I can’t imagine anything more powerful, complex, and profound as giving birth (especially to your first child!). I love reading birth stories and want to start a “Philly Birth Stories” series where I highlight all the different childbirth experiences of Philly moms.
Whether you only answer one question or pour your heart into all 8 questions, whether you loved giving birth or hated it, there is no judgment here. Just YOUR experience. The questions are OPTIONAL so only fill in what you feel comfortable sharing.
You can choose to remain anonymous or you can share your email if you would like to be featured for a follow-up.
I’ll start with mine:
As some of my early followers may know, I started Philly Baby Bump when I was in my first trimester. Even with the knowledge I gained by interviewing local maternity experts, reading pregnancy books, and attending several parenting-related classes, I still experienced the following thoughts during my childbirth experience…
1. “I Want An Epidural To Go Natural”
Before I started Philly Baby Bump, I was 99% sure that I was going to get an epidural. Frankly, the thought of having a natural birth never really occurred to me since I pop Aleve pills like candy when I have menstrual cramps. But after doing research, talking to friends, and taking a childbirth class, I realized that I wanted to try to have a natural birth.
When I went into labor, I was admitted to Penn Medicine’s Pennsylvania Hospital and given the choice of having either a midwife or physician deliver the baby. My husband and I decided that a midwife was the perfect middle ground since I wanted to have a natural birth and a midwife would provide extra attention, but I also wanted a physician available if any complications arose.
About 5 hours into my labor, the pain was getting worse but I was managing it pretty well by doing breathing exercises, moving around, and using my exercise ball and heat pad. The situation changed when my midwife told me that my baby’s heart rate was starting to dip very low every time I had a contraction. She was concerned and wanted to monitor the baby’s heart rate more closely, which meant I would have to be confined to the hospital bed.
Inside, I started to panic because I realized that being forced to lay on my back in bed meant that I couldn’t walk around the room or use my exercise ball to deal with the pain. I decided to stay calm and crawled into the bed to see what a contraction felt like while laying down. BAD IDEA! The contractions were so painful without the benefit of movement and heat/massage on my lower back that I started thinking about getting an epidural.
I debated back and forth about what to do, since I had been so excited about the prospect of a natural birth. And if I am being honest with myself, I also felt like getting an epidural was sort of admitting defeat. However, I had to remind myself that not having a natural birth wouldn’t define me as a mother. My birth wouldn’t be any “less special” if I got an epidural and there was no need to feel ashamed in asking for one.
It also helped that I replayed a quote in my head from interviewing Debbie Mangel, a Philly-based doula. She said,
“No matter how careful your plans are, the birthing process will unfold as it unfolds. Some women plan on having a natural birth and then things change.”
So with that, I asked for an epidural and let go of all the guilt! The anesthesiologist came in shortly afterward and within 10 minutes, the pain was gone and I was resting comfortably while laying down in bed.
13 hours into labor and feeling rested after falling into an epidural-fueled sleep, it was time to push! Since I couldn’t feel the contractions, the midwife would watch the monitor and when I felt pressure (but not pain) in my uterus, I would push. After an hour of pushing, everyone in the room started to get excited because they could see the baby’s head but I couldn’t really comprehend what was happening.
After pushing some more, the midwife asked me if I wanted to feel the baby’s head. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I did because I still couldn’t wrap my head around what was happening. I don’t know whether it was the epidural or realizing that 1) a baby was coming out of my body; 2) I was finally going to meet my baby; and 3) my life was never going to be the same again. Either way, all of these thoughts were going through my head and it was hard to focus on, you know… giving birth.
A few minutes later, one of the nurses gave me an intense look and said, “I need you to push harder than you have ever pushed. Got it?! It’s time to meet your baby.” That snapped me back to reality and three pushes later, everything turned into slow motion as the midwife lifted my then gray baby from between my legs and then placed the baby on my chest. I distinctively remember thinking, “Wait! What just happened? What do you want me to do with this baby?!”
Thankfully, the panic subsided as I started doing skin-to-skin contact and looked down to find my baby girl looking up at me. It made my heart melt and suddenly I was at peace. In that moment, I realized that I was blessed to have a relatively easy birth and a beautiful, healthy baby. I take nothing for granted and am so glad that I was fortunate enough to experience this crazy experience called giving birth!
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, one of the benefits of launching Philly Baby Bump is getting the opportunity to learn about the different maternity businesses available to pregnant women. Gina Marie, of Gina Marie Photography, was one of the first people that I interviewed for the site and I remember having an instant rapport with her. I decided to reach out to Gina a couple of months before my due date to inquire about her newborn photography services.
After exploring different package options, my husband and I decided to go with the option that offered a “Delivery Day” session. This meant out our baby’s picture would be taken within 24 hours of birth so we could capture the newness of our daughter while keeping the actual labor and birth experience private.
When Gina arrived at the hospital, I was not at all prepared. I was having trouble breastfeeding, the baby was hungry, my husband and I hadn’t slept more than an hour overnight, and I was a sweaty hot mess. I felt bad having to make Gina wait as I’m usually a very punctual person but she was so understanding and took it all in stride. The way she handled the situation lowered my stress-level so that I could focus on trying to feed the baby.
About 40 minutes past when our session was originally scheduled to start, I finally finished feeding the baby and Gina came in. I apologized profusely for starting so late but she made us feel completely at ease and took beautiful pictures that we will cherish for the rest of our lives.
One final note, if you are debating getting newborn photography or are worried about the expense, I would first contact local photographers like Gina to explore your options before making a final decision. I’m glad I convinced my husband to let us get professional photographs. It was the one of the best decisions we ever made! Please note that Gina did NOT sponsor this post or ask me to use her services
In summary, my childbirth experience has taught me that there is no “perfect” birth experience but rather each and every birth is special. All my research and preparation was helpful but in the end, I created my own birth story.