I was hesitant to write this post because the manner in which you wish to bring your child into this world is such a personal decision. Sometimes when I share with people that we chose natural childbirth (meaning a drug-free delivery), I am concerned that I have put people on the defensive because that is not the route they chose to take. When in reality, I feel like ALL women who go through childbirth have accomplished something incredible…whether through a c-section, with the help of an epidural, naturally, or whatever. This is just our story…
I decided that I wanted to “go natural” for a lot of reasons. First, after some research, I found that natural childbirth resulted in lowering the chance of medical intervention. This was something that was important to us. I also wanted my body to be fully aware and my mind coherent during the whole process (I know, crazy, right?). I know that our bodies were created to do this feat, so I really wanted to feel it happening. I wanted to feel Kate (my little girl) work with me as the contractions helped her along the way.
Another reason was just the sheer challenge of it all. I grew up playing sports and am very competitive. I think in a way I looked at childbirth as an athletic challenge…one that I trained for for 10 months. Knowing that I had to be in good physical shape for the actual birth really motivated me to work out and go to yoga class regularly. My Obgyn said once that preparing for childbirth is like training for a marathon. I really took that to heart.
We also chose to go natural because it really stressed teamwork and the husband’s involvement. We used the “Bradley Method,” which is a “husband-coached” childbirth method. Bruce, my husband, was truly my epidural. If he wasn’t there pressing on my back and helping me in and out of a warm bath and counting down my contractions and reminding me to breathe and sneaking me Gatorade and crackers, I NEVER would have made it through.
Bruce and I participated in 12 week training. We attended Bradley classes once a week. The key to succeeding in natural childbirth is knowledge and training and these classes provided just that. We learned about everything… the whole child birthing process, the stages of labor, techniques to working through contractions, watching videos of births, pregnancy nutrition, etc. The saying knowledge is power absolutely applies to this experience! For instance, I was better equipped to endure the contractions because I understood them.
After all of the training and learning, the day/night finally came. My contractions woke me up around 2 a.m. I labored at home until around 6 a.m. When we arrived at the hospital, I was already 6 cm dilated…yay! We were fortunate that my labor was very textbook, meaning that I progressed pretty steadily and there were no complications. I spent A LOT of time in the tub because the warm water helped my muscles relax and also did a lot of bending over the bed so my husband could press as hard as he could on my lower back. All of the breathing I had been doing in Yoga also REALLY applied here. Yes, the contractions were intense. But, up until about 7-8 cm I was thinking, “this is really tough but I can handle it.”
Then I hit what they call “transition” and that is when…well, at the risk of scaring anyone off that might be considering natural childbirth, let’s just say it was very intense. During those contractions (which started to be one on top of the other), Bruce literally pressed as hard as he could on my back to create counter pressure and counted out loud the time that had past so I knew how much longer I had to endure. Most importantly, I had to remind myself that instead of fighting the contractions, I must let them happen and ride them out. I had to let my baby make her way.
The beauty of labor is that your contractions only last so long and then nature gives you a break. Yes in the end, my breaks were VERY short, but that was a small portion of my overall experience. All in all, just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, my body and baby gave me a break. Then we went at it again.
My water didn’t break until I was basically fully dilated. We had learned in our classes that you want your “bag of waters” to stay intact as long as possible because it actually serves as a cushion for your baby, thus taking a bit of the edge off your contractions. So we were fortunate to have held onto it that long. Shortly after the water breaking I was ready to push. Again, because I was fully feeling everything that was going on, I was literally able to feel Kate moving forward in my birth canal. I know that sounds a little graphic but the point is, I was constantly getting feedback, literally…I was getting rewarded by feeling her advance, which in turn motivated me to keep going!
After just about an hour of pushing, Kate greeted us with a big healthy cry, one that was music to our ears! We didn’t know if Kate was going to be a girl or boy, so that made it all the more exciting! After the delivery, it was amazing how quickly I went back to feeling like myself. I didn’t have to wait a while for anything to leave my system and it was nice to be able to walk around with our new baby. To say that I felt like I just won an Olympic race and Kate was my gold medal would be an understatement!
I also have to thank Dr. Schneider from the Bradford Clinic and the nurses at Presby. Schneider was our ideal OB…he checked in periodically but really just let us do our thing. He and the staff were very supportive and appreciative of what we were trying to do from the beginning.
We will absolutely attempt natural childbirth again when the time comes for a second. I am so grateful for our experience. I am so grateful that I can remember it so vividly. I am so grateful for how it added to the strength of our marriage. Most importantly though, I am so grateful for that beautiful little baby that they laid on my chest.
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