Updated October 2018
Disclaimer: Guys. We had to call this article something — please don’t read too much into it. What we’re getting at in this article is unmedicated birth (alas, nobody searches for that term in Google, so… here we are).
That’s not to say (at all!!) that women who receive medical intervention, pain relief, C-section, etc. are in any way “unnatural” or inferior. So humor us on the title, please. No emails 🙂 Thanks.
Considering an unmedicated birth? Many do – and it’s increasing in popularity.
The reasons for it are varied, but range from aversions to medical interventions to the desire for a speedier recovery to the longing for a closer connection to your baby at birth, and/or the desire to deliver the baby at home or at a birthing center. Additionally, many don’t like the idea of not being in control or not being able to feel various parts of their body during this important experience.
But the overwhelming reason women go au natural is because they want to feel the complete and uncensored wonder of childbirth – and to discover what their bodies are actually capable of — without medications or other interventions.
Then there’s the middle road: many like the idea of trying it, knowing that pain relief is (hopefully!) there for them if they change their mind.
After editing this article, I actually regret not having at least tried this myself. For me, my fear was the opposite: the fear of pain. The fear that I wouldn’t get an epidural. Furthermore, my mother had horrific stories of birthing my sister and I without medication in a terribly old fashioned female-hostile Mad Men-style setting. I picture male doctors forcing her into a room by herself (my father was not allowed in), where she labored alone without food or water for nearly 30 hours; all the while, nearly forcing her into being “knocked out,” which means being put under general anesthesia so they didn’t have to deal with her.
I’m pretty sure it left her with some minor PTSD. The generation before her had it even worse.
Luckily, this is a thing of the past.
Speaking of pain, an import factor in the practicality of going au natural is how l-o-n-g your labor and delivery takes. The women in my family, for whatever reason, always had very protracted L&Ds. This also scared me.
When labor and delivery take more than 24 hours, you tend to become physically and emotionally exhausted. This is when an epidural starts sounding really good! Thus, it’s not just the intensity of the pain; rather, it’s also about the duration of that pain, mixed with the physical exhaustion of labor. And pushing. My god, the pushing is probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Thank goodness the pushing part doesn’t typically last very long (15-45 minutes). However (again), you hear about some people that actively push for 3+ hours.
If you’re wondering how long your labor and delivery might take, a good place to start is by asking your mom and sisters how long theirs took.
There are those whose babies seem to pop right out or, rather, aren’t in labor for 20+ hours. Not gonna lie, those people have it easier simply because they’re at it for a shorter period of time. They are running a 5k as opposed to a marathon.
Had I prepared myself for a marathon – and an unmedicated delivery, I’d like to think I could have done it. I do believe a lot of it is about your expectations – and I did not expect myself to be able to do it, at the time. This is why I wanted to write this article — so we can discuss some of the things we learn the hard way. Or at least, to prompt you to think about something you might not have even considered.
For this article, I brought in my friend and industry expert, Heather Reed, who delivered her two children without pain relief: one in a hospital setting and one at home in a birthing tub.
Following her article are the individual experiences of several readers, followed by some common themes/generalizations about the experience and advice. We had fun putting it together — we hope you enjoy it!
So You Want to Feel it All
By: Heather Reed
Well… you’ve heard that your body was meant to do this. And it’s true. Babies have been brought onto this planet without pain medication for thousands of generations.
Being in the right frame of mind really does make all the difference in the world. I’m here to offer you some gentle suggestions and words of wisdom, based on both my own experiences as well as [borrowed] wise words from my mother, an OB/GYN who’s been practicing at a county hospital in Cleveland since 1993 (whose C-section rate just so happens to be [ahem] the lowest in Northeast Ohio).
The best advice I can give to any woman interested in attempting a “natural” birth is to suggest you detach from outcomes all together. Yes, there are a thousand memes on the Internet about God laughing at your plans, etc., so I’ll spare you from that.
There are steps that you can take to help you foster your natural birth experience. Yoga, specifically, doing cat/cow every morning and night can help baby be in the optimal position for birth (head down/face pointing toward your spine), meditation, affirmations; these are all good practices while pregnant.
