The joy of natural labor: or not

You know what I love about reality TV? I love being able to recklessly cast judgements upon people I do not know.

For instance, what’s the deal with all these first time mothers on A Baby Story who are hell bent on having natural labor? I know, with soon to be four Gut Sections under my belt, I’m in no position to have an opinion here, but you’d think that a little logical deduction would sway women to at least keep their options open.

I mean, I can understand a woman wanting to go the way of the Natives on her second or third birth, because she’s got a clearer understanding of how her body is going to react to baby induced trauma (plus she’s already greased the tracks which has to help in some cases). But the first time? I had such big plans with numero uno, wanted to labor at home with soft music and scented candles until my body was at a nine, then run in real fast like to the hospital and pop it out just like my mama did.

Of course, I didn’t know at that time that my body doesn’t work that way, and had I been left alone on the plains without modern conveniences I would have been D.E.A.D. I was in active, count the minutes back labor for a solid 24 hours before I reached a three. Let me tell you, three has never sounded less impressive in my life than it did in that moment. Kind of wanted to die, right there.

When it comes down to it, the thing I’ve learned through all my careful research (thank you TLC) is that the best plan a girl can have with a baby, ANY baby, is to be pliable like the banana peel. You never know what kind of glitch might come up, best to be ready for anything so it doesn’t ruin your big moment, you know?

(And yes, I’m sure I’ll get tons of positive responses to this post because everyone always agrees with the woman who’s never pushed a baby out.)


  1. I am all about the drugs.

  2. I guess I’ve never understood the whole attitude of “my big moment”. After 4 children, I never expected it to go just “so”. I’m thinking if the baby’s healthy and you’re healthy, well then, job well done. Lucky me. Forget the whole lame “birth plan”. Puhlease.

  3. I pushed my first one out, though without some sort of medical intervention, I never would have gone into to labor. The kid weighed nine pounds, I was 42 weeks pregnant and was not dilated. At all. 12 hours of pitocin, and still nothing. Finally, the doctor broke my water and baby came, but had I been on the plains waiting for things to happen, I’m pretty sure I’d be dead too.

    My others have all been c-sections. I say, do the best you can, go with the flow, and above all else, don’t make others feel like there’s only one way to have a baby.

  4. As a no-labor, no-contraction, 2 planned c-section healthy boys, and a hysterectomy at 32 …. I was just darn happy to have the little buggers. I attended hypnobirthing classes with my younger, (first time mom) sister … it was HILARIOUS! Oh, and she had an epidural and the most beautiful baby girl. But, I am with you, without the amazing modern conveniences that the Good Lord put on this earth for a reason … well, I wouldn’t be here to comment on your BULLS-EYE post!

    • annie valentine says:

      Great take, I’d kill to be a fly on the wall at a hypnobirthing class.

  5. My first was an emergency C-section after 24 hours of induced labor. Don’t even get me started on pitocin – of the devil!!! Anywho. I think first time Mom’s have this magical birth scenario in their heads. Some women actually do get the experience they want. I just hope for a healthy baby and want to go home to sleep in my own bed.

    btw – my 2nd baby was a scheduled c-section – no drama, no NICU, no pitocin – it was lovely compared to the first.

  6. I think you should have a home birth and invite all of us to watch, just like my neighbor did! I did have a friend who had the whole birth planned out for her first one – I remember telling her, good luck with that, because the baby doesnt give a crap about your plan!

  7. My mom’s 6th and last child was born with C-section. She said she wished she had known about it from the beginning.

  8. My first decided to try and come out in the car on the way to the hospital. Delivered both feet and legs BEFORE we got to the hospital. An emergancy c-section, an alergic reaction to morphine and 8-weeks of an open wound due to Staph infection, I was done having kids!!! 4 yrs later had my 2nd by VBAC with an epidural and it was soooo much better. Due with my 3rd in Sept. and who knows how it will go! I have no plans, just want it to get here safely!

  9. I remember discussing “having a natural birth” with my dr on baby #1. I wanted to be all natural (inspired by my pioneer women sisters), until he told me “There is nothing natural about wanting to feel that amount of pain”. Sign me up for the epidural!

    My water broke on it’s own, and I still had 10 hours of active labor w/o an epidural- contractions 1 1/2 min apart (their excuse was I wasn’t at a 4 yet). They finally had pity on me – and gave me some pictocin, followed by an epidural. And I am one of the few that prefer pictocin – because the labor pains felt just as intense as before – but my body was actually doing something.

  10. I don’t think the rosy ideals of first-time moms stop with the L&D. It’s just the first of many this-isn’t-how-I-planned-things-to-go moments that turn us into the weathered professionals we are today.

