Monday, May 25, 2009

What does giving birth feel like?

I remember reading a book by Sheila Kitzinger back in my early graduate school years called Giving Birth: How It Really Feels. I can't remember too many specifics from the book at this point, but it reminded me to write a post about what labor & birth feels like. This event is hard to describe, because there's really no other physical experience quite like it. Most of us resort to metaphor or analogy, usually in reference to some bodily function: menstruation, elimination, & sex are the most common.

The closest I can come to describing what a contraction feels like is: a sharp, knifelike menstrual cramp that I feel right above my pubic bone, from hipbone to hipbone. It's funny that I use menstrual cramps as my analogy, because for me cramps are a dull, constant ache, whereas contractions are strong, sharp, and intermittent. But that's the closest sensation I can compare it to. Many women describe their contractions as coming in waves or peaks. I would do the same. The prevalence of electronic fetal monitoring has probably cemented that imagery, since the contractions are traced on paper as oscillating peaks. If I think of peaks (as in mountain peaks or steep hills), I think of something that requires effort, that becomes harder and harder, and then goes downward and becomes easier.

When my body began pushing, I experienced three distinct sensations. During Zari's labor, I had about an hour of "throwing down": abdominal pushiness/heaving that felt just like throwing up, only it was in a downward direction. No rectal pressure, very mild. I skipped this stage with Dio's labor. Next, I felt intense rectal pressure as the baby moved down, like my butt was going to split in two. I really didn't like this sensation. And finally, the rectal pressure subsided as the baby began crowning. In its place I felt intense stretching and stinging as the baby's head emerged more and more.

I was thinking about something one of my sisters-in-law told me about her experiences of labor. Her first three births (with obstetricians) were either augmented or induced with Pitocin and, not too surprisingly, followed by epidurals. She had told me that labor felt like your skin was being turned inside out--basically that it was pretty awful. Then with her fourth and fifth babies, she had unmedicated hospital births (with CNMs) and no Pitocin during labor. She realized that the awfulness that she had assumed was inherent in labor itself was due to the Pitocin.

We know that a majority of women in the U.S. receive Pitocin during labor. It's not entirely clear how big of a majority it is, but the Listening to Mothers II survey found that 50% of the mothers surveyed received Pitocin to either induce or augment labor. Others have estimated that the number is much higher. Of the women Robbie Davis-Floyd interviewed for her 1992 book Birth as an American Rite of Passage, 81% received Pitocin during labor. In any case, at least half and quite likely three-quarters or more of women experience a Pitocin-enhanced labor.

I wonder if this is responsible for a large part of our culture's fear of labor pain. It's no wonder that so many women talk about labor as being excruciating if more than half of them have had Pitocin! Almost all women who have labored both with and without Pitocin report that Pitocin makes labor much more painful. Pitocin contractions are usually longer, stronger, and closer together than those of a spontaneous labor. I haven't ever had Pitocin during labor, so I can't comment personally on this.

So I would love to hear from you:
  • What did labor and birth feel like for you?
  • What made labor more or less painful for you?
  • If you have experienced labors with and without Pitocin, how would you describe the difference between the two?


  1. Obviously I can't answer your questions, but thank you for sharing. :)

  2. I have a hard time describing the birth process. My contractions were always very low. I felt a distinct tightening and raising of my uterus. There was lots of pulling. My midwife manually dilated me the last two centimeters and that was the worst. It felt like muscles were being stretched beyond their capacity. By the time I began pushing I was in "labor land." It was very out of body. I could feel the baby moving down but I didn't feel much else. The contractions still hurt but I don't recall "the ring of fire" when she crowned. I had to be told to slow down when she was crowning because I was ready to blast that baby (and her nuchal hand) out! Pushing and the moment of birth were relatively pain-free compared to the contractions, but I had a definate feeling of wanting to get it over with. For 13 hours I couldn't sit really or lay down, it was too much. I had to be standing or walking, and later on I was either on the toilet or the birth chair. I don't see how anyone could give birth lying down.

  3. Labor felt like intense diarrhea cramps (at least for my first time). Transition felt like the kind of diarrhea cramps where you can't tell if you're going to hurl or have diarrhea so you sit on the toilet holding a barf receptacle (those unfortunate instances have come on in waves or rushes, very much like labor). Pushing hurts to me, and the baby slowly moving down just never is enough.

    Labor the second time started with my water breaking - which felt like the sound POP if that makes sense. Then things happened so quickly I'm not exactly sure what I felt. The beginning sensations of labor were like little shards of pain, but short. Then I was consumed, and I remember saying 'this part HURTS' as I was pushing her out...

    ...and it really does feel like pooping while EXTREMELY constipated, even the 'ring of fire'. I'm talking like post-surgery constipated, not your everyday constipation.

    Then the baby coming out is just relief. The second time around labor was really not painful at all - but the afterpains were about the worst menstrual cramps I'd ever had, and I had to deep breathe through them.

  4. Well, haven't had the second one yet, but the first was.. dunno .. more like rushes. Though I had diarhea cramps to start out with to empty everything -- those hurt. But the later contractions were just intense. The only thing that really hurt was the pressure breaking the waters and stripping the membranes. Felt like a giant band aid was pulled off.

    Pushing felt.. just odd. I could certianly see someone having an orgasm from the sensation, but I think I was personaly too freaked out at the time. lol

  5. Up close and personal with this right now as I had a baby last Wednesday!

    Contractions - I would describe them virtually identically to the way you did. The hipbone-to-hipbone thing resonated for me. This time was much faster (1.5hrs of active labor) than my last birth and differed in that I didn't find the deep sensation of relief at the end of each of my contractions that I did with the last birth. I was simply focused on intentionally relaxing and not contracting in between times.

    What helped? Water. This was my first water birth and I don't know how I managed to birth my first two on land. The freedom of movement and support was a revelation. I also really enjoyed some good tunes in the background, found myself singing quietly in between my birth sounds with contractions.

    Second stage. I think I was very in touch with this part of my labor as I had my fingers inside my vagina and could feel both the last centimeter or so of cervix slip back and my baby's head begin to extend forward. This was less painful than the dilating contractions, but were far more intense, fuller sensations, which were initially that giant rectal pressure, and then the streeeeeetching fullness as baby's head moved down pretty quickly through my vagina and onto my perineum. I was expecting the "ring of fire" but didn't find it there, instead just that stretch and then slow amazing relief as his head crowned in my hand and then was born as the contraction ebbed.

    Waiting for his shoulders was perhaps the most exquisite part. I could feel his silky head, and his body moving as we waited for the next contraction. I felt his shoulders rotate through my pelvis with that next contraction and then his hips and legs as they cleared my body.

    I have a deeper understanding of my own anatomy because of this birth. I feel like these sensations oriented me to my pelvis in a way I simply didn't expect. It was damn hard work but it was glorious.

    Pitocin. My first birth was augmented with pitocin. It's hard for me to say if it was better or worse, largely because my first baby was OP and whatever comfort measure 'tools' which I had prepared were stripped from me "You're making too much noise" and "you need to be back in bed so we can monitor your baby". I wound up swiftly getting an epidural and had a dreadful time of it after that. Pitocin was simply a piece of that puzzle.

    I've worked with women who've transported to hospital from home for augmentation (usually for persistently malpositioned babies and funky labor) and by that time they don't seem to notice a huge difference between the sensations (aside from the fact that they get stronger - which is what we wanted). I DO think that pitocin induction is nastier than the onset of normal latent/prodromal labor. No IV pump can titrate the doses like your brain can, and the cascade of endorphins which accompany it can't keep up. That's my take, anyway.

    Awesome questions. :)

  6. Interesting. My second birth was an elective induction w/pitocin and I actually had less pain than I did with my first birth, which wasn't induced. I had an epidural with both, but it wasn't until I was in a good contraction pattern. I've heard horror stories about pitocin, and thankfully I wasn't one of those statistics.

  7. I don't know how to describe my contractions. When I was in high school I had cramps so bad that I couldn't get off the couch. Strangely, my contractions weren't like that- or maybe they were and I don't remember because I was standing up and not lying on a couch. Note to self: stand up for menstrual cramps instead of lying down.

    The feeling I remember most is the feeling that it would never end. Each contraction kept coming and it was overwhelming. I had a lot of back labor- that was pretty painful, and it didn't let up. However, by the time I was pushing, the contractions were more in the front like menstrual cramps. I, however, was so excited that she was coming, that I completely ignored any pain. Pain was there, but when you've been in labor for almost 2 days, the excitement overcomes the pain. :)

    I didn't use any sort of birthing techniques. Do you think hypnobabies changed the way you felt your contractions?

  8. I have had 4 vaginal births, two with IV narcotics, one with pitocin, and one UC at home.

    I can't say the pitocin contractions were necessarily worse than at least one of my other births, but they were just *unnatural*. It didn't feel right, and I could not get comfortable. As painful as my contractions were in one of my births, they at least felt normal, and I felt like I could cope with them. Also, the labor pattern was all wrong, and it just didn't work like it should have. The baby came out, yes, but it had no structure or logic to it. My natural births started somewhere, grew, and ended somewhere. Pitocin was just a ride on a horrible train on autopilot.

    As for how did labor feel, it felt like my stomach got hard, like cramps, but not painful. That was early labor. When I got to active labor, they hurt like pretty bad menstrual cramps (although I also agree with a previous responder who compared them to stomach/bowel cramping. They come in waves and kinda make your toes curl a bit and your face break out in a sweat. But not running to the bathroom yet.)

    Then transition is completely different. The pain level goes up, and the contractions spread from just the abdomen area to what feels like your neck to your knees. Well, it did for me anyway. You start feeling trapped and beat upon, like the rocks against a high tide. The contractions come faster than you feel like you can deal with, then you start thinking the craziest thoughts, like "Where's my epidural??" or "I could totally walk down to the hospital right now" or "Can I be unpregnant? I changed my mind, I don't want a baby anymore."

    A lot of women during transition feel nauseous and shaky, and many women even throw up. Throwing up in labor is good - it is helping baby to move down and get into a good position. I never felt that though.

    And if you haven't gotten any pain meds, right when you think you are going to die from the intensity, and you think there can't possibly be a way you will live through it, it changes again. All the force, rather than radiating throughout your whole body, all moves DOWN. Like Rixa was saying, "throwing down." It's like all the contractions gather their forces and start shimmying the baby down from your ribs to your butt. I think this part scares a lot of women because it is SO STRONG. And if you don't have a million people hovering over you, it will take you over.

    You start heaving in reverse, like your body is ejecting something (it is!). And all you can do is hold on while it does its thing. You may or may not feel the baby actually moving down, but at some point, your vagina starts to feel stretched and burn-y. You might naturally feel the urge to grab your vagina to keep it from tearing. Then you just push until the baby is out.

    I always thought labor and birth was really cool. It's like sex - you build up until the sensations take you over, then you just enjoy the ride. Granted, labor isn't as pleasurable as sex for most of us, but I still enjoy that feeling of letting go and losing myself in the rhythms of my body.

