Monday, July 30, 2012

7 Things That Surprised Me About Natural Childbirth

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1. I did it. I'll be honest. I had my doubts. I didn't think I would do it. I think everyone that knew me, mainly my friends and family, didn't think I would do it either. I don't recall getting a single bit of encouragement from anyone other than my husband. Most of the time I got responses such as, "Just wait until you feel that first contraction. You'll be begging for the epidural."

I never asked for the epidural, but at the very end, not knowing it was the very end, I started to think about asking for the epidural. I thought, "I can see why women want relief." Luckily, once that thought crossed my mind, I was being pulled out of the birth tub, feeling that need to poop that you hear about, and got my first cervical check by my midwife. I was completely dilated. 30 minutes later I was holding my baby.

2. The pain really does go away immediately. Once I had Lily in my arms, that tempest I has just been experiencing seconds before immediately stopped. I no longer felt any contractions. I'm sure my body was doing the necessary work to help birth the placenta, but I didn't notice it. There were a few things that happened that I did notice, such as the first poke of local anesthetic for a few minor repairs and the vigorous massage of my uterus after the birth. Other than that, I just noticed my sweet little baby and was basking in her entrance into the world.

3. It hurt, but it was not the worst pain imaginable. At least it wasn't for me, thank goodness. And I have a pretty low tolerance of pain.

I grew up hearing childbirth described as the worst pain imaginable, so I had an expectation that labor was going to be pretty miserable. It really got intense for awhile. I had a fairly quick labor for a first time mom. The entire process lasted about 4.5 hours, from the start of the first contraction that I felt, to Lily being in my arms. Once I started feeling contractions, I didn't get that break in between that I heard about. It was fast and furious, one on top of the other. They never completely went away. It wasn't a walk in the park by any means, but it's hard thinking back on the process and describe it as painful. But it didn't really feel good or anything. There was something about that pain that made it bearable. I knew it served a purpose. I knew that my body was supposed to feel like that and that what I was feeling was normal. That it was part of the process. It wasn't pointless pain-in-the-butt pain like a headache or toothache or a migraine. Now what is the point of that pain? Honestly, I can think of things that would hurt worse than childbirth. Like...getting a limb chopped off in an accident or being burned alive. I've never broken a limb, but that seems like it would hurt really bad too. Childbirth is not the worst pain that I can imagine, but I really hope that it is the worst pain I ever experience. I don't want to go through the things that I can think of that are worse than that. Like, ya know, a kidney stone. That is definitely pointless pain-in-the-butt kind of pain.

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4. I am stronger than I realized. There was a place I had to reach inside of myself in order to go through labor. It's hard to describe this place, so I call it "the labor place." I never reached this place before labor, no matter what challenges I needed to overcome, and I haven't been back since. It's an instinctual place, a primitive place. A place full of power that I didn't know I had and that I could never recreate without being in labor. Being able to reach that place is what helped me get through and helped me to discover what I am really made of.

5. The birth high. I honestly did not expect to feel the way I felt after having a baby. I felt so energized, excited and empowered. You see that word everywhere on natural childbirth websites. I see it on just about every doula's website. It makes me chuckle every time I see it because I will never look at the word empower the same way after reading this post.

I felt beautiful. Even with my stretched out skin, jiggly belly, stretch marks, leaky boobs, sweaty skin and all, I still felt beautiful. I had a sincere and deep appreciation for what my body could do. I was in awe, and I respected my body. I wanted to treat it better for what it was able to do for me and my little baby.

I wanted every woman to feel like I did after giving birth, so eventually it led me to want to be a doula. Here I am!

Any time I feel discouraged about motherhood, which I honestly think is harder than giving birth at this point, I think, "I did that? I can do anything!" I will draw on that experience for the rest of my life when I need a boost of strength.

6. The animosity. I think this was the biggest thing I didn't expect. I can't really describe the feeling I got when people found out I gave birth without pain medications, but it wasn't what I expected. It seems like some people who liked me before no longer did. It seems like there were some people who tried to belittle the experience. Yes, I felt proud of myself for giving birth, but I didn't go around bragging about myself. That's not my style! It seems like the mere mention of, "I had a natural childbirth," elicits responses along the lines of, "That doesn't make you better than me." No. I never said I was better than anyone. Really, the only ones I told that I had a natural childbirth were the ones who knew I was trying and asked, "So, did you do it?" Other people were told by my totally-proud-of-me husband. He would volunteer that information, and I could tell he was proud of me. I won't lie. I liked it. It felt good. Who wouldn't like hearing their husband speak of them with pride?

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7. I'm scared to do it again. I did it once. Can I do it again? I won't lie, I feel like I am going to have to start all over again with my childbirth preparations. I will still have to process fears. I have new ones this time, now that I have a better idea of what to expect. I still don't know how I will react to being in labor. How long will my labor last this time? I think my biggest fear this time is that labor will last for 24 hours or more. That really scares me because my first one was so fast and I was thisclose to asking for the epidural. I'm also scared of having a posterior baby and experiencing back labor. I have other fears that I'll share with my husband, midwife and doula as I continue to discover exactly how I am feeling about this pregnancy and upcoming birth. Any time I mention to my husband that I am scared to give birth again, he says, "You'll be fine." I hope he's right!


  1. I was scared to do it again too! Even though my natural labor went really well, I had an emotional breakdown a few weeks before my third was born because I just didn't want to do it again. Turns out that labor was WAY easier than the second one! But, it also makes me nervous to have a fourth kid since my third birth was so perfect! Lucky for you, you are incredibly knowledgeable and you'll know to make the right decisions for *you* and *your family.* :-)

  2. Thanks Stephanie! I hope you are right! It'd be really awesome if this birth is pretty much the same as the first one. I won't mind that one bit.

  3. The part where you talk about the people that made you feel resented for having had a natural birth makes me a little sad. I'm pregnant for the first time and i'm doing all the research to make an informed decision in the end about the things I want for my birth...and in doing that research and talking to people I find that you get negative people like that on both sides, those that have done natural that make moms who had interventions feel like less of a woman or those that have gotten meds and act like if you want to plan a natural birth you're trying to be a "superwoman". I think that every woman is entitled to make decisions about her birth/s that are what she feels is best for her and her baby. No one, like you said, is any better than the next because of how they gave birth and for a person to feel like they get to make someone feel bad for those decisions, whatever they may be, is sad. Sorry that was so long. I enjoyed your article and I'm sure your having written this article will help someone make that informed decision:)