30 Hours and No Epidural

Natural Childbirth

At 2:27 A.M. I woke with my first real contraction. “This is is!” I always pictured it happening at night. It passed and I started wondering if it had been a dream, but when another one came just 6 minutes later I knew I had not imagined it. Opening the notes app on my phone, I entered in the contraction time, length, and an emoji for how it felt. After an hour of them coming every six minutes I decided to take a bath (who knows when I’d get to again if this is it), eat something, and awaken the daddy-to-be.

The Decision to go Natural

When we found out we were expecting I immediately thought of the labor and delivery. What do I want for the birth of my daughter? My mom had delivered 6 babies without an epidural (not because she was a hippy, but because she’s THAT afraid of needles). I started wondering if that was the right thing for me to do too.

As a side note: there is no RIGHT way to deliver a baby. Drug free was best for us, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. All women should respect each others decisions and birth plans and be gracious and kind when discussing them. I’ve heard of woman judging others for using drugs and I’ve been judged for not using drugs. A mom who chooses an epidural wants what’s best for her baby just as much as a mom who chooses to labor without one. On the flip side, those of us who choose drug free aren’t sitting over here looking down on the other camp (people judge me because they THINK I judge others. Come on now y’all).

Nate and I decided to take a class to help us decide if natural child birth was right for our family. We ended up with the Bradley Method . We absolutely loved our class, the information, and our teacher. Facts were presented in a clear, simple manner that was not overwhelming, but very empowering. About 4 weeks into the 12 week program we had decided to fully commit to going natural. We still had questions and fears, but we knew this was right for us. Over three months we talked about everything. No question was off limits and the small class size allowed for an intimate setting. The husbands came every time and Nate knew just as much as I did by the time we finished. We had charts that we turned into our teacher to help us eat healthy, we practiced different laboring positions, and we discussed every situation imaginable. I thought I would labor in one particular position, but ended up using a different one. I’m so glad we practiced and I knew all of my options.

Back to the Story

By 7:30 we were both showered, had our bags finished, and were resting. (Yes, Nate totally panicked for about 10 minutes when I first woke him up. He quickly calmed down because this was something we’d both prepared for over the last three months with our Bradly Classes and he knew exactly what to expect and what was going on).

We decided to grab a quick bite at 9:00 before heading to the hospital. I texted my midwife in the parking lot and let her know what was going on. To my utter dismay she responded with , “You have a long way to go.” “ARG!” This whole time I was thinking I’d be that woman who had a 7 hour labor with her first. Little did I know …

The day slowed to a crawl. We walked. I cried. We spent special time together. I cried. By 2:00 P.M. my contractions had moved from every 6 minutes to every 15. My midwife recommended the chiropractor. He was already gone for the day, but came back in and gave me a 10 minute, pain free adjustment. It worked like a charm. Contractions picked back up and grew closer and closer together.

By 7:30 P.M. I was in real pain, but being the nut I am, decided to try labor dancing to speed things up instead of resting.

At 9:00 my contractions had me laying in bed squeezing Nate’s arm every 5 minutes.

This is where things get a tad blurry. It was about 9:45 P.M. when Nate made the call that it was time for the hospital. Unfortunately, I had found the rocking chair and refused to move. The rocking was extremely soothing and the fat, preggo woman had a mind of her own.  Nate knew exactly what to do thanks to our classes. He said just the right things and we were on our way in a few minutes. I had laughed my head off a few weeks back when we had talked about this situation in class. “What kind of preggo woman NEEDS to get to the hospital, but refuses to move?!” “Not me!” Well … it was me after all.

I was checked into triage at 10:45 P.M. at 2 cm. After two hours I had only progressed to a 3-4. Heartbreaking (I seriously thought I’d be a 10 *eye roll*). They went ahead and checked me in and my mom and best friend arrived within a few minutes. After blood work and fetal monitoring I eased myself into a warm bath tub.

From getting checking in at 1:00 A.M. until 6:00 A.M. I would enjoy my time in the tub, and then be pulled out for monitoring (as a side note you CAN ask for under water monitoring). It’s all a blur to me now, but I do remember sleeping in between contractions (another thing I had chucked at in class). The trick to sleeping is having your partner time your contractions and awaken you a few seconds before the next one starts (that way your body is able to better manage pain).

At 6:00 A.M. my nurse finally insisted on checking me. No progress! None at all. I cried and started asking for an epidural. My team was amazing. Nate and my nurses gently reminded me of how far I had made it and WHY I wanted this to be my birth story. My mom rubbed my feet, Nate held my hand, my friend took a few pictures, and I lasted a few more contractions. How long would this go on? Would I ever have this baby? Why not just get the meds? The nurse offered to put something into my IV and I gladly accepted (thinking it was a liquid epidural and would take away all the pain). Surprise! The next contraction came on and hurt every bit as bad as before. I may or may not have used a choice word or two followed by telling my mom and friend to go get the nurse to give me more (which she didn’t). It still wasn’t too late of an epidural so I decided to push through a few more contractions and then think about it again.

