When I tell people that I did natural childbirth with both of my pregnancies, their response is often wide-eyed and sometimes even a look of terror. It’s usually followed by asking me about the experience of how I endured. I think my response often shocks them, which is, “I loved it. It was the most amazing experience, and I would do it again.”
I get excited talking about my births and sharing the birth stories of both of my boys. Natural childbirth is one of those things that covers a range of emotions from excitement, fear to relief.
In this post, I’ll share not just about my own birth experiences (although I love talking about them); but, more importantly, some of the critical factors that helped me successfully deliver naturally. I hope this information can help others who are interested in experiencing natural childbirth.
My Birth Story:
I was 38 weeks pregnant; we were building a new house that had been delayed countless times, and by this point, we knew it wouldn’t be ready by the time our son had arrived. I was concerned about not having many of the “pre-labor” symptoms many women speak about, such as Braxton Hicks contractions or losing their mucus plug in advance. None of that had happened to me. I still felt great at 38 weeks pregnant. Although moving slower, I walked a ton, went to the gym and got on the treadmill, and started off my weekend with an office party with work colleagues. My husband and I decided to see a movie Saturday night, went to the theater, enjoyed a great action-packed thriller. I can’t remember what we saw, but I do remember eating a delicious ice cream bar dipped in chocolate and nuts for my dinner because, well, I was 38 weeks pregnant after all.
We got back home from the theater that night. Right before bed, I felt a sharp electrifying pain. It was my first contraction that I assumed was a “Braxton Hicks.” I got on all fours, breathed through the pain, and soon it was over. I was excited, thinking that perhaps this was the start of the process even though I was still likely weeks away.
The following day was Sunday. I told my husband I was too tired to go to church. I was listening to my body and just really felt like I needed to rest. I laid in bed all day. He watched football in the next room but continued to check on me and bring me meals. Around noon that day, I started having more of what I thought were Braxton hicks’ contractions. They would come and go. They weren’t painful, just different. I continued to lay in the bed and rest.
By late that evening, the contractions were consistent. My mucus plug fell out, we called my Birthing instructor, and she told me to take a warm bath. I was excited! The excitement waned and turned into concentration as I had contractions all night long, about 15 minutes apart. My husband stayed up with me, squeezing my pelvis to help alleviate the discomfort. By 6 am they became more intense. I told him I couldn’t take it anymore and that we had to go to the hospital.
The bags were already packed and by the door. I ran to the restroom one last time and realized my water broke. I cleaned myself up then we headed to the hospital. The nurses checked me upon arrival and told me I was dilated at 6 centimeters. The level of relief I felt is almost indescribable. I had heard of so many women laboring for hours and making no progress, and I had no idea how it would go.
My nurse was a blessing from God, as I had been praying in advance for supportive hospital staff. As I sat in labor and not able to speak much, she looked me in the eye and asked, “no drugs, correct?” I said, “correct, no drugs,” then she responded with, “Alright, let’s do this!”
As I got further and further towards “transition,” which is the most intense part of labor, I was ready to give up. I was in more pain than I can even describe (Please understand that the Transition part of labor lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to 1 hour. Although it is the most intense (painful) part of labor, it is short-lived). I remember repeating, “I can’t. I can’t do this.” That same nurse looked me in the eye and said, “Hey! You CAN do this! You’ve got this!” she then began squeezing my pelvis as my husband held onto me in the front as I went through the most painful part of my labor process. I moaned, I breathed. My husband read me scriptures and reassured me that I was almost there.
Soon after, the pain decreased, and I felt like a bowling ball was ready to drop. We were headed to delivery, and after several pushes, my sweet baby boy was born. The relief I felt both physically and mentally is indescribable. I remember my husband telling me, “You did it, babe! You did it! He’s here!” My sweet baby boys’ warm body was placed on my chest, and like all moms, I felt a love that I didn’t even know existed.
