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I knew a handful of people who had experienced natural childbirth themselves, but the only one in close proximity was my childbirth educator. She did it, so it gave me hope that I could do it too.
The big day came, and I did it! I had a natural childbirth. I couldn't believe it. I did that? I did THAT?
A few years later, I was expecting my second baby and planning a home birth. I had one natural birth, but I began to doubt that I could do it again. Now I knew what I was in for. I knew what birth felt like. Most of the time, I was pretty sure I could do it, but some days the doubt and fear would creep in. What if I lost it? What if I cried? What if I couldn't do it? My husband never doubted that I could do it. He always reassured me that I could do it. After all, I did it once. I could do it again. I wasn't so sure.
But, as it turned out, I could do it again, and I did do it again.
Fast forward a few more years, and I was expecting my third baby and planning another home birth. I'd had two natural births, but again, I began to worry whether or not I could do it again. "It hurts!" I told my midwife. And she kind of looked at me like, "Well... yeah. And?" I have to admit that I was more worried about whether or not I could handle the pain than I ever was during my other two pregnancies. I did my best to prepare my mind and body for labor. At this point I was even teaching others about how to have a natural childbirth as a Birth Boot Camp Instructor. Still, I worried about my ability to handle the pain, even though I am stubborn about referring to the sensations of my previous births as painful. Uncomfortable? Yes. Most definitely. Those two births were uncomfortable. But painful? It's really hard for me to use that word for some reason. But for this birth, I worried about pain.
I kept hearing and kept telling myself, "You've done it twice. You can do it again."
I hoped so.
At this point, I don't remember when I thought this, but a few days or weeks before giving birth a third time, I tried to fall asleep while thinking about my upcoming birth. I was again worried about the pain. Then a comforting thought came to me. "I can have an epidural if I want to. If it all becomes too much for me, I can go to the hospital and have an epidural."
And with that thought, I quickly fell asleep and my fears about the pain disappeared. I had never given myself permission to have an epidural before. With my previous two births, it wasn't an option in my mind. I'd only have an epidural if there was an emergency and I needed one for safety reasons, such as during a surgical birth. For this birth, I gave myself permission to have an epidural for pain relief. And that permission was a huge relief to me. It told me that I didn't have to birth a certain way just because I am a doula or teach natural birth classes or because I've done it twice before. I can give birth the way I need to. If this birth happened to test me beyond my ability to bear it, I could have relief. It was there for me and okay for me to accept it should I need it.