YouTube is teeming with vaginal birth videos. Videos are usually from out-of-hospital births, as many hospitals now forbid parents from recording this event in their lives due to fear that the video will find its way into evidence if patients sue. Naturally, these birth video montages usually focus on the final few moments of birth leading up to the delivery.
So what happened before that? Was the woman sitting in the tub the whole time, meditating? Was she kneeling above the same Chux pad for five hours before the video of her pushing out a baby was made?
For first time mothers who have had no exposure to a birth, the time between, “I felt a contraction!” and “I have to push!” is often a total mystery. Friends who give birth in a hospital might share stories about how they arrived, climbed onto the bed, got their epidural, watched movies while they were “in labor”, got an IV of something, had lots of vaginal exams until it was determined that they were ready to push, then suddenly the lights got brighter, the doctor walked in and the nurses told them when and how to push.
Lamaze’s second Healthy Birth Practice, “Walk, move around, and change positions throughout labor,” has nothing to do with telling women the correct position in which to give birth; rather, it stresses the importance of not restricting women from getting up and walking around, standing, swaying, rocking on a birth ball or whatever feels right to her.
The following women who submitted their “big baby” birth stories to The Unnecesarean describe how they chose to move in labor.
If we followed our original plan of laboring at home for as long as possible then going to the closest hospital to us, labor would have been miserable. Giving birth in a pool works wonders for pain relief. It was not my goal to have a water birth. I just wanted to be able to do what felt best as I went along. As a VBAC in a hospital, I would have been on an electrical monitor which would have removed the chance of using a tub or shower during labor. I cannot imagine laboring posterior on a bed, hooked to machines with nurses and others coming and going.
With Baby #3 and #4- The birth experiences were fabulous, both home births were with midwives. No episiotomies (which I had with baby #1 in a hospital and she was only 7lbs., 11oz.), No tearing (I tore with baby #2 in a hospital and he weighed only 7lbs., 8oz.). I birthed on hands and knees with baby #3 and side lying with baby #4, each took me about 3-4 pushes before baby entered the world.
I was on the bed, and decided to try to go to the bathroom, but when I stood up my body started bearing down. I crouched down, and the head was halfway out. Next contraction she came flying out, at 10:50 pm.
Walked, rocked on the ball, wouldn’t go near the birth tub- just didn’t think it would help me. When it came time to push, I was frustrated it was taking so long. Pushed in several positions. Ended up on the birthing stool, where my husband caught the baby (or, picked her up off the floor, as he likes to tell it!).
I got back in the water but it just didn’t feel right. I think I was cold and was needing a new position. At some point I wound up on the toilet and I stayed there for quite awhile. I was trying to push but nothing was really happening. I was pushing just enough to get me through the contractions.
Around 4:30, our midwife asked me if I needed help with the pushing, since I felt like it wasn’t working out for me. I was so happy when she said this because I really felt like I didn’t know what to do. Once she guided me through a few pushes, I felt like I was back on track and was getting ready to get this baby out. An hour went by, and I was still on the toilet, squeezing Chris’s waist during each contraction and pushing down as hard as I could. I can’t remember why, but my midwife encouraged me to get into a hands and knees position at this point, oh yeah, it was because I was swelling and they needed to ice my bottom area. I was so out of it, I was like, “Where can i go on my hands and knees?” and she gave me a few suggestions, on the floor of my room or how about the bed, it would be most comfy. I was scared to move to my bed, but it was time, the bathroom felt crowded with 4 grown adults in it. They helped me to the bed, I thought I was going to lose it but they did. As soon as I got to the bed I got seriously determined to get this BABY OUT. I pushed and pushed and at 5:50 AM, Tuesday March 13, Chris caught our baby. He quickly announced that it was a boy, and they passed him through my legs to me.
While squatting and pushing in the pool my water broke with a pop. I turned over in the pool to a semi reclined position and continued to push. Connie asked if I wanted to place my fingers in my birth canal to feel the baby descending. I place my fingers inside my birth canal and felt the baby’s head. As I continued to push I felt the baby’s head come farther and farther down. Soon I felt the baby crowing. It was so intense. Connie had me breathe the baby out so I would not tear. I slowly breathed and gently nudged the baby out. I felt the baby’s head in my hands then Connie said to push to get the shoulders out. I pushed hard and felt the baby slide out of me into my hands.
