Lauren Horton has always been physically active, and during pregnancy, she continued to do a mix of CrossFit, swimming, yoga, and tons of dog walking. She shares with Adriana her surprise when she found herself hunkering down on the bed during labor instead of moving, and why she went with it (although she could have done without the hemorrhoids). Lauren also opens up about the impossibility of trying to live up to the expectations of doing it all, how sometimes the win is as small as having been able to pump at work, and why she concludes that “everyone is a badass.”
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- Membrane sweeping for induction of labour, Cochrane systematic review
- How Effective Is Membrane Stripping for Inducing Labor? A Nurse’s Take, Healthline
- What is a stretch and sweep? Sara Wickham
- In Defence of the Amniotic Sac, Midwife Thinking
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin
- Birthing the placenta: women’s decisions and experiences, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
- Active versus expectant management for women in the third stage of labour, Cochrane systematic review
- Recovering from a perineal tear, Mater Mothers
- Perineal Protectors? Midwife Thinking
Related Birthful episodes:
- Shaking and the Primal Nature of Birth
- Why Employers Need to Value Your Parenting Skills
- [Best of Birthful] How to Navigate the Identity Shift of Becoming a Mom
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No Matter How You Birth, You’re a Badass
Adriana Lozada: Hello hello, Mighty Parent or Parent-To-Be! Welcome to Birthful.
I’m Adriana Lozada and today I’ll be talking with Lauren Horton as she shares her daughter’s birth story and the challenges of immediate postpartum while trying to recover and go back to work, as part of our Movement and Body Wellness in Pregnancy series.
Now, Lauren coaches collegiate women’s volleyball full-time. She has always been incredibly athletic and she kept moving TONS during her pregnancy— doing a mix of CrossFit, swimming, yoga, and lots of dog walking! And so it’s no surprise that she thought she would be moving non-stop and changing positions all through labor. And although she did a lot of that during early labor, she didn’t expect that once she got into the hospital, her intuition and also tiredness would have her hunker down on the bed for the rest of it. Even so, lying on her side worked great and let her be able to connect with her body and really open up her pelvic floor (so, basically, it was exactly what she needed at that point).
Then for the pushing stage, when the position she started pushing in wasn’t working for her, Lauren reconnected again with her intuition and continued trying a bunch of different positions until she found the one where she felt her efforts making a difference, and her baby moving down the birth canal. And I find that changing of pushing positions to be really helpful, especially if you are following directed pushing like Lauren did.
Now, birth and postpartum have definitely been humbling for Lauren, so make sure you listen until the end to hear how she’s navigating and dealing with the unrealistic expectations of having to do it all, and why she concludes that “Everyone is a badass.”
You’re listening to Birthful. Here to inform your intuition. Adriana: Lauren, welcome! Welcome, Lauren! It’s great to have you here on the show.
Lauren Horton: Yes, thank you.
Adriana: I’m very excited. Thank you for reaching out and wanting to share your story! Before we get into that, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Lauren: Absolutely. So, I am 26 years old and I actually… I was just married a short while ago. We were friends for a very, very long time. And that probably is why we were pregnant! We found out literally a month after we got back from our honeymoon, I was like, “Oh my gosh! Yep, I knew it.”
I knew something was different. And so we have a little wedding baby and it’s been absolutely amazing. And we’ve got a good story to share too, so I’m excited.
Adriana: Oh, cool! Honeymoon baby. I love it!
Lauren: Yeah, we all love it.
Adriana: Yeah! So once you found out you were pregnant and you were embarking on this journey: What were your hopes and wishes? And then: What did you do to prepare for that?
Lauren: Yeah, so I… Ever since I was little, y’know, we didn’t take any medicine. We were rubbing dirt in our wounds and, y’know, staying outside and we were that kind of, like, “naturalistic” family. And so having, y’know, having this birth experience planned out in my head— but then also listening to all these other people’s experiences and knowing, “Okay, it might not go like Plan A, so plan for Plan B too”— and so what I had in my head and what I wanted was the most natural way. Including, like, my pregnancy— I wanted to truly make myself the best I could for the baby and what it needed, y’know? And then for the birth, I wanted it to be, again, as natural as possible. So in order to make that happen, I became very academic about— and not in, like, a studious manner— but I became very academic as far as I really looked into things. I, y’know, listened to podcasts (which I came across yours) and I loved hearing stories)!
And I… People would always say, “Oh, every pregnancy’s different. Every baby’s different,” but fielding these stories from friends and family and from your podcast and others, and, like, looking to social media… Even my midwife was like, y’know, “Don’t look it up. Don’t look it up online.” Like “You won’t like what you see,” just, y’know, “Trust your gut.” And I would… I’d do it anyways! Y’know, I’d continue to research things and just kind of really anything that I was able to get my hands on, I did. And I— y’know, even in these podcasts when I’d hear names, I’d look ’em up— and I’d watch the YouTube videos. Or if somebody mentioned somebody’s name and “Oh, I loved her book,” I’d go and I’d, like, listen to that! So, yeah, that’s just the best way I can say is that I was academic and I just became kind of obsessed with the journey. And I did my Instagram thing and tried to at least keep a record of my trials and tribulations, because my mom didn’t do the best job of that— y’know, I’d ask her for stories and she didn’t necessarily say, “Oh, Lauren, on…” y’know, “…when I was this much pregnant, this is what happened,” y’know? She didn’t give me any of that! So I wanted to at least have something where, when Zeta (my daughter), when she, y’know, looks back, y’know, she can be like, “Dang, mom! You were nine months pregnant when you did that,” like, “That’s really cool!” So, yeah, I also kept track of my progress and tried to post as much as possible without being, like, annoying to my friends and family.
Adriana: So you did a lot of absorbing of information? Went right into it, deep!
Lauren: Oh yeah!
Adriana: Did you take any childbirth education classes?