Acupuncture can be an excellent routine to get into during pregnancy; it can also be an excellent tool for flipping a breech baby*.
There is more about natural birth and hypnoBirthing than I can say in one article, but a great place to start is by reading the HypnoBirthing book by Marie Mongan
Another good read for in-hospital birthing is Natural Hospital Birth.
You can get these in paperback or Kindle (or Kindle app for iPad or other devices).
During both yoga and childbirth, I recommend setting an intention and letting your body and your baby do the rest. If I’ve lost you here, bear with me: the number one reason things don’t go as planned in the natural birth setting is because baby is in a less than optimal position. These are some of the variables we just cannot control (but we sure can try!).
Think of your yoga practice as homework. Allow yourself the space to visualize your baby’s optimal position and his or her easy transition to earth.
*If your baby just won’t cooperate by getting head down (called the “vertex” position), and you want your doctor to let you try to deliver a breech baby vaginally, you should most definitely ask. You have a better chance of success with an OB who’s over 45-50 years old, and at a legit teaching hospital. My mom’s favorite quote regarding this: “If you go to a lily white hospital, you’re going to get cut”…
Sharing your plan with others
If you’re a compulsive over-sharer like me, this is going to take some heavy censorship on your part. Use this time to try to carve out this sacred space for yourself and your new baby. Have your partner do the same thing too.
Think about those randōs on the street that are already trying to touch you and tell you you’re having a boy because your belly looks a certain way… then, imagine that person is your aunt/sister or (worse) your mom/MIL. And they don’t agree at. all. with your choice to do this. Your feelings would be hurt. So, now is a good time for boundaries, even if you’re terrible at setting them.
If your family already knows your plans, either because of logistics or because you’ve already shared it with them, ask them to respectfully keep their opinion to themselves (unless it’s encouraging and/or positive). If they cannot do this, you’re well within your right to tell them that they’ll either not be allowed in your space while you’re in labor (depending on your current relationship – moms can be hard!), or that you’ll be forced to withhold info from this point on.
You’re allowed to be selfish here. In fact, I encourage it.
Your Comfort/”Pain” Management
First of all, get the word “pain” out of your vocabulary. Its connotations have no place in your valuable (and tiny) birthing headspace.
You’re going to want your meditation/visualization practice to become second nature so that it comes naturally to you when things really get intense. You may not be able to verbally communicate to your partner/team when you’re in active labor (and that’s a good thing), so make sure they know how to apply comfort measures as well. Counter-pressure to your hips, counting your breaths, telling you when you’re halfway done with each contraction/wave – these are all valuable things your partner can do for you while you’re laboring.
Birthing at Home
Make sure you’ve delegated tasks to [competent] people, prior to going into labor. Using a tub? Who’s going to blow it up and where’s the pump!? Whose job is it to fill this thing? It ain’t gonna fill itself, girl. You may have hired a midwife who will take care of these things, and that’s fine, but these are the last things you want to be thinking about when you’re in active labor.
Again, having a team is important. When everyone knows their role, you’ll have a smoother experience. You’re going to need people for the hard jobs (helping you labor, push, etc.), and for the “easy” jobs (watching your dog/older kid, making sure you have enough food/water)… and then, there’s the clean up.
While most view this as something “cool” to do for baby, the reality is that laboring and birthing in water is one of the best natural comfort measures available to us. The instances of perineal and vaginal tearing, for example, are decreased dramatically when baby is born in the water.
The warmth also provides comfort between the waves/contractions – the time where it’s important to rest and relax. Some people will advise staying out of the water because it can “slow” labor, however, I believe that even if you use the tub periodically as a tool for soothing yourself, it’s still worthwhile.
Personally, I spent a ton of time in and out of the bathtub while I was in labor with both of my children. For the second – who was actually born in the water – I spent the last 45 minutes in an actual birth tub.
Most midwives have pools you can rent directly from them, but since my homebirth was sort of a DIY (physician-attended), I went ahead and purchased everything myself. I suggest considering this route anyway, just so you can rest assured that you’ll have access to what you want. Sometimes, the due dates of multiple midwife clients can overlap and the tub is already rented out, and you don’t need another thing to stress about.
