I was totally free to get up and move about the cabin when I was in labor with Bo, and move about I did, doing laps around the maternity ward from roughly 1-3 a.m., hoping to sneak a peek into one of the other rooms to see how other people birth their babies. No such luck. There in the middle of the night, everyone on the floor was cuddled up in bed in the dark - at least everyone whose doors were open.
Other in-labor activities included bouncing on the birthing ball, browsing Reddit, doubling over in pain, singing little songs to myself, and examining the pneumatic tube station. Of course, I ended up on my back in bed eventually because that is how I like to labor. No kidding. I know that squatting and sitting and crouching and leaning over a bar and kneeling on all fours let gravity move things along, but I did not want to do that. I wanted to lay in bed on my back so that is what I did. As someone who likes the idea of an active, upright birth, I was as surprised as anyone.
I was also kind of shocked at how distasteful I found the notion of getting in the water, considering I'd always imagined water births being lovely. Birth plan... ha. I didn't bother with one the second time around because those two words don't seem to ever meet up in my personal lexicon. In any case, both my birth experiences resulted in healthy - if small and in one case, slightly underbaked - babies.
Anyway, back to natural birth. There's only one photo of me in labor, a selfie that you can see here, because most people enduring drug free labor just do not look good or happy or like they're enjoying themselves. Except for those crazy orgasmic birth types - and more power to them. Here's what I looked like immediately following birth instead. Not too shabby.
During birth I looked hecka rough! In fact, I most likely looked like various incarnations of Hannya, but I'll never know because no one took any pictures of me writhing around in a hospital bed wearing two gowns - and in the case of P., an IV and monitor strips. Photos of natural unmedicated birth? Not mine, thanks! I got through it in my own head, and that's enough for me. I do have a few ideas about why I was able to get through it without drugs when some people who really, really want to might not make it to the endgame without a little help. Four things:
1. I've had terrible migraines my whole life so I'm used to coping with the kind of pain that literally leaves you sobbing in a ball and thinking "I could kill myself right now to be free of this and that would be perfectly reasonable." I'd take a natural birth over my worst migraine any day of the week. So, pain? As long as you don't expect me to exhibit any dignity, I can take it.
2. My births were short - exactly 3.5 hours each, excepting the contractions I had in the days prior which were straight up nothing. For most of those 3.5 hours, in both cases, I was hurting but not so much that I couldn't walk or carry on a conversation until close to the end, where the entirety of my conversations involved telling people around me to shut up and, in the case of Bo, demanding that he get out of my body immediately in no uncertain terms.
3. My babies were small. Wee. Four and a half pounds, and six pounds even. When I see newborns eight pounds and over my birth canal closes up like a Venus fly trap. Props to the moms who evict those babies with or without medical help because daaaaayum. I can't imagine pushing longer than 20 minutes (as with Bo) or less (as with P.). I can't imagine being in labor for 12 hours, let alone 20 or some number of days. I can only guess I would have been breaking into the hospital pharmacy at that point!
4. And finally, I partnered exclusively with midwives for my prenantal care and during labor and delivery. Now, it's totally possible to need interventions when all your care is under midwives because it's birth. Expect the unexpected, I always counsel those expecting. But I do believe that if you're interested in having a drug free birth, midwives are the way to go because every encounter I've had in L&D with an OB involved being asked if I wanted something. Something for the pain. Something to "help things along". I should make it clear that in every case, when I said no, the OBs respectfully accepted my answer with no argument. But still.
I guess this is my way of saying I didn't choose the natural birth life, the natural birth life chose me. If things had been different, I might have been the first one in the epidural line. A longer birth. A bigger baby. An alternate presentation. Other care providers. As labor and deliveries go, I had it SO easy. My biggest fear when it came to Bo's birth was that it would last longer than P.'s and that I wouldn't be able to handle it. As far as I'm concerned, 3.5 hours is quite enough birthing, thankyouverymuch, and every woman who goes longer than that deserves a high five - whether she delivered drug free or with all the drugs she could get her hands on.
Did you birth with or without a little something something for the pain? What guided your decision?