Seeking labor advice!

The more I research for my upcoming VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarian), the more I learn about things I did wrong in my first birth.

  1. I became impatient and allowed my doctor to induce me, unaware of the process and the potential side effects.
  2. I did not do my research on how to adequately labor (hospital birthing classes are inadequate in this area and I wish I had known that when I began).
  3. I approached my first birth with fear. Fear over the process, fear over pain, fear over pooping while delivering (it’s true, I was afraid), fear over not being able to handle it.

Looking back, I am pretty upset with myself for making these choices. Especially the fear part. What I heard from well-meaning women was: “You’ll need the epidural.” “It hurts.”

There was no, “Your body is designed for this.” “You can do this.”

It wasn’t until after I spent many months researching and finding ICAN boards that I learned that I could indeed do it. That labor was not only survivable, but it was beautiful as well.

Now I am preparing for my second birth and I am planning for a VBAC. While I would love to hire a doula, I cannot. I am a little afraid of my lack of support, but I am doing everything I can to try to ensure a successful delivery.

I am looking for helpful advice. If you delivered vaginally (natural or epidural), what were some tips you wish you could pass along? 

What would you have done differently?

What was the biggest help in delivering?  

I really need your help in this area. If you have ANYTHING that you can share, please do!

Thanks in advance!

More about April

12 thoughts on “Seeking labor advice!

  1. April Klingler

    I had an epidural with both my boys but it didn’t work either time, so I won’t bother next time. I literally had my husbands face right in front of mine to count through the contractions with my crazy eyes staring at his. He would tell me when that contraction had finished peaking so I’d be encouraged.
    Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion from another doctor if they’re recommending something and you’re questioning it at all.
    My biggest pushing advice is to NOT “push with your face” Don’t put the pushing pressure/tension in your face (causing a red face) but focus on putting that pushing pressure in your bottom region. I didn’t learn this with my first and probably pushed longer because of it.
    Labor is incredible. Trust your doctor and your instincts. You’ll do great!!

    1. April McGrew

      I just heard this same advice from a friend today! She said that keeping the face calm is crucial. Thank you so much for the tips! This is exactly what I needed. Thank you, thank you!

  2. Ashley Taylor

    WELL I had vaginal births with both my boys. Both boys were a naturally enduced labor at exactly 37 weeks, 1 day (not sure why they both wanted to come so early!). With Joel the labor was 21 hours and painful and because it was so slow I agreed to petocin. I’m still not clear on what happened, but at some point Joel was getting too much petocin and it made his heart rate too high. They had to come in and monitor him and put me on oxygen & get me a little sedated to calm down (scary!!!) and were a little afraid of an emergency c-section, BUT he pulled through and normalized his heart rate after about 30 minutes so they let me continue with my vaginal birth plan. After that I definitely do NOT recommend petocin. It was a unique experience for me, but after he was born I vowed I wouldn’t speed up labor once it started except to let my water be broken. No drugs. I had an epidural with Joel but I had it early on in the day and it felt like it had really worn off by delivery. Everything just felt like it was burning and it was painful and I pushed 1.5 hours only to find out he wasn’t tearing through so I needed an episiotomy which was ok because that cut came, one more push and he was out! Healing from an episiotomy is painful and tough the first time (probably not as bad as a c-section though!) Sitting is difficult and you have to constantly clean yourself so going to the bathroom takes forever.

    Then there was Elijah. With Joel I had a lot of false alarms because I didn’t understand the pain of contractions meaning how they hurt and how they HURT. I went to the hospital with him late the night before the right night and was only dilated to a 4 so they sent me home but the contractions were already pretty unbearable. I was SUPER discouraged but knew it was coming and wanted to enjoy my last day with Joel and be effective in speeding labor. SO we spent the day walking and finally what seemed to really work was being in a full bath on all fours just kind of alternating between downward dog and standing on all fours. I did this about 10 minutes and then soaked for 20 and as SOON as I got out the pain came. It was early – like 9pm – and Josh and I had been at Mercy until 4am that morning so I wanted him to sleep as much as possible. I muscled through and counted contractions until 2am. By that time they were close and unbearable. Worse than with Joel even before I decided to get my epidural. I was worried it would happen really soon since second deliveries go that way. We got to Mercy quickly and I was at a 7 so I was admitted. One thing I did with Joel I forgot to mention was just have medicine put into my IV (can’t think of the kind) first before the epidural that numbs you up, chills you out, and makes you sleepy. It was great with him because it worked several hours and I got to sleep. With Elijah I asked for it immediately with my IV because I’d hoped to avoid epidural but knew by how painful the contractions were I would need something to help me (I was having trouble breathing through them at only a 7!). SO in came the meds and I was instantly tired and relieved and then it was HORRIBLE. I had the same amount of pain but I was falling asleep uncontrollable and delirious. It was a very unpleasant experience and made the pain a zillion times worse. I immediately regretted the decision and realized quickly how different my labors were.

