KIOS: Parenting, Part 3a: Natural/Unmedicated Childbirth

This post is part of my series, “Kickin’ It Old Skool: Why and How We Are Old-Fashioned” or KIOS for short.  If you’re new to the series, please read my disclaimer before continuing on.  I’m keeping a table of contents to this series here so you can see what I’ve already written about and what more there is to come. 

This is Part 3a.  Please also see Part 3b, Part 3c, and Part 3d with more of my thoughts on this subject.

Long before I met Nik, I knew that if I was ever blessed to be pregnant, I wanted to deliver naturally.  I had the beautiful examples of my mother, sister, and sister-in-laws to inspire me that a natural childbirth was the better way.

However, until I was pregnant with Ellie and learning more about pregnancy and childbirth, I didn’t understand why natural childbirth was better.  I just thought, “Clearly, delivering a baby the way God designed the process to work is the best.”  In my research, however, I learned about the incredibly intricate and fine-tuned process that a labor and delivery truly is.  I learned about the cascade of hormones that helps the mama and baby work together to have a successful birth.  I learned that when a woman is allowed to labor how she wants to, the vast majority of the time, there are no complications.

I also learned about how an epidural completely screws up this fine-tuned system, rendering it ineffective.  This in turn leads to a number of complications, including longer labors (usually with much longer pushing sessions); increased complications with the delivery, and increased rates of perineal trama, including more tearing. There is also lots of anectodal evidence that epidurals lead to more C-sections, although there’s some controversy attached to this assertion and I don’t think it’s been statistically proven.  (I know there are times when an epidural is medically necessary and beneficial but those are rare.)

(There’s lots of info on the web about the science of labor and delivery so I’m not going to link to any specific sites.  If you’re interested in this, the best book I know of is called Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering, written by a pediatrician.)

I became convinced I wanted to have a natural labor, not just because it was cool, but because it was the safest and best thing to do for my baby and for myself.  Nik and I never managed to find a childbirth class to take* so we just read and re-read our books**, practiced breathing, talked through what I wanted in terms of help (which ended up being not at all what I wanted!), and prepared ourselves at home.  We also made the decision to deliver at Special Beginnings Birth Center.  The more I read, the more nervous I became about delivering in a hospital.  I was scared that I would be forced to accept interventions that I didn’t want and not allowed to do what was best for my body during the delivery.  When I was 26 weeks pregnant, we switched to Special Beginnings and were immensely grateful that we did.

Ellie at about a minute or two old (I don’t think we even knew she was a girl yet!)  Read Ellie’s birth story here.

Many times, I hear women saying (to another woman who delivered naturally), “Oh, you’re really strong and amazing.  I’m just not that tough.”  Or, “I could never do that.  I can’t take the pain.”

This saddens my heart because I truly believe that those are lies that Satan feeds to women through our culture, lies that diminish their self-worth, that cause them to think that their bodies are inferior, that cause them to question the wisdom of their Creator God who made them perfectly.  The problem is that our current medical system is set up to cause women to fail if they want to deliver naturally.  If you deliver in a hospital, you have to fight to be allowed to walk around, to eat, to not be attached to a monitor, to not push on your back.  All of these things force women towards needing an epidural and possibly a C-section.

The other day, Nik, Ellie, and I were out for dinner in a very small restaurant and there was another family there, including a pregnant teenager, maybe seventeen years old.  She was due in a couple months and I so desperately wanted to tell her,

Your body is perfectly created to give birth.  You ARE strong enough to do this.  If you let your body do what it was designed to do, you will be able to do it.  Trust in your body!  Trust in yourself.  Trust in your baby.

I didn’t say anything and maybe I should have.  But part of the problem is that hospital policies don’t let women’s bodies do what they are designed to do and so they do desperately feel the need for pain relief measures and there’s no shame in that.

