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Drawing the Line: What Do You Consider Natural Childbirth

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Natural?

Natural? About ten hours before Margo was born.

Since Margo is about to turn three, I’ve recently been thinking a lot about her birth.  Margo was born in a hospital setting and her birth was considered a ‘natural childbirth’.  Spontaneous labour, (meaning that I had not been induced), no drugs, and we had a beautiful water birth.  I labored for 36 hours total and 18 of those hours were fully established.  It was, as I say, a marathon labor.  But, I did it, had her in the water, walked her out of the delivery room myself and did it mostly all with a smile.  Almost two and a half years later, I had our second daughter, Goldie, at home and on looking back, our homebirth redefined my definition of  the term ‘natural childbirth’.  There is a huge gap of information missing from many mainstream pre-natal education resources of mother’s to be!  For someone who is looking for a natural childbirth, ALL of your options might not be obviously spelled out to you and it really pays to do your research.  Being educated about birth is empowering, especially if you’re going to be delivering in a hospital setting.

Unnecessary Interventions

There were a few things about my hospital birth that don’t seem so kosher with me looking back.  But, at the time, I didn’t know any better.  For one, they broke my waters.  This didn’t really seem too bad and I wouldn’t say that they broke my waters unnecessarily.  At the time of doing it, I had already been in fully established labor for 12 hours (pre labor tacked on an additions 18 hours to that).  So, maybe they were trying to speed things up a little.  And, I do agree, after they broke my waters, I did feel an enormous amount of pressure relieved.  However, did it really speed things up?  I still went for another 6 hours before she was born.  Any intervention can lead to further interventions.  What if they had found meconium?  Would they be worried and since it was taking so long, could I have ended up with a c-section?  Also, breaking the water is an intervention procedure that interrupts the deep space that you go to when you’re in ‘labor-land’, as a friend of mine called it.

Other than breaking my waters, for the most part, I had very minimal intervention from the hospital staff.  I have to say they did a pretty good job of leaving me alone.  I was there all through the night, and they weren’t exactly superb, but they let me be, and that was nice.  They did a check of my cervix twice to see how I was coming along (very slowly) and did put me on a monitor for a while because Margo’s heart rate went up… but… do you know why it went up?  Because, they let me go in the pool and the pool was too hot and Margo and we started overheating!  Ok, so see how things can escalate?  Everything was fine, but what if the hospital staff had panicked?  Would there have been more interventions?

Lucky for the Olympic sized birthing pool!

Lucky for the Olympic sized birthing pool! A few hours before Margo was born.

A ‘Normal’ Third Stage

Ok, but anyway, my real issue with what is considered ‘natural childbirth’ in a hospital setting is what happens AFTER the baby comes out.  I’m talking the third stage of labour, when the placenta is delivered.  Most of the research I had done, or the information given to me in the antenatal class was all about the lead up to the baby come out.  Hardly anyone ever talks about what happens next.  When Margo was born, her umbilical cord was very short.  I could barely hold her up to the water’s surface, or up to my chest.  There was nothing wrong, it was just short.  They didn’t really ask me, but rather told me that they had to cut the cord quickly.  Why?!  I didn’t ask why because I didn’t know it was important to leave the cord intact until the placenta is delivered!

Delayed Cord Clamping

There is a big push (haha, ok, labor jokes), to educate doctors, hospital staff and mothers about the importance of delayed cord clamping.  Delayed, meaning, to wait at least until the cord has stopped pulsating.  As a baby grows in the mother’s womb, the placenta is delivering nutrients, and oxygen rich blood to the baby.  When the baby is born, it has hardly taken any breaths, and the oxygen rich blood is still coming to the baby.  Um,,, hello!!!  Chopping the cord early = less oxygen and blood to the baby’s nervous system and brain!  I noticed that Margo was considerably blue in the first few weeks.  The midwifes told me it was gas… but she wasn’t a gassy baby at all!  Lucky for us, in the long run, she was fine… but maybe some babies aren’t fine because of early cord clamping?  Maybe some babies would benefit greatly (and it could effect the rest of their lives), if their cord was left in tact for a while.  Goldie, whose cord we had cut 3 or 4 hours after her birth, was nice and pink straight away… and VERY gassy!

Here she is!  Little munchkin, who is about to turn three!

Here she is! Little munchkin as a newborn, who is about to turn three!