Lauren: So I did… My hospital— so the one that was here in town— I went to three childbirthing classes and then three breastfeeding classes. And they also had, like, a little fair— like, anybody could come to it. I think they called it, like, a “Baby-thon” or a “Babe-a-thon,” something like that. And I… yeah, I went to that and there were a lot of vendors there and a lot of handouts and more information to absorb. And I just happened to be— ’cause I do have a full-time job— so I just happened to be at the time in my career and, like, job where I could take the time to absorb all this, ’cause sometimes people don’t have time, they’ve gotta work! So I was fortunate enough to just be able to balance that very well and continue to go to these classes.
And I also, I would hear a lot of the stories that you had, or others, being like, “Oh, my husband was so into it.” He was also very academic… and mine was not. And maybe that’s for later down on our story, but he did… I did make him go to the Baby-thon and I made him go to a couple of the classes, y’know, just in case Plan B had to come up! He had to know a little bit of something. So all he knew was “I know that whatever they ask me, I say, ‘No!'” Does she want an IV? No! Does she want this? No! So he said, at game time, he’d step up and he—
Adriana: He was ready to advocate! That’s awesome.
So how did things start?
Lauren: Actually, it kind of took course over, like, a week. Like, one, it was a Friday, it was at 41 weeks (or, like, right around 41). I just… y’know, I did kind of like the stories and all those things say, you just kind of know, you… that crampy-type feeling comes around, and it’s deep down in your gut.
I was having the contractions and I knew from all these stories, “Okay, I need to start timing it. Let’s time it and see if it stays consistent. Let’s see how far apart they are.” So, I downloaded an app.
And that Friday morning, y’know, they started, and I called my mom. I was super excited and, y’know, “Hey, Mom! It’s starting.” And she actually was like, “Okay, continue to time. I’m gonna come.” Well, I didn’t have any more after, like, the first hour or two! So I was like, “Gosh dang it!”
Adriana: Whomp whomp.
Lauren: Yeah! So then the following week I went to my appointment, she said, “Hey, do you want me to strip your membranes?”— my midwife said this— “And we can see if we can get things going.” And y’know, “What also might help is having sex or intercourse later on,” like, y’know, “If you’re wanting to get things going, but there’s no rush.” So I was like, “Okay,” y’know, “Let’s try it!” And, oh my gosh, that was so bad.
I don’t know if everybody knows what stripping the membranes is— I can explain. Do you want me to…? Or no, too gory?
Adriana: Yeah! Please go ‘head, yeah.
Lauren: I had no idea. Listening to podcasts, I knew kind of what to expect, but they made it seem so easy and it just… wasn’t. She stuck her finger up there and, like, went inside the cervix. And yeah, like, kind of swished her finger around and to separate, right, the sac near the cervix? I think I’m using the right words, yeah?
Lauren: And she’s like, “You know, you might be a little bloody,” y’know, “Just so you know!” And so, okay, she’s like, “Yep, but I’ll just get things going.” And gosh, that was excruciating. And she was like, “Lauren, that was nothing!” And I was like, “Okay… but that was bad,” ’cause she kind of, like— I don’t know, it just shocked me. Like, it was like… I knew she was in there and was going to do something, but the, like, instant pain, I guess— or just the instant, like, shock— like, gave me an adrenaline rush, and I was, like, kind of sweating. And I was like, “Okay, well I’m ready. Alright.”
Adriana: Yeah. And it can be quite jarring depending on… like, different people experience it in different ways. But you know, it’s… At that point, your cervix is probably really far back and up, so even getting to it is quite the journey anyway, yeah.
Lauren: So it worked. Oh yeah, it worked!
And I remember, y’know, she was like, “You know, you might have a little bit of spotting and it’s okay,” and talked about the colors and if it changes and all that. And I went about my day— and I’m trying to remember, ’cause my mucus plug hadn’t come out, my water hadn’t broke— but a few days later my mucus plug did come out. I, y’know, just went to the bathroom as normal. I wiped. Nothing was there. I felt like, “Oh, okay, well I’ll keep going.” And as soon as I put my pants on and, like, walked, I was like, “Well…”— y’know, you just have that feeling like, “Ugh, some things in my underwear,” like the “Oh my gosh, I started my period” kind of feeling. Wiped again… and sure enough, there it is. And I snapped a picture and sent it to my sisters and—
Adriana: And posted it on Instagram? No, I’m just joking.
Lauren: No, I prob… I would have, although it is… my Instagram was public, so I figured I probably shouldn’t do that! But I did… I showed anybody who was willing to look. And ’cause my sister has been… she’s had a baby before me, but I was the second one in our family and I was so excited, so I was sending it to ’em.
And so that happened two days before I gave birth, but just the day before I started my actual contractions, started actually having labor. So that was on, like, September 1st. So on the 2nd, all the labor started happening. It was about 11:00 p.m. and actually my husband and I had had intercourse just before, ’cause I had heard that’ll start and so it was the 2nd. So September 2nd, it was that night we had intercourse, we went to bed and I felt like, “Okay, here’s these contractions. They’re coming back again.” It was about 11:00 p.m.— y’know, I didn’t wake up my husband, but I was like, “Okay, these aren’t bad. I can do this.” And they’re about 10 minutes apart and nah, that’s easy. So then it got to be, like, 12:30, and I woke up my husband. I was like, “I can’t do this anymore.” I can’t sit in bed and, like, lay! And I had… We had a yoga ball— y’know, I researched all these methods and I wanted to stay home as long as I could before I even went to the hospital.
So it’s about 12:30-1:00 and I’m like, “We need to walk. I need to get up. I need to go.” So we start walking around our block. So it’s about, like, a 400 meter— just a normal block. So we’re walking around. We probably… I mean, we literally walked until 3:00 a.m.! I threw up probably seven times in that two hours.
I don’t know if it was from the intensity of the pain, but I was definitely having contractions. I was timing them. Like, we weren’t even talking! We were just walking around the block. And so I’m having these contractions and they are lessening in time. So it went from like ten to— like, it really jumped— to like six minutes apart. As I was walking, they were becoming like four and three minutes apart.
