Updated: Oct 6, 2018
I get asked this a lot, so here goes.
By the grace of God, I was able to have our son safely in our living room (yes, on purpose) and “naturally” just like I wanted to. I know a lot of you reading this will most likely not opt for home birth but still may want to have an un-medicated birth at the hospital. I will do my best to navigate my opinions and advice for that given my home birth experience. Below is a list of some things I think helped me give birth without any pain relief/suggestions. I know there are so many aspects to birth some controllable some not and I first want to acknowledge that. I’m writing this to share my experience and answer the common questions I receive about natural childbirth. Again, I want to share some things I think helped ME during my natural childbirth experience, and still its not conclusive. I was totally afraid of birth before getting pregnant. All of these aspects below were transformative for me in-- not a pain free birth, but definitely a fear free one. I won’t go into my full birth story, that will have to be another blog post but here are some bullet points that I think are worth mentioning.
*One last disclaimer, I’m not a medical professional and these are solely my opinions and conclusions based on books I’ve read, other women’s stories, things I’ve learned from midwives and my own personal experience. Please advocate for yourself, listen to your trusted care providers and do what's best for you and baby!
· Pray and ask God to prepare you for what is ahead.
-I think this is self-explanatory but it was pivotal for my experience and me. I know without a doubt that God prepared me well for giving birth and was whom I leaned on the most during labor. Pray for safety for you and baby, pray for the ability to birth the way you feel safest and most comfortable. Pray for endurance, pray that no one would make you feel pressured, pray that your partner would stay well and strong with you. Pray that God would prepare you. Pray that you would feel peace and his presence. Pray you would remember the joy set before you. Pray you would remember what you want even when it gets difficult. Pray for perspective.
· Don’t let people talk your ear off about their bad experiences.
-I don’t mean this to come off insensitive, after you give birth you can listen to your friends hard birth story from start to finish but during your pregnancy you need to be built up. Find a way to gently change the subject or redirect the conversation when others want to tell you their “bad” experience with birth or why they felt they needed a certain intervention. Listen, there is nothing wrong with people choosing to use medication, which is their freedom. It is also yours to choose something different if you want. Politely say you’d rather talk about something else and do your best to only let the positive stories come in. If someone is insistent upon their views or they try to insinuate you are “dumb” for “even trying” to have a natural birth, you can smile and just say something like, “well, I’m going to try”. Find whatever you feel comfortable with. Ultimately nobody’s experience “good” or “bad” can truly dictate yours. However, I do think there are benefits to filling your psyche with positive and uplifting stories of other women who have gone before you on the same route. If nobody has told you yet, from me to you, I promise it's hard work but I also promise you can do it.
· Read books that support natural child birth and “positive natural child birth stories” online, daaaailllyyyyy.
-Seriously, this is a helpful one that goes off my last point. It’s huge that you rewire your brain around birth and fill your mind with stories and information that speaks positively about it! Women have been doing this for thousands upon thousands of years, God made our bodies able to give birth and even endure the laborious task that it is! I think it's very important to educate yourself on how normal birth truly is. It is not an illness. It is not a disability. It's normal! Here are a few books I read during my pregnancy: (some are weird. some didn’t completely connect with me but you can take and pick information that resonates with you from each book!)
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin
-All of these are homebirth stories but totally apply because birth is birth!
Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan
-Hypnobirthing is controversial and I understand why, I did not find childbirth to be painless (haha) they market it as a possibility of having “painless childbirth” with their method, not true in my case. HOWEVER, I found a HUGE amount of value in their principles of being calm, relaxed and the usage of positive mantras/visualizations. Worth the read--but take some things they say with a grain of salt and DON’T FREAK OUT when your contractions actually hurt even when you’re doing the method haha!
Before You Were Born I Knew You by Phylicia Masonheimer (free download)
-From Phylicia’s website: “Before You Were Born is a prayer guide for pregnancy, birth, your baby, and your self. It also includes a list of resources for the entire season, as well as my personal list of verses and affirmations for labor.”