Some day, I would love to be an advocate and helper for women as they undertake one of the most amazing tasks of their lives.  In the meantime, every pregnant woman I meet, I try to say,

“Isn’t it amazing the way our bodies are created to do this?  Giving birth is one of the coolest things I ever did.  I’m glad you get to do it, too.”

Thoughts?  Reactions?  Let me hear them in the comments!


*Note that I am NOT recommending that you skip a childbirth class! I still wish we would have taken one!

**Our favorite pregnancy/childbirth books:

Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn by Penny Simkin – if you only read one book, this is the best one.
The Birth Partner, also by Penny Simkin – a lot of the information is repeated from her other book but it’s nice for the dad to read – because it’s written from the birth partner’s perspective
Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Sarah Buckley
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

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15 Responses to KIOS: Parenting, Part 3a: Natural/Unmedicated Childbirth

  1. stephicakes says:

    I didn’t know anyone who delivered med-free, but I was determined with my second birth, and I did it! Not very gracefully (you can read about it here if you want:
    I felt so good after, it was wonderful!

    • Laura says:

      Thanks for sharing your birth story with me, Stephanie. It’s so great to read other people’s stories! And gracefulness doesn’t matter a bit when it comes to birthing a baby!

  2. stephicakes says:

    Oh, and The Birth Partner was great! My husband didn’t read it, but it helped me anyway.

  3. Pingback: KIOS: Parenting, Part 3b: Natural/Unmedicated Childbirth (continued) « Salmon and Souvlaki

  4. Courtney says:

    i was able to have 3 un-medicated hospital births here in Baltimore City by using Kathy Slone the midwife that is affiliated with Mercy. I’m actually in the process of writing a email thanking both the midwives and the hospital for such a positive experience. With all three births I was given the flexibility to eat, move around, and use the positions that I wanted to use. Granted I did spend some time with the fetal monitor strapped to me and was not able to do a water birth with my first b/c of the presence of meconium when my water broke. . All of my deliveries were very different experiences – and all born in different positions (with the middle one being a water birth). I also found the hospital staff (both the nurses and the OB/GYNS) 100% supportive of what I was trying do in terms of a natural birth. I totally understand why people would be interested in doing a home birth or go to a birthing center – I personally wasn’t up for the drive to Arnold, MD. I just wanted to put in a quick plug for the unmedicated experience that is available in a hospital setting here in Baltimore. 🙂

    • Laura says:

      Thanks for sharing that Courtney! We considering going with the Kathy Sloane practice at Mercy when we were trying to decide what to do when I was pregnant. We talked to enough people who hadn’t been totally happy there that we decided it was worth the trip down to Arnold. I’m glad to hear of someone who’s had three good experiences with them!

  5. Jennifer Campbell Barnard says:

    Laura, I so enjoyed reading these posts and Ellie’s birth story. We also believe 100% in natural childbirth and I was so fortunate to have both my kiddos naturally @ the birthcenter with midwives and return home 3 hours later. I would also recommend the movie “The Business of being Born” if you haven’t seen it yet, it goes along with everything you wrote about.

    • Laura says:

      Thanks Jen! You guys up in Anchorage are so lucky to have such easy access to birth centers! I haven’t seen the movie yet although I see it referred to all over the place! I actually just read that they have a second movie coming out too. I’ll have to try to see it soon.

  6. Janna says:

    Hey Laura-
    thanks for sharing your experience and opinions about childbirth. It was good and interesting to read. One thing to consider though, that although women’s bodies were created by God to conceive, nurture, deliver and nourish children they have also been terminally effected by the fall and don’t always work the way they were created to work. Not that different than a diabetic whose pancreas doesn’t put out the insulin it was created to put out. Therefore it is not unrealistic to think that some, if not many, if not most (who really knows) medical interventions in childbirth may not be due to a “cascade of interventions” but to the very real nature of our fallen bodies. I just think we need to be very careful how we talk because we commonly never know the whole story behind a woman’s birth story. And I have too many friends and family members who have been made to feel guilty by well meaning Christian comments from other women.

