Stubborn Enough for Natural Childbirth. Again.

When I found out I was pregnant the first time, the one that resulted in the 20-month-old ball of energy currently zipping around our home, I figured I’d ride out labor pumped with whatever drugs they’d give me. My instinctual philosophy went something like Pain: Bad. Drugs: Good. What kind nut job wouldn’t readily accept any and all available help in making what by all accounts is an excruciating experience more tolerable?

I am a researcher. I tend to spend a lot of time reading up and polling friends to ensure I’m prepared for purchases and experiences, for example, especially those that build up slowly and uncomfortably over the course of nine months and are 100 percent guaranteed to change my life forever. I read and Googled like it was my job, then watched “The Business of Being Born” with Clint. When it ended, I looked over at him, sighed, and said, “Oh, shit. Natural childbirth it is.”

To help me reach my new goal, I employed an intricate two-step program.

Step #1: Hire a doula. The nurses would know what was going on. Clint would be 100% on my side. Seemed it could only help to have someone in the delivery room who was a combination of both. I knew there was the potential to want to strangle a highly involved near-stranger at some point during such a painful and personal process, especially if she had some sort of cheeseball Earth Mother catchphrase or broke out flute music or, say, touched me, so I interviewed three doulas. We chose the one who said the right things and instilled the greatest amount of confidence, which is to say the one that we could most easily picture hanging out with as I screamed obscenities and pooped myself. Even then, I was only halfway sure I wouldn’t abruptly ban her from the room mid-event.

Step #2: There was no step #2. Big mistake. It should have involved researching breathing techniques or meditation or some type of natural pain management. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Breathing through contractions did not come naturally to me, as I assumed it would. I fought the contractions so hard that eventually, doing so became the point. When Roy finally arrived, after 30-some hours of labor nonsense, I was all, “Ha! Contractions, gone! I won!” and then, “Wait, why is there an inconsolable bird in the room?”

I never asked for an epidural because I am too stubborn. I did, however, ask for “anything that would make this godawful pain stop because I can’t take even one more contraction I’m not kidding give me something now it must end.” Horse tranquilizers? Bourbon? Yes thank you and hurry it up. My doula and the nurses conferred, which resulted in an offer of Nubain, a fast-acting narcotic that I was told I could take just once. They couldn’t deliver it quickly enough. It lasted all of 30 damn minutes. It didn’t take away the pain, either, but it did allow me to sleep soundly between contractions. That rest came in handy because little did I know I was about to embark upon four solid hours of pushing.

So, technically, not natural. But pretty darn close. And despite what I vowed at the top of my lungs during those final four hours—my doctor called it “the most acrobatic birth he’d ever attended”—I’m going to again try and go natural when I deliver this January. (We’re taking hypnobirthing classes this time.) I don’t feel like outlining the whys. I’m not here to change anyone’s mind. I believe that however a mama can make it through childbirth and end up with a healthy baby is perfect, for her. My choice wasn’t The Right One. It was the right one for me. So I’m making it again.

Because apparently, I am that kind of nut job.

NOTE: For another take on birthing, check out my fellow blogger Jill Cordes’ post on why she’s scheduling a C-Section.

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  1. by Eve

    On November 10, 2011 at 11:08 am

    We did a Mindful Birthing Class. VERY helpful. We used Arnica for pain control. You will do great! I can’t believe how fast it has gone by. Can’t wait to see the new girl. Actually, I can wait. About 10 more weeks.

  2. by Jessica

    On November 10, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Good luck! I think I’ve fully recovered from my natural childbirth experience, which wasn’t entirely by choice. But that’s how it worked out so I’m claiming it. I would totally shoot for the natural way again, should the opportunity arise. But 30 hours? I would never have made it 30 hours. Mine was approx 12 hours, with I gues 5 hours of “active labor,” and I’m still not sure what that means.

  3. by Amy P

    On November 10, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Are you planning to hire a doula again? Just curious about that particular piece of this- it sounds like you are doing exactly what makes sense for you. Thanks for sharing!

