77. Ep. 336 – Natalie Dreyfuss: After Birth – Informed Pregnancy Podcast
Elliot: Welcome to the Informed Pregnancy Podcast. I'm your host, pregnancy-focused chiropractor, Dr. Elliot Berlin.
You have tuned in to the after episode of a before and after birth story, and I have no idea how things went but we’re all going to find out together. Natalie Dreyfuss, welcome back to the podcast.
Natalie: Thanks for having me.
Elliot: Last time, we talked to you, you were pretty prego. And now, you are not. Congratulations!
Natalie: Thank you. My daughter was born on her due date.
Elliot: On her due date, really? How often does that happen? Less than 5%.
Natalie: Yeah. It was the only day that I was positive she wasn’t coming.
Elliot: Well, I guess that’s motherhood in a nutshell. I wish there was a study of babies born on their due date to see what they turn out like. If there’s anything different about them.
Elliot: Punctual? From birth.
Natalie: I’m punctual, so maybe.
Elliot: It’s an honest trait. Okay. You have an interesting pregnancy and life. And then, as you got closer, you found out your baby was breech and you did a whole bunch of things to try to help, and the baby turned.
Natalie: She sure did. I came in and saw you one time, and then she turned the next day.
Elliot: Oh, yeah.
Natalie: I don’t know how many things I really did.
Elliot: I don’t know. You said you saw this video of you guys finding out the baby was head down.
Natalie: I know. I was so excited. Yeah, it was great. She was in a great position for the rest of the pregnancy. My labor was challenging, for sure. Because when she did turn, I think she was a little crooked still just in the pelvis. Like corkscrew out, was not super easy for her. So, not super easy for me either.
Elliot: Well, let’s start with the final days of pregnancy. What were you doing and how did you feel going into birth, mind, body, spirit?
Natalie: It’s funny. It’s been three weeks. Yesterday, three Wednesdays. It just feels like a crazy lifetime ago. It’s the weirdest experience. From what I remember, I had been contracting a ton. I’d had a lot of Braxton Hicks. Mine were really intense. I had heard that you have Braxton Hicks that you may or may not feel beforehand. But, I was unable to talk through some of them or walk through some of them. I was kind of feeling jipped. I was like, “Why am I in so much pain?” Before I even go into labor.
Elliot: How far was that before your due date?
Natalie: I would say week 38, maybe.
Natalie: Week 38 and 39 had a lot of contractions.
Elliot: Not long after the baby turned.
Natalie: Yeah, not long. I felt like she dropped. Within a few days, she was real low. And then, my contractions already were gearing up. I kept thinking she was going to come early. And then, when the real contractions hit, I was like, “There’s no way she’s going to come on her due date.” I was so sure we had all taken bets on when she was going to show up, and that was the only day I was positive it wasn’t going to be. I had a bunch of friends over that night. It was Tuesday night. Her due date was February 1st. This was Tuesday the 31st or whatever, and I had a bunch of friends over for dinner. I kept saying, “I think this is it. I actually really feel I’m going into labor right now.” We all like, “We should pack your hospital bag.”
Elliot: Really? You didn’t have your hospital bag packed yet?
Natalie: We did. But, my husband’s been like — honestly, the theme of my experience with parenthood so far is just wanting to prepare perfectly is just a hilarious lesson I keep bumping into over and over and over again. I had my hospital bag packed, but I had five hospital bags that were all different.
I was embarrassed that I wanted to bring so much stuff to the hospital. I didn’t want the nurses to judge me because I’d read a million different blogs about what you might need. I was like, “Maybe I’ll need this perennial donut pillow.” We don’t know. “Maybe my perineum is going to need a pillow. I don’t want to bring this big pillow if I don’t need it.” Maybe I’ll put it in the car bag so that the car bag stays in the car, but it’s prepped with all things that would be like, “What? Was she moving into the hospital? Why is she in suitcases?” I was just embarrassed. I had sort of packed it and also just was not deciding to actually take one bag.
And so, my girlfriends were like, “Yeah. We should go finish that.” We all came upstairs and we’re giggling and watching me have these big contractions. I knew it was labor. They start at 2:30 in the afternoon. But, I knew it was labor by 5, 5:30 at night. I was like, “Okay. I’m so pumped with adrenaline right now.” I was like, “I could lift cars.” I was like, “I’m hyped. I’m having a baby!”
Elliot: Wednesday. I’m curious because you said they were intense, your Braxton Hicks, a couple of days before that. What did those feel like? Where did you feel them? Were they pain pressure? What kind of intensity? And then, also, how did it change to make you feel like, “Whoa! This is labor”?
Natalie: Yeah. When I worked with Britta, actually, she helped me to understand the different kinds of contractions with a balloon and a ping-pong ball. And so, she had us blow up a balloon and put a ping-pong ball in it. It was to show what a phase might meant. Also, just what contractions that were actually pushing down would look like, versus a tightening. So, when you push the balloon and the ping-pong ball wouldn’t move down. But, you have to really push it from the top to get that ping-pong ball moving through the balloon. So, that image really stuck with me when I was having this Braxton Hicks. Because I would see my stomach tightening and it would be really, really tight. But, it just didn’t feel like it was productive, if that makes sense. It didn’t feel like it was pushing anything downward. It just felt painful. To me, it was intense. But, it didn’t feel like a downward radiating pressure.
