In 2016, I went to the hospital wanting fluids because I could not keep any food down and because my son’s water bag was ballooning out of me. Since my water had not broken and I was pretty comfortable and not aware of any pattern of contractions, I figured the nurses would send me home to wait until I was in “active labor.” Instead of sending me home, the nurse announced that I was 10 centimeters dilated, and my contractions were coming 3 minutes apart. I was unaware!
That day I gave birth naturally and painlessly to my 7 lb, 12 oz, first born child. My OB/GYN asked me what my secret was and the nurses said they talked about my birth all night. I had a painless and unmedicated birth with my second son in 2018. I assure you, I do not have a high pain tolerance. In fact, I nearly faint at the sight of needles. Nevertheless, below are three things that worked for me when preparing for my painless births.
Defining My “Why”
Having a clear reason for choosing natural birth helped me sustain my strength during the moments I felt exhausted giving birth. Birth is transformative. Whether you are wheeled in asking for an epidural, need a C-Section, or have a water birth, we are all giving life and that should be celebrated.
Here was my reason for wanting a natural birth: I felt birth is a sacred experience, and I wanted to be fully present in mind and body as I ushered my little one into this new world. It was my desire to experience what my body was created to do without a filtered drug high or being numb from the waist down.
Instead of viewing birth with fear, I saw it as a divine appointment. It seemed odd that my entire pregnancy I had to be mindful of how much fish I ate or my caffeine intake and could not drink wine or take certain cold medicine, but opioids and tranquilizers could be wheeled out for me at birth. Birth can be beautiful! I did not listen to my doubts, I talked to myself instead. I told myself: “You can do this. You were designed for this.”
Creating a clear mission statement was key. This was my mission: To be fully present in mind and body and to experience this amazing miracle my body was created to perform.
Training My Mind
This was truly the greatest component for me. I trained for my births using the Hypnobirthing technique. Initially my husband totally thought hypnobirthing sounded crazy, until we arrived at the hospital with me smiling, happy and fully dilated. The method is not about managing your pain; it is about changing how your mind interprets what is happening within your body so that you process the sensations in your body.
It relies heavily on the power of suggestion and affirmation. Instead of concentrating on a thought like “I am having a contraction and it hurts so badly,” which leads to magnification of the discomfort, instead I concentrated on the idea “my body is moving my child closer to me, my body is perfect and powerful.” I changed what I focused on and that led to changed sensation in my body. The method requires practice. Massage and meditation provided an endorphin release. So much of the perceived pain we feel in childbirth is connected to the fear, tension and pain cycle. Instead of relaxing into the contractions and riding them like waves, we tend to tense up, working against the birthing process.
There are several methods for preparing your mind for an unmedicated vaginal birth. I had great success using the HypnoBirthing technique. Whatever method you choose, be sure to dedicate time to preparing. You would not show up to run a marathon without training for it, so why would you do it for birth?
Having a Doula
Even with the greatest medical care, there is an entire floor of women having babies at the same time as you. Having a doula present is ideal. My doula was crucial to my natural birthing success. I felt a synergy with her because not only had she given birth before, she ushered many women through the experience as well. She was present for me. She stood with me in the shower as we waited for my baby to drop into position, we even danced to “Back That Thang Up” through the birth waves, and she guided my breathing. As the contraction waves came we did warrior squats together, joined hands, and exhaled. I was not birthing alone. Every birth is a little miracle, and I was glad my doula was there to witness it, support me and even make my placenta into cute little capsules.
My story is not as unique as you may think. There are many women who have had painless birthing experiences, yet traumatic and high drama births dominate the birth narrative. Supermodel Gisele Bündchen famously said that her natural birth with son Benjamin “did not hurt in the slightest.” Women of color are capable and deserving of having trauma free and blissful births too.
While birth does not always go as you plan, it was key for me to have a plan. I would have pivoted from my plan if medically necessary, but understood that my reality could only rise to the level of my expectations so I went into my birth with the expectation that it would be painless because I had trained for it to be.
My hope is that my experience empowers you to see what your body is capable of and at the very least go into your birth with less fear and greater expectations. Wherever you are on your fertility and pregnancy journey, I wish you good health and great success.
Lauren Ruth is a Los Angeles-based wife and mother of two boys and a graduate of Spelman College and Washington and Lee University School of Law. After seeing the documentary The Business of Being Born, she set off on a natural childbirth journey that led me to hypnobirthing. She created Guide to Painless Natural Birth to share what she has learned, with the intention of being a guide to a better birth using hypnobirthing, mindfulness, neuroscience and faith.