-Okay, I’ll be real this one was a little new age for my taste but again, it’s worth at least a flip through. Just take what you can from it. You never know what little gems you can hold on to from a variety of sources. Nothing wrong with expanding your tool box and hey, you might connect well with it!
Also, sign up for a birthing class you and daddy can do together that goes over all the stages of birth, what to expect etc!
· Follow birth positive accounts on Instagram
- I’ve tagged some accounts below. Like i've said, I think it's so important to fill your mind with positive aspects of birth! You’ll be seeing birth up close and personal but it is part of the process of normalizing birth and stripping yourself of the fear of it. I used to squirm in my seat even thinking about birth and now I can watch it happen and I see how amazing it is. As a Christian, I don’t agree with a lot of the "new-agey" aspects that can accompany these sorts of pages but, I filter everything through the gospel. I remember these are created images bearers of God and we can always be united in that. We can be united in motherhood.
A few accounts on Instagram surrounding birth:
These are just a few! Have fun going down the rabbit hole that is birth culture on social media! I love it!
· Watch other mamas give birth, practice staying calm and relaxed as you watch.
Also, work through whatever feeling come up as you watch, you might discover some hidden stuff you didn’t know was there and God wants to help you through.
- This one sounds weird when I say it but I watched just about every birth on YouTube there is! At first I felt my jaw tighten, fear rise and anxiety start to kick in but then it hit me, “if I can’t stay calm watching HER, how am I going to stay calm doing it?!” So I took it as an opportunity to practice birth affirmations, breathing, staying calm but also imagining myself in the moment with her. After several weeks of practicing this I could calmly watch any birth and I had worked through a lot of fear and negativity I needed to before my actual experience. (ease into it, if this really freaks you out) But, I don't think it's strange I think it's empowering. Birth gets censored in our culture so much because we associate it with sex. While we can understand why that may be (we all know how babies are made right?) it ISN'T sex, it's something every single one of us will go through in our lifetime. If we never give birth it doesn't matter, we have been birthed. Help yourself normalize it and get rid of the fear of it.
· Journal and pray through your fears.
-As you start to do the things above, do this right a long with it. Be brutally honest with yourself and work through WHY you feel this way. Ask God to help you. He loves to love us y’all! Talk through it with people you trust; your partner or other women. Which leads me to my next point.
· Consistently talk to your partner about what is important to you during labor/birth. Tell them things they can remind you of. Make sure they are 100% on board with what you want.
-Kirk and I talked about Smith's birthday constantly! It helped me to vent to him, cry through my fears, let him remind me of truth and constantly make sure we were on the same page. I knew I wasn’t going to have the option of denying the epidural so I wasn’t too worried about that. However, I can imagine when transition hits and you have the option to relieve the pain it can be SO tempting. Like I mentioned above I think you should find a birthing class to attend together and learn about dilation, contractions, all the labor stages and what you may feel during each stage. During transition (see link) it is totally normal to go into “panicky thoughts” like, “I can’t do this” or “I want out”, sort of thing. I had them too! But I KNEW what they were and it helped me tremendously. I knew it meant I was close! This is when many women say yes to the epidural. I’ve heard the hospital likes to push for it because for them, it makes everything easier if you’re confined to the bed. My best advice is don’t lay down and labor, walk around, lean on things and let your partner be there for you in the ways you’ve talked about. Don’t be afraid to tell them what’s working and what not. I HATED the classic hip squeeze my doula and Kirk tried on me, I said, “no I hate that” and they stopped. Haha, not my best manners. Going into labor and birth feeling united with your partner is key! You are the only one who can birth this baby but that doesn't mean you are alone!
· Practice thinking on birth affirmations that connect with you!
