You won't get a hero cookie or other special recognition for having a natural childbirth. And there's no shame in taking pain medication to help make labor and delivery more manageable. Every pregnancy and delivery is different and women should feel comfortable doing what works best for them.
My preference to have two natural childbirths was based on a few things. I wanted to feel as clear-headed and in control as possible (even if control is just an illusion). The controversial side effects meds can have on babies factored in a bit too. But mostly I wanted to avoid the terrible ordeal my girlfriend went through.
Long story short, when some women are induced it escalates contractions to a high level very quickly and they become so powerful that you aren't able to make it through without having an epidural to relieve the pain. But having the epidural can cause labour to be long and drawn because it makes pushing more difficult. You then needed further medications and intervention like a c-section, episiotomy or use of forcepts or a vacuum which can cause severe perineal tearing.
On the other end of the spectrum, you hear of women who have the ability to climax during vaginal deliveries without taking any pain medication at all!
Neither of my childbirths was orgasmic but they were natural, amazing experiences. Both lasted about 12 hours from the first contraction to the time my babies were born. The nurses referred to the first as a textbook delivery which had much more to do with preparation than with luck.
Here are my top 5 tips for having a natural childbirth:
1. Prepare your body
Knowing that baby will somehow squeeze through your vagina is reason enough to prepare. Preparation won't be the same for everyone and there are a number of different options. My list of my must-do's can be found here.
2. Get your team ready
Your team should be comprised of people you are comfortable with and that will advocate for you. It is important to go over your birth plan with your healthcare provider and other members of your birth team at least two months before your due date. Include your partners' responsibilities in the plan so they know how to best support you.
3. Pack your hospital bag complete with homeopathic kit
Your midwife or Naturopath will be able to give you a homeopathic kit to help you prepare for labor and delivery, symptom by symptom. My first baby came three weeks early and on a weekend, before I was able to pick up the homeopathic kit. With my second, I knew to pick up the homeopathic for my pain management well in advance of my due date. Go over your hospital bag checklist with your team (partner) so they can help you get things organized.
Check out this post if you're planning to have a home birth.
4. Master a method of breathing and relaxation that works for you
One of my girlfriends described the pain of childbirth like slamming your hand in a car door 10 times. I definitely recall being in full on fight or flight mode during labor and delivery both times.
Start by asking how you react when in a state of total panic then discuss suitable options with your qualified healthcare provider. I skipped taking any birthing classes during pregnancy because I knew my breathing preferences -- relaxed deep belly breathing between contractions and only when necessary, shorter, more vocal, shallow breaths.
When you've got your game plan figured out, practice! Whether it's a tape you listen to every night to help you relax or a method of breathing, make it part of your daily routine in your second/third trimester. One idea I was told about for practicing dealing with uncomfortable situations is to sit and hold an ice cube in each of your bare hands until they melt. This isn’t the same level of pain most women experience during childbirth but it can give you a general idea of how you'll cope.
Don't be hard on yourself and remember that when all is said and done, your new baby with be in your arms.
5. Keep your energy up!
I found childbirth to be a balance between stamina (both physical endurance and mental resilience) and willingness to accept things you simply cannot change. Childbirth can be messy, unpredictable and unbearably painful. It was helpful to feel each contraction and notice patterns -- for me the pain threshold increased like I was climbing stairs -- sometimes there would be two sets of contractions at the same level before the pain increased to the next level.
We recommend eating healthy throughout your pregnancy, including to satisfy your pregnancy cravings. Many women don't feel like eating much during labor. Plus there's a good chance you'll throw up what you've eaten in the process. Peanut butter on toast was the only thing I could stomach along with this natural energy drink.
Find out how to prepare your body for labor and delivery here.