If you buy a personal use tub, it can be stored and used multiple times if you purchase a liner. Great if you want more kids, or if you want to just pass it down to a friend (liner is MANDATORY, guys… must have liner). One more quick note about tubs… I wasn’t sure if we were going to actually have the baby in the water, but I wanted the option. A professional water birth tub is the ONLY thing I can recommend in good conscience. Kiddie pool from Walmart ain’t gonna do the trick, people. Go with the trusted source.
While most midwives and doulas use the commercial-grade “AquaDoula” tub (which has a built-in heater), I personally recommend the “Birth Pool in a Box – Eco” tub for your homebirth. The tubs the pros use are expensive and intended for many, many different users, while the personal tubs are more affordable and intended for 10 or fewer uses.
Even if you don’t plan on using a tub (but especially if you do), line your floors – and your bed – with plastic, Dexter style. You will thank me later. Be sure to put raggedy sheets/towels over said plastic, because this is no time for a slip-n-slide situation. Doggie peepee pads work well too, but that can get expensive. Worth putting a couple on your couch though, just in case.
Recent studies about eating during labor are long overdue. The real reason they don’t want you to eat is because if they have to do emergency surgery, it’s safer that you have an empty stomach.
Try going for 10-48 hours without food, then come tell me how good you feel about life in general, let alone the prospect of pushing out a baby. I recommend staying fed (although you might not have an appetite), and most importantly, HYDRATED. After every wave, your partner should offer you water. Some people perceive IVs as the devil, and if you’re birthing in the hospital and staying hydrated, you don’t actually need one. It’s an easy portal for unwanted interventions, so keep that in mind.
In a hospital setting, they will strongly encourage you to have the hep/saline lock in place (the insertion part of the IV), so discuss this with your OB ahead of time if you don’t want it.
This is important, especially if you want to deliver at home: you must have someone in your corner who’s experienced childbirth, one way or another; if they’ve had a child naturally and know what to expect or they’ve seen a child be born naturally and they know what to expect. Seems obvious, but it’s very important…
Like a friend once said, if you think your house is on fire, you don’t call your coworker so you guys can just figure it out together; you call the fire department. Expertise and experience really matter here.
If you feel like you don’t “trust” yourself to go through with your plan, it’s important to make your wishes known and have a code word that you and one other person know. Get really clear on how much you want that support person to talk you into your original plan once you’ve progressed to the point where you feel like you might be defeated. This is important because sometimes we need other people to help us stay the course. You will thank them later.
My first birth was in a hospital. Had it not been for the support of the random nurse assigned to me at the time – who knew my code word – I would likely not have made it. I wanted to be “offered” some drugs. I didn’t want to ask. She told me to get into the tub (I had one in my room). Turns out, this is exactly what I needed. And I never ended up using the code word (your safe-word, if you’re kinky 🙂 )
I cannot stress enough the importance of adequate preparation. Sure, making a cute nursery is really important and fun but if you’re not prepared for this work of having a baby, it’s going to be a very rude awakening. You need TOOLS in your toolkit, ladies.
Yes, the last five minutes of my homebirth looked super easy, but that required months of preparation. I did that iPhone Hypnobirthing meditation app every effing night for eight months. I was mentally prepared, I was physically prepared, and I had delegated the important stuff. I still didn’t think I was ready, but when the time finally came, I was able to get into that sacred headspace and that’s what was really important.
Self-doubt is crippling… If you don’t have someone there to help you get back on track, my advice is that you find that person soon. That said, if you just decided to do this and you have two weeks to go, that’s plenty of time too. Your body can do remarkable things when your brain is on board.
Your birth partner can be trained to be your doula. Sometimes men can really shine here. Annnnnd sometimes they fail. And that’s ok. It’s times like these – where they see the woman they love as they’ve never seen her before – they might freeze. Their actions may be less than helpful, but try not to hold it against them. If your partner is a woman, she too can get squeamish. The truth is, you never really know how your birth partner will do until it’s go-time. Have your support team prepare by reading The Birth Partner.
