How I Prepare for Unmedicated Childbirth

I am full term this week, y’all. Officially full term! Lord willing, at some point in the next few weeks I’ll be having my third unmedicated birth at the Birth Center. I know many people who have accidental unmedicated births and do just fine, I’ve read countless birth stories of women who just stumble into unmedicated labor intentionally without any prep and are cool as a cucumber. That’s not me. It takes a lot of work for me to get in the right mental state for the marathon that is labor but here, the third time around, I’m feeling more prepared than ever. Here are the things I do to get ready for the big day.Disclaimer to begin: If I’m aware of anything in this life it’s that the Lord alone is in control and He knows my steps far better than me. I do not see an unmedicated childbirth as holy. I would never prioritize it over a safe and healthy birth. I know there is always a possibility of need for intervention in birth and will always do what is best for both the baby and I. With that being said, my goal is to have an unmedicated birth for the third time and will prepare to do just that.

In my first pregnancy six years ago, O and I did the Bradley Method classes and read Husband Coached Childbirth to learn all about birth. We just had no idea what we were doing and wanted to be as informed as possible and I can’t recommend those two resources enough. I had Oshiolema in a Birth Center attached to a hospital. I had a great midwife team but after a bit of a traumatic birth, a very long labor, an incredibly difficult time pushing and a brutal recovery I made the decision to get a doula the next time around to have more support. Keogena was born in Texas at the same birth center I’ll be having baby number three in and we absolutely loved our doula despite only hiring her at 35 weeks. I’m going to break the “prep” for those births up into quick lists to not touch on them too much and shift to what I’m doing this pregnancy instead.

Things I did the first time around:

Watched ‘The Business of Being Born’

Attended Bradley Method Classes + Did the Workbooks

Read Husband Coached Childbirth

Read Ina May

Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

Daily Walks with O

Did Prenatal Yoga once a week

Exercised pretty regularly

TONS of squats, lunges, bouncing on birth ball from 36 weeks on and positions/exercises from the Bradley Method.

Birth: Water broke the day I hit 38 weeks, my labor lasted for 24 hours, I pushed for 2 hours and tore pretty badly.

Recovery: Harder than the birth. Could hardly walk the first few days due to my tear and hemorrhoids.

Things I did the second time around:

Got a doula at 35 weeks

Followed the same Bradley Method exercises and breathing practices

Had regular chiropractic adjustments

Exercised pretty regularly

Spinning Babies techniques

Evening Primrose Oil Daily (taken vaginally) starting at 37 weeks

6 Dates a day starting at 36 weeks

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea starting at 34 weeks

Birth: Labor started the day I hit 39 weeks and lasted 6 hours total. I labored 3 hours at home and 3 hours at the Birth Center. Pushed for 20 minutes-my water broke while pushing. Had the teeny, tiniest tear.

Recovery: Phenomenal. Felt myself within an hour, was up and walking around immediately.

And here we are, the third time around. I’ve shared on Instagram that i’m battling more fear than I remember with the last two. Maybe it’s because I’m now over three years from birth and was only 20 months removed from birth the last time around. Maybe it’s because this is my first pregnancy with an autoimmune disease and things feel different. Maybe it’s because illness and physical pain have always been my anxiety battles and birth represents so many unknowns. Whatever the case may be, I’ve had to spend much more intentional time preparing for this birth.

My greatest concerns and fears in my second pregnancy were length of labor and tearing based on my experience in my first labor. My greatest concerns and fears in this pregnancy have been hard to pinpoint but when I sat down to write in my prayer journal the other day I realized the intense fear had come from me feeling a lack of control and preparedness. Just incase I you find yourself reading this years from now, I’ll give a little bit of context: We are currently in the midst of a global pandemic. Covid-19 is currently raging through the country which means we’ve been in “quarantine” or “sheltering in place” for over 40 days now.

In my previous pregnancies I found great comfort in preparing by devoting a great deal of mental energy and attention to things surrounding birth. This time around I’ve had to spend my time differently–full-time homeschooling the kids, cooking and cleaning endlessly, disinfecting all.the.time, thinking about anxiety and discomfort surrounding the virus and praying/meditating/doing work to make sure my heart is in a good place. One day I just woke up and realized I hadn’t been in the “birth state of mind” and was already well into my third trimester! So I got to work. First, I surrendered this birth to the Lord. I reminded myself that He will be with me every step. This is of no surprise to Him and it’s not my body, my baby, my prep work, my “gold-star-birth-student” skills that will make labor what it should be. I will do my best, He will carry out His will. Phew. Now that all that is out of the way (you still with me?) Let’s talk prep for baby number three.

1. Get Filled up With Encouraging Stories. For every pregnancy I’ve found reading and listening to positive natural birth stories and watching unmedicated birth videos extremely helpful. I always guard myself against the negative stories and filter to find the ones that are most encouraging to me. Some of my favorite Podcast resources during pregnancy are The Natural Birth and Baby Podcast (the oldest ones are my favorite), The Birth Hour (I have to be VERY selective with these. I only listen to the unmedicated births and if they sound too traumatic or stressful I turn it off. You can use the tab to click on what you’re looking for such as home-birth, water birth, and so on. Also a sucker for all the accidental car birth stories) The Informed Pregnancy Podcast and the Fear Free Childbirth Podcast.

2. Prepare my Body in Some Way Daily. Whether it’s getting into poses I know help to get the baby in position, going for a leisurely walk, doing some deep squats or sitting on my birth ball, I try my best to make an effort every day to do a “birth helper.” In my first and second pregnancies, I went for walks muchhhh more consistently than I have this time around, but I didn’t have the varicose veins I’m workin’ with now. The joys of subsequent pregnancies. I still also get at least two workouts in a week which always feels so good that I say, “I should do this every day!” And then laugh to myself because we all know it just won’t happen. This resource to learn some great positions and exercises is phenomenal.

3. Take in the Proper Supplements + Food. I started my “6 dates a day” last week (35 weeks pregnant) which is one week early. I tend to add 3 dates to a smoothie and some days will also eat an RX bar to bring me to that 6ish date mark. If you’re the type of person who can eat dates raw, first of all HOW. EW. and secondly, do that! I’m the texture freak who thinks raisins should be banned from the planet so you can see why I rely heavily on smoothies. Because of my irritable uterus this pregnancy, I’ve had intense Braxton Hicks for months often convinced I’m in labor. For that reason, my midwives warned me not to start drinking Red Raspberry Leaf tea until 36.5 weeks at the earliest so I’ll begin having it morning and night this weekend. In previous pregnancies I’ve started at 34 which is what is typically recommended but you can certainly start even earlier-i’d talk with your OB or Midwife to be sure. I’ll also begin inserting Borage Oil vaginally every day (TMI? All of this is TMI) this week. Be sure to talk to your OB or Midwife about this too! But I did this last pregnancy  on the recommendation of my team and just essentially want to have the same labor as Koegena’s so I’m doing it again and hoping for the best! Lastly, I’ve been taking this magnesium every night to calm down my contractions for months so I’ll likely stop doing that next week and just say, “whatever will be will be!”

4. Practice Rest and Focus on my Breathing. This is easier said than done, but I always come up with a playlist that is comforting and calming to get familiar with. I’ve loved using the Dwell App this time around listening to the ‘Faith over Fear’ verses playlist. I let the scriptures wash over me and calm my whole body from head to toe and practice my breathing. There are SO many different resources for breathing techniques but the Bradley Method gave us the most helpful examples. I practice belly breathing every single time I get a Braxton Hicks contraction (which is at LEAST 30 times a day, usually much more, for the past 14 weeks.) I also have begun trying to listen to hypnobirthing affirmations and just tweak them to fit me. The “my baby knows” and “my body…” language just doesn’t always really rub me the right way but the reminders are helpful to calm me. I’d say the most important aspect of unmedicated childbirth is being able to control my breathing and stay in a state of calm rather than fear so these steps are the most important to me.

That’s it, guys! We’ve got this! And thankfully, modern medicine exists if all else fails and for that I am forever grateful.

Lastly, This is a super helpful YouTube channel that is much less crunchy and granola than some others but has such great, quick and informative videos. I also love this resource as a whole and the book is great-especially for first time mamas.

I’d love to hear how you prepare for birth in the comments! For a c-section, a VBAC, a hospital birth, a home birth, I want to hear it all! And if you’re pregnant currently, how far along are you? It’s a strange time to be bringing a baby into the world but we’ll get through these this together and have even more time to snuggle our littles.

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