Natural Labor and Delivery in Okinawa

Sawyer's birth story

Warning...I go into detail, so if you don't want to hear it all, don't read it!

Let's go back in time to about 8 months ago...

At nearly 41 weeks pregnant, I was enormous...we were waiting patiently for me to go into labor and it felt like it would never happen.
I decided that I did not want to be induced like I was with Luke (our firstborn)  See his birth story here:
Luke's birth story

So we were anxious for it to begin naturally, because if you get to 42 weeks, there are certain risks and intervention is necessary.  The above photo is 2 days before the birth!!  Of course, the safety of our baby was first priority, but I really wanted nature to take it's course.  I wanted a completely natural pregnancy, no medication and little intervention.  We were living in Okinawa, Japan and home birth was not an feasible option and with our insurance it made more sense to have the baby at the Okinawa Naval Hospital.  It was a newly built hospital and I felt comfortable giving birth there, as long as they respected my wishes...which they did!  

At 40 weeks and 4 days pregnant, huge, uncomfortable and so so so anxious, I started feeling mild contractions.  Up until this point, I thought every little feeling meant labor.  I had 3 counts of ‘false labor’ a few days earlier, when legitimate contractions were coming in increments for an hour or so, then they would stop.  So, I was very keen on what to look for and very in tune with my body.

Early, early, in the wee hours of the morning of February 4th (my father’s 60th birthday!), around 2:30am, I woke up to mild cramping and belly tightening.  I thought this could be another false alarm, but I wasn’t really able to go back to sleep.  So I got up and had a bowl of cereal and tried timing them.  They were erratic at first, but soon started coming around 8 to 10 minutes apart.  By 5am, they still hadn’t stopped, so I woke Adam up with excitement that this could be it!!

All morning I continued to feel them.  My 2 year old got up, and we played and had breakfast, the contractions were still fairly mild at this point, but still coming!  When people say that you'll 'just know' when it's real labor...they were right.  Around 11am, we put our son down for a nap, and were sitting on the couch talking and timing contractions.  They were about 7-8 minutes apart, very regular and getting more uncomfortable.  Then I felt a literal ‘POP’ come from down there.  This was around 11:30am.  It felt like the baby kicked something and made it burst.  I stood up and there was a trickle of water…not a ton of water, but a definite trickle.  It was happening!  My body was doing what it was meant to do...so empowering, as a woman, to realize what your body is capable of!

We called our sitter and started getting things ready to go!  As we waited for her and prepared, my contractions became much more intense.  I had to stop what I was doing and let each contraction pass…but I was still able to talk through them.  

As soon as we got in the car, they became very painful.  They were about 5 minutes apart, and much stronger than before.  I was gripping the seatbelt as we drove and couldn’t talk through them.  They were coming in very clear waves.  I knew when they were peaking in intensity and also when they were almost finished.  Luckily though, I had good calm breaks in between and was coherent enough to remember the drive and think clearly.

We got to the hospital and as we were walking inside from the parking lot, we had to stop 3 times for contractions.  I just needed to stop and hold onto something.  I’m sure we were getting lots of looks!  We got up to L&D and were admitted into triage to be checked.  She swabbed for amniotic fluid, which was obviously positive.  I was also 5 cm and nearly 90% effaced.  Sawyer was doing fine and   under no stress.  They admitted us into our own room at that point, which was around 12:30pm.  Contractions were steadily getting stronger and closer together.

Our nurse came in and it was my friend, Lily’s Mom from Lukes swim lessons that he took over the summer.  It was refreshing to see a familiar face.  She was so nice and helpful…I, however, was starting to have a hard time conversing and concentrating.  The contractions were every 3 minutes and were seriously no joke!  Full mind, body and soul were going into every one; all the muscles in my body would tighten; my huge belly would become hard as a rock; there was so much pressure down below…The contractions were already much stronger than anything I experienced with Luke.  I assumed that it would be another 5 hours of this…I mean, I still had 5 cm to go right?  The nurse instructed me to call them when I felt the strong urge to push even when I wasn’t having a contraction.  Then they sort of left me to my labor.  About an hour passed and they were intermittently checking my blood pressure.  It felt like ages!  I wanted a natural birth, but was beginning to doubt if I could go another 4 or 5 hours of the contractions that I was feeling.