Again, if no one on your “team” has experienced natural birth before, it’s best to hire a doula. You cannot have a first-timer getting frightened and freaked out by your noises (etc.) simply because they’ve never seen this before. It’s loud, it’s messy — and that’s all normal. A person who has experienced this before will know what’s “normal” — and conversely, can intercede if there is truly a need for a medical intervention — and believe me, there might be! FWIW, all doulas are free at the county hospital in Cleveland. Find out if there is a free doula service available in your area before you set out to hire one.
If you’re giving birth in a hospital, it can still be wonderfully natural…
Be collaborative. Do not walk in there adversarially, having just watched the Business of Being Born and assuming everyone is evil and trying to manipulate you. Remember, you are not the first person to ever have a baby.
There is a fine line between the entitled birth plan that everyone will roll their eyes at, and ensuring that you’ve got a team of advocates who’ve got some basic hard lines to stick to. For example, no epidural without code word, no eye ointment, no bathing. Baby to be placed on mom/skin-to-skin ASAP. Delayed cord clamping. etc. Hospitals are usually pretty cool about these types of requests nowadays, so don’t be a Preg-zilla. When you arrive, request that a nurse who supports natural childbirth be assigned to your room. This will help to ensure you have one more advocate on your team. There are plenty of them out there, and they want to help you be successful.
If you can avoid being overly monitored and checked during labor, that’s good. Sometimes too much “checking” can lead to a defeated sense of progress, and for some women, there is such a thing as TMI.
A great resource to prepare for an un-medicated, minimal intervention birth is the The Cornerstone Method of Childbirth Education. It will arm you with the knowledge needed to stay true to your birth plan as much as possible even with the potential pressure for interventions. This workbook also comes in a Spanish Edition and a Muslim Edition.
If this is your first baby, do your best to remain open to what your body is going through and let your primal nature take over. If you’ve had previous unmedicated birth(s), you may find this next one “easier” because you already know what to expect and subsequent births are almost always faster and easier. If you’re reading this to prepare for baby #2, you’ll be that much more ahead of the game. [Again, not always the case, but usually].
The most exciting thing to happen to me right after I pushed out my first was turning to my mom and saying, “Ok! I could do that again!”… Why the excitement, you ask? Because I’m a skeptic. That’s why. I knew my HypnoBirth prep was great and all, but I didn’t know what actual showtime would FEEL like. I found reassurance in that – when I thought I was about to die – it was actually just my return to consciousness and the whole thing was about to be over.
When the oxytocin is flowing through your body, it’s almost like you’re in an altered state of consciousness. Then, when you’re in transition and about to push (aka, doing the “hard” work), you have an adrenaline surge that brings even the most exhausted mama back to attention. Mother nature, y’all — it’s so cool! This is why some women think they’re going to lose it, then don’t. But it’s ok… by that time, the hard part is actually done. And, forgive me here, but pushing actually feels “good.”
Watch my entire water-birth story (below). It’s a feel-good vid.
Good luck with whatever you decide!!
Natural Birth Testimonials
We received many emails from readers about their natural birth experiences. I like testimonials because everyone’s experience is different, and reading these gives you a sense for all the various scenarios you could encounter.
“I hated the idea of needles before pregnancy, especially ones in my spine – and the catheter, so I chose to go for it naturally. I actually had no idea how rare it was these days until the nurses were so surprised about my choice. I wasn’t dead set about it having to be done that way, but I really wanted to give it a try.
I was induced at 41 weeks, water was broken at 7 AM, a 9.3 oz baby boy was delivered about 3 PM the same day. Immediately after, I said, “I do not need to do that again.” But realistically, my recovery (pain, hemorrhoids, tear, etc.) – the weeks after delivery would be the same whether I had meds or not. So, what is the benefit? I guess part of me wanted to know what I (or my body) was capable of. And now, I know.
Update: I was able to have #2 naturally as well. DD came about three hours quicker (at 40 weeks) than DS at 41 weeks – both were induced. Recovery has been considerably more manageable the second time around – praise God!!”
~ Lauren F.