Delivering the Placenta

I got out of the tub… with the cord dangling between my legs (ewww…., I know, TMI).  They took Margo aside to give her her APGAR score as I walked to the bed.  I laid down, they gave me a jab in the leg, a shot to make the placenta come out, and it came out in about 2 seconds.  To be honest, at the time, I didn’t really care… I was pretty exhausted by the past 2 day labour ordeal.  They offered it, they said it was faster to do it this way, and I obliged.  I hadn’t really done too much research about delivering the placenta.  To me, it just seemed like a hassle.  I mean, go through all the trouble to deliver a baby, and then have to push out a placenta?!  Well, when I had Goldie at home, it was all very different.  I got out of the tub while holding her, laid down on the bed, they checked her over while she was on me, and about half an hour later, delivered the placenta.  All while holding her in my arms.  I know it sounds silly, but when I finally went through the entire process of naturally delivering the placenta, with my babe in my arms, I really felt like I had experience real natural childbirth.

Do What You Feel is Best… and Be Educated!

I do, 100% agree, that we are lucky to live in a time when there is medical intervention during childbirth, if absolutely necessary.  I also know that this is a touchy subject for some people 🙂  But, I really feel that it is important to educated yourself on ALL the phases of labor and to know all of your options.  Knowing your options and being familiar with common hospital procedures can sometimes make or break your natural birthing experience in a hospital setting.  Of course, if you’re going down the homebirth route, chances are that you will be doing a little more research or being provided the information by your midwife.

I guess you can say there are varying degrees of natural childbirth. It’s not like anyone would be considered a sissy or a whimp for choosing some sort of intervention, such as pain relief or a shot to speed up the placenta delivery.  A friend of mine, very recently, had a homebirth and labored for a very long time.  One of the first things she said to me, was that childbirth is not for the fainthearted!  While that is true, natural childbirth is not something to be afraid of.  It puts hair on your chest and makes you feel a bit like She-Ra… Ok, no… seriously, it’s a very deep spiritual experience, in my mind, and it pays to be educated about it.  Even if you decide to opt out of some of the natural stuff and go for some ‘not so natural’ childbirth options, it pays to be educated on all aspects of childbirth BEFORE you start your labour.  Being educated about labour will help you to stay strong and decisive if something should come up during your labor.  To learn more, you can join on line chat groups, facebook pages, read books, do google searches… the world is at your finger tips now with the internet!

Did you labor naturally?  What do you consider natural labor?

About katesurfs

Kate is an American living in Australia with her husband and two young children. She holds a Masters of Educational Practice and is a high school science teacher by profession, but mostly she stays at home with her children. She is a yoga and meditation teacher, trained through the Art of Living Foundation, a surfer, a vegetarian, and healthy conscious. She is an Aware Parenting Instructor, as well as a Know Your Child Teacher.

6 Responses »

  1. My view of natural childbirth has changed too, the more I’ve read/experienced. Unmedicated is what most people think of when considering it as natural. But as you have pointed out, there is way more to it than that! My third baby was naturally birthed (at the hospital because I have very low platelets in pegnancy).I let my water break on its own, whereas with my older two children, the midwife broke it. The reason I chose to have it go in its own time is that it induces labor in an unnatural way. Our bodies do things in their own time and if you push it, the pain can be significant! 🙁 I had no meds or help whatsoever. I was at the hospital for 59 minutes! lol It was super intense, but much better than my other unnatural births!

    Reply
    • It is really amazing to just let things be! All of the phases of labour are there for a reason, it’s a shame the medical world tells woman that all a woman has to do is have a vaginal birth and then they will ‘manage’ the rest.

      Reply
  2. Well I’m sure you read my labor experience. Talk about a disappointment! I hope hope hope that our next one will be a home vbac, but you never know :/

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    • I did read your birth story, but I think there was a very good reason for intervention! No regrets! Like I said, we are very lucky to have interventions in emergency scenarios.

      Reply
  3. I had three ‘natural’ labours but only the last one really felt natural. The first two were in hospital, with no drugs and minimal intervention. Like you, I had my waters broken but it wasn’t necessary at all. She was crowning and ‘taking too long’ so when they were broken, she shot out very quickly with one hand pressed against her face and caused a tear :/ The second I only had fetal monitoring a couple of times but wasnt required to move or break focus. Not that they weren’t wonderful births, they were, but i never felt as though i ‘owned’ the experience.
    My third baby however, was born at home in water with my husband, a midwife and a doula present and it was AMAZING! There was no wondering when we should head to the hospital or enduring the car ride with contractions. I moved around wherever i liked, didnt have to ask if i wanted food or the bathroom. Hopped in the pool when i felt ready. Had NO ONE tell me when i shop push or stop or what i should be doing, I laboured for 20 hours with only about 10 minutes of second stage before my beautiful little boy floated gently out into my own hands before climbing out and cuddling up in . Bliss!
    On the other hand, I know most people where I’m from at least, consider ‘natural’ birth to be anything other than a c section!

    Reply
  4. cuddling up in our own bed***

    Reply

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