Some Thoughts on Birth and Why I Chose Natural

I have always been fascinated by birth. I grew up watching A Baby Story, Teen Mom, and several other shows on the subject. From what I knew of birth, I thought your water breaks and gushes everywhere, you rush to the hospital, you wait, they give you meds through an IV, you will be in pain, they give you and epidural, they yell at you to push your baby out. Or they would rush you in to a C-Section. It hurts. It is chaotic. It is scary.

Before I go any further, I will say this, and it is the only "advice" I will give... do your research and know why you are choosing what you are choosing. Because, with the exception of certain emergency circumstances, you have choices.  I feel like most people do more research on big purchases than they do on their own birth. I just truly recommend that you know what you want and why you want it. Look at the pros and cons. Look at the statistics. Look at the results and side effects. Know how birth works. Read books. Talk to people educated on birth. Know your options, and then make the choice that is right for you.

I love hearing birth stories. And a very different one really changed my entire perspective. My friend was telling me about the birth of her daughter. Her story was calm. No panic, no yelling, no fear. She delivered at a birth center, and her story was magic. So much so, I later asked her to tell me again. She said, "If you are intrigued, you should watch The Business of Being Born." And I did, several times. It shattered my entire perspective in the best way. And my entire mindset changed. My interest in natural birth has been growing for the past couple years. It was a casual interest, but in my heart I knew this was the route I would take when the time came. I began to tuck away articles and book titles for later. When I got pregnant, I began to do research, and more research, and more research. It did not take long to know exactly what I wanted to do. Natural birth felt so right for me. If feels extremely safe and comfortable. I had no fears about it, and was fully positive about my choices.

Now living in Alabama has it's own set of problems when it comes to brith.  According to the CDC, the cesarian rate in the United States is 32.8 percent of all deliveries (in 2012). In Alabama, it's 36.5 percent. The World Health Organization recommends a c-section rate of no more than 15 percent. Until May of 2017, births assisted with a midwife were illegal in Alabama. They are now legal, but there is still red tape holding it back from actually happening anytime soon. Until then, that means no home births, no birth centers, etc. I do need to preface this by saying, I am beyond thankful for hospitals, OBGYNs, medical interventions, C-Sections, etc. All of those things are often needed. Those things have proven to be life saving for a lot of mothers and babies. But I also think there is an overuse of interventions that can cause problems in and of themselves. So... natural birth in Alabama, it has been tricky. At this point I have done so much research. After having my mind made up that a natural birth was the right choice for me, I wanted to know how a "normal" hospital birth compared birth assisted by a midwife (at home or a birth center.) 

