- It will allow you to connect with the expert speakers after the interviews.
- It will allow you to to have access to timely evidence-based research, webinars, online classes, and exclusive interviews from expert speakers from all over the world in the future.
- It will allow you to connect with like-minded birth professionals for support and guidance on how to promote a better birth experience.
1. First off, it’s wonderful and possibly the best moment of your life. I loved giving birth, as you can read about right here, and would do it again in a heartbeat. It’s so totally and completely worth it, no matter what you go through to get there. That first time you hold your little baby after he or she’s out, you’ll understand. Apart from my wedding day, I didn’t know if I’d ever been happier. And it was a close call. So just know that what you go through is worth it. And if you’re positive about it like I was, you might even love it.
2. You might just pee, poop, or throw up while giving birth. It stinks (ha ha, pun NOT intended), but it can happen. But the good news is, it might not! None of those things happened to me. And like anyone, I had been fearing it tremendously. Throwing up usually happens because the epidural can make you feel pretty nauseous (not enough to scare me away from getting it again though!) but my nausea wasn’t any worse than the morning sickness I’d experienced during my first trimester. As you’ll hear a thousand times over, if any of these things should happen to you, don’t worry–doctors have seen it all, and more good news:you might not even know if you do. I had to ask after because I had no idea what was happening down there, (and honestly, it sure felt like something happened) but apparently nothing did. And even more good news: I can almost 100% guarantee you won’t give a crap (ha ha, not funny) if it does happen. You might, like me, even want it to happen. During my labor, the pressure on my rectum (gross word) was so intense that I felt like I was experiencing the worst constipation in my entire life and at the time, I just wanted to feel relieved from that pressure. You just get to the point where you accept that whatever is going to happen is going to happen, and nothing matters but getting that baby out! So, basically, Hakuna Matata. No worries.
3. While in labor and for a while after giving birth, you might shake. Like a lot. I kind of looked like I was freezing to death. Or having a mini-seizure. But I felt fine–I just could not control my arms, hands, or jaw! My teeth chattering was the most annoying thing. It affected my speaking. Everyone kept asking if I was cold, but I wasn’t. I just couldn’t stop. I think I heard someone call these “labor shakes” (makes sense) and other than being really annoying, they aren’t a big deal. If I remember correctly, they’re caused by adrenaline, and are really nothing to worry about. Just anticipate them because a lot of women get them.
4. At first, while pushing, you will probably feel like you CAN’T DO IT. That is how my mom felt, that is how I felt, and I’m positive that is how countless other women felt when they began pushing. It seems impossible. It is impossible. It makes no sense to me that an 8lb 3oz baby came out of such a small place. Even now, three months later, I occasionally find myself wondering how our baby came out of me. You’ll find yourself, as I have, holding your son or daughter on your belly and wondering how he or she possibly could have fit inside you. It makes no logical sense, but somehow it’s possible. It’s a miracle. An infinite number of women have had and will continue to have babies. You can do it. When the doctor got a mirror and I saw how little a circle of my daughter’s head was visible when I was pushing at my very hardest, I thought, She is never coming out. I might have even said it aloud. My doctor thought I might have to go with a C-section, she was so stuck. I didn’t give up, and with the help of forceps, she finally came out–very cone-headed, but perfectly fine. When you are in that moment of despair, keep the thought in the back of your head that youcan do it. You have to. That baby can’t stay in there forever even though it seems like it. And if you end up having a C-section, don’t worry and DON’T feel bad. Don’t let anyone make you feel like your birth experience was less special or less right because you did it differently. That’s what my doctor had to tell me when I was feeling frustrated that I wasn’t going to have the natural, epidural-free birth I wanted. But you know what? Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. Except maybe I’d have asked that we could try the forceps sooner than four hours…
5. Your baby will look like an alien when he or she comes out. So don’t be freaked out. Some babies are gray, some are purple, some are pink, some are covered in blood, and ALL are soaking wet and not as sweet as you might have pictured. Tenley had the hugest cone-head from being in the birth canal for four hours. I didn’t have time to process it at the time though because they immediately set her down to be measured, washed up, and swaddled. Then, when they did hand her to me, they had put a hat on her head which covered up the worst of it. When I saw her cone-head uncovered later that night, I was worried for her, but it went down significantly by the next day and even more so in the days that followed. At three months, Tenley’s head looks completely normal to me. You, like me, might not think that most just born babies are that pretty to look at, but I am certain that nothing will look more beautiful to you than your own baby.