  9. "What did labor and birth feel like for you?"

    Contractions felt like a supremely strong light-force beaming down through the top of my head, through my torso, and out through my vagina. The labor in general felt like an acid trip - I was on an otherworldly plane, in a different dimension, a little like an out-of-body experience.

    "What made labor more or less painful for you?"

    Retaining fear and tension made it hurt more. Releasing energy through vocalization and spirallnig my hips made it feel better.

    "If you have experienced labors with and without Pitocin, how would you describe the difference between the two?"

    I had Pitocin with jameson and it was HORRIBLE. Ugh. I was completely unable to deal with it. I became like a woman possessed and started shuffling around the room frantically like I could run away from the pain. It was like the contractions were attacking me from the outside instead of coming from inside me.

    My labor with Jacob, obviously, was all natural, and it was much easier to handle. Because there were no outside forces interfering with my body's process, I was able to just surrender and roll with it.

  10. What did labor and birth feel like for you?
    What made labor more or less painful for you?
    If you have experienced labors with and without Pitocin, how would you describe the difference between the two?

    Labor was so different between my two boys. My first was augmented with Pitocin, and otherwise unmedicated. The contractions after they broke my water and started Pitocin were horrific! I had to keep reminding myself that I didn't need an epidural, that it would be over soon, it was better for my baby if I didn't have an was rough. I screamed through contractions, which were so long and exhausting, my whole body tensed up along with my uterus. I had internal monitoring going on, so all I could do was writhe around in the bed, puncture holes in my husband's hand with my fingernails, and cry. When I pronounced "10 cm", I was coached to push, which I did with all of my might, although by the third push (3 pushed per contraction), I wasn't even pushing anymore...I was just going through the motions. After over 45 minutes of this, the intern cut an episiotomy, which tore past to a 3rd degree when my son was born. A few more pushes after that, and he was born. Now, the birth of my second was at a freestanding birthing home with a midwife. My water broke spontaneously at home, but contractions didn't start till about 8 hours later. They started small, exactly like menstrual cramps, just a bit more intense. Then they picked up in intensity and frequency, where I could no longer sleep through them. By the time we got to the birthing home I was about 8 cm and things were intense. It was so different though...contractions seemed much shorter than with my first, and I could easily breathe through them and laugh in between. After a while (transition) I told my husband that I'm getting an elective c-section next time...I was just SO tired. Then I got over that and it was good again. There were a few times that my husband actually asked my midwife why I wasn't having contractions, because I was just floating in the warm water with my eyes closed...he thought I was sleeping! Though they were intense, they were manageable. Near the end, when I changed positions and he was suddenly "locked and loaded", I actually felt him move down. The very next contraction was a "throwing down" one, as Rixa described. It was totally involuntary and just a wild sensation! I had a few contractions like that, then he started crowning. I DEFINITELY felt the "ring of fire", which is exactly what it felt like to me, but it was good because it cued me to breathe instead of push. The last few minutes, I again agree with Rixa, that it felt like my bottom was about to rip in's so much pressure, the skin was just stretched tight. Then his little head (and nuchal hand) was born, the his little body came squishing and squirming out, which is by far the most surreal part of birth to me...the feeling of your baby exiting your body. As far as what made labor more or less painful...Pitocin definitely made it more painful, and a combination of a warm birthing pool and circling my hips in a spiral made it less painful, by far. When I couldn't get comfortable in any position and finally got into the tub, it was as if I wasn't in labor for a few minutes, the relief was so great. Also, when he was being born, being able to dip my perineum in the nice warm water offered such relief, and made it feel not quite as tightly stretched. Hope that helps...I was a bit long-worded! :D OH, and for the record, my first was 8 lb, 6 oz, and my second was 10 lb, 1 oz.

  11. The only way I could describe what birth felt like for me, is that it felt like the biggest bowel movement ever known to man!

  12. I didn't have pitocin, but I'd describe my labour pain as like being an animal caught in a vice-like trap that kept periodically tightening so the teeth bit in. I had constant back pain throughout, and it just got worse and worse - my poor husband kept trying to rub my back, and it actually felt like being branded or burnt. I couldn't stand to be touched. The contractions came and went, but the back pain was ever-present and unmanageable - I just remember throwing up and up so I couldn't breathe through it. I know I'm supposed to have forgotten the pain but if I think about it, really think about it, my mouth fills up with water again as if I'm going to vomit. The only thing that helped was immersion in water (I didn't try an epidural as I'd had SPD, and didn't want to damage my pelvis while numb).

    I had planned on an active, standing birth, but once it started, I just wanted to curl up foetally and not move at all, which surprised me - my urge was honestly to go as foetal as a 41 week pregnant woman can honestly manage. It seemed to be the only way to survive the pain (although my final midwife had other ideas, and got me up so the baby could move).

    Why yes, it was a posterior baby - why do you ask?! He did turn towards the end, but too late - I was exhausted, and my contractions just died. The horrible sensation of him rotating, low down in my pelvis, and then staying trapped there is probably my dominant memory of the second stage. I never got any pushy urges at all, even hours after I was fully dilated, so I really don't know what that feels like. I remember saying 'Aren't I supposed to want to push?' and the midwife saying that I should just rest, and then after another hour, her saying hopefully 'Need to push?' and me just crying, because nope, nothing but constant pain, only at this stage the baby was low enough that it felt as if my pelvis was splitting apart. I just remember the back and pelvic pain while the contractions got milder and milder, and further and further apart. It was like the reversal of the start of labour. Four hours into the second stage, the baby went into distress, and I wound up with an instrumental delivery - it wasn't much fun, but I do remember the huge, vast feeling of relief as the baby's body was finally yanked clear of my pelvis.

    I've always thought that the analogy of the medieval patron saint of childbirth, so chosen because she got swallowed by a dragon and then safely spat out again, was a good one. You get swallowed by a monster of pain, and eventually you get spat back out of the belly.

    1. My labor and birth were nothing like I thought they would be. The contractions were strong but I was with a doula/labor coach who put me positions based on where I felt strong sensations during contractions. This helped coax the baby down. I moved around a lot during labor, going from room to room and up and down stairs in my house. My contractions were somewhat regular, but then I would skip one or two. This continued until very close to delivery. During the delivery itself at the hospital, the CNM used topical analgesic and lots of lubricating jelly to coax out baby's head. I didn't have pitocin and didn't need pain meds. From what I understand, when your body releases oxytocin to stimulate labor it also releases endorphins that block pain. When pitocin is used to stimulate labor, it's not your body releasing it so you don't get the endorphins with it and that's why it seems to hurt more.

  13. What did labor and birth feel like for you?

    My labor wasn't really that painful. It was a very, very long labor. I felt my contractions from the top of my uterus to the bottom, and from hip to hip. They were like dull, but strong, squeezes.

    What made labor more or less painful for you?

    Whenever it was suggested I lie down to rest (because the labor was long), the pain was almost unbearable. But when I was standing and leaning over my bed, the contractions were very dull and manageable. Also, my water didn't break until I was 9cm dilated. I think that makes for a less painful labor.

  14. 'Throwing Down' - I like that term! My first pushing contractions were VERY MUCH like that ... they were horrid and I had no idea what they were! I just felt like my body was trying to throw up but not really. Throwing down. Got it ;)

    I felt my early contractions in my uterus like sharp menstrual cramps as well, but after I laid down for a sleep (which didn't happen!), they moved around to my back. I'm not sure if baby's position changed when I laid down, but I had back labour the rest of the time and never felt another contraction in my abdomen although I wish I had, because those were significantly less painful - for me, anyways.

    I don't remember the pain at all. I remember the sensations. I remember back labour that was intolerable except with constant counterpressure (my poor husband and student midwife!). I remember truly not understanding how to push. It was a big learning experience!

  15. my first was birthed with pitocin and a subsequent epidural. my second was birthed naturally, without any interventions, but still in a hospital setting. i would say that my first birth was by far more painful than my second. the pitocin made the cramps feels sharp and they never stopped. there was no break in between. they were just on top of each other. but i often wonder how much of that was the mental state i was in. the minute there is intervention, mom loses her power and control. so no longer is your labor something you are in control of, it is now something that is happening TO you. so i think that has a lot to do with the pain.

    birth 2- i slowly contracted over the period of about 6 days. when i began feeling true 'birth pains' i was already dilated to an 8. my contractions were looooooooooooong- lasting about 3 minutes, but then i'd have around 10 minutes of a break in between and we'd be joking and laughing, feeling him kick on his journey down. there was no pain between contractions. but the contractions themselves were intense and very tiring. it felt to me that something was EXPANDING inside of me and pushing down at the same time. kind of like doing squats with way to much weight on the bar. i remember feeling it in my knees. the most pain i experienced was passing his head. that was burning, stinging, skin being stretched. but as soon as his shoulders passed, the pain was gone. i still remember the feeling of his umbilical cord whipping out of me, like a slithering snake. i remember thinking 'wow, that feels cool!'. a big difference the 2nd time around was feeling in control of my thoughts and actions. the moment my mind began to wander the pain would intensify. what helped me through was focusing on this "the Lord is my rock and my salvation, in whom shall i fear?" i just kept repeating that over and over in my head while contracting. it reminded me to not fear the pain.
    this has been good for me to think on. my son turns 3 in july and i honestly haven't thought about that pain in a long time. my thoughts are always on the power of his birth and that completely overshadows the pain!

  16. • What did labor and birth feel like for you?
    With my first my water broke before I went in and then they immediately put me on Pitocin. I went 9 hours without any pain meds until I finally caved. It seems I never got a break! With my second, labor started spontaneously. I went to the hospital when contractions were 5 mins apart. I had a wonderful CNM but the docs there were not so nice. My labor started to slow down so they started me on Pitocin. The threat was start on a low dose of Pit or the doc will come in and take you back for a C-section. Not the best thing to hear when you are in labor. My contractions before the Pit were very manageable but after the only position I could get into was the fetal position. Finally after 17 hours with no meds and 12 of it on Pit and stuck at a 3 for 9 hours I got the epidural! Worst thing I could have done. I have back problems now! I had great CNM’s but a lot of the nurses and the docs didn’t understand why I wanted to have a natural childbirth! I had one supportive nurse and that was it. With the Pit I hated being in labor. I just wanted it to be over. There was a great difference between my contractions when I first got there and once they started the Pit.
    • What made labor more or less painful for you?
    Before being put on Pit I had my birthing ball. I rocked on it and laid my head down on the bed while my hubby wiped me down with a cool cloth. Once Pit happened it took more effort but once they increased the dose I was done for! I laid in the fetal position until it was time to get the epidural.
    • If you have experienced labors with and without Pitocin, how would you describe the difference between the two?
    I can’t answer this one but I am having my next one at home! I am completely positive that the experience will be so different and relaxing than having a baby in the hospital!

