35 Weeks: Race For The Finish

As people have inquired about my birth wishes, I’ve told them I’m hoping for a drug-free childbirth. Reactions have ranged from “good for you!” and “mine was awesome!’ to “you don’t get a medal” and “why on earth would you want to do that!?”

The best analogy I have come up with is to compare childbirth to running in a race*. No matter what kind of race you might have ran, biked, swam, etc, there’s really nothing pleasant about the final stretch of a race. It’s uncomfortable. It HURTS. At times you want to give up. But you don’t. Why not? Determination for the finish line, for the PR, for the endorphins, for the experience. I’ve seen several lightbulbs go off when I bring this analogy up to those who seem to be opposed to wanting to experience labor without drugs.

*Please note I realize that the level of pain might be a bit more extreme in childbirth : )

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While there are certainly people who have no desire to run a race, I feel there are far more people who fear childbirth – especially a drug-free childbirth – than people who fear running as fast as you can. Perhaps the unpredictability, length or medical intervention potential are what makes childbirth more scary – but those unknowns also come with racing. You can train for months for a marathon and just have a bad race. You can get injured, sick or find that you just have to stop and walk because the course is hard and it takes much longer than anticipated. I guess another major difference is that you can’t really just stop and walk during childbirth – once it’s on it’s on.

Like racing, childbirth requires some training (although like racing you can certainly go in without any!). It requires thinking about fuel and hydration. And it commands mental concentration, and determination.

I’ve prepared myself mentally and physically for this athletic event ahead in several ways, and I plan to fuel myself much like I would a race – with dates, coconut water, toast with peanut butter and a support crew on the sidelines. I would never expect to perform well in a long race without proper fuel and hydration, so I expect childbirth will be similar – a very long taxing physical process. Luckily doctors are now realizing this and the ban on anything but ice chips has lifted at my hospital.

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Just like childbirth options, we all have different race preferences:

Some people like short + fast 5Ks

Others love steady half marathons

Then there are triathletes, ultramarathoners and Ironpeople.

No one criticizes a 5Ker for her distance or an Ironperson for her speed. The races are different styles. Similarly, if you want to feel everything during your birth or want to minimize sensation as much as possible, there shouldn’t be judgment. What matters most to one person might be of least importance to another. It all depends on why you’re “racing.“ The only thing all races have in common: a finish line.

In one way, the whole “you don’t get a medal” comment doesn’t make sense at all. Because at the end of the childbirth race you DO get a medal – one that is quite worth the effort – a baby that you’ve been training for 9 months to meet! 

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197 thoughts on “35 Weeks: Race For The Finish”

  1. I never know why people feel the need to share their opinions about this choice. I did natural child birth with both kids and their births were very different. No one has the same experience. No one has the same pain tolerance and you have no idea what is going to happen going in. Am I glad that I did it with both kids? Absolutely. Was a I thinking that at the height of the pain…no! And again, no one else’s opinion matters, but I know women who have done it both ways and for a variety of reasons really preferred natural childbirth. But again, that was their experience.

    1. This post is about childbirth in general – not so much one delivery or another. It’s about trying not to fear it so much going in but more of a physical challenge.

    2. I do not want to put words in the mouths of other people, but I personally feel that sharing my hopes, choices, and opinions regarding birth is really no different than sharing my hopes, choices, and opinions regarding discipline or breastfeeding or any other aspect of parenting. No one has the same body of experiences feeding their children or educating them or disciplining them as the next guy, but people still like to share them – and I still like to listen to them.

  2. Running a race is an ok analogy. But like you said, you can stop if you want when you’re running if you feel like you just can’t go on and it hurts. You can’t stop childbirth. I’ve never been incoherent during a race like I was from the pain during childbirth. I think what people mean by “you don’t get a medal” is that there isn’t any recognition that you made it drug free vs someone who doesn’t. You still get a baby if you get an epidural or a c-section. So, technically you get a “medal” either way. I think it would be interesting if you revisit this analogy after giving birth.

  3. This is my favorite baby post yet! I’m not a mom yet, but I agree with your approach 100% to natural vs. medicated child birth. You go girl 🙂

  4. Having Lucy pain med free (I did have Pitocin) was amazing and I’d do it all over again. I loved it!

    And, much like finishing the Ironman, 3/4 of the way through sucked, but the end? Right before the finish? Was euphoric. The last half mile of the Ironman was the best I had felt all day and when I got to push Lu out, it was the best feeling in the world! Ring of fire and all 🙂

    I hope the peanut butter toast doesn’t make you puke!!!! Everything else sounds great!

  5. I have to respectfully disagree – natural childbirth is nothing like racing! Racing is completely in your control – you decide the length you want to run, you can prepare for it ahead of time, your physical fitness and training greatly affects your performance, you can stop anytime you want, and the biggest thing – although the chances are remote, few people are concerned with dying or having their unborn child die during a 10K. Even though the risk is very low, maternal death in the U.S. still around 13 per 100,000 (and up until 100 years ago, it was 1 in 100 births anywhere in the world – terrifying!) and around a 1% chance for fetal death. Although those chances are remote, they justify a real, understandable fear of childbirth (not even the fear of the pain, which is justifiable as well!).

    Having had experienced a grueling 50+ hour completely natural childbirth with a sunny-side up baby, I would say it was more like the absolute worst stomach flu you can imagine. Contractions are all-encompassing, wracking pain, similar to vomiting -they completely overtake your body, it’s completely out of your control, and it’s purely a mental (not physical) game to push through the pain. Same with pushing – having experienced third degree tears (inside and out, in both directions, due to my water not breaking and the baby’s head crowning with much more force than normal), I thought I was prepared for that pain before I gave birth, but there is nothing that can prepare you for it.

    And there is no medal for natural childbirth – although yes, you are less likely to have a c-section without an epidural – you get your baby either way, and you will still bond with your baby no matter what type of delivery you have. And really, no one except yourself cares afterwards if you did it naturally or not – there are no bragging rights when it comes to childbirth!
    I’ll be interested to hear your opinion after you give birth.

    1. I’m not saying this is comparing apples to apples – just making the best analogy I could think of as to how I’m going into the event. Running races is very mental and very physical though.

    2. why didn’t you have any type of medicine after so long?! i have never been pregnant but that sounds absolutely brutal and i imagine i would be ready for a c-section or drugs by then!! i think plans of natural childbirth would have flown out the window 😉

      1. I was lucky to labor at home for the first 45 or so hours (I have a fantastic doctor who was fine with me staying at home so long), so I was only in labor at the hospital for 7 hours (so drugs weren’t even an option until then). And I had a great nurse that never offered any drugs, and kept helping my husband and myself with techniques to work through the pain (I transitioned in a hot shower, for example). And I was lucky, too, that I pushed for less than an hour. The contractions for those first two days weren’t too unbearable (I think my labor was very similar to Emily’s of the Daily Garnish, although I remained intervention-free for mine) but they were bad enough that I could never sleep through them; I think where most women get caught up is the sleep deprivation. I work in the medical field where I often am up for 24-30 hours at a time – my body is already used to extreme sleep deprivation – that was the single most helpful prep that I had for labor (and for parenthood as well, since my 7 month old is still nowhere close to sleeping through the night, ha!).
        Honestly, it’s really just a mental game. Your body will do it’s own thing physically. If you are a patient, stoic and flexible person (and you’re lucky that you don’t run into any problems during labor, which is also completely out of your control!) than you can manage a med-free birth. And I’m glad I did manage it: despite my horrible 3-degree tears, my recovery was surprisingly easy, breastfeeding was no problem at all, and my doctor said he’d never seen a baby so alert immediately after delivery – some of these things may be luck, but they may also be because I managed without any interventions.

    3. Agree w this! I run 1/2 marathons and have given birth twice – once w epidural and once unmedicated (although NOT by choice). There is nothing nothing that can prepare you for the pain and intensity of the birthing process. It amuses me when women who have yet to give birth declare their intentions publically to do it naturally. I think people think they *know* what pain is like, but really it’s not even close.

      1. That’s just kind of a rude comment Liz. Why must those who have had babies gang up on those who haven’t? Plus, I have said several times that I wasn’t saying the intensity of childbirth and racing were equal – just that both have similar mental obstacles.

          1. I can see why you took this as rude, but I also think I understand the feeling behind it so maybe I can re-phrase.

            It’s great to try and be prepared, think about how the birth might go, think about how you want to approach it, listen to the childbirth educator you work with, etc. It helps you approach the experience with less fear, for sure. But I, for one, felt afterwards that my imaginings were so far off from reality, I would have been better off during childbirth if my plan had consisted of “I prefer to avoid drugs, but who the heck knows how this is going to happen”. Period.

            And I am embarrassed to recall some of the things I said about childbirth before I had experienced it. Not because I was being a know-it-all or trying to tell other people how to labor, but just because I was so clueless — even after all of the preparation and metaphors and thinking about how to approach it. It’s just not something you can imagine very effectively.

            I don’t think there’s any sense of “ganging up” against women who haven’t yet experienced childbirth, but birth can be such an extreme experience that your view from the other side is COMPLETELY different — not in a “superior” way, at all. Just realistically, I recognize that it’s SO easy for someone’s ideas and plans about birth to be almost meaningless when it comes to the event. And that really feels very different from racing to me. That doesn’t mean the race metaphor, or any of the other things you’ve planned or prepared for, aren’t helpful to you now or won’t be helpful to you during labor! And if they help then that’s wonderful!

            I don’t mean to be negative at all (and I don’t think Liz did either). Birth is just CRAZY (or it can be), and I hope it’s a great experience with a great outcome, whether or not the race metaphor is a good one.

      2. Yeah, Liz, way to be rude.

        What *I* think is amusing is that your first reaction to someone saying that they want to try natural childbirth — something that many women opt to try, and are open about trying, because why shouldn’t they be? — is scorn.

      3. I think it’s really different based on the person. I had natural childbirth and I actually didn’t think it was that painful. My labor was really fast though.

  6. I’m always amazed by the “mommy wars” and the judgement that surrounds all decisions related to baby. Thank you for sharing a thoughful, non-judgemental, positive post on a controversial topic!

    1. Yes. It’s utterly BIZARRE to me that people get up in arms about what this woman is saying she HOPES for in childbirth. In every post I’ve read here on BERF, she has made it beyond clear that these are her desires for *her* child’s birth, and that she realizes that circumstances may get in the way.

      What makes people rage about that is beyond me. I suspect that at least some of the rage is coming from those who did not consider natural childbirth (which, fine! great! lots of women don’t!) and take it as hostility when somebody else does.

      1. Agreed. This article is a really positive read, it’s a good analogy about digging deep and finding your inner strength and a strong will to complete your goal as best you can with the skills and training you have.

        It’s really unhelpful and unsupportive to scare the cr*p out of other expectant Mother’s with horror birth/pain stories and mortality stats anyway, particularly from Mother’s who have been through it and even more so if that someone has had a tough time.

  7. I think this is a really interesting take on preparing for childbirth and I would also love to hear your thoughts after you’ve gone through it.

    Having said that though – your body, even in childbirth, isn’t public property! I think you should share what makes you feel comfortable 🙂

  8. I had intentions of having a drug-free birth. It didn’t pan out that way in the end but I wasn’t upset. I thought that getting an epidural would take away from my birth experience and I wouldn’t “feel” everything like I would un-medicated. I was quite wrong about that, and my birth experience was the best one for me.

    I hope you get the birth you want, Kath! But if you don’t, like I didn’t, I’m sure there will still be joy in the experience.

    1. The birth I want is one that I can participate in – like you said. That’s really all that matters to me. Experiencing it.

      1. I like the wording of wanting to participate in the birth experience. I think that’s what most moms who want to go natural are hoping for. They want to feel what’s happening to their body.

        Good way of saying it!

        1. I agree here! I ended up being induced(42 weeks). I was NOT intending for this to be the way things went down….. I had a doula, wanted to labor at home etcetc, but he was showing no signs of arriving. I was also dealing with a irritable uterus which is a very painful contracting of the uterus mimicking labor. (much more painful than Braxton hicks) anyway, I was exhausted from weeks of no sleep and was so happy to get my induction and didn’t he charge into action with the first bit of pitocen. I was induced at 1030am and was 4cm by noon. I then had an epidural at noon and was 10cm at 230 and he was born at 430 pm. I laughed and joked through the whole thing and LOVED my birth. My doula has since said it was one of the happiest births she has ever witnessed.
          I wanted exactly what you did when it came to my birth and despite things not going my way I was still amazed with the overall experience. I just wanted to chime in so you could know that if you do have to have a medicated birth it can still be just as amazing! (obviously my son is the BEST part but i also valued having a good birth experience!)

          1. Thanks for sharing! I do think there comes a point (probably about 42 weeks 🙂 ) where meeting baby is more important than having things go all natural. Glad you had a good time!

            1. Studies have been done that show that it’s not necessarily how the mom gives birth that affects how she feels about it afterwards…it’s how much the mom is able to participate in the happenings of birth that greatly affect the mom’s feelings.

              If a mom feels railroaded during birth and like she had no say in her care, she is likely to feel anger and resentment afterwards (this happened to me even though I had the natural birth I wanted. I totally resented the fact that I had to fight tooth and nail for it against my female OBs who assured me beforehand that they supported my wishes!) On the other hand, I have had women in my childbirth class who ended up with a c-section but still felt positive about it because their care provider kept them an active participant in the decision making process and let them dictate certain aspects of the surgery (such as being able to keep the baby with them, skin to skin, while the mom was sutured).

              In the end, it’s about respect—respect for the momma, respect for the baby and respect for the entire process…which is VERY important to women! I have heard that the story of their births is one of the last things a woman with Alzheimers forgets…which only highlights how crucial it is that we truly support women throughout the process and not treat her like a clueless patient and birth like it’s simply a means to an end.

              1. That makes a lot of sense. I think if I needed a c-section because my baby was coming out breech or was really struggling or something I would be fine with it. I’m actually more concerned with being pressured into an induction or pitocin than a c-section because I trust my doctor that if I need the surgery it’s a medically necessary scenario that I would never think twice about refusing.

  9. I think as along as everything is medically safe for both baby and mom, it really depends on the pain tolerance of the mother to go for a drug-free delivery or not. I admit I would be a whimp, and say epidural!! For first time mothers, it must be hard because you don’t really know what you are getting yourself into and how ‘bad’ it will hurt. A scary aspect.

    Saying “I will go into this experience and get through it” has something heroic about it.

    1. So many people talk about pain and how terrible it is – but Ina May’s book was so important for me to read because she made it about sensation rather than pain. And in yoga we talk about “tolerance for that we do not prefer.” I think if something goes wrong sensation and change to pain, and I obviously haven’t experienced it it, but I do think attitude does influence pain perception.

      1. Mind = blown. Love this: “tolerance for that we do not prefer.”

        and also love the idea of thinking of things in terms of sensation rather than pain. I think that could help for many things and not just childbirth. Thanks for sharing that!!

      2. Ina May had children right? 🙂 This “sensation rather than pain” reminds me of the Brian Regan comedy bit where he jokes about doctors telling us “you’re just going to fill a little bit of pressure” instead of saying the buzzword “pain” – but all pain involves pressure doc! It’s a funny bit:) (I hope someone knows which bit I’m talking about!)

      3. While I think there is far more than just a “sensation” in child birth…it truly is pain regardless of what you call it, I think mental preparation does make a big difference in how a person handles the pain. I did have epidurals when delivering my babies, but I went through nearly all of labor with one and felt pretty in control. Another, I received an epidural very early, and thought I would have a nearly pain-free labor…but the epidural didn’t take well & I didn’t handle the pain very well at all. I really think it had to do with my mind not being prepared for the pain that time around.

      4. Ina May’s book is wonderful and helped me a lot. Revisit it if you have time before the birth. I so agree that your perception of pain is a huge part of the battle. I gave birth naturally and it was amazing but challenging. I think you’ll be prepared, Kath, I really hope you get the birth you want. Reading Ina’s book made me realize that point where I was almost fully dilated – the “I want to give ups” came out. Just a bit of unsolicited advice that when you feel like you can’t do it – you’re almost through. It really is like a race, it’s a good analogy.

      5. All I can say is trust Ina may’s sphincter theory! Your body really does know what to do ( in most situations ) and keeping calm, focused, and open will help it do its job. I had an unmediated hospital midwife doula birth as well as a home birth, and keeping my jaw open and loose and going with rather than fighting the contraction helped me stay on top of things mentally.

  10. Love your analogy, Kath! After having 2 unmedicated homebirths, I can say that both of my “races” were completely different, but equally satisfying experiences. The first, a 28-hr “marathon” with my daughter, and then a surprisingly short “5K” labor and delivery of my baby boy a couple days ago that only lasted 5 hours and was much smoother and easier. I approached my pregnancies/births with the mentality of training for an athletic event as well…definitely the way to go! It sounds like you have a great support team and are doing everything to prepare your body for the big event – best wishes to you!

  11. I have never commented before but I feel like today is the day! Good for you for sharing how YOU dream of delivering YOUR child! I think a goal of natural childbirth is something to encourage! How wonderful to know that you worked so hard for the last 9 months to prepare for this! I am keeping my fingers crossed for you that you get the dream delivery y ou are hoping for, and if not…thats alright as well. At the end of the day you will have a beautiful baby boy that you created with the love of your life! Good for you for having a goal and wanting to acheive it! 🙂

  12. but, you get the “medal” whether you utilize medical interventions or not! (btw, i had a natural, drug-free birth with my daughter. but now, 8 months later, i wish i had left WAY more space for the myriad of possible outcomes relating to birth, feeding, postpartum, etc…I truly believe holding on too tightly to any expectation is the perfect recipe for unnecessary suffering and disappointment.)
    i truly wish you all great health and joy during this most incredible time!

    1. My point is that EVERYONE gets a medal (excluding terrible catastrophic events) – so saying “you don’t get a medal” isn’t really true at all – for any kind of birth

      1. got it…
        again, i wish you and your family all the best. whatever your experience, becoming a mom is such a magical process.
        i’m certainly no childbirth expert, i just wanted to share my experience that leaving space for any possibility would have helped me a lot (we had major, major breast feeding challenges after my fast and easy natural birth. i had never even truly considered that nursing may not work out the way i had envisioned, and i was CRUSHED)
        take good care!

      2. I think when people say, “you don’t get a medal,” they mean that you don’t get some extra-special reward for enduring labor without an epidural. Yes, everyone gets a baby, but those who do it without pain meds don’t get a medal on top of that!

  13. You must have known this was going to be a controversial post! I suppose we all have passionate feelings about birth because it truly is like nothing else you will experience in your life. I went into all my births “trained” and in shape, hoping for a natural birth. My baby ended up having the cord wrapped around his neck twice and tightly around his body as well. This caused fetal stress during labor – nothing I could have ever prepared myself for. I suppose those of us who read these kinds of post from someone who hasn’t yet gone through labor, makes us feel like if we had only done something different we could have ended up with a drug free labor -if we trained harder, focused harder. In reality, sometimes that is impossible.

    1. I had no intention for this being controversial! It’s not supposed to be about natural vs. medicated or interventions and complications. Just about attitude going in!! I really hope people aren’t taking it too literally.

      1. I don’t understand why people are still criticizing you when you’ve made it clear that you hope for a natural birth but are open to anything because you haven’t experienced it yet!!! You’ve said that many times! Also you don’t seem judgemental at all to people who don’t have natural births so I don’t see why people still feel the need to think you are being “controversial” you are just sharing your personal feelings on childbirth and what you hope for! I think people just try to find controversy in nothing! I hope you get the best kind of birth for you!!

  14. Gotta say–I just don’t get this comparison. I know you don’t have anything to base it off of until it’s over, but the one thing I kept thinking about after coming home from the hospital was that nobody told me what it was REALLY like! I think it’s best just to keep an open mind and keep your options open the whole way through.

    1. I thought this comparison made a lot of sense if you aren’t taking it so literally. It’s about te attitude she would like to have going into the whole thing.

  15. Haha…I got SO many negative reactions from people when I told them I wanted to try to give birth naturally. Mostly, people (usually other moms) just laughed in my face and told me that there was no way (thanks for the vote of confidence!). Luckily, with my personality, that only made me want to do it more, to prove them wrong. 🙂 And I did!

    1. Actually in person, I’ve gotten tons of really great feedback, support and positive stories. It seems to be on this blog where most of the negativity lies!

      1. I don’t think that negativity lies in your desire to have a natural childbirth. Throughout your pregnancy, which for the most part I have enjoyed reading about, some of your wording has rubbed me and some fellow readers/commenters the wrong way. I believe you have the best of intentions when you sit down to write these BERF posts – it’s just the way you sometimes sound as though you know it all. It can be a bit alienating to read. I think it’s great that you want to have a natural childbirth, but the vibe in some of your posts surrounding the topic can be hard to relate to.

        1. Well what I’ve learned is that people are way, way, way more sensitive to hearing one person’s hopes and wishes than I ever would have imagined. And that birth is a loaded and biased subject. I don’t think I’ve ever claimed to know it all – but I think attitude is everything. Even if it’s crushed on D-day – I’m not going to let negativity and frightening stories affect my attitude going in.