And I was kind of getting excited ’cause I knew, “Okay, once they start getting lower,” like, “I’m gonna start getting into labor.” Like I need to… y’know, “This is awesome! I wonder how far dilated I am?” And so around 4:00 a.m. we go to the hospital and I, y’know, I do all the normal stuff. I get up to the room and she was like, y’know, “What are your pains? What are you feeling?” y’know, “Here, let’s sit down, put this baby monitor on.”
And y’know, and immediately I was like, “Do I have to have this?” And she was like, “Well, you’re just coming in,” like “Let’s check.” And I was like, “Why don’t you check me? Let me see how far dilated I am. And let’s just, y’know, yes, make sure the baby’s not in distress, but let’s see.” So she puts her hand up there and she’s like, “Oh, you’re about three!” Ugh! And you get so deflated, y’know? Yeah, from 11:00 p.m. to 4:00, you’re telling me I only got three centimeters, y’know? So I was a little deflated, and she wanted me to sit in that bed and I was like, “No, I am walking and get my midwife here!”
“I want my midwife! Or at least get her on the phone, tell her that I’m here.” And she’s like, “Okay, well, why don’t you walk around for 45 minutes? We’ll see if you’ve made any progress.” So I walk around. So now it’s 5:00 a.m., she checks me and she’s like, “Gah, you’re at about a three and a half. I’m going to call your midwife and see what she wants.”
So I’m in the bed. She calls the midwife. The midwife says “I’m on my way. Have her walk around for, y’know, another hour or so, see if there’s more progress.” So I do. I walk around in the— I mean, I, like, knew, I mean, I was literally living by, like, the minutes and the seconds and, y’know, grabbing my stomach and holding it up and pushing it in!
And so then it’s about 5:30 a.m., they come in and I’m about four centimeters dilated and I’m just like, “Gosh!” y’know, and I’m… Oh, and just so you know, while I’m walking in the hospital, I’m throwing up, like, every two laps, throwing up. So it’s about 6:00 a.m. now., and my midwife gets here.
And she comes in, she’s like, “How you doing?” And I was like, “Ugh!” like, “I’m not making any progress.” She’s like, “Lauren, relax,” y’know, “Relax! If you want to walk around, you can. How about you lay down? And I’m going to, y’know, I’m gonna check you out.” So I’m like, “Okay.” So it’s 6:00 a.m. and she checks me out. She’s like, “You’re at about six centimeters. What do you wanna do?”
And I was like, “Oh, I’m at a six?” She’s like, “Yeah!” Or, I’m sorry, this was now 8:00 a.m., I’m sorry. It was 8:00 a.m. and I’m at six centimeters. And she’s like, “What do you wanna do?” My water hadn’t broken yet. And she’s like, “We can break your water, which would go against you wanting to do things naturally, y’know? Do you want to do that?”
And you know, my husband’s like, “No!” And I was like, “No, Jeff, I want this!”
Adriana: I love it! He’s like, “This is my job! I know what I have to do. Say ‘No.'”
Lauren: Right?! I know. So he did, y’know, he tried! And I was like, “Nope, do it.” I was like, “Christy, I’m ready. I think I want this.” And she’s like, “Okay— it can make it more intense. It could possibly speed things up, but it will definitely make your contractions intense.” And I said, “Okay, 6:00, y’know, 8:00 a.m., six centimeters. Let’s do it.” So she did.
And just like everybody said, it is a warm gush. It was somewhat of a relief, but I’m gonna tell you what: That next contraction was so bad! So intense! My mom was actually in the room, and she and my husband are looking at the little thing that tells you about your contractions (y’know, the pictograph, I don’t know the thing) and they—
Adriana: —the monitor that it has… yeah, it shows the little graphic of the contractions, yeah.
Lauren: Oh my gosh, y’know, and they’re just commentary the entire time! Like, “Whoa!” like “Lauren, this one’s coming in!” y’know, they’re just not… I’m saying it with a smile, but they were definitely like, not smiling at the time.
And I will say I had all these plans of going in there with a open mind, and I wanted to use the ball and I wanted to squat and I wanted to do these things— but I actually just laid on the bed on my left side and I grabbed onto the hospital bed, like, siding (held onto it). And I actually learned this from… I forget her name, but she is a very famous doula. I think I learned her information from your podcast!
Adriana: Ina May? No, a doula…
Lauren: Yeah, nope. Ina May.
Adriana: Ina May Gaskin, yep.
Lauren: Yep. That’s her. She talked about somebody holding, like, a pole and, like, pulling themselves up and letting gravity kind of push and relax and open up the hips. So I was doing that, but just on my side, holding onto this thing— like, literally lifting and like letting my lower half just totally go numb and just kind of open up and not trying to pay attention to that. And man, did it work! Because at 10:00 a.m., she was like, “Lauren,” she came in, she’s like, “Lauren, you are nine— or, sorry— ten centimeters! Like, just like 9.75; like, you are right there. If you flip over on your right side and let that last lip just kind of, y’know, a couple contractions there, we can start pushing!” y’know, so I tied myself to this bed and it worked! I mean, I definitely opened up my hips. I could feel these contractions just widening my pelvic area. And so I did, I flipped over, I got that last couple, y’know, centimeters or whatever the last couple. And she’s like, “Lauren, you were at a ten, let’s do this. How do you want to, y’know…?” And I’m like, “I get to pick?” like, y’know, and I’m like, “What do I wanna do?”
I was going through all these things in my head as I’m, y’know, experiencing this pain and she’s like, “The next one’s coming…” y’know, just, “Hey, let’s push.” So I did, y’know, and, y’know, I gave the old college try with my push and I was… totally underestimated how much I actually needed to push, y’know, so I… At that point I was, y’know, just the typical “on my back” kind of pushing.
