Friday, March 16, 2012

Thinking of trying a natural birth?

Here is a list of some things to know if you are going to try to give birth naturally (and even if you're not planning on it, you never know when you might need to be prepared for it). I don't pretend to be an expert, but I just went through it again and it's still fresh on my mind. So, for what it's worth:

1. It will hurt*. Last time, I was under the mistaken impression (thanks to Hypnobirthing) that as long as I relaxed, I would have a comfortable, easy birth. This time I knew it would hurt, and prepared myself for it. It hurts, but then it's over, and it doesn't hurt anymore. In fact, I have a really hard time trying to remember what it felt like even now, just two weeks later. (When I was in the thick of it this time, I remembered, "oh yeah! this is what it felt like... why did I do this again?")

*If you are one of those few, amazing women who doesn't experience pain in childbirth, I am so happy for you! If only we could all have such luck!

2. Don't just tell yourself, "I'll deal with it when I get there. How bad could it be?" Prepare yourself with pain management techniques and different positions. Have lots of tricks up your sleeve in case what you had planned isn't working for you. I compiled a good list of things I could try, and typed them up so I wouldn't have to remember them all. I went over the list with Josh beforehand and brought a copy of it to the hospital.

· Please remind me: To eat and drink, use restroom often, relax my jaw, and that a BABY will be here soon!

Early labor: (fruit, pasta, toast, crackers)


Walking, swaying, slow dance

Music and slow breathing


Up through transition: (popsicles, ice chips, water, juice)



Relaxation hypno tracks

On birth ball: resting with head on pillows on bed, or leaning over birth ball while standing or kneeling

Straddle a chair


Heating pad, hot water washcloths, cold pack

Tennis ball on my back

Massage: criss-cross


Counterpressure (hips or knees)


Supported squat (against chair or wall or person) or supported stand

Squat with bar on bed

Supported while on birthing stool

Against pillows with legs spread

Josh and I got some good ideas from Husband-Coached Childbirth by Dr. Bradley, but the most helpful book I found was this one. It has a couple of really thorough chapters on pain management, comfort techniques, and labor positions:

3. Use your husband (if possible). One of the greatest helps for me during labor was the counterpressure that Josh put on my back during each contraction. Not only did the pressure on my lower back help the contractions feel more manageable, but it was also a physical manifestation of Josh's love and support. He was there for me. I wasn't alone.

Josh also took on himself the responsibility of keeping me from feeling anxious, and of making me laugh. He found some Jack Handey quotes online and read them to me during a period of early labor when I was feeling discouraged. He also reminded me about things I had said I wanted (for example, he asked the nurse to install the squat bar on the bed, and then kept asking me if I wanted to use it. I finally said, "NO!" but hey, he tried). He did his best to help me just to enjoy the whole experience.

4. Remember that there's a baby coming! When it hurts so bad you can't take it anymore, that means you're SO close to meeting that baby! I remember with Bennett when he finally came out, I thought, "oh, there's a baby?" and was a little surprised. I had kind of lost track of what I was even there for. This time, I was constantly telling myself that there was a baby coming soon, and when he finally arrived, I fell madly in love with him.

5. Some other things I did:
- I regularly did squats in the shower for the last two months of my pregnancy, and squatted while doing household activities as much as possible. Some people believe that deep squats before birth help the labor go faster. I had originally hoped to squat while pushing, but didn't end up wanting to when the time came.
-I regularly practiced deep breathing exercises. During labor I ended up doing more of a 4 count inhale, 4 count exhale, rather than a longer pattern.
-I practiced relaxing while listening to music. I was hoping to do a lot of my laboring in the jacuzzi tub, so I also practiced relaxing in the bath.