  11. I had my first baby naturally and also my fourth, one induced with an epidural and one with just an epidural. So obviously my plans changed, but I still had a plan for each of them. I feel like knowledge is power, and having a plan is a way to deal with an extremely frightening unknown. You wouldn’t just walk into a war zone without having a plan, even if you knew it might not work and you’d have to come up with something different by the seat of your pants. Its just a way to cope and feel like you have a little control over your situation. I wouldn’t have been able to have my fourth naturally if I hadn’t planned and prepared for it, and it turned out to be the birthing experience I wanted. I think the key is to have a plan, prepare yourself for that plan, but also know all your options and be prepared for it to go other directions. I always said I wanted to have my baby naturally but if I couldn’t ‘oh well!’.

  12. Kerstin says:

    This comment it coming from someone who has a job where I am often working on the floor of the NICU of a large regional hosptial. I have seen babies with all sorts of problems that I couldn’t have even dreamed existed before employed with my current job. Some of the problems were diagnosed during pregnancy, but other problems were due to complications of the actual birth itself.

    It is for this reason, that I have never understood why ANYONE would have a baby at home. I am okay with midwives, natural births, doulas, and anything in between. However, so many things can go wrong during the birth…that I would like as much medical intervention available at a drop of a hat.

    Just my, very experienced, two cents.

  13. Oh well, me, I had 5 kids with minimal or no meds, one with demoral two with epidurals and the last one in 22 minutes. (Oh yeah, that was great, except for the stitching!) Most of my babies I was in labor with for longer than 20 hours. I am a big believer in doing whatever feels right for you! If I would have known how amazing the epidural was, I never would have had a baby “natural”. I am a big believer in whatever makes mama happy is what is best for baby. I think a good plan should give you options for just in case you can’t handle the pain. I have six of my kids that would have died if we were not in the hospital, so I am high risk and would not dare to have one at home. That being said, if nothing is wrong and you feel great, and the hospital is not too far away, I think a midwife can be an amazing choice. However, I wouldn’t even let my kids attend the last birth, let alone invite the neighbors!!!

  14. I didn’t have big plans when I was expecting my first. I had anti-plans. I wanted to be completely left in the dark as to how much pain and torture birthing a baby would be. And by the time I finally had that c-section I would have been screaming, “Get it out. GET IT OUT!!!” if I had just had the strength. I’ve always been really grateful for the immediate c-sections after that.

  15. I actually did have all four naturally (yes, even my first, when I didn’t know what I was doing), but I am SO WITH YOU on the “have to flexible” bit. Whenever anyone wants to know more about natural birth, I always tell them that you can plan all you want, but you just never know. Be prepared for everything.

    Amen, girl.

  16. As a once-upon-a-time emt I knew better than to plan anything except for drugs. I wanted drugs. Turns out I’m allergic to most of the drugs drs like to use. So, after 32 hrs on pitocin (thanks, Army dr) I had an emergency c-section. Best thing in the world. EVER. Still felt everything & ended up moving myself off the gurney to my hospital bed but ended up w/ a beautiful baby boy. Of course this was after 1 month of a terrifying nicu stay.

    Next baby? Planned c-section only the little stink put me into labor TWO days before. Luckily my dr had the nurses administer drugs to stop the labor (what a relief!) & the c-section went ahead as planned only two days earlier. This time around baby girl was healthy & mama was very grateful. Still it goes to show that you really can’t plan anything. When the baby wants to come, the baby wants to come!

  17. I have no problem for those women who WANT to go natural, but I get really annoyed with those who tout the fact and walk around acting superior about it. I had a failed epidural, so I inadvertently went natural with #2–and as dumb as it sounds, when those braggarts get all uppity, it’s nice to be able to say I went natural once. (NEVER again, thank you.)

    I love how you put it–ANY birth plan has to be flexible, because you just don’t know what’s going to happen. My SIL can’t even have a baby w/out a C-section because of how she’s built. The idea of someone judging her because she didn’t “push one out” irks the heck out of me.

  18. I gave birth to my first three kiddos in the hospital, fully medicated. With this pregnancy, though, I’m realizing that there is a lot I didn’t know about with birth and labor. Because of being more educated about my options, I’m choosing to have a natural birth. I don’t think everyone that fully knows their options would or should choose this way, but it’s the perfect choice for us this time. So, I’ll take this opportunity to say THANK HEAVENS we have so many options and live in a free country with choices!!! Hooray to birthing as we choose & being flexible! Woot!

