Here we are at almost two months and I’ve been trying to write this post in little snippets of time as Zayn takes naps. He doesn’t seem to like naps much so this has taken awhile! Zayn been part of our life for such a short time, yet I already can’t remember a time without him. His birth story is representative of how he’s already been as a baby – determined. He came into this world at his perfect timing, in his perfect way, like a force to be reckoned with.
I’m documenting to share our experience, but also to save it for myself. As I’m sure one day the details won’t be so clear and I’ll want to be able to look back at the memories. I’m living in such a newborn fog that the details are already starting to become a little hazy.
The birth experience was everything that I had hoped for, even though it was nothing I had expected or “planned” for. Zayn’s birth taught me two important lessons that I know will be beneficial for my entire parenthood journey. 1. to trust my myself and my instincts. 2. To give up control and surrender to the universe. Holding on to what’s important to me, while accepting what is.
Zayn’s birth story
Desire for an unmedicated hospital birth
During pregnancy I had a very clear idea of what I wanted my birth plan to be like. From first trimester, I had a very strong feeling that I did not want to get an epidural. Something about the idea just didn’t feel right to me and it just felt like a gut instinct that I wanted to honor. The more research that I did, the more I became convinced of this and it led me down a whole intervention free path and guided a lot of choices I made during pregnancy. I’ll share more about this in my third trimester recap.
I didn’t tell many people about my plan for an unmedicated hospital birth because it felt like most people who I shared it with reacted to it pretty negatively. I received a lot of shame, judgement, and fear mongering. I often hear that people say that they experienced pressure to have a “natural” birth (I put natural in quotes because every birth is natural), but I actually experienced the opposite. This put a lot of worry in my mind and often made me doubt myself and my desire. With everyone telling me “I can’t do it”, I often thought, maybe they are right. Maybe I’m wrong and maybe I won’t be able to do this.
Bassam was also really worried about the idea of an unmedicated birth. He felt he wouldn’t be able to see me in that much pain without telling me I should get the epidural and was concerned he wouldn’t be able to support me well.
We did so much prep throughout the pregnancy to help both of us feel confident and prepared. By the time we approached the due date, we both felt determined and confident that we could work together to make this happen. I’ll share what we did to prep at the end of this post.
Going past the due date
I had an estimated due range for delivery that spanned a week and baby was pretty low throughout the pregnancy. Because of this, I felt strongly I wouldn’t go past my due date and if anything, I would deliver early. As it turned out, baby had other plans.
Starting at 37 weeks I did everything my doctor recommended to help labor progress. I wanted to avoid as many interventions as possible and was concerned going past my due date would mean an induction. Based on the research I had done, I knew that an induction can be correlated with needing other interventions and that it’s more difficult to go epidural free because the pain can be more intense.
At my 40 week appointment, I was 1 cm dilated and 80% effaced. I had been at 1 cm for a few weeks, so that didn’t mean much. I asked my doctor when we would need to start talking induction and she said at my 41 week appointment.
I am ashamed to admit that I spent that entire week so worried about induction. I cried nearly every day and was so incredibly worried. Bassam kept reminding me I had so much time before I needed to worry, but I had such a hard time letting go of it.
I felt this was a test from the universe. I had so many tests my entire pregnancy to work on giving up control and going with the flow. I felt this was going to be the ultimate one. I tried my best to surrender and let go, but I really struggled.
I trusted my body. I trusted my baby. I knew that baby would come at his perfect time, but the deadline of the 41 week appointment stressed me out so much. I can’t explain why I feared this so strongly or felt this so strongly, but every day that passed I just felt like my dream birth was going to be taken away from me as a way to test my ability to give up control.
I did everything I could to speed things along. I got daily acupuncture appointments. I went on long walks. I bounced on my ball. Took evening primrose oil religiously. Tried all the old wives tales. Who knows if any of it worked or if baby was just ready.
I didn’t realize how emotional that last week would feel. I felt like I was in between worlds. Like I was in this waiting place, so close to meeting my baby yet still so far. Without any idea of when it would happen. Without any way to control the situation.
