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I'm Mara — I help creatives create and launch digital courses and profitable products. I love chatting about online marketing, design and goal setting!

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I Had An Unmedicated Birth On Purpose (This is Why + What it Looked Like)

Today, I’m sharing something different, not about business or online courses, but the unmedicated birth story of my daughter, Hallie. I’m recording this exactly three months after her birth. On this day, three months ago, I was going into labor, preparing to deliver. I didn’t plan to record this episode precisely three months postpartum, but it’s the first opportunity I’ve had to sit down, record an episode, and document my thoughts and feelings about the experience.

So, let’s jump right in. I’m excited to share my daughter’s unmedicated birth story with all of you!

Listen on: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher

Before diving into the birth story, I want to emphasize that my experience was very positive. Unlike many women who endure difficult births without feeling heard or supported and face complications, I was fortunate to have a smooth and largely complication-free delivery, which honestly exceeded my expectations.

I also chose to have an unmedicated birth without an epidural or pain medication. I know that might sound a little crazy! Despite the varied and often skeptical reactions to unmedicated births, I managed it successfully and will share insights about this choice and its challenges in this episode.

Initial Expectations and Research in Pregnancy

At first, I thought my pregnancy would be like what you see on TV or hear from others. I imagined going to regular check-ups with a doctor who specializes in pregnancy, having my baby in a hospital, and possibly using an epidural to help with pain during labor. I wasn’t one of those people who always knew they would opt for an unmedicated birth.

But when I got pregnant, I did what I always do, and started researching. I read a lot about various doctors, midwives, home births, and places where you can have your baby that aren’t hospitals. In the end, I chose a special place run by four midwives. This place asks you to meet with each midwife during your check-ups. That way, you know all of them, and whoever is there when you give birth will be someone you’re familiar with, even if someone is sick or on holiday.

Perks of This Midwife Care

I really liked this approach, even though some people prefer to see just one doctor during their pregnancy. The group of midwives I chose worked with a doctor. This was good because it meant they could get expert advice or send me to a specialist if there were any problems during my pregnancy, like if it was high-risk or if I had issues such as gestational diabetes or was expecting twins.

My time with the midwives was really great and different from any other healthcare I’ve had before. They took their time with me, making the care feel personal and custom. We could have longer talks, which was a big change from the quick and sometimes distant meetings you often get with regular doctors.

Birth Center Options and Hospital Collaboration

The midwives I picked also had their own birth center. There were many choices for where to have the baby, and this center was set up almost like a small hospital, with all the important medical tools needed. If there was an emergency, like needing a cesarean section (C-section) or special care for the newborn, the hospital was very close by, which made me more comfortable knowing that we could move to the hospital if needed. The way the birth center worked felt like it was part of the hospital, which helped make everything go more smoothly.

I know this isn’t always the case with all midwives and centers, but I really felt supported with my unmedicated birth throughout the process.

Advantages of a Birth Center

The birth center had a lot of good things about it: there was more room for the labor process, different ways to manage pain, and a quieter and more relaxed setting that let me have more freedom. This can be different depending on where the birth center is, but usually, it means you can have a birth experience that is more tailored to what you want. During my pregnancy, I could always decide whether to have the baby at the birth center or the hospital. The midwives made it clear that it was okay to change my birth plan if I needed to, which made me feel a lot more comfortable.

Thinking About an Unmedicated Birth

I was really inspired by the idea of having an unmedicated birth at the birth center. My choice wasn’t because I was against epidurals or other pain relief options. I liked the idea of moving around more during labor and maybe recovering faster. A lot of my decision had to do with how I would feel after. Plus, some studies show that labor without an epidural might be shorter because of what’s called ‘productive pain.’ This kind of pain might help with the birth by causing a surge of helpful hormones.

But, I also knew about the rare but possible problems that can come with epidurals. I talked to the midwives about the option of moving to the hospital for an epidural if I decided I wanted it during labor. They told me that as long as I wasn’t in the crowning phase, it was possible to go straight to the hospital for the epidural. So that was the plan, I was going to try and have an unmedicated birth and that’s exactly what happened.

Last Week of Pregnancy: Routine and Anticipation

In my final week of pregnancy, when I was 39 weeks along, everything was surprisingly normal. Many people talk about having flu-like feelings or a really strong need to clean and organize everything (called nesting) at this stage, but my week was pretty calm and without any big events.

