When people asked me about my birth plan and I told them I’d booked into a birth centre, the most common response was “oh what’s the difference between that and the labour ward?”. Small differences, but the major difference being that there are no drugs available in a birth centre. That’s right, zip, nada, zero drugs. Once I explained this people usually thought I was either stupid, or a bit nuts. A few ladies who had given birth looked at me like I had no idea what I was in for. And they were right, I didn’t, I’d never given birth before, but I was so prepared, I trusted my body and knew I could do it.
I treated giving birth like training for a marathon. You’re not going to just get up one day and run 40 kilometres, right? You gotta work for it, prepare, both physically and mentally. Plus, giving birth is WAY better than running a marathon, there ain’t no delicious baby waiting to greet you at the end of 40 kilometres is there?
I think I was extremely lucky when it came to my birth. Apart from being ten days overdue, I pretty much got my exact birth plan. I don’t think this is common and I’m so grateful I was able to birth my bub in such a calm (well as calm as one can be when pushing a baby out) and nurturing environment. In saying that though, sometimes, no matter how much you prepare, things just don’t go to plan, and that’s okay too.
So, after prepping for a good six months, taking part in a few difference courses and reading everything I could, here are a few things that helped me get the natural birth I wanted.
YOGA – Go and get your downward dog on, right from the beginning of your pregnancy. I started prenatal yoga at 16 weeks. I found this really helped me with my breathing. Getting that deep, full breath, and also just a lovely way to keep calm and unwind each week.
CALM BIRTH – We spent a full weekend at a calm birth workshop. This is pretty much the same as ‘hypnobirthing’, just the Aussie version. I found this so incredibly interesting and it really, for me and my partner, cemented just how big his role was in the labour. It explains about the birthing process, the hormones and how they come into play and gives practical ways your birth partner can support and help you through the labour. It also teaches you about different meditations for each stage of labour. I think without calm birth, I wouldn’t have gotten through it without drugs.
MANTRAS – I’m a big believer in positive thinking and so mantras really came into play throughout my labour. I had three that I kept repeating over and over in my head, and sometimes out loud. Find a few key statements that re-energise you and support what you’re trying to achieve. Mine were “I am a strong woman, I can do this”, “Every contraction is bringing me one step closer to meeting my baby” and “Don’t fight the pain, go with it. This is a good pain and will end eventually”.
WATER INJECTIONS – I don’t think all hospitals do this, but ask your midwives in your check-ups. Now, I won’t lie, these bad boys KILL getting in your back, but if you’re experiencing horrific back pain like I was, they help SO much. It just lowered the pain for a few hours and let me regather myself.
TENS MACHINE – I used a tens machine for the majority of my labour. I strapped it on at home and it stayed on, unless I was in the bath or shower. How does it work? Basically it helps release endorphins, blocks the pain receptors reaching your brain and acts as a distraction to the pain. I found this SO helpful. It has a little BOOST button, so when you have a contraction, you hit that button and it ramps up. This gave me a sense of control over my contractions and made me feel less anxious. Also, it’s kind of fun yelling out BOOST every few minutes…
WATER – I love the water and always knew I wanted it to play a major part in my birth plan. I rotated between being in the bath and shower. If your birth suite has a double shower, whack that pressure and heat up as high as it’ll go and pop one shower head on your pelvic area and get your birth partner to put the other on your lower back. It feels AMAZING. When in the bath, it gets super hot, so make sure you have cold flannels for your face and ice cubes to suck on.
ATMOSPHERE – No matter which hospital you’re birthing in, private or public, it’s still a bit of a sterile environment, but you can change that. Fill your suite with LED candles, music and an oil burner with lavender in it. I had all the lights off, candles filled the room and music was on the entire time. It was pretty magical.
These are the main things that got me through a 21 hour labour without an epidural. My little ladies birth was amazing, sometimes I wish I could go and do it all again… It really is the most incredible, AND the hardest, thing I’ve ever done. That moment where you meet your baby for the first time is magical, nothing else compares.