I had a natural childbirth, and if you’re thinking about it, know that you can too.
Updated: Sep 23, 2020
Childbirth is a lot, no matter how it goes down for you. While it’s more common in the U.S. to have a medicated childbirth, often with an epidural involved, I wanted to go a different route. It started out that way truthfully because I was terrified of a giant needle being stuck into my spinal cord. I had a co-worker in my 20s tell me a horror story about a friend who lost feeling in her legs indefinitely after receiving an epidural for her first child, and it scarred me for life. It’s possible that I remember the story way worse than it actually was; in fact, nerve damage which would lead to something like what I remember being described to me is incredibly rare – only 1 in 4,000 to 1 in 200,000 experience a side effect like this. Nevertheless, the image in my head of being destined for a wheelchair for the rest of my life because of an epidural was vivid. So, when I read a blog post from a friend of a friend about her experience with the Bradley method shortly after I found out the good news that I was pregnant, it was like the universe was speaking to me.
I did some research and decided that my husband and I should sign up for a twelve week Bradley method class towards the end of my second trimester. My husband was less than thrilled – a three hour class on a weeknight after a long day of work was not something he felt was necessary. Thankfully he loves me and generally goes along with my crazy ideas, so there we found ourselves on a snowy evening in November watching birth videos with a group of strangers. While at first the experience was a bit of a shock, I am so thankful that I learned about the Bradley method. The lessons and instruction is helpful not just for the mother to be, but also for the husband. In the twelve week course, you learn what to expect from the moment you start feeling that first contraction all the way through postpartum care, like breastfeeding and rehabilitation for your own body. You and your partner learn relaxation techniques to help ease the pain of labor, such as deep breathing and massage. And one of the pieces that I had no idea I would even need going into the birthing experience was how to deal with the hospital system – how to advocate for yourself when the hospital wants you to do something you don’t want to do, how to ask the right questions to understand all of your options in the case of something going wrong, and how to generally understand the way the system works. These lessons were invaluable to me in my quest to have an unmedicated childbirth.
About the actual experience? I will say, no pain meds during labor really freaking hurts. I am lucky that I was given the gift of quick labor passed down to me from my mother, because if I was one of those women who has 24+ hours of laboring I probably would have thrown all of that preparation out the window. But the reality is Mother Nature gives you amnesia so you forget how painful it is after a while, and in fact so much so that I went with an unmedicated birth with both my first and second child.
The thing is, there is something kind of cool about feeling the full experience of labor. Not only was it empowering to know how strong my body and mind truly are, but the fact that you can get up and walk around right afterwards is pretty nice. If you’re a bit of a control freak like me, it is also great to be more in charge of how things go down than you would be if you can’t feel your body.
So if you’re considering a natural childbirth, know that you’ve got this, mama. Don’t listen to the naysayers; have the birthing experience that you wish to have. My advice? Take a class so you prepare to minimize the pain as much as possible, whether that be Lamaze, Bradley, hypnobirthing, etc. Also, find a midwife that is associated with a hospital, as they are typically more supportive of your wishes than obstetricians will be. And no matter what you decide, or if it doesn’t end up going the way you wanted it to, know that you are a rock star for making it through this and will have the most incredible little human to snuggle afterwards, which is really all that matters!