“I had a successful natural birth in a hospital, which was my intention long before I ever got pregnant. There are not many birth centers where we live, and I’m too much of a worrywart to ever go for a homebirth. While I didn’t want any interventions, I did want medical resources available right away in the event of an emergency.
After getting pregnant, I read Ina May’s “Guide to Childbirth,” which made me feel empowered. My doctor was very supportive of when I said that I wanted a natural birth, and recommended some doulas when I brought up the idea. Plus, the more I learned about epidurals, the less I wanted one. I remain completely freaked out by the idea of a needle in my spine.
Honestly, I would not have had a natural childbirth if it weren’t for my doula. For all my plans and research, the pain of childbirth was more than I had ever imagined. I showed up at the hospital planning to bounce on the birthing ball and blast loud music – of course, I wanted none of that in actual labor!
I ended up being mostly quiet, closing my eyes and vocalizing during contractions. My doula didn’t just remind me of pain management techniques, she was able to determine what worked best in the moment. I’m glad that I didn’t have to spend any energy deciding what to do – I just had to follow her directions.
Likewise, my husband was too stressed out himself to be a calm coach. Our doula knew how to navigate the hospital, when was a good time for me to use the bathroom, when I should drink water, was friendly with the nurses, etc. Seriously, she was an absolute LIFESAVER.
I’ll say that the hospital staff was very supportive of my desire for a natural childbirth. I had to sign a waiver for anesthesia when I arrived at the hospital, in case of emergency, but I never heard a peep about an epidural after that.
I was lucky that my labor progressed quickly; my daughter was born about six hours after my water broke. No lie, the contractions were awful. Knowing that I *could* have an epidural is probably what got me through labor. If I had been in labor for 24+ hours, I definitely would have gotten one! However, I do think that not having any drugs meant that I was more in tune with my body – I knew when to push, how the baby moved and when she was close to actually being born. I do remember the doctor asking me if I wanted to feel the head or see the head in the mirror, to which I replied “I know exactly where she is!”
After reading stories of magical and mystical natural childbirths, I was disappointed when I didn’t have that same “spiritual experience.” Overall, labor sucked. I was exhausted and dehydrated, because I didn’t listen to my doula/husband/nurse/doctor when they told me to keep drinking water. I ached, I hurt and I scarfed down the chicken and mashed potatoes that they brought to me as I recovered. I ended up needing stitches and fluids. Recovery was perhaps the biggest surprise of childbirth. I’ve heard stories of women who were up and walking around a few hours after giving birth – I could walk, but all I wanted to do was lie in bed and have people bring me tapioca pudding.
That said, holding my daughter made it all worth it. She was wide-awake and alert from the moment she was born, a trait she continues to have today! (She never naps.) After a month or two of ambivalent feelings towards my birth experience, I now feel like I’d do it again and I would aim to do it again naturally.
I do think I recovered well and I am glad that I was so in tune with my contractions, despite the pain at the time. It’s true that you forget what birth was like. My most vivid memories are of my daughter – being born, placed on my chest, attempting to breastfeed and those first snuggles. The rest of the memories fade away.
For other women considering a natural childbirth, I would definitely recommend talking to a doula. While the pain was more intense than I anticipated, I was able to get through it with a good support structure. I recognize that not all hospitals are as supportive as the one I was at; in that case, the support network is even more important for you to remain focused. Most importantly, know that you *can* have a natural childbirth if you want to. Nothing pissed me off more than well-intentioned relatives saying, “Just get the epidural!” – when that was exactly what I didn’t want to do. Then again, don’t feel pressured to have a natural childbirth because it’s the “done thing.” Childbirth is hard enough without guilt around how you managed the pain. Either way you do it will be fine.”
~ Veronica H.
“I actually had two natural births. Both were planned and wonderful. For my son (my first) we took Bradley Birth classes to prepare. My labor started on a Sunday morning around 6 AM, I labored at home for a full 24 hours before going to the Hospital. We had a Doula who met us at our house at around 5 AM and went with us to the hospital. Upon arrival I was 7 cm dilated. I opted to get into the hot tub. After two contractions, I wanted out of the tub. I was only at the hospital for about 90 minutes before I wanted to push.