And then, when the real contraction started, I was like, “Oh, I have endometriosis.” So, I know these pains really well. They felt to me very similar to my period pains those couple days a month where I really can’t move. It was very similar to that. At first, I was like, “Oh, good. I know this pain,” and I’ll get breaks. Because during my period, I don’t get any breaks. It’s just a constant stream of pain for 48 hours. I thought, “Oh, this is going to be great. I’ll have minutes in between, and I’ll be able to catch my breath, and then go back into this kind of pain that I already sort of recognized.” I was like, “Great! That’s going to be awesome.”
None of that was true, but that’s what I thought when they first showed up. I was like, “Okay. I know what this is.” I was able to handle it really well. I also was trained well by my doula and Britta as well. Just to go to sleep as soon as I felt my labor pains. That was the main goal. As soon as I felt I was in labor, I was like, “Go to sleep,” because I knew I needed sleep.
Elliot: Yeah. Just to clarify. Britta is Britta Bushnell, who’s a childbirth educator, she’s a Ph.D. in mythology, she’s everything really. Her book is called “Transformed by Birth,” and there’s a lot of wisdom in there. Were the things that you were doing once your searches started similar to things that you had done to cope with endometriosis?
Natalie: Yes and no. I was sort of just in awe and really deciding, “Is this actually happening? Do I want to get excited?” I listened to enough of your podcast to know from all the other stories that don’t necessarily get excited if you feel like you’re going to labor because sometimes it’s not. So, I was really suppressing this feeling of excitement. But, once I realized that my adrenaline was pumping the way that it was, I was like, “I’ve never felt this before. This is just a new sensation in my body.” It made it different to deal with the pain. Because I felt like I could go do a major workout or something because I was amped. Even though I was being stopped with pain every few minutes. I started timing them because they were pretty close together. But, I also knew that didn’t really matter, and that it didn’t really mean much. You got to kind of pace it out. I’ve never given birth before, so I was really trying to pace myself. Like, “Don’t get too excited. It might just go away.”
I was told drink a ton of water because dehydration can make you think you’re in labor. My doula was like, “Nine times out of 10, when I get a call from a client, I tell them to go drink a bunch of water and then call me back.” Before I even called her, I was like, “I’m going to drink a ton of water.” I drink hydration packs and a bunch of water. My contractions were really steady. They didn’t improve with getting in the bath, or the shower, or laying down. So, I was like, “Alright, this is real. This is happening.”
And then, the goal became sleep. I was like, “How am I going to sleep?” My doula had recommended having a glass of wine, or a Benadryl, go to bed. But, that seemed insane to me. Because I was like, “I’m going to be so tired if I take a Benadryl right now, or I don’t really drink.” So, having lots of wines sounded awful.
Elliot: What a contrast from how you’re describing like you just had a Red Bull.
Natalie: Exactly. I was like, “I am ready to run.” I love Nate Bargatze, the comedian. His special came out that night. So, I put Nate’s special on, turned off all the other lights, and was just like, “Let’s get quiet. Let’s watch this.”
Elliot: He is so uniquely hilarious.
Natalie: Isn’t he? Just the most likable, lovely. It just brings me so much joy to watch the specials, and I was so excited that his new one was out the night I was giving birth. I was like, “Yes! What a perfect way to do this.” So, I turned it on and couldn’t watch a minute of it because I was distracted by these labor pains that would take me to this other planet, and I would miss half the joke. I would come back. My partner and my mom were here with me, were laughing, and I was like, “I missed it! I was in the contraction.
I asked them if we could turn it off. And then, we all tried to go to sleep. It was 9 o’clock. They fell asleep like little babies and I was just wide awake. Just in and out of the Jacuzzi, and the shower, and laboring and laboring and laboring. Eventually, I woke my mom up at 4:00 in the morning or 3:00 in the morning. I was like, “Hey, can you labor with me?”
Elliot: Wow! That’s a long time, 9:00 to 4:00, or 9:00 to 3:00, whatever it is. Did you feel lonely at that time? Were you able to get yourself comfortable?
Natalie: Yeah. I was real uncomfortable. I was bummed. I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t able to be still, so I went out of my bedroom with my partner so he could sleep. I went downstairs and just sort of watched this happen. I was so excited for this whole process to unfold. I just couldn’t wait to see what it was going to teach me. I knew it was going to teach me something. I was like, “This labor is going to teach me some deep things. And, this rite of passage, the way I would put it, it’s not going to be easy.” I’m just so excited to see what it’s like.
Also, your podcast really got me excited to have my own experience. Because when people come on here and talk about their experience, there was just something about listening to everybody’s stories that I was like, “I want my story. I want to know what mine’s going to be.” I was in awe of the whole experience. Just sitting back and watching it happen even though it’s painful. But, I had you in my head too just thinking there’s a difference between pain and suffering. I was like, “I’m not suffering. This hurts, for sure. It’s not fun, but I’m not suffering.” I was really prepared to work my ass off and oh I did! I worked my ass off. Yeah, I really labored hard.
Elliot: When your mom woke up to labor with you, what did she do? How was that helpful to you?
