Ah, the drugfree childbirth article. Do you know how long this has been brewing in my head? Every time I think about it I smile, because every time I think about my last birth experience, I smile. It was beautiful. It was perfect. It was exactly what I prepared for it to be. Emphasis on prepared.
I absolutely love birth stories–to me there is just nothing better or more suspenseful than hearing or reading about birth from its storyteller. The interesting thing about childbirth is that no two are ever the same. Each woman’s experience, even if it is reasonably similar, is her own unique story. Her preparation is different. Her expectations are different. No two are alike. & I love that. What I want to share here is how I prepared for my second birth experience–because my preparations are what I credit for my drug-free delivery and reasonably easy recovery. If you would have told me four years ago that I’d be writing about this, I would have laughed at you. But after reading, watching and listening to the resources I have found myself buried in, I can tell you that I believe in the body. I believe in natural birthing. & I believe this country has a poor way of educating women about their birth options. Hopefully, if nothing else, I can open your mind about those of us that choose this kind of experience. We’re not looking for a medal. We’re not looking to say “I am tougher than you.” But talk to any woman about how she felt after a planned drug free delivery, and I bet you’ll hear just about the same thing—it’s magical.
I remember exactly the moment I knew my next birth would be different. It was August of 2009 and I was sitting on my couch a couple of weeks postpartum (on a boppy, because of the broken tailbone my first birth left me with.) I was watching The Business of Being Born (which I highly, highly recommend). I was nursing. I was hormonal. I was still in pain. Everything hurt. Other than meeting my sweet Caroline, my first birth experience and recovery were something I’d rather erase from my memory. Was it like this for every woman? Are we all so drugged that we don’t remember the first week of our child’s life? I remember thinking–heaven help me if I am blessed with another baby someday…I will never, ever do it this way again. As I sat there and watched these empowered women succumb to their bodies amazing natural talent, I found hope. Hope that I could one day birth on my own–and that it would be blissful and warm and non-medical.
…and it was.
But I made some very deliberate choices that helped me achieve my perfect birth and I want to share them–so those of you who are told you are absolutely crazy for considering a natural childbirth (like I was plenty of times) have some moral support. In the end, I found that is really the only thing that mattered–people who believed in me so I could believe in myself.
Choice #1: FIND THE RIGHT PROVIDER
The most important choice I made was this one. I first found a group of OBGYNs who employed midwives, since having midwife support in a practice usually means there is a strong belief in natural childbirth. I happened to have a friend who delivered with one of the midwives (several friends, actually) and I had her ask a midwife which OBGYN she would recommend for a patient who wants a DOCTOR who believes in the natural birthing process. After my experience last time, I definitely wanted a doctor over a midwife, and I also wanted a trained surgeon, since the severity of my tear last time increased my chances of a significant tear again. I also strongly believe in hospital birth–and that you can have a wonderful birth experience in a hospital. I am proof of this. I found my perfect OBGYN, who gave me a copy of her own personal birth plan (and encouraged me to use one, then went over it with me), and I knew she was the perfect person to manage my care.
Choice #2: CHOOSE YOUR SUPPORT PERSON/PEOPLE (a doula!!)
Although my husband is a doctor, I knew that I needed a doula. He may know all the medicine stuff, but he’s not an expert in childbirth and I wanted someone who was. I asked my doctor who her favorite doula was and ended up hiring her as my second support person–and she was amazing. She was so calm and encouraging and our meetings before birth were so helpful to ease my worries. She was just as instrumental to me BEFORE the birth as she was during. If you are wondering if the money to have a doula by your side is worth it, my answer is 100% yes. I cannot say enough lovely things about sweet Vera. I am actually a little disappointed that I didn’t get to work with her more–as I hold the record as her shortest birth ever (was only with her at the hospital for 20 minutes before delivering!) She was the one who went chasing after my husband who went to grab my bag from the car and she gets the credit for making sure he was there for delivery. It all went so fast that he would have missed it if he’d gone to the car & back! :) And she blessed me with some images that I will forever be grateful for, since I did not have my birth photographed.
Choice #3: LEARN ABOUT BIRTH (specifically, read INA MAY’S GUIDE TO CHILDBIRTH)
My first exposure to childbirth done the drug-free way was the documentary The Business of Being Born. It is the perfect starting point and very much goes hand in hand with my reading suggestion. Ironically, my doctor is actually IN the documentary. Ha! Keep in mind it is a documentary, and while I did find it educational, I was a little bothered at how OBGYNs were portrayed. Heck, mine was the one in the trailer saying “pit” over & over and she could not be further from that kind of provider. So watch it & take what you will. I actually loved the second documentary, More Business of Being Born even more.
