I can distinctly remember saying as a young woman “when I have a baby, just give me the drugs and shut up about it.” Then I “fell” pregnant, as they say in Australia, and someone sent me a book on The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth. I’m not sure why I decided to do it. Perhaps it was the author comparing women giving birth to cows and cats. I thought he was gutsy. I had 6 months with nothing much to do so I decided to take the challenge to give birth naturally.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think drugs are bad or that you’re a better mom if you go natural. However, I have to say that afterwards, it feels pretty dang good. I think it’s all in how you view labor and birth. Are you birthing a baby or getting delivered of something (exorcist, anyone?). If you take the latter perspective, the you’d feel the need for drugs because it seems like something wrong is happening. The former, you can say “this is natural, my body was made for this, women in China give birth on the rice paddy and go right back to work.” Pep talks. I did the stretches, exercises, I walked and practiced the positions and relaxing.
After birthing two babies naturally, here is what I think based on my experience:
1) Labor doesn’t have to hurt as bad as they say it does. Maybe it’s all those movies with women screaming. Maybe it’s the wives’ tales or the negative anticipation of the whole thing, but it isn’t as painful as the hype (now this was just my experience so it will be different for everyone) . To be blunt, it just felt like strong period cramps . But, as opposed to period cramps, it’s a contraction with a purpose and that makes all the difference. I am not tough and I’m a redhead. Don’t we have a low pain threshold? With my second baby, I didn’t even really start “working hard” until I was 9cm. Then a few painful pushes and meet-the-baby! I wouldn’t dream of taking medicine just for a few minutes of relief. It takes far longer to get over the effects of the drugs than that.
2) Natural labor lets you feel in charge, after all, you’re doing the hard work. With both children I’ve had midwives. And the midwives I saw prenatally were different than the actual midwives who delivered both my babies. Did it bother me? I couldn’t have cared less and barely noticed. Because I was informed and prepared, I just knew I was going to have the baby whether they were there or not. I didn’t rely on a doctor, have a hero complex for the OBGYN or nurse, and only really realised I needed them during the pushing when I stated rather matter-of-factly, “this is not working.” “Yes it is, keep pushing.” And, bham. Meet your baby. Thanks ladies, whoever you were.
3) People are uncomfortable when you tell them you give birth naturally. Maybe they think you are judging them because they took drugs. Maybe they think you’re a hippie or a granola. I don’t know. I don’t normally volunteer the fact unless we’re on the subject because I usually get something like “oh….why?” Why. Hmm. Why not? Seems to me you need a reason TO take drugs as opposed to a reason NOT to. Then, because I feel like they try to make me look stupid or ignorant for not taking drugs, I say something like, “Well, I walked to my room after birth and went home the next day. No stitches, no tears, no drama.” Someone quickly changes the subject after that.
4) Our bodies are made to do it so if we get in shape it’s fairly straightforward. There will be scenarios and situations where interventions are necessary. Otherwise, knowing what you’re doing and being in shape are most of the battle. If someone told you you’d run a marathon in 9 months would you say “awesome, I’ll exercise even less and eat like a hog to prepare myself.” Probably not. But that’s exactly what many women do. They are less in shape on delivery date than they were when they found out. That does not have to be the case. Labor will be the most physically demanding experience of many women’s lives so preparation and training are key. Kegels, squats, those back cat arch thingies. They all work to give you strength where you need it. I took a two mile hike three days after my first born [that was probably stupid, but I felt compelled because we had visitors] and felt just like myself because I had walked that same walk up until the day I delivered. I wasn’t anything hot to look at, but my body was used to movement.
5) It feels good to know what your body is made of. The human body is an amazing thing. I challenged myself and did it. If I would have needed narcotics then I would have taken them. But I’m so glad I didn’t.
The Bradley Method is a great way to go. Even if you don’t want to go that route, it’s a fascinating read.
*Of course, some deliveries are fraught with complications and I am not suggesting resisting medical intervention. Here I’m only speaking of no complication birth and deliveries.
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