3 Things I Learned About My Medically-Induced Natural Birth (no epidural!!)

 

I delivered my second baby in October and it was the most mind-blowing experience I have ever had!!

I wanted to share my medically-induced, natural (aka no epidural!) birth story here because I learned a lot from it that will help me so much with any future babies that I may bring into the world. 

If you are having a baby soon and are weighing your options of going natural or getting an epidural, I need to tell you that reading about other people’s experiences going natural really helped me and got me in the right mindset. So feel free to read these three lessons that I took from my experience to help you with your decision!! 

With both of my babies, I had to be medically-induced due to a rare condition called Cholestasis/ICP. With this condition, the baby can be at risk for stillbirth if you carry him/her for longer than 37 weeks. Therefore it was imperative that we got those babies out before that!

I had a very typical first birth. Nothing crazy, about 22 hours, I had an epidural, and it was great! I honestly didn’t even think that it was very difficult because my epidural did a greeeat job blocking out the most intense pain. 

Going into my first birth, I thought it would be cool to deliver naturally but I really had no idea what to expect and wasn’t against getting an epidural if it got too painful. 

I learned the second time around that if you really want to have a natural birth, you can’t have that ignorant, go-with-the-flow mindset at all.

And that is my first lesson:

Go into it mentally prepared and determined to see it through! And get those labor affirmations ready!!

Labor, no matter what, is hard. But induced labor is REALLY HARD. I have never not had an induction, but each time I have really been able to feel how forced the whole process was.

Extremely painful contractions every 3 minutes on the dot usually means you are getting closer to the end, right? Well, that is how the beginning, middle, AND end of my labor was because that pitocin forced my body to experience those contractions and get labor going, whether it was ready or not.

With my first, I lasted 10 hours with no pain medication but had not dilated at all, so I surrendered and got the epidural. Which, I need to point out, is not a bad thing AT ALL!!! I am so proud of myself for bringing my son into the world.

But this second time around with my baby girl, I really wanted to try to birth her naturally for these reasons:

  • I wanted to be able to push in a more natural birthing position (i.e. on all fours or squatting) instead of on my back.
  • I wanted to be able to control my pushes more and hopefully not tear as bad as I did with my son.
  • I had heard from friends that it was a really incredible and empowering experience, and I wanted to experience that for myself!

A few days before my induction date with my baby girl, I officially decided that I was going to do it natural. After doing some research, I found that the most powerful thing you can do to prepare for a natural birth is get you and whoever is planning on being there in the hospital room with you (in this case, it was my husband and my sister in law) in the right headspace.

I needed to sit down with myself and visualize how hard and painful this experience was going to be, but also how PROUD of myself I would be if I got through the hard parts and persevered to the end.

I knew it was going to be the hardest physical experience I had ever gone through, but I was ready for it. And so was my birth team. They steadily cheered me on and talked me through each contraction because they were prepared and knew how to best help me.

The thought that kept encouraging me to move forward was this: The reward at the end is my BABY!!! Each contraction is not something to fear, but something to appreciate as it is one step closer to meeting that little human of yours.

So going into the hospital that rainy night on October 17th, I was so ready. Ready to feel the pain that ended in incomparable joy.

But mindset isn’t the only thing that got me through it. Which leads me to the next lesson…

Knowing how to BREATHE

I may have been mentally prepared for this labor, but I had no idea how imperative breathing was going to be for me for those 12 hours. Luckily I had done my research and learned some different breathing techniques beforehand that I used the entire labor.

This was my absolute best tool to get to the end with no pain medication.

When you are medically induced, you have to wait until you are 3 cm dilated to start on Pitocin — a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin. With my first, I was already at 3cm when I checked in to the hospital. With my second, I was only at 1cm so instead of going straight into the pitocin like I did with my son, I got both a foley bulb and vaginal misoprostol put in to try to ripen up my cervix and dilate to that magical 3cm mark.

That combination of misoprostol and the foley bulb kick-started my contractions real fast and they were surprisingly really painful from the get go.

So from the very beginning, the only things that really got me through each contraction were being able to breathe and visualize my little baby travelling further and further down the canal.

Not only did I need to learn all of this myself, I NEEDED my husband to know how to help me breathe through the contractions and how to rub my back in the best way to relieve that pain.

If I didn’t have my husband or someone to constantly be by my side and support me through that labor, there is no way I could have done it naturally. All he did was breathe with me, rub my back, tell me things like,

“You are doing a great job,” and, “Wow this is a big one, this must really be bringing our baby down!” and “Amazing, you made it past the peak, just 2 more sets of breaths and you will be able to rest,”

but hearing his voice and squeezing his hand is what I was clinging to during the peak of each contraction. I am so grateful for him and that he was able to be right by my side the entire time.

So if you are sitting there, pregnant and wanting to do a natural labor, and you’re thinking, “crap! I need to read up on my breathing techniques!!”

Look no further.

My absolute favorite resource for this was Bridget Tayler’s Youtube Channel. She is a birth doula who has created some really great educational videos about how to ease your labor and get in the right mindset. Here is one of my favorite videos that really helped me know how to breathe:

I also highly recommend her videos on birthing meditations and how your birth partner can support you. I am not usually a meditation kind of girl, but I’m telling you, this stuff is POWERFUL when you are about to do the hardest thing of your life and is what will be the game-changer in your medically-induced birth.

 

Lesson three is realizing that dilation was not the only measurement of progression

I was trying really hard my entire birth to let my body do its’ thing and not be too focused on the centimeters of dilation. However, it is really hard not to get discouraged during an induction because the doctor literally comes in and tells you that when you are getting induced, there is always a possibility of a reeeally long labor.

Like 48 hour labor. *deep shudder*

That was my biggest fear. That I would be doing so well breathing through each contraction but my body would simply not respond to the Pitocin.

But as Bridget says in some of her videos,

Fear leads to more labor pain!

So instead of thinking about when this baby would finally come out and how long this labor might end up being, just focus on the next contraction and breathe. Don’t think about how long it is taking, how much you are dilated, and how long you have to go. That is the quickest way to start spiraling.

It took me a few hours to get from 1cm to 3cm when I was on misoprostol. It then took me about 8 1/2 hours to get from 3cm to 6cm.

Those 8 1/2 hours were excruciating!! I hadn’t been checked to see how dilated I was during that whole stretch and because of how intense the pain was, I thought I was getting close to the point of pushing that lil babe out. So when my midwife checked me and I was only at 6cm, I felt defeated.

What I should have paid attention to is that my cervix went from being 20% effaced to 80% effaced during that time which was HUGE! But I was only looking at the dilation and that news to me was scary.

I wasn’t sure how much longer I could handle the pain and I still had 4 whole centimeters to go. I was also nervous because my water hadn’t broken and I knew that they were probably going to manually do that. I knew that it was a smart move because typically that speeds up the process and gets things moving, but I also knew that as soon as they broke my water, instantly the contractions were going to intensify.

I didn’t think I could handle it. I was completely exhausted and every contraction was so painful that they brought me to tears.

That thought of only being 6cm wouldn’t leave my mind and I was so close to asking for an epidural.

But instead I agreed that they break my water and just like I thought, that first contraction was the WORST one yet!! Especially because I didn’t have time to transition off my back and onto the exercise ball– by far the least painful way to breathe through the contractions.

But after that, thankfully things started working really quickly for me. Because the pain was so intense, my midwife suggested I labor in the bathtub to alleviate some of the pain — which really helped by the way!!

Each contraction was mind-blowingly painful so my midwife wanted to check me during my next contraction to see what they were doing.

YES. YOU READ THAT RIGHT. DURING A CONTRACTION SHE HAD HER HAND UP THERE.

Holy mother it was the absolute worst thing in the world.

But from that, she found out that with every contraction, I was dilating an entire centimeter and my cervix was completely softened and shortened. Baby was coming fast!

We got back to the hospital bed and I was on all fours, feeling that notorious need to push (which, if no one has told you yet, it feels like you need to poop reeeeaally bad. Yup.) and in 4 pushes I caught my baby girl by myself and heard that beautiful cry.

I was SO PROUD. I did it!! It was truly the most exhilarating experience. And I couldn’t believe that I was able to push out my baby — the worst pain I had ever experienced — with NO pain medication!

I had been so close to giving up!

The time between my midwife checking me and telling me I was at 6cm to the time I pushed out my baby girl was only 30 minutes!! I learned that those last centimeters can dilate SUPER fast.

I also realized that during those 8 1/2 hours where I had only dilated 3cm, those contractions were doing a whole lot of work getting my cervix ready. That 6cm checkpoint of my progression shouldn’t have been discouraging, it should have been incredible and empowering news because my body was doing exactly what it was meant to do in actually a really timely way!

So during your labor, don’t write off those cervical measurements like I did. They are just as important to pay attention to and be boosted up by as the dilation.

I know most of this post has been talking about how hard it was to be induced and labor with no pain medication, but I have never felt so proud of my body and in tune with it.

I was almost in a high, like a state of euphoria, for a few days after that experience!

Another perk was that I didn’t tear at all this time around. I definitely credit that to being able to feel and control my body while I was pushing!

So if you are feeling nervous for your labor because you want to go natural, just know that, yes, it is going to be so hard. But after having two different laboring experiences, one with pain medication and one without, I can tell you that the one without pain medication was way more special and empowering. I want to pop out a few more babies in the future and I will hands-down have them natural again, despite the difficulty.

If you are on the fence because you are afraid, just stop and tell this to yourself: You are a strong, powerful female. Your body is capable of performing this miracle. YOU ARE CAPABLE of doing it with no pain medication. That is the way that women have been birthing babies since the beginning of humanity and you CAN channel that strength and perseverance that our ancestors had to get through each contraction.

And remember, the end of labor results in those intoxicating baby snuggles.

 

Aaaaand if you got to the end of this and thought there is no way in $@#%!! that you will ever deliver a baby naturally, there is no shame in that at all!! You are still a strong powerful female even if you are planning to get allllll the pain medication you want. 😉

 

XO,

Courtney

Check out some of Courtney’s recent photography work!

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