  17. I was one week and six days late when I asked my midwife what we could do. I was so scared that my planned homebirth would be canceled, that I would just have to go in and get induced.
    We ended up doing a Foley balloon induction, augmented by herbs. Labor kicked in almost right away after the balloon was inserted, and fell out after 2 hours. The labor was extremely painful, that was what surprised me most. I think this was caused a bit by the fact I was so frightened that the labor would stop (my mom had 'dysfunctional labor' with all 5 of us- and she was there, and not particularly supportive of the homebirth thing). I so wanted it to be real labor.
    I also had coupling contractions, and back labor. My partner was there for every contraction rubbing my back (it was bruised after!), and my midwife left us alone for alot of it. It took me like 8 hours to progress past 4 cm and that was the worst because there was still the fear that my body wasn't working right. Finally, after vomiting a few times, I progressed, I got in the pool, and that helped alot, I passed out a little between contractions. My midwife did a uterine massage along with guiding some visualization to get rid of the coupling contractions with me. At this point I was like 'okay, time to work, lets do this' and the pain stopped being so scary. Pushing was probably the most physically painful for me, but there was this feeling of no turning back that injected me with stamina and confidence and instead of screaming I started roaring. After Felix was born I felt so good, energetic (despite the fact it was 6 am) happy, and not in pain at all. That was the best part. So it wasn't exactly the three hour orgasmic birth I had hoped for, but it was just the way it was, and it turned out great.
    If I ever get pregnant again, I would like to wait and not do any induction techniques, and see how that changes it.

  18. Birth for me was generally pretty manageable until I reached transition. It felt a lot like menstrual cramps for me, because I get back ache when I menstruate and I back labored with my first child. It got gradually more intense (but still manageable) until transition, and then I thought it would never be over. With my first child, I never felt any overwhelming urge to push, I think in part because I was encouraged to push as soon as I hit ten centimeters, and I was in sort of sitting on the bed position rather than upright (I was in the hospital with a CNM with my first). The second time around I was at a freestanding birth center with a CPM and when stage 2 came she told me to only push if I felt like it. After one test push, I immediately knew why women talk about not being able to stop pushing. I guess it kind of felt like a bowel movement, only 100 times bigger, and it definitely was in my vagina, not my rectum. I think there is really no good way to compare that feeling to anything else. It is the feeling of giving birth. After my second child, I am convinced that the lack of any pushing/pressure sensation with my first is because I pushed too soon, and because of my position. I will never go back to the hospital to give birth, because they simply cannot support you the way that I needed to be supported in the second stage of labor (encouraged to squat, or kneel, no purple pushing, etc.).

  19. The start of my labor felt like menstral cramps and was very tolerable. Once I started feeling the back labor, though, I did not tolerate it well.

    The contraction would start with a vibration in my tailbone, travel up to my lower back, and then spread around my sides. It felt like a giant was squeezing my back, trying to break it. Laying down was worse than standing because I couldn't move my hips during a contraction. Water didn't help much.

    After a while, I would start to feel panicky about the next contracton as soon as I felt that vibration in my tailbone. I'm sure this is what kept me at 6 cm for over 6 hrs, and that is why I decided to transfer. I couldn't handle that pain if I wasn't making progress. Turns out my baby was malpositioned, hence the back labor.

    Since I had an epidural the pushing wasn't painful, just uncomfortable. It felt like a huge bowel movement, and was exhausting because it went on for 3 hrs. I ended up with a c-section so I don't know what crowning is like.

  20. I've had two babies, and the first I went into labor naturally and it was much easier. I had an epidural, and had to have pitocin after the epidural...because it slowed down the labor. But honestly, I was so comfortable, we all feel asleep and they had to wake me up to push.

    The second baby was induced with pitocin, a doctor recommendation. I didn't know enough to know better. I was awful, I was in soooo much pain. With the first, I was 7cm when we got to the hosptial, and I didn't have the epidural for at least an hour. With the second, I was in incredible pain about an hour after they started the pitocin...I am not sure how dilated I was, but not very since I was in labor from 8am unitl 2pm. I was crying and couldn't breath there was so much pain. They gave me a drug in my IV until I could get an epidural, there were 5 girls before me, so I was in horrible pain for about an hour.

    Now that I'm pregnant again, I am praying so hard for natural labor. My DH will probably convice me to induce if the OB recommends it, so I'm praying I won't be put in the situation:)

  21. One birth, no pit., no pain meds. For me, early labor felt just like period cramps. True first stage labor, I honestly don't really remember very well because I was trying to ignore/relax/sleep through it as much as I could. I would not characterize it as painful, but more as intense. If I think about it, I would describe it as an all-over tightening in my abdomen, felt equally, not especially in front, nor in my back. At some point the contractions changed to what I would describe as feeling like I was being wrung out like a dishrag, but from the inside out. They moved from low down to being higher up at the top of my uterus and in my diaphragm and made me go from making an 'oooooooo' sound to sounding like a yodeler being strangled, like this 'uh-ah-uh-ah-uh-ah-uh', at the peak of the contraction. I was told to get out of the tub when I started making those noises, which I guess where the start of pushy contractions. I fell asleep for an hour, and when I did start pushing, I would characterize those contractions as expulsive, like I imagine my dog feels when he is pooping (partly because I was on hands and knees and remember feeling like I needed my back muscles and diaphragm to help push effectively).

    The baby moving down mostly felt like a very big object coming out of my body... I can't describe it better than that. Just a very big, solid object, coming slowly out of my body. My mom bluntly told me when I was 12 that "having a baby is like s#!&&ing a bowling ball."I guess she is kinda right. I can't remember pain during crowning, but I do remember having this feeling/experience/vision (I don't know what to call it) that the whole universe, swirling galaxies, light, divine cosmic energy, was condensed into that area in my pelvis and between my legs, and that was so powerful that it wiped out any physical sensations I was having. When his head was out, I remember feeling the midwife helping his body corkscrew out the rest of the way with the next contraction, and that was a very 'stretched out more than I thought my body could stretch' feeling.

    The tub and warm water made everything feel really manageable. I also think being allowed to move a lot was key. I would flip from laying in the water to going onto hands and knees or leaning over the tub edge during contractions. I also found that vocalizing and 'ooooohing' helped dissipate the energy of the contractions really well. Oh, and a hot rice pack on my lower back felt like just the right thing for awhile around maybe 4-6 cm.

    The only thing that made contractions more painful was when the nurse would listen to my belly with a doppler or put the EFM device on me. I didn't want anyone or anything touching me.

    Re: "...a Pitocin-enhanced labor." I know it is technically correct usage, but "enhanced" just seems like the wrong word to use in the same sentence with pitocin (like something a marketing guru would put in an ad campaign), when a google definition search comes back with top definitions like:
    - increased or intensified in value or beauty or quality;
    - A version or form that has been improved or made better than some other standard form
    - enhance - make better or more attractive; "This sauce will enhance the flavor of the meat"
    - enhancement - an improvement that makes something more agreeable.
    Ummm, not.

  22. As a dude who has seen his wife's four births, as well as other women in his OB rotation in school, I usually tell people the following:

    1. I don't know what labor feels like, but being with my wife convinced me that it's survivable, and that women are incredibly strong.

    2. There was always a point at which my wife said she wasn't going to survive, and that was right before the birth.

    3. Pitocin looks really scary. I saw women who were tolerating birth pains and hedging on using an epidural, and then after the epidural and the Pit started, they were in agony. I once saw an intrauterine pressure monitor go up to 90 mm Hg with Pitocin. What was normal - 40 or something? That gives me the willies.

    4. All the women in my wife's family have had Pit births and non-Pit births, and they swear Pit is the worst.

    Most important:
    5. Position seems to be everything. I think my wife tolerated labor without pain meds because she could labor in whatever position she wanted. I also saw women in the hospital wig out because they were strapped in bed. It looked awful. I wanted to be a labor-woman-liberator, throw everyone out of the room, and help her to stand by the window or something.

  23. man-nurse, I love this: "I wanted to be a labor-woman-liberator"!

    I really love all of your comments--so lyrical and poetic and really amazing how you've described what is still, at its heart, indescribable.

  24. Five births, no pit, no pain meds.

    One thing I'm thinking of, and surprised that no one mentioned it here -- unless I missed it -- is that the body produces endorphins after a "real" contraction, which doesn't happen with a pit-induced ctx.

    I can't describe labor. Early on, it feels like strong menstrual cramps, but after that... even reading everyone's comments, I was thinking, "No, that's not quite it for me... no, not that, either." It's just indescribable.

    With all of my babies, labor didn't hurt really badly until 1-2 hrs before the end... and, frankly, I would get excited when it started to really hurt, because that meant the end was in sight, and I would get to meet my baby, and I would get to push, which feels so bizarrely satisfying. The only part of labor that is CRAZY-INTENSELY painful is once the baby starts crowning -- not just ring of fire, but pain that radiates throughout my whole body, and I feel like I'm just going to LOSE it, though my husband invariably tells me afterwards that, no, I didn't appear out of control at all, even though I felt like it. However, that part of labor is REALLY quick for me -- from 5 to 15 minutes, then I have a baby. I figure I can stand just about anything for 15 minutes.

    I have tried all sorts of labor positions -- walking, in a tub, in a shower, on a ball, twenty billion different positions in bed, squatting, different positions on all sorts of different chairs... you name it, I probably labored it with at least one of my five. Here's what I've come to realize -- the thing that helps, for me, is just mixing it up. It's not like laboring one way relieves any pain... it's just like, if I do mix it up, I'm taking a step forward. I hope that makes sense. If I try a new position, it feels like I'm doing something, cooperating with labor, instead of just laying around and "bearing" it. I don't want to "bear" labor, I want to participate with the process.

    So, nothing really was a magic pain reliever except... hanging on my husband's neck. Me standing, hanging on his neck with both my arms, my head on his chest. Man, that feels great. But, maybe it's more emotional support, and the physicality of him being so there, 100%.

  25. Just a few comments: I was surprised as I think many women are (or at least many of my friends) at how much labor pains hurt. And it's not like I expected them not to. I was also surprised how little anything eased the pain - different positions and the water especially. But I had a complicated labor - wanted a water birth, ended up with epidural and pit after stalling out at 7 cm for 8 hours or so (total labor was 30 hrs). The length of the labor and even the stalling weren't the problem that led to the epidural - it was extreme dehydration, which caused my body to freak out and stop functioning (ie contracting), basically. I vomited throughout the entire early stage of labor (for 10 hrs or so) - I had thought that vomiting in labor was normal. Probably vomiting during transition is normal, but my midwife later said that vomiting during early labor is NOT. After drawing blood before the epidural, we discovered that my white blood cell count was high and that I had a low grade fever - basically I had a virus of some kind, and that caused a cascade of issues. Definitely the dehydration (think of it as running a marathon without a drop of liquid) affected my ability to think, cope, and handle was happening. I did not want medical intervention in my birth, but I do believe that the pit (and my supportive midwife & ob) saved me from a C-section.

    I should also add that I was VERY fortunate because even though I had an epidural I could feel most of my contractions and I did feel the baby's head emerge, though it didn't hurt. It felt like stretching. My wonderful midwife & nurses also let me push in different positions, but moving me around, so I didn't feel like a passive numb lump.

