Motherhood comes with a host of choices to make about what is best for you, your family, and your child. We at Alamo City Moms Blog have a variety of moms who want to embrace these choices instead of feeling guilty or judged for them! We are continuing our series, Perspectives in Parenting, with a look at childbirth. Four of our contributors will share their experiences – Christin’s birth with an epidural, Brooke’s C-section, and Denise’s home birth.
I say “How Un-medicated Childbirth Worked for Me,” because I realize that despite a woman’s intentions, an un-medicated childbirth just may not happen. It worked for me, but I know there’s a great possibility that it might not have, despite all my planning. And even though we can all probably admit that birth rarely goes 100% as “planned,” I do feel there are some things I did to prepare me for two natural, un-medicated hospital births.
I try to take a natural approach to my health and rarely take medicine if I don’t have to. If my body can fight through a cold or headache, I let it. Growing up, my mom gave us a lot of homeopathic remedies for minor illnesses. I felt the same way about childbirth. I wanted to see what my body was capable of. From what I had read, a lot of medical interventions can put the baby in distress, and I didn’t want to do anything that wasn’t necessary. (Plus, I’d heard the adrenaline rush after childbirth was pretty amazing, and I’d read somewhere on the internet that a small percentage of women actually have orgasms during childbirth! WHAT?! So, wasn’t that worth at least giving it a try?! OK, maybe not…)
It wasn’t until I watched The Business of Being Born that I realized I really wanted to try to have an un-medicated childbirth. If you haven’t seen this documentary, I highly recommend it. It’s not as much hippie propaganda as you might think. It’s more about how hospitals usually manipulate the birth process rather than let nature take its course and educating women on the consequences of this. SPOILER ALERT: One of the women filming the documentary is pregnant and ends up needing an emergency C-section, so this documentary really recognizes and respects that all pregnancies are different. It emphasizes that the end goal is to end up with both a healthy mom and baby.
My research didn’t stop there. Three books were critical to my preparation for a natural birth: Active Birth, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, and Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way. These books took the mystery out childbirth for me. Instead of feeling like I had a medical condition, I felt empowered. I understood the stages of labor and what my body would go through. Knowing what to expect helped calm probably half of my fears about childbirth. I also learned relaxation methods, positions, and strategies to manage labor pain and contractions.
So, once I figured out that I really wanted an un-medicated childbirth, I made sure all of my medical providers were aware of my “plan” very early on. I played an active role in my care. Since I’m active duty military, I didn’t have many options and usually saw a team of different providers. Luckily, the base hospital provided both midwives and obstetricians. I made a birth plan with my first pregnancy, but it was more like a way to educate myself on all the typical medical interventions and options that might be presented to me. I couldn’t prepare for every single scenario, but I had a good idea of what to expect and discussed my preferences with my providers. (My husband was always in my corner, and when I was finally admitted to the hospital, he really stood up for me when I got any push-back from those not aware of my “plan.” He didn’t have to do that very often, because I’m pretty pushy myself. But when a young, unfamiliar male student showed up during my labor, I felt like a guy had just walked into the women’s locker room! I asked him to leave. He didn’t. My husband made sure he left. In my mind, labor is not the time to accommodate others. I wanted to be as comfortable as possible. Childbirth is about you and your baby. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about that!)
It’s great that I had all of these plans, but if I didn’t have fairly low-risk pregnancies, it probably would have been more challenging to have two natural births. For example, with my second son, I had high blood pressure one or two times, and there was protein in my urine. I was constantly monitored for preeclampsia. I was scared into getting induced at 37 weeks, and my body just flat-out rejected the induction. The longer I lay there “induced,” the less intense the contractions got, until finally they were completely gone. They always noted that the baby was fine, my amniotic fluids were good, and my blood pressure was great. But since my body didn’t respond to induction, they wanted to break my water. I thought long and hard.
Almost every story I heard about induction went something like this: Woman is 37–38 weeks pregnant. Woman is tired of being pregnant. Doctor suggests induction. Woman gets induced and experiences horrible pain due to excessive Pitocin. Baby is distressed. Emergency C-section.
I wanted to avoid this scenario. So I said, “No thanks,” and went home.
Obviously I’m not a doctor, and I made that decision based on a lot of factors. I would never suggest you risk your or your baby’s health. Also, there are a lot of things that are said to naturally bring on labor, lower the need for induction, and help physically prepare you for labor, like taking evening primrose oil, drinking raspberry leaf tea, and continuing to exercise if you’re cleared by your doctor.
Five days later, after trying almost every natural labor-inducer except for castor oil, my water broke on its own. Come to find out, my son was “sunny-side up” and all tangled up in his umbilical cord, so labor was slow. After 20 hours of intermittent contractions, the doctor finally recommended Pitocin. As much as I hated the idea, I had been in labor for a long time. I had walked up and down the stairs, tried pumping to stimulate contractions, sat on the stability ball, and was still struggling to get past five centimeters. Since they knew I wasn’t on any pain medication, I made sure they started out slow with the Pitocin. I didn’t want them to crank it up and put the baby in distress. Every hour, they increased the amount slightly, until finally, about five hours later, I was ready to push.
I had a great midwife when my first son was born. She knew just what to say. I was pushing, but she could tell I was holding back. She whispered, “It feels like you’re gonna poop, but you’re not. OK? You’re not gonna poop! So I really need you to push!” At least in my case, she was right! It gave me the confidence to push without holding back. I pushed so hard my head shook. I was blind with pain. It almost felt like an out-of-body experience. And the exact SECOND the baby came out, the pain completely stopped. And oh, the endorphins! Pushing a baby out gave me such an adrenaline rush, I felt like I could do anything after that. OK, a few hours later, I felt like I had been hit by a truck, but 800 mg. of ibuprofen worked great, and recovery was quick.
I know I was lucky. I know almost anything could have gone wrong. I could have done everything “right” and still have ended up with a C-section, and that’s OK. A lot of times, they’re medically necessary. But, in my case, I truly believe the key for me was educating myself and having great support. My husband was there for me, rubbing my back when I had horrible back labor, speaking up for me if someone challenged my decision, holding my leg when it was time to push, and encouraging me every step of the way. And with all my preparation, I was able to make informed and educated decisions about the things within my control and feel confident in my choices.
If you’re considering an un-medicated childbirth, I recommend: