly educated enough to even consider a homebirth. We found a community hospital that we liked and just…went with it!
The prenatal visits were fine. This hospital offered Nurse Midwives and I purposefully met with each one of them. I’d never spoken to a midwife before, and I was simply intrigued to meet them! Turns out, a male physician delivered Vaughn and he was fantastic! More about this later.
There’s one thing I knew at this point in my pregnancy; the idea of having a natural birth didn’t scare me. The idea of doing so seemed, well, natural to me. I did, though, wonder what this would look like in a hospital setting? Do they even allow this?! They do.
By reading many books on birth, listening to podcasts, digging through blogs, and asking a lot of questions, I quickly learned throughout my pregnancy that YOU, mama, get to decide what your birth story and plan will look like. How amazing is that?
We hired a doula and will never regret this decision
I HIGHLY recommend hiring a doula, especially for your first pregnancy. A doula will play a big role in your birth team. They’re supportive, knowledgeable about pregnancy/birth/postpartum/breastfeeding/and-everything-placenta, and the hands-on support they provide during labor is unmatched.
Find a doula that aligns with you and one that feels like a friend!
I especially felt the need for a doula since this was our first rodeo. I mean, besides the birth stories of women in my family, I had no idea of what to expect!
Our doula responded fast and lovingly with resources when I had questions that included books, podcasts, recently published articles, blogs, as well as an entire list of mom groups I could join around my new community. Our doula listened to our concerns and thoughts, texted me back late at night, and she even patiently helped me with breastfeeding for 3 hours after Vaughn was born! You cannot go wrong with a doula.
Now that I’m pregnant with my second, our doula has stood by our side since the beginning, and she was actually the first person I told when I found out I was pregnant with baby #2.
I had an incredible pregnancy with Vaughn. It was tough in the first trimester, though. To be frank, it felt like I was hungover for the first 12 weeks. Grossly groggy, nauseas all-flipping-day, heartburn at night, and yuck, there were some foods, like red meat, that made me repulsed!
As the second trimester trickled in, I felt incredible. I had a lot of energy and felt back to my “normal” self. I don’t think I started showing until right at 20 weeks and I loved seeing my bump finally grow. And once we found out it was a boy, all things felt complete.
There was the Vagal Response
During the later weeks of my second trimester, I did begin to feel a vagal response every so often. Not a concerning amount, but here and there.
The vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body running from your brain to your chest and then down to your abdomen. It’s mega long. A vagal response is normal, though it means there is a lack of blood returning to your brain. This response is triggered by many things like fear, stress, pooping (yep), too much heat, standing for too long, sitting for too long, standing up too quick, etc.
So, when a vagal response is happening, your blood pressure and heart rate plummet pretty fast. It’s common to feel like you’re going to faint, throw up, black out (and/or experience tunnel vision), your ears may ring, cold sweats turning into hot sweats – the whole FUN gamut!
Things you can do to return back to feeling normal is eat, drink water, and lie down on your left side while focusing on breathing. If you’re not able to lie down, crossing your ankles and tucking your head down will help alleviate these awful symptoms!
As you can image in the later days of a pregnancy, baby is growing rapidly fast and sitting comfortably on a lot of major nerves, arteries, and veins. Simply, I think Vaughn was hitting my vagus nerve just right at some points, which would give me the vagal response. I was 27 weeks when I felt my first response and I actually thought I was having contractions while beginning to faint and almost throwing up. Thinking about it now, I could have had a Braxton Hicks contraction (these are known as “practice round” contractions) WHILE experiencing a vagal response.
Other than the vagal response, things were very normal during my pregnancy. Nothing concerning, nothing high-risk. At the end of my third trimester, my belly grew BIG. I felt huge. That was something I didn’t anticipate as a first timer. Your belly will get B-I-double-G.
The third trimester was really interesting – I became quiet. I wanted to stay home to hunker down. I felt pulled to be in the garden, get my hands in the dirt, but also stay active in the kitchen. I’d sift through old cookbooks, arrange and organize our space, and bake sourdough. I was very much feeling the nesting vibes here and I LOVED it.
What my labor looked like
I went straight to my due date and delivered Vaughn right on the dot, really! Did you know only 5% of first-time mom’s deliver their baby on their actual set due date? I found that really interesting.