I didn’t feel like I was having a break at all.  They were so intense, and only around a minute or 2 apart.  I had such a tight grip on the side railing of the hospital bed, that my knuckles were turning white.  Adam was there constantly telling me to breath and relax when I had a break, which was a good reminder.  I remember feeling so so hot and my entire body was sweating.  He wrapped a few ice cubes in a towel and tried to cool me down.  He was so encouraging, telling me how great I was doing, reminding me that it would all be over soon and it wouldn’t be long before we had our baby boy in our arms.

Suddenly, there was a huge gush, really huge.  I remember telling Adam to call the nurse ASAP…he looked under the sheet and saw lots of water, mucus, and blood.  This was my official water breaking and from that point on, there were no more breaks.  My body was pushing the baby out, and even though I was mentally trying to stop it, my body would contract and with that came my muscles pushing out his head.  The nurse came in and within minutes there were about 10 people in the room busying themselves and preparing for a baby.  The nurse checked me and Adam said, with wide eyes that she whispered to the nurse next to her that I was fully dilated and baby’s head was at +3 station.
The nurses were telling me not to push, hold it in, breath and blow air out like I was blowing out a candle…don’t push, don’t push.
This was the hardest part of the labor, it was one unending, extremely painful contraction, and my body was expelling a baby whether we were ready or not.  I was yelling back at the nurses that I was pushing, I couldn’t help it, my body was pushing!!!  I wasn't in control!   It was the craziest most intense feeling.  Adam said he looked down the hallway and saw the midwife literally sprinting to our room.  As soon as she got there and it was time to push, his head was crowning.  It felt like time stopped, everyone was ready. 
I pushed once and everyone was yelling that they could see his head, one more push. 
On the second push, at 2:48pm, he was out…the feeling of him, along with all the fluid, finally flooding out of me, was probably the best feeling I’ve ever felt…I literally let out a huge yell of relief, exhaustion, happiness, not to mention the emotion and love…looking up into my husbands eyes and seeing his amazement.  It was all so surreal, beautiful and perfect.  That feeling...wow.  Everyone in the room smiling, cheering, so proud of me.  Seeing my husband beaming with pride.  It's overwhelming.  

They immediately put Sawyer on my chest.  He was perfect.  7lbs 14 oz, 20 inches long, blonde hair, dark blue eyes.  We delayed the cord clamping until it was finished pumping.
He latched and nursed right off the bat.  We had a long time for skin to skin.  His wide eyes stared up at us as we spoke to him.  We were instantly so in love.   He nursed for 30 minutes!  What a good boy!  
I can honestly say, that it could not have gone any more perfectly.  I feel very blessed that I was able to have this experience, because I know the other side of this.  With my firstborn, it was the doctors dictating everything...but this time it was my body leading us, and it is so empowering!  I felt like a warrior woman, creating a perfect human over 10 months, and giving birth to him, on my own, with no help.  My body did exactly what it was supposed to do.  It wasn't easy, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

I must say, after this experience, I am not claiming to be a huge advocate of natural birth.  It was right for me, and if you have a high tolerance for pain, it is right for you too.  But for many Mama's out there, epidurals are wonderful and a much needed remedy to give you the wonderful gift of having a pleasant birthing experience.  I think that having the memory of your child's birth as pain and difficulty is not healthy.  It's important to have a positive experience.  
It's miraculous and as long as it results in a healthy baby your experience will be perfect!!
Here are a few photos of our sweet Sawyer after birth.  

 For any mama's out there who are interested in a natural birthing experience at the Okinawa Naval Hospital,  but don't know what to expect, let me help ease your fears.  They were wonderful in respecting my decision!  They encouraged me and were kind, calm and helpful.  It could not have been better for me.  One thing I learned the second time around is that you must vocalize what you want and stand by your decision.  Do your research and know what is best for you and your body.
They were so respectful of my wishes to have a natural birth, delayed cord clamping (Cord Clamping info) , skin on skin immediately after birth, breastfeeding right away, delaying a baby bath (Delay baby bath) and on and on. They were awesome.  Also, with this being my second birth, and the baby was healthy and passed all of the tests, we were able to leave the hospital after 24 hours.
Here we are leaving with our sweet baby.  I love looking back at this video.  So precious!

