BLOG: A Labor And Delivery Nurse'S Top 10 Tips For Giving Birth Naturally
Mama M., a labor and delivery nurse and mom, is at your cervix! Mama is a wife (to one), mother (to five), and nurse (to many) with more than 14 years of experience under her belt as a labor and delivery nurse. She uses her personal experiences to relate to her patients and enjoys interjecting humor in her care for others. You can frequently find her amidst the chaos in her home, scheming up ways to hide the salt and vinegar chips from her kids. Follow her on Facebook or on Twitter.
Once upon a time I was a young mom (compared to the old, haggard, bedraggled mom that I am now), and I was scared out of my mind. Terrified. Frightened beyond words.
Not that I ever would've admitted that to anyone, but yeah. See, I was pregnant and scared sh*tless.
I was 19. Not married. In the midst of my first year of college and freaking petrified about giving birth. I was unprepared (yeah, yeah, sure I took birthing classes, but still) and totally not ready for that "thing they call labor."
So, when I had a couple of well-timed contractions, I raced to the hospital certain that I was about to drop a baby out of my Netherlands. They checked me in, hooked me up, examined my cervix, and I was approximately 1 cm.
So much for that baby just falling out, huh?
Several agonizing hours later, I had accidentally blasted a 7 pound 9 ounce baby boy out of my body... without a lick of medicine. Not a drop. (Well, unless you count Pitocin, which is a whole 'nother conversation in and of itself.) And that's where the "accidentally" part of that sentence comes into play.
See, I went into that whole process unprepared, yes, but planning on getting an intrathecal (the old school, small hospital version of an epidural). Yeah, those birthing classes that I paid a teeny bit of attention to? Didn't help at all.
Wanna know what helped? My amazing nurse. The angel that stepped in and with the style of an army sergeant style took control of the out-of-control teenager acting like that chick from The Exorcism (you know, when her head spins around?) Yeah, that was me.
There were two things that experience left me with (well, actually several things, including a very sore perineum, but we'll stick with two):
1. The absolute desire — need, if you will — to become a nurse to help out other crazy, out-of-their minds laboring moms.
2. A top 10 list of tips for "How to (Purposely) Give Birth Au Naturale."
Are you ready for that Top 10 list? Too bad if you're not... 'cuz here it comes!
1. Prepare yourself. And I mean, really prepare yourself. Pay attention in those birthing classes. (Read: Do not be like me.)
2. Decide which birthing method you want to use. "Just winging it" is not a recommended birthing method and is certain to guarantee you a fentanyl drip into your epidural space faster than you can say "Get the anesthesiologist, STAT!".
3. Find yourself a supportive labor partner. Not all men are great at fulfilling this role; others are fabulous at it. Just find yourself someone (sister, mother, friend, doula) who supports your goal and is willing to be with you through the thick of it.
4. Let baby come on his or her own time, unless, of course, your medical situation warrants an induction. Spontaneous labor is typically way quicker than induction. And quicker is typically much easier to handle. You're welcome for that advice. Now take it.
5. Have a planof action (see No. 1 above... prepare) for those moments when you might think you need something for pain. For example: If you're considering pain medication, try a different position/method of relief (bath, shower, birthing ball, walk, etc.) for "X" (15? 20? 1?) minutes. If you're still wanting something after "X" minutes, then maybe it's time to talk to that anesthesiologist.
6. Which leads me to: Have a Plan B and promise me that you won't be disappointed if you choose it. Birthing a baby is hard work. Like, the hardest work you'll ever do. If you need some medication to get you to the end point (which is, let's be honest, a healthy mom and a healthy baby and not bragging rights for an unmedicated birth), then that's what you need to do. There's always baby number two to try the au naturale route again.
7. Have I mentioned to be prepared? Oh, I have? Well, let me take this moment to remind you...be prepared! Read, research options, prepare, sweet young mother, prepare!
8. Take a breath mint. No, this does not have anything to do with you or your end goal of a healthy baby. It just saves me and your labor support from having to smell your stinky labor breath. For reasons unknown to humankind, women get the most horrendous breath when laboring. If you discover those reasons, will you kindly let me know? Perhaps, it will lead me to an invention to cure this labor malady.
9. Focal points really do help, as does focusing on your breathing, and well, anything really, that can help get your mind off of the contractions. Once upon a time, I had a patient that would sing through her contractions. Not songs, really, just a warbling of words that came out of her mouth in a somewhat song-like fashion.
10. Hmm... I can't remember that 10th point. So let me just say this: If you want to give birth naturally (as in "without drugs"), prepare, prepare, prepare! You can not prepare yourself too much for this experience.
11. I remembered No. 10: If you have a birth plan, please make sure you are more knowledgeable (and reasonable) about your birth plan than your nurse. Be knowledgeable about what you want to have happen during the birth of your sweet babe. But remember to keep an open mind about the variables that might affect even the best laid (birth) plans.