When people hear that I’ve had two completely natural, drug-free childbirths at a local birth center (not a hospital) they often have some questions for me. I thought I might write down some of the most frequently asked questions and how I answer them.
Feel free to ask any additional questions in the comments and I’ll answer as best I can based on my own experience or the experiences of my friends who have had similar births.
Please do note that the article below is based on my own personal experiences and opinions, and may not be true for you and your situation or personality. Each woman is different, we all have the right to make our own decisions about childbirth, and I fully respect that.
Why did you choose natural childbirth?
The short answer is: books and education. Years before we ever considered having children I read the book Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Bornby Tina Cassidy because I heard the author on NPR and I am a huge nerd that way. I was indeed surprised by the way that a woman’s body works and how the process of birth has been handled, medically, over the years. A few years later I decided to use the Fertility Awareness Method for birth control so I could go off hormonal methods, so I read Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Healthby Toni Weschler. The more I learned about how my own body worked, the more I started to believe in what my body was capable of and created to do. When we started to consider having children we also watched the documentary The Business of Being Bornand I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirthby Ina May Gaskin. Overall, it was an education process that served to take away my fear of childbirth and help me understand what was going on with my body.
What did you do to prepare?
We took a Bradley Childbirth class, an 8 week class of 2 hours each week. The Bradley Method is partner-coached childbirth and you attend the classes together to learn all about what is happening with a woman’s body in the various stages of labor, the pros and cons of what interventions may be offered, and even basic newborn care and lactation assistance. The Bradley classes prepared both of us in amazing ways. I cannot imagine attempting natural childbirth without taking either a Bradley or Lamaze series of classes. I also must stress that having a committed, equally educated birth partner made a huge difference.
How can you give birth and then go home from the birth center 6 hours later?!
In my experience, and as far as I can tell from the experience of other natural birthing mamas, recovering from an unmedicated childbirth is often faster than when you have been given drugs. Natural birth allows your natural dopamine hormones to kick in, often giving you a surge of peace and energy right after the birth, despite how exhausted you are physically. Breastfeeding immediately after the baby exits the womb also helps kick off those hormones. An epidural or other painkillers can leave you a little sluggish and foggy – you don’t have that if you haven’t had any drugs. In my case it was almost a little irritating how hyped-up I was for about 4 hours after giving birth, I couldn’t sleep even though I was given the opportunity.
A vaginal birth does not include the physical aftermath of major surgery as in the case of a c-section, so walking around short distances (to the bathroom, to the car) really isn’t too much of a problem. Even though I had an episiotomy with my first birth and small tears after the second, everything worked just fine within 4-5 hours after birth both times. I could get up, walk to the bathroom, walk to the car, and around the house just fine with no pain. That said, the midwives suggested I stay IN MY BED at home for 3 days straight, and I did that. I did not leave my bed very often for 3 full days. So in that respect, it was no different than the hospital, except that I was more comfortable because I was in my own bed in my own house, and I think 3 days might even be longer than you get at some hospitals (?).
Why would you want to go straight home and have to take care of the baby 24/7 immediately? Didn’t you want to hand the baby to a nurse and get some sleep?
Part of my answer here is that you do need to have a committed birth partner and/or someone who is going to take care of you and the baby for at least a week after the birth, if you are giving birth outside of a hospital. Both my babies stayed right next to me in a bassinet next to my bed. My husband brought us food and everything we needed. It has actually been some of the sweetest times in our marriage to spend those times together with a new baby. Or, maybe that was my hormones, I don’t know…There was also a lot of pre-planning done to make sure we did not have any social commitments, deadlines, or expectations that we would go anywhere or do anything in those first few weeks.
The second part of the answer is that, if you and your partner are taking care of your baby yourselves from the minute he/she is born, there really isn’t a period of shock when the medical professionals leave. You just do what you need to do, instinctively, from the very beginning, and it works out and it seems normal. Or, at least, it did to us.
Didn’t you think you might die (regarding the pain)?
Maybe a little! But I was expecting that, and I had accepted the idea of pain. They taught us a neat little acronym in Bradley classes about the pain, which is that pain is: Productive, Anticipated, Intermittent, Normal. I found all those words to be true and I kept reminding myself of them.
In addition, since I was at a birth center, I was not hooked up to anything during labor. I could walk around, sit, stand, kneel, get in the birthing tub to labor, etc. I was not forced to lie down, ever (in fact, the idea of sitting still was painful to me, I felt like I had to keep moving to work through the contractions). No one was around except my husband and myself, with a midwife nearby. There were no doctors and nurses going in and out constantly checking me or sticking me with needles, or anyone asking questions or needing to interact with me in any way. I kind of went into a zone and no one bothered us.
The Bradley classes taught us pain management measures. I had music playing which I had chosen. It was warm and comfortable in the room. Christian was there for me to lean on during contractions. All of these things helped and I was not afraid or worried.
Also, I was not given pitocin, which I really think helped me since I am afraid of it. I understand it causes terribly painful contractions which can really only be handled with drugs.
Jenny is a wife to Christian Bradford and mother of Little Sir, born Oct. 2009, and Little Lady, born Feb. 2011. She is a mom, part time Social Media Specialist for Blue Volcano Media, and the author of Conscientious Confusions, a blog about living consciously. The blog encompasses not only living more “green”, but also healthy eating, conscientious consumerism, and natural parenting.