          You know, another comparison is how you can’t choose your pregnancy. You just don’t know if you’ll get morning sickness, have a complication, severe cramping, terrible heartburn, back pain, sciatica, fatigue, etc. There is much less judgement when it comes to pregnancy symptoms. It’s all just nature doing it’s thing. What you DO get to choose is how you deal with what you experience.

          1. I agree with that last part all the way. What’s that old saying – life is 2% what happens to you and 98% how you deal with it. I have no kids and am not pregnant, so I don’t have a personal frame of reference or a stake in any of this. I just find it super interesting to read about other women’s choices and it helps me be more informed. I hope that you get the experience that you’re looking for with your birth. I really look forward to reading your birth story posts and seeing how, if at all, your opinions and thoughts on the process have evolved. I think becoming a mother must be the most humbling experience on the planet. Thanks for the response, Kath.

            1. I agree with Kelsie! I don’t have children (hopefully someday) but have enjoyed reading about your experiences and expectations. You mentioned earlier that other people have tended to be sensitive about hearing your hopes and wishes – I think that is because your blog is public and what you say here has a different audience and therefore a different tone, maybe one that you don’t even realize when you’re writing. You definitely do put yourself out there so pushback can’t be a surprise (for example, I say things to my family members that would sound awful if other people were listening in).

              Although I’m sure (having never had a kid) that your race analogy isn’t perfect, I really like the idea that attitude can carry you through any experience, no matter how physically strenuous or intimidating. Best wishes for a safe and wonderful birth and for a happy, healthy little guy!

              1. I think a positive attitude is so important. I am 40 weeks, 1 day pregnant and waiting patiently here. This is my first baby and I really have no idea what to expect, but like Kath I am trying to focus on my strengths and not on words such as pain. A lot of people have asked me if I am scared and I always say I am just really excited. Fear may be back there to some degree, but fear is not going to help when it comes down to it so I try to focus on my other emotions. I don’t understand why people think Kath’s attitude is controversial, she’s just expressing her opinions and thoughts on her blog.

                1. I think you have a great attitude Eileen. I was terrified of childbirth! Terrified! And when my water broke at 39 weeks I cried for fear of the unknown. I had also had kidney stones while pregnant and was told I would just breeze through labor having experienced that. Once my contractions hit I was ready for my epidural lol! I labored for 17 hours (2+ hours of pushing) and had a vacuum assist and had a big baby (8 lbs. 15 oz). I am glad I had an epidural. I wish though I hadn’t been so scared of the pain. Your body does what it needs to do. Labor was by far the hardest and most amazing thing I have ever been through/done! You and Kath are in for an amazing experience! 🙂

          2. Amen on the comment “What you DO get to choose is how you deal with what you experience.” You will be a GREAT mother, these are wise words.

  16. Well said…I am eighteen weeks pregnant and have also likened this experience to training for a race (the race being Labor/Delivery/Recovery). In fact, it baffles me that so many women approach pregnancy with so little preparation and disregard to the huge physical task at hand (carrying/”building” a baby and obviously labor itself). Once I was over the struggle of constant nausea during the entire first trimester, I was able to resume my normal activities (mountain biking within safe parameters, jogging, hiking, etc). I feel human and normal again and I believe my baby can only benefit from this.
    you have a great attitude…best of luck!

  17. I loved this post! I have given birth twice and did not train what so ever and completely regret my decision! Any woman who gives natural birth is allowed bragging rights! I know I took the easy rode on the 5 k! I rode in the car and slept from 4 to 10 cm!

    Secondly, Kath is allowed to dream and is allowed to be idealistic about labor! Before all of us gave birth, we were the same way! She is just writing her thoughts down for millions to read!

  18. I love your positive attitude! This is very well written 🙂 Haters are going to hate regardless.
    Best of Luck with your own labor process!!
    Can’t wait to read about the actual experience

  19. My daughter is now 4 weeks old, so labor is still fresh in my mind. Two aspects I had not considered: profuse vomiting. Start slow with the snacks, you never know how they will sit in your stomach. The 2nd was the exhaustion. After 48 hours of labor, I found this to be worse than the pain. It was impossible for me to be mentally ‘present’ without the epidural. Getting some rest actually allowed me to be a more involved in the birth of my daughter, if that makes sense.

      1. I was nauseous and near vomiting during much of my labor, but one amazing nurse would hold alcohol swabs under my nose, and for whatever reason, this did the trick. Something to tuck away for the big day just in case 😉

          1. Tea with milk and honey was the best. I sipped for all 12 hours while I labored at home. You are going to do great! You’ve got the perfect mindset.

      2. I got sick. I thought about that when you were talking about fueling– food was the last thing on my mind, because I was very nauseous through much of active labor– not always throwing up, because I hadn’t eaten much earlier in the night, but just dry heaving. Sorry to be the Debbie Downer– I know some women don’t get nauseous/sick at all!

        1. I can totally see myself as the nauseous type. Probably more so because i was so sick in the first trimester!

          1. I threw up all day every day for the first 20 weeks of both pregnancies and didnt get naseas at all during labor, so heres to hoping you don’t either! And I think the more you have your mind set on a drug free labor, the more likely it is to happen, it can’t hurt at least. Someone told me right before i was induced with pitocin I wouldnt be able to do it naturally, well my competitive edge kicked in and I wanted to prove it to MYSELF I could! Whatever gets you through labor and meeting your baby is best for YOU and your baby!

            1. Oh that’s good to hear! Glad they’re not always correlated.

              And I am competitive too – hopefully that works in my favor!

          2. I lost my appetite for nearly two days prior to my baby’s birth (nearly 4 months ago, so somewhat fresh in my mind). The intensity of the contractions (going from 8 to 10 cm) made me nauseous but I didn’t puke. I was HOT. Cold washcloths helped ease my hot flashes/ nausea. Grab some ice to have in case you are boiling hot, that may help too.

    1. Yeah, if you plan on eating all of that food during labor the delivery room will be a vertitable vomitorium. I’m glad I only ate jello.

      1. I’m not planning on eating solid foods (just the simple sugars and coconut water) just like I wouldn’t want a sandwich during a race. But I want to have them available – even for replenishment afterwards

  20. I agree that every woman gets a “medal”, regardless of childbirth. I also don’t think its right for a woman to be negative towards another regarding the type of birth they want (natural, epidural, c-section..ect..)

    Where I do think some natrual childbirth is crazy (and I do know people who have had this experience) is when something is going wrong and medical intervention is not taken immediately. I know of someone who was in real distress and the midwife just kept telling her that her body was meant to do this naturally and delayed bringing her to the doctor. Thank god she got intervention eventually because she almost died(I realize the majority of midwives are not like that but its scary that there are ANY).

    Yes, women did this for thousands of years without pain medication. Yes, our bodies are meant to do this. However, when there was not modern medicine, the rate of mortality of the mother and child was MUCH higher. This is kind of a ramble, I guess my belief is that women should go through whatever method is best for them but be ready to except further medical intervetion. That should go without saying but from experience, it doesn’t always.

    Best of luck that you get the birth you want and have been preparing for 🙂 No matter what I’m sure you are ready to meet your “medal”.

    1. Totally agree with you on the mortality rate. I think one of the most important things of midwifery is knowing when things are not going normally. That’s why we chose to use a hospital.

  21. I love this analogy! It is one that I have used to and thought about a lot as I prepare for childbirth in about 2 months. We took Bradley classes and our instructor used this analogy a lot in class when talking about childbirth. It makes sense to me and I can relate to it because I am a runner and have felt what it’s like to push through at the end of several marathons. Although I haven’t given birth yet, I like to think that this mindset will help me with the mental-strength aspect that you need to have during any labor – natural or otherwise. I know there are a lot of debby downers who will say that it’s nothing like that and things won’t go as planned – but the fact is that it reduces my fear going into it and gives me confidence.

  22. I think attitude and goals are really important – and you sound really positive!

    What I’m reading above from other moms who have given birth isn’t negativity exactly, it’s that we’ve been through the experience & we know in retrospect that all the preparation & planning in the world can’t really prepare you for the actual birth experience…so many unexpected things happen in a birth.

    I read all of Ina May’s books too & was so psyched to ride the waves of my “rushes,” but in the actual experience I ended up with something entirely different…a baby trying to get his head out sideways (he also came out with his fist beside his head), back labor, vomiting (couldn’t even keep water down, let alone food), and a 49 hour labor…Now I feel like I’m a cliche telling you that labor is so horrible, but what I’m trying to say is that labor & birth can be *unexpected*. You deal with your experience in the moment and you won’t really know until you’re IN the experience what it’s going to feel like, what your body’s reactions will be, and how you’ll feel emotionally. It’s not like a marathon where if you wanted you could run 26 miles before the race to see what it would be like. And, as Christine said, sometimes other things take priority – your health, the baby’s health, and you don’t have the choice to continue as you might have wanted.

    The person’s comment above about not being able to stop “running” (laboring) is so, so true…it’s the biggest difference between the physical work of labor & other kinds of physical effort. There is *no* stopping labor once it gets going, your body is trying to get the baby out no matter what. I laughed when I read the stomach flu description above because that’s the best analogy I’ve ever heard! Just like you can’t stop your body from throwing up when you’re really, really sick, you can’t stop labor (at least not consciously).

    Good luck & I hope you have a great experience, whatever it turns out to be (and even if it’s not great, it really does fade away very quickly, at least for me). Here’s to a healthy baby & mama!

  23. What a refreshing, well-written and -thought out post! I like this kind of blogging. Good job laying out your thoughts and feelings without sounding defensive; it’s certainly a subject people feel strongly about, and it’s easy to feel attacked.

  24. I think people say “you don’t get a medal” because the end result is the same – we all end up with a baby regardless of non-medicated/medicated birth.

    I had an epidural and I’m glad that I did – my son was posterior facing and the back labor was excruciating. The epidural enabled me to get a little relief and rest before starting to push. After 1.5 hours pushing, the doctor turned him, used a vacuum to guide him, gave me an episiotomy and with 2 more pushes, he was out. By the time I delivered, the epidural had started to wear off, so I actually felt quite a bit of pressure – which thankfully all went away the minute he arrived!

    It’s definitely a very personal choice – and I applaud women who choose to give birth naturally. It wasn’t what I chose to do, but everyone has their own reasons and in the end, the most important thing is a healthy baby.

    1. Just read all the comments – yes, preparing yourself for the experience itself is the way to go. It may go as you expected, it may not.

      Our hospital lost power (testing a new system), so I gave birth in the dark. The upside was that everyone was very quiet (which helped me relax). The downside was the ice machine did not work! My mom walked to the other side of the hospital to get me ice chips. I definitely did not stay as hydrated as I would have liked.

