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Answering Your Questions: Preparing For Natural Childbirth

July 26, 2013

Q. Can you share any ideas or techniques you use to make it through childbirth without medication?

Preparing for Natural Childbirth

A. Sure can! I have had seven children naturally with varying levels of pain or discomfort. Each birth has taught me something about life and about myself.

With Meg, my first born, I was in labor for nearly 28 hours. I would say it was hard work, but not painful–until the last two hours where labor completely took over my body and mind. Meg’s birth taught me that I am stronger than I think I am.

With Israel, my second born, I was in quite a lot of pain. His labor was very intense and lasted 7 hours. This was by far the most intense, I believe, because it is the one birth I did not really prepare for. I figured that I had birthed Meg just 12 months before and that I knew how. Israel’s birth taught me to be prepared and to not assume that I already know all the answers.

With Luc, my third born, I prepared like it was my first. His labor lasted about 11 hours. It was my first painless birth. Luc’s birth taught me to let go of control and to enjoy the process.

With Caesar, my fourth born, I was prepared for something unusual. I could just sense it. His labor was painless. It lasted 2 1/2 hours–most of the time spent in the bathtub eating fruit and cheese and sipping tea.  I was worshiping the whole time. When I got out of the tub he arrived so quickly that Gana had to catch him. He weighed 9 pounds. Caesar’s birth taught me that the only thing you can expect is that it won’t be what you expected.

With Ihbeleg, my fifth born, I was in labor for 42 hours. He was posterior, with a nuchal hand, and cord entanglement. Because he was posterior at times it was extremely painful. I relied on my husband, my mother, my midwife, my sisters, my daughter, and my chiropractor to get me through. Towards the end the contractions felt more like power surges than labor contractions. His birth taught me to rely on others and confirmed those I need would be there for me.

With Saraa, my sixth born, I was a little bit fearful as we approached the due date. She was breech up until the day of birth. I was exhausted and a little depressed. But, as I brought all my cares to HIM I knew He was speaking peace and joy. Her labor was about 7 hours. It was joyful all the way through. Her birth taught me not to fear.

With River, my seventh born, I was in labor for about 11 and a half hours (counted from when my water broke, because I had weeks of pre-labor).  His birth was God’s perfect timing and grace for me after a difficult summer of my maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother going to heaven.  His birth taught me to trust God’s timing.

As you can see through this quick birth-story summary, I have had a variety of experiences and I wouldn’t trade them nor their lessons for anything.

So, how did I get through 109 hours of labor?

Preparing for Natural Childbirth

First all, there is no substitute for being prepared. Practice, practice, practice. Labor, like any worthy endeavor, takes preparation and practice! And it takes about three months to really teach yourself how to relax on command. So, I recommend beginning daily relaxation practice from at least the fifth month. (If you are reading this and are past five months, don’t despair! Every bit of practice helps! Nothing is wasted!)

Bradley Method classes are WONDERFUL in helping you to prepare. We took classes with Meg at the recommendation of our midwife. We fell in love with our instructor and the method. We took a refresher of the course when pregnant with Israel and three weeks before his due date I took the training and became a certified Bradley Method educator. These classes are worth every penny!

In addition to the course, I cannot recommend having a doula enough! I’ve always had home births and my mother with me (who is a natural childbirth guru herself!) and sisters and a midwife. So, I’ve never hired a doula. However, if I were having a hospital birth I would hire a doula in a heartbeat! A doula who understands natural childbirth and who has given birth naturally herself (preferably one who is also a childbirth educator) can be an invaluable asset to your birth team. She knows about birth positions, massage, comfort measures, supporting the mother-father-baby triad, communicating with your birth team, etc. 

When it comes to birth there are three types of relaxation: physical, mental, and emotional. To have an optimally comfortable experience all three should be in operation.

1. Physical relaxation.

There are many things that can help with physical relaxation and comfort. Here are some of my personal favorites:

~Water. Warm baths and showers are wonderful. If you have a handy husband get him to replace your shower head with one that can be hand held. Then you can target exactly where you need the water–like your lower belly, low back or even your perineum. For more about laboring in water (even if you don’t want to actually birth in water) click here.