All pain was immediately gone after pushing him out. Within an hour of delivering, I felt like I could climb a mountain. I was full of adrenaline, energy and honestly didn’t even want to rest even though the hospital insisted. My heart was full, and with the help of God first and foremost, my very supportive husband and supportive doctors and medical staff, I was able to bring my son into the world the way I wanted, and I felt the benefits for both him and I were numerous.
Before sharing some key factors that led to a successful natural birth, I want to first share with you some of the benefits of natural childbirth according to a 2020 article from Parents Magazine:
- Faster recovery after birth
- Less vaginal tearing, since you’ll push instinctively during delivery
- Shorter pushing time
- Ability to change birthing positions
- Decreased risk of needing risky interventions
- Some women feel a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment
- Avoid side effects associated with epidurals
- Ability to bond and breastfeed immediately
Here are the steps I recommend to help you on your journey to successful natural childbirth:
- FIND A SUPPORTIVE PRACTITIONER
This is one of the most critical steps, and often it seems to be the most overlooked. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve met who aspired to have natural childbirth tell me that their practitioner was not supportive. This creates an unnecessary uphill battle.
Many women fall into having had a provider before becoming pregnant, so they choose to stick with that provider. However, they may not necessarily align with beliefs centered around natural childbirth. This can be a mistake, even if your practitioner has been your OBGYN since you were 12 years old. They may be the most outstanding practitioner in their area of expertise; however, it will make your experience challenging if they aren’t supportive. It would be best if you found a supportive practitioner during your pregnancy and birth for natural childbirth.
Going through natural childbirth can be great with a supportive team, but if those that are supposed to be on your team are against you, you are going into battle alone.
When my husband and I talked about getting pregnant, I began researching doctors. Being the planner that I am, I wanted to start on the right foot. I looked at several and made a list of ones in my area, and then researched each of them, including finding out their natural childbirth stance. I had narrowed it down to two doctors with the same philosophy, and then my husband and I prayed over the decision; and we are so glad we did because I had an incredibly supportive doctor for both my births.
Here are some things you should look at when researching practitioners:
- C-section rate – According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Birth Data from 2019, the percent of all deliveries by Cesarean were 31.7% (While the World Health Organization recommends 10-15%). Ask your practitioner about their average.
- Philosophy on Natural Childbirth – If you ask your practitioner their philosophy and you get an eye roll, attitude, and even a passive nonchalant response of “sure if that’s what you want.” Move on. They aren’t going to be supportive of you and your wishes.
- Facilities Where they have rights to Deliver – Your nursing staff is just as crucial as your practitioner. If you deliver in a hospital, your nurses will be the ones with you before your doctors’ arrival, which may not be until right before your ready to push. You could be spending several hours with your nursing staff before seeing your doctor. Check reviews on the facilities where they deliver and their proximity to you. If you choose a midwife, you may have more flexibility in your delivery location, but if you have an MD as I did, you will have to stick to hospitals where they have rights. Make sure you feel supported there.
- Understand their philosophy and track record for minority women and health – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Black, American Indian, and Alaska Native women are 2 to 3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women.” Ensure your practitioner does not have an implicit bias that could ultimately impact your health care.
2. ENROLL IN A LOCAL NATURAL BIRTH CLASS
I understand we live in the information age and that there’s tons of information online, including how-to videos on YouTube. I get it. This is not one instance where you want to cut corners. It’s another area where I’ve heard so many women say, “Oh yes, I’m planning on having a natural childbirth. I’ve been watching videos on YouTube or listening to hypnobirthing tapes.” After their birth, I ask them how it went. There is always a situation that occurred ultimately resulting in needing an epidural or C-section that could’ve potentially been avoided with proper education in natural birth class.
Think of natural childbirth like a marathon. You wouldn’t just show up to a marathon without training, right?
Would you “train” by watching YouTube videos or reading articles online without physically doing any training and anticipate a successful outcome?