I pushed for 4 hours. Had some back labor, which my midwife was able to control by pushing on my back as I was on all fours. My little guy was a bit stuck in my pelvis, but after some intense pushing he made his way into the world at 1:03 PM.
Contractions without medication are painful, but tolerable. The worst of it for me was the last 30 minutes (the transition phase), but once pushing started, the pain was different. I know the classes teach you how to relax through the contractions but all I could do was hold onto the handrails of the bed for dear life. And it was all worth it when my little guy came out and was alert as anything! He just stared into my eyes, he nursed and within 30 minutes, I was walking to the bathroom and full of energy! My husband couldn’t believe how awake I was after being awake for so long! Totally worth it!
For our second, I knew I had done it so I was ready to do it again. We didn’t use a Doula and had planned on getting to the hospital earlier than we had with our son. My labor was almost as long.
After a week of on and off contractions and lots of false starts to the hospital my labor started at 2 AM on a Saturday morning. It stalled out around 5 AM and didn’t pick back up until 1PM. By 3:30 PM that afternoon, we were headed to the hospital. I spent the next 4 hours doing laps around the maternity ward. By 8:30 PM my contractions were pretty intense and I wanted to be laying in the bad on my side holding on for dear life to the bed rails. I didn’t start or want to push until 9:55 PM and after two pushes my little lady was born at 10:06 PM. This time was fast and furious!
When I was ready, I wanted her out and she came out quickly. Again, the last 30 minutes of contractions were the worst but this time they were so erratic and spaced out that I had plenty of rest time in between. She was placed on my belly and all the pain went away. I was more concerned about the pain of the needle for my small tear. My little girl was again very alert and nursed and has pretty much been wide awake for the last 5.5 months!!!”
~ Christina Q.
“I was 41 weeks pregnant when my second one finally made his appearance. I’d been having contractions on and off for three weeks and the midwives kept predicting that he would be born before my next appointment. I spent my days walking around trying to naturally induce, but it didn’t seem to work.
One night, I took a bubble bath and had a half glass of wine before going to bed around 9:30 PM. I woke up at 3 AM with lower abdominal cramping. After 30 minutes, I decided to start timing the contractions – 4 minutes apart, lasting 45-60 seconds. I woke up my husband and we left for the hospital.
When we got there, I was at 7 cm. I was in triage for an hour and a half before I was moved to delivery. Nick was born just over an hour later, after 10 minutes of pushing. He weighed 8 lbs 10 oz and nursed right away. After his delivery, I felt amazing. I didn’t want to sit still. It was a very different experience than my older son, when I was given Pitocin and had a faulty epidural.”
~ Jessica G.
“My first child was born after being induced and a full 24 hours of labor and an epidural. It was awesome; I slept through labor after getting that epidural. With my second I had full intentions of getting an epidural.
We went to the hospital and at that point my labor was going great but after three hours of walking, it slowed and they sent me home to sleep (yeah right). I was still contacting about every 10 minutes but I wasn’t dilated at all. Crawled into bed at home and tried to get some shuteye when I felt the painful pop and sound of my water breaking. Contractions came fast and furious.
I got dressed and we drove the two miles back to the hospital. As I checked in, between contractions I asked for the anesthesiologist, lol! They wheeled me into triage and about 45 seconds after, into a room where I clearly recall telling everyone to get the anesthesiologist.
Luckily, my doctor was in the room next door. She came in and said to push. I asked her for an epidural and she laughed, “time to push, no time for an epidural, sorry but you can do this.”
Ten (or so) pushes later, our baby was born. Total time from water breaking at home to baby born was an hour and 15 minutes.
Recovery was night and day. I walked within a half hour, I saw visitors (and actually wanted to). No groggy urge to sleep. I could have left the hospital that day but my mom had come to watch my two year old and I thought I deserved the break, LOL.
Having done both I don’t see that there is a huge difference outside of recovery. With long labor I think an epidural is awesome so you can rest. Pushing is pushing and it’s hard work either way. Pushing without [meds] seriously sucks like hell but I pretty much got up and walked right away after.”
~ Vanessa W.