We made phone calls and readied the bedroom, then I got into the shower and spent most of my labor there, moaning through contractions. At first I stood and swayed my hips back and forth. Later, after a short break while our hot water tank refilled, I sat or knelt on the shower floor on a towel. It wasn’t fun, and it was hard work, but the hot water and my husband’s presence were all I needed. When the hot water ran out for the second time, I got out of the shower and settled in a low, open “W” position on my bedroom floor. I leaned forward and rested my head against my birth ball. My water broke and I realized the baby was close to being born. I was able to calmly tell my husband and midwife what I was feeling. I breathed the baby’s head out through an entire contraction.
We arrived at the hospital still just in very early labor (if that). An IV and Pitocin were started. Contractions were very mild for about an hour or hour and a half, and then my water broke with a huge, huge splash. It was A LOT of water. After that I moved into strong labor rapidly and the Pitocin was turned off. I labored sitting in a rocking chair, sitting on the birth ball and leaning against the bed, with my husband near me and offering support, touching me, giving me drinks and ice. I made a lot of noise, moaning and groaning and crying out, but I never felt distressed or like I was suffering. I suddenly felt a strong urge to call for a nurse, so my husband did—when she got there I vomited and moved right into transition. Soon I felt the urge to push, and my Dr. appeared. I was on the bed in a half-sitting position. I pushed for maybe 30 minutes or so, and although it hurt, I loved feeling so powerful! When I said it was time, everyone snapped to attention and helped me, and I just loved that. It was like being the queen of the world! When the head began to crown and the Dr. could see how large the baby was, he ran out to call for some extra help, but there was no one extra around, so he came back. He looked worried and that annoyed me, so I told him to stop looking so nervous! He was jiggling around nervously, saying to me, “I know you don’t want this, I know you don’t, but I think I’m going to have to….,” meaning cut an episiotomy. Suddenly I could see my baby’s head in the mirror, felt a huge urge to push, and told him, “No, don’t do it, it’s coming right now!” I pushed my son’s head out fast, then the Dr. said to me, “Put your hands down here, reach down and catch your baby,” so I did. I reached down and brought my dear son onto my belly on my own. The whole labor lasted only about 4 hours.
At 5:00 am my water started leaking, at 6:00 it really broke. By 7:30 the contractions were consisitant as long as I kept moving. I cleaned and kept busy. I would pause for each contraction, then get back to work. At about 8 am I leaned over my birthing ball and the baby must have moved down because right then the contractions became intense and much closer together. No more cleaning! My husband called the midwife at 9:30 because I was getting pretty loud. She arrived around 10:20 and started setting up her supplies and the water tub. I was laboring very hard by then. When they finally had about a foot of water in the tub I begged to get in. At the first contraction in the water I felt like pushing. I pushed for 2 minutes and delivered my baby while leaning up against the side of the almost empty water tub. He was born at 11:29. When I saw him I said “He has huge hands!” I sat on a birthing stool to push out the placenta and then we moved to my bed to look at each other.
The whole labour ended up being less than 2 hours. My midwife arrived shortly after Emilia was born. I laboured at home in my loungeroom with my husband, who caught the baby. I was leaning over a chair, so half squatting-half kneeling. I breathed with the contractions, I never got the urge to push. No tears or grazes. No drugs.
…and about the birth of another child:
I got very tired towards the end and had a lot of pain and movement in my pelvis (my 4th pregnancy). Labour stopped once I got to hospital as I was so nervous about being there and we had a worrisome midwife who kept bothering me with questions and taking blood pressure every 15 minutes and she kept re-arranging the furniture. We left the hospital to have lunch and labour started properly. By the time we got back a new midwife was on and my husband told her we wished to be left alone. Labour took 4 1/2 hours. The last 30 minutes and birth were in the shower. I used the same half squatting- half kneeling position over a chair. I breathed through the contractions and have never had the urge to push in any of my 4 births. The midwife was only called when Morris was born to the eyes and my husband felt he wanted some support. My husband caught the baby. No tears, no drugs.