And she was like, “Okay, that is nothing.” She was like, “You need to close your eyes. You need to…” y’know, “Don’t bear down,” but y’know, “Get me something else. I know you can do more.” And at that point I kind of just lost myself and completely turned on the, like, primal instinct of “Okay, scream.” Not “scream,” but like… I don’t know, I guess I was, like, screaming in my body, y’know?
And I know my teeth were showing, my tongue was out, you know that… just that primal instinct of not necessarily, like, “Get this thing out of me,” but “I need to do this for the baby.” And so I did a couple more pushes and I was like, “It’s not working,” like, “That’s not what it is,” y’know? And she was like, “Let’s put this bar up.” I was like, “Yep, I wanna squat. I wanna see if that works.” So I then squatted— and I had been working out my entire pregnancy, so I knew that the squat would be comfortable for me. I could actually, like, squat— like just without being… y’know, just flat-footed was fine.
So I tried that. I had pushed, and she’s like, “Oh my gosh!” y’know, “I can see the hair!” And I could feel her head. I mean, I knew I was getting close and I knew it was right there. And she’s like, “Lauren, do you wanna feel her hair?”— or its hair; we didn’t know what it was. She was like, “Ohh, this hair! Do you wanna feel it?”
And so I, like, felt down there and I was like, “Am I on the hair?” Like, there’s just so much going on down there, I don’t even know! So, y’know, I’m feeling the hair and, y’know, and she was like, “Lauren, you gotta keep pushing and keep trying.” And so I did, and it just wasn’t working.
So she like grabbed one of the hospital sheets and put it around the bar and she was like, “Hold this like you’re sledding,” y’know, like you’re holding onto something, “Put your feet up on the bar and let’s get some leverage,” ’cause, like, these girls that were holding my legs (her little helpers, the nurses), one of ’em at one point was like, “She’s too strong!”
Adriana: It’s all that working out that you’ve been doing!
Lauren: Yeah, yeah. She was like, “She’s too strong!” And my husband was like, y’know, “Move! Let me try.” And y’know, he’s trying to get one leg and do his thing. And so finally she was like, “Put your feet on the bar, duh!” like, “Let’s hold this thing, get leverage. Let’s do it that way.” So I think I pushed once there and, like, I could feel progress. Like, I knew that head was coming and I pushed again and the head came out and we, like, waited for the, y’know, contraction to come again. And I was kind… I probably jumped the gun a little bit and I was like, “Okay,” like, “I’m ready,” like, “C’mon!”
And I did, like, “Ahh!”… It was so long. And she came out— my midwife turned the shoulders and we had already knew that… Jeff, well… Jeff, my husband actually, like, said that he wanted to be up by my head the whole time. But eventually I talked him into catching the baby and so she, like, turned the shoulders and just made it to where he could slide in.
And she caught the baby and kind of sat there for a second. And the midwife, she goes “Well, Jeff, what is it?” And he was like, “Oh,” y’know, and then he looks, “It’s a girl,” y’know? Oh my gosh! And he puts it— he puts her— on my chest and my mom’s like “She’s beautiful.” And then my mom gets out the camera and I was like, “Mom!” like… I wanted the video, the whole thing.
And she’s like, “I didn’t think you wanted that.” So unfortunately I didn’t get any video, but I do have, like, the ending moments of, like, me with the baby on the chest and all I’m doing… My legs are shaking. I could not… My legs didn’t stop shaking and, like, contracting, I guess, for literally like a day afterwards.
And y’know, so I’m just like, “Ooh! Ooh!” because breathing was huge to me, every contraction I was breathing and I was moaning, and it really helps me through it. And so, y’know, Jeff cut the cord and, y’know, we named her and it was such a good experience. And I don’t even think I mentioned that I had a midwife at a hospital and that experience… It was very beneficial in many different cases, y’know, in case something didn’t happen. I was… I felt safe, but I also felt like the midwife had my best interest at all times. I got to see my midwife every time I came in for a checkup. She was the one I saw. If I would have gone the other route, I would’ve had to, y’know, go through all the doctors (or the OBs, I guess) and really not get to know them, but just skim the surface with each of them.
And, y’know, whoever was on-call would be the one who delivered. And I didn’t want that. I did want the one-on-one. I wanted somebody that I could trust. Because of the stories I had heard in my, you know, academic research of pregnancy, I wanted to make sure that I had “genuine care,” I guess that’s the best way to describe it, is “genuine.”
And I— in my story, I don’t think I even mentioned that my midwife was not there the day that I gave birth. She was not there at the hospital when I came in, however, she… they did call her and she did travel in to see my birthing, my vision, to see it play out.
Adriana: So she came in just for you? She wasn’t on call?
Lauren: Nope, she was not on-call.
She came in just for me. She actually was going to start her round, like, later on that night I believe. So she definitely came in for me and it made it so special even after I gave birth. I heard that they come back in and they chat for a little bit, but I mean, she came in every day that I was there, the three days that I had to be there (or I think it’s two, I forget now). But she came every day, and I think one time we even talked for like two hours and somebody paged her and, y’know, was like, “Where are you?” She just… she did great. And I actually, I wondered, y’know, “Did she just do this for me? Or does she genuinely care for others?”
And I just had a friend recently that went through a similar experience with her and yeah, she genuinely cares! And it was just great to run all these things by her and no question was dumb. She had time for everything that I… I mean, there was a time where I thought I had worms from my dog, from my little puppy! I mean, I came in with all kinds of stories, like, y’know, that I looked up online and she was like, “You gotta stop Googling these things.” She’s like, “You can’t ask Siri everything.” But it… I mean, it was just… it was great. And I vividly remember being in the hospital bed laboring and it was getting towards the end and I had been throwing up— I mean, constantly throwing up and going to the bathroom— and so they might have been worried about my fluids.
But she knew that— I don’t know, I was… I’ve been an athlete my whole life. So I knew she knew that I was, like, mentally strong, but also, like, physically capable of the endurance that it needed. And, I was also, like, force… My mom was force feeding me the ice chips and whatnot. But there was a nurse that came in and was like, “Hey, I need to give you an IV.” And I remember her being like, “No, stop,” like “Stop! She is fine. This is working,” like, “We’re fine!” I mean, she advocated for me on at least two occasions that I can remember where they were trying to do the typical, I guess, hospital thing.
Adriana: Yeah, protocol.
Lauren: Right. And she was like, “Hey,” y’know, “We’re good. The baby’s not in distress. She’s not in distress.” And she knew how important that was to me. I just… I think they did a… She did a great job of keeping them away from those kinds of things that I was keeping close to me as far as, y’know, not wanting to do anything extra. And then just letting my husband catch the baby.
And I had so many questions about the placenta and I wanted to keep it and, y’know, so she fielded all my silly questions. And even birthing the placenta was interesting!
Adriana: And I want you… It does sound like your midwife was— and it’s something I appreciate from any care provider— she was looking at you and considering your specific situation. Because when you were telling your story earlier, and you were saying that you were throwing up and throwing up and throwing up and constantly throwing up, in the back of my mind, I had a question I was gonna say, “Did you get IV fluids?”
Like, was that a concern? Because all that throwing up can make you feel like crap and sort of sap your energy, and being dehydrated can alter the contractions, make them more crampy or make them too strong or make them… so it is something to, like, pay attention to. But obviously, she was clearly looking at you and seeing that— even though you were throwing up, your mom’s feeding you ice chips and you have all this endurance and, like, you’re throwing up— but she wasn’t seeing signs of dehydration.
Lauren: Yeah. I… y’know, when I think of, “Okay, what does dehydration look like?” I mean, I don’t… I was so sweaty, I mean— and I was completely naked the entire laboring experience, if anybody wanted to know! But yeah, I think she knew that… I mean, even while I was laboring at home, like, I knew that I would— y’know, once I got to the hospital, things might be different.
So I continued to hydrate and I did have, like, Powerade and stuff in my bag. And she knew that I had prepared. And, y’know, because we created that connection and that like trust in each other, she knew that, y’know, I could “power through,” and I think also she knew how strong I was and that I was capable of it. Just… It worked out.
Adriana: Mhm, exactly. She… y’know, you had that connection, and she knew she was looking at you and considering you specifically, right? And that’s… it’s great when you have a provider that does that!
Lauren: And she was very— like, in her questioning, during our checkups, like there was never a time where she didn’t have something to ask or something that she was— so it kind of, like, maybe she was collecting all this information, y’know, the entire nine months? Not giving me all, like… giving me a test the first day, y’know? She was kind of collecting tidbits of information throughout our checkups, y’know? And so yeah, I’m going to not even assume. I’m probably… I think that’s what she was doing, was getting to know me without me being like, “Okay, do you know me?” y’know? I think she took care of it in a way that was genuine and just honest and, y’know… And she knew the answers because she had been, y’know, collecting them for so long.
Adriana: How big was your baby?
Lauren: Oh, gosh! 8 pounds, 11 ounces, 21 inches long.
Adriana: So, big baby— big-ish baby.
Lauren: Yeah. Yeah, I know. I’ve heard of bigger; I think I was even bigger, but I have a huge head! So I… that was like my number one fear, that this baby was gonna rip me entirely. And I think it was… Isn’t like “four” really bad? A four[th]-degree tear. Is that…?
So I think I had, like, a one or a two. I kept… She kept, like… She was stitching me up after, I actually— up top, on the ceiling, I remember looking in the light thing, like, there was like a reflection, so I could literally see her— which I didn’t see that when I was giving birth, but I saw it when she was giving me stitches.
I could see her, like, stitching me up and I was like, “Christy, how many stitches are you giving me?” And she was like, “Just a few more, just a few more.” And I was like, “Ahh!”
Adriana: So I… And I do wanna explain that, just because it’s something that, it sounds confusing…
Lauren: Oh yeah, go ahead.
Adriana: Yeah, because the first/second/third/fourth degree, it has nothing to do with the length of the tear. It’s all to do with the deepness. So “first degree tear” is only skin. A second degree goes deeper, and, like, fourth degree is so bad because it goes into the muscle and can create an opening between, like, the vagina and the anus, right?
So a first-to-second degree, they can be long or they can be in several different places or they can— and they don’t necessarily put in a bunch of stitches, it’s just the one running one. But if it… She took a long time stitching it, and you were like, “How many? How much longer?”— it sounds like it was a longer tear. It was just more superficial, which makes it… That’s what makes it the first-second degree.
Lauren: Ah, okay. I get that. And I… y’know, it’s silly! I’m sure people listening could be like, “Why didn’t you just look?” But I was terrified. I was so terrified to see what it looked like. And I even, at some point, asked my husband… I was like, “Hey, I’m really sorry, but can you look at my stitches?” Like, I just… I don’t know!
And he’s like, “Lauren, I have seen so much of you,” like, “You’re really embarrassed about me looking at your stitched-up area?” like c’mon! But it was, y’know… it ended up being fine, but yeah. I wish… I don’t know how many, and I don’t know how long, or I don’t know any of that, but she did take— I don’t even know how long it takes to do stitches— but I felt like it was a lot and I could feel it, y’know? It was no… The pain wasn’t that bad, but I could definitely feel her doing that and I could see it too. Maybe that’s what made it so horrifying!
Adriana: Yeah. Yeah, and, I mean, it’s one of those things that after all that work and having had the… y’know, you do have the sensation of the contractions and that intensity, but that’s wave-like (it comes, you know it’s coming). Whereas when they’re stitching you up, not only is that area super-sensitive because, well, a baby just went through!
Adriana: But you don’t know when that sharpness is coming— or that pull— ’cause they do the Novocaine and numb it out. But yeah! Yeah.
Lauren: I remember her asking, “Do you need more?” I was like, “Yeah, probably.” And she’s like, “Okay, well, we’ll see…” y’know, “We’ll go.” She knew I was strong and I was just being a baby.
Adriana: Well, y’know, at that point you wanna be done!
Lauren: Yes, yes, yes.
Adriana: Yeah. And at that point, was your baby, like, coming right to your chest then was skin-to-skin and just hanging out there?
Lauren: Yeah. Oh my gosh! That was the one thing I also wanted, was the skin-to-skin. I didn’t want them— and one of the nurses actually tried to, like, hurry along the baby finding the nipple— and actually my husband was the one that stepped up to the plate, y’know? “No!” he said, y’know, “No thanks. We’re going to let her do it on her own,” ’cause she was like, “Do you want me to help her? Do you want me to help baby?” y’know, “Do you want me to show her the way?” And my husband was like, “No, we’re going to let her do it.” And, y’know, I was going to say it— I was coherent. I was fine. But he said it, and I think he really felt… I don’t know, like, distinguished and established as a father at that moment!
Like “No, get away!” y’know, “This is what we want and this is what she’s gonna do.” And yeah, I mean, that baby took her darn time getting there, but she definitely found it, and it worked out fine! Breastfeeding in general was great, but there, it definitely was a rocky start. It’s just, y’know, when the milk comes in, a lot of things happen, and you really have to be, like, mentally strong and, y’know, you have to kind of get over yourself physically and ego-wise. But yeah, baby found her way and she latched on great! And the whole, like, laying down and nursing on your side was a lifesaver, ’cause again, my legs were shaking and the only… like, they wouldn’t even go straight! Like, they were literally shaking and contracted in the bent position for at least, like, six hours.
Adriana: And you did exert your legs quite a bit, ’cause basically you were walking the whole time—
Lauren: Oh yeah!
Adriana: —since, like, midnight.
Adriana: Pretty much!
Lauren: So yeah, baby found her way!
Adriana: Cool. So the placenta, how did you find… like, how was the delivery and looking at it and all of that?
Lauren: Loved it! I thought this placenta was… I mean she… So I thought it was really big. I thought it was really heavy. Y’know, these are the things that I thought! It does look huge. I mean, when she… Well, first of all, just giving birth to it, y’know, do they call that the fourth trimester or… no, what do they call that when the…?
Adriana: That’s the third stage!
Lauren: Ah, the third stage. Yes. And they say, y’know, that’s when you find relief and they are right. Whoever “they” is, they are so right, ’cause when you give birth to the baby, it’s the… baby’s on you now and you feel like sometimes when… I don’t know if this is too graphic, I’m sorry, but—
Adriana: There is no “too graphic!”
Lauren: Okay! When, like, a tampon is, like, not inserted correctly or, like, the string, you can, like, kind of feel the string hanging out? It felt like that times ten, right? Like, the cord hanging out and y’know… So I felt… I knew that was in there and I knew that was going to be the next thing. And y’know, so she’s kind of talking me through it and pushing on my stomach, and when that came out and that just kind of, like— I don’t think she tugged on it, and I don’t really remember pushing too hard. Like, I do think it was a pretty easy delivery, but when it came out, oh my gosh, it felt so good. It just felt so good coming out! And when that was done, it literally… Okay, like, it was finished, it was completed. I looked at it and I was like, “Christy, is that like three or five pounds?” like “How?” And she was like, “No, it’s probably like a pound.” I was like, “That’s it?” Like, that thing is huge! And it felt weird and it just… it was so neat. And I kept asking her if I could keep it. And, y’know, she’s like, “What are you gonna do with it?” And I’ve heard of people making smoothies and/or, like, the capsules. And we talked about it, but I ended up not taking it, but she was willing to do what I wanted to do with it (but I just… I ended up not doing anything).
Adriana: Did you take any pictures at least?
Lauren: I know! My mom felt like she was intruding just being in there. So she, y’know, only took a pic or only took a video at the end, and then, like, took a couple pictures, but was, like, trying not to get my breast in the picture. And so she… I think she kind of left soon after ’cause she wanted it to just be Jeff and I, and so she kind of left.
And Jeff is zero… I mean, he’s on his phone except for when you need him to be, y’know, when he needs to take a picture. So there was no pictures of the placenta, but I wish I would’ve, ’cause yeah, it was a weird thing, y’know?
Adriana: It’s very unique.
Lauren: It’s just… I don’t know. It is… I can’t even explain it, ’cause it’s just so, so different!
Adriana: It’s enormously blobby, right? And it’s not that thick necessarily— like, a couple of inches, inch or so— but it is… it can be dinner plate-sized. And they’re obviously… They’re all different, but y’know, dinner plate-sized!
Lauren: Right? Like, it looked large. And like you said, “blobby,” and kind of, like, not? I guess I was thinking it was, like, gonna be like Flubber— y’know, that movie, the green ball of goo— like I thought it was going to look something like that! But nonetheless, it was still interesting. And I loved looking and touching and talking about it.
Adriana: Yeah. And I’m a big placenta freak, ’cause I think they’re the coolest things, that you just grew this whole organ just for this purpose. Like, how amazing is that?
Lauren: It’s amazing that my body and this baby know what to do. That’s honestly… That is, like, the one thing that still, like, just amazes me, is that this baby knew how to come out and my body knew that it needed to, and my body and the baby knew to come and eat off my breast and to survive and to breathe. And just… It amazes me. We are powerful.
Adriana: Mhm, absolutely, yes. And it’s such a powerful experience to just be part of that, right? However it happens. It is remarkable bringing life into this world.
So, Lauren, what was different than what you expected?
