Why I Didn’t Push My Baby Out (And You Shouldn’t, Either)
This is a guest post by one of the Heirloom Family, Jessie Edwards. Enjoy!
Yes, I had a vaginal birth. No, I didn’t push my baby out. I wanted to. I had every intention to. I just… didn’t end up doing it this time. First let’s talk about how the birth of baby number one went perfectly, or so I thought. I woke up with my very first contraction at 3:07 A.M. and was holding the most delightfully squishy baby girl at 10:17 that same morning. Seven hours of labor for a first-time mom!? I had been expecting at least the average 12 hours, while praying not for the 36 hours of labor that my girlfriend had recently experienced. And here’s the kicker: only one hour of those seven was pushing! I specifically remember feeling so proud when I heard the apprentice relay that statistic from my birth notes. I was born for this birthing stuff.
All of the joy and wonder and pride (and the hundreds of other emotions that tag along with a new baby) was enough to numb the pain of the massive vaginal tear that had occurred only in the last three minutes of that glorious hour. I felt it while it was happening and it terrified me. Not one previous moment had been scary until this point, but alas, as in all labors, there was no changing anyone’s mind about getting that baby out, especially mine. So pushed with all my might I did, and out baby flew. I figured if I just did it as quickly as possible then the skin would not have any more time to tear.
Silly irrational labor brain. At the time it seemed genius, but while on bed rest for the following two weeks (which actually turned out to be on and off for over a month because I was too impatient to let myself fully recover) I had plenty of time to realize how illogical that plan was. After boasting to my mom about my one “only” hour of pushing she replied “Wow. That’s a long time for a Jensen, honey.” At first I was defensive of my flawless birth, but then I thought about all the things one can do in an hour and realized, dang, that is a long time!
I had pushed so intensely for so long that I had burst all the blood vessels in my eyes and the ones under my chin, which became swollen and puffy. :::insert photo::: My entire upper body from my brain to my waist was immensely sore from all the exertion. Not to mention, again, my poor, poor vagina, which had ripped forward through my labia making the healing process near unbearable. All in all, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I was happy! So utterly and immeasurably happy, but in oh so much pain. Throughout all of this, however, I was oblivious to my misery. A friend asked on the same day of delivery “So? Would you do this again, this natural birth stuff?” and although my husband’s answer was different, I said I would do it again tomorrow!
Okay, now fast-forward to baby number two (which fortunately did not happen tomorrow). This time I woke up in a contraction at 2:00 A.M. and was kissing another chubby pink baby at 4:29, two and a half hours later! It was the most intense whirlwind of labor but this one (sound familiar?) went perfectly. Even though it was a hell of a lot of work for such a short period of time, there is not a second of it I would change, and remember why? Because I didn’t push. Actually I did the opposite, I tried to not push. After my first delivery and exchanging birth stories with other moms I came to the conclusion that I had starting pushing prematurely. When my midwife had asked “Are you sure you need to push? Are you feeling heavy pressure?” my immediate response was something like “Of course, crazy lady*! There is a ton of pressure going on down there!” but having nothing to which to compare, I had zero idea what that “pressure” really should have felt like. So in my mind I needed to push. I needed to get that baby out.
This time around I was hugely worried about repeating my last error, that labor brain would take over and I would try to push before I should. I made my husband swear to me that if I started into that phase too early then he would slow me down and talk me out of it, so I can only imagine his internal dilemma when we had barely filled the birthing tub and I looked up at him to say she was coming. It had only been two hours and 25 minutes since I had woken him up. He immediately went for my hand and jumped into his well-rehearsed spiel “Hold on, babe, let’s slow down and…” only to be cut off by my midwife who softly told him this is what was supposed to be happening.
Alright, I said before that I didn’t push, and I still maintain that I didn’t push. It was my body that pushed, my body took care of everything! As it is intended to! It was the strangest sensation, like your vagina is dry-heaving your baby out. The HypnoBirthing method which I practiced for both births and avidly endorse, calls this fantastic phenomenon the Natural Expulsive Reflex. Women have given birth while in a coma because of this expulsion that happens on its own. This is exactly what I felt and I tried with everything in me to resist the urge to bear down and get that baby moving. I even applied heavy counter-pressure on her tiny head to keep her from coming out too quickly.
It. Was. So. Difficult.
I just wanted to see her face! Well, and be done with contractions. But my efforts were not in vain; I hopped (I envision myself hopping but I’m sure it was more of a waddle and flop) into the tub and four or five non-pushes later I was pulling my daughter up out of the water and hugging her close. Laughing. We were all laughing. It was incredible! Magical. And I didn’t tear. Let me repeat that: I DIDN’T TEAR! I felt like I could run a marathon. Jumping jacks? Sure! Why not? I had thought my first delivery had been perfect (and it was and still is perfect for me) but the difference in these two deliveries were night and day. It makes me sad to think of all the unnecessary postpartum suffering that occurs when a mom tears in labor. I assure you that I am not, by any means, saying that tearing can always be prevented. But, I truly believe that taking my time and letting my body and my baby do what is natural made all the difference in the world for me. I don’t know what I would have done with a toddler and a newborn at home if I had to take the time to recover like I did after my first birth.
So for the soon-to-be mamas out there, whether this is your first baby or fifth, just remember that when someone tells you “Don’t worry, you’ll know when it’s time to push” I can without hesitation promise you that you will know. Your body won’t forget to tell you, you won’t miss any elusive cues, you positively WILL know when it is time. Don’t convince yourself that you should push just to hurry and be done. Don’t let anyone tell you that a certain amount of centimeters means you’re ready. Trust your body, believe in your baby, have faith in childbirth. Don’t push it.
*disclaimer: my midwife is not, in fact, a crazy lady and I absolutely adore her.