By Jessica Smartt, Contributing Writer
I just had my third baby, and I (finally) had a natural childbirth. Induced and with Pitocin, even. Virtual high-five, anyone??
This was not easy, but I had planned it for a long time. I had horrific experiences with my two prior births. There was the emotional disconnection and fallout of the medicated births, but I also had spinal headaches with both of my sons. Talk about starting your newborn days out wrong! A week-long migraine is NOT the way to go!
I knew going into my daughter’s birth that I wanted it to be different. Even though I have a pretty low pain tolerance (in other words, I’m a big fat wimp) I KNEW that I did not want those headaches, and I wanted to start off on a better foot. I kept telling myself, “As long as I don’t get induced and don’t have Pitocin contractions, I can do it.”
Turns out, I did have Pitocin, but I still did it without any medicine! You can read about my birth story here, but here are some specific things I helped me achieve my goal of a natural childbirth:
- The first may seen obvious, but the number one factor was to have a clear, definite picture of WHY I wanted a natural birth. For me, as I said, it was remembering the pain of the spinal headaches! I knew that an epidural was merely a temporary fix in my pain. I kept this idea in the forefront of my head during my pregnancy and then during the actual birth. I knew why I was doing what I was doing, and that an epidural was not the easy way out.
- My second great decision was to have a doula. I think you could avoid this if you were very versed in pain management techniques and positioning. For me, however, this was not an area that I felt comfortable with. I wanted a doula less for emotional support and more for practical, hands-on help. She was great. I felt more comfortable just knowing that someone “wise” was in the room. If we were making a decision, we had another voice whom we trusted. She used pressure points to relieve pain and guided me through various positions which I believe greatly expedited the labor.
- Staying in shape during pregnancy also helped. My first childbirth, I was SHOCKED at how physically demanding it was. Actual labor, you know? I guess I was a little naive. The third time, I used my favorite workout videos to practice good breathing and stay in shape, and I have no doubt that this was very helpful.
- Measured breathing is another. I used deep yoga breathing to relax during contractions. During my former births, I was tense, and this intensified my worry and pain. When I felt a contraction coming, I purposely relaxed my entire body, and breathed very slowly.
- Drink, and a little food. I know eating during labor is controversial, and I hoped to avoid it. I have low blood sugar and at one point the nurse smuggled me in some saltine crackers, which I was insanely grateful for. I also used Stephanie’s LaborAid, some smoothie-type drinks, and Emergen-C. Because I burn so many calories, it was important for me to be proactive and have things on-hand that could give me energy.
- On a related note, I ate a huge meal the night before. I was induced, so I had the luxury (sort of) of knowing when I would be in labor. I ate a lot (I guess you could say “carbo-loaded”) the night before.
- Laboring in my own clothes was another big one. I had planned for my third to have a hospital birth, and when it dawned on me that I didn’t have to wear that yucky, horrible hospital robe, it was such a relief! I bought my own robe and it made me much more comfortable, and confident.
- I also appreciated not being hooked up to the IV or having constant monitoring. I allowed them to install a port in my arm, but did not remain hooked up for a constant IV. I got on the monitor every so often to check on my daughter, but not constantly as they did with my other births. It was such a blessing to move around!
- Finally, I am grateful for my faith. This is not a trite add-on. I cannot write this post honestly without mentioning my faith, because there was a definite moment (you can read about here) when I knew I could not do this thing on my own strength. We prayed together to ask the Lord for His strength, and He provided.
If you had a natural childbirth, what was the biggest help?
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