  • Due Dates and Inductions. Mom's to be really focus on the due date, I know I did. When people would ask me when I was due, I would always say the month and the day. I almost marked it on my calendar then started thinking, "wait a minute... how in the world can you predict it to the day?" I read a great article by Alexia Leachmen on the subject of how your due date is frequently wrong. Why does knowing this matter? For it me helped me to become less fixated on counting down days, and more focused on trusting my body and my baby. Therefore, as long as I am safe and my baby is safe I didn’t want to be induced by medications before I am ready. Inductions with Pitocin can lead more interventions and ultimately C-sections. I don't want to go that route (I will explain why later), so for me, letting my body do it's thing and natural methods were my plan. My doctor, stripped my membranes at 39 weeks, and in my non-professional opinion, it threw me into labor before I was ready and resulted in a 28 hour labor. 
  • Labor Positions, IV's, and Fetal Monitoring. Every photo I have ever seen of moms in labor always has them laying on their backs. They usually have an IV and a monitor strapped to them. When I would think of birth, this picture gave me a lot of fear and anxiety. It looks confining and uncomfortable. I can feel my heart rate going up as I write this. During early labor, my goal was to relax and get the baby in position. I want to allow gravity to work. I want to feel a sense of peace and freedom, not tension. I want to be in control of the lighting, the sounds, and the overall feel of the space. When I went to the hospital, I am asked for an IV port but for it not to be hooked up unless needed for whatever reason. I wanted intermediate monitoring for the baby as long as all is well, but my hospital didn’t have enough staff to do this. I wanted to be able to move to positions that are comfortable for me as the baby descends, but the monitors were not friendly for that. I also don't want to be "checked" frequently and focus on dilation. It can actually slow down the process. For me, being uncomfortable in the hospital bed played a role in slowing me down as well. It took me a long time to progress at the hospital, and I think if I could have been more comfortable my body would have coped better. 
  • Pain Management. Hospital births and natural births differ greatly here. For a natural birth, I have done a great deal of research about how to cope through labor. From books, to articles, to videos, to talking with people who have done it... there is one common part of coping and it is all about the power of your mind. Staying positive is vital. I don't allow people to tell me their horror stories nor do I read about them. I don't think about pain or fear. I have already started to focus on techniques that are known to relieve pain during pregnancy. Yoga, exercise and eating well is important for preparing my body to be in good shape for labor. I am practiced my breathing and other skills taught in the Bradley Method. And lastly, I focused my mind using skills and practices of HypnoBirth. I could write an entire post just on the subject of coping during birth. My main ways of coping was breathing, relaxation, finding comfortable positions, and hot showers... lots of showers! 
  • Pushing, Tearing, and Delivery. This is the part that I am most highly particular about and not at all afraid of. (From all that I have read, not being afraid is extremely important here.) Not tearing is one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to go natural. While natural birth does not keep you from tearing, knowing when your body is ready to deliver does. I didnt want to tense up from fear so I instead focus on my baby coming out when my body is ready and she is ready. Ina May Gaskin has an entire chapter on the subject in her Guide to Childbirth. All of her thoughts and stories from experience are incredible.  I have also read amazing things about not pushing at all! Though I have not spoken to anyone who has personally done it, this article as well as others that I have read are very informative. Breathing the baby out is definitely something that I wanted to try, but did not get the chance to do... maybe next time. Not getting an epidural allows a lot more freedom to feel when it is time to push and get in a comfortable position. My doctor told me I was ready to push. I was so exhausted. It had been over 24 hours since contractions started, and I had been awake for almost all of that time. I knew I wasn't ready to deliver. Even though I was fully dilated, I just knew it wasn't time. I also knew that my body was wearing out rapidly. Looking back I don't know what the right decision was. I've wondered if I should have waited, but would waiting have worn me out passed the point of being able to deliver? I ended up pushing before I was ready, and I did tear. Though I had zero drugs, I never felt a thing! I even had to ask if I tore. (I felt it later for sure! But not during delivery.) 
  • Infant Care. Above all, I feel very, very strongly about caring for the baby. In a lot of ways, I feel like this is one of the greatest contrasts between a home birth and hospital birth. Generally after babies are born, their cord is clamped very quickly. There are tons of reasons why delaying cord clamping is important. I also want immediate skin to skin for as long as it takes for the placenta to get ready to deliver, and thankfully that is becoming more standard. I spoke with my doctor about the various shots and medications given to babies and I signed the forms to decline or delay as we so choose. We discussed delaying the bath until we get home or until I feel like doing it myself, but we ended up having a nurse do it because I was so tired after. 
  • The Placenta. Generally the placenta is delivered about 30 minutes after birth. I honestly knew nothing on the subject so I have had to do a good bit of research. I planned to use Clary-Sage essential oil to stimulate the delivery of the placenta. Mama Natural is a great resource and she explains it all in this video. Mine came out pretty quickly, and with no issue. I was pretty distracted with the precious baby in my arms, but I think it was only a few minutes after birth. 
  • The Birth Plan. People laugh when you mention a birth plan and they are usually quick to say that you can't plan birth. Though that is true, a birth plan is not an itinerary, rather a checklist of all the things that happen in labor and delivery and what you choose to do in those circumstances. I was the crazy lady who came in with a laminated birth plans for the nurses, but my hospital was very respectful of all of my wishes. 

So was it worth it? Absolutely, I would do a natural birth again. Assuming I am still a good candidate for a home birth, I’m thinking I would choose that next time. From my birth experience, I learned that rest through labor is important and to follow your body. As I have mentioned frequently, research is so important, regardless of the kind of birth you are having. There are incredible resources out there so educate yourself, educate your birth partner, and feel confident of your choices. I looked forward to my birth. I did not dread it nor did I fear it. I trust my body and I trust my baby. I trust that God carefully designed every special detail of birth when he created the universe and intricately planned it. What an amazing and special gift. It was still a beautiful experience welcoming our daughter, and I will be sharing her birth story very soon!