#113 | Kristina's Birth Story: Anticipating the Pain that Never Came

July 21, 2021

Before Kristina became pregnant, she believed birth was a scary, painful, and potentially dangerous event. Her mindset around birth was mostly fear-based and centered on pain. Once she became pregnant, something stirred inside. She wanted to learn more. In educating herself, she realized she craved to feel all aspects of labor, took Cynthia's HypnoBirthing class, and decided to have an unmedicated birth. In the end, what surprised her most was that during labor she kept waiting for the pain — but it never came! Her baby’s head slipped out  very unexpectedly. Tune into this inspiring, beautiful birth-center birth story.

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Between episodes, connect with us on Instagram @DownToBirthShow to see behind-the-scenes production clips and join the conversation by responding to our questions and polls related to pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood. You can reach us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com or call (802) 438-3696 (802-GET-DOWN). We are always happy to hear from our listeners and appreciate questions for our monthly Q&A episodes. To join our monthly newsletter, text "downtobirth" to 22828.

You can sign up for Cynthia's HypnoBirthing classes as well as online breastfeeding classes and weekly postpartum support groups run by Cynthia & Trisha at HypnoBirthing of Connecticut

Please remember we don’t provide medical advice, and to speak with your licensed medical provider related to all your healthcare matters. Thanks so much for joining in the conversation, and see you next week!

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View Episode Transcript

I reached down and I can feel that her head is out, which is just incredible. Because I will say I still kept waiting for like, Where's the pain? Like the really, I can't get through this pain. I everyone talks about like, you'll have a moment where you're like, I can't do this. And I kept waiting for that moment. And then her head was out. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I did it.

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast. Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

Hi, I'm Christina. And I'm from Seattle, Washington. And my husband is Giles. And this is a story of my daughter's birth. So when I think about her birth story, I think something that's important to note that I think is probably typical, most maybe not most, but a lot of women's birth stories is what you hear about birth, before you get pregnant, which I just have like these memories of being like, terrified of birth. So I like I was saying to my husband, I can remember when as a kid, like, I was so afraid of giving birth someday, which is ridiculous, like you're a little kid. And like, why would that even be on your mind. But I just remember having this fear of like, oh, someday I'll have to endure this, like, horrible pain. So basically, that's all I knew going into this was that like, childbirth was going to be painful, it was gonna be dangerous. I also think that is something that I hear a lot. And you're going to need to be at a hospital, you're gonna need a lot of help. And that's like all I knew, we shouldn't have to go into this process, overcoming things. But that is how the process begins. For most of us, we first have to overcome the fear the doubt. And then we have to start like embracing and envisioning the birth who won and preparing for that. But there's like this first hurdle of overcoming it's, it's interesting that you even recognized it, because for some of us, it's so innate, we don't even realize we're carrying that fear. Or why we are? Well, I didn't really think about that I had been carrying that fear. Until, you know, as I was getting more into it, and learning a little bit more about childbirth, and, you know, I had a pretty easy pregnancy. And I knew that this was coming. So I started to like, look into it a little bit more rebirth stories kind of get a little bit into it. And, um, I had this like, feeling that I really wanted to experience childbirth, like, I can't explain that. And I don't know why. Like, even though I had this fear, and everything I heard about it was that it's awful, and that it's hard and that, you know, you need a lot of medical intervention, I had this feeling where I was like, I kind of want to, like feel what that feels like. That's called your maternal instinct. Ah, I like that. I hadn't really thought about that. Yeah, so I then kind of started floating that by people. And so I, and people would kind of say, okay, but you know, be ready to like, go with the flow. You know, if I would say like, I think I want to try to not have an epidural. Just because I want to feel what a contraction feels like, or I want to feel that like urge to push. That was my thing. I know, that's so weird, but I wanted to feel the urge to push. And everybody was like, okay, but be flexible. It was more of like, you're not going to get what you want. So I started to look a little bit more into things. I actually told a co worker of mine about this, she asked me like, what was my plan for childbirth, which was unusual, people don't typically ask you that. And like, they don't ask you what you want.