Lauren: Ooh, good question. Kind of what I alluded to before, yes, I walked around a ton— I mean, as far as, like, hours go— but in the midst of, like, the most painful contractions, I was in a bed. Y’know, I was doing the one thing that I kind of didn’t want to do and what I thought I would never do is like, “Oh, I don’t wanna be on this bed! I want to be up and moving,” or y’know, people talk about a tub or a hot shower, and you’re on this, y’know, this yoga ball. And I wanted to do all that. But to be honest, staying on my side and, like, lifting myself off the bed and kind of, like, humping the bed in a sense and, like, moaning and breathing and closing my eyes…
I mean, I don’t think I opened my eyes from like the minute I was four centimeters to beyond, but, I mean, that felt right. And that… And when it was okay, y’know, when people say, “Oh, you know, Plan A won’t always happen,” I think sometimes that, y’know, that doesn’t always have to result in like a “Oh, I had to get a cesarean,” or, “Oh, the birth was different.” Maybe it’s just the labor wasn’t what I thought.
I mean, I knew it was gonna be tough. I knew it was gonna be hard. I knew it was gonna be painful, but I guess, I didn’t know to what degree. And that’s always the question, y’know, “How painful is this?” And it’s hard to explain— and even in some cases, like our mind kind of blocks that experience out, the pain. Like, I still can’t tell you what it felt like, only because it was so excruciating. And I think my body does say, y’know, “But you did it. So what does it matter?” Y’know?
Adriana: Well, and I think it’s also, like… It’s so remarkable that once baby is out, it’s all gone.
Lauren: Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah, there were no lasting effects… Other than I did have hemorrhoids, like, really bad.
And I would say, because I… Literally I remember trying to push with my vagina, and I don’t know if you can even do that. I really— instead of, like, using my core and my, like, gut and— like, I do think I just, like, literally would bear down with my full pelvic and, like, anal floor?
I don’t know if there’s an “anal floor,” but, I mean, I was pushing and, I mean, I literally have had hemorrhoids since then. They’re almost gone, but I didn’t expect that, ’cause I didn’t have them during pregnancy. So I didn’t expect that.
I didn’t expect throwing up. I don’t think I had heard stories of people vomiting. But gee whiz, I did it quite a few times! Actually, my husband bought me, like, new shoes for, like, a pushing gift and I threw up all over those during the walk around the block, so! And I never cleaned it up. That sounds really nasty. But even to this day, there’s still, like, some… yeah, it’s pretty gross,
Adriana: They’re your special shoes.
Lauren: Yeah! Yeah, I would say those are the things that I didn’t expect that did happen. I, y’know, you hear stories of people having them on the side of the road or think of it being easy or, y’know, being a “breeze.” And I thought I’d be one of those— and I kind of expected not to be, but I wanted to be. And honestly it just… It went the way it did. And the entire process was like I almost kind of had this mindset, and even my husband, of, like, because I… My husband was like, “You never even asked for, like, the epidural and whatever.” And honestly, anybody is a badass— any mother that is pushing out this child, no matter your delivery, you are a trooper!
I mean, there is recovery, there is pain, there is all a whole slew of things that have to take place. And, y’know, just because I went “all-natural” doesn’t mean I’m the only badass. And I definitely— because, y’know, I had somebody like, “Oh, you’re so hardcore, I can’t believe it”— and I was like, “Whether this was a 11-hour labor or whether it was, y’know, a two-hour labor, there is pain maybe, or, y’know, there’s at least side effects that do happen.”
And I don’t know, I just had this mantra of, like, “This is the way I want it done.” So I just… y’know, “There is no other way. This is the way. And I can do it and I can push myself through it.” And this is instinct— millions and billions of women have done this. I can do it too. And it’s so empowering. And… I’m going off-topic a little bit, but it’s…
Adriana: Oh, no! I love everything you’re saying.
Lauren: Yeah, I… Yeah, there was a young lady who was also pregnant with me, one of my friends, and she was like, “You are such a badass. You did that ‘all-natural.'” Y’know, she did not, and she felt so bad, and I was like, “Why? You still have to recover! You still have to take care of this baby. You still have to do all these things. Do not be upset in the way you gave birth in the way you did it, because you are badass too.” Y’know, we are so powerful, y’know, as females. We just… ugh, and our babies are smart! They know how to survive and our body knows how to rebuild and rebound and ooh, it’s just good. It’s good stuff.
Adriana: It is good. I love all that you said. And it is… It doesn’t matter how, y’know, because the “how” a baby is born, yes, it’s important, and it’s an issue. We try to prepare for it, and do it— but we can’t control it. But that’s really just, like, the top layer of the situation. What it really is is this enormous transformative event. And everybody has to do that part, no matter how babies… y’know, how the baby gets earthside. So, like you were saying, there’s recovery, there’s so much to… There’s integration. There’s, y’know, processing your story. There’s… Oh yeah, everybody’s a badass.
Lauren: Yeah, I… Yep. And I just… I love that, yeah. The whole, like you said, the process and the integrating who being a mom is tough work. Whether you’ve got a full-time job, a part-time job, whether you stay at home. I mean, it is just being a mother. It’s been quite the experience for me and I am, like, I don’t know… I kind of feel like I’ve grown to be a softie now!
Adriana: I was gonna ask you… Tell me, like, how did this experience change you?
Lauren: Completely! And I’m still changing. I actually just talked to this mom group that I’ve got. I asked them this morning, y’know, “After we give birth, do we just inherently become little softies?” Like, is this because, y’know… I used to be (at least I think) this badass, nothing could break me. And I’m very deep in my career— I’m a full-time collegiate volleyball coach, so it’s a really fun career. And I love it, but there’s a lot of recruiting and phone calls and, y’know, gotta be in the office. And I basically already have 20 children of my own— and they’re all the age of 17 to 22, so!
I do have, y’know… I do have, I don’t know, this perception of “Okay, but I’ve got this child and I want to do the right thing here,” y’know, I want to do everything, again, naturally and holistically. So I’m breastfeeding and I’m pumping— actually before you and I called/I talked, y’know, I was pumping and cleaning the equipment, and all the time that that takes in general, just that, wow. I mean that’s hours in a day set aside for when you’re away from your child.
