I’ve had two all natural labors. I always say I accidentally had my first daughter naturally, and no, I don’t mean in the back seat of our car. When I first found out I was pregnant with Vienna I was only 20 years old and didn’t have an educated opinion about much. Having a mom and sister who had multiple home births, I was not scared about having a natural birth, but I didn’t want a home birth. I was living in a small apartment that we rented from a couple we went to church with and the thought of having a baby there just didn’t seem right to me. I knew I wouldn’t be the most comfortable in that environment. At that time I had a friend who had recently been planning a natural labor and had asked for an epidural at 4 centimeters, and that made me worried about not having an option to retreat if this whole “natural thing” was beyond my capabilities.
I searched “birthing center near me” on google and found an incredible midwifery and birthing center. After we met with the head midwife there (who reminded me of my mom) I was sold. It felt like the best of both worlds to me, and it was. I had an all natural water birth, but afterwards I hemorrhaged badly. I felt awesome, but my husband said I was first pale, then blue. The midwives were awesome, and saved me from not only a blood transfusion but a trip to the hospital. However, that, a move away from the amazing birth center, and having two miscarriages made me nervous about a birth center with my second daughter, Eloise.
So that is the long story of how I wound up wanting a natural labor in a hospital.
Here are my practical tips for achieving the birth you want in a hospital:
1. CHOOSE THE RIGHT PROVIDER.
This is maybe the most important thing in your pregnancy. I was lucky enough to have a midwife group that my insurance covered for my hospital birth, but sometimes that is not possible. I would recommend calling a midwife group near you and asking them for a provider recommendation that accepts your insurance. Then at appointment number one (usually around 8-10 weeks) make your desires very clear. Remember that the doctor/patient relationship is actually a product/service and customer relationship. Make your desires very clear even if you are going to a midwife group! If your provider is not willing to listen to you or your desires at appointment one, honey, they are’t going to listen to you when you’re in labor. If your doctor treats you in a, “we will just wait and see what happens that day” way…keep looking. You need someone on your team in this.
2. Have Realistic Expectations.
I think most women see birth and labor as scary. The movies always paint out this horrible, super sped-up birth process that just isn’t reality for most women. For some reason women love to share their birth horror stories with expecting mothers. TV always show women dying in childbirth. The truth of it is that fear sells. Labor is something your body was made to do. You can do this. Women have been having babies without drug assistance for thousands of years. (As a side note-I am extremely grateful for modern medicine. I know that there sometimes is a need for medical intervention in birth and I am so happy that there are so many incredible and gifted people in the medical field who are able to quickly step in should anything go awry.)
- I was on the other end of this spectrum. As I mentioned, I had my mother and sister to look to for labor wisdom -both of whom had what I would call “easy” labors.
(Not that any labor is ever “easy”) I would say that my input from them, and the gentle words from my midwives left me feeling that most women were
when they talked about how difficult labor was.
Um. I was wrong. I am confident that with my first labor if I had been in a hospital I would have requested an epidural. I simply was not prepared. I remember fighting as hard as I could against my contractions because I had no idea how to relax in pain. That is not a practice that comes naturally, since most pain is not natural. Usually pain is an indication to our bodies that something is not right. In labor, however, everything happening is the definition of natural. It feels completely counterintuitive to give into the pain. When you do this in labor, I can not tell you what a difference it makes.
3. Read some books.
One of my all time favorite books about labor is Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth.
I would also highly recommend taking a hypnobirthing class or reading about hypnobirth. This is the one I read before my second labor and the methods mentioned were incredibly helpful!
4. Have a dang birth plan.
I’m talking three copies of this sucker. One for your provider before you are in labor. Most likely the 28 week appointment where they have a longer appointment and have you sign papers, ect. Talk about all the nitty-gritty then, before you are relaxing through a contraction. Then take two more with you to the hospital when you are in labor. Give another one to your provider and give one to your nurse. That is a big mistake I made. My nurse asked me as soon as I met her what my goal was in labor. I was exhausted from not sleeping and literally all I could think to say was, “Um…have a baby?”
5. Make a labor playlist.
At one point in my labor I had my oil diffuser going with lavender and gentle baby oil, and my husband playing worship music on his phone. It was so calming and peaceful in our hospital room. My nurse came in and said, “I feel like I’m at the spa!” I would focus on the lyrics, the melody, and float away. I was drifting in and out of sleep for some of my labor.
6. Hire a birth doula.
I personally did not do this, because I was confident in my husband, but in hind sight I wish I would have. One of my close friends hired a doula for her birth and she had another advocate for her during that sensitive time. My nurse was kind of pushy and weird and kept asking me if I wanted drugs. I was exhausted (Like I said, I’d been up all night in labor) but I had my husband who answered, “No, she doesn’t want an epidural!” when I asked him if I did. The hospital I delivered in had labor tubs that I specifically asked if were in working order before my labor so I could use them. (I asked three different times) But, lo and behold, my nurse told me that they weren’t operational and were leaking into an operating room below them. Then she went into a spin about how the water had to be at a lower degree to keep the baby from getting too hot and it wasn’t really comfortable in the water anyways. I remember rolling my eyes at my husband, but I let her win. I think a doula would have made my nurse let me use the dang tub.
How do you practice having a baby? Practice relaxing when you are in pain or uncomfortable. I struggle with horrible headaches. I don’t know why, I’ve tried everything. When I would get them during pregnancy I would focus on relaxing through the pain. I would start at the top of my head and think, “I’m relaxing the hairs on my head. Now I’m relaxing my forehead, now my eyes, now my ears…” and so on and work my way down my entire body. If I would start to feel the pain again, I would start over at the beginning. Practicing this during the pain of the headache made it much easier for me to practice it during labor! I would completely relax my body when I would feel a contraction building and they would be so much more manageable.
8. Relax your hands and mouth.
This is a tip I heard from Ina May. It is very difficult to be tense when your hands and mouth are hanging open. I also did her “horse lips” trick during transition-amazing.
Well there you have it! Those are my tips. Hopefully, I will never have another hospital birth. I know anything can happen, but after my last labor went perfectly I just don’t see a need to plan on a hospital labor again. I want as much freedom as I can possibly have during my labor and birth and being in a hospital will just never give me that. Whenever the time comes to have our next child I am planning on another birthing center delivery, and I’m so excited about it this time!
Just remember-at the end of the day, you are a kick-butt, tough as nails, mama bear and you’ve got this! It doesn’t matter how your child is brought into this world- you made a human!