They don't ask what you want. Because there's this presumption that it's all out of our hands. Like we'll have to see how it goes is is one of the problematic statements. That when that's, that's implicit in those conversations that we'll see how it goes. And when we can recognize the how much we can influence our own births. Everything changes. But it starts with someone saying what do you want for your birth? It totally and I got a concept, right? Someone that I know I will now I'm like, I need to ask other women that exactly. Um, so she asked me and I said, Oh, you know, I'm planning on having My baby at St. Joe's, which is a hospital here. And I want to try to do no epidural, but we'll just see what happens. And she told me, she and I are so thankful for her. She was like, if you want to do that, you need to prepare. If you show up and you're going to just go with the flow, you are going to get an epidural. She I will say she did say it's very painful. It is so hard. You have to be ready. In my experience, I'll get to this. It wasn't painful. But that was her experience. And I was so thankful for us. She did have a unmedicated childbirth. And so I was like, Okay, did you know at the time what she meant by getting ready? Did she give you any guidance on that? Oh, that's a good question. I don't remember. I don't know, she just told me I needed to prepare, I needed to like, I think like brace myself mentally, or, like, have a plan have a birth plan. So from there, I started to look into different resources online. So I found some Instagram accounts that had like videos of birth, which I had never seen. And what we'd seen were like things on TV, you know, where the woman is, like, on her back, and she's screaming, like, I think of like the office when Pam has her baby. And she's, it's like, horrifying. Um, so we looked into some Instagram accounts and started watching videos of childbirth. And they were like, really beautiful and peaceful. And both my husband and I would like cry every time we would watch these births. And so then I started to be like, Oh, that's what I want. Like, I want this to be a beautiful experience. Whereas I think previously, I just wanted to, like, feel that primal feeling. And that was when I was like, Oh, this can actually be like a positive experience. Now I need to figure out how to have that positive experience. So then I had heard a little bit about HypnoBirthing from some like online forums, and groups that I was a part of. And I had done meditation in my in my own personal practice. And I've found that really useful in my life. And so that felt like that was maybe going to be the right path for me. So I started to look into HypnoBirthing. And so hearing your podcast, I actually, one of your earlier ones I want to say was about evidence based birth. And so I listened to that episode. And that really, I think, just totally changed everything. For me. That was when I was really like, Oh, I need to prepare by educating myself, not just practicing meditation and watching childbirth videos, although those were really helpful. But that's when I realized there's so much more to this. you'd mentioned like, if you come away from your prenatal appointments, like you go into, I'm so excited, which is really true every time I was so excited. And I would find myself leaving them feeling kind of like, oh, or like, what, what, and so I did end up changing my provider. So that was really helpful to hear that that's a thing that happens and that it's okay, and that you can totally change. And I think I was like past halfway through at that point, probably like 24 ish weeks, which now doesn't seem that crazy to me. But at the time, I was like, Oh, I'm already halfway through, I can't change my provider. Um, so I had decided I wanted to give birth at the birth center. My husband and I ended up taking Cynthia's class. I texted you, because your numbers on the website. And I was like, it's Connecticut. But I'm in Washington, can I still take this course. And you were like, of course. So we did the formal HypnoBirthing class that was so so helpful. Having that time together, where we were both taking in the information really made him become my childbirth partner. And so he was learning alongside he was hearing all the information that I had been hearing. I don't know if other people experienced this, but I think sometimes as the woman like, this is my journey, and I need to prepare myself. And so I was like obsessively reading but my husband's not doing that and he cares, but he he's not, you know, up at night, googling things and, and stuff like that. So it was a really good chance for us to take in that information together.

Well, you know, a part of the reason, you know, sometimes we can feel disappointed that our partners aren't doing all the reading we're doing and we have this vision of what we think other couples are doing where they're just taking it all in together. But it does make sense when you look back as to like those of us who research those of us who have to keep getting more information. We're coming from usually that place of like, Oh my god, I have to do this. I Have to get through this. And for me, it was coming through a place of anxiety initially. And when you're that kind of woman who's going to do all that research, you also have to understand the fact that you're in your case, your husband, in my case, my husband, no doubt, Trisha, his husband, they're like, variable to say, I'm married to a very competent woman. And she's gonna figure this out, and I'm here to support her. But they also know they can kind of defer the entire thing. Because they, they know, we're going to derive all the information we need to that's out there that we're going to obtain all the information we need. So that's kind of what's happening to they're just like, she's, she really is going to get all the information she needs. She'll tell me what I need to know. And they don't have that anxiety. They have that faith and trust in us while we have the anxiety about birth Anyway, I'm convinced. That's why we read so very much, because the birth is ours.

