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  • Writer's pictureFFM

My 22-Hour Unmedicated Birth Story

Updated: Nov 21, 2023

I hope that sharing my birth story helps prepare you for yours!

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Throughout my pregnancy, I loved reading about and hearing about other people's birth stories. I felt like each unique experience prepared me for what mine might be like. So, this blog post is going to be a personal one. Usually my posts are a bit more informative rather than a personal story, but I am going to share my entire unmedicated birth story. A helpful resource alongside my personal birth story is my How to Achieve an Unmedicated Birth post.

My due date was July 14th. I had a feeling I would go overdue with my first child because many studies have found that around 80% of first-time moms will go past their due date with their first child. So, if this is you, be patient with yourself and your baby- your body is learning how to give birth for the first time!

So, my due date passed, but I wasn't surprised. I kept trying to walk a lot to get things moving and did plenty of curb-walking to get baby down into my pelvis. The day after my due date I read a statistic:

Research has found that 50% of all women giving birth for the first time will give birth by 40 weeks and 5 days, while 75% of all women giving birth for the first time will give birth by 41 weeks and 2 days.

This statistic made me feel so relieved! 75% of first-time moms will give birth by 41 weeks and 2 days?! I can definitely make it to that. Knowing this really helped my body to relax and just think more positively. I decided to get a membrane sweep at my 40-week appointment and my 40 week + 3 days appointment to try to get things moving. To learn more about membrane sweeps, check out my post The Third Trimester: Preparing Your Body for Birth.

Clearly the membrane sweeps really worked for me because I ended up giving birth at 40 weeks + 4 days. The night prior to that, I went on a walk with my husband and told him that I was just completely exhausted and knew I was going to have the baby very soon. You'd think that would've made me go to bed early that night, but for some reason it didn't. I ended up going to sleep around midnight on 7/17, and then woke up at 2:30am with strong leg cramps. Labor starts differently for everyone. For me, the leg cramps are what woke me up from my sleep, but a stomach ache started immediately after. I spent the next few hours in the bathroom working through contractions. My contractions started out very strong. I needed to go on hands and knees to work through them pretty much throughout my entire labor. I also used deep breathing and horse breathing (blowing air through loose lips) to help. I texted my doula around 5:30am to let her know things were happening, and I let my husband sleep until around 6:30am since I knew it could potentially be a very long day ahead of us.

I timed my contractions off and on throughout the day, but tried to focus on resting when I could. I was able to take a 45-minute nap which was much needed considering I only got 2.5 hours of sleep the night prior. I spent the morning watching TV and tried to eat a heavy protein-filled breakfast because I knew that as labor progresses your appetite often goes down.

I stayed in contact with my doula throughout the day to keep her updated. Around 1:00pm I let her know that contractions were getting more intense and I needed my husband to use counter-pressure/hip-squeezes from that point on. She asked if she could come join us at home soon, but I told her we wanted to go on a walk first. Well, at 3:30pm I texted her that we did not end up going on a walk- we made it to the driveway where I had a very intense contraction and came right back inside. I decided to take a long hot shower and when I got out, our doula was here to support us. We hung out for a bit when she got here so that she could observe how intense my contractions were, and then she had me lay in bed with a peanut ball between my legs through a few contractions. Boy did that move things along! Before I knew it I was having very intense contractions with my head buried in a pile of pillows on the bed. My husband was feeding me yogurt and water and our doula was timing contractions. I decided to try to go to the bathroom and came out with tears in my eyes- things were getting really intense at that point. Our doula suggested we start gearing up to head to the hospital. This was around 6:00pm that evening.

The car ride to the hospital was very intense, but we got to there around 6:30pm. I was having contractions in the parking lot, in the elevator, and at the check-in desk. They took me into triage and I was already 7/8 centimeters dilated. I was so happy with that progress! It meant that the transition stage wasn't far away.

They quickly moved me to a hospital room with a birthing tub as I requested. They wanted me in a wheelchair, but I personally refused. I knew that movement and walking helped move labor along so I wanted to be as active as possible.

Once I was in the delivery room, the nurses inserted an IV port, which is typical hospital protocol. However, you CAN refuse anything at the hospital. You do not have to get an IV port if you don't want one. As someone who absolutely hates needles, I did not want one, but I personally felt that having one in case of an emergency made sense to me. I also consented to receiving Pitocin after birth (also standard in hospital settings, but you can refuse it if you want), which is given through an IV.