    I also wanted to give a shout out for the Baltimore area hospitals. I had my 2 unmedicated births at St. Agnes and had a really terrific experience both times. My L&D RNs were amazing, so supportive and knowledgable about natural childbirth. They were as helpful, if not more helpful than my doula. And my OB was supportive as well. I wasn’t pressured into any interventions that were necessary (which means none with my first birth, and having AROM with my second- after I requested, knowing I would deliver soon after it was done- and I did, they ruptured the membranes, I stood up to reposition myself, sat back down, said it was time and pushed him out within 5 minutes). Anyway, suffice to say I think that hospitals can be really supportive of natural birth. In my experience mine was anyway.

  7. Laura says:

    Thank you for sharing Janna! You are indeed right that women’s bodies are fallen. Unfortunately, I think the medical system focuses far too much on the “fallen/broken” aspect of pregnancy and not enough on the “created to do this” part and so we end up with pregnancy being treated as a sickness far too often. That’s why I don’t like to compare pregnancy with a disease (such as diabetes), simply because pregnancy is ultimately a positive thing, as opposed to diabetes, which is never good. I think if we start from the “created” side and proceed from there, we will probably end up needing less medical intervention.

    You are also right that this is a hard thing to write about, particularly in the decontextualized world of the Internet, precisely because these kinds of thoughts can be easily misinterpreted. I tried to further clarify some of my thoughts in a second post(particularly related to hospitals), which I linked to at the top of this post, in case you didn’t see it. I also wrote a disclaimer for this whole series (also linked to above) precisely because I wanted readers to understand that we aren’t attempting to judge any of their personal choices.

    It’s a hard balance between not wanting to hurt others’ feelings on the one hand and on the other, knowing that it’s important for all voices to be heard. I think this is an important message that needs to be spoken. However, thank you for the reminder that we need to step lightly and considerately in all that we do.

    I’m glad to hear the shout out for St. Agnes as well as Courtney’s comment about Mercy. Like I said in my second post, I know that it’s not impossible to deliver naturally in hospitals; rather, you just need to be well-informed, well-planned and have someone with you who can advocate for you – as I’m sure both you and Courtney were.

  8. Pingback: KIOS: Parenting, Part 3c: Natural/Unmedicated Childbirth (more thoughts) « Salmon and Souvlaki

  9. Pingback: KIOS: Parenting, Part 3d: Natural/Unmedicated Childbirth (even more thoughts) « Salmon and Souvlaki

  10. Sharon C. says:

    I’d like to say how jealous I am that you were able to go completely natural. I had to be induced to save my baby’s life and this lead to my stress keeping me from progressing in labor. Ultimately I ended up with an epidural, a decision that I regret and feel pain over to this day, almost 4 years later. Our birth plan had involved the Bradley method, we were well versed and ready to go (like you we read books because Bradley classes aren’t easy to come by around here) but that all got thrown out of the window when my daughters life was in danger.

    I equate labor to nothing more then bad cramps and I think you’re right in saying that women who think they can’t do it are selling themselves short. If people educated themselves I think that the stigma and fear would evaporate. So God bless you and your blog for helping begin that process.

    • Laura says:

      Sharon – Thank you so much for your comment. I do consider myself blessed to have been able to deliver naturally but was prepared to accept interventions if I needed them. (I wrote about that on my blog in this post, which I typed just a few hours before Ellie was born: It sounds to me like a very scary time for you!! Induction when necessary for saving the baby or mother’s life is such a hard thing because you know it’s necessary but then you also don’t have the benefit of all the pain-alleviating hormones that you would have if you had gone into labor naturally. So yes, I’m not at all surprised to hear that you needed to have an epidural. I wrote a lot more thoughts about this subject, which I linked to above. I just realized that I hadn’t done so yet – so if you have time and desire, you can read those posts too! Please keep sharing your story with others too!

  11. Pingback: Mark’s Birth Story (In Honor of His First Birthday), Part One | Salmon and Souvlaki

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