Just three years ago I only knew one woman who had opted for home births. God bless her, but I thought she was crazy. Who in the world would choose to go pain medication-free and be out of the safety of a hospital, making a bloody mess all over their sheets? I mean, doctors are the only ones who know how to handle childbirth -Lord help the poor cliched lady that delivers in the back of the taxi on her way to the hospital and has to do it alone. Her baby would be lucky to be alive in her highly incapable hands. Right?
That’s what I thought. My education about childbirth was on par with my knowledge of carburetors. And I felt about as capable giving birth naturally as I was creating my own rocket ship and orbiting into space. But all that changed after 1) having no insurance (and therefore open to options) and 2) watching The Business of Being Born.
Being told that, thanks to 10s of thousands of years of evolution and reproduction, the majority of women’s bodies are fully capable of gracefully birthing babies in perfect health -well, that was the first time I had ever heard it. Also, coming from a Christian background I had been scared crapless about the pain of childbirth, God’s curse upon Eve for her (insert fire and brimstone voice) evil, sinful nature. So this idea that my body could naturally birth –and was fully meant to do so– was incredible news!
For my first birth with my son, Wilder, at 37 weeks I was 3 cm dilated and my OBGYN said that if I wanted to schedule an elective induction she felt the baby was a healthy size and I was ready to go. I was so excited to meet this little guy, I jumped at the chance -heck yes, sign me up!
At 38 weeks I went in at 6am and got all set up in the labor room. They started the pitocin. Around 10:30/11am the contracts began getting painful and I had the nurses call in the anesthesiologist. It was like a gift from God. I couldn’t feel the contractions anymore. I couldn’t feel anything below my waist anymore. That was pretty freaky. Catheter inserted because I couldn’t transport myself to the bathroom. IVs, fetal monitor, all these fancy “necessary” gadgets and fluids and procedures because I certainly didn’t know how to give birth to a baby -that’s what doctors are for. At 4pm, out came Wilder. My face and eyes were bloodshot from the force of pushing -I couldn’t feel anything so I had no idea how to gauge my effort except for when they say, “push as hard as you can” I certainly did.
Recovery was 6 weeks. And by recovery, I mean I couldn’t walk up the stairs for the first two -made a bed on the couch after we arrived home from the hospital, and that’s where I stayed for the next two weeks. My lady parts were incredibly painful and the horse pill Tylenol 3 were absolute necessities for nearly a month. I bled for a good 4-6 weeks. I took walking and exercise very slow and stayed seated or reclined most of the time.
For Waverley, my second, my water broke a week before my due date at 11pm and we rushed to the hospital in a tizzy -oh my gosh, what if the baby came WHILE WE WERE AT HOME or IN TRANSIT?! Arrived at the hospital. Strapped in and needled up, epidural and IVs in. Petocin dripping. Baby arrived at 4am. Same recovery story. Long and painful. But it was normal, right? I considered that I had great, flawless birthing experiences. Just the way we were supposed to have them.
A few years later I was working with a client who had just had a baby a few months before. I had just watched The Business of Being Born and was interested (and still scared shirtless) in midwifery as an option. My client said she used a birthing center and loved the experience with her midwife. The day after she delivered she was walking around, taking care of her other kids and newborn, she never had to take a single pain killer during labor or for recovery and she stopped bleeding within two weeks.
WHAT?! Get outta town.
Nope. For real. Same story for her previous two pregnancies.
Now I was really intrigued. I bought books, watched YouTube videos, read blogs and articles. If these women could do it, so could I! Before me and alongside me were countless women who had given birth naturally and successfully without unnecessary medication, procedures, contraptions and expenses. Because our beautiful bodies are meant to birth our babies. We are exquisitely designed to do so.
Let’s look at nature. Animals, even our domesticated cats and dogs, use their instincts to have intervention-free births all the time. They listen to their bodies and -free of despair and flailing- they gracefully usher their newborns into the world, lick them clean and start nursing them. They rest and recover, soon up and about in full enjoyment mode.
We are no different.
Tennyson, our 3rd, was birthed at home in my lovely garden tub. No medications, no interventions; just my husband, my team of midwives and me. 2 1/2 hours of labor and there he was. My midwives tenderly cared for me and tidied everything up, getting us all tucked in to our very own bed for our first night sleep together –not in a weird twin sized hospital bed with bendy legs and kinked back, a husband scrunched up in an armchair, and a baby sleeping alone in a plastic box. It was the most natural, logical and sensible situation ever. Now, why hadn’t I heard about this years ago, I wonder.
But uncomplicated natural birth -the way our bodies are meant to welcome babies- is in danger. Why? Our nutrition and lifestyle. Overweight, high blood pressure, diabetes prone -all things diet and lifestyle related that can EASILY be remedied- create the majority of complicated pregnancies. If you want to birth your baby naturally and with ease and as free as possible of complications, what you put in your mouth and your level of activity are the keys to success. Yes, flukes happen. The unforeseeable emergency can take place. Genetics are a factor. BUT all of these are incredibly small percentages when you are eating a healthful, plant-based, nutrient-rich diet and moving your body regularly. It truly is that simple.
A whole, natural pregnancy is available to you. You were made for it. And, holy heckfire, is it ever a beautiful thing.
You can do it.