      It was not the experience I expected, but it was our experience – and we have a great story to tell!

  25. Love racing … and loved my epidural 🙂 I have to say the hours I spent without one were far worse than any marathon I’ve run!! But obviously everyone has a different experience. No matter how baby YM comes out he will be so loved– what matters the most!

  26. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your attitude and perspective. You are so brave to put it all out on the blog and I think that it is very important for readers like me. I wonder if I had read your blog (meaning we had been pregnant at the same time) if my birth would have gone differently? I had a c-section one year ago this week with my son b.c of a transverse lie (my son kept flipping into position then into transverse and then back again and then transverse…very unusual at 39 weeks) bc eventually his arm was dangling in the birth canal and my OB was afraid of cord prolapse if my water broke given baby’s position. I consented to a c-section without ever going into labor, without ever having my water break and having only felt BH contractions…and I feel my decision was 50% fear based and 50% based on accurate medical understanding (my husband is a pediatrician) that I was lucky to be in a modern age where I could have a c-section as my baby was not a candidate for “version.” We were scheduled for the c-section at 2:30 and we sat debating what to do and pushing it off until 5:30 when I finally decided it was nuts to add more risk, and so into the OR I went. I did get my medal (Elliot beautiful 1 year old) and the EXACT metaphor I used was that I felt like I had prepared for a marathon and that I never got to run it yet. Despite being elated, grateful, etc – with my healthy, happy baby boy and my healthy recovery. A year later (despite being a psychologist) I still haven’t come to terms with the race I feel I never got to navigate. Maybe one day I will figure out how to see my experience as having laced up, hydrated and navigated…but for now, I still get upset with the idea that I might be (I’ll never know) in the group of women who get bullied in surgical births. Again, point is – I think you’re spot on with the racing concept.

  27. THE absolute worst comment i get when i tell people i am planning a drug free birth is to say ” you wouldnt get your tooth drilled without novacaine would you?” my baby is not a rotton tooth!

    1. I have had my tooth drilled without any Novocain because I wanted to feel what was happening. Yes it was painful if I thought about it in that manner, but manageable if you don’t want the pain-killers. Kath you are great, it is so much how you look at it and I wish you the best birth!

      1. actually I have too! but not to the point of any really serious nerve pain… just a little uncomfortable

  28. Incidentally, I think your wisdom about your body, pain and birth will serve you and your baby in tremendous ways as you go through motherhood. I can see how your thoughts on pain could easily translate to early struggles with fatigue, worry, etc. I can only speak for the 1st year but a mom like CaitlinHTP is a perfect example (to me) how attitude (in her case, positive, mindful yet real) dictates our experience. You will be such a great mom and I am sure many (including me) will continue to learn from you!

    1. I agree. You will be a great mother (and already are). These early months of motherhood have tested my strength and endurance in a way, much like a race. The childbirth was sort of a beginning to that – how to put the needs of your child, who you will love the most in the world, above yourself in the midst of pain.

  29. I just started running for the first time in my life recently (I have two kids, 2 and 4) and my first race was a 10k in which I had to walk a few times, stop for an unexpected bathroom break and spent the rest of the afternoon post-race with ice on my knees. The best preparation for that race wasn’t actually the couch to 10k program that I had started but only got to week 7 on, it was the knowledge that I had experienced childbirth and made it through to the other side. My mind was prepared for that race even if my body wasn’t there 100%. I have received the lifelong benefit of self-confidence and courage from the experience of two labors – what an unexpected joy!

  30. I was induced, had an epidural and had the most – dare I say – enjoyable delivery I could have imagined. The sciatica I endured during most of my third trimester was tantamount to the pain I had before I had the epidural – except it was extended pain for days on end. I’ve never felt anything like that before. I’d give birth again in a heartbeat rather than deal with that again.

    I don’t think for one minute my experience was any less than someone who went through childbirth naturally. Just as I don’t think that women who have c-sections or feed their children formula are any less bonded with their children. The rush to judgement – for both sides – on all of this is appalling to me. The choices I made do not make me weak, lazy, uninformed or ill prepared or any of the other things people tend to throw out there when this topic is discussed.

    In my opinion, the fact that mother and baby are happy and healthy is what should be important. How they get there shouldn’t matter.

      1. Thank you. 🙂 At least we HAVE choices. (I mean for the most part. The baby can always force your hand!!) Sometimes I think people forget how lucky that makes us. .

  31. Yeah, I had two opposite experiences with my two natural births.

    The first was a paced marathon. Hard, but not overwhelming or over taxing. Amazing ending without too much pain throughout. An incredible and rewarding labor and delivery that I got to fully experience.

    My second was like a full on sprint 5k. Incredibly intense, very painful, extremely fast and of course, really rewarding.

    I loved them both for different reasons but I think I enjoyed the first one much more. The second was more empowering but the first one was easier haha.

  32. Ha – Sarah, that reminds me that the hospital ran out of hot water in the shower during my first birth! So much for using the shower to relax (no birthing tub). A freezing cold shower wasn’t exactly what I had in mind…

    I love talking about birth, nursing, and babies! I’m going to tell you the top 5 things no one ever told me about birth/postpartum….in detail (readers, skip if you’re squeamish)!

    #1 – You can feel the baby’s body parts when he’s being born! I mean, everyone always talks about getting the head out, but I had no idea that after the head is out (if you’re having a non-medicated birth or have a lighter epidural), you can feel the transition to neck/shoulders/chest/belly/hips/leg/feet. It was the strangest & coolest sensation! It makes sense if you think about it (the baby does have bones), but it had never occurred to me.

    #2 – The placenta doesn’t just fall out. Another one that never occurred to me! Getting the placenta out, while a lot easier than the baby (no bones) still involves contractions & even pushing. I remember feeling a bit annoyed, like, hey, I got the baby out, why is there still *more* to do??

    #3 – The squeezing & squashing of birth can make the baby poop (too). Aside from the danger of meconium (pooping before birth), some babies poop right after birth. I discovered this when, after our blissful post-birth skin-to-skin bonding time, the nurse whisked away the warm blanket that she had put over us to discover that both of us were covered in sticky baby poop. We both got baths (shower for me) a lot sooner than expected! I guess that’s another thing I didn’t know – babies first poops are very very sticky – much harder to clean up than later breastmilk poops. BTW, my 7 year old son *loves* this story now, “Remember when I was born and then I pooped all over you, Mama?” Boys!!!

    #4 – Nursing can really hurt at first. Not just where you might expect 🙂 , but the statement you may have read or heard about in your nursing/lactation classes that “you may experience mild cramping or contractions when you nurse” was, to me, *significantly* understating what I felt. The first couple of days of nursing meant very painful cramps (that were full-on contractions at first). This is because nursing produces hormones that cause the uterus to contract & start shrinking back to normal. It’s a super cool thing your body does, but it hurt me a lot more than “mild cramping.”

    #5 – Call your health care provider right away if you have any concerns about your healing. I had a different postpartum complication (minor) with each birth. In the first, I had some retained placental tissue that the midwife removed a few weeks later. This can actually be quite dangerous, leading to infection, but I was lucky. I knew I was bleeding longer than I expected (and it started up again after having stopped for a few days) and in retrospect I should have called, rather than waiting for my appointment. Don’t be afraid to call your health care provider! After my 2nd birth, I had something called “granulated tissue” where I didn’t heal correctly. The midwife had to cauterize the tissue with a chemical (not heat). It’s a fairly common complication, but no one told me what it was or what to look for. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granulation_tissue

    Now you’ve got the inside scoop!

    Oh, and here’s a couple of hospital tips…if you have a choice (and sometimes you *don’t* by all means, never ever ever delay going to the hospital if you really need it!) of arriving at the hospital at 11:59 p.m. or 12:05 a.m., pick 12:05 a.m. If you arrive before midnight, most hospitals will charge you for that entire day, even if it was only 20 minutes…that *sucks.* My husband’s cousin was quite surprised by the charges and said if they had only known, they would have not come at 11:45 p.m.! Also, those 2 Tylenol the nurse gives you (or 2 Advil or whatever) on your 2nd day in the hospital, 3 or 4 times a day? They probably cost $12 PER DOSE. I may or may not have brought my own damn Advil for my 2nd birth (which the hospital frowns upon because you’re not taking their meds & getting it written down in your chart).

    Again, best wishes!

  33. No, you don’t get a medal. You get a baby! That’s better than a medal any day.

    I haven’t yet had the privilege to experience pregnancy but I have so enjoyed reading BERF. I love your outlook on the whole pregnancy experience and your very realistic expectations of childbirth. I hope you have a wonderful childbirth experience and wish you and Matt the best!

  34. I agree that childbirth is all about preparation and perception. I definitely opted for the epidural not because the pain was so severe but because I feared how bad it would get. And then to put a wrench in my plan, the epidurals didn’t work so I felt everything (until it ended in an emergent c-section after 24 hours).

    I’ve never really understood why people feel the need to be so opinionated about the decisions we all make as women and mothers. Why should anyone else care which type of labor I choose? What I name my child? If I breastfeed or use formula? If I co-sleep or put them in their crib when we get home? If I stay home or put my children in daycare? My decisions are the decisions that fit the needs of my family.

    I loved your comment earlier about the labor you want is the one you are participating in. That’s such a perfect way to say it. With my first child I didn’t get the experience I had wanted but after the c-section I was still the mother of a perfect baby boy. You will do great! You are going into this experience open minded and as prepared as you can be and that will make all the difference. Looking forward to “meeting” your little man.

  35. Love this post! You know what you want and go after it. The analogy of having a baby to racing is so true; I never thought of it like that before. I will keep this in mind when my first child is on the way 🙂

  36. You should read Emily’s post on Babble titled “Why Childbirth is NOT Like Running a Marathon”. I tend to agree with that perspecitve.

  37. Erin, minus the vomiting, I had a similar experience. I think we figured out that I had been awake for close to fifty hours. Had to get the epidural at one point otherwise I felt that I wouldn’t have been able to be there for my son once he arrived. Though it wasn’t the birth I dreamer of, three week old Gregory is perfect!

  38. Here’s another facet to the analogy: I became a runner after becoming a mother (two homebirths), and I’ve found that the process of preparing for the birth is like prepping one’s crew to assist you with an ultra. You make lists: “If ‘A’ is happening to me (vomiting, cramps), do or offer ‘B’ (plain water, ginger). When I reach this aid station, I want to have that drop bag ready. If I’m completely incoherent, step in and force me to stop.” etc. etc. You can’t plan for everything, but you can prepare for a lot of possibilities.

