Let me just say this…the goal of pregnancy is to have a healthy baby, period, end of story. There are many different ways to have that baby and having a baby without drugs is just one way of skinning the proverbial cat (whoa that’s a little weird for this topic). There is a lot of judgment flown around when it comes to childbirth. For some reason, many women want to know what type of birth you are planning on having. If it is anything outside of what they experienced, they will tell you why whatever you want ain’t. gonna. happen. Believe me, I experienced this during my pregnancy.
I had decided pretty early on in my pregnancy that I wanted to try to have a
natural (all birth is natural in my book) unmedicated birth. When people would tell me that I could and should pre-order the drugs at the hospital, I tried to politely and humbly tell them that I wasn’t planning on having any drugs. This statement was frequently met with a chuckle, eye roll, or flat out being told: “yea good luck with that lady” or “you say that now, but just wait until that first contraction hits” or something else defeating along those lines. I didn’t want to discount their experiences and maybe they were right. So, I tried to be as humble as possible while maintaining my determinate for a drug-free birth.
I thought about what I did to prepare to have a drug-free birth and here are my five tips:
Hire a doula
I had never heard the word doula before I took a class in college. It was a class about infant development and the speaker was a midwife. She explained the different types of options when it comes to giving birth. To my surprise, she didn’t smell of patchouli, wasn’t wearing a tie-dye shirt, and didn’t have Birkenstocks on. She looked like a regular lady you would see on the street. She mentioned that there is this person called a doula whose sole job is to support the Mom and Dad-to-be before, during, and after
Eight years later when I discovered I was pregnant, one of the first things I started researching was doulas. One of my good friends, who had recently given birth, took a childbirth class from a doula. She highly recommended her and gave me her name, Ashley. When I went to her website, it was like the heaven gates opened and little angels starting singing in the background. Not really, but reading through her information just felt right. I told Andrew about her and we had an appointment to meet with her the following week. Andrew and I both felt comfortable with her. I mean, could you imagine if you hired someone to be in the room with you while you gave birth and you didn’t feel comfortable around them?
During our birth (read about that here), Ashley came over to our house, told us when to go to the hospital, got us up to labor and delivery seamlessly (a task Andrew and I would have failed miserably at), kept me hydrated, reassured Andrew 100 times, and comforted me 1,000 times. She was invaluable during the birth experience. I also think taking her child birth class really allowed Andrew and I to have a better idea of what to expect realistically.
If you are even considering having unmedicated childbirth I urge you to meet with at least one doula. Check out their policies and I bet that you can meet with them to ask questions for free before you actually hire them. Having someone who has experienced literally hundreds of births of all different kinds is just a comforting person to have in the room. Labor and childbirth is no joke flipping joke. Hopefully, you get nurses and doctors with great bedside manner, who answer your list of questions and answer them in a non-annoyed way, and never leave your side (that one won’t happen), but chances are probably not. That is what a doula is for. If you want to read more about what a doula does, check out this article.
You have to be focused on your goal for childbirth early on in your pregnancy. Drug-free child birth isn’t going to just happen because you decide to do that when you are 39.5 weeks pregnant. I had decided very early in my pregnancy this was my goal. Being focused on it allowed me to ignore the nay-sayers and doubters that frequently popped up. If I wasn’t determined on having a drug-free birth, those people would have allowed me to doubt myself.
On the opposite end of this, I also practiced grace. While I was determined and focused, I also decided I wasn’t going to beat myself up if I didn’t succeed. Sure this sounds counter-productive and not a great strategy. My goal first and foremost was to have a healthy baby. Even though I was focused and visualized a drug-free birth, I told myself that it was ok if I had a C-section or an epidural.
Visualizations are a powerful tool for any goal you want to achieve. I would frequently find myself visualizing what labor would look like. I wouldn’t call it meditation because I would visualize this while working out, driving, going to sleep at night. Anytime I could have a quiet minute to myself those images were runny through my mind.