Editor’s Note — this is a crazy story!
“I am a pelvic rehabilitation Physical Therapist and delivered my first child, Dylan, on March 23, 2015. I hired a doula and planned to have a natural birth in a hospital. I went into labor on a Sunday night around 6 PM and called my doula at 9 PM. She said when your contractions get 5 minutes apart lasting 1 minute for 1 hour, then call me. So I took a bath, a Tylenol PM, and ate a tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. Contractions were every 6-8 minutes, or so my nifty little timer on my App told me.
By 2:30 AM, I was so uncomfortable I was having difficulty talking and rocked my hips back and forth around every 6-7 minutes when a contraction came. Within the next 30 minutes my contractions went from occurring every 6-7 minutes to every 2 minutes but were only 30-45s long. My husband decided to call the doula to ask if we should go to the hospital, and we got no answer. We proceeded to call her six more times, YES six more times, and got no answer. We had no idea what to do. My contractions were getting stronger and more painful and I started shaking uncontrollably. My husband said, “I think we should go now.”
It’s all somewhat hazy after this point. My husband started packing the car, and I curled up in a ball on my bed writhing in pain and heard a “pop” as water gushed out from between my legs. I crawled completely naked on my bedroom floor and sat on the toilet. I started to feel such an extreme amount of pressure at the bottom of my vagina and thought – I am about to take the biggest shit of my life or I am about to have this baby.
My contractions are SO severe at this point that I am screaming, like blood curdling screams, every time a contraction comes. As my husband continued to pack the car (this felt like foreeeeever) I crawled to the front door. He picked me up and carried me into the back seat of the car. We raced to the hospital at 4 AM and thank goodness there was no traffic.
When we arrived at the hospital, I literally spilled out of the car as my husband raced around the back of the car to help me. I could not walk and slid to my knees and could see the sliding glass doors at the entry way in front of me. Moments later (they must have heard me screaming), a group of people ran outside with a wheelchair and scooped me into it. They raced me down the hallway and practically tossed me onto a hospital bed onto my side. “Let me check you” someone said. “She is 3+. The baby is coming NOW.”
I looked up at my husband at the head of my bed and think we both thought, “Holy shit, is this happening?”
Three minutes from arrival at the hospital to the birth of my son. Three minutes. The doula didn’t make the birth, nor did my OB.
I guess all is well that ends well. Despite the excitement and the making a good story, my labor was not the blissful natural delivery I envisioned. The doula did not take responsibility for missing our calls or delivery – nor did she refund our money. But my husband did tell me to let my friends and patients know he is available for hire for doula services :)”
~ Sara R.
“I was 42 weeks exactly to the day and my OB wouldn’t let me go a day past 42 weeks. I had a scheduled induction for 8 PM but actually arrived at the hospital at 4 PM because I was having contractions and ended up going into labor on my own, no Pitocin needed.
My doctor had actually tried to induce me twice before that day saying that I needed to go ahead and have the baby because she was getting too big and that she was probably going to get stuck and my labor would end in an emergency C-section. Luckily I did not listen to her because this was not the case at all.
The hospital was open to me laboring how I wanted (aside from them making me have a hep loc – which is the start of an IV – that they said I needed in case of an emergency) and I was blessed with an amazing nurse who was so encouraging and convinced me to keep it up when I wanted to give in and get an epidural.
I labored for approximately 8 hours, completely standing up as it was super painful for me to sit down (made less painful by my awesome husband who literally pushed on my lower back for hours while I had contractions).
Then the time came when I felt the urge to push, which came as a surprise to my nurses, and they panicked because my doctor wasn’t even close to the hospital yet. I actually had one of the nurses tell me to try not to push. Yeah, right. I’ll just hold her in.
My doctor showed up literally in the nick of time and threw my feet up in the stirrups and told me to start pushing. You could tell that she wasn’t used to natural birth patients because I wanted to push with the flow of my contractions but she kept asking me to push even when I wasn’t contracting.
After about 40 minutes of pushing, my beautiful baby girl was born. I was so happy and glad it was over until WHAM – the nurse stabs me with a huge shot in my thigh. Apparently it was a shot of Pitocin that was supposed to help me deliver my placenta. (What was the point of the hep loc then??).