6. For a while, you will be VERY swollen down there. It is not pretty. In fact, it’s really ugly. My swelling lasted maybe four days, which I think is longer than normal, but I also pushed REALLY HARD for four hours. And that isn’t normal (so don’t worry). But I’ll tell you, the first time I used the bathroom after giving birth–with the help of my nurses because I couldn’t walk by myself–I looked down and was like WOAH. I seriously did not recognize myself. But the nurses assured me that swelling was normal, though mine was worse than most. I don’t want to go into detail, but basically I was kind of really grossed out about how things looked for a few days. Luckily, the nurses encourage you to take lots of hot baths while you’re at the hospital (and when you go home) which really helps. It feels amazing. I took four or five baths and was encouraged to take more while there but I wanted to be with my husband and baby.
“Whenever I bring up the topic of having an unassisted birth (a home birth without the presence of a midwife, or medical professional, sometimes called ‘freebirth’), people look at me like I’m crazy. It’s not so bad this time around, because that’show Willow was born, but when I was pregnant with him, I’m sure that my family members were convinced I was going to die if I didn’t go to a hospital to have him. It never fails though… there’s always a slew of the same questions over and over again.
What if something goes wrong?
Personally, education is my relief when it comes to this. I’ve read countless birth stories, researched every possible complication, and how to handle it, and also educated Arick on all of the issues as well. I know what warrants an emergency enough to head to the hospital, or even more to call an ambulance. But the thing is, a lot of the complications that are common in hospital childbirth are due to the interventions that are used. Complications in a drug and intervention free birth are very rare.”
Why don’t you just get a midwife?
When you think of a midwife, you think of some long-haired hippy chick who’s been delivering babies forever, with no formal education on the subject. That’s called a direct-entry midwife. There’s another kind of midwife, a CNM, often referred to in the home birth community as a ‘med-wife’ because they usually work as a team with a group of OBGYNs. In Iowa, direct-entry midwifery is illegal, and most of the CNMs won’t do home births. Having a home birth, though, is not illegal. This makes it very hard to find a midwife to do a home birth, and when you do, the cost is outrageous. Had I decided to have a home birth for say, my first child, there’s no way I’d feel educated enough to have an unassisted birth, and I’d go for a midwife. But now that I’ve done this a few times, and have spent forever and ever learning the ropes, I feel confident enough to go at it alone.
I never intended to be a homebirthing dad. Our first child was born in the “normal” American way – in a hospital. Physically, mom and baby came out fine. But the scars from that experience still throb in our hearts many years later.
The impersonal way hospital staff treated us; the overactive use of clinical equipment, terms, and technology; the fact that I had to keep briefing incoming personnel on our birth plan (since apparently they didn’t take the time to actually talk to read the copies I had provided, or talk to one another); the fact that they ordered my wife to lay on her back, which made the process excruciatingly slow and painful; the fact that the first thing my baby saw was a doctor dressed in a haz-mat suit; the way they whisked the baby away from mom as if the child were public property; the way they treated me like a useless observer and not the head, protector, and provider of my family; the forced hospital stay in a shared room, an uncomfortable bed, and with nothing to eat but sub-par food…the whole experience definitely convinced us that there had to be a better way to do this.
Unfortunately, our second birth did not allow for that. Due to medical complications in the pregnancy, my wife had to get a non-emergency C-section. It wasn’t that bad. Our second hospital experience was better than the first — but only by degrees. Still present were the lack of communication by hospital staff, the impersonal way my wife, our baby, and I were treated by that staff, the way I was shoved aside, the way my wife was given orders, and so on. Not to mention the price tag. If it hadn’t been for our excellent health coverage at the time I’d still be paying for that birth years later. Also notable was how after each hospital birth some designated staff member would come talk to us about how to use contraception to prevent another pregnancy — as if pregnancy were an undesirable medical condition. The hospitals sure make a lot of money off of parents’ love for their babies, but they do treat all of the parties as ignorant, blundering, or unwelcome troublemakers.
When we found out the happy news that we were expecting our third, we once again wanted to do things differently. We really didn’t want to go the hospital route because every time we dealt with an OB/GYN she treated my wife like a semi-idiot and treated me worse — or simply ignored me. We hoped that this time we wouldn’t be shoved around and have to make more unpleasant memories.
What does having a planned unassisted birth mean to me? Simply, it means the parents believe in and trust themselves and their baby’s ability to birth, realize birth is not a medical event, and are looking for the most undisturbed birth setting with as few unnecessary stressors and interventions as possible to gently welcome their child into the world. Sounds pretty sweet, right?
Who attends an unassisted birth? Some women feel innately called to birth on their own with their child. Others desire to share that intimate, transformative moment with their partner, families, or close friends, without strangers in their private space. Basically though, it means there isn’t a medical professional present in the room at the time of birth.