Right. And I agree My husband is I think that's exactly it, because he's very involved. He's so he's amazing. But I think he was like, um, you know, she's got this and he didn't have to go through it. But, but I'm so happy that we did end up taking that course together. It prompted a lot of really good conversations. Like, I told him, I didn't want him on his phone, which is not something I would have thought to I say that on day one. Yeah. I wrote it, you wrote it down. I always say to the women, I'm like, Alright, you know, if you don't agree with what I'm about to say to your partners right now, cuz I'm talking to the couple of men, like if you don't agree, then after class, say, hey, by the way, ignore what Cynthia said. But I'm always like, I'm going to speak for her right now. You're not going to be on your phones, she will look up and see your loving eyes looking back at her and not you on your phone.

Yeah. And there's one other thing I forgot to mention this as jogging my memory, because at around 34 weeks pregnant, I want to say I fell. And so anytime you fall in the third trimester, they tell you that you need to go into labor and delivery just to get checked. And my husband was with me, of course, I'm kind of freaking out, even though I know it's all okay, the baby can hear the baby. And he was playing games on his phone. And I was like, we can't do that during the birth. It just made me so panicked. So I was like, Okay, that was good, good lesson. But I really wanted this to be this intimate experience between me and my husband. And I wanted him to be that partner. I wanted him to be actively involved. I wanted him to feel like he also triumphed and did something that day. So I think having that childbirth course was absolutely crucial to that. Um, so we went into this feeling very prepared. Um, and spoiler alert, I ended up delivering a week late. Exactly. So at 41 weeks, you would say, at 41 weeks, yeah, on on the date. So hold that on time. I always have to jump in and name the weeks because I in my mind, it isn't late. It was all an illusion. The whole time that you ever were going to give birth on the quote due date. You gave birth really right at the average time.

It is funny because you had said this to me, Cynthia and I heard it time and time again from other people. My provider even said this my midwife. The average, I think it is first time mom is 41 weeks and three days to five days. So three ish. Yeah, I was like, okay, that's fine. I'm going to be ready, my baby will come at the right time. And then I did not quite feel that way as I was reaching the end of my pregnancy and I was having these searches here and there.

Little midwife tip right here. Whenever you get your estimated due date or guest date, always add a week and tell everybody that yes, change your date in your head to one week after the estimated due date, because that's much more likely. 

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So, then at 41 weeks, right before the day before my midwife stripped my membrane, and I asked her to do this, and she was fantastic. She was not pushing it on me at all. She was totally supportive of what I wanted to do, which is really important. But I was getting really anxious about an induction, which in hindsight, feels silly. But at the time I was, I felt like panicked, I felt like, they're going to make me get an induction, and then I'm gonna have to pitocin and then I'm going to go down this cascading flow of intervention. And I don't want that. So I did go the membrane sweep route. Again, like, it now feels so silly. They can't make you do anything. They couldn't have forced me to do anything that I didn't want to do. But when you're 41 weeks pregnant, I don't know I started to panic a little bit, I guess. Nothing wrong with doing that. Yeah. So April 28. Exactly one week passed my quote, unquote, due date, I wake up to a really intense surge. And I just immediately knew this was it. So I, you know, wake up my husband, I labor a little bit at home, I was breathing through the contractions. And I had this feeling where I was like, it's time now we need to go, which you had told me what's going to happen. And so I tell my husband, I was like, we need to go now. They check me. They tell me I'm six centimeters, dilated. 100% effaced? I was a little nervous about that. So I was like, Oh, no, only six centimeters. But it ended up progressing pretty fast, which is okay, probes Great. So she runs the tub, I get in the tub. And immediately, it was just the most amazing relief. The it was immediate. And I was so happy that I chosen to do a tub birth. So I labored in the tub for probably about an hour. And then I start to feel that kind of pushy. And I've heard other women say that when I listened to birth stories, and I never knew what that meant, but I never heard that. You started to feel pushy?

