Today, in Part 9 of our birth stories' series, Sara Pearsall shares her experience with natural childbirth (despite the pain), thanks to a birthing plan she and her husband came up with ahead of time.
Our story starts about ten months before we welcomed our
daughter in to the world. We were living in Hawaii, on the island of O’ahu. At
this time our close friends were ready and waiting to meet their little boy. He
arrived a little bit ahead of schedule and was a true blessing! We hurried to
the hospital to meet him (and congratulate them). As soon as I held that little
one in my arms I knew I was ready to have a baby of our own. However, we had
already decided we were not going to take the road in to parenthood. It took a
little bit of soul searching and some convincing, but eventually we agreed to
give it a try.
|Ellie Sara JP Photog-gra-fee|
A few weeks later, as we were driving across the country
(from Hawaii to Virginia) we discovered some amazing news; we were having a
little one of our own! It was a little intimidating for me because it happened
very quickly after we had decided to try. I feel very strongly that the reason
it was so quick for us is that I had been seeing an acupuncturist for over a
year. I feel that, thanks to her guidance in helping to make my body healthy,
it was ready for some baby making!
After finding the best doctor in our new hometown and
confirming that we indeed had a bundle on the way, we headed to the bookstore
to buy all the books we could to prepare us for pregnancy and beyond (my
favorite were the Ina May Gaskin books). We signed up for Bradley Birthing
classes and immediately started being more cognitive of my eating habits (which
were always healthy, but thanks to the nausea, I had lost my appetite). I was
trying to stay active by walking every day and taking prenatal yoga classes.
At 24 weeks, I started to feel some back pain, but wrote it
off as my body changing to carry the weight. As a couple more days passed, I
started feeling some tightness across my belly, but knew Braxton-Hicks
contractions were not unheard of at this point. After another day of back pain
and tummy tightness, I finally called the doctor and was quickly admitted to
the hospital for early labor. It took two days to get the contractions under
control. Thankfully, there was no progress otherwise, but none-the-less I was
put on bed rest. It was awfully boring! Following several weeks of appointments
with our doctors and midwife, the bed rest was relaxed to allow me some light “around
the house” activities. At 34 weeks, all restrictions were lifted and my doctors
encouraged that I try to be “reasonably” active.
Listening to the advice of our Bradley instructor we did
some research and came up with a birthing plan. We kept it simple (as was
suggested by the Labor and Delivery nurse in our Bradley classes). Our basic
desires were to have a natural birth without being offered any medications,
formula or pacifiers. We asked that my husband be informed at all times of
labor progression because we knew I may just be a little preoccupied to make
the best decisions should an emergency arise. Our doctors and midwife were very
supportive of our choices. We knew, since I had already spent three days in the
labor and delivery unit, that the nursing staff would be caring and
understanding as well.
As the end was drawing nearer, I found myself becoming more
and more anxious to meet our little lady. I began nesting as much as was
possible in our small apartment. So, on Sunday, February 26, to prepare for the
arrival of our little one, I was trying to get our living room in order. We
went out looking for a clock to hang on the wall. We moseyed about several
stores and enjoyed a wonderful lunch. Returning home without any good finds, I
decided to put my feet up and just relax on the couch. I was worn out, but
otherwise felt pretty great. According to the doctors’ proclaimed delivery
date, I was at 36 weeks. Within twenty minutes of sitting down, I felt a pretty
strong contraction. The time was 5:45 p.m.
About an hour later, the contractions were coming irregularly
but were increasing in strength. Naturally I did what any person in labor would
do; I called my Mom (my entire family lives in Ohio). We knew from our Bradley
classes that if you cannot continue to talk through a contraction, they are
becoming pretty serious and you should prepare to leave soon, or ready your
birthing area if you chose to do it at home. While on the phone with my mom, I
had to stop talking more than once. Here was our cue to call the doctor. I was
just leery because of the irregular time between each contraction as well as
the length of each. We knew we could get sent home if it wasn’t true labor. Well,
that thought was completely thrown out when the nurse on duty found out my
laboring history. We were told to head in immediately.
Of course, we had not packed a bag yet so I was running
(more like waddling quickly) around throwing stuff in a suitcase while my husband
was worrying about the important stuff like doing a load of laundry and making
sure he put the baby swing together (all by my request of course)! At this
point it had been about an hour and fifteen minutes. My contractions were
ranging from 30 seconds to 1 minute in length and were happening randomly every
After what felt like the longest walk down the flight of
stairs from our apartment to the truck (we had to stop twice for contractions),
my husband helped load me in the front seat and off we went. The birthing
center was about 20 minutes away, depending on traffic in the tunnels. Now,
most people would exceed the speed limit to make the journey a little faster. Not
my concerned man. Nope. He drove at the speed limit the entire way. He was
making all of the important phone calls to our parents letting them know what
was going on. About 10 minutes into the trip, we both realized my contractions
had regulated and they were every 3 minutes or less and were lasting about 1-2
minutes each. Because of the contractions, it took some time walking into the
birthing center once we arrived. At this point, I was having visions of
delivering on the doorstep!
