Since I am headed into my second natural birth (i.e., medication-free, vaginal birth), I wanted to throw out a few of my thoughts regarding how I feel about it, what I would recommend to others considering this option, and some answers to questions I am frequently asked. The items below are based on my own experience and the experiences of others which I have observed. I am sure everyone has their own opinions and some people won’t agree with me. I just wanted to throw this out onto the internets for anyone who might be researching whether or not to try natural childbirth. (Also, you can read Little Sir’s Birth Story here). UPDATE: (2nd birth story – Little Lady’s Birth Story)
My personal opinions and advice:
- Obviously: First of all, although I believe that physically our bodies were initially created for natural childbirth, lots of things have happened in the last thousands (millions?) of years and there are some women for whom there are medical or physical issues preventing medication-free or vaginal births, and situations involving the safety of the baby and mother where it is just not possible. I think we can pretty much all agree on this. Therefore, I am not going to tell anyone that natural birth is for everyone, or that any woman can do it if she “really wants to”. Such an attitude puts unnecessary pressure and guilt on women and I feel like we should all discourage that kind of thinking and be more understanding.
- Where I differ from other natural birth advocates: Although many natural birth advocates will disagree with me on this one, I actually feel like there are some women who are legitimately not suited for natural birth on a personal level. For whatever reason, they are filled with fear or dread, they cannot overcome the anxiety of the possible complications, or they just aren’t OK with going unmedicated (or outside a hospital) for a variety of other reasons. I think it would be a terrible mistake for someone to attempt a natural birth because they felt they “should” and then go into it with terror, uncertainty, or even lack of preparation. I am not expert, but I can pretty much guarantee that you are setting yourself up for failure (not to mention mental trauma) if you aren’t 100% convinced in your heart that this is what you truly want. Know yourself, be honest with yourself, and accept whatever you decide as being perfectly OK! Tell everyone else to shut up.
- Pitocin: I also differ from most natural birth advocates when I say that I think anyone who is given pitocin to induce labor should get a free pass to use pain medication. I would say at least 50% of the reason I chose to give birth at a birth center is because I knew they would NOT give me pitocin. I am deathly afraid of it. Not only does it cause contractions with pain that is unnaturally high, but it can also stall out your labor progress for a time, which increases the amount of time you are in these unnaturally high amounts of pain. Or, perhaps labor is stalled in pitocin inductions because of the insane amount of abnormal pain, I don’t know. Either way, pitocin is an evil pain monster and I really don’t know how anyone could go without an epidural once they’ve been given pitocin.
- Natural birth takes a lot of preparation. An 8-week Bradley childbirth class is really only the minimum, in my opinion. You need to know every aspect of what is going on with your body at all points of labor, and you need to know not only the most common complications but how they are often approached naturally and medically. This is especially important if you are going to give birth in a hospital, where the default approach may be for the doctors or nurses to make decisions for you. You must know when you are OK with which medical measure are suggested or taken with or without your permission. The knowledge you acquire will remove a lot of fear and doubt, freeing you to focus on the positive aspects of your birth experience.
- Read encouraging books: Books I recommend, and recommendations from my Twitter followers: Ina May’s Guide To Natural Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin (affiliate link), Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy (affiliate link), Childbirth Without Fear – Grantly Dick-Read (affiliate link), and the documentary (DVD) The Business of Being Born by Ricki Lake (affiliate link). Often if you are taking Bradley childbirth classes, the instructor can recommend additional natural childbirth resources.
- Birth partner: if you have a partner (husband, life partner, boyfriend/girlfriend, mom, etc.) who will be with you during labor and is not OK with natural childbirth (for whatever reason), you need a doula. Period. Do NOT go into natural childbirth thinking you can “do this on your own”, especially in a hospital setting. You need someone who knows the comfort measures and can suggest position changes, get things for you, hold you, and can just BE THERE and not be reluctant or get freaked out. Also, in a hospital setting you might need an advocate on your behalf toward the medical staff as decisions are made. If your partner isn’t convinced regarding your desires, he/she isn’t going to be convincing to anyone else. If your partner is: afraid of blood, afraid of seeing you in pain, or of the opinion that you need drugs and are crazy for trying this, or even just undecided, hire a doula. You will be glad that you did.