Well, it wasn't quite the urge to push yet. It was like pushy, a little bit. It was pushy. Yeah, I don't know, I would kind of go at the end of the contraction. I was like, Oh, I think I thing. It's a thing. It's a term. Yeah, I'm coming upon the time to push. So I quit. I turned to my husband, I say, go get the midwife. Why needed to check me. I still had this in my mind that I needed someone to approve me pushing, which is silly. Now in hindsight, and the midwife told me that she was like, you push when you want to push, I can't tell you what to do. So she comes in, I asked her to check me, she says I am, there was just a little bit of a cervical lip. And so I knew that that meant basically it. It's time. And I did I asked her Can I push? And she was like, I don't know, can you like you do what you want. Um, she was very supportive of the natural process of birth, which was fantastic. And she kept doing that through the whole thing. There were little things I'd say like, when are you going to worry about failure to progress and she was like, get that out of your mind. Just focus on what you need to do, where no one here is worried about failure to progress, like, just relax. So that was really helpful. And I think, again, important to get a good provider. So I am pushing for a while in the tub. And the they provided doula because it's a midwife birth center, that she's something that they do they provide you with a doula. And she suggested that I get out of the tub for just a little bit and she said, you're not going to want to do this. But I think we should get out of the tub and push on the toilet for a little bit. I looked at I was like, You're right. I don't want to do that. But okay, I stood up, they took me out and I got on the toilet and I actually think that that was fantastic. It was great to push on the toilet sounds weird.

Do you know why your doula recommended that or why providers recommend that?

Is it because you're so like trained that when you sit on the toilet, your body relax? Well, that's
part that's part of pushing on the toilet, but it really has a lot to do with what happens to your body when you when you change positions. Or in particular when you get up and get out of the tub. The way you lift your body and extend it just helps babies rotate and come down further. Oh, yeah, but I do it. I mean, I also do say that in class like the toilet is the The only place on earth where you touch it. And without even a conscious thought you've instantly relaxed your entire pelvic floor. We don't do that anymore. You could be immersed. Reading a book, as you're like, sitting down onto the toilet, you're not even thinking about what you're doing, but you'll instantly relax your pelvic floor. So a lot of women find themselves gravitating over to a toilet. They don't know why. It feels perfectly weird to them if they think about it, but it's like, oh, no, you're onto something. you're onto something instinctual. You're relaxed something. So what happened for you, when you sat on the toilet? What change happened for you? Or did you notice?

It just felt good? I don't know. That's all I can say is that it felt good. Yeah, it was, it was great. So if somebody recommends that, it's, it's actually sounds wild, but it's pretty good. Um, so I was ready to just stay there all day. I actually on the toilet, because I didn't even want to get on to it. But then I was ready to stay there all day. But then the midwife looked at me and said, Do you wanna get back in the tub so that you can birth your baby? And I was like, Yes, I do. So got back into the tub. Um, and actually, I just have to add, I, my husband was amazing. He was so fantastic to this whole thing. He was so supportive. He did everything that I needed him to do. He made sure I always had like a cold cloth for my head. He was so supportive, he was right there with me the whole time. So I feel like I have to say that so that was great.

Isn't that cold cloth I talked about in class, is that not the most heavenly tool was amazing. And when you said it, I was like, Okay, I mean, I believed you, but I couldn't understand like, because you went on about this cloth.

 Because no other time in life to suckled cloth make a difference like that. It's sort of like, Oh, that's nice. But in labor in about somebody just did you with like a miracle? No, it wasn't me. You didn't go on too much. I don't know I did. I'm sure I was like, just take my word for it. Put two washcloths in your birthing bag, get a cold bowl of ice water when you get there. You think about the women who don't have positive birth stories. And like, I always feel such a wave of compassion, because I'm thinking, Okay, they definitely didn't have a cold washcloth on their forehead, they definitely didn't hat they were on their backs, they were told this, they were given that I mean, if you put any of us in, under into those circumstances, we wouldn't have the birth stories to tell that we have I mean, it's not like we were destined to have the births we have, this is how you make your birth. comfortable. This is how you make it your own.

