My first-time pregnant girlfriend wrote me a lovely email the other evening asking for a bit of encouragement to ease her first-labor apprehension. I realized that I’ve never really spoke much about my “natural-labor” delivery experience here on the blog and thought that perhaps this encouragement would be helpful for other first time mommies out there, too.
I won’t print her whole email, but she asked for what all first-time moms need (especially those wanting to go au naturel) — saying, “Whenever you get a moment, I’d appreciate you sending along some words of encouragement or advice or things to remember for before, during, after labor and delivery, or helpful things to know that might help put my mind somewhat at ease regarding an unmedicated birth.”
And though I’m certainly no expert on it, here was a paraphrased excerpt of my response:
A few things:
When I was pregnant with my first-born, I had the same emotions you are having even though I had an epidural planned at the time. I think much of the apprehension you are experiencing is probably more about your first labor in general — not just the unmedicated part. I remember feeling like a ticking time bomb as he got bigger and bigger: This baby is the size of a watermelon and is, somehow, coming out of my body. I will also say this: after having a ridiculously easy labor with him, with an epidural, I thought to myself, “Seriously? That’s what all the fuss is about?”
With Kate, I had another epidural — and again, easy labor. I remember actually saying to myself, “I could do this every day if I had to.” Strange thing to say and humanly impossible, but I still thought it, nonetheless.
Then, with the new baby, I thought: Well, if my other labors were so easy, then maybe I’ll go au natural this time. No big deal. Ha! It wasn’t too far into it that I realized I was just as capable of pain as any other woman and suddenly, I was united with centuries of women before me in the most amazing, beautiful, and simultaneously uncomfortable, experience of my life.
But here’s the thing: in the end, I was holding my beautiful, healthy baby girl.
It was like running through the finish line after a marathon. Like reaching the breathtaking summit after the climb. And though it was so, so much more challenging than my first two labors — in a sense, it felt appropriate.
In my arms was a new human — one that will never exist before, and who will never exist again. A completely unique gift from God who we made. We made her. There is nothing bigger on the face of the earth — and in a small way, feeling every part of that labor and delivery, gave me a better understanding of the miracle of birth. There was no numbness. Everything about that labor was a magnified — and in the end, it was magnificent.
You will do great, you will do better than great — and you can do it. [And remember that it's perfectly OK if you don't. I went into the labor with the idea that if I felt at any point like I wanted to get an epidural, I would. It's no less heroic to have a baby with medication.]
But because I know how badly you want to do it, I will simply say: never stop dreaming of the summit.
Soon you will be holding your first-born miracle in your arms, you will forever remember that beautiful view. The details of the climb it took to get there will fade away into blur. You will just remember the magic.
And remember: Don’t just think about the fact that millions of women have been doing this for centuries — think about the fact that they’ve had MORE THAN ONE child for centuries! Meaning, they did it — and then they did it again! That, in itself, is a testimony.Prayers and baby blessings.