  4. by Berit Thorkelson

    On November 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    Eve: I am so investigating Arnica. Thanks for the tip.

    Jessica: Hell yeah, claim it! You did it.

    Amy P: Doula was awe-some. We’re using the same one this time. Will write a future post about that aspect of things.

  5. by Stefanie

    On November 12, 2011 at 10:12 pm

    We had the opposite of a natural birth – and had planned a natural one. One thing fell apart after another…but we got him out and that’s what matters! I’m sure it’s hard doing it natural – and even with the quick dose of stuff, I call that natural – but it must feel like such an accomplishment, and I’m sure your body heals much more easily because that’s what it’s designed to do! Good for you – and if stuff happens and you need other intervention, no worries – you’ll still have a beautiful little girl!!

  6. by Erin

    On November 14, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Good for you! I’m 19 weeks pregnant with No. 2 and plan to go unmedicated again. I had planned to with my first and wouldn’t have had time for meds had I wanted them–I barely made it to the hospital in time and the doula didn’t make it! It really does boil down to stubbornness so I’m sure you’ll do great. :)

  7. by Jill Cordes

    On November 15, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Berit–we could not have had more opposite experiences! I hyperlinked your blog to mine at the end of my labor post that I put up today. Can’t wait to compare notes the second time around. You are a brave woman! Braver than I!

  8. by shauna

    On November 29, 2011 at 7:11 am

    I might be stubborn for another natural birth but i’m on the border. With my first I had a bad experience and it took me 8 weeks until I could sit down without wincing. So i might opt for an epi this time around. I was proud to say i did one birth natural.

  9. by Andrew

    On December 1, 2011 at 10:46 am

    My wife did it natural for both births. If you can’t do natural the first time, chances are you’ll chicken out the second time. The doctors and nurses are too happy to drug you, it makes their job easier. If you truly want a natural birth, involve you husband, and use “The Bradley Method”.

  10. by Andrew

    On December 1, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Most women today are too pampered to endure the real pain that involves child birth. Only those few women that are willing to involve themselves in the true primitive process of child birth are capable. For most, including the writer of this article, it’s just a fad they like the sound of, but are too weak to actually do it.

  11. by Berit Thorkelson

    On December 1, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Wow, Andrew. That’s an awfully judgmental comment, especially coming from someone who will never experience childbirth.

    I hardly think that a thirty-minute “break” during a 30-hour labor process, followed by four hours of pushing, spared me from the “real pain” of labor.

    And calling natural childbirth a fad… well. A lot to address there. I’ll limit my input to this: Why question the motives behind choosing natural childbirth? Congrats to all who do it, for whatever reason — even if it’s due to bandwagon-jumping — including your wife.

    And those who don’t choose it? Or can’t? It’s a very personal thing. I don’t believe there’s any real value in being negative, condescending and accusatory.

    I hope you can hold on to that pride you have of your strong wife but also let go of your need to berate strangers for not having the exact same experience during what’s quite possibly the most intense and emotional experience of their entire lives.

    Have a better day.

  12. by Valerie

    On December 19, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    Seriously a man berating women for their childbirth choices? Wow. When he decides to give birth, perhaps we can all stand around and criticize him for not going “natural”. Oh wait. I guess we wont be doing that anytime soon. Whatever the choices as long as the end result is a healthy baby, then to hell with the rest. It sounds to me that he has involved himself in the “primitive process” of speaking out of his a$$.

  13. by Brian

    On January 5, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Well, Andrew at least you didn’t embarrass yourself and at least I’m NEVER sarcastic. Carol Burnett described what labor pains feel like. She said, “Take your bottom lip and pull it over your head.” So how about you get your natural man “primitive” on and let us know how that goes. By my estimation though you’re probably on to your next “comment like a power tool and run” on some other great mommy blog.

    Berit, your rebuttal gave me great satisfaction and like many of your hilariously witty posts, a genuine LOL.

  14. [...] pregnant with baby #2 and shares the same due date, had the opposite experience of me. Here’s her labor story.  Share this:TwitterFacebookGoogleLike this:Like [...]