Once we got signed in and shown to our birthing room, the
nurse asked the obvious questions about my progress, took my vitals and started
hooking me up to the contraction monitor. We talked for about a minute
regarding our birthing plan before she checked to see how far I was dilated,
which at this point had been the worst part of this entire process. The look on
her face was enough to tell us we were going to be staying a while (I was 8
centimeters dilated). She left to call the doctor. My contractions up this
point had not been unbearable, or even bad really, it just took some
concentration to get through them.
Meanwhile, my husband was being very supportive and
attentive. He was coaching me through the contractions, massaging, and trying
to draw my focus to positive thoughts – especially the one about meeting our
daughter soon. Then transition hit. I don’t remember much about this phase
because everything was happening so fast it sort of blurred together. I know I was
very scared. I know that I asked for an epidural, which my husband continuously
reminded me we had decided we did not want. We both knew I could have this baby
naturally. He tells me I got a little feisty a few times between contractions,
but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle. Thankfully transition was quite
short! The nurse had been back to check on us a few times and we could tell she
was getting antsy to see the doctor. We joked about her delivering the baby,
but it seemed like it was going to be reality pretty quickly.
The practice we had chosen had two doctors and a midwife on
staff. Throughout the pregnancy we met with each of them several times. We knew
that any one of them could be helping us to deliver our little one. When Dr.
Lee walked into our room just a short while later, we were both so relieved to
see her! We knew we were in good hands. At this point, my water had not yet
broken. Dr. Lee broke my water, which was pretty uneventful. I felt a little
trickle, not the massive gush I had heard about from so many other women.
My husband, Dr. Lee, and the two nurses who were in the room
did an amazing job of coaching me through the first two series of pushes. I was
not quiet. There was definitely some moaning and yelling. During the third
series our daughter started to crown. I was having a difficult time breathing
so I was given some oxygen to help. Dr. Lee told me to get ready to push again.
I remember telling her rather bluntly “No.” She gave me an understanding look,
told me to take another couple of breaths, and then we would continue. My husband,
to be encouraging, told me he could see our daughter’s hair. This stopped
everything for me. I yelled out, “She has hair!” which apparently everyone else
in the room found rather funny. One more series of pushes, and our daughter was
fully delivered, followed by a huge gush of fluid that, sadly, covered everyone
in the room except my husband. I felt horrible about this, but was so
distracted by the beautiful little girl in my arms! The time was 10:32 p.m.
While our daughter was laying on my chest, she peed, which I
thought was pretty funny, amazing and beautiful all at the same time. I tried
nursing her right away. She suckled for a couple of seconds but not much more. Eventually,
Dr. Lee said we needed to cut the cord because the placenta was about to be
delivered (we had previously discussed delayed cord clamping). Delivering the
placenta felt very weird. I remember thinking about Jello right about that time.
After that part was over, I needed stitches (9 total) due to a second degree tear.
For me, this turned out to be the most painful of the entire labor and
delivery. My body did not have enough time to naturally “numb” that area so I
could feel everything and it hurt pretty badly. Dr. Lee administered more than
one shot to numb me, but it didn’t seem to help. I had to hand our daughter to
my husband (they did all of her vitals and checked her length and weight at
After everything was over, one of the nurses came in to help
me shower off, then moved me to the room I’d be in for the rest of our stay. It
was determined our daughter was 38 weeks old and absolutely perfect in every
single way! She was 5 pounds 7 ounces and 21 inches long. We spent the next
couple of days, with the amazing support of the hospital staff, beginning the
process of nursing and getting to know our little one.
Our choice to have a natural birth was met with a lot of
questions along the way. Why would you want to do that when there are drugs
available? We had our reasons. The top of my list was that women are designed
to birth babies. Our bodies can do it and we can take it. We are made that way.
I did have some reservations at times wondering about my own tolerance level,
but I received some amazing advice from my aunt at my baby shower. She told me
that when she birthed all three of her girls, including my twin cousins, it
hurt… a lot. She said it was the best feeling in the world because that short
bit of pain was bringing her beautiful babies into their lives. She told me to
stick to my decision and not let anyone tell me otherwise. I think it helped
most just to be supported so openly for once. Along your journey to birthing
your little ones – however you chose to do it – I hope you find the same
adamant support for your choices. Stand by them. You can do it! You are strong
* * *
While Sara was able to follow through with her plan, I realize it doesn't always work out that way, as is evidenced by some of the other stories in the series. Click the links below to read some amazing birth stories from our group of Supermoms!