Natalie: It was really fun. I got in her bed with her and we FaceTimed my cousin, who lives in New York. She’s like a sister to me. I knew she’d be awake for work because she works super early. Her and I were chatting while I was laboring. She was really excited for me. And then, they started to get more and more intense. I thought I should talk to my doula. I got in the shower. I knew not to get in the bath necessarily because I didn’t want to slow anything down. I got in the shower. I was standing a lot and letting gravity do its thing. Trying to get on the ball. Eventually, I was just like, “This is intense.”
Are you trying to get on the ball in the shower?
Natalie: No. I was in and out of the shower.
Elliot: Was the warm water comforting to you?
Natalie: Yeah. The water was great. The most helpful was the Jacuzzi. I had the Jacuzzi going all night. So, I was in and out outside. And, early morning, I labored in the Jacuzzi for a long time. I turned it to like a reasonable temperature. I called Joni, my doula. Unfortunately, she had an emergency with another client. And so, she was like, “I don’t think I’m going to make it. I have someone great I can send.” I was like, “You know what? Honestly, I feel okay.” I really do want my mom in the delivery room with me at the hospital. So, really, I was just looking for her to be at the house with me.
I was going to try to get to transition before I got to the hospital. I wanted to go as long as I could at home. It worked out in the end that she was like, “Well, if that’s the case, you just want me at the house. I’ll just come now. And, when my other client needs me, I’ll go from your house.” I was like, “Okay, great.” So, she came in the early morning, sat outside with me. She took a lot of photos and videos, and she was so encouraging and so proud of me, and really proud of my partner. He did every single contraction with me once he woke up. We had done a labor together, yoga workshop. Shout out to Juliet.
Elliot: Oh, Juliet Kurth.
Natalie: Yeah. She’s the best.
Elliot: Silver Lake Yoga.
Natalie: At Silver Lake Yoga. I did all my prenatal yoga there. And then, she did a work job with partners. We had all these labor positions that we knew how to do. Joni was just sort of watching us and cracking up that we had prepped so much for this experience together. He was amazing and super just regulated throughout the entire experience. Just stayed really calm. We were ready to get intense. We were just like, “We know this is going to be intense.” We didn’t know very, very long.
Elliot: What time is it now?
Natalie: Yeah. In the early morning, it was 6:00, 7:00 a.m. when my contractions started to get on top of each other. There was no more breathing in between.
Elliot: This was 12 hours already into your labor or something like that?
Natalie: Yeah, at least. Because I had felt my contractions at 2:30 in the afternoon on Tuesday. This is Wednesday morning at 6:00 or 7:00. I really wanted my doula there just to tell me when it was time to go to the hospital. I just really didn’t trust myself being a first-time mom, but I just knew I would go too early.
And so, she looked at me at some point and I was deep, deep in labor land. Like on another planet, like not a person. She said, “You know I think if we wait any longer, the car ride to the hospital, and the walk-in, and the getting settled is going to be nearly impossible. They’re right on top of each other and long.” They were 90 seconds or more.
Elliot: What time was that happening?
Natalie: This was at 8:30.
Elliot: At 8:30 in the morning. Alright. It sounds like we’re about to enter a new phase of this journey.
Natalie: For sure.
Elliot: Let’s take a little break and we’ll be right back.
Elliot: Welcome back. We are talking to Natalie Dreyfuss, and here’s how her labor starts in the afternoon with a whole house full of people. You packed your bag. Try to go to sleep. Only, the other people can sleep. And then, you labor with your mom. Then, your partner wakes up. And then, your doula comes over. By 8:00 something in the morning, your contractions are right on top of each other, and you decide to trek out to the hospital. Had you been in touch with your doctor yet by this point?
Natalie: Yes. My doctor’s an angel from heaven. I am obsessed with her. I actually talked to her the night before just letting her know that I felt like I was in labor, but I was being really patient. I was doing everything I was supposed to do. She called me right away. She was like, “Oh, I had a feeling that she was going to be right on time.” I was like, “There’s no way she’s coming on our due date.”
Elliot: Still, you’re holding that line.
Natalie: Yeah. I was like, “That’s crazy!” She was like, “Yep. We’re doing it.” She was super encouraging.
Elliot: You had only met her a couple of months before, right?
Natalie: Yeah. I had switched late in my pregnancy. I met her when I was maybe 33 weeks, and built a whole relationship with her so beautifully and so quickly. I saw her today, and I just like fell into her arms.
Natalie: I have the greatest photo of us during this labor. Just like me staring into her eyes. It’s so cute, I said it to her. I was like, “Hey, my love for you is real,” which is very apparent.
Elliot: Yeah. She’s a different kind of OB than typical. She’s more like OB/midwife/BFF sort of hybrid.
Natalie: Yeah. She genuinely cares. It’s crazy. She knew that I had been laboring for a while. She talked to Joni I guess during my contractions. I wasn’t at all conscious of this. But, they had decided together it was time for me to go to the hospital because they didn’t want me to wait too long and not be able to handle the car ride. And so, it’s a little bit far. It was like 30 minutes.
Elliot: Okay. How was the car ride?
