For any woman who plans to birth their baby without medication, my best advice is to prepare yourself both mentally and physically and surround yourself with an amazing support team. At the guidance of a friend who had had two successful unmedicated births, I chose to do Hypnobabies which is a self-paced hypnosis course. She actually said, “I don’t know anyone who has done the course who hasn’t been successful with a drug free birth. No pressure!” I bought the books and hypnosis CD’s and listened to them nightly. I hired an amazing doula to guide my husband and I though the process of labor and birth. I read positive birth stories often. I worked out regularly, and I fueled my body with healthy foods.
I created such a wonderful environment for my baby that he didn’t want to come out!
The only hiccup I experienced through my pregnancy was not going in to labor. I tried all the tricks in the book to get him to come naturally…chiropractor, walking, squats, evening primrose oil, raspberry leaf tea, cranial sacral therapy, nipple stimulation, spicy food… and the list goes on. Two weeks past my due date, my husband and I checked into the hospital for an induction. My plan for a drug-free birth remained the same, but I knew that contractions induced by Pitocin were supposed to be even more intense.
My hospital has one labor and delivery room with a bath tub which is first come, first served. Upon arrival, we requested the tub room because I heard that laboring in water was great for managing the pain. Of course, the room was occupied, so we settled for a standard room. I was given a drug called Cervidil, and I was told to try to sleep. I was so grateful for my hypnosis CDs because, otherwise, I don’t think I would have slept a wink that night. My doula met us at the hospital the next morning when I started to feel the contractions. As soon as she arrived, the stars aligned and the room with the tub became available. Doulas are magical, I tell you! After we moved rooms, I was given a very low level of Pitocin.
My only job for the next several hours was to try to relax through the contractions.
My doula was amazing. She came equipped with a literal bag of tricks: a fan if I was hot, chapstick if my lips were dry, peppermint oil if I felt nauseous, and so on. My husband made a play list of songs that I like, and at one point I remember rocking back and forth on a birthing ball and singing to Eva Cassidy’s version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” My contractions actually slowed down while I was singing, and I recall thinking how incredible it is that our minds and our bodies are so interconnected. I was managing my contractions well, and labor was progressing slowly but surely.
When I was about 7 cm dilated, I was able to get into the tub. The warm water felt amazing, and my swollen body felt weightless. During the transition into delivery, I became almost primal. Being vocal helped me manage the pressure radiating throughout my body and I was making animalistic sounds. My doula encouraged me to keep my voice grounded and even vocalized with me. I got the urge to push while I was in the tub, but my water hadn’t broken yet. I was given the option to have my water broken for me, which I agreed to. I got back in the tub and the urge to push got stronger. At this point, I had been in labor for about 24 hours. I was tired, but I still had my sense of humor. After a particularly strong contraction, my midwife said, “That contraction was pretty intense, huh?” to which I replied, “One time, I went camping- it was intense!”… get it? Anyway, at no point during the labor did I think about asking for the epidural, but when it came time to push, I did get a little scared. Up until that point, my only job was to relax. Now, I actually had to DO something and I was exhausted. Plus, I kept thinking that I was two weeks past my due date, so my baby is probably huge. What if he gets stuck? What if I tear?
My doula fed me honey mixed with water to give me energy, my husband held my hand, and my midwife talked me through pushing for the next two hours. My support team was patient and encouraging. Amber light from the evening sun filled the hospital room, and with an aria from my favorite opera playing in the background, my perfect baby boy finally decided to join us. My midwife instructed my husband to reach into the water and lift out his baby. I was in awe of how calm my sweet son was as he was placed on my chest and took his first breath of air. His gray eyes peered back at me, and several seconds passed before he let out his first cry. The hours of discomfort melted away as I wished my little one a happy birthday.
Someone asked me shortly after if giving birth was the hardest thing I’d ever done, to which I quickly replied, “No, taking the CPA exam was way worse!” I am not exaggerating when I say that I absolutely loved the experience of my son’s birth. Was I uncomfortable at times? Sure, but through my birth preparation, I chose to eliminate the expectation of fear from the birthing experience. I kept reminding myself that it was pain with a purpose, not pain because something was wrong. Our bodies are truly incredible, and I am so grateful for those around me for their patience and support. While I did not technically plan on having a water birth, I cannot imagine having my next baby any other way. I just hope the next time goes a little faster!
Would you consider having a water birth? If you’ve had one, would you recommend it to others?
Emily grew up in Peachtree City, Georgia. She received a degree in vocal performance from LSU where she met her future husband, Bradley. Emily and Bradley moved to New Orleans and got married nearly 6 years ago. Since then, she went back to school at UNO and is now working as a CPA. In May of 2013, she and her husband opened CrossFit Roux, and they realized a long-time dream of growing the CrossFit community of Greater New Orleans. Her passions include theater, traveling, food and family. Emily still sings and has performed with the New Orleans Symphony Chorus, the New Orleans Opera, and she is a regular cantor at St. Francis of Assisi Church. She and her husband welcomed their first son, Brennan Luke, in September of 2013. The family lives with their black lab, Chicory, in Lakeview.