The night before I went into labor, I experienced some leaking. I called my doula to describe what I felt and she said it could be my waters starting to break or it could be nothing. We walked through my options of how to handle it. I chose not to call my OB because I wasn’t experiencing any contractions and I was concerned she would tell me to head to the hospital. I wanted contractions to start naturally and was concerned going to the hospital too early would interfere with my goals.
I decided to keep an eye on it at home. I had done a lot of research on waters breaking before contractions and felt I could manage it safely. I also wasn’t convinced it was my waters breaking. After about an hour, the leaking stopped and nothing else happened for 24 hours.
The next night, the leaking occurred again. I consulted with my doula again who said if nothing happened in the next 12 hours, it was best to talk to my OB.
That evening I went to bed just before midnight. I took a Unisom to help me sleep and relieve some nausea I was experiencing. I had extreme nausea my entire pregnancy and would take Unisom sporadically as it really helped. I was looking forward to getting some good rest as I had been majorly struggling with sleep and wanted to be well rested in case I went into labor soon. I was tossing and turning a bit in bed, when I turned abruptly and pulled a bit of my side. Right away I felt an extremely strong cramp just as it turned midnight on May 1st, my exact 41 weeks.
I thought maybe I pulled a muscle with the way I turned as the pain was really sharp. From there, I got a whole bunch of cramps that sent me running to the bathroom. The cramping was really bad and relentless and I was sure I had food poisoning. That’s exactly what it felt like.
I did not think this was the start of labor, because it was nothing like I had read it would be like. I knew in early labor contractions lasted about a minute and were spaced out by 5-20 minutes. My cramping was non stop, there was no peak and descent and there wasn’t any break.
For the next two hours, I went back and forth from the bed to the bathroom. The cramping was nonstop, but would get more and less intense at parts. At the really intense parts, I felt like I needed to sit on the toilet. I kept going back to bed because I was super groggy from the Unisom and really wanted to try to get some rest.
Bassam tried to time the cramps, but it was tough to tell what was going on. He thinks they were 3 minutes long with a few seconds off in between. The whole thing felt off, so he got in touch with our doula and tried to reach out to my OB.
The plan was for me to labor at home for as long as possible before heading to the hospital. Because my contractions started off so long, so intense, and with barely any breaks, my doula felt it was best to go to the hospital immediately. She was worried something was wrong. At this point, we hadn’t been able to get in touch with my OB yet.
The drive to the hospital was excruciating. I tried to focus on my breath as much as possible and squeeze my lower back. I was having terrible back labor along with the long contractions.
We we got to the hospital around 3am and I was so relieved that our doula arrived shortly after us. I was so nervous to be at the hospital. The nurse did a cervical exam and found I was only 2 cm dilated. The second I heard that I said I wanted to go home. It was NOT in my plan to arrive to the hospital so early and I thought we had hours to go since I was barely dilated. I couldn’t understand why I was in such bad pain but not very dilated.
The nurse said I could go home after she made sure everything was okay with the baby. From there things started to escalate. The nurse found that the baby wasn’t tolerating the long contractions very well. His heart rate wasn’t showing variability and was flat lining at times. The baby also wasn’t getting adequate oxygen.
I was hooked up to an IV and continuous monitoring, both of which my OB and I had determined I would not do. They had me lie on my back which was SO uncomfortable, with the back labor. I really needed pressure on my lower back, but my doula and Bassam couldn’t get in there with me in that position. My doula gave me a tennis ball to keep under my lower back.
I kept asking to go to the bathroom, but the nurses wouldn’t let me. They set a bed pan underneath me, but I couldn’t use it because I felt so uncomfortable. One of the nurse became concerned that I “couldn’t urinate” and brought up the idea of a catheter. I told her I CAN urinate, I’m just not comfortable.
