Alright let’s start at the beginning of this birth meets teeth whitening story. With my first pregnancy I had hoped and envisioned a natural birth, but chose to see an OBGYN because I was uncertain of what having a baby entailed and we had just moved to a new state about 4 days after discovering I was pregnant. Nerves and uncertainty definitely drove that decision, but I don’t regret it at all. That labor didn’t really go as hoped. After 15 hours of Bradley method classes and creating a vision of a natural birth in my mind, our daughter showed up 5 weeks early via emergency c-section (she was breech).
Our second time around I chose to go with midwives and had scoped them out prior to even trying to conceive! Why did I take this option? Well for me I knew I needed 100% support in my plan, and also, wanted no way out. Because, let’s be honest, even when I’m running on the treadmill if I get the chance to take a walk break because I’m at the end of my rope, I take it! With a natural birth you are emotionally going to hit a point of wanting to ‘walk it out’ or get a reprieve and it’s simply not an option I wanted offered to me or for someone else to suggest to me, and I knew the midwifery would support me through my birth plan, not attempt to augment it.
We were so naïve and so unprepared for what that would have been like and I cannot imagine having tried to do it in a traditional hospital setting. So, what was different the second time that made it so successful? First, we hired a doula. Best decision ever and best PERSON ever, she was my rock through labor, but also my journey leading up to the birth. Secondly, we had a birth center birth with midwives providing an optimal environment. Thirdly, my commitment level was nearing 200% after having been through a c-section previously and knowing this was likely my last shot at a vaginal birth, let alone a natural one. I was going to stop at nothing (within safety and reason of course) to achieve the birth I was hoping and dreaming of for so long.
The biggest misconception we had the first time around was understanding how much more than just my husband we would need to support me through a natural birth. Our doula knew birth like the back of her hand, had been through it personally four times and could communicate with our midwife throughout the process about what positions I should move to, what stage I was in, when to get me in the tub, when to give my husband a break so he could eat, how much water and juice I had been having, how much I had peed (peeing is a big deal and I failed at peeing). She was such a gift and a constant sense of calm and comfort the entire time as well. Crucial to both myself and my husband’s mental and physical state. There is an ease when someone has such confidence in your ability, and also in the process that elevates the experience.
As the weeks went on our pregnancy was healthy and happy. The only thing that came up was that I had a LOT of amniotic fluid, baby girl had her own Olympic swimming pool at a lovely hot tub temperature. This large amount of amniotic fluid was keeping her from descending and starting the labor process. At 38 weeks we started to try everything to begin labor. I did acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, massage techniques, exercises, etc. We did membrane sweeps 4-5 times and still no labor. I was dilating a little thanks to my stupendous midwife doing the sweeps and was effacing, but baby girl’s head could not get down to push on my cervix and start the process. I was getting worried.
As a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) I had to go into labor soon or the state would basically require I have an OBGYN start to intervene. So, at 40 weeks and one day we broke my bag of waters and holy cow did that do the trick. I lost 2lbs just from the initial water breaking and many hours later (roughly 14hours) when I was pushing (more on this soon) I was STILL losing tons of water!
I have said since having our second daughter that I want a third child just so I can go through the labor process again and feel everything I felt. There are no words in the English language that properly describe the emotions, feelings and adrenaline you experience. It was empowering, humbling, exciting, tiring, exhilarating and primal.
Was it easy? Probably not something most people would label it, I don’t think it was easy by any means. Was it unbearable? No…maybe at one time during the transition stage (most difficult portion of the labor process) I felt that way, but honestly if you workout and push yourself at the gym you are fully capable mentally to do something like this. It’s all about focusing on the end game of having a beautiful baby in your arms. Our bodies were MEANT to do this and have been doing it for centuries. Embracing that, accepting that and going along for the ride is what natural birth is all about.
Was there pain? I guess in some ways, yes, but it’s not like how we feel pain on a daily basis. Seriously stubbing your toe can really fucking hurt and that hurts more than any single point of labor, in my opinion. The “pain” was more pressure, discomfort, lack of control and feeling this wave of power through the inside of your body and having no control over the intensity, regularity, etc. It’s not a traditional type of pain and it was definitely manageable for me. If you have ever had threading done to your eyebrows or lip, you are a warrior and can handle true pain. I’ve had threading done ONCE and will NEVER do it again, but I would volunteer to have a natural birth again, no question about it. You couldn’t pay me to have threading done again – fuck that.
What about tearing or the pushing a watermelon through a lemon theory? Yep…there is that part too, but in my opinion, it was THE BEST PART! Pushing was my favorite and because of that, it didn’t hurt at all. Pushing is this moment, after hours of having no control over contractions (your body literally takes over and drives this process and you are along for the ride), where you are in the driver’s seat, you control the final arrival of your child. It’s also a bit of a 180 from the earlier phases of labor. It’s at this stage you need to hold your breath and push, for hours before you wanted to remove all tension and breath fluidly and let everything out. As you push and go through this final stage, there is a moment of a burning sensation and it’s not comfortable, but it’s so quick it’s nothing to fear and quickly after you feel the shoulders and hips and butt of your baby leave your body, hear the first cry as she’s placed on your stomach. It’s epic. I pushed our daughter out in 24minutes and had a very minor first degree tear. I had an amazing midwife and team who directed me and assisted to make sure my body and my baby were in the best position for the best possible outcome. My recovery was a piece of cake especially compared to a c-section where I wasn’t allowed to walk or pee on my own for a couple days – for me I’ll take 2-3 stiches! Now don’t get me wrong there is some really ‘jazzy’ stuff that happens after having a baby, but that’s an entire blog in itself.
But why compare this to teeth whitening?? The headline for this article comes from an inside joke with my husband. He had his teeth whitened about 3 weeks before our daughter was born. He whined about the pain for DAYSSSS. I would look at him and say “Really?? I’m about to push a human out of my body and you want me to feel for your pain from teeth whitening?”. Within seconds of my daughter being placed on my stomach I looked at him and said “Do you still think teeth whitening hurts more than having a baby?” 😛 We both laughed! But, in so many ways it does hurt more! The pain from teeth whitening doesn’t come with the releases of serotonin and hormones and so many other things that naturally occur for us to handle the process and the pain. I had so much support and love in that room that I truly believe teeth whitening hurts more than labor ☺ I also asked some friends who have had both their teeth whitened and experienced birth and they agreed that teeth whitening fucking hurts more, I felt a little bad for not empathizing with my husband’s pain, but only just a little.
I know women talk about our tribes all the time, and I thought I understood that concept until I had this experience. Tribes are crucial to women and families. Tribes have been there through some of the toughest times for women experiencing deaths, job losses, divorces, recovery and rehab and they have been there to celebrate the greatest times, graduations, weddings, births, anniversaries, birthdays, etc. Some women have known their tribe for decades, some for only a little while, but the bond is strong. I, myself, have a tribe, but there is no tribe compared to the three women I was staring at while we brought our daughter into the world. Two of them holding my legs, one carefully guiding the process and making sure that baby was perfectly positioned and everyone was healthy and happy. Those women are a tribe like no other. We won’t see each other every week or month. We may not be at birthdays together or invited to each other’s wedding or holiday dinners. We may not be there to hug at a family funeral. But there is a bond like no other for the experience we had and the gift they helped give me and my husband. That is a tribe I’m forever indebted to.
This natural birth was made possible by the amazing help of my husband Michael, our Doula Nicole Green (www.thebirthschool.com ) , Our Midwife Rachael Herrera and the entire team at Southcoast Midwifery: www.southcoastmidwifery.com