Shift your mindset away from pain
If I was to only focus on how bad contractions were going to hurt and how long I would have to suffer through them, then I think I would have pre-ordered some drugs. Just like in working out, I don’t think about muscle pain as pain, I think of it as my muscles working and growing. It’s a mindset shift.
Our doula provided us with a ton of different statements that we could adopt as mottos or birth affirmations as she calls them. Some of my favorites were “the pain doesn’t last forever” or “you can do anything for 30 seconds” or “this contraction is bringing me closer to seeing my baby”. These thoughts were running through my mind during labor when things got tough. I think I even said a few of them out loud. My mindset was on the progress I was making and not the pain.
I learned in the childbirth class that contractions came in waves and lasted for short durations of time. They would increase with intensity, peak about halfway through, and then decrease with intensity. This reminded me a lot of what it is like to do High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which I had done for years. I decided that while doing some HIIT at the gym, I would visualize a wave instead of just watching the clock the whole time. Since I needed to close my eyes for the visualization, I couldn’t do this on the treadmill (hello accident waiting to happen). I usually did this on the air bike so I could close my eyes. Did I look weird? Sure, but I was preparing for birth!
I would start off at a medium pace and then increase it as time went on. Then, I was going the fastest speed at the halfway point and maintained that speed for about 7-10 seconds. Finally, I would then recover at a slower speed for 30 seconds before beginning the next interval. Depending on the day, I would do this for a total of 5-10 minutes. This could also be done on an elliptical, stationary bike, or possibly a stair stepper if you are really coordinated.
I don’t think this was absolutely completely necessary for my success in an unmedicated birth, but I do think it helped with my mindset. Practicing the visualizations of the wave definitely helped. I used that same visualization while I was laboring. I’m not one for meditation (quiet, calm, and eyes closed means nap time to me), so this was the best way I could practice.
Like I described, so intimately, in my birth story, I got very comfortable during labor. I had the hospital gown on for about 10 seconds before asking if I had to wear it. I already knew the answer, but I just didn’t want to strip down to close to nothing without a little warning.
In thinking about what I would want to wear during labor, I thought about what I liked to work out in. I always wear a tank top and capri length leggings. Obviously pants aren’t an option during labor. I thought about a spaghetti strapped dress or nightgown but it just seemed like a lot of fabric. Previously, I
The important thing is to try to figure out what is going to be most comfortable for you. If you don’t want all your lady bits hanging out, then find a gown or dress that is comfortable. If you aren’t comfortable because of what you are wearing (or aren’t wearing) that can stall labor from progressing. Just because every movie and tv show shows the woman in a hospital gown while giving birth doesn’t mean you have to wear that thing. This is your experience, make sure you are comfortable.
Write down birth goals
Part of Ashley’s class was to create a birth plan, also known as birth goals or birth strategies. She had tons of examples from previous clients of hers. Just like creating career goals or weight loss goals or personal goals, writing them down does something scientific in the brain to make the goals stick better (that’s the technical term). Creating birth goals does the same thing. Not only does it make the goals more of a reality, but it is also a working document to run past your birth team (doula, midwife, OB/GYN, etc.). In addition to making these goals stick, it is also a good way to advocate for yourself. Again, this is your experience and it’s ok to have a discussion about what is necessary for you.
Again, on the flip side, creating this document (and laminating it…laminating not required, but think about labor and the fluid that happens) I knew I needed to practice grace with myself. Just because it was printed and laminated doesn’t mean that it was set in stone. Of course, if something happened where I needed a C-section, I wasn’t going to stop everyone and have them refer to paragraph 3 of the birth goals (no, I didn’t actually number the paragraphs, but maybe next time…). Our birth goals just allowed us to focus on what we wanted in an ideal situation. At least with the hospital, we went to, they didn’t say “A birth plan?! What’s that?!”. They were very familiar with the idea and respectful to our wishes.
Well there you have it, my five tips for an unmedicated childbirth. What was your birth like? How did you prepare, or wish you would have prepared, for it? Leave me a comment below!