I have 3 children and have experienced natural birth versus an epidural.
My children are as different as their birth experiences. Not one was the same or even similar.
As mothers we all go into our labor with a plan. We are told to do so. Consider and weigh your options, think about a natural birth versus an epidural. Then print it out and and make sure everyone knows your birth plan so everything goes your way.
And sometimes it does. Mostly it doesn’t. We can’t dictate what our bodies decide to do.
I’m going to share my 3 very different birth experiences to help you decide between a natural birth and an epidural.
Natural Birth Versus An Epidural: Birth 1
My first born was not planned but so welcomed. I was so excited and loved pregnancy. Little nausea, ate a lot of junk food and meditated often. I had in mind an unmedicated birth but did absolutely nothing to prepare.
I was not super healthy. Waiting tables, taking a non narcotic pain med for fibromyalgia and struggled to quit smoking cigarettes for months. I was told by my peers things like, “My mom smoked and I’m fine.” Well, it caught up to me.
Things Take A Turn
My water ruptured at 32 weeks with no signs of labor. I was admitted on hospital bed rest on December 9. At 34 weeks an ultrasound revealed my baby was 6 pounds, so they induced me. I had a 26 hour labor. There was no breakfast before the induction so I was without food or drink for around 38 hours.
I wanted to be med free, but I couldn’t take it. So after shaking in pain for what seemed like an eternity I got an epidural. After that I don’t remember much. I don’t remember holding my son for the first time or them taking him to the NICU.
He stayed for 2 weeks. I went home without my baby. I pumped religiously and successfully for my NICU baby, and was discharged with 92oz of milk while nurses repeatedly gave him formula.
Natural Birth Versus An Epidural: Birth 2
Nothing But Natural
My son was fine. He came home healthy. The hospital stay quarantined me enabling me to quit smoking. A blessing in disguise and I’ve been smoke free since then. But after so much medical intervention and frustration I wanted a different experience.
I found out on our road trip I was pregnant with our second. Read more about the road trip here. I waited until 20 weeks to go to the doctor. Partly because we were traveling, and then because I wanted to postpone and avoid medical care. I was profusely ill almost the entire pregnancy.
A New Experience
I was so lucky to find a midwife who accepted my Medicaid. My labor was relatively quick, maybe 7 hours. I got to walk around the grocery store and eat a sandwich while dilated to 5 cm. I had an unmedicated water birth. It was intimate.
And really, really challenging. I was fine with contractions mostly. But when things got intense I couldn’t use my energy correctly. I was screaming instead of focusing and made things harder on myself.
My 2nd son was born. I was recovering from the blinding pain and again remembered nothing. I don’t remember holding him. Photos show a horrified look on my face and not one filled with joy.
Natural Birth Versus An Epidural: Birth 3
I had a really easy pregnancy with number 3. I enjoyed every minute of being pregnant. After being so ill with number 2 I kept anticipating sickness but it never came. I had periods of eating really healthy and periods of eating too many waffles. It was simple peaceful. I could not find a midwife this time but thought if I’d gone natural once I would do it again easily.
We had been going to church for a while now at this point, and at a parent’s meeting one of the directors had said, “My hope is that you hold your babies as soon as they are born and tell them ‘God is BIG and Jesus loves you!’” And I did. It was such a joyful time.
I went into labor naturally with my water breaking at home at 3 am. I waited to wake everyone up so they could all be rested. My goal was to labor at home as long as possible to prevent Intervention, intent on having a natural birth versus an epidural in the hospital. I ate and showered. We leisurely headed to the hospital at 7 am.
What Happened Next
My contractions stopped progressing and I stopped dilating. The doctor pushed pitocin as I wasn’t progressing normally. It turned into a several hour long battle. I felt like it was me against the world, being pushed into unnecessary intervention.
I finally caved after a supportive nurse gently guided me. It was the right choice. My water had been broken for well over 12 hours. Pitocin is no joke, and I couldn’t handle the contractions without pitocin.
So I got an epidural. And a little nap. And then woke up and had my daughter. I remember every minute of it for the first time in all my labors. I remember people’s faces and names. My doctor didn’t starve me. I remember pushing. I remember holding her for the first time. There’s a smile on my face.
And after all the pushing against any intervention, it turned out to be so beautiful.
What’s Right For You
What I learned is to be easier on myself. I was so stuck on the label of natural birth I wasn’t considering what was best. I was not open minded.
My first birth experience had blessings in disguise. I’m so grateful I got to explore natural birth versus an epidural with my second. I did it and it was amazing. And my third I labored naturally for hours but needed help in the end, and that’s ok. I’m not a failure because it didn’t go “my way.”
So write the birth plan. Be prepared. Educate yourself to be enabled. But keep an open mind because you never know what can happen, and in the end we’re rewarded with a beautiful new life. In the end we all win.