Are you considering having a more natural birth for your precious baby?
If so, let me share our positive natural birth story to encourage you that you can do it!
It can be overwhelming to consider having an unmedicated birth, especially in a hospital setting.
But that’s exactly what we were able to experience!
Every situation is different, but I hope that our birth story can inspire parents everywhere to take charge of their birth experience!
Let me share how we changed care providers mid-pregnancy, what preparation we did for an unmedicated childbirth, how our birth actually played out, which things went well, and which things I would do differently next time!
Switching from an OBGYN to a Midwife
Not every pregnant woman wakes up and thinks, “I really want to have an unmedicated childbirth.”
And for me, I don’t think that I started in that place either.
I didn’t know much about childbirth when I first saw that positive pregnancy test.
All I had heard was that you go into labor, you get an epidural, and then at some point you push out a baby.
Being an avid reader, once I found out I was pregnant, I started devouring pregnancy books.
These 3 books COMPLETELY changed my view of childbirth!
They convinced me that having an unmedicated, natural birth was best for baby and for me!
And my husband was 100% on board and supportive of my strong desire to have an unmedicated birth.
After reading those books, we took a list of questions to the OBGYN.
How long could we go past our due date?
Could I move and walk around during labor?
What if I didn’t want IV fluids?
Would we be allowed to do skin-to-skin time after delivery?
Could our baby stay in our room the whole time after delivery before we were discharged?
The answers we were getting weren’t aligning with what we wanted.
We didn’t feel supported at the practice we were going to.
So halfway into our pregnancy, we switched practices so that we could start seeing a midwife group.
Their practice was unique in the fact that they had access to a Natural Birth Center located in a hospital!
The midwifery model of care also more closely aligned with what we desired for our pregnancy and child birth.
Preparing for a Natural Birth
After deciding that we wanted to have an unmedicated childbirth, we knew we couldn’t walk in unprepared.
Luckily, the Natural Birth Center requires all of the parents who want to have an unmedicated birth to attend a specific 4-week class to help prepare for it.
This class had a lot of great information and reviewed many techniques for pain management.
I also spent a lot of time reading positive birth stories to encourage myself that this was possible!
Reading these stories helped remove the fears that I unknowingly had.
One of my biggest undertakings to mentally prepare myself was to create a birth scrapbook.
In fact, a lot of the images in this post are of that scrapbook!
Now I didn’t actually look at it once I was in labor.
But I compiled pages and pages of my favorite Bible verses (especially ones that address fear), birth affirmations, and positive quotes.
It also included photos from some of my favorite trips that bring me happy memories.
I even wrote two relaxation scripts that my husband and I practiced prior to birth to help me stay relaxed during labor.
This scrapbook was the ultimate compilation of everything I had used to mentally prepare myself.
Reflecting on our birth afterwards, my husband and I feel like I didn’t need to look at the scrapbook in labor because everything was already part of my mindset, and that is what gave me strength in labor.
Now don’t feel like you have to go make some big scrapbook like I did, but prepare yourself mentally in whatever form that is.
Whether it is listening to birth affirmations or podcasts, reading other birth stories, or learning the Bradley Method, do SOMETHING to get your mind ready for your birth!
A Late Baby – Would We Get the Chance to Have the Natural Birth We Wanted?
So we were prepared and ready to meet our precious little one, but apparently she wasn’t in a hurry.
Nine days after our original due date, my husband and I went to the midwifery for a non-stress test.
The results looked great as usual.
While there, our midwife suggested we get an ultrasound to make sure the placenta looked good, and everything looked fine!
The midwife also checked to see if I was dilated at all and I was 1 cm dilated and very soft.
And then she gave us the encouraging news that she predicted our baby would come in the next couple days!
So we headed home all excited.
We were so ready to meet our baby!
I had been so worried that our baby would be too late and that they would force me to have an induced labor.
The practice I went to would let expectant moms be up to 2 weeks after their due date before inducing labor.
So we were quickly approaching that 14 day mark.
We were praying that the midwife’s prediction was correct!
The Start of Contractions
That night I woke up around 1 AM with some light contractions.
To try and help things along I got up and went downstairs to the basement to walk around.
Then I laid on the couch some.
By the time I should have headed to work, I was pretty tired but too worked up to sleep.
Instead of going into the office, I decided to take a sick day and stay home.
So I sent my husband on his way and promised to keep him updated.
To pass the time I watched Pride and Prejudice, took a walk, and then finally laid down for a nap because I was tired!!
All of a sudden I woke up because of a sudden pain!
Was this it?
It was 1:55 PM.
