It was the night before what was supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life, but as I got ready to go to bed, I was more scared than I have ever been. In a few hours, my doctor would give me a drug to induce labor and deliver my second child. All I could think about was that I may not come back from the hospital, that my son would be raised without a mother.
I cried with my husband. Then I asked one of my closest friends to pray for us.
This is not how I had envisioned the hours before the birth of my daughter. For two weeks I had closely monitored every contraction I felt, and analyzed every feeling of pressure. I had answered hundreds of times that yes, I was in fact still pregnant 2 days after my due date, then 5 days, then 2 weeks. I tried to make myself go into labor by walking and eating spicy foods, I dogged questions about why I didn’t just go get induced while asking my doctor to let me go a little longer.
Every day I hoped it would be the day I would go into labor spontaneously, rush to the hospital in excitement and some hours later after a completely unmedicated birth, I would have our new baby in my arms.
I wanted an unmedicated birth. No induction, no pain meds. I didn’t want to introduce any unnecessary drugs in my body or have any intervention that could lead to more complications and more intervention. I wanted things to be safe and natural and I felt confident that I could do it.
But, at 42 weeks I had to be induced. Although I know midwives often wait for labor to start spontaneously, I had chosen a hospital birth, so I went along with my doctor’s orders. My daughter was born less than 20 hours after the text to my friend. I was induced, but I never received any pain medication.
Natural childbirth should be an option for every expectant mother, but it can’t be if as a society we fear and hide the pain that it comes with. Instead I believe we can learn about and embrace the incredible process that labor is.
I have been pretty earthy my whole life, and getting an epidural or an elective c-section never crossed my mind. I thought this choice would be easy to make. The problem, I later learned, is that many of the standard practices in hospital births and some choices that women make, make having a natural birth more difficult than it has to be.
Several women I know wanted natural births and tried to have them, but were not able to go through with it for different reasons, including being induced, being unable to relax in a hospital setting- feeling safe and relaxed is important for labor and delivery- and other complications.
Some studies see the rate of c-sections double after elective inductions, mine would not be considered elective, since I was two weeks past my due date, but being induced because the doctor is going on vacation, or because the mom doesn’t want to be pregnant any longer would be elective.
I admire my ob and the maternity nurses who were there for us during the birth of our two children, and whom I would have relied on had things gone wrong. But when faced with a normal and healthy pregnancy and delivery I believe we should strive for a natural process.
Two hospital births, naturally
Less than two years earlier, my husband and I had talked about our choices while I was pregnant with our first. He was clear that he would not consider a home birth, and the birth center closest to us was at the time almost an hour away. We decided to deliver in the hospital and hope to have as natural a birth as possible. But hope is not something I can deal with when it comes to something I felt I should have some level of control over, so I prepared.
We took a Bradley Method class, which in 13 weeks prepares you for natural childbirth. We also hired a doula, a woman who helps laboring mothers before, during and after labor, from explaining procedures to getting coffee for her partner. I also read about childbirth and prepared mentally for what was to come. I was terrified but felt capable. My son was born rather quickly for a first-time mom, although in full disclosure, he was small- many people told me, and even I thought, that was the reason why I had been able to do it without the epidural, so for my second, I was unsure I could do it again.
The morning of my daughter’s birth, I was as cheerful as possible as the nurse got me ready for labor. As the pitocin- a synthetic hormone that induces contractions- entered my body I started to feel a lot of pain. Being on pitocin meant being hooked to IV fluids. Walking around like I wanted and needed to manage the pain was difficult, so after several hours on pitocin I asked my doctor to be taken off it. Because my labor had picked up, she agreed.
Labor stopped a bit after I was taken off of the medicine, but I was determined to deliver a baby with as little intervention as possible, so I walked around the room, visualized contractions and tried very hard to ignore the nurses who told me that they may need to hook me up to the pitocin again. What came next was hours of frustration, annoyance, and a whole lot of pain.
Instead of looking for pain relief, I took each contraction one at a time, relying on both my husband and our doula for emotional and physical support, and retreating to be on my own as needed. Since I could feel everything, I told the nurse when I was ready to push, instead of the other way around, but then allowed myself to be directed in pushing by my doctor.
Even though things did not start the way I had planned them, I was able to follow the rest of my birth plan almost entirely. I felt strongly about our choices, even though they included things that are not always standard practice in a hospital, and spoke clearly about them.
Because I had a plan and was respectful and understanding of the nurses’ work, they were in turn very respectful and understanding of my wishes. I really feel like I could not have had a better birth experience with the situation I had.
I have read, heard and received comments from women who seem to think that I delivered without pain medication because I wanted to prove something. I didn’t. Considering how painful childbirth is, I am not sure who would do it just to prove a point. I did it this way because I thought it was the best for me and my family, and it was. A couple of hours after our girl was born, I took a shower and walked on my own to the recovery room. The next day I was able to go home and enjoy my family. With little intervention during labor, recovery was fast and easy.
If you are considering a natural childbirth, these allowed me to not get pain medication
1- Preparation: Everything we learned during our Bradley Method class, from the stages of labor to possible complications, was useful. I knew what to expect, and so did my husband. I have heard great things about Hypnobabies too.
2- Support: My husband and doula were amazing. People have asked me if it didn’t bother me having a “stranger” there, but if you hire the right doula she won’t be a stranger and she won’t intrude. Our doula, by the way, will always be in my life somehow, she is part of my birth stories. I love her. Our Bradley teacher was also always a phone call or email away, I knew I could count on her if I needed anything before, during or after labor.
3- Information: The choices you make need to be informed. This will ensure you make the right decision for yourself, but it will also give you power when talking with your doctor and nurses about these choices. You need to be strong, articulate and respectful when asking people to do things differently than their standard of care.
* I am definitely not one of those women who looks amazing after giving birth, so I have spared you of my delivery room pictures. You’re welcome!