Everything felt really chaotic around me. I was in an excruciating amount of pain, unable to use any of my pain management strategies, and the energy of the nurses was really intense. They were really frantic, had terrible bedside manner, and kept saying really scary things. They just kept saying, “the baby is not okay, the baby is not okay” and one of the nurses kept telling me I would have to get a c-section.
The entire pregnancy I was so worried something would happen to Zayn. I never fully believed I would get to meet him and he would come earth side. I had low level anxiety constantly that something was going to happen. When all this occurred, I thought, “Here we are. What I feared is happening”. Then something snapped in me and I knew I had to bring my strongest, most confident self forward and make this happen with my baby.
I went to this deep inward place within me. It’s not a place I’ve ever been before. Everything around me went blurry and the noises seemed far away. I was so focused inward, I barely knew what was going on around me. I could still hear the nurses saying “baby isn’t okay” and I knew they were giving me oxygen, but it felt like something that was happening in a dream. I couldn’t respond to anyone. I was so incredibly focused inward. This terrified Bassam. It seemed to him I had gone non responsive. That coupled with me getting an oxygen mask, was really scary for him. The 1.5 hours when we thought baby wasn’t okay was an incredibly scary experience for him.
I was so in my own world that I barely registered anything that was happening. Even when my blood was drawn, which I normally struggle with so much, I barely even noticed. I know my doula had set up the room to be really beautiful with dim lighting, candles, and aromatherapy, but I wasn’t present in that room and had tuned out both the good and the bad. I was so focused on shutting everything out, focusing on my baby, and working through the endless pain.
The ironic thing was, I was so worried an induction would make it more difficult to go epidural free, but I ended up having similar contractions to those you get with an induction! I truly believe the universe brings about what you fear as a way for you to work through it. I was so grateful I didn’t get the induction, but I did face contractions at that intensity.
My OB wasn’t planning on coming until the morning since I wasn’t very dilated, but because the nurses were so frantic she came earlier and arrived around 5am. By the time she arrived, things were looking a bit better with the baby. She took control of the situation and had them remove the bed pan and allow me to go to the bathroom. She also had them unhook me from continuous monitoring and set me up with a cordless monitor. She checked me and I was 5cm dilated.
From there, things really changed. I was able to use the comfort methods I had planned to. My doula got me on my exercise ball and her and Bassam took turns giving me back pressure. Because the contractions never really let up and I had back labor, I needed constant pressure from them. I kept asking them to give me more pressure and any time it wasn’t in the right spot, I felt frantic with pain. It was exhausting for them and I’m so glad they were able to take turns with each other. Throughout the labor they would also stick a water bottle or chia squeeze snack in my mouth for me to take little sips from to keep my energy up and to keep hydrated.
In addition, there was a shift change at that time and we got a really incredible nurse. She was so sweet and the energy in the room was just so much better. I had Bassam, my doula, my OB, and the incredible nurse supporting me and I truly felt loved and held.
I was really worried about how gross things would be. I don’t deal very well with gross. I had to let all of that go during the labor. So many body fluids come out during labor that I didn’t expect and I just kind of went with it all. I also allowed my doula to be in the bathroom with me while I was on the toilet which is really outside my comfort zone. The only time I yelled at Bassam during labor was when he tried to come into the bathroom with me. That that felt too outside my comfort zone!
At one point, my doula encouraged me to get in the shower. We had talked in advance about how that would probably be a good comfort measure for me. I was probably in transition around this time, which I didn’t recognize but my doula did and she knew the change would help me. I was so annoyed every time she suggested me moving because it felt excruciating to move, but she was right every time!
I sat on my ball in the shower and my doula and Bassam took turns spraying the shower nozzle on my back. The water pressure was terrible and they kept apologizing that it was barely any water, but I didn’t care. Whatever water it was felt so relieving. I focused as hard as I could on the water pressure and my play list. All the while moaning, whining, and probably screaming. I’m not really sure what I was doing because all the pain made me kind of zone out. I do know I continuously called out for my mom. Asking for her almost become like a manta. “I want my mommy, I want my mommy, I want my mommy”. No matter how old you get, you never stop wanting your mom.