If the answer is no, please consider an actual, physical, natural birth class. I’d steer clear of 1-day free seminars that hospitals offer simply because there’s so much great information it usually takes more than a day. An actual class with a certified professional with natural childbirth experience will get you prepared for labor and delivery.
From the moment I told my doctor I desired to have a natural birth, he responded with, “Great. I’m going to send you down to a class at the local birthing center. They’ll teach you and your husband everything you need to know!”
Natural birth classes focus on educating you on the birthing process that your body goes through, managing pain during delivery, understanding the cycles of intervention, and how you and your partner can be advocates for yourselves while delivering.
My class with Birthing Naturally was once a week for about eight to ten weeks. It was specifically targeted towards women who desired natural childbirth and wanted their partners to be their supportive coaches. This wasn’t just a class for me; it was for my husband and me. Natural birth is a team effort, and you’ll want both parties fully engaged and working together for a successful outcome.
These classes are so important that we even went back for a shorter “refresher” course when it was time to have our second son. Not only that, but the doula that taught our class made herself available to me via phone during both of my births. I was able to text her, ask questions, know what to look for, and proceed while laboring at home before going to the hospital.
3. ENSURE YOU HAVE A SUPPORTIVE PARTNER/BIRTHING COACH
This will differ for every woman. In my instance, my husband, who is a healthcare practitioner, was just as excited as I was about having a natural birth and was super supportive and wanted to learn everything he could to be my birthing coach.
This may not be the case for every woman, or your spouse may be supportive but not necessarily want to take on the coach’s role. In that case, research options for a Doula. These women are amazing and supportive and will be there every step of the way to help you through your birth.
If you can’t afford a doula or don’t have a spouse, be sure to find a close family member or friend that is willing to take on the role AND will be comfortable seeing you in pain but respecting your wishes. When I told my mother I was planning a natural birth, she cried. She said she didn’t want me to go through that pain (she had had an unplanned natural birth with my older sister). If you know someone can’t stomach seeing you in pain, even if it’s for a good cause, they may need to support you in a different capacity, as you want someone to help you through what may be some pretty intense moments.
4. PRAY AND ASK GOD FOR HELP
Throughout my pregnancy, I shared the desires of my heart with God. I prayed for the child in my womb to be healthy and that I would successfully deliver him without any interventions if it were His will. This is so essential because, if you are a believer, you understand the power of prayer and God going before you and preparing and orchestrating things on your behalf. This step was necessary because of the peace it provided and my confidence with my final point (step 5).
5. ACCEPT AND HAVE PEACE ON THE OUTCOME
All of the steps I shared above are steps I did for myself. There was always the thought that something could happen in the back of my mind, and this birth may not go as I’ve planned and wanted. Do you know what? I was at peace with that because I knew that I had 100% done everything that I could to start both my baby and myself out on what I felt was the best journey for the beginning of motherhood. If it had not worked out? My peace still would’ve been there because there are things beyond my control in this world, which I also had to accept.
Educating yourself and having a supportive team allows you to understand effectively what is and is not in your control and ensures you have those advocating for you appropriately. If you have a doctor that supports your decision and knows your desires and then says, “Hey, we have to conduct an emergency procedure for this particular reason…” and you trust them, you will be at peace. Knowing your partner supports you and is with you will bring peace. Lastly, knowing that God is FOR you will always bring you peace.
At the end of the day, while we all have different journeys that bring our children into the world, once they arrive, they are here, and we are their mothers. Do your research and get the support and help you need for the best possible outcome for both you and your baby.
Here are some additional resources to help you on your journey:
- “Oh Sis Your Pregnant” by Shanicia Boswell
- “Your Pregnancy and Childbirth” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth” by Ina May Gaskin
- “Natural Childbirth, the Bradley Way” by Susan McCutcheon
- “Husband-Coached Childbirth” by Robert A. Bradley, MD
If you live in the DFW area, here are some local resources that were helpful to me and referenced above: