July 9th, 2018

Shortly after our 4th wedding anniversary, we got the surprise of our lives. It was early Monday morning. My husband, Joey, was just about to head out to work. I woke up with this weird feeling. I told him I was late and that I felt like I should take a test. I had a dentist appointment the next day with x-rays scheduled, so I definitely didn’t want to ignore this feeling and then find out later it was right. Well folks, it was right! Joey was in shock. He kept saying…let’s just give it time and then take another test. Well, I took 7 test. I was definitely pregnant!

My Positive and Honest Unmedicated Labor & Delivery Story

Pregnant woman taking a selfie in a mirror before giving birth
Three weeks before giving birth.

On Monday, March 18th, I was officially one week and one day past my “due date”. Since learning about how my baby’s body would naturally release hormones that would tell my body when it was time, I wasn’t worried about being “past due”. I wanted a healthy, fully developed baby who was ready, so I was okay with waiting. Our midwives had told us that if she wasn’t born by Friday, they would induce me, so I knew she would be here soon and wanted to make sure I was getting everything in order before bringing home a baby. Knowing cleaning can help encourage labor, but not getting my hopes up if it didn’t, I cleaned and scrubbed our apartment until I felt myself growing tired, which didn’t take long.

                Shortly after I finished cleaning, my mom arrived to help me finish prepping my apartment. We were also going to go on a walk later too, which we had been doing every day for a few weeks. About one o’clock, I noticed what felt like my water was leaking. Because I tested positive for Group B Strep, I was told that once my water broke, I was to go to the hospital so they could start antibiotics. I was concerned with the leak, so I called our midwives and they told me to keep an eye on it and call them back if I had soaked through a pad in one hour or less. That never happened, so I went on with my day, and my mom and I “walked” through a local shopping center.

                That evening, my husband and I went to bed around nine as we usually do. About two very short hours later, I was startled awake by a burst of water in the bed. It felt as if someone had placed a large water balloon between my legs, taken a needle, and suddenly popped the balloon! I remember grabbing Joey’s arm suddenly and yelling “Joey, my water just broke!”. To help you picture it better, imagine my arm swinging over Joey in a “soccer mom slamming on her breaks” fashion. I wasn’t so much panicked as I was filled with adrenaline and the feeling of “is this really happening?!” Soon there wouldn’t be a doubt in my mind that it actually was. The inability to stop the intense “leaking” as I rushed to the bathroom confirmed it for me. I stood in the bathroom, looking in the mirror and shaking, in shock that it was finally happening. I called our hospital and left a message for the on-call midwife. It only took her maybe 10 minutes to return my call, but boy did those 10 minutes feel like forever. When the phone rang, the midwife I had spoken with earlier was on the other line. She agreed that it sounded like my water had broke (broken?) and told us to start making our way to the hospital. She also told me that it would be okay if I took a few minutes to shower. I was very grateful to hear that.

                Showering gave me time to collect myself and stop shaking so dramatically. I also knew it was a possibility that we could be in the hospital for a few days, so I was very grateful to have the chance to freshen up and wash my hair. Believe it or not, I blow-dried and curled my hair before heading in. I wasn’t going to be putting on makeup, and I have a curling iron that only takes 10 minutes to curl my hair, so I felt justified taking a few extra minutes to get ready. If only I knew how quickly my hair would go up in a bun after getting to the hospital. We called our parents and I started the group text to my best friends of “my water broke!” and then we made our way to the car. I had already had our bags and things packed for the past two weeks, so getting out the door was very quick and easy. So off we went. We were going to meet our baby.

                My mom met us at our apartment and followed Joey and I to the hospital. We arrived just after 1:30am. We parked our cars, left our bags in the car until after we were officially admitted, and walked to the maternity ward. No dramatic entrance for us this time (my family has a history of intense entrances at hospitals, but more on that another day). We rang the after-hours buzzer, and a nurse got on the line and told us they had been waiting for us. I had my first moment of gratefulness to have both my husband and my mom with me.  Little did I know the level of support and love they would show me over the next 13 hours. When we got inside, we had to speak to the charge nurse to confirm one more time that my water had in fact broken. All I needed to do was explain how dramatic the gushing water was, and everyone agreed that it had. A nurse very kindly walked us to our room, and so began the adventure.

One of the many things I love about the hospital I delivered at, is that they assign a dedicated nurse to each room, and they are either in your room or right outside their entire shift, so if you need anything, they aren’t far away. She began the check in process and soon after started prepping for an IV. Like I had mentioned before, because I tested positive for Group B Strep, they needed to start me on antibiotics right away. I actually didn’t want an IV, for two reasons. First, a close friend of mine had painful complications with her IV while in labor and I was nervous to have those same complications. Second, I wanted an intervention free labor, and to me this was an intervention. In the end, I understood the importance of them, so I was able to make peace with it and move forward. I explained to the nurse my fears and told her to poke me as much as she needed as long as she got it right. She did have to try on both arms, but thankfully she got it on her second try. 

The midwife on call stopped by shortly afterwards to check in and see how things were going. Since I had started feeling the initial “period like cramping” in my lower abdomen, she told me that she wanted to give my body a few more hours to start labor naturally. If that didn’t happen, she said they would need to use Pitocin. She suggested a few things like walking and different labor positions to help get things going, and then said she’d be back to check on me in a few hours.

                Once we were settled, my husband made a few trips to our car to get our bags, and then I insisted he try and get some sleep. My mom volunteered to take the first “shift” and walk with me around the maternity ward. We walked around for a few minutes, came back to the room, walked again, came back to rest, walked some more, and so on. After an hour or so, we decided we had better try and get some rest before things really picked up. Before laying down, I grabbed the Clary Sage essential oil I had packed from my bag. This oil has been known to induce labor and/or to help labor be more productive. I quickly dabbed two drops on my wrist, and then laid in the bed with my wrists by my face. Minutes later, my contractions started. I attribute them 100% to the clary sage oil and believe that if you use it when your body is ready, it can be very effective. It was about 4am at this point, and I would lie in bed for the next hour as my contractions went from about 10 minutes apart to about 2 minutes apart. Now they were getting painful.

I’m going to pause my story here to share what I consider to be a very important factor of my labor story. I will start by saying that I am in no way against pain meds or epidurals during labor. I think they have a purpose and I am so grateful they are available. However, I just didn’t want this. Very few know this, but for the past few years, I have been studying and practicing the martial art of Ninjitsu on a path towards earning my black belt. I am following in my father’s footsteps and even get to train with him. This is something I absolutely love doing, and while training, I feel I am moving closer to becoming the best me I can be.  Even before I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to do everything in my power to have a baby without intervention or pain medicine. It wasn’t to prove I was tough, or stronger than other women, but it was just something I knew I could do. It’s hard to explain. But accomplishing this felt like something that was going to be a part of my black belt journey.

Probably thee most frustrating aspect of my desire for a pain med free labor was the reaction and response from people when I told them about it. I grew so discouraged after sharing this with people and having their response be about themselves and what they would do, even some close friends. I know that seems to be the typical response to anything, compare someone’s situation to something you’ve experienced, but it was always either negative or so far from what I was trying to say. I was told “oh make sure you consider an epidural” and “you should definitely get an epidural”. I know this sounds selfish, but it truly felt like very few listened to my heart or what I wanted, and instead unconsciously felt like they had to either defend pain meds because they had used them, or try to scare me into using them by telling me how hard it was going to be. So I just avoided the topic all together after awhile.

Let me say this to the world. A pregnant woman KNOWS labor will be intense, hard,extreme. She KNOWS there are risks, potential complications, so many variables and unknowns. She knows she has the option for pain medications. She very well knows that she also has the option not to use them. So why on earth does she need to be reminded of these things instead of encouraged to do what her body was created to do if that’s what she wants?? End rant. Well, sort of. I could go on for awhile about this, but I will quickly say that I highly encourage you to THINK before you speak when talking with a pregnant woman. Consider HER desires, and don’t rush to share your story or beliefs. It just isn’t the time for it. Anyways, back to the big day.

Everyone on staff that day knew I truly desired an intervention and medication free labor. They were so incredibly respectful and supportive of that desire. Three hours in I reached a point where I remember thinking “what’s the point of feeling all of this pain if I don’t have to?”. I told my husband and my mom how much pain I was in and where I was at, and then I asked the nurse and midwife what my options were. I had spent so much time during pregnancy doing everything I could to have a medication free labor. My husband and I took two child birth classes, one of them was hypnobirthing, and I had watched countless videos and read many inspiring stories of women who had given birth without medication. I so wanted that, but at this point, the pain was causing me to lose sight of that desire and honestly, I didn’t feel like I cared anymore. This is where I feel most grateful to the hospital staff. Their response to my inquiry of pain management options was so encouraging. They told me the options, helped me weigh the pro’s and con’s, and then told me that they wanted to try a few more things to help get me more comfortable before we consider pain meds. I think the way my nurse framed the information had a big impact on making my decision. She would say “You could take ____, but here are the side effects and potential complications, and it would only last for _____.” The main con’s we went over were things like, only temporary pain relief and slowing down my labor. The one thing I did not want was to slow down my labor, so I used that to keep moving forward without the medicinal pain relief.

Once the nurse and midwife were comfortable with me getting into the tub (if you get in the tub too early, it can possibly stall or slow labor), my mindset shifted. Thank goodness they had a jetted tub. I highly recommend it. They called it the “midwives’ epidural”. And for good reason. About the time I got into the tub, the shifts changed, and a new nurse and midwife arrived.  I spent the next 5 hours in the tub until I had almost reached completion/was fully dilated. I highly recommend the use of water if available. Then, per my birth plan, they prepared the birthing stool for me that I had wanted to try. I had heard it was one of the most natural positions for giving birth, so I was excited to see how it worked. Because Joey was going to be catching the baby, the midwife set my mom up in a chair behind the stool to support me while I labored. I can’t tell you what having my mom holding me up did for me that day. She herself had birthed four children without any medication. One of them even broke her tailbone during birth, that little brat… (it was me). And her mother had also given birth to four children without medication. And here she was, sacrificing her comfort and her strength for a very long time, to hold me up while I was giving birth.  It was extremely empowering.