I went into labor assuming it would take twenty something hours for a first time mom. I kept asking for a time check from everyone because I was keeping a running timer in my head. I kept telling myself, you can do this for 20 more hours! There were times when I didn’t know how I’d ever get there and I’d say out loud, “I don’t think I can do this”. This would worry Bassam because he knew how much I didn’t want to get an epidural. I had prepped him even if I ask for one to try to talk me out of it. He really didn’t want to have to do that. When I said “I don’t think I can do this” I didn’t mean epidural. I just didn’t know if I had the strength to keep going. To be honest, an epidural never even crossed my mind during the labor. I was so sure I would have a moment when I asked for one, but it just never felt like an option in my mind. It didn’t even feel like it existed, because of how determined I was not to get it.
At one point when I felt I couldn’t do it anymore, I asked my OB to check how far along I was. My amazing OB got in the shower with me to check me. I will never forget that moment when she said with so much excitement, 10 cm! I was so confused. It was now just after 7am. Things had progressed so fast. Before labor, I had been so scared for the “transition period”. I had heard so much of how terrible it was. I couldn’t believe transition was over. I couldn’t believe it was time to push. I couldn’t believe it was all so fast. It was all such a whirlwind.
Time to Push
I went into labor thinking that pushing would be my favorite part. I had heard that many people who like to be in control enjoy the pushing phase because you can finally do something. I HATED pushing. It was my least favorite part of labor. It felt SO hard, there were so many times when I was sure I couldn’t do it. I said so many times, “I can’t do this”.
I started off by pushing in the shower because I didn’t want to go get out. I wasn’t able to really do it very well and my OB wanted me to be successful because she could see how my confidence was declining. We moved to the bed. First I tried kneeling over the bed. I also tried all fours. Neither of those positions worked well for me.
My OB was following my lead this whole time, but at this point she guided me through a side lying position. This turned out to be more successful. I felt like I pushed forever but the whole thing, including pushing in the shower, was only about 30 minutes.
I remember feeling so scared during the pushing. I just really truly didn’t think I could do it. The feeling of him coming out really scared me. At one point my OB told me to touch his head, thinking it would give me more motivation, and I said “no no no”. She guided my hand to touch his head and I pulled it quickly away. I can’t explain why I felt so scared. Even now when I watch back the video my doula shot, it still feels so terrifying to me.
And just like that it was over. Baby Zayn arrived into this world at 7:53am. Just under 8 hours from the start of labor. He was put immediately on my chest for skin to skin. Rather than feeling immediate love or recognition like I thought I would, I just felt so confused.
I can’t explain it. I kept saying, “I’m so confused. I’m so confused”. I think because the experience was such a whirlwind, my brain just couldn’t catch up with all that had happened. I held him tight to my chest for about an hour, just trying to understand everything that had happened and come to the full understanding that my baby was here.
While I was doing skin to skin, my OB stitched me up as I had a second degree tear. This was super painful! She also delivered my placenta. This was not painful, though I expected it to be. Every part of me, especially my vagina, was still in so much pain after the birth which I was surprised by. I thought all the pain would be over once he was here. I remember feeling so annoyed that I was still in so much pain and feeling like I’d never not be in pain. I was also shaking really hard for about an hour.
The next few hours felt like a blur. After skin to skin, Zayn got his vitals checked and was cleaned up a bit. My wonderful nurse and my wonderful doula showed me how to care for myself. I was up and about right away after birth – a benefit of going unmedicated. Not being able to get up afterwards would’ve been really upsetting for me.
Eventually we transitioned to our post partum room. We got super lucky, we were given a suite that you normally have to pay extra for. Once things got quiet and it was just the three of us, things started to really settle in. This was my baby. I had him snuggled up against my chest. And my heart overflowed with love.
Every day, I just love him more and more. I’ve cried several times over how much I love him. Feeling that my heart might burst because I can’t handle feeling this intensity of emotion.
