Tips for a natural child birth. (You can do it!!!)
Since posting Lucy's birth story I've gotten some questions for tips on having a natural child birth. When I was pregnant all I heard were horror stories and I was terrified, so I'm here to share a great experience!! It can happen! I did it and it was SO much better, and dare I even say easier, than I expected! I always thought child birth was supposed to traumatize you, but I'd do it again a million times if I knew it would always go this way! So I'm going to share what worked for me! Obviously every woman/baby/birth/situation is different and I would never advise going against your doctor's advice or anything like that, but sometimes I think women have experiences they don't want because they don't know their options. So, I'm here to share what worked for me!
First, let me just say: if I can do it, you can do it! I'm usually a giant wimp when it comes to pain. Even the day Lucy was born, when we were admitted to the hospital and they asked if I thought I'd want an epidural, I said no to start off, but fully expected I'd end up getting it.... and Josh later told me he thought I'd have one within an hour. Ha!
For a little over half of my pregnancy I think I was in denial about having to give birth. I just didn't think about it. And then all of a sudden it hit me: this baby has to come out somehow, and I wasn't a huge fan of (either) of the options. An epidural seriously freaked me out, and a c-section freaked me out even more. I honestly didn't think a natural child birth was really an option for me, given the huge wimp when it comes to pain thing. Seriously, menstrual cramps have landed me on the floor in agony before. I read stories about women who did it all natural and I thought they had some sort of super power or something.
Towards the end, I decided I'd like to do it natural because the thought of someone jabbing a giant needle in my spine freaked me out. <--- this was seriously my biggest reason. I didn't care about doing it to prove to myself or anyone else that I could, or to be one of those "women with a super power." My other main reason was because I know several people who had less than desirable experiences with an epidural, and I just didn't want to deal with that. These experiences include but are not limited to: a terrible spinal headache for days following birth, the epidural quit working on one (or both) side, and nerve damage/severe back pain for months after birth. To me these did not sound like fun ways to spend my first few hours/days/weeks with my new baby.
So I read a few natural child birth stories on the internet to prepare myself.... and I think it did more harm than good. So many stories about how it was the worst thing ever. I think one woman said in order to prepare herself, she thought of the worst pain she could imagine (like someone sawing off her arm) and then imagined how she would cope with that. And she did that every day for months to get ready. WHAT?!
It does NOT have to be that way. Yes, it's uncomfortable... but if you let things happen on their own it starts off totally bearable... so your body gets prepared for the more intense/painful contractions and is able to handle them. So here are my biggest tips if you want a natural child birth:
- Have a good birthing partner. I could NOT have gotten through that day without Josh. He was amazing! I squeezed his hand through each contraction, and he would talk me through them. He rubbed my back, did squats with me, got me a heating pad, took me for walks around the halls....he was SO supportive and did whatever he could to make me more comfortable. If you don't think your husband can do it, find someone who can - whether it's your mom, sister, a friend, or hired help. We looked into hiring a doula because Josh wasn't sure if he could do what I needed him to do, since obviously neither of us had ever been through it before. (We were a little late to the doula game though, so they were all booked up by the time we started looking! Now I'm actually glad we didn't have one because I ended up not wanting anyone extra around when it got intense, but I can definitely see how one would be helpful too!)
- Let things happen on their own. Don't get induced if you can help it. Pitocin-induced contractions hurt so much more. I don't know this from experience obviously, but I have friends who have been both induced and gone into labor on their own, and one said when she went into labor on her own she didn't even know it because the pain was so much less intense than being induced! Drugs will also often times slow down labor.. which increases your risk of needing other interventions as well.
- Your baby is probably not late, don't force him out. One thing I learned is that doctors base your due date off your last menstrual cycle. This is probably only accurate for.... a small percentage of women? I don't have statistics, but my point is your due date is probably not 100% accurate unless you know exactly when you conceived, and most women don't. (Hint: it's not necessarily the night you had sex) My original due date, based off my LMP, was December 3rd. They ended up moving it to the 13th (which is when she was born) based off an early ultrasound measurement, but if they had kept it on the 3rd she would have been 10 days "late" and they probably would have wanted to induce me before then.... when really, the 13th was accurate and she wouldn't have been late at all. Had they induced me, I'm 100% sure that my birth experience would have been vastly different and not at all what I wanted. Also, most doctors want to induce you at 41 weeks (1 week late) but I was prepared to go to 42 weeks... they will tell you there are risks involved in waiting that long, but, 1- you are probably not actually that late anyway and 2- the "risks" are minor and not evidence based. (Check out Evidenced Based Birth for lots of info!)
- Your baby is probably not "too big." Sometimes doctors will tell you that your baby is too big to go through the birth canal, especially if you're "overdue." I'm sure this may be true in some cases, but they can not accurately tell how big a baby is on an ultrasound anyway... I know someone who was repeatedly told she was going to have a 10+ pound baby... and baby came out at 7lbs! Give your baby and your body a chance to do what it was designed to do!
- Take contractions a minute at a time, know that pain = progress, and BREATHE. These three things were what helped me the most to get through each contraction. Knowing that they wouldn't last forever, the pain was temporary and had a purpose (moving the baby down and helping her get ready to be born!) kept me focused. Every time one would come on, I would squeeze Josh's hand and breathe like I was blowing out a candle, while he would tell me how much time was left and remind me that we were getting closer to meeting our daughter.
- If your hospital has a birthing tub, use it! I wasn't allowed to actually give birth in the tub, but I was allowed to labor in it as long as I wanted to and it really helped! I didn't know it at the time, but I did pretty much all of my transitioning in the tub.
- Know that your body was designed to do this and be confident! I may not be the best person to give advice on being confident, since I didn't feel very confident beforehand, but once I went into labor I just put the thought of an epidural out of my mind. I just never thought about it again - I think because as I said before, the pain was intense but manageable. The only time I remember thinking I couldn't go on was when I was pushing her out and by then it's too late anyway... :)
I hope this helps someone who is scared about giving birth, on the fence about going natural, or just curious about it in general! Like I said, everyone and every situation is different... (heck, I'm half paranoid that my next birth will be awful since this one was so great! and no, I'm not pregnant! ha!) but I do believe there are things you can do that increase your chances of having a good experience. If anyone has any questions, feel free to reach out! I'd love to help in any way I can! :)
Also -- just remember, the intense feeling of joy when meeting your baby for the first time is worth it all 100 times over. I honestly can't even remember what the pain of pushing her out felt like anymore!