Aside from just listing my opinions, I’d like to answer a few questions I am frequently asked, or things people are horrified about when I told them I was doing natural birth the first time (at a birth center).
Frequently Asked Questions:
How can you give birth and then go home from the birth center 6 hours later??
In my experience, and as far as I can tell from the experience of other natural birthing mamas, recovering from an unmedicated childbirth is often faster than when you have been given drugs. Natural birth allows your natural dopamine hormones to kick in, often giving you a surge of peace and energy right after the birth, despite how exhausted you are physically. Breastfeeding immediately after the baby exits the womb helps with that. An epidural or other painkillers can leave you a little sluggish and foggy, you don’t have that if you haven’t had any drugs. Also, you do not have the amount of physical pain that comes with major surgery as in the case of a c-section, so walking around short distances (to the bathroom, to the car) really isn’t too much of a problem. For the most part, even though I had an episiotomy, everything worked just fine within 4-5 hours after birth. I could get up, walk to the bathroom, walk to the car, and around the house just fine with no pain. That said, the midwives suggested I stay IN MY BED at home for 3 days straight, and I did that. I did not leave my bed except to pee for 3 full days. So in that respect, it was no different than the hospital, except that I was more comfortable because I was in my own bed in my own house, and I think 3 days is possibly longer than you get at a hospital (?).
Why would you want to go straight home and have to take care of the baby 24/7 immediately? Didn’t you want to hand the baby to the nurse and get some sleep?
Part of my answer here is that, again, you need to have a committed birth partner and/or someone who is going to take care of you and the baby for at least a week after the birth. Little Sir was right next to me in a bassinet the whole time from right after birth and the entire first week, and my husband brought us food and everything we needed. We hooked up the computer in our bedroom and watched Netflix and Hulu in bed, the 3 of us. It was actually one of the sweetest times in our marriage. Or, maybe that was my hormones, I don’t know…There was also a lot of pre-planning done to make sure we did not have any social commitments, deadlines, or expectations that we would go anywhere or do anything in those first few weeks.
The second part of the answer is that, if you and your partner are taking care of your baby yourselves from the minute he/she is born, there really isn’t any period of shock when the medical professionals leave. You just do what you need to do, instinctively, from the very beginning, and it works out and it seems normal. Or, at least, it did to us.
Didn’t you think you might die (regarding the pain)?
Maybe a little. But I was expecting that, and I had accepted the idea of pain. They taught us a neat little acronym in Bradley classes about the pain, which is that pain is: Productive, Anticipated, Intermittent, Normal. I found all those words to be true and I kept reminding myself of them.
In addition, since I was at a birth center, I was not hooked up to anything, I could walk around, sit, stand, kneel, get in the birthing tub to labor, etc. I was not forced to lie down, ever (in fact, the idea of sitting still was painful to me, I felt like I had to keep moving to work through the contractions). No one was around except my husband and myself, with a midwife nearby. There were no doctors and nurses going in and out constantly checking me or sticking me with needles, or anyone asking questions or needing to interact with me in any way. I kind of went into a zone and no one bothered us.
Bradley classes also taught us pain management measures. I had music playing which I had chosen. It was warm and comfortable in the room. Christian was there for me to lean on during contractions. All of these things helped and I was not afraid or worried.
Also, I was not given pitocin, which I really think helped me since I am so afraid of it.
I might actually be more concerned about labor this second time around, because I know how the pain is going to feel. Hopefully our second “reminder” round of Bradley classes will help with that!
Feel free to leave additional questions for me if you have them and I’ll be happy to answer them! Or, feel free to share your own comments/suggestions for me on my second time around!