Having babies, like the actual giving birth part, is not something most women look forward to. Obviously I don't want to speak for all women and I do know some women who love the act of giving birth but, if I'm being honest, those women are few and far between. For most, it's what happens at the end of labor and delivery that helps you get through labor and delivery. Perhaps that, among many other reasons like medical and technological advances, is why many women opt for medicated births, so the pain of labor and delivery is minimized. While that option is wonderful and something no woman should feel ashamed for utilizing, it has created a list of things people don't know about having an unmedicated birth; Things that, honestly, all pregnant women should know and familiarize themselves with when they're weighing their birth options and deciding what will work best for them. The devil you know beats the devil you don't, right?
I've had two unmedicated births myself and, given my own experiences, find myself talking about unmedicated birth and the many nuggets of information that I believe are overlooked, on a regular basis. Usually, during those conversations, one resounding and vital fact is touched on, over and over and over again. If you're planning on a drug-free, intervention-free birth, and things don't work out that way, don't beat yourself up. Always remember that the most important part of giving birth is, well, giving birth. Get that baby out by whatever means necessary, even if it's not how you planned. I believe that whenever labor and delivery is discussed, that undeniable fact should always remain the focal point. Get the baby out however it is safest. Safest for the baby. Safest for the mother. Safest.
Having gone through the dreaded back labor, as well as a relatively short, easy birth (both unmedicated) I can tell you that it's really f*cking hard (there's really no better way to describe it), no matter which way you slice it. It's difficult if you sans medication and it's difficult if you decide to have an epidural and it's difficult if you end up having a c-section. Birth is hard. Labor is hard. Delivery is hard. It's all just freakin' hard, you guys. I won't judge any woman for the way she decides or ends up giving birth, because we have choices now and women know themselves better than anyone else can. Having said that, I'm happy that I chose to go pain medication-free with both my kids. So, if you're considering it for yourself, here are 10 things no one will tell you about having an unmedicated birth, but I will:
It's pretty common to be in denial about the inevitable pain. I'm pretty sure I was before I gave birth for the first time. I had this ridiculous secret hope that I would be in that small percentage of women who don't even realize they're in labor until the baby is crowning. Oh, sweet sweet, silly me. Please know that I say this with all the love in my heart: you are f*cking kidding yourself if you think this will happen to you. Being in labor hurts. A lot. However, knowing is half the battle, or something like that.
I happen to be the incredibly lucky type who has fast labors. My first baby was just under six hours, start to finish. My second was about six hours of prodromal labor, but the active labor (when contractions are at regular intervals, less than five minutes apart) was less than three hours. All of that said, when it came time to push, I was wondering what the hell I had been thinking, going medication-free. I don't know if I would have lasted for 12 hours.
I can't overstate this. Labor and delivery are a type of pain like no other. The great thing about the pain is that it's productive pain (I mean, you're producing a baby with this pain, so there's a reason for it, and an end in sight), rather than suffering, which is pain without any reason.
I remember before my first birth, I swore I wouldn't do any of that chanting or moaning or grunting. I had a doula, who was a dear friend and I trusted her, but when she mentioned the whole toning thing, I inwardly rolled my eyes. Well, it didn't take long before I was willing to try anything to help ease the pain, so I finally swallowed my pride and gave it a shot. It worked. Don't ask me how or why, but it worked.
You will have moments when you don't know how to go on, usually when the pain has passed the point of overwhelming, and you'll probably start freaking out. Unfortunately, panicking can actually make the pain worse, so make sure you have someone who can look you in the eyes and bring you down. Focusing on your breathing and on slowing it down can really help.
I needed to be reminded of this fact both times. I'm not talking about when you're finally pushing, I'm talking about during contractions. Apparently that high pitched scream, which we usually associate with pain, fear, and panic, actually tenses you up and makes dilation more difficult to achieve. Let's be real–who wants the baby in any longer, at this point?
The one thing that stuck with me during my unmedicated births, that I learned during prenatal classes, was the difference between pain with a goal or meaning, and suffering. If you can remind yourself that this pain may be awful, but it will end, it can help you push through it.
The women who talk about not feeling it when they were stitched up are (usually) women who had epidurals. If you are going medication-free, then you will need numbing creams and a few needles to freeze the area before stitching can happen. And, even then, it will probably still hurt. It certainly did for me.
Sorry, but it's true. Back labor, for those who don't know, is when the baby is facing out instead of toward your spine, which slows labor and pulls the contractions into the back. It also causes longer contractions with fewer rests in between. It f*cking sucks on the best of days (as if there's a "best day" to have back labor), but when you are unmedicated, it's brutal. In fact, had my first labor lasted any longer, my midwife was planning on recommending an epidural for me.
OK, have I scared you yet? Honestly, if I were to do it all over again and for a third time, I would still go without medication. With the exception of complicated deliveries, or ones that require an intervention, this is kind of what giving birth to a baby is all about. You may be afraid you can't handle it, but none of us would be here if women couldn't handle giving birth.