A few minutes later I needed to poop. Like really bad. Thankfully, before I started pushing, I remembered (from my classes) that needing to poop is often baby needing to come out. “I need to push!” “Oh no you don’t!” I was rushed to the bed and my water broke as the nurse checked me again. From 6:00 to 7:30 I had made it to a 7! Woohoo! Still not far enough to push though and I was instructed to lay still and breathe in tiny pants. Things really picked up. Nurses started rushing in and out. They called for a midwife. The baby nurses came in to monitor more closely.

When I had first checked in, Fern’s heart rate had been “funky” and now it was dropping quickly. In a moment everything became chaos. The room had been dark and peaceful, but no more. My midwife was not on call so another one came in to deliver Fern. I was upset at first, but didn’t have time to think about it. I was on my back, and then on one side, and then another. Fern’s heart rate was up again, but she needed to come on out.

Out of the blue, my midwife strolls in. She said she was early for a meeting and thought she’d pop in to deliver my baby. As she suited up, Fern’s heart rate dropped again. I didn’t know till later, but they were prepping for an emergency C- section. My midwife checked again and I was at a 9 1/2. I started pushing. I’ve never felt anything like that in my life. The pain was really out of this world. “She has hair!” “Hannah, I can see you’re baby’s head!” “You can do this!” Two more pushes. “Hannah, you need to push her out right now!” And out she came.

Just under 30 hours of labor and 13 minutes of pushing had brought this little angel into the world. Nate held her first because I was honestly dazed.

Watching Nate meet Fern will always be a high light of my life. Then they laid her on my chest. She was awake and wide-eyed. As they stitched my awful tears up I looked down at my perfect baby. Just 7 lbs, 12 oz, and 21 inches long.


Just as quickly as the chaos came, it left. Suddenly the room was empty. At 9:00 A.M. the sunshine was pouring through the window and all the world was right. We face-timed family to show them Fern Harper Merrell.

Just an hour after giving birth and being sewn back up, I was up walking around. I went to the bathroom and then over to the wheel chair to head to our recovery room. The nurse insisted I ride, even though I asked to walk. I felt great. Yes, I was tired after 30 hours of the hardest work of my life, but I somehow didn’t feel it.

Nate passed out the moment his head touched the tiny half couch. I, on the other hand, just laid there looking at Fern. She gazed back up at me and I’ll never forget that moment. I cradled her in my arms and the love swept over me. She had nursed briefly the moment she popped out to the surprise of everyone. And she nursed again in the bed with me.

I’ve heard nursing is really tough for the first few weeks and longer for some. Of course I was sore for the two weeks, but other than that, we had a smooth ride. She always nursed well and I always produced plenty.

I felt like myself again right away (I was up doing Just Dance one week later). I never had any of the baby blues and I was almost totally healed by three weeks.

One of my biggest fears was tearing. I worried about that more than I did about a C-section. I’m here to tell you: you’ll be fine! I had horrible tears that my midwife even described as “funky”, but they healed right up. Since I didn’t have drugs I could feel everything when she was down there, but it just wasn’t that bad.

Cons of Natural Childbirth

  1. It hurts like …

Pros of Natural Childbirth

Read the benefits here.

For me personally, the biggest things were:

  1. Springing back so quickly
  2. No problems breastfeeding
  3. HUGE self-confidence boost (I used to tell myself I was a wimp. Not anymore!)

Like I said before, this is a personal choice. Safe baby, safe mama is the end goal for everyone.  This is our personal story and I’m very grateful that it turned out so well.

4 Responses to 30 Hours and No Epidural

  1. Ericka Colon says:

    Oh my gosh such a good read. You have a gift for writing! Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Ispa says:

    Oh Hannah! I almost cried as I read this. Remembering how afraid you were to even talk about your fears at the beginning of class, and seeing how amazingly you and Nate worked through it together. Even now, 10 couple’s later I still feel the most proud of YOUR transition from, “I’m not sure I can do this” to a the fantastic advocate of natural childbirth that you have become. My heart is so full of love for the whole Merrell team. You Hannah are my hero.

    • Hannah says:

      Thank you for the kind words. We only made it through because of our wonderful Bradly classes. We felt so encouraged, loved, and well informed. It really was a tough 30 hours, but I know we would have quit had it not been for the hours and hours we spent with you. Thank you!