    With Joel I had back labor which is SO painful and completely unphased by an epidural. With Elijah there was no back labor but it was SO FAST it just hurt because my body was progressing and he was coming. When I got to my room I had to wait 30 minutes for paperwork and I was like, “get me the epidural as soon as you can!!!” HA. I was the crazy lady. I finally got it and instant relief happened. I wasn’t pain free. I still felt a lot of pressure and discomfort but I was able to get a good hour or so of sleep to prep me for delivery which I thought would be a few pushes and I’d be done. But no. I learned this pregnancy that episiotomy is necessary with every baby after another hour of pushing. It was really frustrating and while I was strong and determined with Joel my resolve with Elijah was weaking because I was just too tired to go on. So the episiotomy happened (per my request) despite my fear of healing and out he came! The good news is, the second episiotomy is 100x easier to recover from and hardly noticeable after a few days. Yay.

    If you didn’t know after your epidural/delivery you spend the rest of your day super swollen and kind of numb. You think it’s worn of completely because of the pressure and the burning and then you touch your legs and it’s like they’re not there. And then the nurse asks you to walk to the bathroom with her to get your giant granny panties on and you can’t feel your legs… pretty crazy!

    I guess for me the moral is I’d LOVE to try for a natural birth every time. It’s always what I’ve shot for, but I’ve never told myself that choosing the help of drugs was not ok. There’s enough pressure in getting the tiny human out of you when it hurts so bad and you’re crazy and exhausted in the first place. AND every labor/delivery is very different and you just can’t expect them to go anything like the one before because just like your kids are their own people, so is their entrance to the world! And just as you know all those decisions… epidural, IV drugs, episiotomy, most of it fades away with baby because even if you had help you still did it and brought him into the world and there he is in your arms – yay! GOOD LUCK, friend!

    1. April McGrew

      Thank you so much!! I’m going to try for natural as much as possible — simply because that increases my chances for a repeat c-section. This is exactly what I needed to know! I believe I can do this — because my body was designed to have a baby. Thank you soooooo much!!

  3. Julia Hembree

    Oh, I am so proud of you. You know I had a c-section as well and it was from a lot of the same things, I wanted a vaginal birth but I just didn’t know enough to make it happen. I would say now that I know more about it, things I would have done differently would be to labor at home for as long as I could first. I felt like as soon as I got to the hospital I was pushed to make decisions I didn’t want to make. I also would not want pitocin ANYWHERE near me ever again. It didn’t allow my labor to progress naturally and I think the pain and intensity of it lead to my unwanted c-section. I was also in a hospital that would not allow me to get out of bed, even just to go to the bathroom, but I think that having the ability to change positions while you labor is crucial. I think that the most important things to do would be do your research and make sure you have a care provider who is on board with you plan and you understand your hospital’s policies. I feel like most of my labor horror story was due to bad care. Miranda at Not Super Just Mom had a very detailed birth plan for her second baby who was a successful VBAC, maybe look at that? I’m so proud of you and am rooting you on from here! I can not wait to hear all about it! And yes, you CAN do it!!! xoxox

    1. April McGrew

      I was in a similar hospital. I was strapped to a bed and not allowed to move or function. I agree — being able to move is incredibly crucial! I think it’s okay to admit to hating how your labor progressed the first time — simply saying “well, the baby is healthy and that’s all that matters” really does a disservice to the mother. We all know that we were thrilled that our babies were healthy, but it is not fair to tell us that we aren’t allowed to want to change the outcome.

      I know you’re considering another one — and I want to let you know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I believe you can have a healing birth!