Natalie: Honestly, horrific. Like, “Oh, wow! That is morning traffic when you’re in labor is just so frustrating. I was not doing well by the time I was in the car. By the time, I got to the hospital, I’ve really had then started to move into a different feeling of suffering. I felt I was really you know starting to move into a place that didn’t feel healthy for me mentally, physically. I had told myself that if I got to a place like that, I was going to ask for help. Say like I want to have an Epidural, or I want to do whatever other options there are.
Elliot: I remember you said that in the previous interview.
Natalie: Yeah. The truth was what I really wanted out of the experience was to know that I had worked my butt off, and I really did labor like crazy, and did so many hours of contractions. And then, when I got to the hospital I was only about 4 centimeters.
Elliot: You say “only,” because you felt like you were further along?
Natalie: Yeah, for sure. Because my contractions were so intense, so long, so close together. They were right on top of each other. I knew that that could mean more dilation or less dilation. It’s not necessarily an indicator of anything. It can happen quickly, or slowly, or whatever. But, I did feel disappointed when they said that I was only 4 centimeters. and I think I was 90-something percent effaced or whatever. I was in it. But, at that point, I knew I needed to ask for help.
And so, I did. I looked at my mom. She was like, “Anytime you want to get help, I think you should do it. You’ve been working so hard and you also haven’t slept.” Because I hadn’t slept since 7:00 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Natalie: Yeah. This is now the following morning. At 10:00 or 11:00, I got settled. And then, I think around noon, I said, “Okay. I’m really suffering.” I’m like, “This isn’t good for me, so I want to do an epidural.” They’re like, “Oh, we’re so sorry.”
Natalie: Anesthesiologist is in a C-section.
Elliot: All tied up? Oh my goodness.
Natalie: Yeah. And so, my heart just dropped. They were like, “Maybe an hour, maybe two? Hopefully, he can squeeze you in between C-sections.”
Elliot: Holy moly! And, you’re not getting breaks?
Natalie: No. I had been in tears. I was really suffering. I was like, “I need a break. I need a breath. This is really crazy at this point.” I was nervous I wouldn’t have the energy to push after that many hours without sleep. I just needed some sleep. They were like, “Yeah. If you could just hold on.” I was like, “What are the options? Talk to me about options. Tell me what else we got.” They were like, “Well, we could put something in your IV. It’s not really going to help the pain, but you’ll care less.” I was like, “Put it in,” whatever.
Elliot: Also, sometimes, you can sleep on that.
Natalie: Yeah. I did. I was able to sleep. They were right, it didn’t really help with the pain but my brain was tripping balls. It was really weird. They put it in, and then my brain would be like, “Ow! Meatballs!” It was just weird. I was like, “Caterpillars?” I was like, “What’s happening?” I’m just tripping.
Elliot: They gave you Fentanyl?
Natalie: No. It wasn’t Fentanyl. I don’t remember what it was called. It wasn’t a narcotic that I’ve heard of. But, it didn’t take the edge off. It just really made you sleep and made you start to go into such a dream state that you were just like, “And I guess I’m dreaming.” I got maybe 40 minutes of sleep. And then, the adorable sweet anesthesiologist came in and was like, “I’m in between C-sections. I’m going to do this for you.” It was so lovely and caretaking. By that point, I was like, “I don’t care what’s going on. Just help me.”
Elliot: They woke you up to do it?
Natalie: Yeah. They woke me up. I had my doctor right in front of me holding my face, and I had this sweet anesthesiologist. He was kind of holding my head. And then, I had my partner, James, and my mom. Everyone was just holding on to me and so gently supporting me and really concerned about the epidural process. I hadn’t really learned about the process of epidural because I didn’t plan on doing it. I also just didn’t really want to know.
They explained all the things that can kind of maybe not go so well, or if I felt anything bad, I need to say or might I have to try a few times or whatever. It went totally smoothly. I just remember feeling so supported. Everyone in this room was just so caring and so loving. I guess that’s the thing I remember the most about the entire labor experience was, it being challenging but I felt so supported.
And then, the epidural kicked in. I remember another episode that I listened to on your podcast. I believe it was Alicia’s, who I know and love. She was saying that the epidural felt a little bit traumatizing because the just being so out of control and vulnerable, and I had a really similar experience. I was really frustrated. Once I was numb, I was like, “Give me the pain back. I hate this.” I was really angry at the epidural. I hated having cadaver legs and having everyone have to move me and, oh! I was just so frustrated. As a dancer and someone so connected to my body, I was like, “I hate this feeling!” Then it was definitely better than drowning in contractions. I was able to get an hour and 45 minutes of sleep, which was gold. And, before I started pushing and that was amazing.
Elliot: Do you know how many centimeters you were when they gave you the epidural?
Natalie: I don’t remember. But, I remember after I got it, I thought, “Oh, great. My contractions are going to slow down. They’re going to need to do Pitocin.” I had read up on all the reasons to not do an epidural, so I was like, “Here we go.” I actually kept progressing. I remember them saying, “Eight centimeters, 9, 10.” I don’t believe that they gave me Pitocin at that point. But, I was continuing to progress and I was like, “Great! Then I can sleep.” I’m just going to take this time to sleep. I woke up and I kept asking really specific questions. I was like, “What’s the station? Is she dropping? Should I be moving my hips like this? Should I be in this position?” They were like, “Girl, you’re numb. You’re not moving anywhere.” I was like, “But I trained for this.” They’re like, “No.”
So, once I got to the pushing stage, I just felt really frustrated. I was just feeling real out of control, did not like that. Didn’t like being so vulnerable. Having everyone have to do everything for me.
Elliot: You didn’t like not having control of your body?
Natalie: Yeah. I hated that. I just didn’t feel ready to push. My contractions felt they were just too weak. I’d had these big contractions all morning. And then, they just felt teeny. When I was trying to push, and I was like, “Give me one good one and I can do it!” I was like, “Turn the epidural down. I hate it. Give me Pitocin!” But, it’s still like my contractions just were not as big. I asked for Pitocin to amp it up because I wanted to be able to move her. She didn’t handle the Pitocin well at all. Her heart rate started to drop. So, we couldn’t do that and it was just like problem-solving. Like, “Okay, can’t do that. Okay, got to do this, can’t do that; don’t like this. Okay, next. Next.” I was really communicating with the provider and really communicating with the nurses, “Okay. I don’t like this. I need this. I need that.”
I looked over at my mom at some point, and she was just crying. I was like, “Are you okay?” She was like, “I’m just so proud of you for asking for what you need in such a clear way. It’s not your forte.” I was like, “It’s really not. I hate this.” She was like, “You’re doing it though. You were asking for your needs to be met.” I was like, “Yeah, okay.”
But at some point, I looked at my doctor and I was just like, “I can do better.” I was so mad. I was, “I know I could do better than this.” She was like, “Oh, honey. This is so not the case. It’s not about doing better.” I was like, “Okay. So, is this the lesson?” She was like, “I think this is the lesson that you’ve been waiting to see. What’s this baby going to teach you.” It was really that feeling of I had to get out of my own way and just learn to be patient. I was like, “Is it patience? Is that what it is?” She was like, “I think it’s patience.” I just said, “Okay, okay.” Because I wanted to participate and I was ready to use my training, and all this prep that I’d done, and every Instagram account I follow, and every book I’d read. That was just my first experience of parenting is just like, “Oh, cute.” You can’t prepare for the unpreparable.
Elliot: That is a big lesson.
Natalie: Yeah. It was hard. It was really long. She got stuck. I was not able to push her out. I pushed for I think it was 2.5 hours. It was really hard. That part was really scary. And then, it looked like C-section time at some point. My heart just sank. After so many hours of such hard work to end up in a C-section when I could have done this from the beginning. I was just like, “No.”
Elliot: When they said it looked like C-section time, were they suggesting that at that time or you just felt like how long can you push for?
Natalie: Well, it was about protecting her. I wanted to make sure she was safe and make sure she was tolerating being in labor for this long, and me pushing for this long. I knew that I needed bigger contractions to actually get her out, but the Pitocin was harmful for her. Whatever I need to do to have her safely, that’s what I was going to do. But, basically, my doctor was like, “Okay. We have a few options at this point. One of them is a C-section. I don’t think so that’s where we’re going to go with it, but the other is me using a vacuum and helping you out, and you can push and I’ll pull.” I learned enough about feedback and I was like, “Oh, no. I don’t really know what risk, benefit, reward system is with this.” At that point, it was just like this is what we got to do and I have to just trust in my doctor that it’s okay, and it’s going to be safe, and it’s going to be fine. I remember thinking like, “Oh, great. I’m going to tear like crazy.” Because I was pretty sure that people tear a lot with those. I thought I’d heard something like that.
Natalie: At this point, I’ve been laboring for so many hours. I was like, “Well, bye vagina. Here we go. Just whatever we got to do, man.”
Elliot: Glad you think about that. Have that talk.
Natalie: Yeah. I was like, “It was nice to know you, but we are no longer friends.” Yeah, we ended up doing the vacuum. We were able to do one big push, one big pull, and get her out. I was shocked at how hard you had to pull. I thought it was going to be kind of pulling. It was like, I saw her hand shaking. It’s hard. You have to pull real hard.
Elliot: But it is designed — you know the vacuum is a suction cup and it’s designed to — it only has a certain amount of pressure that it will pull before it just pops off to protect the baby.
Elliot: It’s a lot of guiding also. Trying to guide the baby’s head and shoulders through as you push. Especially if they’re not quite lined up with the runway.
Natalie: Yeah. That’s I guess what happened. When she turned, I think she was just a little bit crooked. I took a break when I was pushing. I’d pushed for maybe 2 hours. And then, my doctor was like, “You need a break. We’re taking a break.” She rolled me on my side. I think at that point, the baby actually turned herself in a better position. Because when I came back into not labor land and my doctor was like, “Your baby ran this show. She is so cool and she knew what she needed to do, and she took control of this.” I was like, “What? Okay.” But, I think that’s what she meant was that during that break, the baby was able to actually adjust herself.
Natalie: And then, she was able to guide her out.
Elliot: Okay. Then, that well. Congratulations on that part.
Natalie: Yeah. That was amazing.
Elliot: Let’s take a little break. When we come back here and find out what happened immediately after that, and how your golden hour and postpartum are going. We’ll be right back.
Elliot: Welcome back to the podcast. We’re talking to Natalie Dreyfuss. Wow! So, you made the call for the vacuum. You parted ways with your vagina, so to speak. And, one push. One big giant push. If they turn down the epidural, did you feel her coming out of you through your body?
Natalie: No. I felt really numb. But, I knew that I wanted to push the way that I wanted to push. I didn’t want to do this bearing down, like purple pushing or whatever it’s called. I wanted to breathe this baby down. I wanted to breathe her out. So, even though I was numb, I had enough body awareness to know that I was doing that. And, even though the nurse might have told me to do one thing, and my partner was telling me to do another thing, or whatever I knew what I wanted to do, they were, “Hold on to your legs.” I was like, “No, I hate that feeling. I want to hold on to these bars.” “No, set me up more.” “No, I need to be able to connect as much as I can feel.” And so, I felt like I did connect to my breath into the way that I was pushing.
It was just such a blur, but it was so much focus. I just remember such focused attention on exactly how I wanted to maneuver, and I moved a lot like an animal. I let myself just undulate, and squirm, and move. I was never sitting still, I was working my ass off. A big part of Britta’s book says that it’s, “Motion is lotion.” The movement is really important. I never stopped moving, even in between contractions or when anyone was telling me to. Eventually, they let me just sort of run the show more because they were like, “You push when you want to push.” They would say like, “Okay, push now and push for this many seconds now.” I was like, “Nope. I’m only going to do that when I feel like it’s the right time.” Eventually, they were like, “Yeah you know you’re right. We’re watching it on the monitors. You are much more connected to it than we could ever be, so go ahead.”
Elliot: There’s a lot of sensors in there. Yeah. But, first of all, 350 episodes of this podcast, and I’m pretty sure that’s the first time anyone said “undulate.” That is a milestone for us.
Natalie: I win some sort of award. I win the undulation award.
Elliot: That’s right. The Golden Undulate. But, in that final push, where you’re pushing the big push and she’s pulling, are you still numb at that point or do you feel the baby moving through?
Natalie: Yeah. I was numb. I had been crowning for a while. Everyone kept saying, “We can see she has hair.”
Elliot: Great. Get out!
Natalie: But, I couldn’t feel that really. I was pretty numb, yeah. My legs were really not mine. It just felt really strange. I did not love the feeling of being so disconnected from my lower half.
Elliot: Did you tear?
Natalie: No. I actually had one tiny stitch.
Elliot: Wow! So, that’s great.
Natalie: Yeah. It was amazing. I really had such minimal damage to any of my parts, all the parts. I really was shocked at how well that went. I mean, mostly that has to do with my doctor being so careful with that stuff, and really making sure that she did as much as she could to help me with that. The biggest thing I’m leaving out right now is just how involved my partner was in this whole process. He was so involved, and so in it. And, that’s such a big part of the experience for me too was just the vulnerability of just having him right there, with the doctor, up in every aspect of me and this process. Just having him so steady, and calm, and excited, and wanting to help, wanting to be a part of everything.
We had spoken about a birth plan. In that birth plan, if it was available for him to pull her out. We had discussed whether I would want to pull her out myself or let him do it, and his eyes just lit up at the idea of being able to pull her out. And so, I just knew that would be really special for him. So, when her head came out, they were like, “Look! Her head’s here. You can see her head.” I was just so focused. I was like, “I don’t care. Keep moving here.” I am in the middle of being a full lion, tiger, an animal right now.
Natalie: I’m undulating. Leave me alone. So, when her shoulders came through, I looked at him. I was like, “Go ahead.” My doctor looked at me, she’s like, “Are you sure you don’t want to pull her out?” I looked and I was like, “Nope. This is his thing.” He was so excited. So, he was able to pull her out and put her on my chest, which was so cool.
Elliot: So sweet and special.
Natalie: Yeah. He really was I think prepped really well for the intensity of the moments that were coming, and just was not thrown by any of it, and was such a steady calm force. I wasn’t sure if I would want to be intimate, or touched, or kissed, or have his breath near me, or hug him, or anything during something so challenging. But, every time he was near me, I felt comfort. Every time he came to give me a kiss, or hold me, or he was right there. He never left my side. He was with me every single contraction, breathing with me, doing the exercises with me.
I didn’t do hypno training kind of thing, but I did my own version of that. And, so much of that had to do with us doing it together, which was a nice feeling to not be in it alone. I was waiting to see whether I would hate that. But, I actually felt what a bonding experience the whole labor was just to have someone like me, who’s very independent and tends to be, “I love you. Go away.” I felt really open to the support of him, and I really trusted him to be down there and inspecting everything. He was like, “Okay. So this part of the vagina is doing this, okay. And, here’s what the poop is doing. Okay, great. I wing it. I want it.” He was moving bed stuff. He’s like, “Oh, this needs to be plugged in. I’m going to do that.” The nurses were just laughing. He’s just on it, doing everything.
And, when he lifted her out and put her on me, I just saw him change completely in that moment. I was emotional thinking about it, but he just became a dad that second. His heart just welled up, and we had talked about if I had to have a C-section and they had to take the baby, I couldn’t go with the baby, would I want him to stay with me and be with me, or what I wanted to go and take care of her? We both agreed, “Go! Be with the baby. I’ll be fine.” So, as soon as she came out, he was just such a Papa Tiger. Just like, “This is my child,” and they left her with us for that golden hour.
But, as soon as they went to do any measurements or put her by the warmer or anything, he was right there, just in the way, driving the nurses insane. He was just on her, and kissing her, and touching her, and holding her. He’s like, “What are we doing now? Okay. We turn this light on? Okay, great. Do you want me to measure her? Do you want me to…?” They were like, “Sir, please move away.” He was like, “No. This is my job. No.” Then, I was just kind of sitting back watching that happen. Because my exhaustion level and my connection and everything I knew that would take time for me to really feel like, “My baby.” So, to watch that happen for him was so sweet and special.
Elliot: When did that happen for you?
Natalie: I would say I’m still working on it. Even three weeks later, yeah. I still feel surprised by the amount of time it’s taking me to really feel she’s mine. Because I love kids so much and I love baby so much, I feel connection to all baby, like anyone’s child. I’m like, “I would love this for the rest of my life.” I feel immediate connection to kids in general. So, with my own, I just feel a bit tripped out by it still. It just feels like someone handed me this amazing baby to go play with and I get to play house with it, but it’s not mine. It’s still taking me time to feel that.
He feels the opposite. The second he lifted her out, he felt that, which I think is really special to watch and witness. I’d heard this from other moms, too. So, I did not like judging myself on it. But, I am surprised. I just felt like knowing me, I would feel this intense connection immediately, and it is taking time for me to really build these moments with her and our thing. I am a little bit afraid of when it hits full force because I can only imagine how crazy intense that is. So, maybe there’s a little bit of a protective mechanism happening.
Elliot: How is postpartum going otherwise?
Natalie: Postpartum is — I mean, holy mother of God. It is so intense.
Elliot: No, but really? How do you feel about postpartum?
Natalie: Yeah. Let’s don’t hold back. I knew it would be intense. I thought I prepped for that. I thought I prepped for everything. That’s my main jam. I am going to beat the odds. If I could just learn enough about postpartum, then I get to skip the hard parts.
But, that really hasn’t been the case. I’ve had a really frustrating, and rewarding, and amazing, and horrible three weeks. It’s everything at once. I think the second week was much harder for me than the first week. First week, it was kind of adrenaline-filled. We had so much fun in the hospital. The first couple of nights with her was the best. It was Groundhog Day because it was February 2nd. By the time we had the baby on February 1st at 8:30 at night. But then, by February 2nd, Groundhog Day was just on all the TVs all day, like the movie. This, on repeat. So, we just had this Bill Murray movie on and we ordered sushi, and had this new baby, and we were so adrenaline-filled, and had so much fun in the hospital. I couldn’t wait to get the baby home, and play with her, and get her into her new room, and I was so excited about it.
And, we got home and I fell apart. I was like, “I missed the hospital. I missed the people there. I miss having help.” I missed knowing that there’s options if I run into problems. The house felt really big and scary, and our little room felt so safe in the hospital. I just was completely overwhelmed when I got home, and kind of have been ever since.
Elliot: How do you deal with that?
Natalie: I think I just meet each moment with this problem-solving attitude. I am frustrated by the problems I’m running into. Breastfeeding has been really challenging. I’ve had to ask for help a lot. I’ve had to talk to people that I didn’t feel were super helpful. And then, find people that were helpful. I have to figure out just dressing a newborn is so challenging. I’m like, “Why are newborn clothes like this?” Where I have to torment my child to put these stupid pants on her. I hate all the clothes. Everyone’s like, “Get zippers. It’s great.” I’m like, “Cool. I have all the zippers.” I’m like, “What is this? This is horrible. I can’t get anything on this child. It’s so annoying.” And so, I’m constantly trying to figure out the SNOO, and figure out the sleeping situation, and figure out the clothing, and figuring out feeding, and is it okay to use formula? She has a dairy allergy.
Elliot: It’s so much learning curve.
Natalie: It’s so much.
Elliot: It’s so much learning curve. And, the learning curve is happening while your body’s in flux. Your hormones and emotions are in flux. Your sleep is in flux. It’s a lot. It has all the chemicals for being terrible. All the ingredients for being terrible. Also, sometimes, amazing at the same time.
Natalie: Yeah. The second week for me my hormones dipped, and I really fell apart. I know depression. I was like, “Hey, girl. Good to see you.” I was like, “There you are. I know you.” I have gone through bouts of this before, so I knew it was chemical. I knew to ask for help. I called my doctor. I was like, “Hi. Things got really dark.” She was like, “Great. Let’s get you meds. Let’s help you out.” I tried to do some SSRIS, and got violently ill. Just so sick. For me, I just couldn’t tolerate any sort of serotonin shift. I just had so much nausea, so much diarrhea. I had chills and vomiting, and I was really sick. And so, dehydrated because I couldn’t keep anything down. I still am having a hard time eating. I only took the meds for maybe three days before I started to get got sick.
And then, I couldn’t care for the child. I couldn’t stay up all night anymore because I was so sick. It made me so much more depressed that by the time I stopped taking the meds, I was like, “I’m not depressed anymore.”
Elliot: Mission accomplished!
