I Got the Natural Birth I Always Wanted, Despite Every Fear I Had About Being Plus-Size

plus-size mom in labor
Kathryn Johnson Photography

This article originally appeared on KJBirth.com and is reprinted here as part of a series dedicated to providing support and visibility to plus-size pregnant mothers. To read more stories, visit Plus-Size, Pregnant & Proud. To apply to join our private community on Facebook, click here.

After several years of being married, my husband and I decided to stop using all forms of birth control in the hopes of conceiving our first child. Time went by, two years passed, and still there was no happy face, no little plus sign, nothing. There were many months where I felt sad and defeated, but at the same time, deep down inside, I had guarded my heart. I convinced myself that because of my size, pregnancy just wasn’t going to happen.

Being a plus-size woman, I never felt comfortable seeking fertility help or guidance from my ob-gyn. Difficulty conceiving was not something that was foreign to me. I had family and friends who had faced their own fertility struggles, and I always had it in the back of my mind that getting pregnant might be even more difficult for me because of my size. I kept telling myself I needed to lose weight, and then I would seek help -- but I never lost enough to gain that confidence. Almost three years after stopping birth control, I didn't really track my cycles anymore, and I rarely took a pregnancy test if my period was late. I had mostly given up.

  • Then one evening at dinner, I felt a little off.

    I'd been having cramps and assumed my period was coming, but when I went to take a bite of chicken, I suddenly felt nauseous. Without saying anything to my husband, I went to the bathroom, dusted off the old box of pregnancy tests, and took one. BAM, that perfect little plus sign I had been wanting for so long! I called my husband into the bathroom, and he was so excited. Meanwhile, I was mostly in shock. I went on to take three more tests that night, all positive. I couldn't believe it!

    After getting the positive home pregnancy test, I immediately started to worry about my first appointment. Would my doctor be concerned about my size? Would they judge me for being overweight and pregnant? Would I automatically have complications? Luckily, my ob-gyn was nothing but supportive. I brought up my size, and we discussed how much weight I should gain. She wasn't concerned about my health at all, which put my fears at ease.

    But I was still worried about whether or not my size might affect my desire to have a natural birth. It seemed like ALL the other natural birthing mamas I knew or saw in photos were super in-shape, organic-type women -- not that there's anything wrong with being that way; I often wish I was that way. But I was embarrassed because I thought being larger meant I had a lesser chance of achieving my birth goals. So I decided to hire a doula to be my coach and advocate. From our very first conversation, she assured me that I could achieve the birth I was hoping for.

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  • My due date was June 26, but from the start, I told myself I'd likely go into labor late and joked about having a Fourth of July baby.

    The Fourth of July came and went, and in the early morning hours of July 5, I noticed some cramping when I woke up around 3:30 a.m. for one of my many bathroom breaks. I got excited, but I also remembered our doula saying to rest as much as possible during early labor, so I quickly got back into bed and tried to go back to sleep. 

    I dozed on and off until 4:30 a.m., when I rolled over and felt two strange popping sensations. I wondered if it was my water breaking. I hurried to the bathroom, and to my excitement, it was my water breaking! But to my disappointment, the fluid was greenish brown. I knew the colored fluid meant baby had passed meconium -- a complication that puts unborn babies at risk of aspirating meconium, which can block their airways -- and my original plans of laboring at home as long as possible were no longer an option we were comfortable with.

  • We arrived at the hospital around 8:30 a.m., and my contractions were about five minutes apart.

    As they got more intense, I was having trouble walking and talking through them. At 9 a.m. I was checked, and was already four centimeters dilated. My doula arrived and was immediately worth her weight in gold by applying counter pressure to my back to help ease my pain and being a positive and supportive addition to my birth environment.

  • Sadly, my little man wasn't tolerating my contractions, and his heart rate kept dropping lower than is normal.

    An IV with fluids was suggested and I accepted it. After the IV was in place and I'd changed positions several times, the baby still wasn't doing well, so my doctor came in and discussed performing an amnio infusion -- a method in which saline is instilled directly into the amniotic cavity to thin out any meconium in the amniotic fluid. I accepted.

    By 11:30 a.m. I started feeling nauseous and threw up, a lot! By noon, I was seven centimeters dilated and things were picking up. From this point until the baby was born is all a blur to me.

  • I had the room dark and quiet and used lavender essential oil to stay calm and relaxed.

    l was in the zone, working during contractions and resting between them. I had a warm rice bag on my back and ice cold wash cloths for my face and stomach. I labored in many different positions, including on the bed, next to the bed, and even spent time laboring on the toilet. I was so thankful to have my amazing husband, my mother, and my doula by my side, constantly offering encouragement and comfort measures.

    Through it all, the baby's heart rate was still dropping through contractions, but he was doing just well enough for us to continue. I am thankful I never felt that "I can't do it" panic. I felt fully supported by my birth team and was confident that my body knew what it was doing.

  • By 5:30 p.m. I was 10 centimeters dilated -- woo-hoo, baby time!

    I felt a very strong urge to push. At this point, our baby boy was no longer tolerating the contractions and the drops in his heart rate were more concerning. My doctor very seriously told me that I needed to push hard to get him out, sooner rather than later. I remember my doula leaning over and telling me I probably only had a few more contractions to get him out before they would recommend other options. I asked the doctor and the doula if it was even possible to get him out in three contractions, and they said yes, so I got to work! Pushing was hard work but it was such an exciting time. It is truly amazing how adrenaline is a natural pain reliever.

  • At 6:23 p.m. on July 5, our handsome little man was born.

    It was such a rush. I cried out, "He's here, I can't believe he's here. I did it! I did it!"

  • I’ll never forget the moment I held my son for the first time.

    He made everything worth it -- all my efforts for a healthy pregnancy, all my preparation for a natural birth, and of course the actual labor. Those first moments holding my son, I no longer had any insecurities about being plus-size. I was finally a mother, and I was on cloud nine.

  • I am thankful to my doula who took the amazing photos in this story.

    Even though I cherish them dearly, I regret not hiring a professional birth photographer. I was embarrassed of my size and at the time it just wasn't something I could get past. If I am blessed with another child I will definitely hire a birth photographer.

  • Motherhood is filled with so many beautiful moments.

    I refuse to let the size of my body prohibit me from documenting such amazing memories.

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