Can I just say that before I had my son, I did not “get” birth stories. I didn’t understand what the big deal was – did the baby get here safely or not? End of story. And by the way, pregnancy and labor and childbirth and, good lord, especially breastfeeding, were all kind of gross and unnatural and I did not want to think about it.
Now, I get it.
I’m going to break Mila’s birth story into two parts because so much of the story is about preparing for her birth, and doing a complete 180 in my attitude toward childbirth.
Mila is my second baby. My first, Weston, is two. (Obligatory pause for MELTS-MY-HEART photos of the two of them.)
Before Weston was born, I was FA-REAKED out about childbirth. I specifically did not want to have children, because of what pregnancy did to your body, and what labor would be like, and because “it just can’t be natural to have to push AN ENTIRE PERSON out of-” well, you get it. I always said, “When my time comes to have a baby, they better PUMP ME FULL of painkillers or knock me out cold for the whole process.”
I still can’t believe that I was willing to base a decision as important as planning our family on vanity and fear.
I had some sweet friends who had given birth naturally using the Bradley method – more on that in a sec – and watching them go through it and emerge saying “Eh, that wasn’t so bad,” made me run straight to the first Bradley method class I could find the instant I saw a plus sign on the pregnancy test.
If there was ANYTHING that could make labor more tolerable, I needed to hear more about that.
The Bradley Method is a 12-week course that emphasizes that birth is a natural process, that our bodies were designed to handle it, and it teaches you techniques to cope with the pain. I started to believe that maybe natural childbirth was even possible for someone like me.
Before, I could never have imagined why someone would want to put themselves through unnecessary pain when there are medications for that? It didn’t make any sense to me. But now I was starting to see that being ready, educated and prepared for a natural birth can actually lead to LESS pain, can be better for the baby and make recovery so much easier.
It is so important to me for you to understand that this is just my story. I have NO judgment and NO condemnation for women who have medicated childbirths or c-sections. I’m so thankful we have options and so thankful for medicine! I believe with everything in me that a safe delivery with a healthy baby is what matters. Us mamas have enough guilt and judgment to deal with already, let’s not add to that! This is just my story.
In my journey, the heart of my change in philosophy became an issue of trusting God. Either He designed my body with childbirth in mind or not. Either He had control over my body and my birth or He did not. Either He could answer my prayers for a beautiful birth or He could not. I had to decide.
I started praying specifically for an easy, fast birth.
And I did. I ate a healthy diet, I exercised, I learned about the stages of labor and what to expect. One thing I love about the Bradley Method is that it encourages “husband-coached” childbirth, so Andy was learning right along with me, preparing himself to help me labor effectively.
And if that wasn’t enough, I went into preparation-for-childbirth OVERKILL, because y’all, I really wanted this to work! After I finished Bradley, I started a home study called Hypnobabies.
Hypnobabies teaches you how to use hypnosis as a natural anaesthetic during labor. OKAY STOP. I realize it sounds kooky, but it’s actually pretty simple: what hypnobabies teaches you to do is RELAX your muscles. Relaxing is a learned skill. And during a contraction, fear makes your muscles tense up, which causes more pain. (I remember with Weston’s birth, when I was relaxed, the contractions felt like tightening or pressure, but if I ever started to fear a contraction and tense up, that’s when it started to feel like pain.)
Now, I started to wonder if a natural birth with minimal pain was possible for me too.
So with all this work under my belt – and LOTS and LOTS of prayer – Weston was born in a beautiful water birth that was so much more than I could have asked for. (You can see his birth story here.) I labored for eight hours total, pushing for two of those hours. Afterward, I felt like, “Meh, that wasn’t so bad.” I had watched my body do what it was designed to do and was so thankful for how it all worked.
What I’m really trying to say is, there is nothing special about ME. I definitely do not have any kind of superhuman pain tolerance. My goal was not to “be a hero.” It was really the opposite. I knew that sometimes epidurals don’t work. Sometimes you can’t get one for one reason or another and I didn’t want to depend on them and be unprepared. The truth was that I really, REALLY wanted an EASY labor and was willing to do whatever I could to get it.
But I wanted more for Mila’s birth. I had a specific list of goals and prayer requests for this time around:
1. A quick labor (I was hoping for five hours or less this time).
2. But still enough time to get to the hospital, which is an hour away when there’s NO traffic.
3. A nearly pain-free delivery.
4. A faster pushing phase!
5. A quicker recovery.
Whew! Okay that’s enough for Part 1. In Part 2 I’ll tell you the series of events on Mila’s birthday. I don’t want to talk this to death, but if you guys have any questions about any of this, let me know and I’ll try to answer them in the next one!
UPDATE: Here’s part 2!