6. Things I'm glad I brought to the hospital:
- I changed into a black nightgown before going to the hospital. It was knee-length and stretchy and very comfortable, and even worked well for nursing after giving birth.
-My own birth ball. The hospital had one for me, but the size was way too big. I ended up sitting on my birth ball and leaning onto pillows stacked on the bed for a good part of my contractions, and I was so glad I had brought it.
-My iPhone. I listened to relaxing music during the difficult parts of labor. It was also nice to have the phone camera on hand afterward.
-A hair tie. I pulled back my hair while laboring in the shower so it wouldn't be all crazy over my face.
-An extra pillow. A nice, thick fluffy one. It also came in handy afterward when we spent the night and Josh was able to use it on his less-than-comfortable-pullout bed in the hospital. We put a blue pillowcase on it so we would know it was ours.
-My flip-flops. I had read that you should bring some comfy slippers with you, but man was I glad that I had brought some washable footwear!
-Myself, before things got too intense. With Bennett I arrived at the hospital at the point when the contractions were becoming really difficult to get through, and so I was being asked questions ("what was the date of your last menstrual period?") and checked in and moved around while the pain was becoming unmanageable. No wonder I couldn't relax! This time, I got there in enough time to be comfortable and settled in for the hard part.

7. You have a say in any interventions. Sure, the nurse, midwife, or doctor knows much more about the medical side of things, but only you know how you are feeling. It's your body, your baby, and you have a choice. If you have educated yourself beforehand, you will know what your options are. (For example, they convinced me to put in a heplock, but I convinced them to take it out before the labor got too intense and I was so glad I did. Can you imagine laboring in the shower while not getting your hand wet?)

8. You can do it! Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Your body was created for this. You are a woman, you are strong, and you can do it.


Lori said...

BEST BLOG POST EVER!!!! And just look how sweet you and lincoln are! I heart you both so much.

Camilla said...

So impressive! You really are my hero. This blogpost is very informative and calm. I really appreciate the tone of it. Thanks for being so awesome sis!

Jennifer Ricks said...

Hey, I don't think I ever thanked you for your post after Bennett was born. Remember how my boy is just two weeks younger than Bennett? So pretty much I read about Bennett's birth just before my own delivery. I had been wanting to do a natural birth, and reading your experience really helped prep me for it. After reading what you went through I definitely had realistic expectations of the pain, and I know that really helped me.

Amen to what you said about counter pressure. An awesome nurse (bless her forever) taught that to us during my first labor and I swear it saved our lives. And I agree. It helps relieve the back pain, but it is also so helpful that your husband has something to do to help during contractions.

I didn't think you would ever do a natural childbirth again, so I'm soooo impressed with how brave you were with Lincoln! It's unfair to compare my second delivery with anyone else's, but I did feel that same thing that you wrote about: I knew what was happening in my body so I knew the pain would end and there would be a baby, which was really helpful. It's funny what you said about Bennett, how you were almost surprised, like, oh, there's a baby now? because that's totally how I felt when my boy was born too. It was nice the second time to be able to focus on the goal more and really know that I wasn't going to be in pain forever.

Katie Bradley said...

Oh my goodness, this post is awesome. Because I AM thinking of trying natural birth. This was so helpful. Thanks!

Linda said...

I wish I would have had a coach like you when I was having babies. Those are the kind of things I read about and wanted, but when it came down to it there was no patience from the medical community. Thank goodness things have gotten better in most places.

You are amazing, Adele! Josh is amazing too! Now you both have 3 amazing boys.

michele said...

This is great information! By the way, I thought you were never having a natural birth again! :P Now I feel guilty in thinking that it will be ok if I have a medicated birth next time. Sigh... I'll have to read that book you suggested.

And by the way I agree about Hypnobirthing giving the wrong impression of an easy, comfortable birth! I feel like all the effort and money I spent learning Hypnobirthing was an unfortunate waste!

Brittany said...

It's funny. I read this about a week before Oscar was born...and I was still in so. Much. Shock when they placed him in my arms. Though part of it was shock that i actually went completely drug free.

Brittany said...

It's funny. I read this about a week before Oscar was born...and I was still in so. Much. Shock when they placed him in my arms. Though part of it was shock that i actually went completely drug free.