I have written before on the reasons why we chose a natural homebirth. But, I wrote that post well before I had my baby, and it is a lot easier to say things before they happen.
I did succeed in having Victoria at home in an all-natural birth, and I can tell you that:
A) It was VERY hard and VERY painful
B) It was worth doing naturally
Some people believe that giving birth without the aid of pain medication is just playing the martyr when there is no reason to. We are told that there is nothing wrong with epidurals or other pain medications, and there is no reason for you to be in pain if there is no reason.
While I am not out to make any woman feel like her birth was somehow inferior to another woman's birth (they are ALL amazing life experiences, and ALL difficult), there are risks to bringing your child into the world with pain medication. They include:
-Increased risk of cesarean section, vacuum extraction, and forceps
-Increased risk of 3rd and 4th degree tears
-Increased risk of epidural side-effects (and there are a ton!)
-Longer first-stage (the time when you are working through contractions and your cervix is dilating) by an average of 20%
-Longer second-stage labor (the pushing part) by an average of 50%
-Use of pitocin (which can cause infant distress and heart rate increase) doubles
-Increased drops in blood pressure
-Breastfeeding issues for up to a month after birth (the drugs that enter baby's system make it difficult for them to find the nipple, latch, and nurse effectively)
-Longer recovery for the mother
I could go on and on, but you can do your own research. There's some good articles about it HERE and HERE.
The problem is that most people downplay the risks associated with pain medication in labor. The biggest turn-off for me was the increased length of labor and the effects that pain medications have on the baby.
When it comes down to it, we all try to do what is best for our babies, and I made the decision that for my health and the health of my baby, I would go through labor as naturally as possible. I would "take the hit" so to speak.
And let me tell you, on this side of the table, I can truly say that giving birth to a baby is hard. I am so thankful I was well informed and prepared via Bradley method classes, or labor and birth would have been scary. But I knew what I needed to do, and I did it.
But going into labor I was a little nervous. I am not good with pain AT ALL. I am a bit of a wimp to be honest. A stubbed toe is totally worthy of comfort food and a sob call to my mom (slight exaggeration). So having never felt labor pains, I didn't know if I could do it.
I had also told everyone (including you guys!) that my plan was to go all-natural, so I really felt like I had no other option. And I think that was probably a good thing. Never once in my labor did I ask for medicine. Never once did I think I couldn't do it. It's amazing what positive thinking, informed decision-making, and tenacity do for you!
That said, let me share some of the realities of what natural labor is really like from my experience giving birth at home:
--It is incredibly painful
There is no getting around that. It was by far the most painful experience I've had in my life. That said, I constantly reminded myself that it was "just pain". Pain will not cause me harm, and it is pain with a purpose. The pain was there because my body was attempting to do the crazy task of evicting a 9 pound baby. Reminding myself of those things made it help. But yeah, it was incredibly painful
--Water is almost manditory
There's a reason they call it the midwife's epidural. When I was laying on the bed, the pain was 10x worse. The warm tub of water was so relaxing and really helped make it all more manageable. Even if you plan to give birth at a hospital, try to go to one with tubs in the rooms, or get a birthing tub to labor in at home. Or fill up your bathtub while you labor at home (I am just too tall for ours)
--Pushing is the best part
It was probably because I kept telling myself over and over again that the pushing stage meant it was almost over, but the pushing stage really isn't bad. Your body, when it isn't hindered by medication, really does a lot of the work for you and works to push out the baby. You almost don't have a choice but to push along with it. And being in the water for hours helps "soften things up" so the pushing was not a very painful experience
--An extremely well-educated husband is the #1 tool in labor
Andrew was Bradley Method (husband-coached childbirth) trained, so he knew everything I knew about what was going on with labor. He was able to recognize the signs of transition, knew how to time contractions, kept the tub water at the perfect temperature, helped me, and knew when to stop talking to me. All without my telling him! It was wonderful. He took his job very seriously and it was so reassuring to have him next to me. Another thing is that a well-educated husband doesn't freak out at the prospect of his wife being in pain! I have so many people I know who got medication in labor because their husband's couldn't stand to see them in pain. My husband was able to keep himself together and remind me to do the same
--Sleep is a crucial part of labor
A good friend of mine had a 30 hour labor just weeks before me, and she kept telling me her biggest mistake was not resting enough in early labor. My midwives also constantly told me their number one reason for hospital transfer is exhaustion. So for my entire 16 hour labor, I spent about 8 of it napping or resting.
--Modesty really is the furthest thing from your mind
I really don't like showing my body, even to my midwives. I had bought a comfy dress at the thrift store to labor and give birth in. But when the time came, I actually had my husband dig into an old box and find a bikini top from my more risque days. And that's what I wore. I think I would have been more focused on my modesty in a hospital setting.... at least I hope I would have been
--Pushing laying down with your feet wide like in the movies is THE WORST position ever for pushing
Seriously. I pushed in a modified version of that position in the tub for a while and it did absolutely nothing. The baby barely budged. When my midwives put me on a birthing stool (essentially a squatting position) and I was able to use gravity, the baby came out in 3 big pushes.
--There was a part of labor when I was convinced I wouldn't have any more children
Mind you, I was going through transition, which is the end of first-stage labor and usually only lasts 10-30 minutes. But yeah, I remember thinking "This pain is absolutely nuts. Why does anyone do this? The human race should have died out already."
--You don't have to be superwoman to do it
Up until 50 years ago every woman who gave birth did so without any medication. And they often had a lot of children. I am really not a woman who handles pain well. But I did it.
--My recovery was short
The water during labor helped soften everything so I didn't tear at all and didn't require any stitches. This meant I was up and walking around easily the next morning, and I was pretty much feeling back to normal within a week. I really babied myself for a good 2-3 weeks, and the result was I stopped bleeding quite quickly after the birth. Natural birth plus taking it easy really were the keys to feeling better quickly.
--Labor and delivery is not fun. It really isn't. But it is still amazing
I read Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth, and it is full of stories of natural births. I really felt like they made natural labor sound a little too happy and exciting and easy and joyful. I tried so hard to give birth joyfully, but I honestly was praying for it to be over as quickly as possible. It was by far one of the most intense experiences of my life. Without it being difficult and painful and hard, I don't know if it would be as intense of a memory for me. Sure I got a daughter out of it, and she is wonderful. But knowing that I birthed her, that I made the decision to give her a natural birth without drugs, that I did it through Christ who strengthens me..... that provides a very powerful feeling.
As for having more children, labor amnesia, as they call it, has not set in for me. I know what I'm in for next time and I am not looking forward to it. That said, I really can look back as see that labor and delivery really are only a matter of a few hours or days. They are totally and completely worth it even if they take months.