How You Can Prepare Yourself For A Drug Free Labour and Birth
One thing I noticed throughout my pregnancies was that there was this mindset from women that we must have pain relief during labour, that it was the ‘normal’ thing to do.
Anytime I mentioned anything about a drug free labour and birth it was almost like I was talking about unicorns and fairies. When I said I didn’t want an epidural with my first labour, the midwife I was seeing for that appointment said to me ‘well this is your first baby, so we will see.’
After feeling like I had to have some kind of pain relief during my first labour I chose to use the gas. It made me horribly sick and I don’t remember a large part of my labour. That was not how I wanted my birth experience to go, but as a first time mama with a baby who was going to be in NICU I didn’t really know any better.
I was determined to have an incredibly positive birth experience the second time around. I knew I wanted a drug free labour and I was willing to do anything I could to make it happen. I also knew that this wasn’t the kind of thing you could just ‘wing’ and would require some preparation and research on my behalf.
So with the help of my husband and Caitlin (fellow owner of The Empowered Mama and Midwife extraordinaire), this is how I prepared myself for a drug free labour and birth.
Chose a Private Midwife
I knew if I wanted my birth experience to be what I had planned, then I needed someone in my corner advocating for me if I was in a situation where I couldn’t do that for myself.
I remembered with my son when I was in labour I didn’t have the energy or mental capacity to take in what was being said to me and make rational decisions. I just did what I was told and trusted those around me.
I wanted to have a private midwife that I trusted, who I could give all of that mental load to, who I knew would understand what I wanted, and use that information to help make the best decisions possible. And that’s exactly what I had.
I found the most amazing private midwife who my husband and I just felt so comfortable with. Every appointment with her went way over time because we just kept talking. She felt like family and I was constantly in awe of her level of knowledge and love for the job.
We had actually met years before when I was attending a birth as a Paramedic for one of her expecting Mama’s who went into labour. I assisted the new mama as she delivered her baby and the midwife arrived moments after.
Having a private midwife was the single best decision we made in my second pregnancy. I cannot recommend this highly enough. These midwives are INCREDIBLE, the most loving, caring, highly educated and passionate people I have ever met (including Caitlin).
I wish I had educated myself more during my first pregnancy, but as they say, when you know better you do better. I didn’t know what I didn’t know and because my son had a known health issue that would require surgery after he was born, all of our focus was what was going to happen after the birth, not sure much the birth itself.
With my second pregnancy, I set out to educate myself as much as I could about everything I could. I read medical journals, literature and anecdotal evidence about everything from hypnobirthing through to birth emergencies. I watched pregnancy and birth related TED Talks, videos and everything I could get my hands on.
Gathering the data and reading all of this evidence made me feel so much more confident through my pregnancy and in the decisions I made about my birth experience.
Practised Calming and Pain Reducing Techniques
Labour and birth is likely to be painful. The body goes through an incredible event, physiologically speaking it’s quite a major ordeal and one that leaves me in awe. Some women speak of birth as a blissful experience, but for the vast majority of us, there’s going to be some degree of pain involved.
I wanted to prepare myself with everything I could to help cope with the pain and emotional turbulence that goes with labour and birth, so I practised calming and pain reducing techniques.
From simple breathing exercises, through to the use of water and heat to help reduce discomfort, practising all of these things before labour meant I had things to draw upon as I needed them.
I used breathing exercises through early stages of labour, I used movement and rocking, Caitlin used hip squeezes on me and helped put heat packs on my lower back, my husband rocked with me as I hung my arms around his neck and I used water in the birth pool to help as well.
If you practice before you can find what works for you and what feels good for you.
Had An Amazing Birth Support Team
My birth support team were incredible. I had two amazing private midwives (my primary carer and a secondary midwife), my gorgeous friend Caitlin (also an amazing midwife), my incredible husband was by my side the whole time, and my Mum took care of everything and organised everyone.
Having these people around me who knew me, loved me and were there to support me through made me feel like I could achieve anything.
I cannot begin to describe how amazing it is to have incredible people around you. It changes everything.
Created Lists and Plans
I’m a classic Type A list-making kind of gal, so I put my list-making skills to work and created checklists that were on my fridge ready for whenever my baby girl was ready to come earthside.
I had checklists for what I wanted to have done during labour such as the birth pool needing to be prepared, hot towels put in a slow cooker – an amazing way to keep face clothes warm, cool face cloths in the fridge, my son taken care of. I had a checklist for things to help me through labour such as a warm shower, moving on a birth ball, cuddles with my husband, deep breathing etc.
Doing this meant that I didn’t have to worry about if everything was being done and my birth support team had something to reference so they knew what they could do to help.
Created a ‘Mantra’ For Myself
Your mind is an incredibly powerful tool and it can be used to help you have an amazing birth experience. A lot of people have affirmations they say to themselves to help through labour, or have them on their walls ready to look and and keep to remind them of their positive thoughts.
However, I wanted to keep things simple. I knew if I had one mantra that I could say over and over again it would be more effective for me. My mantra was:
I figured my surges (contractions) weren’t going to last longer than sixty seconds and I knew I could do literally anything for sixty seconds.
I told everyone in my birth team what my mantra was so they could remind me of it if they felt I needed to be reminded and it was so effective.
I remember my husband saying it to me at one point and hearing him say it, hearing him encourage me, was far more effective than me saying it myself.
I can say I had the most amazing birth experience and drug free labour and I know it was because of these things that it was able to happen.