The decision to have an unmedicated, natural labor is a very personal choice. In this day and age, most women get to choose their preferences regarding labor and delivery. Every woman has an opinion on how she wants her big day to go. Though it's impossible to completely generalize, there seems to be a divide between 2 camps.
Camp #1 - Pain Meds Please
This camp is for Moms that don't want to think about how the baby comes out. There will be no inquiries made about how to manage labor pain other than the ‘give me anything and everything you’ve got’ blanket request for pain meds.
Some women simply don’t want to deal with any kind of pain or discomfort. Which is perfectly understandable.
Let’s face it, that is a bit unrealistic because being pregnant is generally uncomfortable. Not only do we have to start publicly talk about things like vaginas and birth canals, but we have to experience the aches and pains of the actual pregnancy.
There’s the unannounced passing of loud and sudden gas that happens without warning. Then there’s the constant urge to pee along with horrific heartburn. And if you’re unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of morning sickness, then the ‘pain’ of pregnancy can really suck.
So I get it, maybe the pain of pregnancy is enough. By the time 9 months comes, you’re done with discomfort.
Camp #2 - UnMedicated, Natural Labor
A Camp #2 female may announce something to the effect of: "I want to hypno-birth my baby into the world at home, in a water birthing pool while being massaged by my doula."
And all this with no pain medication, please.
There are many reasons why some women opt to have a natural birth. Some have a fear of medication or perhaps they don't like to be in a hospital. Others want to experience the challenge of natural labor.
Fact: Camp #1 women will never understand Camp #2 women and vice versa. Life would be pretty boring if we all wanted to do things the same way, right? Each to their own, we say. In the end, all Moms want healthy babies. How an individual reaches that goal is entirely up to them.
There is a Camp #3 BTW - these are the women who have some sort of medical condition where they don't get to choose what type of labor and delivery they have. My heart goes out to the ladies who cannot choose how their L&D goes.
Natural Labor Camp #2 For Me
I fell into Camp #2. After reading Spiritual Midwifery by Ina Garten, I felt strongly that my body was meant to deliver babies naturally.
I was also absolutely terrified of getting a needle put in my spine.
Plus I didn’t care for the smell of hospitals too much.
I found a doula and immersed myself and my husband into birthing classes right around the 6th month of pregnancy.
Our plan was this: inflate the birthing pool at home and have a home birth. Luckily for me, my doula was able and willing to support me on this plan, as was my Doctor.
With one condition.
Making A Deal That Works
A few years before getting pregnant, I had part of my cervix removed thanks to an HPV invasion. My Doctor was concerned about scar tissue, so we made a deal.
If I went into labor naturally then I could stay home and let things progress. But at some point during the labor, I had to go to his office and get checked. Assuming all would be well, we could all go to my house and Carry On Camping.
This seemed reasonable to my hormonally charged self so we shook hands and went home.
Going Into Natural Labor
My waters broke around 11 pm at night, almost 2 weeks before my due date. I had just rolled into bed and gotten into the most joyously comfortable position when I started to pee.
Or so I thought.
A quick waddle to the bathroom and I discovered that the peeing wouldn’t stop. A knicker inspection confirmed that this wasn’t pee.
It was my water breaking.
First Born Freak Out
My husband told me to get back into bed after we had contacted our Doc & Doula. I think he had hoped we could catch some shut eye but there was no way that was happening for me.
We laid there for hours becoming accustomed to what were sporadic contractions until around 3.30am.
Being a birthing novice I was perturbed that the contractions were irregular. We decided it was time to go to the office.
The drive there was scary and uncomfortable. When you don’t know what you don’t know, you become convinced that you must be fully dilated and ready to pop at any moment.
Imagine my frustration when the doctor checked me and announced I had barely dilated. 5 hours into labor and I had made no progress.
A Little Help From My Doctor Friend
My doctor decided to do a bit of a membrane sweep. A river of amniotic fluid came out of me and then it felt like labor was ON!
Perhaps my clever doctor knew that I wouldn’t want to drive all the way back home after the office visit? After a brief discussion with us, it was decided that I finish off my labor in the hospital. Truthfully, it wasn’t too hard to persuade me to walk over to the hospital rather than get back in the car.
My husband went home to get the birthing pool and the rest of my team came with me to the hospital.
Natural Labor Is A Mental Game
Natural labor is (IMHO) a mental game. Even when you have a comforting doula and a supporting husband around you, your mind plays tricks on you.
While spending the next 5 hours in and out of the birthing pool, I rehearsed any and all catastrophic outcomes in my head. Would the baby survive the labor? Would I survive the labor? Will the baby be healthy?
I had several panic attacks throughout those last few hours. Screaming and yelling wasn’t serve me in any way. If anything it just exhausted me. Crying is pointless too.
Labor feels like you’re swimming the breadth of an ocean and if you stop or give up, you’ll drown.
The Turning Point
After about an hour of extremely painful but ineffective pushing, I had a mental shift. I began envisioning holding my baby. I knew that the only way to get the pain to stop was to go towards the pain.
To go through the pain.
Suddenly I started making progress and the head was visible. It was almost as if I had relaxed into my situation. I had total acceptance of what I was doing.
I essentially let go and started pushing as if I was trying to do the biggest poop of my life.
Once I began that, my baby came out FAST!
Second Times A Charm
When the time came for baby #2 to arrive, I felt like a birthing pro. My husband announced post-delivery that the labor had been ‘boring.’
I had gone into the room completely focused on the ‘job at hand.’
I replaced my wails with ssshing so my mouth and jaw stayed loose and relaxed.
I actually welcomed the contractions and realized that the only effort I needed to add was the final few pushes. The baby came down the birth canal all by herself.
Food For Thought
If you’re thinking of having a natural birth:
- Get a doula. They can advocate fon your behalf, support you and give you all the physical reassurance you may need throughout the birth.
- Be open-minded to any birthing outcome. Even if that means a C-Section. Nobody can predict how your birth is going to go. So go with the flow. You’re a Mom no matter how your baby comes out.
- No amount of screaming or fear is going to stop the birthing process. So don’t waste your energy on it.
- Being able to walk out of a hospital on the same day you have your baby is awesome.
- I felt like a hardcore rockstar after naturally birthing. I was literally on a high for days. I’d imagine irrespective of your camp, most mothers feel the same way when their baby arrives too. If you do feel like natural labor is for you, just know that you're going to feel like a WARRIOR when you come out the other side.