Expecting a Late Delivery

I was also pretty sure I would have my baby after my due date. This is a common thought, especially for first-time moms, who often don’t have their babies early. This idea was also backed up by what happened in my own family. My mother had her babies after her due dates, too. Plus, medical checks like ultrasounds and measuring my belly showed that my baby was a bit on the small side, which made everyone think even more that I’d give birth after the due date.

Despite thinking I’d have my baby late and getting ready for a later delivery, my daughter surprised us by being born a day before the due date, going against our expectations of a delayed labor.

Early Labor Experience

On the night my labor started, everything was normal when I went to sleep at 9:00 PM. But then, at 12:30 AM, I woke up feeling really irritated, which is not like me.

I was annoyed with my husband, Tim, because he hadn’t cut his hair even though I’d been reminding him for the past two weeks. I was worried that his messy hair wouldn’t look good in the photos we’d take when our baby was born. This irritation made me get up to find Tim, who usually stays up later than me. I told him how I felt about his haircut and made him promise to get it cut the next morning, which he agreed to do. At the same time, I felt a strong need to start doing laundry right then, feeling like it was really important not to leave it undone.

Looking back, I think this might have been nesting behavior showing up as being unusually irritable and having a strong urge to get things done around the house. After handling these things, I went back to bed.

First Contractions

At 3:30 AM, I had my first real contraction. Up until then, I had only felt Braxton Hicks contractions and was unsure how to tell them apart from real contractions. But this first contraction was different—it was distinct and woke me up because it was quite intense. However, it wasn’t too painful, so I managed to go back to sleep. An hour later, at 4:30 AM, another contraction woke me up.

This pattern continued, and I had a third contraction around 5:15 AM, which made me decide to get out of bed because I was uncomfortable. Sleeping was already a challenge at nine months pregnant. From 5:30 to 7:30 AM, I had a few more contractions, but they were spaced out and not very painful, so I didn’t start timing them. However, at 7:30 AM, the contractions completely stopped. I thought of this as the early labor stage, where you have a few contractions before active labor begins.

A Surprisingly Normal Day in Early Labor: Work and Leisure Plans

After experiencing the early signs of labor, my day went surprisingly smoothly. It was the most normal morning. Even though I was on maternity leave, I kept myself occupied with a few work-related tasks just to stay busy. The morning was uneventful, and around 11:30 AM, I emailed all my clients to officially let them know that I was starting my maternity leave. I told them I planned to relax for the next few days until labor began and promised to share photos once the baby was born.

The rest of the day was meant for leisure. I thought about going swimming or spending time with my mother, who had come to help with the baby. We considered options like going shopping or having lunch together.

Early Labor Progression

Just 15 minutes after sending my official sign-off email to clients, indicating the start of my maternity leave, I experienced another contraction. So I always tell my daughter, Hallie, that she knows how to stick to a deadline, because she waited until the moment I declared myself free, and then she was like, it’s time to be born. The contractions continued, but they were spaced out and not particularly painful, leading me to believe I was in the very early stages of labor.

Progression of Early Labor: Contractions Becoming More Frequent but Irregular

Throughout the day, my contractions started happening more often, but they were still irregular. The time between contractions was all over the place, ranging from 10 minutes to 18 minutes to 12 minutes apart. By around 2:00 PM, it was clear that the contractions weren’t going away, which made me think that I might be entering the early stages of labor. I had been given the “4-1-1” rule as a guideline for labor: contractions should be four minutes apart, lasting one minute each, and continuing like this for at least an hour. However, at this point, my contractions didn’t meet these criteria.

Following the advice of my midwife group, I made a precautionary call to let them know about my situation. This call is recommended unless it’s the middle of the night, and its purpose is to give them a heads-up that labor might happen in the next 24 hours. As expected, they confirmed that it sounded like very early labor, noting the irregular spacing of my contractions. They thought I would likely come in the following day, possibly in the early morning, but they stressed that there was still quite some time to go.

Acknowledging Labor Intensity

After talking to the midwives, my husband and I decided to take a walk. During the walk, he told me he thought I was hurting more than I realized. He saw that I had trouble talking and looked like I was in a lot of pain. But from how I felt, the pain didn’t seem really strong, mainly because I’d never been through this before. This difference in how we saw things made us have a small tiff. I was sure I wasn’t very far into labor and thought the baby would come the next day. But my husband thought the baby would arrive sooner than I thought.

Unexpected Turn of Events: Water Breaks

After we came back from our walk, my water broke. I called the midwives right away to tell them what happened. Even though my water had broken, the contractions were still not regular. They ranged from 10 to 15 minutes apart, with some closer ones at eight minutes. The midwives told me to come in before midnight because of my water breaking, but they also said I could stay home a bit longer to see if the contractions would get closer together. The plan was to go to the birth center around 8:00 PM possibly. After the call, I got ready to labor at home for most of the day.

But as the day went on, the contractions started to hurt more, and it became hard for me to talk, even though they didn’t get much closer together. Around 4:00 PM, my husband, worried about the increasing pain and the traffic during rush hour in Tampa, Florida, suggested we go to the birth center. He thought that traffic might make us late, so he really wanted us to go, and I agreed.

Active Labor Experience

When we got to the birth center, they took me to a room for an exam. The midwives thought I was in labor, but they also noticed that I could still talk and communicate quite well. This made them think I might not be very far along.

However, when they checked me, they found something surprising: I was already nine centimeters dilated. It was unexpected for everyone, even the midwife, who was amazed that I could still talk and move around so well at this stage of labor. Because I was so far along, they decided not to send us back home. They got ready for the baby to be born soon, thinking it might happen around 11:00 PM. But I gave birth earlier than expected, just before 7:00 PM. 

After the exam, they took us to a birthing room. I changed into a hospital gown, and as the contractions got stronger, I kept feeling really sick and throwing up a lot. The midwives decided to give me an IV to help with the nausea. At first, I didn’t want the IV because strangely, throwing up was a distraction from the pain. But the IV worked, and the medicine for nausea helped me stop throwing up.

Valuable Role of a Doula in the Birthing Process

An important aspect of my birthing experience was having a doula, which I hadn’t mentioned earlier. Having a doula during my pregnancy and birth was really helpful. I thought it would be good to have someone who knows a lot about giving birth and how to manage pain, especially because I didn’t know much about these things.

One important reason I chose to have a doula was because there might be times when I couldn’t express my needs well, like during a cesarean section or if there were complications. I often feel overwhelmed in situations with lots of distractions or pain, so having a doula was important to make sure my voice was heard.

The doula played a big role in helping us understand what was happening during the birth. Her presence and guidance meant a lot to me, and she always had the right words and support when I needed them. I know some people might have had different experiences with doulas, but for me, the support our doula provided was essential and greatly appreciated.

Effective Pain Management Techniques During Labor

After I got the IV and it worked to stop the nausea, we started using different ways to manage the pain. One thing that really helped was the hip squeeze. My doula and my husband took turns doing this. It meant they pressed down on my hips really hard, and it made the pain feel much better. We kept doing this hip squeeze thing for a while, and I was walking around while they did it. I don’t remember the exact order of everything that happened, but the hip squeezing was a big part of how we managed the pain during labor.

Rapid Progression and the Decision to Push

At a certain point during labor, I asked my husband to go get the midwife and the birthing team because I felt things were getting more intense. At first, the team had planned to check on me every hour, thinking it would take longer. But when they came back and checked me again, they realized I was very close to giving birth and would probably be ready to push within the next hour.

About ten minutes later, I called them back, feeling like it was time to push, which seemed to surprise them. They were a bit doubtful because I hadn’t been there very long, but after checking again, they agreed it was time.

I didn’t have a strict birth plan, and I was open to different options, which turned out to be a good thing. One of those options was using a birthing pool. I didn’t have a strong preference for a water birth, but the idea of being in warm water during labor sounded nice given the pain. It turned out that the pool was really helpful. Even though the pain was intense, I never thought about asking for an epidural; it didn’t even cross my mind. Interestingly, they had nitrous oxide (laughing gas) available, but I never used it, even though I had planned to before labor.

Describing the Pain and Emotional Moments

The pain during labor was really strong, and it’s hard to put into words. Before I went through it myself, I used to ask people about the pain of unmedicated childbirth, and they would often say it’s tough to describe. Now I get what they meant. There was a moment when the pain was so overwhelming that I told my husband we weren’t having any more kids. It felt very real at that time, but my feelings have changed since then. Not knowing how long the pain would last made the experience really intense, but in the end, it was a rewarding journey for me.

My Personal Unmedicated Birth Experience

Looking back on my birthing experience, the moments in the birthing pool felt really fast. The actual delivery took about 30 to 40 minutes, which was longer than I thought it would be. The crowning stage, in particular, took more time than I had expected. It was quite different from the quick births we often see in movies and TV shows.

While I was pushing and going through the pain, I got a lot of positive support from my husband, the doula, the midwives, and the nurses. At one point, my husband said, “She’s here.” At first, I thought he was just trying to encourage me, but he was actually telling me that our daughter had been born. It took me a moment to realize that she had arrived, and it wasn’t until I saw her with my own eyes that it truly sunk in.