How should you plan for an unassisted birth? It’s a highly personal event and is specific to each unique mother and birth. You might seek out medical prenatal care, do your own, or delve within, just going with the flow and beauty of nature. Planning an informed unassisted birth could mean lots of research, taking courses on emergency situations, or perhaps just being calm about the whole process and having a good back up plan. Or a combination of the two. If this isn’t your first UC, unassisted childbirth, you probably already feel that powerful trust in yourself and your baby and won’t need much more than a refresher to extinguish any nagging pre-birth fears. You’ll grow and bond with your baby during your pregnancy and be ready to meet him or her on the big day! Personally, I think it would be wonderful if everyone could mentally prepare for an unassisted birth, just in case, no matter what they’re deciding to do. Because, in all reality, any birth can be an accidental, unassisted birth and taking responsibility for your own care, owning everything, really makes a person consider everything just that much more.
So! You’re here and reading my post, which probably means you’re planning your own unassisted birth. Awesome! And congratulations on your pregnancy! There is a ton of information out there on how to prepare, all of which is easily available if you just look for it. I’ve tried to make it even easier by compiling what I thought was helpful in one spot.
In no particular order, these are the top preparation tips and resources in my book to make your journey as stress-free as possible:
This information is compiled from various sources for informational purposes only. If you or someone you know is preparing for a possible unassisted birth, this should not be your only information source.
Colleen and Kristi have ten births between them including eight homebirths (6 UCs and two midwife-assisted), a (mostly) natural hospital birth, and a C-section. Here are the top 13 labor tips they would share with anyone preparing for their own birth. Also, the University of Minnesota has put together a really great basic article on the anatomy and stages of birth, and though its focus is on the woman planning to give birth in a hospital, the information is relevant for anyone.
1. Your body is made to give birth, yet no labor tips will truly prepare you for THIS birth.
During my first labor, I remember my nurse-midwife, Kat, offering me labor tips as she tried to prepare me for the possible pain of my impending labor. I brushed her aside — I’d taken Lamaze classes, I’d read a dozen books and even more blogs, I was twenty years old, and I believed in my body’s power to give birth.
I was right — and I was wrong. My body did, indeed, know just what to do, but I was unprepared for the truth that it did, in fact, hurt, and early in my labor, I began to panic. I didn’t know how to surrender my body to its own power, and so my birth was difficult.
When baby number two came, I felt better. I had planned an unassisted birth, read another dozen books, and knew what labor would be like now that I’d been through it. And yet, I was again unprepared for my labor, and I was sorely disappointed that I had not been graceful during the birth. My third birth was incredible; I read “Birthing from Within” and felt ready — but baby number 4’s intensity surprised me, and baby number 5 — boy. I was not ready for his leisurely and yet intense escape from the womb.
You will not know what your baby’s journey Earthside will bring you in terms of the thoughts, sensations, emotions, or circumstances. And yet, you CAN prepare by making peace with the uncertainty ahead of time. Your body was made for this. Your very humanity has led you to this moment when you will bring your child forth into the world. If you can surrender your mind and its expectations to the power of your birthing body, your birth experience will be an important part of your connection to your child rather than simply a trial you must endure before meeting him.
“I was not prepared for my fifth birth to end in a c-section — but even though the birth was nothing like my first four homebirths; nothing like it was “supposed to be,” I kept in touch with my body and my baby throughout the process and it was an important piece of our introduction to one another,” adds Colleen of her fifth birth.
2. Understand the fear-pain cycle
Grantly Dick-Read wrote in his book, Childbirth Without Fear, about his experience of seeing a woman’s uterus white during a C-section — presumably because during moments of fear, our bodies move our blood from our internal organs to our hands and feed in order to prepare for “fight or flight.” He postulated that our fear during labor seriously impedes our bodies’ abilities to give birth — because our biologic reactions to fear cannot distinguish between, for instance, fear of an attacking tiger and fear of a birth procedure.
In 2012, a Norwegian study confirmed his suspicions. You can read more about the study inScience Daily.
Many books, articles, and even entire systems and classes (such as “Hypnobirthing” and “Birthing from Within”) have been developed to help women work through their fears to have more peaceful and empowered births, and you may wish to explore such a system. However, even understanding how fear affects your labor can help you let go of irrational thoughts and to create a psychologically safe environment in which to give birth.
The basics: The more afraid you feel, the more pain you will have during labor. The more pain you have, the more afraid you will feel. As you feel more afraid, your pain will increase, and so it goes. Read some great labor tips on this as well as to find some concrete advice on avoiding the cycle, you can read this article, “Reducing the Fear-Tension-Pain Cycle During Labor,”Â at Helping Hands Doula.