When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was determined to have an unmedicated birth experience. I know that trillions of women get the drugs and everything turns out fine, but I’m the type who had her wisdom teeth removed and puked for an entire day from the anesthesia. I’m the type who won’t get Lasik eye surgery because I just know that I’d be the .002 percent who sees floaters for the rest of their life and can’t drive at night. I guess I’d rather go for the certainty of pain than the uncertainty of “What fun side effects will I get when I spin the epidural wheel?”
Little did I know that with my daughter’s semi-dramatic and 5-weeks early entrance into the world I wouldn’t even have had time to opt for an epidural had I wanted one. This proves two points. A) When it comes to childbirth, you really can’t plan anything with any amount of certainty, and B) I was right that I could survive the experience drug-free.
So seeing as how you can only plan as much as your baby and mother nature choose to cooperate (breech babies and emergencies can always happen), it’s the “plan” to go unmedicated again this time. Because this pregnancy has been the complete opposite of my first, I’m hoping that I don’t have to deal with a 24-hour labor experience. But seeing as how second deliveries are usually quicker than the first, I’m more than a little terrified at how quickly this baby might come. So just in case No. 2 comes in a less than 3-hour span, I guess it’s good that I prefer no medication, as I may not have a lot of time to play with once labor begins.
If you’re considering an unmedicated experience, here are a few tips!
7 Tips for an Unmedicated Childbirth
1. Be stubborn. Stubbornness and pure determination are necessary. If this is what you want, don’t let others talk you out of it—especially when the going gets tough.
2. Yet be flexible. As I said, emergency situations do happen that can change the game. This is different from an impatient doctor trying to get you in for a C-section because he’s ready for you to be done. Trust yourself and your support person to know the difference. Likewise, if your labor is exhausting you and there is no end in sight, an epidural can get you the rest needed to power through. Just know what you’re willing to bend on in advance!
3. Remember the end goal. The baby is almost here!
4. When it’s over, it’s over. While childbirth was definitely the most painful experience I’ve had, as soon as that baby makes his or her appearance, the pain is gone. Relief is instant. And not just because you’re happy to meet your baby. Cramping, delivering the placenta, stitches, recovery—they were nothing in comparison. And then add in the fact that you’re meeting your baby.
5. It might not be that bad. While childbirth was definitely the most painful experience I’ve had, it honestly wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I mean, I wasn’t screaming in agony or begging God to take me now or anything. I guess I imagine that there must be something out there worse—torture maybe?
6. Partner up. Hiring a doula can have all sorts of benefits for your birth experience, including shorter labors and a reduced likelihood of intervention (forceps, vacuum extraction, C-section). I hired a doula, but she didn’t make it to the hospital in time. It turned out that my husband was a fabulous support and coach, and he was all I needed.
7. Consider keeping it from your mom. Just kidding, Mom! Kind of. My mom, who had three unmedicated deliveries and is the genetic source of my stubbornness, was a little freaked when I told her I was considering not getting an epidural. And even though she knows I made it through the first time, she called me one day specifically to tell me it would be okay if I considered an epidural this time. Moms don’t like to see their babies suffer, no matter how old their babies are. I stuck with my tip No. 1.
I wish I had more tips on making it through the actual process, but honestly mine happened so quickly and unexpectedly that I very clearly remember being in another place in my brain. Not quite an out-of-body experience, but a zone and a focus I’ve never had before. I know I can’t really plan how everything will go down, but having had a preterm delivery once before, I’m mostly just hoping that this one stays put until 37 weeks. The doctors have taken extra precautions, sending me for monthly ultrasounds to check my cervix (and getting that many more sneak peeks of the baby!). My husband and I are already sticking a little closer to home and have set a 31-week cutoff (tomorrow, yay!) for going into NYC; I do not need to have a baby born on an NJ Transit train or in traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel!
Did you plan a natural childbirth and live to tell? Or was an epidural part of your game plan all along? —Erin