    Hi April:) I was up late and remembered your beautiful blog so i came over to catch up, I am so happy you are having another baby-congratulations!!!! I had 2 vaginal births with epidurals, and then planned a non-medicated 3rd birth. I ended up waiting too long to head to the hospital and had him at home-hehe;) but that was my original hope anyways, I had originally hired a midwife, but we ended up not being able to afford the actual birth, so we had to transfer my care to a obgyn. So anyways, I did not plan to have him in our driveway, but i did and ended up having the most amazing natural birth since my body really did take over since I had NO clue I was about to have a baby.

    I thought I was hours away since my contractions were only 15 minutes apart. I learned so much from Trek’s birth that I want to take with me for my next one.

    – I was not checked to see how far I was dialated (obviously since there was no doctor there:) so I never had the pain associated with the number of cm’s I was dialated. I kept reading birth stories online and thinking I was at a 5 since my contractions were so far apart, but I was really at a 9-10 and not letting myself feel the pain b/c I thought I was being a baby-hehe. I know even midwives check, so I am not sure they will let you go without getting checked for dialation.

    -I also agree with the advice to wait at home as long as possible for the comfort, even though I am not really one to talk on that one.

    -And the face thing is priceless, I read to relax your face throughout the contractions too, so I focused on that and my contractions were lessened when I did.

    -I also did not have to push one little bit, like not at all, my body did everything without anything on my part, I knew Trek was coming out when my body starting complusively shoving him out-:)

    -I also gave birth naturally without any thought to my position on my hands and knees. It was what my body did naturally and it felt so good to work with my body as he worked his way out from that position. My water broke the exact moment that Trek came out.

    -I just knew that I wanted Jarrett to be there with me to massage my back and encourage me, and I wanted my sister there too, but looking back, I guess I did not want anyone there. I must have needed to be alone. I thought I had hours left to go, so I let Jarrett sleep and did not call my sister, I had no desire for them to be there and I was already through my entire labor and did not know it, never once did I think about waking him up for support. It may be different for the next baby, but I am aware now of how strong I was when I was alone, it was good for me that time.

    In the end though April, I KNOW you will have the perfect birth with or without a doula b/c you are ready and willing to have one! It will be so wonderful and I am so happy for you, you will find your own way and it will be perfect and we will all be reading your advice in a few weeks:)

    One thing my friend told me that I just LOVED and clung too while I was in labor. She told me that when her labor started to get really hard, almost unbearable. She went and sat on the ground in indian style, and closed her eyes, and imagined all of the millions of women who had given birth before her, and the ones all over the world that were given birth naturally just like her right now, and she knew she could do it:)

    Isn’t that beautiful! It really spoke to me, and gave me a womanly strong passion while I was bringing Trek into the world.

    I am sooo happy for you April, it will be beautiful. xoxo, Chelsea

    1. April McGrew

      Chelsea — I have read this comment over and over again. It has encouraged me SO much. We CAN do it. We really can. And I’m afraid that all this fear we spread to each other is why there are so many c-sections. We are told we CAN’T do it… we are told all the stories that cause us to cringe and fear birth… but God created it. God made it to be beautiful and OURS. Our bodies were designed to do this!

      I just got a book yesterday from the store called Birthing from Within. I’m really excited to see what it says — I think it’s pretty similar to what your friend shared with you!

      I love you Chels — and I think about you every day!


        thanks April, I had that book and loved it, but my FAVORITE book was Orgasmic birth, you have to get it, you will LOVE it, oh my goodness, it was so amazing and beautiful. And for fun, make sure you have it with you at least one time when you are in your cute Maternity swimsuit and laying out and read it when an old man walks by and you and your husband can laugh at his expression:) hehe

  5. Rachel

    Two things helped me a lot with both of mine. Moving. Walk through your labor, move position to find things that work. And being in water. I don’t think I would be into the whole water birth thing- but I did labor a fair amount of time in a tub- it helps SOOO much. I have had really good hospital experiences, it makes me sad to read about some people’s experiences. And don’t worry you wouldn’t be the first to poop while delivering a baby- just trust me on that 😉

    1. April McGrew

      Thank you so much, Rachel! I’m really learning that the keys are: believing in yourself, moving, and learning to relax through a contraction. You’ve helped me so much! Yeah… and it’s funny how the poop thing isn’t as terrifying this time around. People are right — you really DO lose a lot of your modesty with motherhood! HA!

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