Deciding to go for a natural birth after previously having a fairly easy epidural birth with Henry, was not a quick decision. With Henry I wanted a natural birth but didn't really do much to prepare for or achieve it. After laboring through the night and not having many tools in my tool belt to get me the rest of the way through labor once I arrived at the hospital, an epidural was very much welcome. I wasn't disappointed in myself, but as I pushed and then met Henry for the first time, I remember feeling so disconnected from the process. Here I was, having just experiencing childbirth, but feeling like I hadn't really done much at all. It just didn't feel as euphoric as I thought it would. I in no way think that every person who has an epidural is missing out on something, it's just how I felt. Then came the postpartum period. I didn't feel in tune with my body or my emotions. Henry's hospital stay was anything but easy and left me with very minimal rest and quite a bit of anxiety.
Almost three years later and I knew I wanted to do things differently, but constantly doubted my ability to actually achieve a natural birth. It's quite intimidating to make a goal that makes you really examine your own beliefs about yourself. Luckily I had Ronnie's full support, a cheering squad from friends and family, and divine guidance the entire way. So here are the things I credit with getting me to and through a natural childbirth at the hospital:
1. Surround yourself with support:
When you tell people you want to do a natural birth, you will very quickly know how people feel about it. I really did't bring it up very often with people, but I got responses ranging from "They don't give you a medal for going through pain" to some of the most sincere and deeply touching words of support and encouragement. I was floored by other's trust in my undiscovered abilities.
Ronnie was such a great emotional support. When I would begin to doubt myself and fear would flood my mind, he always seemed so calm and sure that I had this. When I asked him what my symbol would be if I had to come up with one, without hesitation he said "A wagon! You are my pioneer woman!" I often relied on his confidence in me when I doubted my own.
2.Hire a Doula
The best definition I can think of for a doula is to call them a birth coach. They are knowledgable, trained, and purely there to support you. It is an out of pocket expense but one I will happily pay for with each birth from now on. I figured I could either pay for an epidural or pay for a doula. Having actually spent money on one really forced me to put my money where my mouth was and take my goal seriously. I found my doula through a local Facebook group run by the Utah Doula Association. I really had to dig deep and figure out exactly why I wanted a natural birth and what I wanted it to look like when looking for the doula I wanted to hire. I came to the realization that my desire to birth without pain medication came form the same part of my personality that loves living in a 160 year old house; I'm an old soul that loves feeling a connection with the past. I find something so fulfilling in rites of passage and wanted to participate in this one. I was able to find a doula that fully supported my point of view. I had several meetings with my doula before I went into labor to go over my birth plan and desires. I had someone to call and text with any concerns or fears I had. When I went into labor it was so incredibly helpful to have someone who was there purely to keep me comfortable and calm. The counter pressure on my back and coaching on breathing through contractions made labor...dare I say it....enjoyable?! Dilating all the way to a ten seemed so much easier than it should have. Pushing was nothing I daydream about, but having a doula there to help me through it made all the difference in the world.
3. Find a Provider that is Natural Friendly
I can't stress this one enough. When I was first pregnant, I wasn't sure who to go to as my O.B. and went off the recommendation of several people in my ward. I made the mistake of not asking specific questions about his views on birth without many medical interventions. It turns out he was not supportive of my wishes at all. After much prayer and some divine guidance, I found a midwife that was a perfect fit. She was very calm, my visits with her were never rushed, and she was highly supportive of my birth plan. Switching providers at 30 weeks pregnant was worth the hassle, 100 times over. I realize that here in Utah aka. Baby Capitol of the World, my choices in providers are endless, but no matter where you live, I can guarantee there are other like minded women. Find out who they have used and who is known to be supportive of allowing mothers to take charge of their births.
4. Hyponbabies or Mindfulness
I had heard many great things about Hypnobabies from other naturally minded moms. When I looked into taking the classes, I couldn't figure out how we would attend them once a week for 6 weeks, with each class lasting 3 hours. What in the world would we do with Henry? My friend Aly sent me her home study info via email but I didn't really end up reading much. I did download mediation tracks from here and listened to them regularly. This all sounds so "hippy" but really they are just positive affirmations. When I was having a tough pregnancy day or trouble falling asleep, I would turn one on and relax. I didn't end up listening to them while I was in labor, but often used some of my favorite phrases and the breathing techniques to help keep me calm during blood draws, getting shots, and during contractions.
5. Write up a Birth Plan
I dragged my feet on this one. I didn't know how I could write my birth preferences when I had no clue what I would prefer once I was in labor. I am so glad I did end up writing one because it forced me to do some research about where I was delivering and all the things I could say no to that I had no clue about. I asked for minimal monitoring which meant they only monitored my contractions and blood pressure for the first 20 minutes while I was at the hospital and then unhooked everything and let me move freely...so straight to the tub I went. I didn't want IV's so they let me get my fluids from drinking. My cervix was only checked twice: Once when checking in, and a second time when my midwife could tell my labor sounds were sounding different and I was probably near transition. It was so nice to not have hands up me every single hour. Teddy spent a good hour on my chest before being taken to be weighed, measured and checked. It was so nice to have him to hold and love on to distract me from being stitched up.
6. Read Books/ Watch Movies
Continually immersing myself in natural birth knowledge and literature helped to keep me motivated and interested. I highly recommend Ina May's second book as well as The Gift of Giving Life. I also really enjoyed watching other people's birth videos and drawing motivation from their beauty. I can readily admit Theodore's birth was not as beautiful and calm as many of the videos I watched, but all that goes out the window when you just need to scream that baby out haha!
I hope this is helpful to somebody. Take what appeals to you and adapt it to your preferences. Giving birth should be personalized to your needs and personality. Even if you do want drugs, you can make sure you are well informed and things are more customized to you! Isn't it amazing what our bodies can do?!
P.S. Theodore's birth story is coming as soon...