As I get closer to my due date for our third child (we have about 7-8 weeks to go), it’s been impossible not to look back at my previous two deliveries as I prepare to face this one. In addition, I’ve gotten lots of questions, now and ever since my first child was born, about my experiences with unmedicated “natural” deliveries (meaning vaginal, not induced, no pain medications, as “naturally” as possible, no interventions, etc.).
While every pregnancy and delivery is different, I’ve found that there are some things that seem to remain the same. So, for all you soon-to-be mamas, especially you first-timers, or you hoping-to-be mamas, here are four of the most important things that helped me through my two deliveries.
Disclaimer: I know that as mothers, we have plenty of choices to make when it comes to labor and delivery, and not everyone chooses the same things. This post is not about one delivery method or choice being better than another. It’s just about how I handled my deliveries, and what I’ve learned through the process. However, I think these can apply to any labor and delivery situation.
1. Educate & Inform Yourself
When you’re a first-time mom, you have a lot to learn, and that’s fine. You’ve never been here before. Accept that challenge, and do your best to educate and inform yourself about this new chapter in life.
I think one of the most important and empowering things for me as a brand new mom-to-be was going into the delivery room with some knowledge of what was going on, what should happen, what could happen, and what my options would be.
I knew that I was by no means as educated or experienced as my doctor or nurses, so it was important that I trusted them for the big things. I also didn’t go overboard with learning or researching to the point of making myself fearful of every worst case scenario, but neither did I want to be completely clueless.
One of the most helpful resources for me came along before I was even pregnant. Early in our marriage, Brad and I just happened to come across the movie, “The Business of Being Born” on TV one night, and we watched it together. While at first it made me a little nervous about EVER having a baby, it gave me enough information on what God had created my body to do, what my expectations of labor and delivery should be, how medical interventions affected the process, and allowed me to see that I could have a say, to an extent, in how my babies entered the world.
Once I was pregnant with Elijah, I read a couple of pregnancy and baby books, including the cliché “What to Expect” books, usually week by week as my baby developed, and I subscribed to a couple of different websites geared toward mommies-to-be.
Brad and I also attended a one-day birthing class hosted by our hospital, as well as took the hospital tour once I reached my third trimester.
From all I had learned from researching and conversations with other mothers, I decided to, and was prepared to, deliver my baby without pain medications and as naturally as possible. Since Brad had shared in my learning, he knew why I made that choice, and he was 100 percent on board.
Oh, and one thing that I wish I had learned about before Elijah’s birth: perineal massage. That would have been helpful.
Actually, I saw a brief note about it about two weeks before he was due, but didn’t think much about it. However, Elijah’s head is larger than average, and unfortunately for me, that meant he got a little…um…stuck during delivery. It was only at that point that the doctor, who was not my regular OB/GYN, asked me if I’d done any perineal massage. No one had mentioned it to me at any time before, not even my doctor, so – no I hadn’t. And I ended up with a tear and stitches in places a lady should never have stitches, which made my recovery much more difficult.
And I KNOW the difference in recovery because, having learned my lesson with Elijah, I planned ahead, followed the instructions I found online, and was better prepared for Josiah’s arrival. Without the tearing and stitches, I bounced back amazingly easily after he was born.
So, yes, educating yourself and being informed is important. (See end of the post for additional resources)
2. Your Support Team & Good Nurses are Vital, but God Is Your Biggest Support
Another important detail on your delivery day is who will be surrounding you as you face labor and birth. You want people who will be your advocates, encouragers, and help you stay calm and as stress-free as possible. FWhat you don’t want are people who question you on everything, give you too much sympathy, or make you feel weak or incapable. (You need to be a strong, confident warrior-mommy.)
For me it has always been my husband and my mother, one as my cheerleader and the other as my coach. (I’ve often said that my mom would make an excellent doula.) Both Brad and Mom were supportive of my desire to deliver as naturally as possible, and they did everything they could to help me in that. I know that I could not have made it through either boy’s delivery nearly as well without them both. (You can read a bit more about it in “8 of My Favorite Things about Being Pregnant“)
In addition, I’ve always been blessed with wonderful nurses at the hospital where I deliver. During Elijah’s delivery, especially, when I had a doctor who was less than confident in my abilities and my determination to deliver without pain meds, it was imperative that I had supportive, helpful, kind nurses who weren’t condescending to me or my wish for a natural birth. One nurse in particular was amazing in how she helped me with my breathing through the worst of the final stages of labor.
