I had what is usually called a “natural birth” with both my kids. Natural birth is in quotes here because I don’t consider myself qualified to call anyone else’s birth unnatural, and on top of that I was sporting a saline IV and had continuous fetal monitoring during my first labor and delivery experience. IV tubing doesn’t exactly grow on trees, ya know. I was luckier with second, if not having to wear a strap around my middle can be called lucky. Having learned my lesson the first go around, I’d been hydrating continually for the previous 15 hours, and the hospital was so busy that night that no one was around to hook me up to the monitors.
I was totally free to get up and move when I was in labor with my son, and I did, doing laps around the maternity ward from roughly 1-3 a.m., hoping to sneak a peek into one of the other rooms to see how those mamas were birthing their babies. No such luck. There in the middle of the night, everyone on the floor was cuddled up in bed in the dark – at least everyone whose doors were open.
Other in-labor activities included bouncing on the birthing ball (boring), reading Facebook (distracting), doubling over in pain (self explanatory), singing little songs to myself (distracting), and examining the pneumatic tube station (interesting!). But I ended up on my back in bed eventually because that is how I like to labor. No kidding. I know that squatting and sitting and crouching and leaning over a bar and kneeling on all fours let gravity help move things along, but I did not want to do that. I wanted to lay in bed on my back so that is what I did.
And as someone who likes the idea of an active, upright birth in theory, I was as surprised as anyone. I was also kind of shocked at how yucky I found the idea of getting in the water, considering I’ve always imagined water births as being utterly lovely. Birth plan… ha. I didn’t bother with one the second time around because those two words don’t seem to ever meet up in my personal story.
In any case both my birth experiences resulted in healthy – if small and in one case, slightly underbaked – babies. I can’t complain!
There’s only one photo of me in labor, a selfie, because most people enduring drug-free birth just do not look good or happy or like they’re enjoying themselves.
Except for those orgasmic birth types – and more power to them. I’m happy to admit that during I looked rough! I’ll never know exactly how rough because no one took any pictures of me writhing around in a hospital bed wearing not one, but two gowns – and in the case of my daughter, an IV and monitor strips as accessories. Photos of natural unmedicated birth? Not mine, thanks! I got through it in my own head, and that’s enough for me.
I do have a few ideas about why I was able to get through it without drugs when some people who really, really want to might not make it to the endgame without a little help. (Not that there is anything wrong with that! I wanted drugs with my second but there was no one available to administer them and then it was too late anyway.) Here are four things that helped me have a drug-free birth:
1. I’ve had terrible migraines my whole life so I’m used to coping with the kind of pain that literally leaves you sobbing in a ball and thinking “I could kill myself right now to be free of this and that would be perfectly reasonable.” I’d take a natural birth over my worst migraine any day of the week. So, pain? As long as you don’t expect me to exhibit any dignity, I can take it.
2. My births were short – exactly 3.5 hours each, excepting the contractions I had in the days prior which were straight up nothing. For most of those 3.5 hours, in both cases, I was hurting but not so much that I couldn’t walk or carry on a conversation until close to the end, where the entirety of my conversations involved telling people around me to shut up and, in the case of my son’s birth, demanding that he get out of my body immediately.
3. My babies were small. Wee. Four and a half pounds, and six pounds even. When I see newborns eight pounds and over my “birth canal” snaps shut like a Venus fly trap. Props to the moms who evict those babies with or without medical help because hot damn. I can’t imagine pushing longer than 20 minutes (as with my son) or less (as with my daughter). I can’t imagine being in labor for 12 hours, let alone 20 or some number of days. I can only guess I would have been breaking into the hospital pharmacy at that point!
4. And finally, I partnered exclusively with midwives for my prenantal care and births. Now, it’s totally possible to need interventions when all your care is under midwives because it’s birth. Or to go natural with an OB Expect the unexpected, I always counsel those expecting. But I do believe that if you’re interested in having a drug free birth, midwives are the way to go because every encounter I’ve had in L&D with an OB involved being asked if I wanted something. Something for the pain. Something to “help things along”. I should make it clear that in every case, when I said no, the OBs were very respectful of my choices. But still.
I guess this is my way of saying I didn’t choose the natural birth life, the natural birth life chose me. If things had been different, I might have been the first one in line for an epidural. A longer birth. A bigger baby. An alternate presentation. Other care providers. As labor and deliveries go, I had it SO easy. My biggest fear when it came to my son’s birth was that it would last longer than my daughter’s and that I wouldn’t be able to handle it. As far as I’m concerned, 3.5 hours is quite enough birthing, thankyouverymuch, and every woman who goes longer than that deserves a high five and a medal – whether she delivered drug free or with all the drugs she could get her hands on.
Did you birth with or without a little something something for the pain? What guided your decision?