As many of you may know, I was very passionate about having a natural birth with Logan. When I envisioned giving birth, it was just how I always pictured it. I wanted a more peaceful environment vs. a hospital, which to me, felt a little more sterile and uncomfortable. My overall goal was to avoid as many interventions as possible to eliminate risks and side effects and I knew that aiming for a natural birth would be a step in the right direction.
Obviously, while life-saving in certain situations (they can be medically necessary!), cesareans are grossly overdone in US hospitals. In fact, the cesarean section delivery rate has increased by 500 percent since 1970. For me personally, it was something I wanted to avoid at all costs and by giving birth at a birth center, you reduce your risk. For birth center births, one woman in six (15.8%) are typically transferred to a hospital of which only 2.4% were emergency transfers. Of the women admitted to labor at a birth center, 84.2% gave birth in the center. The cesarean section rate drops to 4.4%.
Since we were traveling when we found out I was pregnant, my initial care team was a bit all over. In LA, I saw a holistic OBGYN for the first half of my pregnancy and then once we moved to Nashville, I received care at Baby & Co. (Nashville’s top birth center).
Once in Nashville, everything really fell into place. We loved our natural birth education courses. We hired a doula. I was exercising + walking daily. I was seeing a chiropractor and doing acupuncture treatments. In my third trimester, I started eating dates, drinking red raspberry leaf tea and doing all the things to prep my body for labor. Everything seemed super good with Logan too. She was rounding out to be about 6-7lbs and she was in perfect LOA position. I felt so confident about labor and mentally prepped for the journey ahead.
But then 40 weeks passed, and 41 and talks of induction started to arise. It was a holiday weekend, so my induction date was bumped up due to unavailability at the hospital. And before I knew it, I was racing the clock to kickstart spontaneous labor so Logan could come on her own. This stressed me out if I’m being totally honest. Logan was healthy and I was confident she’d come, she just needed more time but I was told waiting a few more days past 42 weeks was not an option. Le sigh.
By the guidance of my care team, I started using natural methods to speed things up: evening primrose oil, using my breast pump a few times a day and I got a few membrane sweeps towards the end. I even did acupuncture daily + all the other old wives tales to get things going.
Here’s how things went down. (At least how I recall them…)
Thursday, May 23: I lost part of my plug (sorry, TMI) before I went in for a sweep and started having contractions that evening. I thought … yes, maybe this is it! They carried on for a few long hours but they seemed to be all over the place towards the end and then they fizzled out. Shoot.
Friday, May 24: I went in that morning for another sweep. At 6pm, I started having contractions. This was it. Early labor started. The plan was to labor at home until my contractions were 3-1-1 and I was about 6cm dilated. At first, contractions were super manageable. We watched Netflix, cooked dinner and as things got more intense I utilized things like my birth ball, side lying and the shower. Even still tho, we were chatting and joking. The mood was light and positive.
Saturday, May 25: After 10 hours of early labor at home, at 4am we went to Baby & Co. to start active labor. Everything was on track and things were looking good. I started out in the tub. It was amazing. I felt so relaxed and I had Chance behind me rubbing my shoulders. Over the next 12 hrs, I rotated from the tub, to the shower, to the bed, to the birth stool and birth bars. I utilized everything they had to keep things going and to help cope with the pain. Of all the things, the birth bars seemed to help me progress the most. It opened up my hips really well.
Hours passed and we decided to speed labor up by intentionally breaking my water. The sac had been bulging for hours and wasn’t wanting to burst on it’s own. While rare, It’s actually perfectly normal for a baby to be born in their sac but mine seemed to almost be holding me back. Ultimately, an amniotomy was performed in hopes of strengthening contractions and speeding up my labor.
My contractions got stronger and stronger and by this time, I had been vomiting for hours. I was refusing to eat due to nausea. I was in transition for so long that my body started to swell. I went from 8cm dilated back down to a 6. So at 9pm, the decision was made that I needed to transfer to the midwives at Vandy.
I arrived at the hospital late Saturday night. I was given an epidural so that I could sleep. The thought was that if I couldn’t feel the contractions, my body would stop prematurely pushing (like it was previously). The relaxation and rest would help the swelling so that I could continue to progress and have a vaginal birth. Once your water breaks, you only have so much time before further intervention is necessary so again, this was something to be considered. I REALLY wanted a vaginal birth.
Sunday, May 26: I took a four-hour nap, woke up had some popsicles, talked things through with my doula, chance and the midwife on duty and started pushing. I pushed for almost 3hrs. Generally, this takes 30-60 minutes but it’s totally normal to go 2-3hrs. Logan was bundled up with her arms around her face and neck so it made it more difficult for me to get her through my pelvis. But at 3am on Sunday morning, she finally came. Miss Logan Bell was born.
In conclusion, my birth plan had a detour but I always knew that was possible and was totally open to the idea that things could unexpectedly happen. All I wanted was for us both to be healthy and safe. And to be honest, after such an intense experience, I was very grateful for the epidural and four-hour nap. During that time, I was given IV fluids, had some protein popsicles and got a second wind to push.
Reflection: I’m sharing my story not to scare anyone. I think natural labor is a beautiful thing and I wouldn’t change my experience for the world. Our bodies were made for this and I think my experience is probably quite rare (most times, active labor on average lasts about 8hrs). None-the-less, it’s how things shook out and I’m 100% okay with that. Overall, I would still encourage my friends to attempt a natural birth. My experience at Baby & Co. was great.
It’s been a little over a week with miss Logan and we are still recovering — we’re all pretty fatigued and working on getting our strength back. Both of our parents were in town for the birth and helped with postpartum care, which we are forever grateful for. In my next post, I plan to take a deep dive into the 4th trimester and give you updates on how Logan and I are doing.