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My First Unmedicated Birth Story

We welcomed our newest member of the family on August 12 at 11:59pm on her due date. She was 6lbs 13oz and 19 inches long.


birthing woman looks up at her husband.

This is my first unmedicated birth story and it was wildly different from my first birth and I am so thankful. My first child's was a very fast with back labor, tons of vomiting, and an epidural. I felt very out of control, so I wanted to try for an unmedicated birth this time.


We delivered her in the water birth suite at Gundersen and loved our whole delivery team this time. Our midwife was Maggie Clutch, CNM and she did such a great job, I cannot recommend her enough. Really, the whole team was so supportive of our decision to try unmedicated and they made all the difference.


My water broke at home around 2pm, but I was not sure it was really time. I had been having wicked prodromal labor for almost four weeks at this point, so I called L&D and was told to do the pooling test to make sure it was my water that had broken, and an hour later we made our way to the hospital. I know most people say that if you want an unmedicated birth to labor at home as long as possible, but since my water had broken I had 24h to get the baby out and I wanted to settle into our birth space.


When we arrived, we did the 20 mins of monitoring, and baby was doing really well. They checked me and I was already 5cm dilated, but part of my water bag was still intact. It made the contractions really manageable, so we walked around the unit for around four hours, just laughing and talking through the contractions. At around 8pm I asked to be checked again because I was getting bored of just walking. I had not even dilated a whole centimeter, so Maggie broke my waters the rest of the way.


Things picked up really quickly after this. I had them cover the clocks in our room, because I did not want to be focused on how long this whole thing would take. My doula arrived and I bounced on the birth ball for a really long time. The motion on the birth ball allowed me to breathe through contractions and focus on allowing my cervix to dilate. This birth was already so much more calm than my first and I felt very in control. After what seemed like only a few minutes, (but really was two hours) I decided that it was time to get into the tub. The water helped SO much. I had intentionally not gone swimming while pregnant because I wanted my first experience in the water to be relief while in labor and it worked so well. The water took the heaviness out of the contractions so all I had to do was focus on breathing and allowing myself to open.


I hit transition and knew it without even asking because I started throwing up like I did with my first. (I guess that’s just how my body responds to transition.) This was when I tried bargaining with the staff and begging for the epidural. I told them I changed my mind, but it was too late. At one point I even remember saying “I promise I can hold the baby in if they give me the epidural!” But I was ready to push. My husband was a champ coaching me through the whole time and I pushed for about 40 mins this time. The most comfortable position was on my hands and knees in the water. Rocking back and forth through contractions really helped. I could feel baby moving down, it was wild. I was getting impatient and I reached in and could feel her head about 1 inch from my vaginal opening. Maggie and my husband coached me through pushing with words of encouragement. Each time I pushed, I would get scared of her crowning and stop, but finally Maggie just said “if you push her out, the burning will be over!” So I gave a few more huge pushes and her head came out. I swear I tore so badly, and I started to cry because I thought I did, but she reassured me that I did not. I pushed once more and her first shoulder came out, but the second shoulder was stuck, so Maggie had to twist baby to get her out all the way. (Believe it or not, that hurt less than the ring of fire LOL)


Baby’s cord was so short we could only pull her up so far onto my belly, but I vividly remember looking at her, and she was so alert! She stared at me but didn’t cry; she was so peaceful and had full apgars by 3 mins. She eventually did cry, but it was a really pleasant few moments where we just got to look at one another.


I did have to cut the cord early because it was so short and I needed to get out of the tub before the bleeding started so they could accurately monitor blood loss, but I waited too long and bled in the tub. So they cut her cord after only a few moments, she did skin to skin with my husband while I got into the bed. I tore only a little bit so we decided to leave it open to heal on it’s own.


This birth was wildly different, and even though that day I swore I would never do it again unmedicated, I 100% would do it again. It was such an empowering experience and honestly my recovery has been so much easier with this baby. I attribute it to being able to listen to my body better during pushing this time.


All in all, I can summarize this birth by saying how thankful I am for it to go so smoothly, thankful for my husband’s support and thankful for our birth team at Gundersen. They made all the difference.


Birth photography from Megan Tomlinson.


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