    Also, ultrarunning is a lot like childbirth in the endurance aspect, especially if you run/walk. Even 50 miles in, you can convince yourself that “ten minutes is nothing; I can run ten minutes, and then I’ll walk.” Oh, and running ultras has been the only time I’ve ever experienced that level of exhaustion. 😉 But experience it I did, and it was great to reassure my nervously yet-to-be-a-mom running partner that the feelings weren’t dissimilar!

  39. I must be a weird-ass hippie (surprise surprise lol) because I personally am of the opinion that birth goals and attitude are phenomenally important. I went into my labor with my daughter determined to have an unmedicated birth and when the hospital injected me with morphine against my express permission and without medical necessity (read: ILLEGALLY), it significantly affected how I felt about the birth experience later. Was I satisfied that my baby was born healthy and that we had both survived? Well, yes, of course. But I also felt an immense sense of loss. I felt like something that mattered to me was stolen from me and I strongly feel that it affected my early days of motherhood quite negatively (in a physical sense, my emotional reflection on the event didn’t occur for several months afterward lol).

    If you want an unmedicated childbirth, I say GO FOR IT! If nothing else, having fewer drugs in your system and baby’s system cannot possibly be something bad to strive for. If it doesn’t happen, you’ll adjust and you’ll learn how to handle the motherhood you are dealt as compared to the motherhood you idealize. And if it works out, then you’ll always have the ability to look back and say I DID IT, I accomplished something that I didn’t know if I could do, I did it. The truth is that in any situation – racing, birth, etc. – you can only succeed when you are determined AND when the circumstances are in your favor (for example, if you show up to the race late or if you slip in a mud puddle and break your tailbone or something, you’re probably going to have to toss your dreams out the window and deal with reality). So be determined, adapt to your circumstances, and you’ll be just fine.

    Good luck!!

  40. I’ve been blocked for some reason, I think, but here’s the problem with your analogy: When you run a race, whether you win or lose, succeed or fail, walk or run, it will not affect the life of another person. You refuse to give up, not because you “want to finish” but because another LIFE depends on it.

    I don’t think there’s a good analogy for labor. It’s too unpredictable. It’s nothing like you’ve ever experienced.

  41. Perhaps the reason so many people are commenting that it is not a good comparison and they dont understand you were referring to the attitude and not the actual act, is that you never once used the term ‘attitude’ or talked about how attitude can affect the experience. I know I was very confused until I read the comments and saw you were not actually comparing the two (which I will agree with others that after you give birth, try and compare them again) but the attitude going into each act.

    1. Well since I haven’t given birth yet, how can this be about anything but attitude and preparation? I clearly can’t compare the physical experiences yet. But I have enjoyed reading the comments of those who have had a baby and agree that it was similar to a race.

  42. I REALLY wish that you get the birth you want. It is what I hoped for, both times.
    My first was un-medicated, except for pitocin (Don’t! Just don’t! Don’t let them induce you!) and I did great for 14 hours… up until baby’s heart-rate kept dropping. I really felt like my Dr was there for me, even though she’d been on duty for all that time too, and she didn’t rush to the c-section, she tried other options to keep the heart rate up. I got an epidural at hour 14– and I don’t regret it, not one bit, since when it became apparent that things were NOT going well, and no matter what, we were having a C-section, RIGHT NOW, it meant I was awake. I got to push for an hour, and I am grateful, and
    My Dr. held my hand as we were wheeling down to the O.R. and she told me that she understood why I wanted the birth I’d wanted, that both of her births had been natural. And then she told me, and I will never forget what she said, “Ariel, a natural birth is wonderful, and best if you can do it. But do not forget NATURE does not care if you, or your baby die. That is why I am here. I do not want you, or your baby to die. I honestly believe you are both in danger.”
    So I had a c-section. And I got a beautiful baby girl out of it. I felt robbed of some of the experience, since I didn’t get to hold her right away, and all that. But I personally felt like I’d done everything I could do to prepare (I did all the right things leading up) and having the c-section didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.
    Someone said to me “Well, you had a c-section, it’s not like you gave birth or anything.”
    Wow. 7 years later and that comment still stings. I really wish people weren’t so quick to judge. She had had one of those miracle 2 hour labors, lucky woman. I just don’t see, to this day, how you can compare our birth experiences, you know? And yet, I still feel so judged that I have to preface that very brief statement with a longer story. Sorry about that.
    Second time around, I had pre-eclampsia and polyhydramnios, and at my last appt my dr. looked at my blood pressure and said I was having that baby tomorrow, no matter what. We had entertained the idea of traditional birth… but my BP was so high I was in danger of stroking out.
    So I had baby #2 by c-section, too, and she is wonderful and precious, just like her sister.
    I had SO much amniotic fluid that it was splashing on the ground, and I heard the other Dr. say “I’ve never been this wet at a delivery before, I didn’t think I was going to a water park!”
    I asked the anesthesiologist if there was really that much water, and he said “YES!”.
    So I guess the point of this very lengthy comment is to say have the best birth you can, and don’t be so worried about what you want that you can’t enjoy what you get! Don’t listen to anyone who judges you, cause they aren’t living your story.
    Oh, and I puked both times too. First time for no reason I could discern, and the second when they did the spinal and my BP dropped suddenly.

    1. I like your stories. In the first, what a nice thing for your doctor to say. Glad she had your feelings in mind.

  43. Regardless of how a woman plans to give birth, I wish her the best and hope that she gets what she wants.

    I had nothing but negative comments when I said I was planning a natural birth. People actually (a friend that is a doctor and one that is a nurse) scoffed at me when they asked about my birth plan because ‘those NEVER actually are followed and happen the way they are planned.”

    I’m not going to lie, when I had the amazing, fast (6 hrs), natural birth I wanted, exactly, I mean down to the T, how I had planned, I beamed as I told them about it. They could say nothing. I thought labor wasn’t so bad, but I went with every contraction. I didn’t get scared or try to run from the pain. I accepted it and breathed through it. Maybe I’m strange, but I didn’t think it was all that painful. The most painful part of delivery was my midwife stretching my perinium.

    That being said, I was extremely lucky I go the birth I hoped for. I think it is important to keep an open mind going into it though because things can change in an instant. You may need that IV or you might end up wanting the epidural and that is ok. You’re not a failure or less of a mother for having any interventions that help you get through what may be the hardest thing you ever do.

    Side note on the food: I brought all sorts of foods with me. Soup at Hand, crackers, Clif bars, and hard candies. I ended up not eating any of it. The only thing I managed when my labor started was a quarter of an english muffin. I did drink a ton of fluids though. I drank pink lemonade flavored Nuuns and water. Alternating between the two.

  44. This is why, when people ask me what my “birth plans” are, I just smile and say something noncommittal like “I’m just going to go with the flow and see what happens.” I have no desire to hear judgments one way or the other, AND I also don’t know what I’m going to want in the moment.

    For me, I’m just planning on going in and riding the wave, so to speak. Since I’ve never given birth before, I figure I won’t know what I want until I’m right there and in it. If that’s to keep pushing without meds, fine, but if it’s an epidural, that’s okay too. My only goal is to be fully educated about all my options so I’m not flying blind.

    1. I agree and think that’s a great plan, Brie. You are so right because despite all your intentions you won’t really know what you will want or need until you are experiencing it yourself. Being fully educated will give you options to make the best decisions for you and your baby. The most important thing is a healthy baby and mom. I’ve had one natural birth and one with drugs – both were not what I planned but I ended up with two beautiful daughters and that’s what counts. Kath is to be commended for preparing for her baby’s arrival with a great attitude, joy, and physical & mental preparation. It’s all needed in the delivery room. Wishing all you new mothers smooth sailing!!

  45. I think you have a great attitude. You have worked on minimizing your fear, and you are open to different possibilities depending on how things go. Since people have shared a lot of stories of grueling births, I will tell you that the delivery of a first baby is not always long and arduous. My contractions started at 4pm, we were in the car by 8pm, and my baby was born at 10pm. This was contrary to what I’d expected and so it was a little confusing when everything happened so fast. But it meant that I had plenty of energy for pushing and was able to deliver without drugs — yes, with plenty of pain, but also with lots of laughs and happy memories.

  46. Your positive and open mind going in will help you so much for the big event. I always loved reading birth stories and watching A Baby Story. I have given birth 3 times all were completely different. #1 was fast and furious, I delivered 3 hours after I arrived at the hospital and had only gone in to labor a few hours before that. Wasn’t expecting that at all especially for the first, no drugs, I never even had time to think about it. But there she was, perfect and pink! An hour later I was in recovery eating the best breakfast I’ve ever had!

    #2 started in the middle of the night with a super intense contraction that woke me out of a sound sleep. My very first thought was I really don’t feel like going in to labor tonight.  But off we went and I delivered him about 6 hours later. This time though, I had severe back labor and pushed for 3 hours, I was begging for an epidural but was too far past that point, he was a big baby, 9 lbs and took forever to get out. And he was not quite perfect, he had a cleft lip and palate which we had no idea about (back before every pregnant mom got an ultrasound) so the focus quickly changed but he is more than perfect now! And 23 years old!

    #3 & #4 my twins were the easiest labor and delivery of all. This labor was longer than the others, about 24 hours total but definitely more relaxed. My doctor gave me Stadol and it was amazing, I never asked for it but didn’t turn it down and boy did it keep me relaxed. I even walked to the delivery room with twins! Just before they were due I had read somewhere that labor is very sensual, now I had never thought that during the previous 2 labors but I tried to keep it mind during this one along with only deep breathing for every contraction and I know this was the most relaxed labor I’d ever experienced. Yes it still hurt, delivery was definitely easier as they were each 6 lbs compared to 8 and 9 before and after the first one was born the other one had to be turned internally. Ouch, that hurt more than anything. Two little boys were added to our family. The next day I had my tubes tied and they gave me an epidural to do it, seriously?? Three labors and deliveries all completely different and I wouldn’t trade any of it or them.

    I can’t wait to read about yours, it is quite the experience no matter it all plays out.

  47. I gave birth two weeks ago 🙂

    I went into it very open minded. My plan was to listen to my body and hopefully not need pain meds. I did end up receiving Pitocin because I was not progressing at all.

    I had all back labor… until 9 cm I never felt pain anywhere else. I spent the entire time on my hands and knees because no other position was at all bearable. I was grateful I had studied different positions and natural ways to make it at least tolerable.

    It was extremely intense and very painful, and it wasn’t until 8 cm that i started to doubt that I could handle it. (Transition) However, as extreme as it had become, the thought of all the hassles of an epidural: waiting for the anesthesiologist, the paperwork, having to sit still for the shot etc, was much more horrible of a thought than just keeping on trucking through when I was so close. So basically, I believe that being open minded and being prepared for any possible scenario is your best bet. So many people have said to me, “If you want a natural birth you have to give yourself NO other option.” For me that wasn’t true. It just felt more right to me to get through it naturally… the hassles of the pain meds seemed worse than the pain. Everyone is different, and should trust themselves and their bodies.

