I always get the same response from women when I tell them I had a natural birth: “I could NEVER do that!” or a series of explanations as to why they didn’t (I seriously don’t care, this is how I did it but it doesn’t have to be what others do!)
The reality is that almost all of us, with the exception of the few, can have a natural birth. That being said, it takes lots of preparation, self-education, and self-empowerment. If you choose not to prepare yourself for a natural birth, it will be very scary and you will probably change your mind and start begging for that epidural! Heck, I prepared and I still begged for it! If you haven’t yet, you can read my natural, unmedicated birth story here.
From what I’ve heard, the desire for a raw, natural birth experience is becoming more and more common as women are deciding to take back the birthing experience. We are so fortunate to live in a time where our doctors are so capable and have access to incredible, life-saving technology to use when necessary. However, the birthing model that has developed over the past couple of decades puts all of the power and knowledge into the doctor’s hands and takes it out of the mother’s. Having a natural birth can give you the power and control over your birthing experience, and create a positive and empowering memory. This is contrary to the often traumatic and scary experience many women have. I can truthfully say that despite the pain, I look back on my birthing experience as one of the most incredible and defining moments of my life. Of course, this is possible with an epidural, Pitocin, c- section, etc. and if that is what you desire, then go for it! But I would recommend some of these techniques for women in early labor so you are able to cope instead of just being in pain.
Now that I’ve rambled, let’s get to it!
Empower yourself. When I get asked for advice on natural birth this is my #1 above anything else, need to do tip. Why? Empowerment gives you confidence. If you tell yourself you are weak or have a low pain threshold or are incapable, you will be those things. If you tell yourself you are powerful, strong, healthy, capable, and meant to give birth, you will live those things. It’s an amazing feeling to know that you are able to bring life into this world. Trusting your body and your baby will get you to the end. I remember being in the tub during transition and looking at Carlos and my mom saying “I can’t do this” but thinking in the back of my mind of course I can! And I did.
Learn how to meditate. Meditation will get you through the contractions. Meditation teaches you to acknowledge your thoughts and let them go. This is helpful in labor because you are able to acknowledge that you are in pain or discomfort without panicking. Here are some things to help with meditation:
- Learn to meditate with Headspace. I discovered Headspace after I gave birth, but it would have been REALLY nice to have learned to meditate with this app before! You can download it and do 10 days of meditation lessons for free! You can pay for additional lessons but I’m cheap so I didn’t. 😉
- Hypnobirthing. There are courses as well as a book for hypnobirthing but those are expensive and, again, I’m cheap. I just used free YouTube videos. I had a playlist I listened to every night before bed and sometimes listened to when I had some quiet time during the day. These are great for visualization and taking the fear out of birth. There are a lot out there so here are the ones I listened to if you can’t figure out where to start. I actually ended up using Kathryn Clark & Hypnobirthing on iTunes during labor. It was $10 but I only purchased the Breathing and Birth Visualization (part 4) because I got it 2 days before I went into labor. If you start earlier I would recommend buying the whole program.
- Practice those seemingly silly breathing exercises they give you in birthing class.
- Have your partner or a family member/ friend read a visulization exercise.
Educate yourself. This sort of goes hand in hand with empowering yourself. Through educating yourself, you will become confident and empowered. You can only prepare so much for birth, but knowing what to expect will help you feel prepared, which is what matters the most. Learn about the birthing process, when transition occurs and what it feel like, the ring of fire, when to push, self-checks, birthing centers vs hospitals, the hospital model of birthing, unnecessary inductions, breastfeeding, delayed cord clamping, skin to skin, etc. Know that there are lots of amazing, positive birth stories and it’s not always awful like in the movies, and read lots of those amazing positive stories (mine included). Learn about coping techniques, such as breathing, changing positions, massage, essential oils, and water. Here are some of my favorite resources:
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
- The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding: Completely Revised and Updated 8th Edition
- The Business of Being Born on Netflix
- Ted Talks. Especially Ina May Gaskin’s. There are a lot of great Talks out there, like We must put the sex back into birth, Why fathers should be present at birth, and Home or Hospital?
- Positive Birth Stories
- Positive Birth Movement
- 110 Positive Natural Birth Stories
Like I said, educating yourself will allow you to empower yourself. The more positive birth stories to read or hear, the more excited you will be for your own experience.
Take the fear out of giving birth. Everyone loves to tell pregnant women horror stories about birth and babies. I had to ignore those horror stories entirely to avoid feeling fear about birth. I did all of the things mentioned above (especially reading positive birth stories) and felt completely comfortable with accepting the process. Therefore, I went into labor without fear and was able to experience it without panic or frustration. It wasn’t easy obviously but it was doable because I wasn’t fearful. I knew that everything I felt was normal and natural.
Be stubborn. Nearly everyone, my family included, told me I couldn’t do it. This made me even more determined to do it! I’m naturally stubborn so this was easy for me. I’d made my mind up, I was going to do it my way. If you put in your mind that “oh, maybe I’ll get an epidural” or “if I reach 40+1 I’ll just get induced” or “I’d like to give birth naturally but we’ll see how I feel” then you will probably not be able to get through it. Being stubborn sure does come in handy sometimes 😉 of course if there is an emergency, do what you need to do to get the baby out safetly. But otherwise, be stubborn! It’s okay to pursue what you want, it’s your experience.
Have support. Luckily I have an amazing hubby, who is also a nurse, and who didn’t get grossed out by labor. He was super supportive and encouraging. He completely supported my decision to have an natural birth at a birth center. He also attended the birthing class so he knew how to help me cope and relax throughout labor. I also saw midwives (both traditional and CNMs) who obviously support a natural unmedicated birth. I also had my mom with me who kindly reminded me that natural birth was what I wanted and I didn’t need and epidural. If you don’t have much support, you should definitely get a doula because they will not only help you get through labor but will also help make sure your birth plan is followed.
I know this seems like a lot, but it is seriously so worth it. Doing these things can help you get excited and prepared for a positive natural birthing experience!
Good luck, mamas to be! Natural birth is an incredible experience.