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Update! Since this post was originally published, I’ve gone on to have a second natural labor and delivery. You can read all about “Dumplin’s” birth story here.
When I found out I was pregnant with my first baby, I did a ton of research about what to expect during labor and delivery. I ended up settling on the fact that an intervention-free, natural birth was what I wanted, but I wasn’t sure I was tough enough to handle it. There are a few key things that went through my mind to help me with pain management during natural childbirth.
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The Bradley Method
First of all, my husband and I took Bradley Method classes for 12 weeks. The Bradley Method is sometimes called “husband-assisted childbirth.” The point is to have your husband be an active participant in your labor and delivery. He becomes your biggest support person.
I highly recommend the Bradley Method because I am all for doing things together as a team. Yes, I was the one doing all the hard work bringing our baby into the world, but my husband’s knowledgeable presence and support gave me confidence as I worked to achieve our goal. He believed in me and that helped me to believe in myself.
Have a great support system, but don’t feel the need to make your birth a spectacle! I’ve read of women having their mothers, mother-in-law, sisters, cousins, friends in the room with them during their birth. I can’t imagine wanting that after experiencing childbirth first hand.
You’re completely vulnerable and completely focused. I’m a natural-born people pleaser, so I would be completely concerned with how rude I was being by not talking enough or paying enough attention. Actually, any talking while I was in labor annoyed me. If my nurse said something to my midwife, I didn’t say anything, but I definitely noticed and felt perturbed.
The thoughts that got me through the toughest part of labor were ones I learned in my Bradley Method class and some that I learned through tons of research online.
For example, did you know that if you were in a coma and went into labor, that your body could deliver your baby for you? For some reason, that brought me so much comfort during delivery. I felt like I was horrible at pushing (I really wasn’t), and I just kept telling myself that even if I didn’t push at all, my body could birth this baby for me.
Embrace Your Contractions
During labor, I focused intently on not fighting my contractions. Bent over the back of the bed with my midwife or doula rubbing my lower back was what felt most comfortable to me. I just laid there with my eyes closed thinking “don’t tense your hands.”
My Bradley Method teacher said to keep your hands loose during your contractions and you’ll know that you aren’t tensing everywhere else. During labor, I could only keep a few key thoughts in my head and that was the one I thought the absolute most through the whole process. At one point, my doula Sara commented on how relaxed my hands were and I silently patted myself on the back.
If you’re planning a natural childbirth, try to remember that the contractions are actually helping to dilate your cervix and deliver your baby. It’s easy to tense up when they come, especially as labor progresses and they get more and more intense, but if you can force your body to relax, you’re letting the contractions do a lot of hard work for you.
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Control Your Breathing
Take slow, deep breaths during contractions and don’t let yourself hyperventilate. Breathing through my contractions kept me focused and calm, even though I was completely unprepared for childbirth on this particular day. Nugget came 5 weeks early and I didn’t sleep much at all the night before I went into labor. Looking back, the lack of sleep was probably because I was already IN labor, but my point is I wasn’t ready.
The other main thought I had was that I could “breathe this baby out.” I took Bradley Method classes, but I understand there are other birth methods where you are trained to mainly breathe your baby out and not push.
Even the Bradley Method teaches pushing “to the point of comfort.” You aren’t taught to push absolutely as hard as you can.
A key thing to remember is that if you’re keeping your body relaxed, not fighting your contractions, and letting your body do what it’s meant to do, you will have your beautiful baby. It’s just a matter of when.
Something my Bradley Method teacher (and doula) said during our classes was that contractions last about a minute. They build up, peak, and then gradually come back down. Then you get a slight break before you have to do it again.
“You can do anything for one minute.”
It’s so true. You can absolutely handle any amount of discomfort in one minute increments.
Another thing she said that really resonated with me is that “this can’t be bigger than you, it IS you.”
Finally, my absolute biggest tip for handling pain during natural childbirth…
The Gender Reveal
Don’t find out the sex of your baby!
I know, I know…I’ve heard every excuse in the book. I’m Type A, a planner, too anal, etc., I have to know what the baby is! How will I shop without knowing the sex of the baby?
We shopped a ton for our little one. Mostly from yard sales, but still, we shopped. We knew we wanted 4 kids, so we figured if we prepare for both a son and a daughter, we’ll be ready to go.
Having a “green” baby is such a blessing that you don’t even realize until you’re in labor.
When I was going through the pushing stage is when it helped the most. I just kept thinking the better my pushes, the harder I push, the faster I find out what this baby is!
I can’t describe the feeling when you’re meeting your baby for the first time and you are also realizing whether you had a little boy or a little girl. So much changes in that moment. You become parents, you actually get to see this tiny person who has been taking up residence inside your body for the last 10 months, and you find out if you have a daughter or a son.
It’s so beautifully overwhelming and I can’t think of any other feeling in the world even remotely close.
Meeting your baby for the first time is going to be an incredible moment whether you know the sex of your baby or not. I just can’t stress enough how much more incredible I think it was for us being that we had no idea what the baby was. Sure, I had my mommy feelings that I was having a boy, but when I knew for sure that my first baby was a son, my world and life changed for the better.
Give it some thought. I promise, if you decide to make the sex of your baby a surprise, you won’t regret it!
The Right Tools
Even though your baby is going to come whether you have all of these things or not, they’re really helpful in labor for both you and your partner.
The first is honey. If you deliver in a hospital, you won’t be allowed to eat anything after you arrive. If your doctors and nurses will let you, honey is awesome during labor to give you an extra energy boost. I recommend purchasing either honey sticks or a bottle like this.
Lavender is also very calming. At our birth center during my second birth, we were allowed to have candles if we wanted. Lavender candles are an awesome tool to have in your arsenal.
This one was personal preference for me, but nothing calms me like honeysuckle. I decided to forego lavender candles and I took honeysuckle with me instead.
Chapstick – Do not, I repeat do not, forget your favorite lip balm. This one has been my favorite for about 20 years…I’m 28. I’ve been addicted to it almost my whole life. You can’t find it in any stores anymore which breaks my heart! I buy big packs on Amazon, scatter them around my house and in my car, and have them with me at all times. These ones are nice and thick, they stay on for a long time which is perfect for labor. I can’t sing it’s praises enough.
Water bottle with straw – Even with all of my planning, I still managed to forget this during both of my labors. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Other than massage oil, this is probably the number one thing I needed during labor.
Massage Oil – Trust me when I tell you that this is the only thing that got me through my second natural childbirth. If you have back labor, have your significant other rub your lower back with this stuff and make them work as hard as my husband had to. He swore he was sore for days…that makes two of us. We used about a bucket of massage oil (all measurements approximate haha) to get me through the final stages of labor.
YOU CAN DO THIS!
At the end of the day, if you decide to have a natural labor and delivery, do your research, but know that your body was meant to do this just like other women have been doing it since the dawn of time. This experience isn’t bigger than you and you absolutely CAN DO IT!
Go to your birthing classes, do your internet research, and be mentally-prepared. Remember to relax your hands, breathe through your contractions, and keep repeating to yourself that you can do anything for 60 seconds. At some point, those contractions will be but a distant memory and you’ll be holding your beautiful baby that you worked so hard to bring into this world!
Did you decide to have a natural labor and delivery? What thoughts or techniques got you through the hardest parts of your labor? What tips do you have for other moms that hope to accomplish the same thing? Let me know in the comments!
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