I am not a huge reader of books. I read a lot of articles, but I just don’t usually have the patience for a whole book. So, I chose just one. THE birth book, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, as all my supporting natural birth mamas told me. It’s half birth stories, half birthing process/science-y/instructional stuff. I did not read it straight through–I jumped around. I say this to encourage you to get it, and make it work for you. You do not need to read it cover to cover for it to be helpful. I read it on my iPad and highlighted parts that I loved. While I have heard some people skip the birth stories, I found that some of my favorite visualizations came from other women’s stories. Those were by far, the most useful part of the book for me. This was a phenomenal mental preparation. It was also a wonderful reminder of what our bodies do and why.
I read most of it my second trimester and brushed up on some of the birth story visualizations in my last couple of weeks. They were extremely helpful for my mental preparation. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts & how I used them:
I believe in my body
The following quotes reinforced my confidence in the birthing process and what my body could do.
Pain is clean and temporary
Pain is a funny thing. We all experience it so differently. I would not describe my drug-free delivery experience as painful (but the tear repair afterwards, is a different story!). There was a lot of pressure and some temporary discomfort, but that always passed and I got a break between contractions. I think we fear the pain more than we find ways to cope with it, which is why many of us (myself included on birth #1) are scared into the epidural. It is critical to put yourself in a good mental place and practice techniques & visualizations to help you with the labor experience.
Everything my body is doing has a purpose.
Understanding what was happening to me was a huge coping mechanism. I read enough to know how to relax and let go so my body could work. Labor was work. Beautiful, powerful work. When I got in the way of what it was trying to do is when I struggled. So I let go. Let it progress as it was ready to & did not use anything to interfere with this process. Using the waves visual for contractions was so soothing to me–each one is powerful, rushes in, peaks and then gently backs off. Waves don’t get stuck..they always come and go, just as contractions do.
Choice #4: MEDITATE ON THE BIRTH PROCESS–HYPNOBABIES
As a former Yogi, I knew that I would thrive if I had some good audio support to help me meditate to my happy place. It is so important to be in a good mental place during birth, and for me, hypnobabies was the answer. I listened to it all the time during my last trimester, most of the time in the bathtub and promptly fell asleep. I often wondered if I was actually benefiting from it since I’d drift off, but after making myself listen to it while wide awake and remembering everything, I discovered it was definitely buried down in my subconscious–which was awesome.
I liked some of the tracks more than others, but overall, it was EXCELLENT. I listened to most of them at least once, but did not follow the workbook. I used the free Hypnobabies Relax Me track to fall asleep almost every night my last trimester. It was awesome. I loaded all the tracks on my iPhone so I had it with me all the time. (oddly enough, it was missing the night of my delivery, but you can read about that in Everett’s Birth Story!) I think the Deepening track is the only reason that I did not have a baby in the car on the way to the hospital! It was so soothing and empowering and I highly, highly recommend it. It is not a crazy thing to do—it does not make you nuts—but the kind of “hypnosis” (poor choice of name with a bad connotation for me) it provides is really more meditation than anything. Lots of affirmations. Lots of breathing exercises. It is just, in a word, empowering. I LOVED it.
Obviously, a drug-free delivery is not something that every woman wants. It is also not something that every woman who wants, gets. I watched the epidural used as a wonderful tool for each of my two best friends’ labors. I strongly believe that they have a place and don’t judge anyone who uses one. I just wish more women knew what I didn’t my first time around. Since I gave birth the second time, I have had the pleasure of screening several segments of More Business of Being Born (the follow up documentary to the first one, with some very candid celebrity birth stories) and it was wonderful. I feel like there is such a strong, supportive community for those of us who choose to birth this way, you just have to try reasonably hard to find it. And not listen to the zillion people who tell you that you are absolutely crazy.
So if no one else is there to tell you that you can do it, then I will be that person for you. You can birth a baby. Your body is strong. Embrace the process. Don’t get discouraged. & really think about the few things that helped me–the right OBGYN/midwife, a doula, the documentary, the book and hypnobabies–because hopefully they can help you too! :)
& if you are local and are looking for some natural birth resources in San Antonio, we are so lucky. Here are some you need to know about:
- Lone Star OBGYN (I highly recommend Dr. Schwope or the midwives–I particularly enjoy Lauren)
- Vera Deckard, my amazing doula
- San Antonio Birth Collective (a collection of local resources such as doulas, water birth, home birth, breastfeeding and more)
- Methodist Lactation Center (which I believe is free, but has a terrible online presence)
- San Antonio Birth Blessings (doulas)
So now, it’s your turn to be supportive. Mamas, I ask you to share your birth secrets & support. Let’s make this article a resource for every woman who stumbles upon it, offering her encouragement for her birth–be it a drug-free birth, an epidural assisted one or a scheduled c-section. There is no need for anything but gentle support on this topic. I’d love to hear yours.