Let me say immediately that I have no problem with a woman deciding to have pain medication during her labor. I have friends who chose epidurals and their birth stories are no less beautiful, and the women themselves are no less amazing. I also recognize and appreciate the reality that some situations are safer if surgery is performed or if labor is moved forward with the help of medication.
But, I have a problem with women being pressured into things without having an actual legitimate choice. I have a major problem with the institutions that enforce unnecessary interventions, often leading to other, riskier interventions. I also have a big problem with policies and protocol and staffing structures that do little to support families in the process of birthing babies. It is my opinion that women should not be expected to lay on their backs, tethered to monitors and IVs, during their entire labor, and then be told they need an epidural to make it through, or that they need a c-section due to "failure to progress." Neither should women be led to believe that birth is always a dangerous, scary, awful experience. Many births are "normal" low-risk endeavors, and should be treated as such.
I can't imagine someone whose labor can progress, at the speed hospitals often desire, when they're tethered to a wire and spending hours in a position not only potentially painful, but very inconducive to moving a baby down and out! During Charlotte's birth, I only had to be on my back for 3 minutes at a time while my cervix was checked for dilation. Those minutes were unbearable, but I bore them because I knew my time in that position would be limited.
One of my friends told me a maddening story. She had an epidural (by choice, which I respect) and was fully dilated, ready to push. The nurse told her to hold on because they needed to get the doctor. My friend waited to push for 20 minutes while peole were putzing around looking for her doctor. 20 minutes when your body is fully ready to push?!?! Then, after her baby was born, she held her for less than 5 minutes before the baby was taken away to have a bath, be weighed, etc. etc. etc. Why on earth did that have to be done immediately after birth? What can weighing a baby tell you that's so urgent? Couldn't the staff have hung around, or just come back, until mom and baby had snuggled adequately?
Okay, end rant.
If, dear readers, I have offended you at all, I am sorry. I do not mean to sound judgemental of any person or their individual choices. If, however, I have increased your curiosity, I will end with a few things I find important if natural childbirth is the goal. My experience is very limited, but I have done my research and have birthed my very own babe.
1. Empowerment and support: having a husband on board was crucial, having another trusted friend or support person was helpful, finding care providers and a delivery place that fully supported natural birth was absolutely essential. Reading and studying and working through fears helped me feel confident that my body was designed for birth and that, with the Lord's help, I could do it.
2. Freedom of movement: I know some places require an IV and some women have group B step and need to have antibiotics in a labor. But if not, moving around constantly is so, so productive in bringing baby down into and through the birth canal. If IV or antibiotics are necessary, those carts have wheels for a reason. Walk around the room with that puppy tethered to your wrist, if necessary. Just get moving! Rest when you are tired by laying in a position conducive to labor. Then, if possible, get moving again!
3. Pain management techniques: read "The Birth Partner" and some other books for ideas on how to manage labor pains without medication. There are also tons of websites outlining positions, massages, and the like which really help. Having a husband and friend who know some of the techniques gives you options.
4. A comfortable environment: my friend told me that her hospital required her to come in as soon as her water broke. She didn't progress immediately afterwards so she hung around in the hospital for hours and hours, exhausted. I was able to stay at my house for a long time, which gave me the chance to rest in my own bed, take three showers, and pace the dark, quiet hallways of my home. At the birth I attended yesterday, my friend had a dark, quiet space to walk around, only people she knew were caring for her, and she could lay on a big, comfortable bed when she felt tired. She also had the freedom to relax in the bathtub, and when her baby was coming, got to choose to stay in the tub for delivery.
What other things am I missing?