I texted my husband to tell him what was going on.
I could tell that this was WAY different than the light contractions I had been feeling before.
When I didn’t hear back from my husband right away, I called and told him it was time to head home!
While I was waiting for him to get home, my mom ironically called to see how I was doing.
I was already having a hard time talking through the contractions, so she was a little worried, but then I heard the garage door opening-my husband was home!
So I told my mom I would call her back later.
On my own, I had not been up for timing contractions, so my husband broke out a contraction timing app and started tracking my contractions.
They were about seven minutes apart although they were a bit sporadic.
My husband called the midwives group to let them know what was going on.
The midwife suggested that I get in the tub and sit in some warm water, so into the tub I went.
While I was in the tub, my mom called again to see how things were progressing (since I had never called back, OOPS!).
Since things looked like they were moving along, my parents decided to start packing their things up and head over so that my mom could help us during the delivery and they would be there for the birth of our baby!
After about a half hour I got out of the tub because I was too uncomfortable during contractions to sit still.
Instead, I started pacing around the room during contractions, taking rhythmic breaths.
After not getting much sleep the night before, I could tell I was already starting to get tired and knew that it could still be a while until delivery.
Conserving Energy for a Natural Birth
To help conserve energy, I tried sitting down on a chair in between contractions.
My husband also started rounding up things for the car so that we would be ready to go when the time came!
At one point I felt really nauseous during my contractions, so he got me a small trash can to pace around with.
That little trash can was honestly the best thing.
I paced back and forth in our room rhythmically breathing and swinging that trash can back and forth.
It was my metronome and kept me in sync.
Then my back was hurting too, making it hard to sit in the chair, so I switched to laying down in bed between contractions.
My husband had to help me lie down and get up each time.
I could already tell he was going to be the perfect birth partner!
He was really great about keeping a close eye on the clock to make sure he had me back on my feet before the next contraction would hit.
My parents, who live about 2 hours away, arrived around 6:30 PM and got their car unloaded.
Around 7 PM, my husband called the midwife and said that things were coming along, but she suggested staying home another hour.
Soon after however, I started having a hard time making it through the contractions, so he called back.
The midwife said we should head to the hospital.
My husband loaded up a few last things while my dad helped me down the stairs.
I continued to pace around the family room until the car was ready and then away we went to the hospital!
Surviving the Car Ride to the Natural Birth Center at the Hospital
The car ride was difficult for me because I couldn’t walk around during contractions.
I needed my rhythm!
Instead, I used deep breathing and moved my head rhythmically back and forth to help get through them.
On the car ride over, I was praying that I would be at least 6 cm dilated.
My worst fear was that they would check me and I would only be at like a 2 or 3 and that there would be a long way left to go.
I wasn’t sure how long I would make it.
I was tired and being confined to the car really upped the intensity of my contractions.
But I knew I couldn’t give into my worries and fear, so I changed my thoughts and instead focused on praying that I would have the strength to make it all the way to delivery without any pain medicine.
Arriving at the Hospital
We arrived at the hospital a little after 8 PM and had to get checked in.
It was really hard for me to sit still for all the paperwork and signatures.
I wanted to be moving around!
Soon enough we were headed back to the triage room so that they could put me on a monitor to see how our baby’s heart rate was doing and track a few contractions.
While I was getting on my hospital gown, one of the nurses asked if I wanted to labor in the tub.
I had heard that it would decrease the “pain” of my contractions so I said yes, and the nurse left to start filling the tub.
One of the other nurses checked how far I had progressed and guess what?
I was 6 cm dilated!
I probably would have cried with happiness had another contraction not hit me, taking all of my energy and focus.
Everything on the stress test looked good, so then they wheeled me over to our room in the hospital’s Natural Birth Center.
The Natural Birth Center at a Hospital
The hospital we went to had a designated Natural Birth Center within the labor and delivery ward.
This gave us the opportunity to try to have an unmedicated birth, but also a little peace of mind knowing that we were in a hospital should things not go as planned.
The Natural Birth Center consisted of two larger rooms with birthing tubs in them along with a queen bed, a full bathroom, and a “living” space with a couch and mini fridge.
The rooms were decorated to feel more like “home” and were meant to keep your whole family together during your entire stay.
Rooms were first come, first serve for anyone that had completed the natural birthing center training and agreed to follow the natural birthing center rules.
They allowed you to eat and drink as well as move freely about.
There were no monitors attached to me, no IV’s, and no mention of pain meds or other drugs.
I really appreciated how the mindset was that this was going to be an unmedicated birth and the hospital team along with my midwife were very supportive of making that happen!