I still can’t truly believe he’s ours. I can’t believe he was inside of me and now he’s outside of me. I can’t believe how deeply I love him. I hope I will have the rest of my life to cherish him, love him, and get to know this beautiful little human who made me a mother.
This is Zayn’s birth story and my birth story of becoming a mother, but our journey is only just beginning.
How we prepared for an unmedicated hospital birth
We did a lot to prep for an unmedicated hospital birth. While I didn’t end up using everything I had prepped in the moment of the birth, I think all of it helped me get into a mindset that helped me achieve my desired outcome. I want to share what we did in case it’s helpful for others, whether you’re planning on having an unmedicated birth or not.
Also, I just want to point out that I don’t think everyone should have an unmedicated birth. Everyone has different preferences and I think that’s important to honor. You need to know yourself and what feels right to you. No one should feel shamed for whatever decisions they chose to make or what feels important to them. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to anyone trying to talk me out of my preferences. I am so incredibly happy I had an unmedicated birth and I know I would’ve been sad if I let anyone else’s opinions influence me.
Have a strong why
While the initial thought of an unmedicated birth was just an interesting idea I was playing around with, over the course of my pregnancy it became very important to me. If you want to have an unmedicated birth, especially an unmedicated hospital birth, I think it’s important to have a strong why.
Above all the reasons, going unmedicated just felt right to me. I had a very strong feeling that this was the birth experience I wanted to have. I rarely ever take medications and always try to choose a natural route first. Birth is something so natural and contractions work FOR us not against us to help us to bring the baby earth side. It just didn’t feel like a process I wanted to mess with. I trusted my body and I wanted my body to have the opportunity to do what it was designed to do, without any interference. I wanted to witness what my body was capable of and feel empowered by this experience.
I didn’t need any further reasons other than “it just felt right” but here are a few more: freedom of movement during labor, shorter labor, faster recovery, easier to breastfeed and connect with baby post delivery, and potential side effects for baby.
In addition, I was more terrified of an epidural than the pain of labor. The pain of labor is natural, but the feeling of an epidural is not. My mom had ALS and I have some trauma from watching her not be able to move her body. The idea of not being able to move part of my body and having to get a catheter sounded incredibly triggering for me.
During a podcast I was listening to, the woman sharing her birth story went into her hospital birth feeling strongly she didn’t want an epidural. She felt pressured to get one when the pain was really bad and 6 months later in telling her story, she still felt sad about it. I felt so emotional for her and felt like I would feel that way too. I know a lot of people who wanted to have an unmedicated birth but got an epidural and felt really happy with their decision. I’m sure things can go either way, so you need to know yourself best.
Identify a feeling rather than a plan
I knew I was going to be really sad if my birth plan didn’t go according to plan. I also knew there would be many things I could do to help steer it in the right directions, but at the end of the day birth is unpredictable and there’s only so much I could do. I made sure to prep enough so I could feel I did my best.
Then I came up with words that described how I wanted to feel about the experience. That way if the details were different I wouldn’t feel disappointed as long as I felt the way I wanted to.
My words were Empowered and Present.
Empowered – To feel like I was well educated and informed. To feel like I had a say in decisions and made decisions understanding the situation clearly (true informed consent). To feel like nothing was done “to” me and I was part of the process.
Present – To take the time to notice what is happening. To see the beauty even in the midst of so much challenge. To notice all the support and love present in the room. To witness the magic that was occurring. I had read a great tip to think about another important even in your life and identify a moment that stands out to you from it. I thought about our wedding and how we took a moment to just survey the experience and soak it all in. I wanted to do the same with the birth. It’s so easy for these really big momentous occasions to pass by in a blur and I wanted to truly witness it.
Curate a trusted birth team
I am so incredibly grateful to my wonderful birth team and know that I could not have accomplished an unmedicated birth without them. It was truly a team effort. I think it’s so important to have a group of trusted people be part of your experience. I’ve heard a lot about how not feeling comfortable or secure during birth can cause delays. I saw how difficult it was when I had nurses that made me feel scared and the difference once the room was only people I trusted or who had good energy.