    Going through pain that intense for so long still haunts me a little. It was very worth it… I will never forget it… quite the humbling experience for sure. Every experience women go through in their lives can help prepare them for labor and also influences how they end up handling it. Each is so different and there is no wrong way.

    Good luck <3

    1. P.S.
      In regards to the race comparison:

      I love to run and to work out hard. before i gave birth I definitely would have compared it to something like running a race… after though.. not so much. 🙂 I am not saying to put you down, only to say that I relate.

      Labor is something so completely different than anything else that now having gone through it, I cannot think of ANYthing to compare it to. It was vital for me that I kept telling myself that i needed to realize that i had no idea what to expect and that was okay. The increasing intensity/pain, how long it can last, and not knowing when it will end makes it so uniquely challenging.

    2. Congrats!

      I feel the same as you do about an epidural. Scares the shit out of me! I’m going to have to be so unbelievably uncomfortable to WANT that – plus like you said the logistics make it just harder too. Maybe it will be bad enough that the thought of an epidural sounds appealing – that’s when I know it’s time to get one!

      1. I was scared of the epidural too, I hate needles but still wanted one. It didn’t hurt me at all. The ripping off of the tape to remove the catheter post delivery hurt worse than the actual epidural!!!

  48. I have been trying to figure out how to comment on this post for a few hours. I almost didn’t read this post, because i knew it would make me sad. Why? because like you, I wanted more than anything to have a natural birth, to labor at home for as long as possible, to go the hospital, and avoid any and all interventions. As you might recall, I got the opposite. A planned induction, resulting in c-section. I knew your post would make me sad, because I still feelthat way about my birth experience sometimes, when I read about people who want a natural birth, and are prepring for one, because I did all of those things too. But, I also realize, that is my stuff. It has nothing to do with you. But it would be easy to respond to your post in frustration because of this.

    I got the same reactions you did, when I told people I wanted a natural birth. I think it’s just the way people will always respond, as long as hospital births are the norm in our country.

    I truly hope that you get a birth experience you enjoy. Just keep in mind, that you are experiencing and participating in any birth that you get, barring a c-section that is a big enough emergency that you have to be put under. Even though I was induced, and then opted for an epidural six hours in (which never took away all of my pain, or the pressure), and ended up with a c-section six hours after that, I’ve never been so present for anything in my life.

    1. I’m sorry that you feel sad 🙁 But I know if I were in your shoes I would probably feel the same way.

  49. Lovely analogy! You’re totally right – the “medal” in this case is a pretty obvious one. Let people say what they will. It’s your experience and you get to own it, so kudos for putting it out there! 🙂

  50. Wow people are sooo passionate about others choices. I think what is most important is being passionate about your OWN choices. I did deliver three boys naturally but understand that is not the choice for everyone and choose not to judge, I think what one of the best and most satisfying things about being a parent is, is knowing that you can choose to raise your child the way you see fit. I am a huge supporter of doing what feels right to you and your body for the childbirth process. Each experience is so different as is each mama and each baby.

    1. I have tried this whole 9 months to only talk about my own choices, but inevitably if you talk about what you want, it offends others. It’s been very hard to find the right words to write about birth!

  51. I’m among those who have never been pregnant. I hope to have kids in the near future, so I enjoy reading BERF and the comments/discussions. I really hope you have a wonderful experience giving birth Kath.

    I am very interested in the birthing techniques and options. The best approach, in my opinion, is getting prepared as if one will give birth naturally, yet not be emotionally invested in it. Maybe things will change once I am in pregnant, but I wish to be completely neutral to how I give birth. Why would I go with the natural option with that attitude? Because I believe in the minimum effective response. If I am going to get my teeth pulled, I wouldn’t choose complete anesthesia but I also wouldn’t get them pulled without getting them frozen first.

    I have listened to a lot of stories. Some people claim labour pains aren’t really pains at all but just a form of pressure, some people say they were like bad period cramps, some say they were the worst thing they ever had to endure. If it is really the worst pain I will ever have to endure, what am i proving by going through with it? I am comfortable in my own skin, I don’t need to endure pain in order to prove how strong I or how much of a woman I am! Now if it is really just pressure and bad period cramps, basically if it is something I can actually handle, why should I get a needle in my back (although I am aware that the definition of “bad period cramps” is different for each person) ? That is scary too! C-section stitches apparently hurt like hell. I think both epidural and c-section require just as much courage as choosing the natural way.

    I love the idea that one can feel contractions and “know” when to push while giving birth naturally. I also love how many people say epidural enabled them to rest, relax and allowed them to actually concentrate and enjoy the birth experience. I am confident I will not feel more or less of a woman one way or another.

    I wish a safe, healthy and happy delivery to all those who are expecting.

  52. hi Kath. 🙂

    so crazy reading these comments. ya know, i too have a hard time reading about hopes and dreams for childbirth (from anybody!) sometimes since Abbi’s birth was so traumatic. i had a hard time getting over it for a bit. but God is so good and i think we heal from just about anything! 🙂

    the thing is, if i had a choice i would have had drugs right away and had that girl pain free in a heart beat! hehe. i just wanted a healthy baby and the strength to raise her to love and be loved.

    you will be a great momma, Kath. and soon how little baker boy gets here really won’t even matter. i promise. xoxo

  53. Kath,

    I’ve been following your journey for some time now and you’ve taught us all how important it is to be positive and supportive of others. Thanks for sharing this beautiful time in your life and having the courage to be so open-minded.

  54. Kath, you are going to do fabulously. Giving birth is amazing. There aren’t even words that you can use to describe it, really. I am so very excited for you.

    My advice is to push the negative comments aside.

    You are going to have a beautiful birth and I am so excited to “meet” your little one. 🙂

  55. A few odd bits for that might interest/entertain/disgust you:
    1. I was in transition at home and had concurrent vomiting and diarrhea. Have a vessel ready in the bathroom in case you find yourself in this situation!
    2. When I was pushing at the hospital they had me in the human pretzel position – legs pulled back with my knees and ankles somewhere near my ears – and as I pushed the amniotic fluid squirted up into the air like a fountain. Really. I think a few passers by tried to throw coins and make a wish!
    3. As many have said, pooping, peeing, and puking are all possible. Nothing to worry about. With the first two, there are big pads under you and they just whisk that stuff away. No one will scorn/praise you over the public address system if you do or don’t poop on the table.
    4. We all think about the head, but those shoulders are big too!
    5. I was surprised by how seriously large the needle was they used to numb me prior to stitching my tear. Just a heads up. Hospital tours and classes don’t usually show you that stuff.
    6. I hated the cheerleader type encouragement and I hated being touched. I wish I could have given birth in a small closet alone (like a cat?!). This was something I did not know until abor was actually upon me. Not everyone likes the ra ra party-like atmosphere that is popular now. Tell people to shut up if you feel like it!

    1. LOL. #6 is how I felt. I wanted to yell get your f-ing hands off of me at anyone who touched me. But my nurse-midwife was AMAZING. Had the touch of an angel, I swear.

      1. My sister had a similar reaction about people being close to her. At one point she looked at our mother and spit out “You’re breathing on me!” My mother kinda jumped back and my sister said in the same rather scary tone, “Stop.Breathing.On.Me.” My mother went and sat in the chair for a few minutes. We all laugh about it now (it was 4 years ago), but at the time it was a bit scary to see my little sis not acting at all like herself.

  56. I don’t have kids and no plans to anytime soon, but it seems like you don’t get a choice as to how the birth actually goes down. Sure you can choose to run a short 5 k as opposed to training for months for a marathon, but if the birth is slow to progress, there isn’t a ton you can do. It might be that giving birth doesn’t lend well to analogy, not even marathon running.

  57. It is so interesting to me how we each bring a different perspective to the experience. I am 24 weeks with twins following 2 years of infertility, 2 miscarriages and countless treatments. My only goal for childbirth is to be able to bring my babies home. I didn’t get married for the wedding and I am not having children for the birth experience.
    I hope you get to have a drug free birth and I hope you’ll remember to keep the big things the big thing. Bringing home your healthy baby is the big thing. Don’t let a potential change in your birth plan cause you to lose sight of that or to dampen the memory of the experience.

  58. Interesting post. I want to say that good for you, it is good to go into birth with this attitude and I really HOPE you get the birth you envision! I also hope it is fast 🙂 and you do not go over your due date. When I was pregnant I had exactly the same idea – race day-type attitude (after all I finished several marathons, I can do birth with a positive attitude, etc), unmedicated birth, it is just pain, women endured it for eons, etc, etc. Everyone was supportive, the medal comment did not come up, I was all excited and now, in retrospect, supremely naive 🙂 As it happened, I had to be induced at 41 weeks, I did not have an epidural through pitocin, but after about 20 hrs baby became very distressed and had several heart rate decelerations that were very scary so I ended up with some drama and an emergency C-section. All is well now but it was the scariest hour of my life.

    Honestly, I really wish I can say that race day attitude helped me, but really, it did not. It is a lot more mentally exhausting than racing, because, although you do have a clear goal in mind (baby), it is totally unclear how you gonna get there – it is totally unknown and unpredictable. No amount of reading Ina May is going to help that. I also think that before giving birth we tend to concentrate too much on the whole “I want to experience this…” aspect, but when it comes to it, it is not about us, it is all about the baby. I feel slightly selfish for being so much “it is all about me” before my labor, because in the end, my experience did not matter at all, all that mattered is that I have a healthy baby girl. I did not get to experience pushing/etc, but really, who cares…

    Please keep a very open mind about birth, it is going to go the way it is going to go, do not box yourself up into a specific way of coping with this event, or thinking about it, just let it happen.

  59. Kath, you are doing great with this blog and sharing your learning, experiences, hopes, fears, and preferences. I don’t get people who thinking you are dissing another view point. You don’t….you are sharing YOU, your heart and head. I say BRAVO and really thing you are doing an amazing job at this. It is YOUR blog….it would be pretty weird (and boring!) for you to just share things like….my baby will likely have a head and body. Good Grief! You look radiant by the way. THANK YOU for sharing.

  60. Loved your post (as always!) I’m a L&D RN and truly wish more of my patients would take the time to learn about birth like you have. Being educated about the birth process takes so much of the fear out of the whole thing. Less fear about birth allows you to relax more and lets your body do it’s thing. You’re going to do great!! (BTW- natural patients are my favorite to care for!!)

