Our daughter, Joey Jiyoon Wray-Choi, is finally here, and she came into this world late but very quickly through unmedicated birth. This is my birth story…
It’s been 3 weeks since I gave birth to our daughter, and I’m finally ready to share my birth story. I want to share the details of this amazing and super intense experience while it’s still fresh in my mind, because I’m afraid I’ll forget it if I wait any longer! They say you forget the pain and the details of the birth as time passes, and I want to remember as much as I can through this post.
Preparing For Natural Birth
When I first found out that I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to give birth naturally and unmedicated. I have nothing against any other kinds of births and decisions other women make, and I think everyone should make their own personal choices based on their needs and priorities.
For me, the more I read and learned about epidurals and induction hormones, I realized I was more scared about the side effects of these interventions than the labor pain itself. I also don’t react well to medications, so this was the choice I made.
I decided that while I can’t fully control what my birth experience will be like, I can prepare as best as I can for natural birth. I did this by:
- switching my insurance so I can give birth at a local birth center instead of a hospital
- taking the online Hypnobabies course
- watching positive and beautiful birth videos to remove any fear about giving birth
- educating myself on what to expect from doctors and nurses in case I had to give birth at a hospital so I can be firm on what I wanted during my labor
However, through it all, I tried to flexible with my expectations, because you really can’t predict or control what happens.
My Water Broke… Maybe?
It was at 4am on Tuesday, September 17, 2019, when I woke up because my underwear was damp. I was 41 weeks and 3 days by this point, and I was getting anxious the week leading up to this day because of how late I was. I couldn’t give birth at the birth center after I hit 42 weeks, and I would have had to be induced at the hospital. This is why I was really excited when I saw that my water had broken that morning.
It wasn’t a rush of water like you see in the movies, just a slow trickle that made me think that it might just be pee. However, I was 80% sure that it was my water breaking after seeing that it was clear.
I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t, and called the midwife. She told me to hang out at home until my contractions were 1 minute long and 5 minutes apart.
All day, I patiently waited for my contractions to get stronger, but they didn’t. They only felt like period cramps with inconsistent frequency. I was starting to doubt that my water had actually broken, because I was just feeling a small trickle here and there throughout the day.
Castor Oil For Inducing Labor
Around 4pm, I was getting impatient and a bit nervous. If I didn’t give birth within 24 hours of my water breaking, I had to be transferred to the hospital to be induced and I wanted to avoid that as best as possible.
While I’ve heard of mixed reviews about taking castor oil to naturally induce labor, I decided to take it after the midwives told me that it’s fine to do so at that point. I was still a bit nervous about how intense it can be on the body so I took half a dose (2 tablespoons).
At 6pm, my contractions still weren’t getting stronger and I wasn’t feeling any effects of the castor oil, and that’s when my midwife called to check up on me. She said that maybe my water didn’t break, and that I should come into the birth center to make sure. At this point, I was accepting the fact that maybe I wasn’t in labor and I was mistaken about my water breaking. I was actually a bit annoyed that I had to go in when it was probably a false alarm.
Off to the Birth Center
My husband and I ate dinner with my parents, packed our car in preparation to go into labor (even though I was convinced I wasn’t), and started driving. My parents stayed back and said they’ll come if I do end up having the baby that night. As soon as I got in the car around 8pm, the contractions started getting stronger and they definitely did NOT feel like period cramps anymore.
Once we got there 40 minutes later, it was actually getting hard for me to breathe from the pain and physically walk in from the parking lot into the birth center.
Discouraging Cervical Exam
Once I finally got to the birth center and got a cervical exam, I found out that my water had indeed broken, but I was only 1-2cm dilated. This was disappointing because I was starting to have some pretty severe pains. The midwife explained that I had to be transferred to the hospital if I don’t progress by 4am, and suggested that I try to walk around and take another round of castor oil. She then took my husband and I to a birth room and encouraged me to eat something.
However, I didn’t end up doing any of those things she suggested, because things progressed crazy fast soon after.
The Most Painful Contractions!
As soon as we got settled into the room, SH** GOT REAL. I started having the most excruciatingly painful contractions that came at full force out of nowhere. I couldn’t walk, talk, breathe, or even think through them. All I could do was lay in a fetal position on the bed and tighten into a ball as the contractions came. I was actually shaking violently every time they hit, and Charlie, my husband, said he’s never heard me scream that loud, although I do not remember this at all.
