Considering Natural Labor? Why You Should Give It a Go.

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Black and white photo of baby's hand in mother's
Image courtesy of Pixnio Creative Commons.

 

First of all, let me start by saying – natural labor is not the answer for everyone, whether by choice or situation. I have been blessed to have two natural, drug-free births in a hospital setting, and am planning a third in December. I feel strongly about “trying” to have a natural labor for many reasons, but I also recognize that not every woman will be lucky enough to have exactly the labor they want, or the desire to go drug-free during labor. This post is geared toward those mommas who are interested in having a natural labor, but have doubts about their ability to cope with pain or the process.
 
I want you to know that you can do it. 
 

Why natural labor?

Because you can. 
 
I am woman, hear my roar. Seriously, ladies, if you are questioning your body’s ability to handle natural labor – don’t. We were made for this. We were made to grow and carry tiny humans, to then bring them into the world with our own amazing strength. You can do it. 
 
I’m currently reading Natural Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, and she addresses one of the biggest impediments to natural labor from the start. As a culture, we tend to tell “horror” stories about birth. We don’t share our triumphant moments. We don’t talk about how we are literally pushing a child the size of a bowling ball out of our bodies with the respect and recognition it deserves. 
 

Labor is hard. Recognize that and embrace it. 

Educate youself.

Yes, we all took Sex Ed in high school, but that mostly talked about condoms and abstinence. Even Biology class didn’t really cover the birth of babies (animals or human). We tend to look at birth as taboo, and therefore, don’t really talk about the nitty gritty of birthing babies. For a first-time mom, being in labor will more than likely be the first time she is ever in a labor and delivery room. Educate yourself by reading about labor and delivery, and I don’t mean labor horror stories you found on Pinterest or Facebook. Real birth stories that talk about positive outcomes and pain management techniques. Some of my favorites include:
 
  • Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
  • Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin
  • Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon

Personally, I shy away from books about medical interventions and hospital births because I find they typically overlook the amazing nurses and doctors who work at hospitals, and that are supportive of natural childbirth techniques. But we’ll talk more about finding a great support team later…

Prepare yourself, because no one runs a marathon without training. 

You wouldn’t run a marathon without fully preparing your body. Most professional athletes monitor their food intake, their training patterns, and their mental health as part of their training. They are literally preparing until the moment the gun goes off at the start of the race. 
 
Pregnancy is 9 months of preparation. 9 months in which to prepare yourself mentally, spiritually, and physically to do the hardest job you will ever do. Give your body the tools to do the job effectively and efficiently by preparing yourself for the task to come.
 

Get in touch with your body – physically and emotionally. 

When I say prepare your body, I mean get in touch with both your physical and emotional self. Find an exercise and diet plan that works for you. A new Canadian study recommends 150 minutes per week of exercise during pregnancy, citing a 25% decrease in complications for those who follow the guideline. This boils down to five, thirty minute sweat sessions a week. I’d like to suggest that not only do you try to keep up with this recommendation, but that you also stay as active as possible until labor starts. The average labor clocks in at about 14 hours for first-time moms, and 8 hours for subsequent babies. That’s a long time to demand your body work both physically and mentally. Prepare yourself by staying active throughout your pregnancy. I imagine the cave ladies of early days were hunting and gathering until they could no longer stand up. 

Pregnant woman doing tree pose in yoga - photo taken from side view into mirror
Image courtesy of Pixabay Creative Commons (StockSnap)
 
Any good athlete also knows that your mental state can dramatically alter the outcome of a competition. Mentally prepare yourself. Meditate, pray, sing in the shower – find what works for you. I found that breath was a great pain management technique during both of my labors, and as a practitioner of yoga, have fully begun to recognize how much focused breathing effects our body both physically and mentally. My advice – have several techniques in your basket of tricks and be willing to change tactics at a moment’s notice. 
 

Find a doctor or midwife who is fully on board with going natural.

This one is key to having a “successful” and supported natural labor, and encompasses a few other pieces than just the doctor or midwife attending. Not only do you need to find a supportive care provider as soon as you get pregnant, but you should also consider the location where you will give birth, as well as who your personal support team will include in the labor and delivery room.

Home birth is a bit dicey in terms of Pennsylvania law, but birthing centers, as well as hospitals that support laboring naturally are available. Do your due diligence and research your provider and health system far in advance of your expected due date. Tour the facility so that you can be comfortable and familiar with the place where you will bring a child into the world. There’s nothing worse than being stressed out over something non-birth related while you’re in labor, and quite frankly, you’ll need to focus fully on bringing a baby into the world. 

I am super lucky to have had a midwife who is totally on board with laboring naturally, and a hospital with amazing nurses who are super supportive, and amazingly kind, even when you’re super grumpy while in pain. These folks have attended so many births. Lean on them and ask for their support. Their experience is more valuable than gold when you’re feeling vulnerable during labor.

Don’t create a ridiculously complicated birth plan.

Now that I’m pregnant with baby three, my expectations for labor and delivery have simplified themselves over the course of the last two births and this pregnancy. My advice to first-time moms – keep it simple. A list of unrealistic expectations will only lead to unnecessary disappointment. Check out my list, below.

Image of a checklist with square check boxes
Image courtesy of Max Pixel Creative Commons

On my list of ridiculous wishes – the whirlpool/birthing tub while in labor. This is something I didn’t get the chance to try while in labor with my first two, as it was already in use when I arrived at the hospital. I’ve read some amazing things about water as a form of pain management that leaves this one hanging on to my birth plan, even on this third go-round. 

Don’t be disappointed if things don’t go as planned…

because a healthy momma and baby is the most important outcome. I’m very frustrated with the number of “failure” articles and blog posts that I’m reading lately on social media. Having a c-section is not a failure. Being unable to nurse is not a failure. Growing and birthing a human is most certainly not a failure. Far from it. Be in awe of your natural ability to bring a child into the world no matter how you do it.

Because you are amazing, momma. No #failure could EVER do something SO amazing. 

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Teresa G is a work at home mom of three boys, ages 3, 4, and 2 months. She has been happily married to her husband Gus for 7 years. She and her family currently reside in the Slippery Rock area, where she has been a longtime resident. Teresa has bachelor’s degrees in both Dance and Professional writing from Slippery Rock University. She has worked in many different fields over the years - dance teacher, aerobics instructor, swim teacher, and most recently, documentation specialist and content manager for a local software company. Currently, she works for The Hillman Center for Performing Arts at Shady Side Academy, and as a freelance writing professional and content manager for a variety of clients in several different industries. Teresa and her family spend much of their time outdoors, being active, and you can often find them in their “Little Boat” on Lake Arthur, or in the “Big Bass Boat” at Lake Erie. In her spare time, Teresa loves to practice yoga, run, and read anything she can get her hands on.