When an unmedicated or natural birth is your goal there seems to be so much preparation that goes into it. There are a gazillion books and classes and practicing and preparing and planning it can leave you feeling overwhelmed and overworked before labor even starts! This was me the first time around. I took Hypnobirthing, read the books, did all the practice homework, wrote an elaborate birth plan. And you know what? Didn’t happen. Did I learn some valuble tips in all my preparation? Yep, but after having an unmedicated birth the second time around, I realized the hours and hours of preparation were probably not really necessary. Here are my tips and why I feel like I was able to have the unmedicated birth the second time around.
No Birth Plan – Generally know what your options are and what you want, but don’t write out an elaborate birth plan that details every step of labor, birth, and newborn care. Labor is the first lesson in parenthood in that nothing goes to plan. Having a written plan can make you feel stuck or like you’ve failed if you veer off that path. There is such a beauty in the unpredictability of this process. The rest of life in scheduled and info overload, so allow yourself to really enjoy this time.
A supportive team – Find a doctor or midwife who supports your choices and wants you to succeed. Make sure your partner is in on your plan and ready to help. If your partner isn’t so sure of what to do a doula can be a great resource for you and your partner. As much as you are the one laboring you need people to help. You need people to tell you that you can do it when you get to your breaking point.
Relax your jaw, hands, and feet – our jaws are tied to our cervix which needs to be relaxed to be able to open. You can’t drop anything out of a clenched fist and a clenched cervix can’t release a baby. Repeat this to yourself over and over and over relax jaw, hands, feet. Allow your body to do the work it was made to do.
Exhale through your chest and send your breath down – this is visualization working for you. Send your breath down to help your baby come down the birth canal. Picture your breath traveling down through your body, surrounding your baby and pushing your cervix open and baby down.
Low throat/chest vocalization – if you find yourself needing to vocalize first of all don’t fight it. Labor is primal and vulnerable and that’s part of the beauty. Second, keep those low tones to your voice. They tend to be more relaxing and again force energy down to your baby. Think – yoga “ohm” not “ouch, this hurts!”
Intensity vs. pain – Intensity is something we can get through. We do intense workouts all the time. Pain is something we generally feel needs fixing. If you refer to labor as painful you are instantly subconsciously fighting it, trying to fix it or remove the pain. If you refer to contractions as intense they are something you embrace and work through.
Your contractions cannot be stronger than you because they are you – not sure who said this quote but write it down, memorize it, have your partner memorize it and tell you a gazillion times (same with the rest of this stuff). This is the strongest you will ever be, and it is your body creating the intensity. You CAN do this. You are creating the contractions. You are creating the intensity which means you can handle it.
Trust yourself – This one is powerful. I am not always the best at this, but trusting myself and my body in labor and doing what I knew it needed were the things that really pushed me through. My midwife was suggesting I sit on the ball during labor and while that is a great suggestion, it just wasn’t working for me. Being at the birth center, as peaceful as it is, wasn’t working. I needed to go back home and lay in my bed to gain progress in my labor. It was scary make this decision, but trusting in what my body needed was what got my labor going and gave me the energy to make it through.
These are the things that worked for me, but again, listen to your body and heart, and do what is right for you!
Photo credit: Cameron Storie Photography