    On a side note, I always chuckle when I read through the comments. You just can’t seem to win can you? Someone always gets a little sideways about your choices. I think it’s awesome that you’re so willing to share this journey with your readers and wish people would keep their negativity to themselves!!!

  61. I always compare my daughter’s delivery to running:) I think the mental state that I am in when running marathons is very similar to the state I was in when I delivered my daughter- totally concentrating inward, a lot of positive self-talk, setting small goals, and a whole lot of “omg, this is really happening! I’m really doing this!”
    I too was very inspired by Ina May’s books and little bits that I remembered from her books really stuck with me through my unmedicated delivery. I know a lot of moms will think I’m crazy but I think my first marathon was way harder than by first delivery– but everyone has their own unique experience- in childbirth and running!
    I hope you have a wonderful, healthy delivery!

  62. I want to offer you encouragement in this. I’ve given birth three times now and I wanted to go natural all three times. The first time I was completely unprepared for the level of intensity and not knowing my body and what the process was. So a few medical interventions later I ended up with a broken water, pitocin (a.k.a. The Devil!) and finally an epidural. My other two births I trained myself according to the Bradley Method and successfully gave birth without medications.

    The plus to the non-medicated births was that I felt spectacular afterwards. I went home immediately, slept comfortably, no headaches, no hurt muscles, etc. And the babies were born much easier (though my husband/coach would highly disagree that this was ‘easy’). The plus to the medicated birth was that I was not in such agony that I was able to have a mirror present and watched the crowning and birth of my first son. Sure I had headaches, couldn’t walk for several weeks normally from my strained muscles and had weirdness from the sensitivity to the epidural but words cannot describe the visual of seeing my baby emerge for the first time. It was truly surreal.

    So good luck in L&D! Keep focused on your goals but if things go wrong, look for the silver lining! Thanks so much for sharing, I’ve loved this journey of yours!!

  63. I have enjoyed reading about much of your life and your baby journey via KERF and BERF. I just read every comment on this post and your one about circumcision – and I think the or at least one issue that gets many people so worked up is two-fold. It doesn’t sound as much like most people here are “really, really sensitive to another’s hopes and wishes,” but rather you invite everyone into these conversations by posting the way you choose and then seem surprised by equally strong reactions to topics that, while you are the one posting about them right now, are thought-provoking and emotional for many, no matter what they have or have not gone through yet. I have not yet given birth and I don’t judge you in any way for your plans or choices – it’s not my place at all. Like me, I think virtually all those reading and posting are here because they have largely enjoyed reading your blog – thoughts, choices, and attitude. You seem very dedicated to your blogging and community – I just encourage you to think about who you’re reaching and why, how you “talk” to all those reading, and fairness of expectations in return. Unfortunately, I don’t imagine you will receive my last line or entire post for that matter, favorably, but I think it’s worth saying and it comes from a place of good intentions.

    1. I love reading reactions, opinions and stories. Just don’t like it when they are so personally directed at me.

  64. Good luck to you which ever way it goes. I’ve given birth three times. Twice naturally and once with an epidural. Both had their pluses and minuses. I’m sorry some of the responses make you feel personally attacked. Because you share so many of the private details of your life through this blog, people feel like they know you personally – almost like you’re a friend. They’re just responding to you as they would a girlfriend with whom they agree or disagree. Keeping with the analogy theme here – it’s reminds me a little of actors who say they just want to act but don’t want to be famous and get upset when their privacy is invaded and their lives are subjected to scrutiny by strangers. You can’t be a successful actor and not be famous. This blog, at least in blog land, puts you and your life out there for everyone to see. And you share a lot of details that are on the intimate side (though maybe you don’t think they are). I would imagine that your openess about your life has a lot to do with your blog’s success. People feel like they know you personally (even though they don’t) so comments tend to get personal. It just comes with the territory.

    Anyway, it hurts like a b#@$% so get ready 🙂

  65. Will you be sharing the details of your birth story with us? I love reading birth stories and feel like we have been along since conception, so I hope you have it in you to share how the birth goes and your reflections afterwards as to what parts of your birth plan were fulfilled (hopefully all of them!). After the baby comes, all of a sudden, all the labor pains, birth plan, fear of needles, etc, fades away as you get sucked into the wonder and work that is a sweet newborn. My advice is to write every detail you can as soon as you are able, because you will forget a lot of the little things. Good luck!

    Also – my first baby came 4 weeks early at 36 weeks. I had a perfectly healthy pregnancy and was incredibly taken off guard when my water broke a whole month early, mainly because everyone says your first will probably be on or after your due date. Very smart that you have everything ready to go now!

    1. Yes, definitely.

      And you are the second 36 weeker I have “talked” to in 24 hours -makes me nervous and excited! We are ready, but not mentally ready!

  66. As I am preparing for my first time giving birth to my son soon (I am 35 weeks along), I found one thing very interesting – also in light of some of the comments here: The idea that intervention is only recommended by medical personnel in case of an emergency, not being recommended a little early sometimes, for example. The US have a much higher mother and child mortality rate than, for example, the Netherlands, a country that is known to have an extremely low intervention rate (about 80% home births etc.). I am not saying that this necessarily correlates, but it’s something to think about anyway (I guess now I have to put up a disclaimer saying that I respect all kinds of birthing, but that is a given anyway…).

    Other than that, I practiced a lot with the Hypnobirthing method, something a lot of my friends recommended. One of the premises that surprised me most was that yes, childbirth can be very painful, but it is not a law of nature that it has to be. Rather than concentrating on the horrible pain that will await the mother without doubt and practicing ways to deal with it, it has helped me hoping for and envisioning a birthing experience that is not necessarily horrible for me and the baby (No other mammal is known to have such painful childbirth experiences – why should that be?).

    I hope things will work out for you just as you wish, and for now, there’s no reason to expect otherwise!

  67. Having my son with minimal medical interventions was one of the best choices I have made. I am not opposed to pain control, but the other “stuff” that goes along with it was what I was trying to avoid. Ultimately I had a very good experience – I had what felt like the most intense runner’s high for days after my delivery! It was helpful for me to think of pain as purposeful. Best wishes to you on a safe delivery. Congrtulations!

  68. Such a personal decision should be respected regardless of others’ opinions.

    I was fortunate to labor without an meds the first time…he was only 2 pounds 3 ounces for goodness sake. I practically coughed and he was born! 😉 My second was full-term, and I was already 6 cm when I got to the hospital. I did use a stadol injection when the pain got to be unbearable. I have to admit – it was N.I.C.E!

    I know you want to do this without medication, and that is awesome. I just encourage you to have an open mind. My fear for you is that you will feel like you let yourself down if you choose pain intervention.

  69. I think your comparison to a race is quite apt. That’s exactly how I thought about childcare; it was something I felt completely ready for. And though I knew it would be painful, I wasn’t afraid of the pain because I knew my body was capable of much more than my mind might think possible. I gave birth, completely unmedicated after a 12-hour labor to our daughter exactly one year after running my first marathon! (Dear son came a lot faster and bigger, but I was also unmedicated).

  70. I think the best ideas about your child birth are the ones your make for yourself and you seem to have EVERYTHING covered. I had two all natural child births and they were both very different. I always wondered why people love to give or tell their horrible experiences to someone who is pregnant (because a pregnant woman really wants to hear that) is beyond me. I think you will have a great birth the only piece of advice I would give is take something to keep you mind preoccupied. Like something you have to really focus on, i.e sudoku or any type of puzzle. I didn’t for my first but during my second birth I did word find puzzles and did many breathing techniques that I read in the book Hypno-birthing (sorry can’t remember the author). It helped a lot but again every birth is different. I wish you the best and I love your blog….

  71. I just found your blog today. I wish you the best of luck! Sometimes women just aren’t very supportive of each other, which is sad. It makes it even worse when they are behaving that way to a first time mommy-to-be. Once I was called a “crazy viking lady” for saying I didn’t want an epidural before I had my first little one almost 17 months ago.

  72. I just went through an unmedicated childbirth this past Sunday (birth story here: http://onwardinward.blogspot.com/) and I think you’re spot-on by “training” for it the way you train for a race. I kept up Body Pump and walking until my 39th week of pregnancy and got myself in the mindset that I was preparing for an athletic feat – my bag for the birth center even included tons of Gu and Shot Blocks! This method of preparation really worked for me. My body felt conditioned, and physically I felt very ready for the big event.

    There is a slight difference in mentality that you need when approaching a race vs. childbirth, in my opinion, and that is the need for surrender. I’ve found that when racing, I rely on determination and pushing through the pain, but in childbirth, it was more like surrendering to the pain and having faith that my body would do what it’s supposed to do.

    Can’t wait to read about your experience in a few weeks!

  73. Beautiful post Kath!! I admire you so much! Not only have you made this decison, but you have spent many hours physically & mentally preparing yourself…very cool. I wish you the very best & am excited to hear all about it!

  74. This is obviously a very controversial topic. My only 2 cents is this: It seems to me that a lot of people think they aren’t going to be able to feel and experience the birth with an epidural when in fact I think you do. I did have an epidural (and was so very glad I did opt for it when I ended up having to push for 5 hours) but I still felt SO MUCH. There was still pain in a pressure sort of way, the urge to push is so overwhelming it is painful, and I could feel the baby coming out. It was an amazing experience. I’m glad I had the epidural and I really had to many sensations that I think I got to experience BECAUSE I had the epidural. I wasn’t so wrapped up in the pain. Oh and I could walk immediately after the birth.
    I read Ina May’s book (well skimmed it) out of curiosity but I didn’t do any birthing classes and really I just didn’t have any plan at all. I went into the hospital with no predetermined notions of what my birthing experience would or should be like. It seemed silly to me to make a plan for something that I could not even begin to imagine. If it was natural great, if not that was OK too. However when the epidural option was discussed, I was ready to beg for it. I remember that before I had my baby I was more scared of the thought of an epidural than of childbirth but I don’t even remember even seeing a needle when it came down to it.

  75. one more thing – I was reading all these birth stories and so many people have all these bodily function memories or needle memories, or yelling at their loved ones, being stitched up etc. You know, I don’t remember any of that – all I can remember is the sensations of pushing and the feeling when the baby is pushed out and the doctor throwing him (yes throwing him) on my chest. It really was amazing. And I was so preoccupied with holding my newborn and talking to my husband that I didn’t even know the doctor was stitching me when he was doing it. I didn’t know I tore until they told me later. Those first moments of holding your baby.