The day before delivering, my husband and I both got our haircuts. I still laugh about that to this day. I remember thinking we both needed to do this before baby arrives. Like it was a really big deal or something? Must’ve been part of my nesting instincts.
We enjoyed the rest of the sweltering hot, August day by visiting our favorite Amish market for goodies, like Auntie Ruth’s from-scratch pretzels and donuts (we buy them EVERY time!), and simply hanging out in the back yard, reflecting on the pregnancy and how we couldn’t wait to meet Vaughn. It’s almost like we knew he was arriving on his due date, and this was our time to be present with each other.
Was that pee or?
That night at 3am, I roll over in bed and feel a tiny pop! in my upper, left abdomen and immediately feel warm liquid. I remember thinking, “Did I just pee myself? No. Wait, maybe I really did. No, no… this feels different.”
The contractions started immediately.
They weren’t strong – they actually crept up. Have you seen the original Jumanji? When the characters made a move on the game board that triggered the action to happen in real life, they heard drums in the background. Although, in the movie, it was a bit of a scary moment to them because they knew the board was coming to life. The contractions that started at 3am crept in like the drums beating in the background in Jumanji! I KNEW my labor had started and I knew Vaughn was arriving today (and fast).
This might all sound overexaggerated, because these thoughts came to me in a matter of seconds, but it was a moment that I had physically, and mostly mentally, prepared for over the past 9 months. To me, being completely aware that labor had started placed me into a deep and concentrated mindset, almost a meditation, that I would be locked in for the next 14 hours and I was ready.
Get some rest
After all, it was only 3am and the contractions, although consistent, were nothing to prevent my sleep. So, after excitingly awakening my husband and giddily pillow-talking about these contractions with him, I did just that, I went back to sleep.
5am rolls around and I’m ready to get out of bed and quietly walk through the house. I want to focus on the contractions and maybe even start timing them. Still, the contractions weren’t challenging yet, but (thinking back on it now) I almost wanted to get a better feel for them and understand their pattern.
In many pregnancy books, contractions are explained like a bell curve – they begin with a small sensation and gradually increase to where it’s peaking and most intense, then finally simmer back down and dissipate to nothing until the next one returns (unless you’re in transition where the contractions stack upon each other, one after another, and don’t dissipate as much).
8am-ish arrives. I’m already hungry and want something to hold me over for the long haul. My sister-in-law delivered her baby just days before me and I remember her husband saying he prepped her with a nutritious breakfast. I wanted something wholesome, so I made a bagel with a hefty amount of butter and avocado for energy. I also made a mean batch of my favorite pregnancy tea and gulped it down (trying to get my uterus strengthened one last time before delivery, hah!)
Deciding to make moves
Around this time, my contractions were picking up. I was feeling more of a deeper pelvic cramp and would lean into my kitchen counter when they peaked. I could still talk through them, so I called our doula and chatted with her. Making the decision to leave our house and head to the hospital was totally up to me. The thing was, I didn’t know when that time should be. Should I leave now? Or later? Will these pick up more? How do I even know what to do next? I had a lot of questions. And with these questions, I soon learned that my instincts would answer every single one.
We left for the hospital around 9am and my contractions were around 5 minutes apart. The drive was…interesting. I couldn’t sit on my bum – it was not comfortable. So, I’m crouching in the backseat with my head hitting the ceiling and arms against the window, like a panting dog, trying to find a comfy position to labor in. I’m laughing about it now, but I just had to make it work!
We arrive to the hospital, and I agreed to get checked by the nurse.
3cm dilated. Wha?! Only 3cm! Oh, my goodness. I would have been sent back home if my water hadn’t broke earlier at 3am.
Although I was a bit disappointed, and maybe a bit embarrassed that we arrived too early, I knew, once again, that this labor was going to be fast and consistent.
Natural and Non-Intervention labor and birth
From listening to many, many other birth stories, a lot of moms experiencing their birth ramping up once their mind is able to relax.
Being able to relax is crucial for an easier labor.
Did you know that relaxing your face, jaw, and mouth will allow your cervix to also relax and open? This allows baby to shift down the birth canal with ease. When researching about natural labor techniques, some of the first tips during a contraction is to literally say “OOOOOPEN” with a loose jaw, palms open, and a relaxed posture.
