I was asked by a friend to flesh out some things on natural childbirth. She’s currently pregnant with her second baby and is seriously considering it, which I am so stoked about! The thing is, I’m not sure where to begin. There are books and articles galore on this subject, so I thought I’d write a little article of my own on how to effectively prepare yourself for a natural childbirth.
When I was pregnant with Corey nine years ago (!), a friend of Jamie’s told us about a birthing method called The Bradley Method of Childbirth. We were already considering a drug-free birth, but this gave us a focus to our studies. At the time, we couldn’t afford any classes, so we did our best to follow the practices outlined in the book we bought. When it came time for the actual birth, we were fairly confident of our goals and we had a clearly defined birth plan. At the hospital, the staff was far from supportive. Because I was going drug-free, I was LOUD. The nurses seriously told me to be quiet because I was disturbing the other patients. An anesthesiologist was then sent in to persuade me to get the epidural, to which I consented. The epidural gave me the shakes, slowed my labor, and made it incredibly difficult to push. I considered myself lucky not to have had a c-section.
My next three births were: 1) Bradley Birth at the hospital, 2) Piticin-induced, pain med-free hospital birth, and 3) home birth. From all of these experiences, I learned that there are three things a woman should have in order to have a natural chilbirth:
There are numerous books on the subject of birth. There are also several methods of childbirth. My first advice is to read. Read as much as you can about all the different birthing methods. Most likely your local La Leche League group has a lending library with birthing books of all types. If you can afford it, take birthing classes specific to the birthing method you have chosen. We took Bradley classes during our second pregnancy and it made all the difference in the world. Not only will you learn what to do during a “normal” labor, you’ll learn about what to do when there are problems.
I went to the hospital in very early labor with Aiden (my second). After being there for almost 24 hours, my labor stalled. I had reached what is referred to as the “natural alignment plateau”. It doesn’t happen to everyone, but when it does happen, hospital staff gets antsy and they could start threatening you with words like “pitocin” and tell you that your baby “needs” to come out. The thing was, I hadn’t eaten or had anything to drink in an entire day. My body was shutting down. We called our Bradley teacher to ask what we should do and she came to the rescue with a Lunabar and a bottle of juice. I ate a little, sipped some juice, and you know what? My labor picked up and Aiden was born within the next couple of hours.
This leads me to the issue of support. A woman who wants to have a natural birth needs to surround herself with a circle of family members and friends who will support her decision. As we learned with our first birth, it isn’t enough to have a birth plan if the hospital staff won’t honor it. No, we needed a team to stand up for our decisions. Even during pregnancy, you should try to associate with people of the same mindset. It isn’t helpful to have family members and friends who do nothing but criticize or make jokes about your decision. I can’t tell you the number of times we heard comments like, “Oh, when I went in, I was all GIMME THE DRUGS,” and then this cackling laughter like getting a needle in your back is this thing that every woman who is NOT CRAZY needs to get. Personally, I can’t commiserate with women who talk about their labors like that. I find myself pursing my lips and shifting uncomfortably in my seat when discussions get started. During a conversation with some women at church not too long ago, I had to leave the room.
In addition to having a supportive birth team, try to have a supportive hospital team, too. If your doctor is all for having a natural childbirth, make sure you are very clear with him or her about what you really want during your labor and delivery. Even small things like what positions you want to use during the pushing stage are very important. With Aiden’s birth, I was on my side when he started crowning. While the nurses were yelling at me to “stop pushing” until the doctor came in, my labor team was whispering to me to do what my body was telling me to do. And when the doctor came in, he had the gall to tell me to roll onto my back because HE was more comfortable with me in that position. Had someone not been holding my leg, I would have kicked him in his smug little face. Less than thirty seconds later, Aiden’s head came out. The universe did not collapse upon itself because I pushed a baby out of my vagina in a position that my doctor wasn’t “comfortable with”.
Even nurses need to support your decisions. My best nursing support was with Simon’s birth, which was induced by pitocin. I still didn’t want pain medication, and my nurse was amazing. She put a sign on my door telling everyone who came in not to even mention drugs. She allowed me to get up and move around, and even joined in the coaching when I really didn’t think I could do it anymore. Her only fault was telling me to stop pushing when my body decided that it was time. No one told her that natural births can go really fast! Simon came out on the bed and my doctor missed the birth entirely.
Because of all of my negative hospital experiences and fast pushing stages, it only made sense for me to have a home birth with Timothy. I’m not saying that to ensure a natural birth, you should do it at home. It was just what ultimately worked best for me.
Lastly, if you want a natural birth, you need to commit. Take all of the education and support you’ve gathered and really commit to having the birth that YOU want. Have no doubt in your mind. Push away any thought that you might want an epidural. Don’t dwell on the what-if’s. If you want a natural birth, I mean really want it, you can do it. Doctors and nurses are not God. You can tell them, “No.” It is your body and your decision. Do what you feel is best for you and your baby. Because really, that’s what it’s all about.
x-posted on Blogher