  19. AMEN! I’m also a veteran of 4 c-sections and my first was WITHOUT PAIN MEDICATION. (Thank you Army Medicine) I had 2 spinals, neither of which worked. So talk to my hand about unmedicated birth. My motto is “better living through chemistry.” I want to slap the hair off the heads of the women who say that you can control your body’s reaction to pain. Uh uh, baby. You obviously haven’t hit the wall most of us did.
    My recommended childbirth plan would be general anesthesia when you get a positive on the pregnancy test, and wake you up AFTER your 6 week check up.

  20. #1-#7 I squatted under a tree in the back yard with a People magazine and ice chips my husband hacked out of a lake in Wisconsin! I get crazy when girls brag that they didn’t need People magazine, it makes me feel like a “natural birthing” failure.

  21. I think the phrase of the day is “greased the tracks”. It’s a classic!

  22. I would love for you to read something about the other end of children….
    see what you think…

    Your blog and column are wonderful, I can tell you have followed your passion.

  23. You opened the Pregnant Pandora box with that post! I had 5 babies with no drugs (one at home) and one c-section. I got no trophies. Just stitches and stretch marks. Every woman needs to do what’s best for them. No judgments. And if they want to pump their baby full of drugs before it’s even born, that is their choice….;).

  24. The thing that always bugs me about those shows that focus solely on the labor and delivery is that is about the smallest part there is of being a mother. Getting them here is just the very, very beginning. So many women spend so much time planning and hoping for the “perfect” labor, and then feel like they failed if they weren’t able to follow their birth plan to a “t”. There is enough pressure out there on women to be perfect at everything, we don’t need to start out at the very beginning feeling like we failed. My first child was born with several severe heart defects, and I swear we should have put bleachers in the delivery room for all the Doctors, interns, students, nurses, and nursing students that were there when he was born. And all of them asking me, as I labored, “So what is wrong with your baby?” DEFINITELY not in the ol’ birthing plan. So when number two came around all I wanted was to be ignored by everyone in the hospital besides a single doctor and my husband. I wanted to be just another lady having another baby, nothing to see here, thank you very much. And that is exactly what I got. Hooray! Three and four came along with equally as little fanfare, all with a lovely epidural. But I guess what I am saying is, for me, ever since my first son was born with so many problems, the actual birth itself just isn’t that big of a part of who I am as a Mom. I think there is a feeling out there that how you birth your baby begins to define who you are as a mother, and I think that is just so short-sighted and judgemental. There’s a lot, lot, lot more to being a mom than just getting that little bugger out, I feel no less of one for having done it numb.

    • annie valentine says:

      “…having done it numb…” Thank you for my new favorite line ever

  25. I’m especially judgemental of the woman who want to have their babies at home in a tub or blow up pool or whatnot. Simply because everything can appear all hunky-dory on the outisde (with the heart monitors and whatnot) and then baby comes out needing a blood transfusion & oxygen. stat.
    and then you have an emergency c-section for baby B.
    I was so greatful I had drugs in me so I didn’t have to feel that second part…

  26. My body doesn’t relax enough to dilate without the epidural. My first went 23 hours, pushing pitocin the entire time. After 23 hours I finally got the epidural and after ten more hours she was born. With my second I told them that if my body didn’t dilate on it’s own, that the epidural would do it. And it did. Same with the third and I’ll do it with this one, too.

    However, I do have a friend that got the epidural and then couldn’t feel a thing. She had a really hard time pushing because there was just nothing there to push as far as what she could feel. It also made her really loopy and it was hard for her to concentrate. After that she decided she’d try natural.

  27. Tiffani Cisneros says:

    My first two were c-sections, my 3rd was a home birth in a pool and completely PAINLESS! Yes, my child birth was painless. I used hypnotherapy and would say that the thought of hypnobirthing seems entertaining, but when you allow your body to relax and not fight to natural abilities it has to birth the way it was intended, it really can be natural with no drugs, at home, as a VBAC, in a pool and Painless! *I had a sore throat last night and told my husband, “THIS hurts worse than birth*

    What made so much sense to me was that as complicated and intricate as our bodies and brains are, why do sooooo many people think that our body would create something (a baby) that was too big for us to birth? Our body KNOWS what our body can handle and if we took all the interference from hospitals and doctors and protocols away, we could have these babies naturally and with little to no pain. I’m not saying doctors are not necessary, I’m saying their interference is the problem.

    TLC (A Baby Story) is also a problem. If you go into labor with the thoughts and visions of labor hurting you, then it totally will. Watch, instead, YouTube videos of hypnobirthing moms and go into labor with that as your minds thoughts, knowing it can be calm and surreal and it will be that way.

    • annie valentine says:

      Tiff, you’re amazing! But, for the VBAC candidates out there, my girlfriend’s uterus ruptured during her VBAC this week and we almost lost her. It can go very wrong, I’m glad yours went safe and smoothly. I’m going to be on YouTube all night long.