So I’m at 3cm dilated
Here I am, at the hospital 3cm dilated and the contractions are just under 5 minutes apart. At this point, I only want to labor standing up. My husband raises the hospital bed to about countertop height, I place my hands on the bed for stability, and for the next 5 hours I am here – focused on the rise and fall of the contractions, mentally aware of the space around me but hyper focused on what’s going on within.
I naturally wanted to squat up and down during each contraction. It almost felt like I was helping my hips open. Honestly, it’s what my body wanted to do, and I went with it! Of course, the contractions were challenging. To me, it was an intense frontal pelvic cramping sensation and squatting up and down helped to relieve it.
The nurse asks to check and see how far I’ve dilated, and I decline. If you’ve experienced being checked during labor, it freaking hurts! I was in the zone. I felt strong in my stance and flow of squatting.
Then I throw up.
I was officially in transition.
Transition means your labor is shifting from early or active labor to the final stage of labor where baby is descending further into the birth canal. This typically means mama will measure somewhere between 7cm to 10cm dilated and it might almost be time to push baby out, if mama is getting the urge (which, if you don’t know that feeling, it feels like you need to poop!)
My legs were shaking, and I was beginning to feel tired. My husband and doula lower the bed, I crawl on top and get on my hands and knees. They also lift the head of the bed and place a huge pillow in front of me to rest on in between contracts.
Immediately I lose my mucus plug (I know, it’s not the prettiest name, but that’s what it’s called!). A mucus plug is the membrane that protects your uterus and baby from bacteria and infections of the outside world during pregnancy. Losing it generally means the cervix is dilated, effaced, or both. And in my case, this meant baby was dropping and making his way out pretty fast.
The contractions at this point were stacking on top of each other. I’m heavily breathing through each one with an underlying grunt or “roar” that’s coming from the depths of my diaphragm. I’m shifting my body back and forth to adapt to each contraction, leaning into the pillow, and really just breathing so incredibly hard.
I believe the primal state of labor began to kick in here. I’m aware of the room and the people around me, but my thoughts are clear, minimal, and meditative. If I needed water, all I could say was “water.” If I felt like I was going to puke, I would say “puke.” Saying anything more (or thinking about anything else than what was present) didn’t make sense at the time!
Although the contractions were most intense here, and it was painful, I still felt calm and, call me crazy, almost blissful when I finally had a break in between. I think other moms can attest that the breaks in between contractions are really, really nice.
There was a huge window facing the Appalachian Mountains in our room. I remember looking out the window in between an intense, full body contraction and the mountains were literally glowing. They were vibrant, blue, and so incredibly beautiful. It was a peaceful and spiritual moment I needed during such an intense part of labor.
I agreed to get checked by the nurse here. I’m 7cm dilated! Baby is coming!
Once again, I am tired of laboring on my hands and knees on top of a narrow bed. All I want to do is lie down. So, I do just that! I lie on my back, reclined up on the bed and feel so relaxed. It felt like my body could simply melt into the bed and rest for a moment or two.
After a few more contractions here, the nurse checks again and I am 9cm dilated!
The urge to push
My body was so relaxed at this point in between contractions that when the next contraction came, I had an involuntary urge to bring my knees up to my chest and GRUNT! My body was beginning to push for me! It felt insane at the time. I remember thinking “what in the world was THAT feeling?!” It was another reminder that our bodies know exactly what to do during labor.
After this involuntary grunt, our nurse called the on-call OB for delivery because it was time to push baby out!
Was that baby?
The next contraction begins, I grunt again and then, POP! the rest of my water breaks. When I say pop!, the entire room heard an actual pop! My water broke so hard, the towel on top of my belly lifted in the air! It was hilarious! The amount of liquid that came out was not only shocking and so warm, but I joked that I thought I had just delivered baby.
I remember the room filling up, one by one, with the delivery team. I believe we also had students in the room to watch the production go down, which I didn’t mind and actually thought was really neat for them to see our birth.
Here’s where my, I guess you could say, inner lioness came out. And mind you, I didn’t know I had an immense amount of stored energy saved for pushing, but I soon realized it was there all along.