  26. For me, labor was almost exactly how you described. With both babies I have felt the contractions way down low, across my hips, like a belt tightening. In fact, my midwife this time didn't seem to believe that I was in active labor when I called her, since I wasn't feeling them spreading over my entire belly the way she expected. She was a little surprised when I was 9.5 cm on arrival to the birth center.

    With my first, I never felt the ring of fire, but I sure felt it with my second! Of course, crowning was much faster with my second, so it makes sense that this would make it more intense.

    After giving birth to my son in water 3 weeks ago, I am totally won over to waterbirth as the best method of pain management for me. I felt much more freedom to just do what came naturally while in the water, especially during the last few minutes of labor when my body took over. Moving around at all always helped; the most painful position was lying down.

    Can't comment on Pitocin contractions, as I haven't had it during labor.

  27. my first time i felt only tightening in my belly and dull cramping above my pubic bone from about 5am to 4:30pm. then back labor kicked in. and i was having tremendous back pain with every surge. and i would move and bicycle my legs around and try and get comfy. but it was just really really hard to focus through.

    it was as if someone was on the inside of me pushing my lower back out past it's breaking point. lots of pressure!! hard to deal with.

    pushing him past my pubic bone was kind of a sharp burning pain that lasted till he was out. they had to really encourage me to "push past it." i really had no will to feel it. lol but i did it.
    i felt no ring of fire.

    my second. huge difference. i did use the hypnobabies techniques. and i felt only pressure, tightening and stretching the entire time. i laughed a lot through surges.
    it felt literally like sex. like penis hitting the cervix kind of feeling. enjoyable.
    i definitely felt that "throwing down" feeling which felt great. and pushing was wonderful. hard to explain, other than i really enjoyed pushing once i felt those urges.

    i did have the pubic pressure again, but nothing like what it was the first time. mere "discomfort" compared to pain. i put a cold wash cloth where the pubic hair begins and it made it feel better.
    crowning was interesting. lots of stretching. again. no ring of fire.

    and i mean no disrespect but did you practice your hypnobabies often? was it just one of those things that just didn't work for you, or you didn't feel the need/want to use it in the moment?
    for myself i really relied on it during the birth. the cd was constantly on and as soon as it ended i wanted more more more.

  28. Very interesting post! I will partially answer your questions, because I've had pit-labor but I'm looking forward to non-pit labor this October. (HBAC!)

    * What did labor and birth feel like for you?

    Labor felt long, exhausting, and painful. I progressed slowly (induced) and when I finally progressed at a "normal" speed, they were overkill on the pitocin. They broke my water (after I finally progressed 2cms during a pit-free break, pain-free, on my own) and immediately started the pit again without waiting to see if anything would happen. I'm partially to blame, that was not my original plan if it came to that, but I was sadly very passive at this point. It felt like hours and hours of transition. The contractions would last 45s-1min, with pain that had me clutching at my husband or mother, staring up at the ceiling, loudly moaning, and eventually sobbing in pain. I had maybe 10-15 seconds of lesser pain, but not no pain, between contractions, which left me begging "No no no" at the start of each contraction. I was panicked and completely out of control, even with the epidural the contractions were still fairly strong, enough that I had to concentrate with each one and still moan a little, but I was no longer panicked and out of control.
    * What made labor more or less painful for you? Being in the bed mostly, on all the monitors with the IVs made it worse. As did unattentive nurses that got pissy with me for taking off the BP cuff in the hour between each check. (I was one of three women that gave birth in as many days at that hospital. They were NOT too busy to walk ten steps and attach it once an hour) My husband was super anxious and promptly forgot every effing thing we had worked on together to help me cope in favor of letting me clutch his neck. All the usual yada yada about the hospital, drugs, interventions. I knew the induction was a bad idea, knew the truth behind them, so doing it scared the crap out of me to begin with. I started the whole ordeal with little confidence and no faith that it would actually work. Big surprise that it didn't!
    * If you have experienced labors with and without Pitocin, how would you describe the difference between the two? I don't know yet, but I suspect I'll handle normal labor a bit better. In the midst of all that I mentioned above, my mom WAS able to calm me down for the epidural, and keep me focused. Too bad no one thought of doing that before we got out the big spine needles! It would have been SO difficult, but I think a doula would have made all the difference even had I still undergone the induction.

  29. Sorry, I'm not terribly specific. Add me to the list of comparing contractions to menstrual cramps. Just much sharper and far, far more intense. It was all up front for me. Pushing felt better, maybe they slowed/stopped the pit once my urge hit, I don't know, but as my mom always told me growing up pushing relieved the pain. I don't know how much of that is perception. My mom had drug-free labors with both of us, and I grew up with the stories she and her sisters shared of how just when the pain is at it's worst, and you feel like you REALLY need the drugs, you're pretty much done anyhow. So I guess I expected that, but none of them were talking about induced labors. So it was a bit different I'm sure.

  30. Labour felt like waves of tightness, starting low in my uterus and at my hips, and moving forward and down. I remember it as incredibly intense but incredibly positive and empowering. I felt like I was *good* at labouring, and it made me feel good. I didn't need much help or support. Just the odd time I wanted to hold someone's hand. Most of the time I just wanted someone near (someone invited and on my support team). It was kind of like a slow charlie horse: that tight and that painful, but better than a charlie horse because it is not a pain signal that something is wrong, just a pain signal that something important is going on in your body. Plus there is a definite, palpable end to each contraction.

    Second stage of birth felt like the world's longest, hilliest, hardest marathon. I pushed for 3 hours. By the time my son was crowning my entire bottom was numb from the back and forth movement of his head and the swelling that ensued, so I didn't feel any pain then. I did feel it when I tore a bit, but it was a sensation of awareness and not of pain. The relief and joy when he was born was higher, I am sure it must be, than any street drug ever invented. It was the best start to motherhood possible.

    Labour was more painful if I was sitting or lying down. Walking in between contractions helped, but during I had to stand and only sway a bit. The best pain relief was WATER--I felt SO much better when I stood that the tub was out of the question so I spent a good portion of my labour in the shower. Like, 80% of my labour was in the shower. My fingers were wrinkley from the water.
    Being alone made my contractions more painful because i would worry that something would happen and I would be alone and unable to get help. Having someone present made the pain at least 50% better.
    Deep breathing worked well, and starting from my face and working my way down to relax all muscle groups as each wave of contraction hit.

    I have not experienced a Pitocin augmented labour. My cousin had a cervidil only induction with her 2nd baby after a totally natural non augmented labour with 1st baby. (she didn't need Pit, the cervidil was enough) She said her 2nd labour was WAY more painful, intense, difficult to manage, and felt more out of her control than her first. Interesting that a cervidil augmented labour would do this, too, even without Pit.
    Nature knows best, in the vast majority of cases.
    We should leave well enough alone, and stop fiddling!!!

    thank you for sharing so much of your journey.

  31. I was induced with pitocin due to preeclampsia. Definitely not what I wanted and very hard on me (pain and no mobility) and my baby (heart decelerations). The thing that bothered me the most? The monitor may have been broken as it did not track my contractions - it would read that I was at a peak when nothing was happening and read that nothing was happening when I was having intense pain - and the staff believed the monitor, not me. The thing that surprised me the most? Intense pain in my pubic bone. I didn't expect it and it was agonizing and scary since I'd never read or heard of women feeling their pain centered there. You post is probably the first even oblique reference to pain in the pubic bone that I've seen! (And, yes, I took a childbirth prep course, read extensively, and worked with a doula.)

  32. I've compared the *peak* of a contraction to what it feels like right at the moment when you stub your toe. (You know, the sort of stubbing where you fit twenty-five curse words into a two-second tirade.) Besides the obvious facts that a contraction lasts a bit longer than the sharp pain of stubbing your toe and that the pain is located in an entirely different area of the body, the sensation itself seems similar.

    I've also compared second stage contractions to the images one often finds of bridges wiggling like snakes during an earthquake. It's as if that whole bridge is just surging downward through your body.

    Or at least that's what I felt! :-)

  33. Great information :)

    My first birth was a 36 hour labor followed by emergency c-section....second was a beautiful 24 hour labor with a natural VBAC.

    My first, I literally thought I would die. I had all back labor b/c my son was posterior. No one told me I could do anything to relieve that pain.

    While in labor with my second, I was talking to my doula on the phone before she came over and she asked how I was doing. I laughed and said, "These contractions are GREAT!" lol

    It's all in perspective :)

  34. OK, I might pop back and comment on my three births later, but I just wanted to say: "Man-nurse - I hope you continue to nurse in Obstetrics because you will make a great patient advocate! I'm a nurse too, but if I were labouring in hospital, I'd want someone like you around to kick everyone out and let me move! I've been stuck on a bed before with a probe on baby's head, an epi, Pitocin iv, and a catheter and felt so powerless"

  35. I don't remember the pain very well, which is probably a good thing. I know I felt it bone to bone, and as you described it intensified, peaked, and then faded. It started out like a bad menstrual cramp and then became much sharper and deeper and more painful, and then would fade (I did have some double ctx, which sucked!). I had long, hard, active labor and remember thinking that it hurt exactly as much as I could stand. The worst was when I was lying down just before transition. It eased the slightest bit when my water broke and I started pushing.

    Transition mostly felt like panic - I was hot, I was nauseous, and I was in a ton of pain! Then I threw up and my water explosively burst (I was on the toilet, thank goodness) and we were through it.

    I did the "throwing down" thing for quite awhile, too, and then felt the rectal pressure. I never felt the baby move down, in fact I had no clue where the baby was in relation to my body, I just knew it felt like I was pushing a big, hot boulder out and it felt rather impossible. It's weird how you feel bone against bone inside. But I was very determined to get the baby out ASAP and remember thinking I didn't care if my butt DID explode. I didn't feel any relief until her entire body was out, but I didn't feel a distinct head/shoulders thing, just HUGE THING and then YAY IT'S OUT!

  36. I'm coming a little late to the game, but as a L and D nurse, I find the biggest different with Pitocin is that it dramatically ups the pain of early labor--like with inductions for example. I see moms crawling out of their skin at 2 or 3 cms, which is unusual with unaugmented labor.

    I'm loving all the descriptions as I'm expecting my first baby in October and despite the raw, honest tone of many of these descriptions, I find them somewhat reassuring.

  37. Great conversation. This reminds me how the experience of birth is different and vast for every woman.

    My two labors were painless, but TONS of work and very intense.

    I had one true, momentary recollection of pain with Indigo, which is when her body was hanging out to her shoulders and hands were coming down (she was breech). I think the hands coming was when I tore and I said "OW BABY!".

    Contractions felt this way to me: Like an orgasm. OK, not the pleasure part of orgasm (I wish) but the slow build up, the rise to the peak, and the release. And I love that contractions feel this way so that you can develop a rhythm and ritual to help get through them.

    As far as the actual sensation of a contraction, I describe it like diarrhea cramps (but with that orgasm build up).