However, despite being surrounded by a strong support team, there does come a point in delivery where it truly is just you and God bringing your baby into the world. He is the only One who knows that baby as well as you – better even. From the start of my pregnancies, we’d prayed for His presence and His hand on our babies, so when it came to the actual delivery, where else did I expect Him to be but with me? For me, delivering my children was a chance to trust God and rely on Him in way I’d never done before.
So many times during contractions, I would pray and just focus on Him or hear a praise song in my head that would encourage me and remind me that I could do all things because God would give me the strength. Since He designed my body to carry and delivery babies, and He gave us this child, I could trust Him, more than anyone else, to help me through it.
3. It’s Only Pain
Yes. Labor hurts. It hurts, hurts, HURTS! And it’s work. It’s not fun. There is NO denying that. And making the choice to go without pain medication at all meant that I felt every bit of pain that labor and delivery could bring me from start to finish. It was part of my expectation (and yes, dread) of the day. You have to plan for and expect the pain. It’s going to be there.
However, it is pain with a purpose, a pain that will eventually pass, and a pain that ends with a precious baby. That’s what I reminded myself of as the contractions got intense.
And God has been gracious to us women, even in childbirth, in that as the pain builds, so does your tolerance. You may even doze between contractions at some point. You kind of get used to the pain, and then it increases. Then you get used to coping with that, and so on, until you think you can’t handle anymore. And then it’s time to push (OUCH!), and that pain motivates you to do whatever you need to to help that baby out. (Haha!)
There are so many ways to cope with the pain, but the biggest one is to remain calm, relax, and breathe. My deliveries were not marked by the crazy, overly dramatic moments seen on television shows or in movies – no flailing, screaming, or beating my husband.
In fact, with our first son’s birth, I was so calm when it was time to go to the hospital that my silly hubby didn’t believe I was actually ready to have the baby. In the car, he called his parents to let them know we were headed to the hospital, and he seriously told them, “Well, we’re going in, but I don’t think this is it.” (Okay, I MAY have smacked him THEN! After being up since 2am with contractions that increased throughout the day and were consistent with what the doctor said they should be, I KNEW that baby was coming that night.) Brad has since learned not to doubt me. 🙂
I also often reminded myself that if Abraham’s wife, Sarah, in the Bible, could be in her nineties and deliver a baby in the desert, I could certainly do it in my thirties and in a hospital with modern conveniences.
4. Flexibility Is Key
You have to go into your delivery knowing that there is a chance you’ll need to be flexible. Not so much physically flexible (although that might be helpful), but rather being ready to adjust your plans, vision, or expectations of what your birth experience will be.
Even though my births went fairly according to the book, we did have to make some adjustments even to how I coped with the pain (not every method works in every situation) or how we moved the delivery along (I did have to have them break my water with both deliveries, even though I waited as long as possible).
Clearly, I didn’t want stitches with Elijah. That was NOT in my birth plan. But it happened.
With Josiah, I experienced the “labor shakes,” something I’d never heard of until, yep, I was experiencing it. It was not pleasant and not ideal. Not being able to move around more – I like to be walking or up as much as possible – or control my breathing as well because my body was literally shaking from my feet clear up through my chest, made laboring much more difficult, and it was frustrating.
If you want to deliver your child without pain medication, know that it IS possible. It’s totally doable. You CAN do it, even when you have to adjust some things. Of course, if things come up, and everything changes on your plan, that’s okay, too. Do what’s best for you and the baby – always.
We had only minor adjustments, but they didn’t change the fact that my boys arrived safely and healthy, which was the most important part of our plan.
So there you go. That’s how I delivered two beautiful babies as naturally as possible and completely medication-free: being educated, surrounding myself with supportive people, expecting and planning for the pain, and being flexible.
It’s how I plan to bring this third little guy into the world soon. 🙂
While I haven’t gone through my third labor yet, here’s what’s been the best thing for helping me through this third pregnancy and all it’s discomforts.
Update: Since I recommend being educated as part of your labor and delivery preparation, I asked a community of online moms for the best resources for a mom wanting an unmedicated, natural birth experience. Below are some of their most popular answers. (Some of the links below may be affiliate links, which mean that at no additional cost to you, I may receive a small commission when you use the links.)
Husband-Coached Childbirth: The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth by Robert Bradley, MD.
Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon
BradleyBirth.com (You can find local Bradley method birthing classes)
Redeeming Childbirth: Experiencing His Presence in Pregnancy, Labor, Childbirth, and Beyond by Angie Tolpin, plus RedeemingChildbirth.com (has free resources) and CourageousMom.com
The Birth Book: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Safe and Satisfying Birth by William Sears, MD, and Martha Sears, RN
Birth Without Fear Facebook community