Here’s who was part of my birth team during delivery:
My OB –
My dream was to have a home water birth, but I chose to deliver at the hospital because I love my OB so much. I’ve been seeing her since I was a teenager and she’s been through so much with me. I trust her explicitly and knew that she would honor all of my wishes and do her best to help me achieve the birth of my desires. I think it’s really important to know your OB’s style and make sure it matches with what you want. It’s not enough that they are “willing” to “accommodate” your birth plan. It needs to be something they feel comfortable with and have lots of experience with too. It was a really emotional experience to go on this journey with her and we got so close throughout the whole pregnancy.
My doula –
If you are planning on an unmedicated birth, especially an unmedicated hospital birth, I cannot more highly recommend hiring a doula. Bassam was initially hesitant about this, but afterwards he said he couldn’t imagine the birth without our doula. A doula is a support person for BOTH partners – the birthing person and the birth partner. They help guide and support both of you.
We worked with Stacey Blackwell of Modern LA Doula. To be honest, I didn’t do any research before hiring Stacey. I just had a gut feeling she was the one and I’m so glad I did. Stacey had the most calming presence during our birth. Even during the most hectic moments, she was a beacon of serenity. She gave us incredible advice throughout the process to help us make decisions to achieve my desired birth outcomes. I trusted her and knew when she told me something was important, it really was. She was able to advocate on my behalf without alienating others. She was able to give us her advice but leave us to make our own decisions.
Besides just the birth process, she also was a huge support system throughout the entire pregnancy journey. She taught us a ton about birth, helped us prep for birth, and helped us walk through the emotions and fears we held. She helped me with my fear of hospitals and grief over my mom. She helped Bassam with his fear not being able to support me. She helped both of us go into labor with so much confidence.
Because Bassam was initially so worried about me attempting an unmedicated birth, I was really worried about how he’d handle it. He ended up being the most incredible birth partner. I’m so glad we worked through his fears during the pregnancy because he was able to put it all aside during the delivery. He made me feel so supported. Even though we’ve been together almost two decades, the experience helped bring us even closer together.
Additional members of my birth team not present during delivery:
Homeopathy consultant –
I had read about how homeopathy could be used during labor if any issues came up, so I ordered a labor and post partum homeopathy kit. I don’t have much experience with homeopathy, but my cousin does so I asked her to be my homeopathy consultant. She also owns the company, The Flower Apothecary, which specializes in flower essence blends. She created a labor prep blend for me to take the week leading up to delivery. She also gave me blends for energy and a spray to cleanse the hospital room. She sells both of these on her site.
The plan was that my doula would update her on how my labor was going so she could tell me which homeopathy pills to take. Given the course of my labor we weren’t able to consult with her or to even try homeopathy, but she was a great help pre and post labor.
Prenatal Chiropractor –
Halfway through my second trimester I started seeing a prenatal chiropractor almost weekly. This was quite an investment for us, but ended up being well worth it. She really helped me to be able to address any aches and pains that came up throughout pregnancy. She was also able to help me open and align my pelvis. Seeing a prenatal chiropractor is associated with better birthing outcomes. I felt a HUGE difference in working with mine. Plus it was just an amazing self care ritual to do during pregnancy, as the chiropractor I saw had a really special blend of adjustments and body work. I left feeling incredible each session.
Lots of reading and research
I did a TON of learning during my pregnancy about birth. I’ll share my favorite books and podcasts in a post soon. All of this learning really helped reduce my fear surrounding birth and increase my confidence. I feel like so often birth is looked at as a really scary thing and all I had ever heard was terrible things. Everything I learned helped put me at ease. You can never be truly prepped for such an unpredictable experience and my own experience was very unpredictable, but the research I did helped me feel confident and calm throughout the process.
Bassam and I also did some learning together. We took a birthing course together and listened to this book. I’m so glad we took the time to do this because it was a great bonding experience
Work on fear of hospitals
This suggestion isn’t going to be helpful for everyone, but this is something I had to really work on. I have an extreme fear of hospitals. Due to past experiences, I see it as a place where you are helpless. Things are done to you and you come out worse. I was more fearful of giving birth at the hospital than I was of the actual birth. I almost changed my mind and did a home birth several times because of this but I’m glad I worked through my fear.
