5 Things About Natural Birth That You Need To Know
Who here knows that you’re never quite sure how you’re going to feel about something until you take a step toward trying it?
I never thought that having my babies outside of a hospital was something that I ever wanted to do, but here I am at the end of the childbearing phase of life and I have only ever given birth to children in birth-centers, outside of hospitals, with no medication.
I also wasn’t sure if I could handle the pain and intensity of birthing children naturally. I always thought I was kind of a wimp and/or a diva when it came to pain. I used to like being taken care of and nurtured when I was sick (even when I wasn’t THAT sick). How would I handle all of the discomfort and pain of childbirth?
Let me tell you, I’m pretty sure that everyone has these thoughts, no matter what kind of birth they’re having.
And let me also tell you that if I can do it, you can absolutely do it too.
A few questions usually come to mind when deciding whether to have a natural birth:
What is natural birth?
Natural birth is more than just birth without medication. Natural birth is messy, empowering, painful, beautiful, exhausting, spiritual, defeating and exhilarating. It is the cross-section where complete helplessness and resilience meet. It is something that truly displays the strength of a woman and her ability to sustain and persevere through struggle. It is humbling, awkward, arduous and almost impossible, but damn is it worth it.
How painful is natural birth?
First of all, you’re stronger than you think. You don’t know it because you’ve never had to be that strong, but you are. You really, really are. I’m not going to sugarcoat this for you - labor and delivery both HURT. Contractions, back labor, stretching (and possibly tearing). If you’re going to birth without meds, there’s no way to avoid it. It is not easy, but it’s worth it.
It’s also over in an instant. Once the baby is out, your body calms the F down and there’s an immediate absence of pain and subsequently a rush of endorphins and euphoria unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. You’ll be so focused on the slippery baby in your arms that you’ll immediately forget the hours of pain that you just endured (you also won’t care about getting said slipperiness all over you. Before you give birth it may seems gross to have to touch a slimy baby before he’s been cleaned up, but in the moment you won’t care one bit).
What if I’m in labor for days?
There are lots of things in this life that are difficult; sickness, bad relationships, financial struggles and work to name a few. Labor is difficult, but there IS an end date. The baby ALWAYS comes out. There is ALWAYS a birthday. You won’t be in labor forever just like you won’t be pregnant forever. Even though it feels like you may be dealing with contractions for eleventeen years, I promise you won’t.
Yes, you could potentially be in labor for a few days, but it won’t be active labor. Remember that usually when people share stories of their long birth experiences, they’re referring to a time frame between the moment that labor started until the moment that the baby was born. You can absolutely be in early labor for a couple of days, but a lot of times in early labor you are still able to function as usual. When active labor hits - and you can no longer talk through a contraction - that’s when it gets hard. The good news is that usually when it feels really painful, it means that you’re progressing.
How do I cope without medication?
Near the end of each of my pregnancies, I made a playlist of my favorite songs to listen to when I was in labor. Most of them were mellow, some instrumental and a lot of them focused on something outside of myself - my faith. I listened to music with lyrics that beautifully focused on the one whom I think all of my strength, affirmation and life comes from. I’m not saying that it magically induced a pain-free labor, but I do think that focusing on something external helps to align your focus and get through contractions better.
Breathing techniques are also key, 100%. Before I delivered my first baby, I read the book “Hypnobirthing” (which sounds mild to moderately weird right off the bat - if you’re thinking, “hmm...that sounds weird” you’re in good company). The book claims that you can have a completely pain-free, natural birth if you utilize “special breathing, relaxation, visualization, meditative practice, attention to nutrition and positive body toning”. Personally, I did not experience a pain-free birth (far from it, y’all). However, I also didn’t follow the guidelines in the book to a T. Perhaps I would have had a different experience if I had. Perhaps not. My point is that the breathing techniques DID help. They break down the anatomy and science of breathing through contractions in the book and explain why specific breathing types are helpful for specific stages of labor.
At what point do I throw in the towel?
I don’t think the process of deciding this starts when you’re in labor. I think that beginning your pregnancy journey with a practitioner that you like and building trust over the course of the next 8 or 9 months is key. If you have no relationship with the person who is delivering your baby, then how do you know that they’re making decisions in the best interest of you and your child? How do you know that they’re recommending a c-section based on your schedule and not theirs?
In New Hampshire, I saw my midwives for an hour at every visit. She took my vitals, did tests, measured me and listened to the heartbeat but she also listened to my concerns about sibling adjustment, checked in on how my relationship with my husband was and just let me know that she was genuinely interested in all aspects of my life, my well being and emotional health. We built a relationship over the course of those 9 months (and the years following as I had more and more babies), so to say that I trusted her and her judgement would be a huge understatement. I trusted that she would respect my wishes and beliefs. I trusted that she would be completely honest with me. I trusted that in an emergency situation, she would make the best decision for me and the baby. And she came through for me on all of those things. So I would have trusted her if she had said, “I think we need to consider going to the hospital”, because we had created a foundation of openness, honesty and trust.
When you’re in such a vulnerable position in labor (in pain, not able to think straight let alone make decisions), you want to be able to trust your caregiver. And I did. THAT’S how I knew that I never had to throw in the towel, because she said and believed that I could push through the pain and bring this baby into the world.