Once I delivered the placenta, my doctor spent the next hour stitching me up, which was actually way more painful than any of my contractions. I had some pretty bad tears and because I didn’t have an epidural, they had to give me numbing shots in the areas I was getting stitched. Talk about pain…. the shots themselves hurt but also they didn’t cover a wide enough area so there were several times I could feel her threading the needle through my raw skin (ouch).
Shortly after, I was finally able to breastfeed and hold my baby girl and so began the amazing but draining journey of being a mom.
Though there were some negative aspects to my birth, it was over all the most amazing experience of my life and I loved every minute of it and would do it again in a heartbeat!!! Being able to feel every single ache and pain is hard but rewarding. I am looking into a midwife/birthing center for my next birth as I think it will be a better fit for me, although I never thought I would say that, as I feel I’m only slightly crunchy.”
~ Brittany D.
“Baby #1. Three days past due date, I drank Castor oil in hopes it would make me go into labor. I drank it at 9 PM (how dumb is that?). At 3 AM I went to the bathroom and my water broke on the toilet. Shortly after contractions started hard and fast. All back labor. Got to the hospital at 6:30 AM and I was 2 cm. Labor was intense and it was back labor the whole time. Luckily for me he was born 55 minutes later. One push for his head and another for his body. He was born sunny side up and with his hand actually coming out before his head. Kid was trying to climb out! Lol.
8lb 12oz. No drugs at all. Total labor under four hours.
Baby #2. Nearly three weeks overdue! Had a doctor appointment in afternoon and around 6 PM, contractions started. They were mild compared to kid number one. Didn’t actually hurt at all. Doctor broke my water at the hospital and she was born in under four hours also. This labor was odd as it was nearly pain free. Same thing: one push and she was here.
7lb 15oz and no episiotomy or tearing which was awesome!
Baby #3. Three days overdue. Took Castor oil again. Went into the labor in the morning. Moderate contractions/pain but manageable. Had him about four hours later as well. All were one-push babies. He was 7lb 14oz. No episiotomy or tearing with him either. I speak highly of my doctors that slowly massaged and stretched my perineum. I left the hospital with number three the very next morning (Saturday) and returned to work (ran a daycare from home) on Monday. I must have been crazy.”
~ Debbie R.
“I did the hypno-babies program prior, and gave birth in a traditional hospital with an OB. I was 11 days overdue (!!!) and had started the induction process (prostaglandin gels) the morning of.
The nurse said she’d never seen anyone go into full labor from that alone, so when I started having contractions, I didn’t think I was in full labor. I was supposed to go back at 3 PM for another round of gels, but we went to triage instead – just in case, and it turns out that I was already 6 cm!
The hospital was supportive of my desire to have a natural birth, and only gave me IV fluids (due to minor dehydration) and oxygen. My labor was super quick (7 hours, start to finish) and my daughter was born at 5:30 PM.
She was a big baby (9 lbs) and they had to use forceps to get her out. Doctor said she’d never used forceps before on someone without an epidural, so she was impressed with me :). Totally worth it to me, and I’d totally do it again, if possible. I highly recommend hypno-babies too – it worked for me and also gave me a good overall education on childbirth.”
~ Lisa W.
Some common “natural birth story” themes, from our Facebook QOTD:
- Recommendations for preparation: Bradley birth classes, HypnoBirthing course (The Mongan Method), read “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.”
- Most used a doula.
- Most moms reported being alert, able to get up and walk, joke and laugh right after birth.
- Most moms reported that babies were alert and able to breastfeed right after birth.
- Most moms did the heavy lifting of contractions, etc. at home prior to going to the hospital.
- Some moms took these steps to start labor: lots of walking, prostaglandin gels, took at bath and drank a glass of wine.
- Most moms who had both natural and epidural or C-section said that their recovery was much faster with natural.
- Mostly, natural birth moms want to see what their body is capable of. They don’t like the idea of having no control or not being able to feel their body during such a huge life event.
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See also, our thoughts on postpartum binders/girdles.