We made the decision to have my bag of water broken. About 4 hours later my son was born after several hours of labor in the tub, on the toilet, and on my hands and knees, with 30 minutes of pushing, and completely natural. He wasn’t born in the water because his estimated size made it potentially more dangerous so after laboring in the tub, I moved to the toilet and before I knew it I was in the bed and ready to push. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The water was incredible for moving and floating through contractions and transition but the grounding of gravity outside the tub and the connection I felt with both my husband and our doula allowed the actual birth to be a beautiful shared experience.
I was nine cm when I got there, and I felt a clear change soon after. I rested a bit, they broke my bulging bag of waters and then I felt the real pushing contractions begin. I squatted and pushed, feeling the baby slide down my tailbone almost effortlessly. I was safe, with my husband on one side and my doula on the other. I saw all the feet of the doctor and nurses lined up doing nothing, waiting for me, and I felt so in charge!
I was worried about crowning because I hadn’t felt it the first time, but it was just a stinging feeling. For the last push, the doctor insisted that I be on my back because the baby might be big. It wasn’t what I would have chosen, but my son was born easily anyway. When I first saw him, I thought, “Wow! What a big baby!”
As the pain became more intense, the midwife helped keep me calm and focused on using sound. She also began to jiggle my hips gently (I learned later that this was to help the baby descend). I was only monitored periodically, and the baby’s heart rate was strong the entire time. As I became tired toward the last hour of the 7 hours of hard labor, I was drifting to sleep between contractions. The midwife suggested that I lie on my side on the birthing table so I could rest more easily. I slept momentarily between contractions until my water broke (about 30 minutes before the birth). I was already fully dilated at this point and we were just waiting for the baby to descend. The midwife thought it would still be a few hours at this point (though she didn’t tell me that at the time), but my water burst and things began to move forward.
After the water broke, the contractions became much stronger, and I was screaming with each of them. I was starting to get the urge to push. The doctor came in around this time and introduced herself but understood when I just stared at her. The midwives were discussing the best way to have me deliver while I was screaming. As I started feeling the pressure on my bowels from the baby descending, the midwife told me that they would like me to come onto my hands and knees after the next two contractions. Once on my hands and knees, the baby came out in two contractions. The doctor was down by my feet observing but did not take part in the delivery at all. There was no episiotomy and no tearing.
My midwife checked me at that time – 10cm with a bulging, bulging, bulging bag of waters. Instead of rupturing the bag, she suggested that I spend some time standing with one leg perched on my piano bench, seeing if I could get the bag to rupture. It finally ruptured when it was ready to do so. After the bag ruptured, my midwife asked if I wanted to get back in the tub for the birth. I slid into the water, and then she asked me to take one last trip to the bathroom. I had about three rounds of contractions while sitting on the toilet, relaxing and breathing deeply in through my nose and out my mouth. Then an amazing thing happened – the baby’s head crowned! I shouted out that the baby had crowned and my midwife told me to get in the tub. I have no idea how I moved so quickly with a crowning baby’s head between my legs. I eased into the tub and continued my breathing. Another couple of contractions came and I slowly guided my baby’s head out with the assistance of my midwife. While her head was out, I continued with my deep breathing and her body came out to the chest.
I couldn’t get off the ball; every time I tried a contraction would hit and I’d have to sit back down again. I ended up stuck at the computer for an hour. I was feeling rather ridiculous, thinking that I was going to have my baby in front of the computer with forums and friends up on the screen and how I could never again claim to not be addicted to the internet if that actually came to pass.
Finally I managed to get up and go to the bathroom. I wanted to be alone for a while and feel my contractions without distraction. I laboured on the toilet for another hour, by myself. The contractions felt much easier there: I was able to focus more on opening up and made quieter, lower noises through them. I kept my fingers and throat open and tried to make my body limp when each contraction crept up. It was working very well, being able to be alone and not afraid that eventually someone would burst in made it so much easier to relax and I was almost able to sleep, or at least disassociate, through the contractions by self-hypnosis.
At one point during this time - completely alone, safe, comfortable in my darkened bathroom seated on the toilet with no risk of anyone coming in to disturb me - I was able to so completely relax that I was sitting back, quiet and peaceful, as every contraction hit feeling my body melt further and further into itself and open wide. I made no noise: I did not need to. I was completely at peace.