    The intense and "hard work" part of labor comes with simply working through the difficulty in maintaining your breath and calm while your largest muscle is pulling and contracting. It's not painful for me, but requires deep concentration and surrender. When very intense contractions came that I couldn't "get on top of", I'd vomit. I vomit about 10 times during each labor.

    I got the involuntary urge to push ("throwing down") and it felt really good. I felt powerful with the downwards contractions.

    Her actual body coming out? Again, no pain, but totally indescribable, the feeling of an entire body filling your own. There was pressure, and stretching, and this phase required me to focus on gently and slowly breathing, low and deep.

    I describe labor as feeling like a looooong hike up a mountain. Your muscles begin to get sore and tired (uterus) and you don't think you can take ONE MORE step (contraction) and so you stop. And rest. And you do ONE MORE, lifting one foot slowly in front of the other (contraction). And before you know it, you are done.

    A journey.

  38. So far I've had 3 "natural" births. I have natural in quotations because each of them involved "natural" stimulation to begin labor. The first one was 21.5 hours of VERY difficult labor, which I attribute to losing my waters very near the beginning. My midwife swiped my cervix and I think that's what broke my water, though I didn't know it until I went to lie down and sleep! During that labor, every time the baby moved, it felt just like having a contraction (I actually couldn't tell the difference). Those contractions were an all over tightening of my belly - more like Braxton Hicks, but WAY more intense.

    The second labor lasted right at 48 hours. Though it was longer is was somewhat easier until transition. Once again I felt the horribly intense Braxton Hicks-type contractions during the transition time.

    My third lasted 3 days! It was intense and REALLY difficult "only" the last 12 hours or so. Once again, same kind of transition contractions. But prior to that most intense period, I definitely had building to peak and subsiding slowly-type contractions. I prefer those above the others!

    For all of my experiences thus far, pushing was a relief. The contractions were still there, I'm sure, but they didn't seem to hurt at all. It was SUCH A relief to push... to have something beyond the pain to focus on. In my first, it took 13 minutes to push my baby out in a lying down with knees up position. That was my only hospital birth and really stressful because the heart beats were becoming delayed. 2nd: at home with a midwife, partially prolapsed cord, born purple after 30-45 minutes of pushing in a squat. 3rd: born at home with a midwife, born after 16 minutes of pushing lying down with knees up (because ultrasound predicted a +11 pound baby at birth). 3rd baby was 10.4 pounds.

    I know the lying down position is not supposed to be the best, but it certainly seems to work for me!

  39. My Pitocin labor was unbearable. My homebirth was completely different. Contractions felt like intense menstrual cramps, the pressure when the babies dropped into the birth canal was uncomfortable and pushing felt like I was splitting in two. But during my Pitocin labor the contractions were relentless and there was no break to catch my breath. It was excruciating.

  40. No pitocin.

    Back labor the whole time. I did not feel contractions in the front at all. The pain in my back, which sometimes did feel rectal (I like how you put it - like my butt was going to split in two) was worse than I could ever have imagined. It was truly unbearable. I had a very hot rice and herb filled bag that my doula and my husband SLAMMED into my back during contractions - without this I felt like, well, like I would die or something.

    At one point I labored in the shower and pointed the hand-held jet at my lower back during contractions. The only thing that would touch the pain was the water being so hot that I was scalding my skin. It can't have been good for my baby, but at that time I wasn't even thinking about that - there was nothing else in the universe TO think about but the blinding PAIN.

    Pushing was difficult, felt awkward, painful, but a much more bearable pain (but, if I hadn't had the back labor during dilation, I'd have probably thought it was the worst pain I had ever experienced, so it wasn't some walk in the park).

    Yeah - uncomplicated vaginal birth, no probs whatsoever from a medical standpoint, but painful beyond what I ever could have imagined. A '10' on the pain scale.

    My mother had two unmedicated births in the '70s, one with Pitocin, and says the pain was really not that bad. I think that this is one of those things where there is no "normal". Some women go through traumatizing pain in childbirth that leaves them with PTSD. Some experience labor as a physical challenge that nevertheless goes smoothly and doesn't overwhelm them with pain. And though most people fall in the middle, neither extreme is 'abnormal' or necessarily says anything about whether complications are present.

  41. Ps - I was mobile, upright and walking, in any position I wished, in and out of water, for my labor. Nothing, I mean nothing, touched the pain even slightly except the burning hot water or the rice sack being pushed into my back with all of my 225-lb. husband's strength. All fours, squatting, and any other position just simply sucked. Standing up and walking, or lying on my side were maybe *slightly* better than other positions, but not much.

    I definitely felt betrayed by all of the natural birth literature I had read, which said that if I were unrestricted in my movement and unhindered by intervention, then labor would be bearable, sort of like running a marathon, instead of an overwhelming and psychologically exhausting ordeal with more in common with being tortured than running a marathon.

    Next time, I'll ask for the epidural at the first similar contraction - not going to do that for 16 hours again, ever. It left me weak and utterly exhausted after my baby was born, and I worry about the effects of so much heat on her as she was being born.

    Sorry to be a downer! I'm glad you had different experiences. :)

  42. No need to apologize for your experiences, anon! I hear back labor can be the beast--and all the natural birth literature (which is often spot-on for normal "front" labors) gets thrown out the window when you've got the blow-torch-on-your-sacrum kind of back labor. There are times when epidurals can be a wonderful thing, as much as I *personally* would have to be in a highly unusual situation before I'd accept one.

    I wouldn't worry about the heat hurting your baby--it's not going to radiate that much through your pelvis/spine/bowels. Now, your baby might notice it more if you put a super hot rice pack right on your belly!

  43. Anon -- your experience sounds like my 2nd birth, except I didn't have anyone around to apply counterpressure or anything to my back. It sucked! I had back labor w/my first, but it was worse w/my second. I attribute it partially to the lack of labor support (my fault -- didn't call the midwife!), partially to my gaining more weight the 2nd time than the 1st time (and starting off overweight didn't help matters...), and perhaps mostly to Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction. If you click the link, you can read about a simple exercise that can help SPD; and when I did that (unfortunately it was after the baby was born), I did have the audible pop of my pelvic bones realigning.

    It may be that if you can get this straightened out, that a future labor won't be so bad. In my first, the ctx were manageable -- I thought "epidural" only one time, when I had a contraction while lying on my back when the mw checked me; in my second, I thought "epidural!!!" every contraction for the space of several hours; and the only reason I didn't get one was that I was at home and wasn't about to drive myself to the hospital alone with my toddler to get one. So, yeah, your story sounds all too familiar.

    My younger son is now 3 years old, and I am just now getting to the point where I am thinking about having another one, and part of the reason for the delay was that his labor was pretty effective birth control!


  44. "...I like how Rixa described it on her blog as "throwing down" instead of "throwing up" - that feeling that your entire body is working to expel something, but in the case of labor, it is coming down instead of up..."

  45. Hey there, I became a first time mom on may 18th of 09,For the first hours of labour i thought i was having "practice contractions" Till i called a nurse hotline, she sent me in to the hospital ASAP, and I was 3 cm dialated. Then my contractions obviously got more and more close together, more intense and finally 20 hours later i began to push and by then my epidural seemed like it was wearing down. I really wasnt going to even use an epidural, as i wanted to experince "natural labour" but i lasted the first 18 hours without it. I found the most painful part was the pushing, the crowning i didnt find nearly as bad, some people told me it would be the worst part of labour.I gave birth to a smaller than average baby, so it wasnt nearly as bad as some of the horror stories i have heard about some other labours. But all in all the labour itself has a pain that only a mother can know, and i found that once i was holding the baby, it was worth every second:)

  46. early labour felt like period cramps,which is a dull aching.
    i didnt feel any tightening or feel my uterus tighten. i did when i had braxton hicjs but my lbour was just aching,it took awhile for me to realise they were proper contractions.

    active labour felt like painful period cramps, that aching, which would come and go. totally bearable.

    transition felt the same but much more intense. as my contraction peaked i felt i would throw up. nothing seemedto help the pain other than rocking back and forth on the toilet and resting on my partner in between. i knew i was in transition when i got to that stage. i was relieved it was almost over.

    i had back labour in transition. my lower back felt 'hot' and i thought i had a hot pack/someone applying pressure when i didnt! (looking back now i think an icepack would have helped!)

    i expected contractions to hurt inside mywhole belly and vagina, but they just hurt in my lower belly, they didnt feel deep inside. just one small part on the surface.

    i stood up from the toilet and felt a small urge to push. after a few contractions i gave a little push and then the urge got stronger. i rememebr a deep stretchung deep inside of me, i amwondering if my cervix was not fully dilated. I was pushing and pushing but i couldnt feel him move. He came out down so slow i didnt feel it apart from the brief stretching at the start of pushing.
    he was a big-ish baby with a big head and had his arm up over his head so that might have something to do with it.

    coming out,felt like stretching, iyt was very intense.i felt a burning sensation on one side of my labia minora (the inside labia i mean) down to my clitorus.
    I didnt know why i only felt that on one side, but now i know its because i teared there.
    i also had a second degree tear in my perinium but i didnt feel that.

    i know some people say giving birth feelslike doing a big poo but i had no rectal pressure.maybe that was because i was standing up and leaning foreward on my partners shoulders when i was pushing (he sat on a chair in front of me).
    and also,when i was pushing, i'd stop pushing before my contraction ended because i had long contractions and would lose the urge to push before it ended. Tat was quite painful though not as bad as labour.

    my contractions in the pushing stage were longer and further apart. i was so exhausted that id fall asleep in between them, and managed to have a nice little rest and regain my strength to wake up and push again when the next contraction came.

    i had no pain relief, did not prepare for the birth or pain. i just read a book on what happens to your body in labour, and didnt think about it until i was in labour, and just let it happen.

    your body can birth the baby itself. just calm your mind to let it!!

  47. OK so waaay late to the party but I had an induction because we were post dates (dug my heels in until I was 42 weeks, despite MDs pressuring me from 38 weeks on to induce for no good reason).

    I labored on pitocin for 24 hours with no pain medication until they overstimulated me by increasing the pit too quickly. I saw about 45 minutes away somehow that it was time to ask for the epidural (even though I really wanted to go natural), which was the right thing for me.

    I had horrible back labor - I felt almost nothing in between my hipbones, mostly just tightness in the front and then a searing pressure/pain in the back. Like someone else who commented here, I need soemthing hot and very hard pressure on my sacrum during contractions. Before my epidural I did a lot of walking, standing, rocking. I was (not surprisingly), very uncomfortable on my back. I remember after getting the epidural begging my nurse to help me labor on all fours (she did - she was awesome).

    I especially recall that transition was terribly difficult for me because of the back labor and being stuck positioned on my back. It took me a while to settle into how to relax through the contractions (I actually had to give in and hit my pain button - which my nurse told me to do because she could see I couldn't get through them.