I pushed for 45 minutes before Vaughn arrived. It looked something like this: I can sense a contraction is building, my doula and husband hold my legs in the air so that I could relax completely, and as the contraction peaked, I tucked my chin, lift my upper body off the bed, puuuuuuush and squeeeeeze (with, I’m sure, the most insane looking face since you can’t necessarily breathe while pushing), and after releasing my push I let out the most primal, from-the-depths-of-my-being bellow. I don’t even know if I want to call it a bellow. I don’t KNOW what to call the deep, yelling sound I made after pushing, but I’m telling you, it was the most intense surge of energy I’d ever felt in my entire life. And I did this after every single push.
You could definitely hear me throughout the entire hospital. I’m pretty sure my husband’s face turned red immediately. I was LOUD.
It wasn’t that I was in pain or uncomfortable. I was pushing SO hard that the energy to follow after a push resulted in me sounding like a cavewoman. I’m telling you; birth gets you to a primal state!
Here’s your baby!
After one last final push, I see my son. The OB flops him on my chest and I remember dreamily saying,
“How do I hold him?”
“However you want! He’s yours now!”
Vaughn is here. Praise God, he’s here! He was a little grey and blue, but after finding his cry and laying on my chest for a second or two, his peachy, vibrant skin started to glow, and I’ll never forgot locking eyes with him for the first time.
I felt exhausted, like I had run a race. My breathing was still so heavy, and it took me a moment to come back to reality. He’s here. We did it. He looks like a sweet little peach. I love him. This is so cool. What a crazy ride that was. Need water. This ran through my mind.
After 14 hours of labor, Vaughn arrived. 8lbs, 15 oz, 20 inches long, and absolutely perfect.
A day that I’ll never forget
It’s true. I’ll never forget the day I delivered Vaughn. These moments are imprinted in my memory, and I still get teary eyed thinking about his labor and delivery. As I’m writing this, I’m 29 weeks pregnant with my second boy, Elwood. The homestretch of this pregnancy is here, and a lot of this pregnancy has been similar to Vaughns. I’m extremely curious and anxious for our due date with Elwood. I know it might sound wild, but I can’t wait to do it all over again, and this time, we’ll be at the comfort of our home.
Thanks for reading. With endless amounts of love,
Herbs, tinctures, and supplements I took
I’m writing this post 2 years after delivering Vaughn. Now that I’m pregnant with my second child, I’m taking a slightly different approach to how I’m getting my vitamins, minerals, nourishment. Anyways, these are the supplements I took during my 1st pregnancy:
- Vita-Min Nourishing Herbal Tea
- MegaFood Baby and Me 2 Prenatal
- Garden of Life Prenatal Probiotic
- Country Life Acerola (Vitamin C Complex)
- Mountain Meadow Herbs Gentle Birth Tincture – begin at 35 weeks up until labor. Can be taken postpartum, too.
- DoTERRA Peppermint Softgels – for any nausea or heartburn. Beware, these pack a peppermint-punch.
- DoTERRA PB Assist Pre- and Probiotic – I liked these much more than the Garden of Life brand.
Resources that prepared me for a natural birth
Books I loved
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth – this was the #1 book during my first pregnancy. #1, as in, I read it OVER AND OVER. I learned a lot from Ina May in this book and will always preach her knowledge!
- Ina May’s Spiritual Midwifery – another classic and popular book by Ina May full of birth stories.
- The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth – Mama Natural, aka Genevieve Howland, is a popular blogger, author, creator, and now developer of natural products like collagen and baby probiotics. I love her content and have followed her for years.
- What To Expect When Expecting – another great read that truly gives tells you what to…expect!
Podcasts and I loved
- The Birth Hour – solely a podcast FULL of birth story after birth story. Homebirths, hospital births, VBACs, Cesareans, birth in the woods, seriously, you name it. This was a great introduction to birth, what to expect (and what not to expect!), as well as a great way to normalize birth outside of the hospital.
Blogs and other resources I loved
- Mama Natural – again, her blog is great for diving into anything and everything natural living and motherhood. I used her birth plan template which you can find here.
- Mama Natural YouTube – If you dig around her channel, you can watch all 3 of her children being born and it’s amazing.
- Wellness Mama – another mama blogger I’ve followed for years.
- Bridget Teylor on YouTube – Bridget is a doula and mama of two. I love the way she explains pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. And her smile is so cute!