After the IV port was in, I wanted to get in the birthing tub. This was what I was most excited for in the hospital because I had heard how relaxing warm water was during labor. I probably stayed in the birthing tub from around 7:30-9:30pm, if I took a guess. Time is a little bit of a blur during labor. Some people even consider unmedicated birth an "out-of-body experience" which always made me a little bit wary because I am someone who likes to be in control of my body. In my personal experience, birth was not an out-of-body experience for me- I felt in control the entire time.

Overall the birthing tub with warm water was nice, but unfortunately it was not as relaxing as I imagined it being because the nurse I had was constantly adjusting the monitor on my belly which was uncomfortable.

Once I was out of the birthing tub, I labored using the squat bar on the hospital bed. Soon after, my OB wanted to check to see how dilated I was. Thankfully, by the time she checked I was at 9.5 cm. Only a little bit longer until baby would make his way out!

During the next bit of time, my husband was giving me coconut water constantly- thank goodness I brought that! It truly helped me keep my energy levels up. The hardest part for me was just how tired I was from getting 2.5 hours of sleep the night prior and then laboring all day long. I was clearly in transition at this time because I was switching off between being really hot and really cold (a typical sign of transition). My doula would use her handheld fan on my face when I was hot, and my husband would feed me ice chips. I was still receiving counter-pressure during each contraction. I don't know how I would've made it without that!

I had heard many people tell me that during transition is when you start to think about an epidural. For me personally, this wasn't the case. I absolutely hate needles, so the thought of an epidural still never sounded appealing to me. I kept saying that if my pain level exceeded my fear of an epidural I would let them know, but my pain level never exceeded that fear for me personally. I knew that when it was getting really challenging was when it was almost over! There was one moment when I was completely exhausted that I told my doula "I don't know how much longer I can do this" and she was very reassuring. This was probably the lowest moment I had where I was just running out of energy, but I knew it was almost over. She had me switch into a lunging position to try to get the last 0.5 of a centimeter dilated. It worked very quickly as my body started to push involuntarily shortly after. The doctor checked me one more time and let me know that I could start pushing on my own now.

I was pushing on my own timing just based on what my body wanted to do. I didn't want to be "coached" through pushing, which I added to my birth preferences sheet so that the nurses were aware. So, I just went with each contraction and pushed as much as I could and then took a few breaths and tried to do it again. My doctor was very encouraging throughout the pushing stage because it is very intense, but I appreciated that I did not feel "coached" at all.

Most first-time moms will be in the pushing stage up to 3 hours, with the average being between 1-2 hours. Like I said, my body started naturally pushing on its own a little bit before my provider gave the official "OK" to start pushing. And my bag of waters broke just as I started to push on my own.

For me, pushing was the most intense part of the labor experience. Many podcasts I listened to during pregnancy talked about how pushing gave them relief and it was the best part of labor. Even though it was exciting because I knew it meant labor was almost over, the ring of fire was very real for me. Thankfully, I only spent about 30-minutes in the pushing stage before my baby was born.

Finally, at 11:26pm that night, after exactly 22-hours of labor, my baby was born. For first time moms, an average birth will take between 12-19 hours from the first contraction to the birth of your baby, so mine was a bit longer than average.

Giving birth unmedicated was the most exhausting experience and it truly pushed me and my body to its limits, but I did it! I was so incredibly proud of myself. If I can do it, you definitely can too! Here are a couple final tips that really helped me achieve an unmedicated birth:

  • Hire a doula! I don't think my husband and I could've done it without her.

  • Stay very hydrated and snack throughout your labor. Without snacking and drinking coconut water during my labor, I'm not sure if my energy levels would've kept up. If you want more information on what to pack for the hospital, read my Hospital Bag Must-Haves post.

  • Bring a birth plan/birth preferences sheet for your nurses. If you need one, here is a free template I created that you can download and fill out.

  • Stay at home as long as possible during labor. I stayed home for the first 17 hours of labor, and then spent the final few hours at the hospital when things were really moving at that point. The longer you stay at home, the more comfortable you will be.

  • Avoid an induction if at all possible. Inductions can make contractions much stronger and more painful, which is not conductive to an unmedicated birth.

  • Don't let yourself consider an epidural. If you truly want an unmedicated birth, don't even let your mind think of pain medication as an option.

  • Finally, prepare prepare prepare. I have a list of ways to prepare in my How to Achieve an Unmedicated Birth post.

Remember, any way that you bring a baby into this world is truly incredible. I hope that reading my birth story can help you prepare for yours in whatever way works best for you. You got this!

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