What this means is that if you're flirting with the idea of a natural birth, just hoping for it to happen most likely won't get you there. Trying to have a natural birth in the hospital can sometimes be like being on a diet and spending all day in a candy store. A natural part of labor is getting to that point of feeling like you can't do it anymore like you need to "give up." Birthing from Within mentors call it "the gate of great doubt." So when pain relief is so readily available, you really need great tools and even greater support to get through the hard parts without drugs.
“If you're flirting with the idea of a natural birth, just hoping for it to happen most likely won't get you there.”
The number one advice that first-time parents would give themselves if they could go back in time to the moment labor starts would be: GO TO SLEEP!
Conserving your energy for the hard parts of labor is super important.
This is a typical scenario of a couple that doesn't get enough sleep:
Contractions start late at night and it's just too exciting. They have been waiting for this moment and now they want to make sure they have everything ready. They stay up late cleaning the house, double-checking their hospital bag and tracking contractions. After a few hours contractions slow down and eventually stop. The parents might finally go to sleep at 4 am just to wake up next morning hoping things will pick up again. So they go for a walk (walking is good to get things going!) and they have sporadic, irregular contractions all day. They spend the day calling friends and still riding on that excitement.
At night, contractions start to pick up again and they get regular enough that the parents feel like is time to go to the hospital. They get there and they are at 4cm and at this point they are truly exhausted and discouraged because this is their second sleepless night. They try some comfort measures and labor for a while, but they are really, really tired. What do most people do at this point? Get an epidural. Sometimes that works out great, but if you really want to go without the pain meds, give sleep a chance. Even if you're sleeping in 10 minutes chunks for a few hours it's better than staying up all night tracking contractions.
“If you really want to go without the pain meds, give sleep a chance. Even if you're sleeping in 10 minutes chunks for a few hours it's better than staying up all night tracking contractions.”
Just because you're in labor it doesn't mean you shouldn't eat. During early labor, you will most likely still be able to eat a good meal. Focus on things that are high in protein and good fat and that don't typically upset your stomach. As labor progresses, you might become less and less interested in food but a bit of snacking can still be helpful. Simple things that don't require a lot of chewing are particularly great: a spoonful of peanut butter, some yogurt, berries, maybe some oatmeal. Also, don't forget about hydration. A sip of water after each contraction is ideal (and please do frequent trips to the bathroom because we don't want your bladder too full). Coconut water, electrolyte drinks, and laborade are other great options for staying hydrated during labor.
When it comes to childbirth, there are many different opinions and contradicting information. You might hear from an acquaintance or family member about the benefits of natural birth and think it sounds right for you. But is always worth digging deeper and connecting with your core values. You will definitely need them when crossing "the gate of great doubt." Using those values and noticing the things are important for you, you can come up with your own affirmations or mantras to get you through the rocky parts.
Some of the benefits of natural birth include:
- Being able to move freely
- Reduced risk of C-Section
- Baby is more alert, safer for baby
- Pushing is often easier when you can feel your body
- The feeling of accomplishment or empowerment that comes from doing something really hard
- Establishing a relationship of deep trust of your body
- Quicker recovery
As you can see, although these benefits sound good, they are also kind of superficial. Let's take for instance freedom of movement. If that sounds very important to you, when digging deeper you might realize that you want to be involved in the process of birth instead of observing from bed. You can then make a personalized affirmation such as: "I let my body guide me through birth." If interventions become necessary for any reason, you can focus on that important value: being involved. You can ask questions and always claim your right to make decisions, even if those decisions are not what you initially hoped for.
Natural birth can be wonderful, but it's important to not become too outcome focused. As parents, we constantly have to make hard decisions when it comes to our children, and many times those decisions start with birth.
6. HIRE A DOULA!
A doula can help you remember and navigate all the previous suggestions! Having the professional guidance and knowledge of a doula can make all the difference when trying to have a natural birth in the hospital. Doulas can offer fresh ideas for coping when you feel exhausted and discouraged, doulas can help you ask the right questions and interpret the information you're getting from your care provider, doulas make a great team with your partner, allowing them to take a break when needed. You might think that having your mom, sister or friend could be equivalent to having a doula, but although those people can offer lots of emotional support, there is incomparable value associated with the extensive experience and training of a professional who has witnessed birth many times and who works exclusively for you, always having your best interest at heart. For most doulas, the main priority is to make sure you get the best experience possible. If that means you want to try everything available to have a natural birth, we will offer many options, labor positions, non-medical comfort measures, encouraging words, advice, emotional support and much more. It also means that sometimes we can help you figure out when an epidural's benefits might start to outweigh the risks and we can support you through the decision-making process so that you ultimately can feel better about your birth than if you just felt pressured into making a decision that was going against your heart. If you would like to learn more about hiring a doula in Olympia WA, I would be happy to get together for a free consultation!