~Warmth. Hot water bottles are nice, but can get too hot and that rubber against the skin isn’t too comfortable. I like to fill a tube sock with rice and tie it off. Then pop it in the microwave until it’s as toasty as you like. It’s perfect for conforming to your belly, back, feet, neck, wherever.

~Essential oils. Here’s a recipe for one we used liberally in several of our births. It’s supposed to reduce pain, help you to keep a clear head, and shorten labor. I got this combo from my midwife. I mixed it in a massage base of jojoba oil.

4 drops Helichrysum
4 drops Fennel
2 drops Peppermint
5 drops Ylang ylang
3 drops Clary sage
1 ounce Massage oil base

Apply liberally to your hips, back and ankles during labor. Should not be used before the onset of labor.

~Freedom to eat and drink during labor. Hunger and thirst definitely increase unpleasant sensations in labor. So eat and drink during labor to keep up your energy and keep you clear-minded! I like to suck on frozen fruit, sip tea, and eat yogurt. But, I have been known to eat a little heartier during the long labors–eggs and veggies, chicken and rice, etc. Don’t be afraid to eat during labor. And stay hydrated!!

~Learn relaxation techniques such as they teach in the Bradley Method.   Here is an example of an easy technique you can learn in a few minutes, but will work throughout pregnancy and labor:


Lay down and get comfortable with pillows and blankets.  Have your husband place his hand on your foot.  He says, “Tense just your foot.”  You tense it.  “Now relax it.”  You relax.  Move on to the other foot.  Then do the calf muscle.  Tense and relax.  Then the thigh, buttocks, low back, etc. until he has asked you tense and relax every muscle of your body including belly, arms, jaw, etc.  Take your time doing this.  Work through it little by little.  This will get you accustomed to overall relaxation of your muscles, as well as training you to respond to his voice and touch.

~Be aware of helpful positions for labor. A prenatal yoga or pilates video can be really helpful in learning positions that relax the pelvis muscles and keep the body flexible. Don’t stay confined to any one position or spend labor on your back in a bed.

2. Mental Relaxation.

Think of getting your five senses involved.

What do you see? Is the environment relaxing or stressful? If you are at home, clear the clutter and surround yourself with your favorite things. Use beautiful natural candlelight. If you are at the hospital think about bringing things along that speak peace to you. Like a favorite picture, birth art, favorite blanket, etc. I had a client once who had a framed picture of Mother Teresa with her. It had been her grandmother’s picture and whenever she saw it she felt empowered.

What do you hear? A machine that goes “Ping”?! Think about music, nature sounds, books on CD, poetry, etc.

What do you feel? Bring a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, your own pillows, your own clothes, etc. Who says you have to use the hospital’s gowns and stuff. Bring your own if they make you more comfy.

What do you taste? Bring along all your own snacks if you are going to the hospital.

What do you smell? The massage oil above is nice. There are also essential oils you can use in a diffuser that encourage relaxation. (But, please smell it during labor before you infuse it all over the room. What you like when not in labor may not be what you like during labor. So, double check!)

3. Emotional Relaxation.

This is accomplished by a combination of Physical and Mental Relaxation. Also, having the loving and continuous support of those you love. This is where your husband is really key. No one can get you emotionally relaxed like the one you love the most. Sometimes having your children, your mother, or your best friend with you can also be emotionally relaxing.  If someone wants to be in attendance who would not be emotionally relaxing for you, kindly ask them to step out of the room for a while, or don’t invite them to the birth.  It seems harsh, but this is about your comfort and safety.  Others need to understand that.

Visualization techniques can be helpful. These are wonderful once you are in the rhythm of labor.  Take it slow.  Never rush through trying to get relaxed.  Here’s a little technique that works wonders to relax your mind and emotions if you take it slowly.  Have your husband, doula or labor coach talk you through it as you are in a comfortable and relaxed position.


With your eyes closed and breathing deeply imagine an empty screen in front of you.  You can project what you want on that screen.  Project something red.  Beautiful deep red.  Get that image firmly fixed in your mind. Do you see it.