I realize this is not the environment every laboring mama walks into which is why I share the uniqueness of my hospital experience.
And having a fully supportive hospital team really does make a big difference.
Hopefully that gives you an idea of the environment that I was able to labor in.
Settling Into Our Natural Birth Center Room
Once we arrived at the natural birth center room, the nurse was still filling the tub.
I moved to the chair in the room for a little bit and then climbed in the tub once it was ready.
Meanwhile, my parents had stayed at our house long enough to eat dinner and arrived at the hospital a little before 9 PM.
My mom came in around the curtain to help me breathe and give encouragement, while my dad stayed in the room on the couch.
He was texting with my sister to keep her updated with what was happening.
At this point, my contractions were 4 minutes apart.
The nurse checked our baby’s heart beat using a Doppler and it was getting a bit low during contractions.
The midwife didn’t seem too concerned, but I was coached to focus on deeper breaths to make sure our baby was getting enough oxygen.
At this point, my husband hadn’t eaten anything, so my mom heated up some leftovers we had brought for him in the microwave in the room.
While he was eating, I got out of the tub to use the bathroom.
After using the bathroom I decided just to sit and labor on the bed for a little bit.
It was honestly a nice break from the hot tub.
When Should I Push?
Our midwife arrived and I asked her how I would know when it was time to push.
She said my body will kind of just know when it’s time, but most women describe it as an urge to poop.
Around 10 PM, the midwife checked my progression and said I was 8 cm dilated.
The midwife could see that it looked like my water had somewhat broken, but not all the way.
I gave the midwife permission to break the bag of waters the rest of the way to keep things progressing.
Soon after that, it felt like there wasn’t a break in the contractions at all.
Was our baby going to come soon?
Was this transition?
My midwife suggested I move back to the tub if I wanted to deliver in the tub.
So around 11:15 PM, I was headed back into the tub!
The nurse checked our baby’s heartbeat again and things were still sounding good, but all that deep breathing was making mommy’s arms and legs a little numb!
Time to Push for Real!
Around 11:30 PM, I started to feel what I would say was the REAL urge to push!
Now I understood what the midwife had been trying to tell me!
My husband stayed right next to my head to offer encouraging words and to breath with me.
I seriously could not have done this without him!!
He stayed so calm and encouraging.
Having the right birth partner, whether it’s a doula, your husband, or another family member really is SO critical!
Since my body was starting to push the baby down, I started to push with each contraction.
Unfortunately, the tub was too big for me.
It was hard for me to push against the walls of the tub and hold myself up.
And it’s not like I’m small by any means – I’m 5’9″!
I really struggled with my feet and hands going numb too, since the bars to hold onto were so far above my head.
To help me out, the midwife and nurse would push against my feet to give me more leverage during pushing.
This made mommy’s legs go even more numb, but it really did help with the pushing!
With each contraction, I could feel more pressure in my lower abdomen as our baby moved through the birth canal.
I knew it was almost time for us to meet our sweet baby girl!
Our Baby Finally Arrives!
At 12:16 AM, our baby’s head finally crowned and I was able to reach down and feel her head!
There’s no way to describe how surreal that experience is!
During the next contraction, our baby’s head came out some.
The midwife had me try to hold the head out by keeping my muscles contracted.
That was really hard to do!
Finally at 12:21 AM, I pushed really hard with my contraction and all of a sudden there was a great release.
Our baby was here!
The midwife helped get the baby to my chest to start skin-to-skin.
I was so excited I started to cry tears of joy.
Our beautiful baby girl came out crying and crying, but to us, it was the most wonderful sound!
The umbilical cord was pretty short, so I had to hold our baby fairly low on my belly.
After a couple of minutes, the nurses and my husband helped me out of the tub and got us dried off.
Post Delivery and Breastfeeding Struggles
First things first, my husband cut the umbilical cord after it had stopped pulsing.
Then, the midwife started to stitch me up since I had torn quite a bit.
After that, we tried to start breastfeeding.
Unfortunately, our baby was not cooperating.
She wouldn’t really open her mouth.
All she wanted to do was sleep!
I tried breastfeeding for a while, but finally gave up because I was exhausted and getting frustrated.
After that, they weighed and measured our baby.
She weighed 7lbs 3 oz and was 19” long!
The nurse helped my husband swaddle our precious baby and put her in the bassinet to try to get some sleep.
And we tried to sleep, but it didn’t really happen.
In the natural birthing center, they have these fancy color-changing LED lights.
It’s meant to help you set the “mood” you want.
Which was fine, until the nurse couldn’t figure out how to get it off for us to sleep!
And it was right over the bed!
I need a dark room for sleep!!
It also didn’t help that our baby was making all these cute little sounds.
I didn’t realize I could be so tired, yet so hyped up from everything that had just happened!
So instead of sleeping (like we should have), we took the baby out of the bassinet and did more skin-to-skin time.
We soaked up that time together as a new family of 3.
I tried to breastfeed our baby again, but without much luck.
Finally around 7 AM, we put our baby back in the bassinet and slept for about 2 hours.
Can We Go Home Yet?
We were planning on heading home later that morning.
I felt pretty good for having just delivered a baby and was ready to be home.
We were surprised to learn that our baby had jaundice and they wanted us to start supplementing with formula and use a bili-light ASAP.
I just went through this entire natural birth and now you want me to use formula?
I wasn’t having it!
They said that the bilirubin wasn’t clearing from our baby’s system since we hadn’t gotten breastfeeding off to a good start.
In all honesty, we hadn’t tried to feed our baby too often because she was sleeping all the time.
Don’t they say not to wake a sleeping baby??
Well apparently that’s not what we should have been doing.
Jaundice actually makes babies sleepy, which just makes the problem worse.
Never mind the fact that NO ONE had told us that we should be waking this kiddo to feed her.
I was VERY frustrated by the whole situation.
I had read the entire book on “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” and had even joined the local LLL group in my area to prepare for breastfeeding!
So how was breastfeeding not working for us??
The hospital sent their IBCLC lactation consultant to help us.
She got me set up with a hospital grade pump to use while I was in the hospital to start pumping colostrum to try to feed our baby that way we wouldn’t have to supplement with formula.
She also worked with me more closely on breastfeeding techniques and positions to try.
Breastfeeding was still a struggle, but it felt like progress was finally being made.
We were then released to head home and they would send a bili-light to our house to use.
Breastfeeding Struggles Continue
Over the course of the next several days and weeks, we continued to struggle with breastfeeding.
We had nurses stopping by the house every other day for weight checks and heel pricks.
It killed me to watch her precious little feet get pricked so many times!
Our baby just did NOT want to open her mouth to get a good latch.
There were many tears.
My nipples were cracked, bleeding, and sore.
And we were all TIRED.
No one warns you that breastfeeding will be so emotionally, physically, and mentally DRAINING!
But I am very strong-willed and I knew that I wanted to breastfeed our baby.
We tried supplementing a few times at the urging of our pediatrician, but I just couldn’t stand it.
So we gave it up and just focused on working on getting a better latch.
I did attend some LLL meetings for help and the leaders were really great!
They would watch our latch and baby swallowing and offer advice.
They even answered texts from me throughout the week.
Slowly but surely, things got smoother.
Despite our rough start, I ended up breastfeeding our daughter until she was 2.5 years old!!
We made it through my return to work, bottles, pumping, low milk supply, plugged ducts, biting, and even some nursing aversion on my part.
Our breastfeeding journey was a STRUGGLE.
But it had many wonderful moments too.
She loved her “mommy milk” and I loved the snuggles and quiet time she and I got together.
So don’t give up!
Even if you have a rough start to breastfeeding, keep seeking help if you want to keep breastfeeding.
And keep reading below for a great online breastfeeding resource/course if that’s something that might help you!
Things I Would and Wouldn’t Change from Our Natural Birth
They say hindsight is always 20/20 and that is certainly the case with child birth.
There are a few things that went well, but also a few things I would change.
If you want to have a natural birth, let me share my thoughts so that hopefully you can have an even better experience than I did!
So what do I think went well?
Switching to a Midwife
First, our decision to switch from an OBGYN to the midwife group.
I am one million percent happy with that decision.
Since I was 11 days late, I KNOW I would not have had the birth I wanted at the OBGYN practice since they induce moms who are one week late.
If you aren’t 100% happy with the person or practice that is going to delivery your baby, SWITCH NOW!
And it’s never too late!
I have read of moms switching in the last month before their birth.
You need to trust your birth team, and if you don’t, form a team you can trust!
Removing any fears you have about childbirth is so important for your delivery!
Preparing for an Unmedicated, Natural Birth
Second, we prepared ourselves with so many different things to help us through childbirth.
Obviously the biggest thing I did to prepare was create the scrapbook that I mentioned above.
But other “tools” that we had in our toolbox for labor included:
- Aromatherapy (essential oil blends)
- Music playlist
- Noise machine with different sound options (white noise, waves, forest sounds, etc.)
