Let me begin by saying that if you had an epidural, you are not a bad mom. Contrary to what one might think, having a drug-free birth doesn’t make you supermom either. Both sentiments are utterly ridiculous. However, choosing a drug-free birth is not an easy task, and the hardest part might be the numerous naysayers around you.
I distinctly remember the laughing that occurred from moms “in the know” about my decision to forego an epidural in favor of some yoga breathing and a killer playlist on my iPod. A barrage of stories too graphic for this post would usually follow the sneering and ridicule, but take heart! I survived a drug-free birth, and so can you. Here are just a few of the things that make it just a bit easier.
Decide what you want.
I decided on a drug-free birth for a few reasons.
- 1. I don’t really like chemicals in my body, especially ones that make me feel numb (another reason I don’t like the dentist).
- 2. I hate needles.
- 3. I suffer from severe and debilitating migraines that cause me to temporarily lose vision, have numbness in my face and hands, and cause excruciating pain. I heard that many women experience increased headaches after having an epidural.
- 4. I really wanted to have as much control over the process as possible (willingly admitting that there isn’t much) and wanted to help as much as I could.
These reasons were among the many others that influenced my decision to have a drug-free birth. Consider what yours might be.
Calm your mind.
There will be LOTS of people who will question your decision and give you a list of reasons why you are insane to want a drug-free birth. Everyone from my closest friends to random people on the street felt the need to share their “awful” and often exaggerated tales of childbirth. Ignore them. The only thing that women who labor have in common is that their labor begins, and at some point, their labor ends. Keep this in mind as you listen to other’s stories and experiences, as yours will be your own story with your own experiences. No two labor and delivery stories are the same.
One of the best things you can do is get educated about the process of childbirth. And not from friends and family. Go to your local hospital and take a class on childbirth. Most will instruct you about breathing, what muscles are being used, how to push properly (yes, there IS a technique), and what the stages of labor will look and feel like. While my class had some old-fashioned diagrams and I chose not to watch the actual deliveries, the class was very encouraging. It really helped me to understand what was going to happen physically to my body during the process of labor and delivery.
Prepare your body.
I was a former hot yoga junkie, but I chose not to participate because of mixed information about hot yoga during pregnancy. Knowing that my body would have to undergo a very strenuous labor experience, I wanted to stay active. I found lots of videos online that I could do at home, but I really enjoyed focusing the exercises on keeping the body ready for labor. Look for videos or exercises that incorporate labor squats and core strengthening for pushing. I did this 5 days a week for 40 minutes a day. It may sound like a lot, but if you plan to run a marathon, you need to start with consistent efforts to build stamina. *Note: As with any exercise program, consult your doctor before beginning.
Have written instructions.
I typed a detailed list of all the things I would like and would not like during labor. I discussed it at length with my husband to make sure that he understood my instructions. I would add a word of caution about these lists, however. It is important to keep an open mind during labor and know what is safe and healthy. While I was adamant that drugs would not be “pushed” on me, I was aware that c-sections are often necessary to deliver a healthy baby when labor has gone too long. The health and safety of myself and my baby were always at the top of my list. Make yourself aware of what warning signs need immediate medical attention if they conflict with your original plans.
Get a provider who is on board.
This was the one thing I didn’t do and wished that I had. When I told my doctor that I wanted a drug free-birth, his only response was to inform me that “childbirth was very, very painful.” Umm, thanks? Although the nurse at the hospital was extremely helpful and didn’t seem pushy, my doctor was not quite as accepting. Many women I know have recommended midwives or practices in the area that support a drug-free birth, so do some doctor “shopping” before you deliver.
Because I spent time and energy preparing for this day, I was thankfully able to have a drug-free birth. Many other women opt for a scheduled c-section, an epidural in the early stages of birthing, or even an at-home birth. Just as each mom is different, so is every birth and baby. The important thing is to bring your new baby into the world the way that makes you most comfortable. After all, a happy mommy always equals a happy baby!