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!

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