RVirgin trip to Leavenworth, WA!

30.  My new age.  Yes, I am 3 decades old.  and I LOVE IT!!
Totally embracing this new number and excited to see what the next 10 years will hold.
Of course, this was a big birthday, and I wasn't sure what my husband was planning.  If you know me, you know that I'm not too keen on big surprises.  When I watch a suspenseful movie, you can bet I've already seen the plot.  No surprises.  When I read a book, I usually scan through the end before I start reading it.  No surprises.  I've been known to explore our bank account history before Christmas.  No surprises.  Of course, the usual gifts and things are fun and exciting.  I surprise myself sometimes with how excited I become when I am caught off guard.
So to the point...
Adam told me he had to take a buddy to pick up his car downtown.  A 30 minute trip, or less.  So after an hour went by, I wondered where he was!
Finally, I hear a strange rumble out in the driveway...
He rented us an RV for an extended weekend trip to anywhere I wanted!!!

This is our first time RVing, RVirgins...but it's a much more feasible venture than taking our baby and toddler on a backpacking trip (our first choice sans kids)...so, I did some research and the closest place, in the mountains, in fall...Leavenworth, GA.  This is a quaint little Bavarian village ...touristy, but charming, that sits in the heart of the Cascade mountain range of Washington.  It just so happened to be Oktoberfest that weekend, so I expected booked RV parks and sloshed crowds double fisting their beer garden mugs.  We went anyway, and were pleasantly surprised!!!

 First of all, the leaves were changing colors, and there was a recent cancellation at one of the local RV parks so we pulled in to find that it was located on a gorgeous river, winding its way through the mountains.

We literally backed the RV in and could see the flowing water through the back window. There was also a mountain range across the river.  My husband is a bit of an extreme athlete.  He climbs mountains, and he loves trail running.  So when we arrived at the RV park, he was oogling the mountain.  I urged him to go trail running and he was determined to make it to the top.  So the next morning, he was gone for a few hours and he called me from the top.  Luke and I ran down to the river to see if we could find him...but he was WAY too small and far away to be seen.  If you check out this picture, he was at the very highest peak.
He ended up bushwacking his way back down and his legs were so scratched and bruised!!  But what an exciting accomplishment!  The thrill of spontaneous adventures was definitely our trip's theme.  

 I am so in love with this photo of Luke.  It looks like he is watching the river flow and pondering life's deepest meaning.  In reality, I told him there might be a bear in the woods.  For the rest of the trip, he was searching for the friendly bear.  (mean Mommy)
Another cool experience!  A random tropical bird flew out of the woods and landed right on my arm!
 Just kidding.  But it was very random.  A woman staying at the RV park had a pet bird.  A beautiful, colorful and completely domesticated
 It was around 7 am and we walked down to the misty river to do a little stretching.  (yoga is our morning routine usually).  There was a woman with this bird on her shoulder!  She saw us walking down and asked if Luke would like to hold the bird.  He held it for about a minute and then basically said in his sweet little voice...Get this thing off of me.
So I held it, and to make it even better, the sweet bird owner offered to take my camera and get some photos of us with her bird.  How awesome is that?!?!

I'm so glad that we decided to take our trip to Leavenworth.  Adam knows me so well...For months I have been saying how badly I want to go to the mountains, be in the woods, go hiking, go to the river...Being close to nature brings you closer to each other, allows you to listen to your heart and enjoy and cherish the little things.  It just makes us happy!!  No matter how much stress we have in our lives, when we can get outside, even for 30 minutes, it's so refreshing.

I forgot to mention that this BEAR wandered up to the RV!!
 We took a drive through Icicle Rd.
This was our route.  I researched a little bit and found an amazing hike...

Adam and I are going to come back and do this weekend loop, backpacking with our tent in the backcountry without the kids!  Maybe for our next anniversary.  It just looks too beautiful to pass up.  The drive was breathtaking, so I can't even imagine how amazing this hike would be!!
 We got back to the RV and had our own personal concert of Adam originals.  He's so dreamy!
And this picture pretty much sums up how amazing it all was.  We were so high on life and loving on each other.  We decided that we aren't exactly 'RV folk'  ...but the boys will get older and easier to take on camping trips.  This was great for us with them being so little.
Leavenworth is so beautiful!  We made more great memories...