I can completely identify with being petrified of going into labor. For me, it was the issue of the unknown. When would it happen? How fast or slow would it happen? How would I react? Would I make a fool of myself? The fact that everyone and their mom (literally) chose to share their birthing horror stories didn’t help.
Before having both of my kids, I decided to have natural, or unmedicated, births—the first at a birthing center, and the second at home. (Note: While I know that the term “natural” is offensive to some women, for the purpose of this post, I am using the common term “natural” at times to describe an unmedicated birth experience.)
Both times, I knew what I was getting into, and yes, I was still apprehensive. But overall, I had positive and moderately fast birth experiences; as far as unpleasant labor goes, you could almost say that I “enjoyed” myself both times. No, I didn’t have an orgasm in the birthing tub. No, I didn’t meditate as I sniffed scented candles. I had run-of-the-mill unmedicated births that involved some discomfort and pain, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared it would be.
A very close friend of mine, Melissa (who is also a loyal Mommyish reader), had a similar yet completely opposite experience to me. I find her bad ass birth story fascinating, and she was kind enough to share it:
My natural birth was unplanned (the natural part, not the birth), and went too fast to be very scary. I went in to see my O.B. that morning for a routine 38-week checkup, and when she asked me how I was doing I replied honestly: “Ugh. So uncomfortable. So ready to have this baby”. She offered to check my cervix, and when she did she started to laugh and told me I was already 5 cm. dilated. I had been planning on going back to work for the rest of the day, but now that seemed like a fairly bad idea. I raced to the school where I work to grab a few things and make arrangements to get coverage for my classes, and as I walked back out to my car I felt my first real contraction.
Twenty minutes later, by the time I got home and got my 20-month old, my husband, and our “go-bag” into the car (have your go-bag packed, people!), my contractions were painful and coming fewer than five minutes apart. Screw our plan to drop our daughter off at my parents on the way to the hospital! I had my husband drop me off at the hospital entrance and waddled up to the admissions desk and informed them as calmly as I could, “I’m having a baby. Like right now.”
Once in triage I asked if it was too late for an epidural, even though I knew the answer. The nurse very kindly told me no effing way lady, or something to that effect, and I bawled, my dreams of a blissfully numb birthing experience evaporating. Thirty minutes and lots of eardrum-piercing screams later, my beautiful daughter was born right there in the triage room, just an hour and a half after my first contraction. Would I recommend an unmedicated birth to someone who has time to get the sweet, sweet epidural? Hell no! The pain is excruciating—like being ripped in half—pretty sure anyone who says it’s not is lying or has a very bad memory. But if your labor goes anywhere near as fast as mine did, it is totally doable.
Whenever I bring up the topic of natural or unmedicated birth, it is often difficult to do so. Many times, because of crazy natural birth advocates, it appears that discussing one birth method is automatically shaming the other. This is not the case. But I do want to talk freely about my birth experience and tell any women considering natural birth that it may not be as scary as it seems.
I loved hearing the story from my great friend Melissa because, while her unmedicated birth wasn’t planned, she still survived and has an adorable baby to show for it. You too may have an unmedicated birth on purpose or accidentally. Whatever you choose, or however the cards fall after that first contraction, take heart—there’s no way to predict the outcome of any birth, but an unmedicated birth isn’t that bad.