    Ultimately we ended up having a C-section after pushing for two hours. My son just wouldn't come down even though our nurse was trying very hard to get him into a good position. It turns out he was transverse and not lined up with the birth canal properly. Personally I think that is why I had such intense back labor, and also why I never went into natural labor!

    I was glad to see this post (even way late) - and see that the other people who have had back labors like mine also had a very hard time with it!

  48. How interesting; I don't know how I missed this post when I was preparing for childbirth! Now that I've experienced it I agree with the previous commenter that for me labor was like period cramps almost all the way to pushing. I never felt anything that was as high as my abdomen- all of the cramps were very low. I was fortunate in that I had about 3 hours of mild cramps 10, then 7, then 6 minutes apart, and then they were straight to 2 mins apart and very intense. Looking back, I realize that I was in transition. That was when I woke my husband up. I labored in my tub on my side, and then every time I felt like I had to push I'd get out and sit on the toilet.

    Pushing felt great! Like such a relief. Next time I will try not to think about it as much, though. What helped me was being in the shower and then in the tub. I didn't realize how fast labor was progressing, and only made it to the hospital in time to fully push her out.

    For me, labor was not that painful. I think it is a combination of being confident in my ability to birth, being at home and alone in the dark, the water, being healthy, and just pain old good birthing genes.

  49. Labor contractions with my first several reminded me of a brain freeze head ache but of course, across the belly. I recall feeling panicky at transition, hot and just having intense pain in my inner thighs, pressure near my front and in my bottom. I felt the ring of fire and the OB cut me with an epis. My 2nd was similar but when pushing, they were yelling at me and had me lean forward and I tore my labia. It felt like she was coming out my bottom and yet the labia tore in several places. I've had 7 total, and when baby is OP I have labor that feels like I can actually feel the cervix stretch, it hurts badly. It's in my lower back almost to my tailbone, and then really painful in my pelvis. Back labor is not really how I'd describe OP babies, more lower abdomen, lower back, and pelvis. It's like the bones in front hurt too. Pushing an OP baby that's not ready to come out feels like I have a bowling ball hitting my pelvic bones. I had a bad nurse who had me pushing for an hour and 1/2 with my 6th born op baby. I had no urge to push, it felt wrong. Baby felt stuck, and she was. In contrast, with my 7th born, she was OP and we waited until I felt the urge (or rather, I was pushing and didn't even really realize it until the midwife asked me if I was). I pushed that baby out in 10 minutes (and she had scary decels so midwife had me really push). Pushing can be a relief, or a pain depending. With my middle children, things happened quickly. As time has passed with 6 & 7 labor was slower, prodromal starts and stops. I also notice when baby is in an OP postion I am more anxious and cannot relax. I am very talkative and nervous and on and worry more.

    What helps me is freedom of movement. I take showers, and love to be upright as long as possible. In transition, I sometimes have been put in bed or go to the bed myself, and I will feel helpless at that time even after having so many. The pain is more intense, more waves keep rolling. I begin to really think I might be at it forever. In some instances, baby has come quickly at this time. Other times I am agitated and begin to take off the gown (it's hot) and want people to leave me alone. My 7th was wonderful with the midwife, she had me try being on my left side and it didn't turn the OP baby so she had me sit up. I had been whimpering on my left side. Once sitting up I took each wave one at a time, stroked my husband's hand, and kept my eyes closed. I would feel the tightening on my abdomen, the pressure in my pelvis, the pain in my cervix. Between contractions I just rested and the whole room was so very quiet...midwife turned the monitor down. She just whispered and gestured until I finally started to feel myself trying to push. Transition on my side, a waiting lull, and then pushing like crazy because the OP baby was not doing well...O2 on my face, and very uncomfortable feeling extreme pain. I pushed and tore with my last baby (along the old epis scar) because baby was OP and head was tilted to the side and she was bigger than any of my other babies. It hurt to deliver the placenta even. However, it was the best in that the midwife kept calm and every decision was mine.

  50. Well, this post is from a long time ago, but I thought I would share my experience with Pitocin anyway. It has been very interesting to read these comments. I was induced with our first baby at 41 weeks because of very low amniotic fluid levels. We started with a foley bulb, which the midwife said would fall out in a couple of hours. It actually didn't come out until 24 hours later, so we spent a boring day in the hospital watching movies. I only had a few menstrual cramp-like contractions in the evening that didn't last very long. The second day they started Pitocin, and my experience is different from most people's with Pitocin. Because I had so little amniotic fluid, they started with a very small amount and gradually turned it up. I don't have any medical training, but I really wonder if part of the reason Pitocin is so horrific is because they usually crank it up right at the beginning, so the woman doesn't get to gradually get used to it (and neither does the baby). I didn't have any contractions with the Pitocin going until about eight hours after they started it, and they started very gradually and were manageable. I honestly don't remember what it felt like except that it was intense and I thought of it as rushes. I remember focusing on making it to the part of the contraction where there was a release and I gradually relaxed. The only time the contractions were horrific and unmanageable was during the last hour, and that was mainly because I had the urge to push but had to try not to because I wasn't fully dilated. Once I started pushing I didn't feel any pain (as long as I gave in to the urge to push) until the ring of fire as his head crowned. I mostly pushed in a semi-sitting position because the nurse said she could tell I was pushing more effectively in that position (she had had three natural births herself and was very supportive, so I really don't think she was saying it just for her own convenience). It was the most uncomfortable position for me, though, because his head was putting a lot of pressure on my tailbone, so I couldn't relax fully between contractions because I didn't want to rest fully on my tailbone. It didn't hurt, I just couldn't stand the feeling for some reason. The most comfortable pushing position for me was kneeling with my arms rested against the back of the hospital bed. Next time I'm going to just push in whatever position feels comfortable. I had enough time in a contraction for three pushes and then one more short push, but they kept assuming I was done at three pushes and dropping my legs too early. When he was born I felt a huge release and I felt so much joy holding him in my arms. From the beginning I knew he was mine and I could have distinguished him from any other baby because he was so obviously a unique individual.

    So the entire induction process took about 48 hours, but I was only in labor for about 16 hours.

    I'm really interested to find out what a natural contraction feels like. The nurses all told me that since Pitocin contractions weren't that bad for me, natural labor will be really easy, so I'm interested to see if that's the case. I'm sort of just approaching it with the attitude that I can't be sure what it will be like next time. I've largely forgotten the unpleasant parts of the whole experience.

  51. What a great topic- worth joining even at this late date! What does labor feel like? Lots of what other people have said resonates: water breaking feels like the word POP, passing an enormous stuck bowel movement (I'd add- doing that with every muscle of your body while somebody is poking you with a stick or doing something that takes your attention elsewhere), feeling somewhat betrayed in the aftermath of a long and painful labor by stories that emphasize the connection between lack of pain = good experience. I experienced a ton of pain (but no suffering! there is a difference) and still it was an amazing worthwhile experience.

    Contractions- to me, nothing like menstrual cramps or a previous early miscarriage. Utterly transporting to a completely different mental state. Never experienced the 10 min apart variety- they came on strong and were never less than 3 min apart. A little scary- I'd get shaky and panicky and wanted to curl into a ball. Finally got my grounding and worked on relaxing my hands and face, and went deep into that. Time passed in a weird way. The baby was posterior, didn't want to turn, and the back pain was always there. Walking, crouching, sitting in the bath, leaning on my doula and partner were comforting but not pain-removing.

    Pushing- intense, all-consuming, urgent, more work than I could have imagined. Labor slowed at pushing, and transferred to the hospital after several hours (no amount of positioning or using the breast pump helped). Pitocin gave me long, incredibly strong pushing contractions, but that was the point. I had to use every muscle and every bit of mental strength over 3 hours of pushing. Remember thinking that it was an elaborate hoax, there was no baby, and everybody was lying to me.

    Crowning- lasted 30 min and 'ring of fire' doesn't really capture it. Burning, pulling, stabbing pain that got more intense with every push. Baby's shoulders were stuck, so birthing the head didn't give relief, and the fundal pressure and OB pushing on my rectum was a whole new level of sensation.

    I had felt prepared in the sense of not being afraid of the birth or the potential for pain, but was amazed at how unexpected all of it was. It hurt. There were times I wished for them to cut me open, but in the end there was nothing I couldn't handle with effort, concentration, and a ton of support from my midwife, doula, and partner. It was a hard mental and emotional experience, and maybe similar to to mountainclimbing or other extreme sport that demands every ounce of physical and emotional strength, but leaves you feeling victorious.

  52. I had my first baby girl in 2008 and had every intention of doing it natural, since my mom did-of course I can do it! but I did not research or preparation on how to cope, so when I felt the full-on back labor I thought I was dying. By then I was desperate for an epidural but had to wait because the anesthesiologist was busy in a c-section. I probably could have endured simply because it was only another hour or so & it was all over anyway. But I didn't know that at the time and there was no end in sight.
    One interesting thing is how incredibly fast you forget how much it hurt. I know I was in pain, I remember the idea of pain, and my husband tells me funny stories of my deliriousness. But I honestly can't remember the actual pain and am going to attempt a home birth next time or at least with a midwife in a birthing center. I am currently doing research on how one copes with pain & techniques to employ to get through the pain I know I will experience, even if I can't remember.

  53. I had four planned home births, two of which (the first and the last) ended up being surprise unassisted births. I experienced my first birth as much more painful than the others. I labored on my knees, leaning forward onto a bed for the final hours of a 7-hour labor, and pushed out the baby through the intense burning sensation of the perineum that others have described.
    My second labor, 25 months later, lasted only four hours. I labored on my hands and knees, and although it had intense moments, I did not feel exhausted or overwhelmed at any point in the process and found the pushing and birth itself pretty much pain free. However, I had severe after pains, which were more difficult to endure than anything I had experience during the labor!
    Four years later my 3rd child was born, and it was my most desultory labor. Labor began with a bit fluid leaking around mid-day. light contraction started in the early evening and very gradually intensified. I was up through the night (though my husband kept falling asleep), with contractions getting more intense around 2 or 3. I finally had the baby at about 5:30 in the morning.
    With my 4th baby, 17 months later, I was out walking when my water broke at about 3:30pm. I went home and waited for contractions to start. At 5:30 I had a whopping contraction, and the baby was born 45 minutes later - only minutes after my husband arrived, and before the midwife was able to get there. I had gone into the shower to run hot water onto my back and I caught the baby myself while standing in the tub (stand and deliver indeed).