- Different birth ball positions
- My husband and I worked on different massage points
- And as I mentioned above, we had practiced a couple of relaxation scripts that I had written
And honestly, I don’t know that we used ANY of these during labor.
For me it was mostly keeping something moving and staying focused on my breathing.
BUT everyone is different and I know some moms labor for much longer and need ALL of these techniques.
So being prepared for anything is important!
Go into labor being flexible about what is going to help and have options at your fingertips!
Having the Right Birth Partner
And finally, having the right birth partner made all the difference in the world!
For me, my husband is the perfect birth partner.
My mom was also there to help give encouragement and support us, but my main rock was my husband!
He is calm, caring, encouraging, and supportive.
He is very attentive and quick to respond to my needs.
His quiet strength is exactly what I needed.
His ability to breath with me for EVERY contraction is just what I needed (never mind that it made him totally lightheaded!).
For me, I didn’t need a doula, just my husband.
But for many women, a mom, sister, or even close friend is the right birth partner.
Or choosing a doula is a great choice too!
Once again, the right birth partner is going to be different for each and every woman.
Spend time forming the right birth team – trust me, it makes all the difference in the world!
So those are three things that I think went really well!
And what do I wish I had done differently?
Stayed Home Longer
Part of why I wanted to get to the hospital was so that I could get in the birthing tub for relief from the intensity of my contractions.
Imagine my surprise when it didn’t help ONE BIT!
Had I known that, I would have stayed in the comfort of our home longer.
The hospital just had lots of inconveniences to the rhythm I was in such as the drive there, check-in, and waiting in triage.
In full disclosure, we are expecting our second and are planning to have a home birth to avoid the hospital scene entirely.
But laboring at home as long as possible is really in your best interest.
You can move freely, it’s a comfortable and familiar place, and if your labor would stall, you won’t be pressured into medical interventions to speed things up.
Not Rushing While Pushing
Once I could feel our baby moving through the birth canal, I was so ready just to have things over that I pushed WAY too hard.
I thought, “If I could just get this baby out of me, everything will be better.”
Oh if I had only known that being patient in that moment would far outweigh the discomfort that was to come.
Unfortunately, I pushed and strained really hard and tore pretty badly.
My tear didn’t heal properly and 12 weeks postpartum, I still hadn’t healed and needed silver nitrate to cauterize the tear.
Patience for a few minutes could have prevented weeks of not healing.
Even if your doctor or midwife is telling you “c’mon push you’re almost there”, IGNORE THEM.
Take that part slow, even if the “ring of fire” is burning!
Give your body time to stretch things out to allow your baby to come out properly and not “explode” out (like what I experienced).
Better Preparation for Breastfeeding
And wow, what a journey breastfeeding was for us!
I really wish that I had taken more time to prepare myself mentally not just for birth, but also for breastfeeding!
Sure I did a little preparation.
I read a book about breastfeeding, it was briefly covered in our birthing class, and I joined the La Leche League in my area.
I had read that it might be hard, but I was NOT prepared for the struggle it truly was.
Again, sheer willpower is about the only thing that got me through the first couple of weeks (and the later issues like plugged ducts and nursing aversion).
As I mentioned above, we are expecting our second kiddo, and this time around, I am taking the “Clueless to Confident: A Breastfeeding Preparation Course” by Andrea Tran.
Andrea is an RN and IBCLC lactation consultant with over 26 years of experience.
I am a visual person and she does a great job of showing you different techniques and positions for breastfeeding in her online course.
And if you aren’t an online course type person, Andrea also has a GREAT website called Breastfeeding Confidential and has a YouTube channel with great information as well!
She covers SO MANY different topics and questions you might have about breastfeeding!
If you are having issues with breastfeeding or want to be better prepared for breastfeeding, I really recommend checking out her course, website, or YouTube channel!
Just as you need to prepare for labor and delivery for a successful, unmedicated childbirth, you need to take time to prepare to breastfeed!
You Can Do IT!
I hope that the story of our unmedicated, natural birth has helped any parents out there who are exploring the idea of doing the same thing themselves.
Will it have intense moments? Yes.
Is it easy? No.
Will it be 100% worth it? ABSOLUTELY!
Can you do it? A million times YES!!
You were created for this – don’t let the medical industry convince you that being pregnant is some kind of “condition” that needs interventions!
For more information about not only our birth story, but also our lifestyle, please check out my guest post The Wholesome Guide to Natural Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Lifestyle on Warrior Mama Life.
What other questions or concerns do you have about having an unmedicated childbirth? Leave me a comment below – I would love to share more on this topic!