Natalie: Yeah. I was like, “This was the best antidepressant of all time.” Because it got me so much sicker that I was like, “Oh, I thought it was bad before. This is infinitely worse.” As long as I’m not puking, I am not depressed. I’m great. So, I’ve tried that route, it wasn’t for me. I felt the hormones leveled out a little bit. I’m still having a hard time with eating. Now, I have this crazy diet because she has a horrible dairy allergy. And so, her whole face is crusted over and swollen shut. I was like, “Oh God. I’m accidentally poisoning my baby.”
Elliot: Wait. So, you’re off dairy?
Natalie: I have to cut dairy. It’s the worst. All I want is milk, and yogurt, and cheese. I just want pizza. So, I have to switch my whole diet around and hers as well. I have had to supplement with formula. And then, do goat formula and all that stuff. Like I said, lots of problem-solving here and there. But, I would say the last four days. The clouds of surge part a little bit. As she got really chunky this week, and I love it so much.
Elliot: Oh, the [unin].
Natalie: She’s substantial at this point. She’s a big girl. She gained 14 ounces this week. And so, they’re so squishy. It’s starting to feel different. I’m starting see that they’re not quite like babies yet. The newborn phase is a strange one. It really is that fourth trimester.
Elliot: Yeah. They don’t even realize that their arms and legs are attached. So, when they move by, they startle themselves. It’s just a very unstable — the second they get hungry; they’re screaming their little heads up. Like, survival. Like, “Will I get a meal or will I not?” I think every three weeks to me, there’s a huge change to the next chapter. And, you’re just getting into your first, past your first three weeks. Soon, they will realize their arms and legs are attached, and they realize that when they’re hungry, and make a little noise. They will get something to eat, and then eat over the next three weeks. After that the little interactions, the smiles and the coos, and the tracking it with their eyes, and things like that. And then, just of course, you find your rhythm with this sleeping, with how to get those little pants on without torturing them, and everything else. It starts to fall into place.
Natalie: Yeah, I agree. I can see how it’s starting to change in the past few days. And, it is where everyone does say. I guess I just thought I could be the exception. I had these stealthy expectations as Brené Brown would say, these expectations, you don’t even know are living in you. And, they show up and you’re disappointed somehow that you’re not special. You don’t get to bypass postpartum because you learned enough about it, or because you thought you bought the right things or had the right amount of support, or the right amount of help, or I don’t know. I just thought that I could prep enough, and that just doesn’t exist. That’s the lesson for me. I guess is just that this is what “nailing it” looks like.
Elliot: Well, look. It’s different for everybody. Life is a roller coaster. There are ups and downs. You’re a hard worker and you did put a tremendous amount of work into it. And, who knows what it would have been like if you hadn’t put that kind of work into it. But, flatline is death, not life. There are struggles, you conquer them. There’s victory, then there’s more struggles. There’s dips, there’s valleys and peaks. That’s life. And, with such a big transition, you would expect bigger ups and downs, and they’re happening.
Natalie: Yeah. Yesterday, I was looking through my phone and I’ve just got just enough distance from the labor to look back on the photos and stuff. I got really emotional about it. I was like, “Wow!” I just have enough space from it to really appreciate it. It was cool that I think I was about to text you because I just felt I had just enough space from this to be able to talk about it. I pulled up your name and you texted me. I was like, “Whoa!” I was sitting, next time, I was like, “Look at this.” I literally was about to text him and say, “Hey. I’d love to podcasts while it’s still fresh.” And, you’re like, “Are you ready to podcast?” I was like, “What?” Because we hadn’t spoken since before first one. I was like, “That’s so weird.” Yeah.
Elliot: Well, now, we did it.
Natalie: Yeah. I’m so grateful for this. Because it feels like a cool time capsule. I don’t know what story I’ll tell myself about what happened in the birth, or this first three weeks, or rewrite that history. So, it’s kind of cool that while I’m in it, just to have you give people the opportunity to really vent it out and process it honestly as I’ve told this story. So, I’m processing it as we’re talking about it as well. I just think it’s such a cool thing that you do, and I feel really happy that you included me.
Elliot: Thank you. I’m so honored that you came to join us and to share your excellent storyteller. I mean, it’s part of what you do in life. But also, just to let yourself be so open and just while you’re processing, take us along for the ride. I really appreciate that. What’s next for Natalie Dreyfuss? Do you have projects coming up?
Natalie: Just raising this baby.
Elliot: That’s a big project. That is the role of a lifetime.
Natalie: Yeah. I really feel like this is what I’ve been waiting for always. So, career stuff, it’s just really not on my mind. The next phase is just bringing together families and stuff. My partner’s family is all in Montreal. My family is on the East Coast. So, over the next few months, once I feel it’s safe, I want to introduce the baby to her peeps, and spend time traveling with her, and just really experience being a mom. This is what I’ve always wanted. So, the career part was always a means to an end for me. I was like, let’s make sure that I’ll be able to have what I really dream of having, which is a little baby.
Elliot: Amazing. Congratulations.
Natalie: Yeah. I can’t wait for you to meet her. I’ll come bring her in.
Elliot: I cannot wait to meet her, and I can’t wait to give you some postnatal T.L.C. for you.
Elliot: And, to our listeners, thanks for listening, and visit us online at informedpregnancy.com.