What Happens During a Natural Childbirth
Disclaimer: This post is about my experience with natural, unmedicated childbirth. I’m not fucking around in this post. If you’re at all squeamish about things like vaginas or blood or poop or anything that might make you clutch your pearls and look at me sideways if we run into each other at Target, or even worse - at work, then move along. This post isn’t for you. Particularly if you’re a dude who hasn’t experienced childbirth yet.
However, if you’re up for learning a bit more, then by all means, please continue.
Personally, I am not a fan of the term "natural birth." I believe that all childbirth is natural because you're bringing a human being onto the earth who wasn't there before. And that is the most natural miracle that can happen, period. Henceforth, I prefer the term un-medicated.
I love modern medicine. Medicine saved my dad’s life three times through three different rounds of cancer. Modern medicine allowed many of my good friends to conceive when other more historically traditional methods weren’t working. And really when it comes down to it, antibiotics, vaccines, and modern drugs can more often than not, save lives.
But there are also benefits to doing things without medical intervention – if you are so inclined and also lucky.
I was one of the lucky ones.
I wanted to have an un-medicated birth.
Yup. I did NOT want the epidural. I didn’t want a C-section either if I could avoid it. Although in some ways I thought it would be so much easier to plan for a date that I knew the baby would be here. (And if you know me you know I love to plan.)
But the more I read about recovery time and having major surgery, and the risks involved to both baby and mom during all of this, the more I wanted to give having an un-medicated birth a real shot.
I knew there were risks: My uterus may be shaped in such a way that baby would never be able to fit through the birth canal, for example. Or perhaps the cord could be wrapped around his neck in a way that doesn’t allow him to move through the birth canal either. I was also mentally and emotionally prepared with a plan to deliver in a hospital because I was exceedingly worried about the risks. I had a doula and a doctor who were both on board with my intention to go unmedicated, but we were all ready to switch gears should the need arise.
There are so. Many. Risks. And if you’re reading this and considering going for it, please take all of the dangers into thoughtful consideration, being sure to speak at length with your doctor, midwife, doula – whoever you have on your team. You need to be knowledgeable about this or else you could be in for some huge surprises and potentially worse. Also double and triple check credentials and certifications of any additional help such as a doula or midwife. I was lucky to have found a doula who was also a midwife and who now owns and operates her birthing studio. She's supervised hundreds of births and is one of the best in our town.
Additionally, for many women, having a natural childbirth is not an option. There are real things like placenta previa, or other severe complications to baby or mom if they try to have a genuinely unmedicated birth.
If you want to know more about risks involved with un-medicated child-birth, please check the links at the bottom of this post.
If you’re able, and willing to give a birth-au-naturale a try here are some things to expect:
If You Tear, It Will Hurt Getting Stitched Up.
Yup. I went there.
If you have a long, lovely (is there such a thing) labor your chances of tearing are far less, but your exhaustion is sure to be pretty significant. I was lucky that both my boys came pretty quickly once I slipped into active labor. And as a result, I had a second-degree tear of my vagina both times.
No, I did not tear in the same place. In-fact number two was in a highly sensitive area different entirely from number one. Because I had said no to an epidural, I felt everything down there.
And even though my doctor was a highly skilled surgeon, it hurt like a mo-fo to have him inject a numbing agent and use a suture. Almost worse than the actual childbirth (but not quite.) There are benefits to having an epidural to be sure. For me, the only one would have been not feeling the pain of being stitched up.
There Will Be Blood
During the aftermath of both of my deliveries, my husband was sure something was significantly wrong based on the sudden, intense amount of blood gushing from me. Even now, when I ask him about what he saw after both our boys were born, particularly with our second, he can’t let himself go there. He shudders and gets this far away look and just says…blood. So much blood.
He thought I was dying.
In the three or four minutes it took for him to realize that I wasn’t dying he had already processed the idea that he was going to be raising our boys alone. He went to a dark place scared for the life of his wife and fearing for his future as a single father.
That’s how much blood there was.
Luckily, modern medicine was there to help and stave off the bleeding.
In the case of our second kid, the massive amount of blood was caused by the tear as mentioned above in a sensitive area.
But there’s just a lot of blood in general. The good news was that because I had a vaginal birth, all that blood came out pretty quickly – mostly from my placenta and uterus and all the other bits and pieces that were helping to grow these tiny little humans.
You Will Recover Faster Than Most of Your Medicated Counterparts
After baby #1 was born, I was back to regular activity within a week. We went for a walk when the baby was four days old. I couldn’t walk very fast, or for very long. See above re stitches. But I could lift mostly anything and could climb stairs and drive - things that many women who have a C-section aren’t able to do at first.
We went out to dinner with baby #2 when he was five days old (he was in the car seat the whole time - I'm not a total maniac.) I was taking fast, and regular walks with him when he was just a few days old. For me, this was hands down the best thing about having an un-medicated birth.
C-Section recovery ranges from 6 - 8 weeks depending on whom you ask. A birth with the use of an epidural or other medical assistance can set you back six weeks.
Please take your recovery seriously. Other things can come up including postpartum depression that is very serious. Relax. Try to enjoy your recovery and your bonding time with the baby. I'm merely suggesting that it will take less time, and be so much easier to feel back on your feet (as much as you can) without medical intervention.
Here are some links to some of the potential risks involved if you decide to have an unmedicated natural childbirth: