Note: This post is written for those who desire to have a natural, unmedicated birth. Its not meant to shame anyone for having their baby a different way, whether by choice or circumstance.
This one time, my brother was born in the back of a car on the way to the hospital. And I was there for most of it. To this day I have a very vivid memory of that event and I was concerned that my births would be as quick as my mom’s with my brother and I (maybe I should have my mom do a guest post and tell his birth story?).
When I was pregnant with Lucy, I wanted a natural birth. I researched and studied birth techniques. I attended an overly informative Bradley-ish type class. I made my husband, God bless him, suffer through pregnancy nutrition and breastfeeding classes. I practiced my mental calming techniques and breathing exercises. I watched, “The Business of Being Born” and other beautiful natural birth videos. I thought my birth experience would be like that.
And then I was in labor. For over 24 hours. At some point I remember thinking, “I’m done, I quit! This baby is just going to have to stay in and I’ll try another day when I have more energy. Are there any stories of mothers stopping labor when they’re already to the pushing stage? Maybe I’ll be the first and set the record.”
But I did it, I pushed that baby out without any pain medication! There were many times during my labor experience that I thought about an epidural and had I been in a hospital rather than a birth center, probably would have gotten one. My labor was long, and I was in hard labor and transition for about 10 hours with 3 1/2 hours of pushing, and I’m sure that hospital staff would have encouraged other medical interventions (i.e. pitocin, suction, c-section, etc). Later I thought, “That was really hard. But doable”.
(Sidenote: I’m not against epidurals AT ALL, and am thankful they exist to help women during labor. I chose not to get one during my first birth because I was terrified of being temporarily paralyzed from the waist down (seriously, even my arm falling asleep almost sends me into a panic attack). All that to say, this isn’t a judgement on those who get epidurals. Especially because when I went into labor with my third I was desperate for an epidural from the beginning, even though I was going to have a c-section! Girl, however you have that baby, you rock!)
My point is:
1) A natural, unmedicated labor and birth is hard, but doable. Women have been doing this for thousands of years, so you can do it too. (And if you need or end up choosing to have other medical interventions, they’re available to you.) Its hard, it may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but you can do it.
2) If you end up with an epidural, it does not mean you’re weak or a failure; there is no shame or judgement there. If you’re hoping and planning for a natural, unmedicated birth, but end up having an epidural, medical interventions, or a c-section, you need to know that you’re not a failure. I hear so many stories of moms who feel incredibly disappointed with their birth experience, or like they failed themselves or their baby in some way because their birth didn’t turn out like they planned. Sometimes you just need to hear it from someone else: You. Are. Not. A. Failure. Don’t put all your hopes and expectations on a certain birth experience. Think about how you will feel and respond if things don’t go according to plan or if your expectations aren’t met. Hold loosely the desire for a natural birth, and then embrace what actually happens.
3) Don’t be afraid of the pain. Giving birth is painful, but the pain is productive. It means that your body is doing what its supposed to do, getting ready to have your baby. Don’t be afraid of it, learn how to work through it and manage it.
4) If you’re serious about having an unmedicated birth, get serious about preparing yourself. Having gone through an unmedicated birth (with lots of pain), and later an unmedicated labor (hardly any pain or discomfort, so relaxed that I didn’t realize I was in true labor until the very end) that ended in a c-section, I would strongly recommend that if you desire to have an unmedicated birth that you take a good labor class (like the Bradley method or Hypnobirthing) and prepare yourself for laboring. Its a little like running a marathon, and you wouldn’t want to go into that without training, would you? Yes, your body will do what it needs to do, but you need to be mentally and emotionally prepared: have breathing and pain management techniques and have a support person or team around you. You can always get an epidural once you’re in labor, but if you would rather not have one you will be as prepared as possible.
Giving birth is a beautiful thing, no matter how you do it! Giving birth without pain medication is difficult, but you can do it!
Have you had a natural birth experience? Have anything to add?
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