Preparing for a Natural Birth

I did not have an epidural with Rooney's birth. A lot of women ask me about it (especially the pregnant ones :) ), and after lots of discussion, I think having a quick birth is one of the best ways to avoid an epidural (if that's your goal). Of course, a quick labor is not something you can always control. I promise I'm not a jerk about avoiding pain meds. It was something I've wanted to do since my cousin told me about her water birth like eight years ago. I thought it sounded like the coolest thing! I've also never liked taking medication (I rarely take pain medication when I have a headache), so it just seemed like that would be my story. Some people run marathons...natural childbirth is my extreme sport.

IMG_8783copy copy

9 Reasons I Think I Was Successful With a Natural Birth

  • My labor started on its own. After I knew I had made it full-term, one of my biggest fears was being induced. Being induced with pitocin is a major factor in needing/wanting an epidural and also in having a C-Section. Eric and I watched The Business of Being Born documentary right after I got pregnant and it was definitely influential in our decision to choose a midwife (since they will usually let you go 42 weeks before being induced and likely would be more open to letting labor progress on its own).
  • I did most of my laboring at home. Because I was at home, I was comfortable and distracted, and being relaxed does wonders for speeding up labor. I think if I had been in a hospital, the stale-ness and starkness of it all would have intimidated me and gotten in my head. But laying on our king-size bed, watching Modern Family and eating Mr. Freeze's made it feel like just another night with Eric. I was able to labor at home for about 11 hours before my water broke. I even slept! (I labored at work for the first five hours, which was less fun.)
  • I was rested. I had about four hours of sleep before my water broke (that was actually a "good night's sleep" toward the end of my pregnancy). Had my water broke at 11:00 pm, I'm not sure I would have had the stamina, especially since I'd been feeling contractions since 11:00 am.
  • My labor went very quickly. I never really thought of fatigue as being a reason why women get epidurals (I just thought it was driven by pain), but labor is exhausting - mentally, physically and emotionally. From the time my water broke until I pushed her out, only 4.5 hours had passed. I think that is pretty quick for a first-time mother. The pain was strong but I could tell I was progressing quickly and that was motivating me. By the way things were going and the way my midwife and nurse reacted to my progress, I was pretty sure it would be a fast event, and there was really no downtime to even discuss an epidural. I was 5.5 cm dilated when we got to the hospital and after the nurse checked me she said she made me 6 cm (which I didn't even know was possible). That was very encouraging (although at the time I had wished I was 8 cm dilated).
  • We had prepared. We watched a DVD birth class called The Best Birth that is geared toward med-free labor. It showed us different labor techniques and how to use gravity to allow the baby to move down. I also read as many birth stories online as I could get my hands on, and even watched some natural births on YouTube.
  • No complications. I wasn't sick (feverish or nauseous, as some women are), and Rooney was handling labor great as well (her high pain tolerance now makes perfect sense to me). So, I was allowed to walk around, unmonitored, and labor however I wished. I tried sitting backwards on the toilet. I tried (and loved) the birthing ball. I tried (and hated) the whirlpool. I was educated on using gravity to help me and was given permission in the hospital to do so.
  • I felt strongly that I wanted to avoid an epidural. I've heard it said that if you go to the hospital unsure if you want an epidural, then you will get one. I felt pretty strongly against an epidural, although I didn't want to publicly express it too much in case labor was much worse than I expected.
  • I have a high pain tolerance mixed with confidence, determination and stubbornness. I have a high pain tolerance, but LABOR HURTS. It feels like your uterus is mad and wants to shed whatever is inside (the worst menstrual cramps you have ever experienced). I didn't enjoy my labor (which may be sad to some of you) and I kept thinking that I was going to title my birth story "I Got an Epidural and I Liked It." (I thought that would be OK because it was a funny title. Maybe it would have gone viral.) I had no question that I would enjoy a labor with pain meds more, but I'm stubborn and really wanted to say I did it without drugs (I'm also afraid of the after-effects of the epidural). I'm a positive person and totally channeled a "can-do" attitude the whole time. I was determined.
  • My husband was a rock star. You should all get a husband as great as mine. I may have yelled at him one time and really hurt his feelings, but he stuck with me and basically gave me a four-hour back massage and helped me get into my pushing position when contractions came, which was a major help. (My sister was also there, on my other side, and was great emotional support during and after the birth!)

Some of these were in my control and some were out. I feel lucky, and hope I can do it again some day (just give me a couple more years to work up the courage).

Do you have any stories or info on what helped you have a drug-free birth?

P.S. Our last night as non-parents and 5 reasons we chose a midwife.

P.P.S. I didn't read any books about childbirth, but if that's how you learn best, I've heard great things about Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Birthing From Within and Hypnobirthing.


Photo credit: Bridget Purdy Photography