A birth assistant came in to help me breathe through the pain, and she was so amazing in keeping me calm and a bit comforted throughout it. I remember telling her at one point, “You gotta give me something for the pain,” although I only half meant it.
Every time a contraction ended, I remember being terrified about the next one coming.
Time To Push Shortly After
My midwife initially told me she comes to check on the progression of the labor every 2 hours, but she came in at an hour and a half mark because she heard my screams and they sounded pretty intense. As soon as she checked my dilation, she yelled “Girl, you are about to have this baby!”
I remember thinking, “THANK GOD!” I was in so much excruciating pain that I might have asked to be transferred to a hospital for an epidural if it went on for hours more.
With the midwife, the birth assistant, and my husband surrounding me and walking me through every change that happened, I pushed for less than 30 minutes before the baby was out! Charlie actually texted my parents that they should come immediately when our midwife told us that the baby’s about to come. I really wanted my mom in the room with me when it happened and she did as well. However, it all happened so quickly that she missed the whole thing.
During the beginning stages of pushing, my midwife told me to reach down when the baby was crowning, and I was actually able to feel the baby’s head and her hair. It was magical.
Charlie, who once told me that he doesn’t know if he would be able to watch everything that happens down there, was the one telling me, “The head is out!” And we heard the her cry even before she was fully out, which made the last few pushes easier because I just couldn’t wait to meet her.
The ring of fire was definitely painful, but I didn’t think it was as bad as the contractions themselves. I think it was because I was so relieved that the pain would all be over soon that it was easier to handle at the moment. And once she was out, the relief was immediate!
Baby Joey Jiyoon Wray-Choi was born on 9/17/19 at 10:54pm after 2.5 hours of active labor. She was 8 lb 1 oz and measured 19.2 inches.
While a quick labor is easy in some ways, dilating from 1cm to 10cm in just 2 hours is way more painful than a slow-progressing labor. I, of course, have nothing to compare this to, but I have heard from other women who’ve had similar experiences and the midwives that it can actually be more difficult in some ways because of the amount of pain that you go through in such a short time.
Either way, I’m so thankful that it all led to a healthy and beautiful baby who brings us so much joy.
Immediate Skin-To-Skin and Breastfeeding
Once the baby was born, she was immediately placed on my chest and this was the part I was looking forward to the most. It was so beautiful, and I just couldn’t believe that this tiny human came out of me. They say there’s nothing like meeting your baby for the first time and it’s true. It’s such an overwhelming mix of emotions that’s hard to describe. I have only dreamed of this moment and it was actually happening!
She quickly crawled onto my breasts on her own and started breastfeeding immediately. It was so perfect.
We waited for what it felt like 20-30 minutes for the umbilical cord to stop pulsating before Charlie nervously cut it. He was afraid he would do it wrong, but I’m so glad that I convinced him that he should be the one that does it.
After getting my stomach massaged by the midwife, I delivered the placenta which we were able to take home with us because I was getting it encapsulated for postpartum healing.
Headed Home 4 Hours After Birth
I got to spend a lot of time skin-to-skin with the baby for a few hours at the birth center, while breastfeeding her throughout. The midwife also took the baby’s temperature, weighed and measured her, and took her footprints for us to take home.
She also made sure I felt okay to go home. I tore a little bit, but didn’t need stitches which I was thankful for.
And after 4 hours, we headed home with the baby at 3am! It was a whirlwind of a day, but everything about it was so perfect and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Of course, we have our midwife and the team at the birth center to thank for being such an amazing support system from pregnancy to postpartum.
I still can’t believe I had the exact birth experience I had wanted, which I know isn’t common. I know we would be ecstatic no matter how she came into this world, but I do feel very lucky and thankful that it all went just as we had planned.
There were times during the pregnancy and labor when I thought that I’ll only be doing this once, but meeting her and experiencing the amount of joy she brings us has changed all of that so maybe we’ll plan for baby #2 in a few years!
My birth story was one of the most top requested blog posts from you on social media, and I hope you enjoyed reading about it. I love this community so much, and it brings me joy to share these intimate moments with you which I hope is helpful in some way.
I want to thank you all for bringing such positivity to my pregnancy and motherhood with your sweet comments, well wishes, and sharing your own unique experiences. I have such great newfound respect for all mothers for bringing their babies into the world, and I hope to continue sharing my journey in the future.
If you have any comments or requests for future posts about pregnancy or motherhood, please share them below!