Yeah, and I another thing to mention, I will say like, I really did trust my body, which is something I also heard when I was preparing, I moved into all these crazy positions on my own. I if I felt like doing like a hula hoop thing, I did it if I felt like moving into this position. I did it. I just totally like I was moving the whole time. And I do think that ultimately ended up helping just a time. Um, so I am pushing. I'm in the tub. She asked me is the baby moving down? And I had this moment, the midwife asked me that, and I kind of panicked. And I was like, I don't know, how could I tell. But I then ultimately was able to, I could feel or move, like twist, which was really interesting and kind of exciting. And it really made me feel like me and my baby are doing this together. I feel her I'm like, okay, the baby is coming. I look up and I say that to my husband, and he gets all excited. And I reached down and I can feel that her head is out, which is just incredible. Because I will say I still kept waiting for like, Where's the pain? Like the really, I can't get through this pain. I everyone talks about like, you'll have a moment where you're like, I can't do this. And I kept waiting for that moment. And then her head was out. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I I did it. So I reached down and I feel her head and I say she has hair and my I look up and everybody's face in the room is just like they're like shocked. And I was like can you see her? And they were like no we can't. So I moved my position because it was important to me that my husband could watch the baby come out. I'll also add really quickly that in between contractions we were like laughing we were making jokes, I was chatting with people. It's like the most peaceful in between. and I was kind of worried it would be this intensity the whole time. It's intense for the contraction and then it's peace. So I that was really great. So I'm waiting for the next contraction for her body to come out and I midwife reaches down to check I think for the cord around her neck and she looks up at me and she says I'm going to get this baby out of you, which I was like, I beg your pardon?

Yeah, that's what I thought I was like, No, I'm gonna get this baby out of me. And it was weird because she'd been so like all about the natural process. And you know, trust your body, you do this, you're, you know, this is your thing. So she's, she tells me to put my knee up. And I listened to her because she's being a little intense. And she reaches in there and does some sort of maneuver and kind of pulls the baby out while I push. Or she twists it. I don't know what she did. But she did some sort of maneuver, and I reached down and I pull my daughter up out of the water. And I wish someone had been there to take a picture of my face. Because I looked at my husband and I went, there's a baby, there was a baby in there. Like, I just could not believe that I just given I was so shocked. Um, but then that's the moment when the midwife says we have a snapped cord. And I looked down, and there's a bunch of blood, and I could see that her court had snapped. And so they say, Christina, give the baby to Giles, Giles, take your shirt off. And they got me out of the tub. And they had me get on the bed that was in the room. And they were really great. The whole time. They told me, they asked me before they did any procedures, but they told me that because the court had snapped, they needed to get that placenta out very quickly.

So Christina, did your did your midwife change her tone with you? Because the cord had already snapped before the baby was out? Or did she not see this until the baby was out. Because obviously, if the cord is snapped, there is risk to both mom and baby because that's the you know, that's the flow of blood and oxygen to baby that I totally forgot to mention why she changed her tone initially was because she felt the hand around by the baby's neck. And so she was worried that then there would be shoulder dystocia because the hand came out with her head. Yeah, so my husband has a shirt off, and he's doing skin to skin. I'm on the bed and the midwife reaches up and basically pulls my placenta out. Um, and then what did that feel like? Okay, so she kept saying, I'm so sorry, I'm doing this to you. It didn't feel that bad at all. But when the placenta was out, I was like, Oh, I'm not pregnant anymore. I just felt like this immediate relief. I think it was a little scary for my husband, because he looks over and he doesn't know what's happening. But I felt really calm. I felt like I knew, you know, the midwives had this, I was going to be okay. And I was okay. And then I lay down and they gave me my baby. And we had skin to skin. And it was amazing. She was just below nine pounds. And so she was a chunky, almost nine pound Baby, I guess. And, um, we were excited. And she came out no problem. She had a huge head. And it was no problem. So yeah, I mean, that was pretty much it, then we just hung out as a family. And we've just been falling more and more in love with each other ever since. And it's been wonderful.

So Christina, looking back from the very beginning of where you started and where you ended up at the end. What advice would you have for newly pregnant women?

I think I would go back to what my friend had told me which is that you should prepare. You should know what you want. And you should know that childbirth is doable. It's something that you were born to do. It's something your body can do. It's something new, absolutely 100% can do. And just trust trust that. Um, I felt like having such an amazing birth experience really launched me into a really positive postpartum experience. It is intense. I had to really get close with my husband, he had to help me through this. And I did it. And after that, I know I can do anything. I just I feel so much confidence as a mother. As a woman, I it really set me up for an amazing, amazing experience, even when things were hard. You know, figuring out breastfeeding, figuring out sleeping, figuring out all this stuff. It's really hard afterwards too. It really makes a difference to have a positive birth experience.

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About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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