The next hour and a half tested me more than anything I had experienced in my life. I was in transition…which is that time just before you fully dilate where so often women feel that they can’t do it anymore. Many women want to give up. I was at that point. I was in so much pain and I would probably consider this the most painful time during my labor. Literally all I could think about was how I was supposed to push an 8lb child out of my body, and how it just did not feel possible. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I was almost willing to do anything but. It’s crazy to me how the last thing on earth I wanted was a c-section (if I could help it), and here I was almost hoping it would happen.  Thankfully, God knew exactly what I needed in that moment, my midwife. She sat down on the ground in front of me, looked directly into my eyes, and spoke to my soul. She told me exactly how I would be feeling and reminded me that I can do it, that I was doing it, and I was almost done. She said everything I needed to hear. She said it over and over again, until I was through this stage of labor.

After maybe an hour and a half on this stool, I had reached the point of pushing, but wasn’t making any real progress. The entire time, my mom had held me up and sacrificed her comfort (and her back) so that I could get through transition. I will never forget this act of love from my mom. Twenty-nine years prior to this day, she had recently given birth to me, and now here she was holding me as I was giving birth to my daughter. This definitely helped keep me going. At this point, everyone was losing energy. My midwife suggested that we try another position. She said that especially since I didn’t have any pain meds, she didn’t want me to tear if we could help it, and that the best position to avoid this would be on my side on the bed. Initially I didn’t want to push while laying down at all because I had heard that is the most difficult position and that gravity works against you, making things harder and potentially taking longer to deliver baby. But I trusted my midwife with my life in this moment, and I was willing to try the bed if I could really do it on my side.

We moved to the bed and my contractions grew even stronger. My midwife coached me through utilizing the contractions by giving three strong pushes during each one. Initially, I wasn’t making any progress with pushing, and then my midwife realized I was putting my head back during pushes, instead of putting it down as if I was doing an intense sit up. Once we corrected that, I was able to make some progress. The next two hours seemed to take forever, but also seemed to go quickly. I was repeating the same thing over and over again the entire time. A contraction would start, I would give two to three pushes with everything I had, the baby’s head would slowly appear and then disappear. I would get between 10-20 seconds to catch my breath, and then another contraction would come.

The medical staff encouraged me to use my voice to help with pushing, and to use deep yells to gain momentum. In my martial arts practice, we practice this with what’s called a “Kiai” (kee-ya-eye), which requires a very loud yell as you perform a move. The concept is to use the power and energy of your spirit to strengthen your block or strike to make it more effective. My Kiai is something I have been proud of, and I used what I’ve learned from it to mentally pull together all of the strength I could possibly muster up, and apply it to push out this baby. I am 100% positive that everyone in that hospital heard me yelling that day. In fact, funny story, my family was in the waiting area down the hall during all of this. It was hard for one of my family members to hear me in that much pain, so they left to go for a walk during this time. I’m sure it was a little akward to hear my yelling too. For a few others, they stood outside of my room waiting to hear the baby’s first cry. One of them was even recording on their phone, trying to capture the first cry, and my nurse went out and told them to leave and go back to the waiting area. I guess I should probably check to make sure this person deleted all of the videos they took of me yelling off of their phone…. ha!

During these few hours, I pushed with all of my strength, for a very long time. But it didn’t seem to be enough. When my labor began, my daughter was almost in the “best” position, but her head was facing slightly to the right. I still wonder if that is what made it so difficult to push her out. Whatever the reason, things just weren’t progressing enough. Then my midwife looked at me and told me she needed me to hear her. She said that we were not at the point of surgery or anything like that, but that she was going to have to make preparations for an intervention. She said she was going to need to use forceps or a vacuum because my baby’s head had been in the birth canal for a long time and we were nearing the point where she was going to be in potential danger. THAT was all I needed to hear. The threat of intervention. Oh boy did I push harder than I thought I could on the next few pushes. Before I knew it, I felt my midwife pulling my child out of my body and placing her onto my chest. I only have one word for that feeling. Wild.

Newborn baby girl on mom's chest right after birth

There were cheers of “You did it!”, “look at her!” and “she’s here!”. We were elated to say the least. My mom even captured an audio clip of my midwife holding up my daughter to me and saying “Congratulations! Look at this….this is how hard you worked. You did all that. She’s perfect.” Oh, if only I could go back to that moment and hold my new baby on my chest a little longer. There is nothing in the world that compares to that feeling. Ten months of waiting and wondering had culminated to this very moment. Just like I had heard many women say, the memory of the pain vanished and all I could think about was how much I loved this little girl. Miss Madelyn Rae Walla. Born at 2:28pm on March 19th, 2019. She was perfect.

First time mom wearing a floral robe holding her newborn baby girl that's dressed in a floral blanket and bow headband
new mom and dad holding their newborn baby girl and a letter sign standing in front of a brick wall

Oh, and here’s a photo of what happens after two hours of pushing when the baby’s head is in the birth canal. Poor baby! Happy to report hear head formed into a normal shape shortly after birth.

Newborn baby girl born with extreme cone head

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