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When I first got pregnant, I was pretty sure I would end up with an epidural during labor and delivery. As my mom will tell you, I am not good with pain. Seriously, I faint. In public. But that’s another story (or ten). So when thinking about squeezing a big ol’ baby out of a not so big hole, I was pretty sure that I would need some drugs to get through it (and stay conscious).
Then I started talking with a co-worker, who is also a doula, about birth and how to prepare. The more she told me, the more I realized that I was completely clueless. She suggested I take a natural childbirth class, and recommended a few she knew of in the area.
I chose a 6 week course from Taryn Leary at Birth is a Journey. Each week I felt more and more like natural childbirth was something I wanted to try (emphasis on the word try). When I talked to friends and family members about it, I was very clear that I wanted to give it a shot, and if things didn’t go well, I would get the epidural. By then end of the 6 weeks, I was feeling more and more determined. I watched natural childbirth videos (which were terrifying, by the way), read blog posts about laboring at home as long as possible, went to prenatal yoga and the chiropractor to try to prepare my mind and body for a whole lot of stretching, and finally I set up my “Birth Squad,” which consisted of my husband, my mom, my friend/prenatal yoga teacher, and my doula. With all of this in place, I finally started to feel confident that it was something I could do.
To be clear, I am no expert in labor and delivery. I’ve done it once. I’m also pretty terrible at all things science, so the information below is my understanding of some of what happens during birth, and my reasons for choosing to have a natural childbirth.
1. The love hormone.
When in labor (and when breastfeeding), your body is triggered to release a hormone called oxytocin, AKA the love hormone. Oxytocin is what causes your uterus to contract. It is a natural pain reliever, but it also has an anti-anxiety affect that improves trust and relaxation (all things needed when in labor). Epidurals reduce production of oxytocin, so although you are numbed, you lose the many benefits oxytocin provides (including the oxytocin surge just before delivery).
2. Oxytocin for Baby.
Ok, this was a big one for me. Oxytocin builds throughout labor and surges just before delivery, sending some through the placenta to the baby. Can you imagine being squeezed past pelvic bones, through a small hole, head first? Sounds unpleasant to me. And after all that, you are expected to bond with a new person and eat for the first time. It’s all just too much. Luckily for babies, mother’s bodies are built to help out with all of this, by providing the love hormone. Baby gets some of the pain relief, anxiety relief, and is better able to relax and build trust. All of these benefits promote a more successful first breast feeding.
3. Reduced Risk of Tearing.
In all honestly, I did tear, but my tear was very minor and only needed two stitches. Also, I probably tore because I was pushing so hard and he came out so very quickly. The point here though, is that there is a reduced risk of tearing because you can feel what you are doing and how hard you are pushing. It’s the difference between my small tear and my friend’s third degree tear.
4. Faster Recovery.
You guys, I recovered SO FAST. An hour later, I felt pretty great. The nurses kept offering me pain meds, which I continually told them I didn’t need. One nurse pulled me in the bathroom to ask if I would just take some Tylenol. I guess she thought I was trying to be tough and that if she got me alone I would admit that I was in pain. I finally just took some Tylenol to make them feel better, but honestly, I didn’t need it, even with the stitches. As supportive as the hospital staff was of my unmedicated birth, I don’t think it’s something they see often, judging by their many shocked faces, continual praise, and belief that I must be in pain. They called me a rock star so many times. By then end of it, I started believing them!
Thanks so much for reading!