Before I tell you how I had my first natural birth, I need to confess – I was once terrified of childbirth.
My lovely mum was so vague but gushingly positive about my own birth that I thought it must have been horribly painful. I was then torn between the idea of not having children to avoid the whole process, and my desire to experience childbirth just once to cross it off my bucket list as something I should experience as a woman.
One day, in a second-hand bookstore, I came across naturopath Francesca Naish‘s book “How to Have Better Babies”. I must have sat on the floor there for half an hour, flipping through at her talk of how having the right diet and supplements could lead to a more comfortable pregnancy, less chance of stretch marks during pregnancy or tearing during labour, and a natural birth. Suddenly, here was a way for me to feel more in control, and a more positive outcome. I bought the book.
Years later, when we were ready to start trying, I tracked down Francesca at the Jocelyn Centre, and we consulted with her pre-conception. Religiously, we both took pills and potions to prepare our bodies for conceiving what we had planned was to be our only child. We wanted to adopt a second if we enjoyed having one – I wasn’t 100% convinced that labour was going to be my “thing”.
We conceived by the 4th cycle, and were incredibly excited, and now I worked towards preparing for the birth. More pills and potions, and Raspberry Leaf tea towards the end. I did pre-natal yoga classes, and 4 different pre-natal courses (including at Birthing Rites Australia with Marie Burrows, hypnobirth with Julie Phillips-Moore and a physio class with Juju Sundin) to prepare my mind. I’m like that – knowledge is power, and by being prepared, I was allaying my fears.
I had acupuncture all the way through my pregnancy, and on my visit at 38 weeks, I said to the acupuncturist that I didn’t want her to bring on labour, but to at least let bub know that the time was soon. Three nights later, on one of the many trips to the toilet in the middle of the night, I thought I wet myself in the hallway. Then I realised – I had broken my waters. I hadn’t even packed my bags yet. Contractions started pretty much straight away. I tried to go back to sleep – I knew I would need my rest – but that only lasted for a couple of contractions. I was too excited to meet my baby.
Instead, I got up and started packing – heat pack, spiky ball recommended in a pre-natal class, snacks, clothes for me and bub. Pretty simple stuff, but not too fun trying to pack between contractions. When the contraction came, I would lean against the wall, or against the edge of the sofa, trying to hold the heat pack on my back (this is why I now stock the wrap heat packs that you can tie on – soooo much easier). My partner hadn’t brought the camera home from the office yet, so he had a 90 minute round trip to go and get that.
When he came back, he was busy boiling eggs (!!) – our protein snack of choice to get us both through a long labour. Neither of us ate a single one until after bub was born!
I had only been in labour for about 4 hours when I decided I couldn’t do it any more. It was too hard. I tried to go back to sleep. Very funny. I got up again, but had the shivers, and started vomiting. Neither of us suspected I was in transition as it had all gone so quick, and of course first labours are usually 24 hours, right? In hindsight, this was transition, and I actually had 2 transitions – one at about 4cm, and another probably around 8cm. This is not uncommon, I later discovered.
We finally rang the Birth Centre, we had been leaving it for as long as possible. I didn’t want to go in too early as I wanted a natural labour, and I knew it is better to labour at home. Once you are in the hospital, there is more opportunity to have drugs. But, I had decided to not have drugs (in the end the epidural needle scared me more than the fear of the contractions). Asking for drugs never once crossed my mind. I think that’s because I had decided not to use them.
The drive in to the Birth Centre was uncomfortable, and of course I had to deal with my contractions alone while hubby drove. Next time I had a labour TENS machine – a much better idea!
When we arrived at the Birth Centre, I asked for an internal check to see how far dilated I was, mentally preparing my self to head back home again. I was 9 1/2 cm, with just a cervical lip to work on. This was at the front of my cervix, so I did a lot of forward leaning to put some pressure on this so I could birth my baby.
I hopped in to the bath as soon as I could, which was Heaven, but hurt my knees so much that between contractions I would be trying to manoeuvre back around to lying down. It wasn’t easy in a small bathtub – oh for a proper, inflatable birth pool!
Within a couple of hours, my gorgeous daughter was born. She didn’t cry, just looked around in wonder after her peaceful birth. I can still see the look in my partner’s eyes of wonder and amazement – with me and with this new little life we had created. I was still holding her in the bathtub when I turned to him and asked “how many can we have?” My labour was hard work, frightening at times due my lack of experience and control, but so, so worth it. You need to work hard for anything in this life worth having, and my daughter was no exception.
My placenta took a while to come, and I had a quick shot in the leg to help this on its way. Some quick stitches over in the labour ward (where I was shaking so hard they had to wait for it to stop – I think my body was in shock), and we were alone with our Princess. We waited for all the requisite baby checks and headed home, same day.
What I Learned from my First Natural Birth
So, what did I learn from this first labour?
- Don’t listen to other people’s birth stories – they are just that. By listening to them, you are taking them on board, and people love to tell the horror stories, not the good news. If you have a wonderful birth, tell everyone so we can change this perception.
- Ensure you have good support throughout your pregnancy and also at your labour. Naturopaths, herbalists, doulas, acupuncturists can all maximise their help for you if they are involved all the way through.
- Do pre-natal classes – and not just at the hospital. These can focus on the medicated pain relief options available for you. Private classes focus on other methods of pain relief, which can mean you don’t need the pain relief drugs. Make sure your support person is with you – they need to know.
- Pack your bags early – at about 36 weeks, to be safe. I suggest packing 2 bags – one for the labour, and one for the hospital stay. With your labour bag, if you collect all the labour tools you think you may like to use, then ask your support person to pack them – that way they know what is there and how to find it. I had all sorts of great things packed, but nothing was suggested to me as he didn’t know it was there.
- Pack everything you think may possibly help with your labour – a toolkit. You never know what you might feel like on the day, so better to have too much than too little.
- Try to delay your trip in to the hospital for as long as possible – not only are you more comfortable labouring at home, but you are more likely to have a natural birth.
- Have a TENS machine in your labour bag. Attach it as soon as labour starts. You can start building your endorphins early. It makes the trip to the hospital much easier. You feel like you have a little control over what is happening. It gives you something to focus on.
- Don’t assume you know what you want in your labour. Women retreat inwardly during the course of their labour, and for me, my mind was so in the moment that I didn’t think outside what I was experiencing at the very second.
- Have some good healthy snacks prepared. Labour can take a long time, and lack of energy can really let you down.
- If you want to be well-supported and have photos, you need two people. Expecting one person to do all that is too much.
- If you want good support, hire a doula. They will support you and your partner. A midwife has a different job in our system (unless you hire a private independent midwife). A doula can give you both the space you need to have a better birth.
- Enjoy it! We only give birth a few times in our life. Have fun.
Since my first daughter’s birth, I trained as a birth support doula, and have quite a collection of birth tools to help with pain relief during your labour for you to buy or to hire to help you towards your own natural birth. Take advantage of what is available to you. Use it. You just might find that you have a natural birth (or 3 as well!)
Please let me know if there is any way I can help support you on your journey to a better natural birth. You can contact me via the website, through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on either 02 9522 6222 or 0402 405 889.
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