What helped me work through my fear:
- Identify where the fear stems from and why
- Determine if the fear is logical (for me parts were and parts weren’t)
- Educate myself on how to avoid the things I’m scared of and how to advocate for myself
- Desensitize – My OB walked me through the process in person at the hospital so I could see what it would be like. She also gave me the opportunity to sit in a delivery room so I could get more comfortable with it. I didn’t get comfortable, but I was able to have something to visualize
- Visualize the process going well
Develop a birth mantra
My doula suggested I create a birth mantra and birth vision board. This was a really relaxing activity and helped get my vision out in a tangible way. My birth mantra was: “just this moment, just this wave”. My board helped my support team as well as they knew what kind of language to use with me and what was meaningful to me.
Know your barriers ahead of time
Every person will have challenges unique to them during labor. I think an unmedicated birth asks of you to work through your fears and doubts and bring about a more powerful version of yourself. I recommend determining what barriers you might face that will hinder your goals and work on them in advance.
A big thing for me is that I tend to worry about the future. So I knew that if the pain was really bad in the beginning, I would worry about how much worse it would get or how long I could handle it for. I knew that would get me in my head and make me spiral. I did a lot of work surrounding being in the present moment.
Create a comfort menu
Of course you’ll never know what will end up helping you in labor because you just can’t predict how you’ll feel in the moment. That being said, I think it’s still a good idea to have a list of things that you think might help you. This will also help you birth team know how they can support you in a moment where you may not be able to communicate. Here’s what was on my comfort menu and whether it helped me or not:
Music – helped so much! I created 3 playlists because I wasn’t sure what I would end up wanting. Slow and relaxing, mid tempo, and upbeat. I listened to my playlists while exercising so that I could get connected to them and pair them with the feeling of pushing hard and endorphins. The mid tempo one ended up being the winner. I would get really frustrated with slow songs and would ask for it to be changed.
Different positions – My doula showed me a bunch of different positions to labor in and told me to pick a few favorites. I didn’t end up remembering any of them but she was great at guiding me.
Snacks and electrolyte water – I’m sure this helped give me energy but I don’t really have a conscious memory of this. Bassam and my doula would give me sips here and there.
Vision board – I was way too out of it to notice my vision board, but the practice of it prior helped prep my mindset.
Massage – Back pressure was my #1 comfort measure! I don’t think I could’ve gone epidural free without it.
Breathing – I wasn’t exactly zen during labor, so no claims of hypnobirthing making things painless, but practicing my breathing did help me surrender to the contractions. That’s my biggest tip in general. Do your absolute best to surrender to the contractions rather than try to fight them or push the pain away. Surrendering helps your body open up and do what it needs to do. I knew this would be really difficult for me because I tend to tense up when I’m in pain. I didn’t do my breathing “perfectly” during labor, but all the practice really did help me surrender more than I would’ve been able to otherwise.
Heat – I brought heat pads and didn’t use them.
Shower – This was incredible for me! Water is such a healer!
Exercise ball – Sitting on my ball was also really helpful. I can’t remember what exactly I did on it, I just kind of went with what I was feeling and how my doula guided me.
Birth affirmations – These went out the window during labor, but they really helped prep my mindset ahead of time. Things like “my body was made to do this”, “pain with purpose”, and of course my birth manta, “just this moment, just this wave”.
If you’re planning an unmedicated hospital birth, I hope some of these tips are helpful for you. The biggest thing I want to tell you is that if it’s something that you want, you can do it. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t. People put a lot of fear and doubt in my mind and I wish I didn’t listen. You can do this. Your body was made for this. If it’s something that you want, I wish it for you.
Thank you for reading, your kindness, and your encouragement. I have felt so supported by this community and appreciate you truly.
Photo credit: Modern LA Doula