    My most intense sensation during contractions was a stretching feeling across my lower abdomen, but describing it that way just doesn't do it justice. It was like the painful feeling of a rope burn, radiating out from this band of tightness across the bikini region. I remember during my first labor being stunned that people would describe this as "discomfort." If that's discomfort, then the word needs to be redefined. I found it extremely, exquisitely painful. It did become less intensely painful with each subsequent pregnancy, but the distinctive sensation is unforgettable. I'm assuming it is due to the uterus pulling the cervix open.
    I have a large pelvis, which I'm sure made labor and birthing easier for me than for many women. I was fortunate never to experience back labor or a really long labor. Pushing after the first birth was not painful, and my midwife commented that she noticed that I was able to gently and gingerly birth the head and shoulders and avoid tearing or other trauma to the birth canal. The idea of being exhorted to hold your breath and "Push" during birth, not to mention all the other aspects of the medical merry-go-round, seems beyond aggravating to me. I am so glad I was able to experience birth on its own terms.
    DJ Lane

  54. labor feels like i want to breathe and make orgasmic sounds like ones i had during sexual activities with my husband ... endlessly!

    birth feels like i want to be with my husband alone,always in all ways!

    being well informed about labor mechanism, being within desired environtment, being with the right person/s, made my labor painless.

    being with strangers who told me to hit my husband due to the labor's pain, being in the room which isn't our bed room where we made our babies, not knowing about what makes me get those pain during labor, made my labor more painful and traumatic.

    thanking you deeply rixa for creating and sharing your blog with us!

  55. My only birth (a natural, planned UC using Hypnobirthing (which I highly recommend) with no one present but my husband) started out as just tingly feelings wrapping around my lower belly. As the rushes intensified they started tingling in my spine and then the feeling would wrap around the front of my belly like long, pulling fingers that were hinged on my spine. The 'fingers' would grab and pull at the front of my belly and then slowly recede back to my spine as the rush subsided. I would not say my rushes were painful but would more describe them as powerful and intense, not painful. As labour progressed more, the sensations changed again and, though I didn't realise at the time, I headed into transition. Even that wasn't painful but was just really overwhelming because I wasn't getting breaks from the intensity between the rushes anymore. When I suddenly got the urge to start pushing, it felt really good. After pushing for a while, I finally felt my baby's head slide past my cervix and start stretching my vagina. It felt warm and tingly and I could feel the stretch receptors giving me surges of oxytocin each time I gave more pressure. Pushing was like an intimate dance with my baby; when I had the pressure just right on the push, it was blissful and felt amazingly good. Very much like having sex with a man with a very fat penis like it feels *almost* painful but good in a way, sort of thing. As my son started crowning I felt some heat and pressure up toward my urethra but I instinctively reached down and gave a little support/pressure and then felt him move a little and the pain stopped. I didn't really feel much discomfort at all when he was crowning and all of a sudden he just flew out all at once with one push. The only times I felt true pain during birth were the four times my husband talked to me. Particularly painful were the two of those times that he asked me questions and I had to think about the answers. Otherwise, while I was in 'the zone' it was all just pressure and new sensations.

  56. The first stage of labor, in all three cases, felt like waves of intense menstrual cramping. I tolerated it quite well as long as the room was quiet and people let me cope on my own. This was easy for our homebirths - impossible in the hospital.

    The second stage was much more intense - but, as long as I could look into my husband's eyes, we were ok. I had a prolonged second stage for two of the three births, which was exhausting more than anything. For the second, a fairly precipitous second stage, I was completely overwhelmed because I didn't realize I was nearly done.

    I've not had pitocin. My first birth experience went from eight hours of pushing to crowning, to a forced c-section (due to malpositioning and OB refusal to help me reposition). (This OB later lost her license for abusing patients.) Of the three, this recovery was the most painful by leaps and bounds.

  57. Contractions for me were like muscle cramps in my back, like I've been standing too long and I need a good stretch. I felt so on top of everything for the first 10-12 hours of labor, I was talking and chatting and kept asking "is it ever going to hurt?" Then I made the mistake of artificially rupturing the membranes to speed things up and WOWSERS, it became so intense so fast I couldn't keep my head on. There was a lot of screaming and the pressure was insane!

    I liked the pushing sensation, especially after the intense transition period. Pushing feels like you are doing an intense yoga workout... hard work but very rewarding. I was so exhausted and relieved that his head was coming out (I pushed for over two hours) that by the time he was crowning I don't really remember any pain.

    The worst part of birthing for me was pushing the placenta out... I don't know why! I just dreaded it so much and my midwife had to coax me into giving a little push because it was sitting on the edge of my vagina for a couple minutes but I was too timid.

  58. I had my first born about 14 weeks ago. For me, labor was a wonderful experience. I was 15 hours of labor total, 12 active, and 24 minutes of pushing.

    Most of my labor was back labor. I had previous lower back injuries, so I am guessing that is why my labor was basically all in my back. The beginning at home just felt like back spasms (which I have had on and off for years). However, they were pretty constant in pattern, so I started timing and realized they were 10 minutes apart.

    After my water broke, they became closer together, but still the same back spasm quality. About 6-9 hours in, the spasms were stronger. I was in a warm tub, but I had to have ice cold water being poured on my face during contractions. It didn't hurt, but I was having trouble staying "inside myself" and working with it. The cold water on my face distracted me from the contractions and let me stay on top of my emotions.

    I would say that pushing was the hardest part. Not painful, but just annoying. I have a weirdly shaped pubic bone, and my baby had to navigate under it (it points down more than most women's). I was on the ball, then the toilet, then the bed...over and over again. Finally he moved his head under the bone and we were good to go.

    I kept feeling for his head, and once I felt it crown, I was in another place. That was the ultimate relief, knowing that he was really coming out.

    I supported the top, and my midwife supported my bottom, and he started to wiggle his way out. Literally, you can see it in the video, he was kicking his way out!

    The placenta was the weirdest part, since I had to push a little, but after it was out I felt so empty--in a good way.

    Hypnobirthing helped me stay calm until the very end. Pushing required some Amazon Woman battle cries. :)

  59. I had a natural homebirth for my first child Once labor really started, I felt like I was having contractions in my uterus and back. If felt like the back contractions doubled my pain and could not support myself through a contraction. Transition was spent on my right side in my bed. Between the hormones and the bite of contractions, I vomited numerous times. Actually vomiting during a contraction was a welcome relief! Then I remeber thinking I feel like I am splitting in two. My labor was 26 hours long and I pushed for 2.5 hours. I wonder if I had had more rest and a shorter labor if I would have been able to deal with the pain better. I think pain is relative to the person - but labor pain is nothing like an injury pain. Now the question is, when I have baby number 2, how will my first labor experience effect the 2nd one.

    My birth story:

  60. I have dilivered 4 children with pitocin and 1 without. Obviously the delivery without pit was was actually enjoyable and pleasant. I have memories of actual good times in the labor and delivery room with my husband and best friend. The other 4 births were very challenging and I don't remember much except lots of crying and pleading with my husband to "turn it off" I am currently at week 36 with baby #6. I have a huge amount of anxiety over his birth.

  61. For any first time mamas reading this, the following is not typical.

    For me contractions were nothing at all followed by my back being ripped apart. With no regularity on when they'd happen or for how long.

    That lasted about 36 hours, then we transferred to the hospital, where I carried on with the lovely extra hot, extra strong shower with a moveable head they had there spraying right on my lumbar. Then that stopped helping and I was d.o.n.e. and got the epidural and I felt a contraction in my uterus for the first time in the whole process.

  62. Currently pregnant with my first, I can't comment on my own experience yet, but this has been an eye-opener for me to read (along with the comments), as I prepare for my own labour.

  63. Rachel Adams9/19/11, 9:40 AM

    Thank you so much, not only for facilitating this conversation, but also for allowing all the stories to be valid. In my search to understand what kind of a birth experience is right for me, I have found two camps: natural and not. You seem to have found, and validated, a way to encourage both. Truly this is a wonderful gift for women!

  64. I've had 4 babies. Baby 1&4 with pitocin 2&3 without. I didn't have epiduals with any. I would without a doubt say 3&4 were the longest and most painful. But babies 3&4 were 2lbs larger. Pitocin seems to just have no warning. Boom it starts into intense contractions! If it's for a short time it's manageable but when prolonged it gets a little more difficult. In the end you mysteriously forget the majority of the pain.

  65. I love this comment thread! Especially Man-Nurse.

    I have had one birth—an 11 pound, 5 ounce waterbirth—and it was fast and furious at around 5 hours of labor, start to finish.

    My mother and sister both had Pit and they said it was quite painful; my sister got an epidural and then was right as rain, and they were both sort of astonished I could go all natural.

    But in hindsight, labor wasn't *that* bad. Nowhere near the screaming in movies and TV shows we see, you know? It started as some general crampy feelings, then they began to radiate upwards, and eventually towards transition they would start in my back and wrap around to the front. It was quite painful, but moving and the hot shower and standing and rocking back and forth was the best. I labored at home for 5 hours, got in the car (after checking in the bathroom and feeling a giant bulging sac, yikes!) and then pushed him out in the tub at the birth center in around 54 minutes. It was kickass. Pushing felt great. I was in labor-la-la-land and people left me alone in the dark and quiet. I zoned out. Feeling him move down and down was just awesome. Not like woo hoo sign me up I'm doing this again next week awesome, but so powerful. I am grateful for my experience.

  66. I thought I was going to DIE!Honestly I would recommend an epidural!I had an epidural with my 2nd child ant it went alot smoother! :-D

  67. I went into labour with my son on the morning of the 6th July 2011. I was contracting every 6-7 mins lasting 30 seconds. The contractions to me were not painful at all at this point, just like severe period pain. I was in labour for a total of 48 hours, and during the 6th and 7th, my labour stopped and started. At about 1am on the 8th July, I woke up to regular, painful contractions and a heavy show. I instinctively knew it was time. I took a shower and went into hospital. The contractions were strong, and I had to stop what I was doing and breathe through them. Upon arrival at the hospital, I was 9 and a half cm dilated. The 'transition' stage of labour was most overwhelming for me. My contractions were incredibly strong, they came in waves and took over my whole body. I felt very primal during this stage. They were almost too painful and frightening to stand. When I had the urge to push, the pain from the contractions went away and was replaced by incredible pressure. During the pushing stage, I dont recall any pain, mainly just exhaustion (I pushed for 3 hours). The worst part of labour/delivery for me was when my baby's head crowned. It was the most unbearable burning - it felt like my entire body was splitting open. Eventually that went away, and gradually my son was born. As soon as he came out, I forgot it all, I was so absorbed by him and even though I was physically weak, I felt on top of the world.
    My placenta was delivered within 5 minutes of giving birth. That was a bizarre feeling, when it came out I felt so clean and empty!
    Overall, doing labour and delivery with no pain relief, contractions were for the most part bearable, but the crowning pain was horrendous, if I'm honest. It was also incredibly painful having my 2nd degree tear stitched. An amazing experience, nonetheless!

  68. i was in labor with twin boys for 15 early labor felt like period cramps for ten hours.i did lot walking breathing threw the husband time my contractions and lot resting in between.then my midwife said time to go the birth center.when my waterbroke when i change my daughter april diaper in our bedroom.the water gush out of me in to birthing tub while holding on to my one and half year old girl my husband call my mom to watch our daughters ariel who 6 and april year and half.i got to birth center 5 hours later and pushed for 1 hour they came out .the boys ryder and cameron came out.ladies they were seven pounds each i felt like i was pooping out two large cannon ball out me.i was grunting and panting pushing my babies out of me. i pushed like a female warrior my husband says.he got to deliver the babies with midwife help he got to say what we were having because we didnt know.i have four kids i amdone have babies.the pain is worth it once you see your baby.

  69. Hi everybody! My name is Shannon, and although I'm not a mommy yet, my fiance' and I plan to try conceiving in about a year. Lately, we've been researching natural vs. epidural childbirth. I just wanted to thank you all for your stories; not only do they help alleviate my biggest fears (like my vagina turning into a fire breathing dragon, aka the dreaded ring of fire lol) but they also make me eager to embrace natural childbirth... something I never thought would happen. Once again, thank you all for your stories and advice; mothers are part of a beautiful, strong sisterhood, and I can't wait until I'm a part of it. :)

  70. SPD = symphysis pubis dysfunction = when the ligaments holding the pubic bone together become too loose due to pregnancy hormones, and movements involving the pelvis become really, really painful.

  71. This has been fascinating!

    My first was induced at 42w and I had back labor and it was horrible - I mean, excruciatingly, excruciatingly painful. The pain was constant, radiating out from my back and way down low. Movement helped, rocking, standing, squatting, swaying, and especially hot water aimed right at my lower back while on hands & knees in the shower. I just gave up & got an epidural around 8cm.

    My second was spontaneous labor at 39w (and only maybe 2 hours of back labor the night before actual labor started) and it really was not that bad! I mean, it WAS bad, but the contractions would build and build and just when I thought I couldn't stand it and might die, they would *stop* for a bit and the pain would go away and that made all the difference in the world. The natural contractions were sharper, and shorter, and came in waves, and definitely more across the front and top of my uterus than they were with my first birth.

    I went into the 2nd labor thinking I might take narcotics (after having sworn "never again!" with the epidural but having a slightly more realistic view of pain relief) but I kept comparing it to my first labor in my mind and I thought I had ages and ages to go. I kept thinking it would get worse, but apparently even up to 10cm it was still manageable, and then like I said, just as soon as I thought I couldn't handle it, the contraction would peak, so much so that I really, honestly thought I had to poop (it's like I'd never even read a birth story before!) until it finally dawned on me that no, what I had to do was PUSH! and we were planning a hospital birth and I was still at home!

    While movement helped SO much with the first birth, what helped with my second was actually to stop and be still and concentrate -- like I was trying to fight the contraction up to a point, but then when I could just be still and BREATHE and deal with it, it was better.

  72. I'm so interested to hear everyone else's description of a contraction. I have had back-labor with both of my kids' births. So labor for me feels like my back is being stabbed with a red-hot poker (from the inside). It is so intense, I've never actually felt my stomach contract in the front. I have no idea what that would feel like! Once my baby fully settles into the birth canal (around transition) I literally feel like my back is breaking! I love pushing though, besides some brief burning as the baby's head enters the birth canal, pushing just feels like having a bowel movement. I know once I reach pushing, it's smooth sailing! :-) Has anyone else had back labor that wasn't caused by baby positioning? And how did you help alleviate the pain?

  73. I have 2 kids - the first was in the hospital, no pitocin, got an epidural at 8 cm. The second was a home waterbirth, so obviously no pitocin or pain meds. My second birth was FAR FAR more comfortable. For me, being mentally prepared (I took the Hypnobabies self-study course) made all the difference. Though the comfortable home environment and the pool helped, too.

    As far as what contractions feel like: I thought that with my second labor, I would KNOW for sure when labor was starting because I already knew what it felt like. But it was different the second time around. Rather than feeling distinct contractions occurring several minutes apart, I just started feeling achy in my lower back and stomach. The achiness sort of peaked every few minutes, but it never went away either. Before I knew it, I started feeling pushing contractions. The best way to describe those is like a reverse dry-heave. Or getting hit in the stomach and having the wind knocked out of you. But in the best possible way! :)

  74. I like this post! I have one daughter and am just days away from my due date for my son. I'm nervous because my first birth experience was so tremendously excruciating! She was back to back with me, facing forward, so I had horrendous back labor. She was also a bit crooked and not contacting my cervix completely so labor was 42 hrs long!! My contractions were long, very strong, and very close together for the entire time and yet somehow I made it through with no painkillers. A miracle indeed! I was at a birth center but after 36 hrs they transferred me to hospital so I could get some more fluids in me and they also did give me a mild narcotic for two hrs so I could sleep in between contractions. Then they took me off the painkillers, broke my water, and we were in business. To me, my first labor was like I was being ripped in half and turned completely inside out, with a looottt of back pain. I tried a lot of different positions for pushing but for me the pain got five thousand times more intense when I was upright and all I could feel was absolute blind panic and the most indescribable pain. So I actually found the most effective position for me was lying on my back. The exact position I scoffed at before my labor. lol I did experience a few of those "throwing down" contractions and that was such an odd sensation! Pushing was less painful but still very painful for me, especially crowning. My daughter was squirming her head around a lot during crowning which was such a strange feeling but also made it far more painful. I had a few colorful words at that moment I believe. lol When it was all finally over I actually fell asleep the moment she was out (42 hrs of labor). Then I heard her first cry and woke up again as a baby was placed on my chest. It was such a magical moment! I swore I would never do it again, and yet here I am. :) Excited but very nervous. I certainly hope this birth goes MUCH smoother and yes, shorter please! All told, I was a very petite 5'2'' 114 lb (before pregnant) mother who had an 8lb, 5oz baby! Whew! I'm nervous that this guy is going to be bigger! lol

    1. Trudy! I had a similar but less intense version of what you experienced. I am almost the exact same size as you and had an 8 lb baby with a head in the 80th percentile. So it was a bit much.

  75. There was no choice other than pitocin (unless we wanted a c-section which we didn't) for me because my water broke right away with hours and hours of very little progress and distressed baby no matter what the midwife did. I finally did deliver him vaginally after 27 hours and 2.5 hrs of pushing. His head was a bit large for me. THere were complications with that as well. I felt like the front part of the pains felt like someone wringing out my uterus as hard as they could. But that was a dull thumping sort of pain. Nothing compared to the sharp ice pick stabbing... or maybe giant sharpened tree branch stabbing into my back of back labor. Back labor was the worst thing I've ever experienced pain wise. I could have handled all the rest without that.

  76. I appear to have missed this the first time around, but (in spite of it being 4+ years since it was written!) I thought I'd chime in now because I haven't heard anyone else give an explanation that matches what I thought labor felt like.

    (I've had two, both with no meds or pit. Second one was at home in water.)

    Early labor was just tightening. Kinda like doing rep after rep at the gym...with my belly. Then it got more intense, like I was still doing reps even though my muscles were tired and sore. The "pain" to me was primarily a matter of soreness...kinda like you just did a hundred sit-ups when you haven't done a sit-up in years...

    As labor progressed then there was some crampy type feelings from the dilation. I remember with my first labor thinking it was like when you eat something that gives you awful gas... just my whole lower gut area feeling stretched around and unpleasant. And sore. And tired. And squeezy. I started getting sharp pangy sensations after my water was broken with #1 (AROM).
    My second labor I mostly just remember that getting out of the water was really bad, and I just wanted hot water on my lower pool wasn't quite deep enough when I was up on my knees, so my husband had a little pan and was pouring water on my back over and over and over and over for hours... I can't remember exactly what the not-in-water contractions felt like though. I only had about four of them during that labor (I got in the water and stayed!)

    I'm agreeing with everyone on the "throwing down" feeling of pushing. Rather, that my body started pushing and there wasn't a darn thing I could have done about it one way or the other. When I started pushing with it then I'd say that was more like constipation/pooping pushing.

    When my water broke with #2 it felt like POP (what a good way to put it!). I was shocked that my husband and midwife had not heard it because I would have sworn it was so loud! Kinda like if you're blowing gum bubbles and a huge one pops all over your face...only coming out your birth canal. It's weird, but also kinda cool.

    I had a distinct ring of fire with #1. I felt like I was ripping open...which in fact I was (though only slightly). But then he was out and the endorphins were everywhere and it was all good. :) I don't remember well what pushing felt like with him. I labored for 21 hours and then pushed for 2 more...I was so tired that I was falling asleep between contractions DURING PUSHING with him. I just remember pushing like crazy and then dropping off...and then pushing like crazy was only after the fact that everyone told me that I'd been pushing for so long, and that I was going several minutes between contractions even at that stage. (I think that's a testimony to the way that the body and hormones will adjust to what the mother can handle--I was tired so my body was giving me breaks, even during pushing!)

    With #2 I did not have a ring of fire really...I felt him several times (with my hand) as he was coming down. I remember feeling his head enter my birth canal and thinking that he was impossibly big to fit through there...and yet knowing that he could. It was somewhat like that "full" feeling of intercourse, only a lot more full. :) The feeling is a little like fisting (if you've ever tried that), only you're totally high on labor hormones and the pressure is moving down rather than up...
    Anyway I was supporting my vaginal opening around the front, and the midwife and my husband both had their hands around supporting my skin too. His head came out and then he stopped (short cord was holding him up but we thought it might be shoulder dystocia) so the midwife slipped her hands in and slid them around to check for a caught shoulder...and I was thinking that if the head was impossibly big then this was REALLY impossibly stretchy... and then he slipped on out and I forgot all about it until a little bit later when the midwife checked me for tearing (and I didn't have any).

  77. I wanted to add (but it didn't fit in one comment!)

    I've recently been studying on the hormonal processes of labor. How the oxytocin releases in surges, so that there are breaks between contractions. Pitocin is continuous, which is one reason it is more painful (no breaks, no adjusting in how frequent the contractions are if mom gets tired/stressed).
    Adrenalin kicks in hard during pushing. It gives mom the strength to push even if she's tired from a long labor. It puts her into "fight" mode and she gets instinctive rather than thoughtful, and just GO GO GO to the finish line. It also helps her be intent on the goal and not notice the pain as much (like the stories of football players who break an ankle but still make the touchdown before they notice their busted foot...)
    And then as the baby comes out the adrenalin drops right off and the endorphins shoot up, so mom feels awesome and happy and excited.
    It's really remarkable. :)

    1. Jenni, thanks for those great descriptions! And I agree, the hormones of birth are pretty amazing.

  78. I've delivered six babies (with our last due on Christmas day). Two natural (in the hospital), two c-sections, and two pitocin-enhanced with epidurals. I have a lot of residual anger at doctors and things that have happened, but the bottom line is that pitocin contractions are an entirely different animal than natural contractions. Natural contractions are like waves that you can ride out by breathing and counter pressure and just good mental involvement in the process. It feels like a part of you. Pitocin induced contractions feel like they are happening to you -- like you're under attack. Natural childbirth hurts, but not nearly as much as people say (and I'm a wimpy redhead who feels pain differently than other people), but I couldn't handle the pitocin contractions for more than a few hours and had an epidural both times. Here's praying my last baby comes naturally!

  79. Loved reading all the comments here! I am 32 weeks along with my first and just started reading Hypnobirthing. I hope that helps I really want a natural delivery. Let's pray I am one of the women that feels pressure but not pain ;)


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