So that has changed me and I have become very— I don’t know— like, anxious and worried that I can be the best mother, but also be the best, y’know, career woman and the best coach and the best mentor to these, y’know, young ladies that are on my team (and at the same time, be a great wife, be a great mom), y’know? And then the social norms say that I need to cook, clean, and make some money, and, y’know… So there’s just… There’s so many things on our plate as mothers and women, that I’ve become, like, obsessed with being perfect. And I’m not perfect.
So because I’m not perfect… That is really what has blown my mind. Everything usually comes easy. Pregnancy was easy. Y’know, childbirth, she came out and she was so precious. And so just perfect that, y’know, I just assumed that after birth and this time right now would be easy and perfect… and it’s not.
But y’know, we’ve gotta be mentally tough. I think I thought I had a lot of mental toughness and I thought I was strong, but y’know, it’s… It… I don’t know, just having a child is… y’know, it makes you very appreciative of a lot of things, but it also can question a lot of things, too, like how selfish I used to be, y’know? And as a mother and a parent, I feel like you just can’t be selfish anymore.
Adriana: Mhm. Are you giving yourself some grace? ‘Cause I’m hearing a lot of, like, perfectionism here, and our (like you said)… culturally, our society has… was like, “We should do all these things.” And I don’t think we should. I think— ’cause that’s just unrealistic expectations, as you say— it’s really super hard. We’re supposed to do more of a village thing, like, help each other out. And it’s okay… I, like… I think the “Superwoman” thing is a trap.
Lauren: You’re right.
Adriana: Y’know? So, like, give yourself some grace. Lower that bar. You’re still a badass!
Lauren: Yeah, you’re right. At times I want to give myself grace, but at other times, I don’t know… I’m just, like, “Too bad!” y’know? I don’t know. I… Yeah, I’m probably hard on myself, but I’m also very competitive. So, y’know, I wanna be the mom that bounces back. I wanna be the college coach who had a winning season and had a baby, y’know? And I want all those things for myself, but then… And that’s the selfish thing, right?
But then also, I know— and like you said, that’s a trap— because if I think that that is success, then I am dead wrong, because I will not become successful if those things are… if that’s my ideal, y’know? It’s, yes… I do… now I am realizing that success sometimes is just pumping enough to, y’know, have my baby eat the next day. That is success and I am so proud when I make those days happen.
Adriana: Indeed, that is success. And it’s a long-term game. I mean, you have that endurance that you were talking about! We’re not talking about the first month or the second month or, y’know… This is for life. You’ve gotta be there as an available and connected parent forever. So it’s hugely important not to burn yourself out and it… that requires sometimes doing less.
Lauren: Yeah, you’re right. I think, actually, in your… in one of your podcasts before, you even mentioned, like, taking a rest and you just had a child, y’know? You’ve… It was in another birth story, and you mentioned, y’know, “Why are you up and walking around?” like, “Why are you doing these things?” and really trying to take the time to, y’know, recover.
And I think… I mean, I went back to my job probably a little too early, but now I am finally realizing I didn’t get to recover or spend that time quite how I wanted to. So now it’s like, “Okay, slow down.” Pumping is great— y’know, that’s my success! And days when I can eat and take a full meal and, y’know, all these things— and I am finding little successes in my days— and I think that’s what’s kind of carrying me through and when, y’know, baby rolls over and those kinds of things, the milestones will also be the successes that come next.
Adriana: Yeah. And know that this isn’t forever. I mean, right now you can see the difference already from where your baby is today, as where she was when she first came out— the level of dependency slowly (very slowly, y’know) goes away, and then you will regain a lot more independence and a lot less “needing.” And then you’ll have… She’ll be taking care of you.
And I’m not talking, like, when you’re old and gray… but y’know, when… what even when she gets older and able to do more things for herself. So I think it’s important to keep in mind that this is not… Of course, life is not life as usual. You just had a baby, your body grew organs and increased its fluid level, its blood level 50%, like, enormous stuff that you need to recover from. So giving it its time is important in the sense of, y’know, your recovery later on. And that’s that this is your new normal for now, but it’s not gonna be, like… It’s always changing. She’s always changing. You will change too.
Lauren: Yeah, I really like that. Yeah.
Adriana: Yeah, it’s for now. It does… I know when you’re in it, it seems all-consuming.
Lauren: Oh yeah. It’s, like, a hyperbole— just this over-exaggerated like “What?! No, what’s going on?? It’s all crashing on me,” y’know? And it’s… You’re right. It’s not forever.
Adriana: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s okay. You can be on the sidelines for a little bit. It’s okay.
Lauren: Yes… and that’s where I hate being! Ugh!
Adriana: I know! I can hear it. That’s why I’m like, “But give yourself grace, Lauren!”
Lauren: Yes, I will.
Adriana: Yeah, good. I think I love your story! Thanks so much for coming on the show to share it. That was really beautiful.
Lauren: Absolutely! Thank you for having me. And I’m glad that I got to share it.
Adriana: That was full-time collegiate volleyball coach and mom, Lauren Horton. Since we spoke, Lauren has given birth again, and now has a daughter and a son. So congratulations to her!
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Come back for more ways to inform your intuition.
Lozada, Adriana, host. “No Matter How You Birth, You’re a Badass.” Birthful, Birthful. December 7, 2022. Birthful.com.
About Lauren Horton
Lauren has always been a “gym rat”: she played four sports in high school, two in college, and now she has a full-time career coaching collegiate women’s volleyball! As an athlete, she was a three-time All-American and held a national record. As a coach, she has turned around a losing program and recruited athletes who have broken records. She is married to her absolute best friend, Jeff, who stood the test of time and distance.
Her daughter Zeta Roze was definitely a honeymoon baby! Soon after they got home from their honeymoon, they found out they were pregnant. The road ahead was a path unknown. So she resorted to social media, YouTube, podcasts, and stories. Her pregnancy was the easy part! The birth….woah!
Since sharing her first birth story, Lauren’s family has welcomed a son.
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