Post-Birth Experience

A Transformative Moment: Meeting My Newborn Daughter

The moment they handed me my newborn daughter was incredible. It felt like something that changed me profoundly. It really was a love at first sight moment, which I know is not everyone’s experience. The intensity of that moment made everything else, including the pain, fades into the background. This feeling, where love and happiness make physical discomfort less noticeable, is thanks to hormones like oxytocin and adrenaline, in case you are curious! I felt like the pain all went away.

One of the first things I thought was that I was surprised to see that our baby had a lot of hair, which we hadn’t expected. After giving birth, the pain seemed to go away completely. Even delivering the placenta, which I had been worried about, wasn’t a big deal compared to the overwhelming happiness of holding my baby.

Post-Birth Procedures: Moving to Birthing Bed

Right after giving birth in a birthing pool, you need to quickly move to a birthing bed to deliver the placenta and check on blood loss. However, my whole focus was on my new baby, so the rest of this felt less important and secondary. I was able to walk over to the bed by myself and the pain was barely noticeable.

Post-Birth Complications: Managing Blood Loss

Shortly after giving birth, the midwife told me there was a concern: I was losing a lot of blood, and there was a chance I might need a blood transfusion. Despite how serious this was, I surprisingly felt calm, maybe because of all the emotions from just giving birth. They had expected this issue because I’m a smaller person, and the medical team had talked before about watching my blood loss closely.

To stop the excessive bleeding, the midwives gave me a shot, which I later found out was probably Pitocin from insurance paperwork. At the time, I didn’t really know what they were giving me, but I trusted them. They set a timer, maybe for two minutes, to see if the bleeding would slow down. If it didn’t, they were ready to start a blood transfusion.

Luckily, the bleeding started to get better, and I didn’t need a transfusion. They kept an eye on me for a while to make sure the bleeding was okay. When I left the hospital, they told me to watch my blood loss closely at home. Excessive bleeding is pretty common in women after giving birth, and getting a blood transfusion is not unusual. Fortunately, the medical team was able to handle the situation well in my case.

Bonding and Recovery After Birth

After my lovely baby girl was born, we had the special chance to have the “golden hour.” This meant we got to have skin-to-skin contact and feed her. I don’t remember exactly when they cut the cord because we opted for delayed cord cutting. We spent a few hours bonding by having skin-to-skin contact. The checkup for the baby was done right in the bed, which I appreciated because it meant they didn’t have to take her away. During this checkup, they weighed her and did some health checks.

Departure from the Birth Center

One thing to note about giving birth at a birth center is that the time you stay after having the baby is shorter compared to a hospital. If both the mom and the baby were doing well, we could choose when to leave, as long as we stayed at least five hours after the birth, and that’s what we decided to do. Some people might find it strange to go home so soon, but for us, it felt better to recover at home without constant interruptions.

In the first five to six hours after giving birth, the medical staff checked on us a lot to make sure both the baby and I were okay. They watched the bleeding, checked on the baby’s condition, and took my temperature. Once they were sure everything was fine, they gave us the green light to go home. We knew we had to come back for a checkup within 48 hours, and we had that scheduled for Sunday morning to make sure we were still healthy.

Reflections on the Birth Experience and Future Plans

This episode of my podcast was meant to be all about the birth story. I’m planning another episode in the future that will be all about what happened after giving birth, maternity leave, and taking care of a newborn. When I think back on the birth, I don’t have any big regrets. It was a good experience, but I’m aware that future births might be different. Whether it means having an epidural, dealing with different issues, or having another unmedicated birth, I’m open to whatever happens. I’m thankful for this experience, and that’s how I’ll wrap up this podcast episode!

Anticipating Future Podcast Episodes: Parenthood and Personal Changes

In the upcoming episodes, I’ll be exploring different aspects of parenthood. I’ll talk about things that turned out to be easier than we thought and those that were more challenging. I’ll also discuss how I’ve adjusted my business since becoming a parent and the balance I’m trying to find in the midst of all these changes. Having a baby definitely changes life in many ways, both wonderful and difficult. I’m excited to share more of these experiences in future episodes.

It’s amazing to think about Hallie now that she’s a real part of our lives. It’s surreal to remember a time when we didn’t know her or what she would be like. Now, at three months old, her personality is starting to show, and she’s a big part of our daily routine. I’m looking forward to sharing more in the next podcast episode. Thank you for listening and joining me on this journey.

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