Allow the red to slowly turn to orange.  A warm orange.  It spreads and becomes alive and vibrant.  Is orange firmly fixed on the screen of your mind?

Watch it as it fades and becomes softer and softer.  It’s becoming yellow.  A happy yellow.  Yellow that is vibrant, like the sun.  Its rays are relaxing and healing.

Now that yellow slowly turns to green.  Green like a meadow, like health and life itself.  It spreads over the whole screen.  Soak it in.

As you relax into the beautiful green feel it change to blue.  Blue, like the ocean, like pure water, washing away any stress or tension.  The blue spread over the screen and surrounds you.  Can you feel it?  It’s getting deeper and deeper blue…..

Now it is violet.  Peaceful.  Tranquil.  Breathe it in.  Don’t move on until you can see violet in your imagination.

And now the violet fades to white.  And as it does any residue of concern, fatigue or tension goes with it.  You are left with a screen, clear and white.  Brighter and clearer with each breath.

I have found that prayer and worship and reading Psalms are really helpful in emotional relaxation. I sing. I cry. I lift up my voice to God. I read the Psalms or have someone read them to me. There is nothing like the loving arms of the Lord!

For several of my births Gana prepared a CD or ipod play list ahead of time for me, with favorite worship songs. I used the CD throughout pregnancy for my relaxation. I used the CD for birth. The remarkable thing about this is that the baby remembers those songs. This is what convinced me that we have prebirth memories. During pregnancy with Captain I listened to one song in particular over and over again. I listened to it during birth. After he was a few weeks old he was very fussy one night. I could not calm him with the breast, swaddling, walking, nothing! In desperation I turned on the CD player. He heard the first strains of that song, settled down in my arms and went to sleep.

Preparing for Natural Childbirth

How to practice:

Everyday prior to birth, beginning at least by the 5th month, set aside two times a day to relax and practice. One session should be alone and the other with your husband. Lay on your side, close your eyes and relax. Go through various relaxation and visualization techniques. Play your music. Have your husband massage you. Light your candles. Whatever works for you. Breathe deeply from your abdomen–lift the baby up with every inhalation and set the baby gently down with every exhalation. Pray for the baby and the birth process. This isn’t a time for fierce intercession, but for quiet meditation.

When labor begins, you should plan to stay active if you can–especially if it’s daytime.  Bake a cake, take a walk, watch a movie, do an exercise video, belly dance, worship, etc.  Of course, if it’s the middle of the night and you can sleep–SLEEP!  When labor become active and the contractions become stronger, keep in mind that what you are doing, you are doing for your baby. No matter what labor and birth sends your way, remember that you can do it!

When the intense contractions hit me and my body tenses up, I tell myself to relax completely and to accept the entire contraction with all of its sensations.

Don’t fight it or wish it away. Experience all of it–no matter how overwhelming.

It’s only going to last for one minute and then nature will give me a break.

I can do anything for one minute.

I breathe deeply.

I whisper a prayer.

I groan.

I let the wave of the contraction wash over me without fighting it.

This is the ideal time to fine tune your listening skills–listen to your body. Listen to the Lord.

Learn the lessons that this labor is teaching you.

(Linked to One Sharendipity PlacePin-It MondayEco KidsWise Woman Link-UpMotivation Monday and Wildcrafting Wednesday)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Georgina permalink
    July 26, 2013 12:49 pm

    Amazing! Your story needs to be out there for all young married ladies to read. I am from the days when dinosaurs roamed, so no one spoke about these things. I did have my first born naturally, but OH MY! My cousin, who helped me while in labor at the hospital, still talks about those hours. I think I scared her 😉

  2. Susan King permalink
    July 26, 2013 7:50 pm

    Beautiful, Daja. Your story reminds me of the pure joy of giving birth. Thanks for sharing!

  3. July 27, 2013 5:50 am

    This is wonderful. Please come share it next week at Eco Kids Tuesday!

  4. August 5, 2013 5:38 am

    Beautiful story! there is something very spiritual about a natural childbirth. Thank you for this.

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