  76. As you and I have discussed, I think that declaring (to yourself or to others) what kind of birth you want to have is very helpful in actually making that happen, especially when you are hoping for a medication-free birth. I don’t think a med-free birth happens ‘by accident’ especially in today’s hospital setting. You need to go into it knowing that is what you want to achieve (second to a healthy baby of course). It is very powerful to set that intention; it doesn’t always work but it goes a long, long way to actually making it happen. I KNOW that you can do it barring medical complications that outside of your control. Giving birth to Henry really was the best moment of my life and getting to have the overall birth experience that I wanted was icing on the cake.

  77. Also I do think that you can be mentally ready for childbirth, I really do. Obviously I don’t think you can know 100% what it will be like until you are experiencing it, but I spent 40 weeks educating myself and visualizing what I wanted to happen. I was surprised by nothing about the experience: I wasn’t surprised by the sensations or pain level or the bodily processes of giving birth. There are many ways to prepare yourself for childbirth. I read a lot of people saying in these comments that you cannot know what it’s like and I really couldn’t disagree more. I think you have done a TON of preparation, Kath, and I really do think you know what it’s going to be like as much as you can without experiencing it. Don’t let yourself feel frightened by the unknown because I really don’t think it’s so unknown to you.

  78. Only thing is: You get the healthy baby at the end whether you go drug-free or not!

    Everyone has to make their own choice regarding their “birth style.” The only way I think you can go wrong is 1) refusing intervention/medication just on principle (ie: refusing to change your mind when it might be best to go in a different direction mid-event) or 2) criticizing the choices of other women. I say good for you if drug-free is the way you want to do it! But so far you’ve avoided implicit criticism of women who choose pain medication, and it would be great if you’d continue to do that. You can acheive the goal of a healthy mother and healthy baby with or without drugs, and both choices are OKAY!

  79. I have been following baby Kerf ever since I saw you were pregnant – I am/was a few weeks ahead of you – I just gave birth 2 weeks ago.

    I think being prepared for marathon is probably the best thing You can do mentally – I never really “prepared” for birth – I knew the pros and cons of all interventions and always joked that my main goal was to leave the hospital with a baby (which truly was my end goal :P)

    I was induced at 40 weeks, 6 days – and I remember thinking when I went in for induction that I was going to have a baby that evening – that’s where I proved that I hadn’t prepared myself – I was induced 4 times! The last induction caused active labour contractions (3-5 mins apart) but didnt soften the cervix – I had contractions for 16 hours every 3 minutes with no respite and then I was FINALLY 2 cm and they broke my water.
    I contracted for another 2 hours and then was allowed an epidural (by choice) – I felt like I was giving up a bit (I wanted to withstand the pain) but I also didn’t know how much longer I could handle the contractions I was having – and I was about to receive oxytocin to make them more powerful.

    Once I received the epidural I slept, ate a Popsicle 🙂 and stopped vomiting! I am not a huge advocate for it, but in my situation, it allowed me to realize that at that time I needed it (and I didn’t have any pain/issues with the epidural going in)

    One thing I appreciate is that when it came time to push, they backed off the epidural so that I could feel what was happening – I felt her crowning and felt her body release from mine – she was also incredibly alert when they put her on me 🙂

    Lengthy comment and story later, my point is, childbirth didn’t go how I expected it, but I adapted and moved on (as you seem prepared to do!) – looking back, I would do it ALL over again, and frankly, I can’t tell you how bad the pain compares to, say, stubbing my toe right now. I experienced it, it was painful, but I don’t dwell on it.

    And you don’t get a medal at the end – you get the best freaking trophy in the world! Seeing my daughters face for the first time (which strongly resembles my husband 🙂 ) was the best gift I could ever receive.

    You are going to do great, regardless of how it goes! And you are going to have your son at the end, which is the best prize you can ask for!

  80. So you want a natural childbirth? Awesome.
    I don’t understand why women give such a crap about what other women think/feel/like/dislike about THEIR OWN childbirth.
    More power to you, Kath. I hope it goes as you desire.

  81. I think this post — and these comments — are really intriguing, and I want to offer a possible explanation for why you get the reaction you do when you express an intention about natural childbirth or breastfeeding or whatever.

    I had an epidural and it was fantastic; I felt present and alive, I knew exactly what was happening, and it was an amazing moment. It was great. Exactly as I planned.

    And then I started breastfeeding. I had lots of intentions for breastfeeding. I worked really hard to make sure I was educated and informed, that I was as prepared as possible. And for reasons that I won’t go into here, it didn’t work for me. It was devastating. Not only was I crushed that my body didn’t work the way I wanted it to, but I also felt unbelievably crushed by my own disappointment. All of the energy I put into breastfeeding successfully came back to haunt me. I was so disappointed in myself. I felt like I’d failed. Now, when my friends are pregnant and talk about breastfeeding, I try to support them in their wishes, but also to encourage them to be gentle with themselves and open to many possibilities — not because I don’t want them to breastfeed, but because I don’t want them to be crushed with disappointment if it doesn’t work.

    I think it’s the same with childbirth. You can do everything “right,” but sometimes nature doesn’t cooperate. The last thing you need is to feel like you’ve failed when in fact, you’re just rolling with the punches. I tell people not to get too hung up on any particular plan because the fact is that you just never know how it will go — and the last thing you need, in those hazy, blissful, early days of motherhood, is to feel any sense of failure if the process didn’t work the way you planned it. Motherhood is too special and wonderful to let your disappointment about an epidural/c-section/induction/low milk supply get in the way.

    I wish you luck and a healthy mama and baby!

  82. Kath, I’ve been reading your blogs for many years now but I only occasionally comment. I just wanted to tell you that I have enjoyed following your pregnancy blog very much. As a fit young woman with a similar mindset, and having run many long distance races including half marathons and a marathon, but who is not a mother yet, I am very curious about the whole pregnancy/birth experience and I too would probably compare it to the biggest physical challenge of my life so far – the marathon I ran last year. We both know they’re totally different experiences but if you haven’t been through childbirth before, I think it’s only natural that you will think about it and prepare for it with the only comparable experience you have. It is a most apt comparison in my opinion….I’m sure we’ll both feel differently when (or if, in my case!) the time comes but isn’t that the great thing about life, having new experiences and adding to our well of knowledge and wisdom 🙂 I think you’re absolutely right in cultivating a strong positive attitude going into the unknown!

    I admire you very much for your courage, grace and generosity in sharing this special time for you and Matt with the world. I hope you enjoy these next few weeks and that the birth of your son is everything you hope for.

    With much love, Philippa (a long-time reader in the UK)

  83. Good luck to you. I hope the experience is enjoyable no matter how the details work out. You have a good attitude going into it, so keep your head up and ignore the know-it-alls!

  84. Great, great post!! Especially for a mama-to-be that feels the same way about childbirth- I’m glad you put it into words 🙂
    I can’t wait to read your birth story in the next month or so!!

  85. I’ve run 5Ks, half-marathons, one marathon, one triathlon, given birth with an epidural, and once naturally (waterbirth). My natural birth was easier than running a marathon, hands down. At the end of my marathon I said to myself “I will NEVER do that again!”, and at the end of my waterbirth I wanted to do it all over again!

    Don’t let anyone talk down to you just because you haven’t birthed a baby yet. I got the “You aren’t being a hero to anyone but yourself” comments too- and besides infuriating me, because it somehow implied that I was choosing natural childbirth to be BETTER than other people, it made me sad for the people that said it. Because if anyone said that to me, it meant they really didn’t know me at all.

  86. People really need to lighten up. Whatever the mom-to-be wants to do should be OK. I’ve had friends who had epidurals; I’ve had friends who had natural births; I’ve had friends who tried to have natural births and had to have emergency C-sections. As long as the baby comes out healthy and mom is OK, why does it matter?

  87. Kath, Just a word of encouragement. You can’t control everything but assuming no forces beyond the usual, you can have a euphoric natural childbirth if that’s what you want. Mine was awesome. Hormones are an amazing thing and (I really do believe it now) as powerful as any meds out there…

  88. whew! 190 comments (some are yours) about a choice YOU are making that in no way affects them. But some women feel a need to put you down.

    In going with the race analogy, suppose you declared “I’m going to run a 100k!!!” on your blog, and you got 100 comments from people saying “I tried to run a 100K (with no training, a bad attitude, and having never run before) and I didn’t succeed. So you probably wont either.”

    That would be ludicrous! And yet that is basically what people do when a mother says she wants to have a natural birth. They tell you all the ways THEY didn’t manage it…as if that is supposed to mean you wont either. My best friend is an L&D nurse and she tells me story upon story of women who come in declaring they want a natural labor, and then go on to say they have done nothing to prepare for it. They just assume it is as easy and not getting an epi!! LOL It is definitely not. So is it any surprise they don’t succeed in going unmedicated? These same women are the ones who go onto blogs like yours and regale their sad labor stories…leaving out the fact that they didn’t prepare.

    But you have prepared. You’ve taken the classes, stayed physically fit, eaten healthily, and you have a confident attitude. You’re going to be fine. You know it is hard work, and it wont be easy, and that is 50% of the journey.
    Everyone else be darned!

  89. i just wanted to give you some positive feedback on drug free laboring- i had my second 4 weeks ago and i was able to labor fully drug free ( up until my emergency c-section due to baby in distress- turned out cord was around his neck and a knot in it- if progresed vaginally he would of been stillborn) BUT while laboring i felt completely in control and the pain (for me) was like period cramps during contractions. nurses seemed amazed and i even took a 4 hr nap during contractions:). i am now a firm believer that your body was made to handle the process and pain but beyond thankful for drs and medicine. i have a beautiful baby boy because of it. sitting was way easier than lying down and nothing was more glorious than taking a shower during labor :). so excited for you! you can do it!

  90. Childbirth is in no way like a race-you’ll see in just a few short weeks-it’s SO much better than a race.
    The only way I can sum up childbirth is that it is everything and nothing like I imagined. And I lean more towards the nothing like I imagined part.

    The best advice I can give you is to listen to your body. Your body will let you know when you’ve had too much or can handle more. No one’s labors are exactly alike-there is no textbook labor!

  91. The long and short of it is everyone is different. No woman, pregnancy, birth, or baby is going to be the same, and not everyone is going to want the same things during the birth experience. I know people who went natural and had little trouble (and also people who thought they were going to die during it!); I also know people who had epidurals and thought it was the easiet thing ever, while some had epidurals that “didn’t take” so they wound up experiencing more pain than they expected anyway. (Then there’s the c-section route which is often totally out of a woman’s control.) The most important thing is for someone to know themself and do what is most comfortable for THEM! Even then there’s no guarantee it will work out the way they want (which I know you know).

    btw, I’m a mom of two and by the time you have a second one people finally shut up and stop trying to scare you with all their horror stories/ telling you what you should. Oh, and I did have epidurals w/ both of them b/c it’s what I wanted and what made ME comfortable! lol!

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