-Pinterest has tons of birth affirmations you can write out, make signs or even just mediate on them during your pregnancy and labor. I had a mix of my own that I made up, I found online or bible verses that gave me strength. I had 20+ signs I had made with affirmations I liked hanging all over my house, I even made flash cards! Again, it’s all about rewiring your brain to believe you can freaking do this! I vividly remember closing my eyes and imagining Jesus, my savior suffering on the cross for ME as I was in the pushing stage. He suffered to give ME LIFE! It reminded me that he did that for my sake and this momentary “suffering” I was going through was temporary and had meaning. I was giving my son life. I really think this perspective got me through the moments of doubt. Perspective matters.
· Speak to yourself positively about your body, birth, your baby and your ability to DO IT. Repeat DAILY!
- This goes with several of the points above. Birth is totally physical as you know but ultimately your mind has to be in the right place. ONLY YOU and GOD can do that! You've got to put the mental work in. You can’t put it on your partner, your doula, your doctor or your midwife to completely get you through. They will support you and be there with you but you and baby are the stars of the show! During early painful contractions I would imagine myself doing as many mental burpees as I could (I know, what the heck?) in that time frame or imagine myself doing a sprint. I could do like 22-25 imaginary burpees by the way. I’m an athlete, so that resonates with me and it kept me going! You’ve got to find what positive methods will work for you! Be thinking about that and speaking positively to yourself as you do! You can listen free guided meditations online or even download Hypnobirthing audio tracks to help get you started. I played tracks like that one when I slept (sometimes), when I was doing things around the house and even during early parts of labor etc. Believe me, I’m not a meditation, “hokey” sort of person so I was resistant to this at first but I do think it helped! I DON'T believe being a positive thinker manifests anything, we are not God, but I do think they help our mindset endure. The more positive beliefs you can develop about birth, I think the better your experience will be no matter the outcome. I would hold squats for a long as I could, breath and listen to these sort of guided meditations often.
Another thing I prepped before hand was a birth playlist. I made a playlist of worship songs that kept me in the right headspace and played it on repeat for about 6 hours! I remember at one point it stopped playing and immediately I was like, "can we turn the music back on please"? It was more helpful to me than I even anticipated.
· Do not be afraid to speak up for what is working for you and what isn’t during birth.
-Use a megaphone if you have to. Only a joke, your voice is fine.
· Labor as long as possible at home.
-Yup. Or just have the babe there hehehe. jk, I know it’s not for everyone.
· Hire a doula or recruit a “doula friend”.
-This is a big one if you are having a hospital birth and especially if you would like to do it without medication/interventions. I highly recommend hiring a doula or giving someone the job. Doula’s are birth experts, they know birth, women and babies. They are your emotional, physical and even informational support for you and your partner. They have your back in every single way, they know what you want because you tell them! Your doula will advocate for you so you can focus on birthing that perfect baby of yours! Read more about doulas and the positive evidence of their presence here! Of course this can be a family member or friend just be sure they are suited for the task at hand.
All of these things came together when it was go time. I spent so much time focusing on the right things and “training” my spirit for this event, I was ready when those contractions came (and they came for a week before he was born HA!). I think that is the biggest aspect of birth; training your mind. You have to remember that the pains you are feeling are not warning pains. They are not trying to tell you that something is wrong. They are WORKING pains, they are working for you, and they ARE you. They are bringing your baby to you! Think on birth, educate yourself, advocate for yourself, think and imagine what you want you experience to be like. Of course you need to be flexible, but I think that comes with the territory naturally. I greatly surprised myself when I had to get out of the tub and let my midwife hold my cervix back so I could get Smith’s head through. I look back and can’t believe how calm I was even though it was an unexpected hiccup, I did what I had to do. It’s part of being a mama! Mama’s are tough. You are tough.
Finally, no matter what you choose or how your birth plays out, hear me; YOU ARE AMAZING. I don’t just say stupid stuff like that all the time to anybody just to make him or her feel good. Birthing a child through your vagina, through your belly, with medication or without, is truly amazing and hard. I hope and pray you feel loved, supported and strong in your experience. If you want to do this thing un-medicated and there are no complications YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN, tell yourself that! I hope this helped you and was encouraging! Feel free to reach out to me on Instagram, @breefiggins and lets talk more babies and birth, I’m all about it!