My positive, empowering birth story + How I prepared for an unmedicated birth
Happy Mother’s Day! This one is special for me as it is my first one as a Mom. It has been over a month since I gave birth and it is the most surreal and beautiful feeling. On this occasion, I am sharing the story of one of my proudest moments in life. It was also the most gratifying, empowering, intense yet euphoric experiences I had – my natural and positive birth story of why I chose no epidural or pain medication and how I prepared for it.
I never thought I would share something as personal as my birth story on the internet for the world to read. Yet here I am sharing it because there are many negative stories associated with labor and delivery. And there is a lot of talk about how painful the whole process is, especially without an epidural. I chose no epidural or pain medication and I thought I would share my positive experience. I hope this helps other women who would like to give birth naturally without pain medication and share insights on how I prepared for the most intense yet beautiful experience of my life!
Even before I got pregnant, giving birth naturally without any pain medication was something that I wanted to do. Of course bringing the baby safely into the world was our first priority but if everything worked out, I wanted to have a natural birth with no epidural or drugs. Did I think I could do it? Hell, no! I am someone who flinches at the sight of needles so there was no way I thought I could do it! But I was curious to find out if I had it in me. In the end, I am so glad I did it without any pain medication (including nitrous) and I am extremely proud of myself for going through with it!
Why I chose a birth with no epidural?
It was always my plan
I wanted to try a natural birth without any drugs if possible. People close to me know that I am not keen on unnecessary medications. So I wanted to get an epidural only as a last resort.
Freedom of movement
Another big reason for trying to avoid epidural is to have freedom of movement. I wanted to try different positions during different stages of labor and did not want to get restricted to the bed with epidural.
Fear of needles
Somehow, I was daunted by the thought of needles rather than the birth itself! And some of the side effects associated with epidural scared me.
For my own self
If I set my mind on something, I knew I could do it. But I wondered what my pain tolerance would be and if I could do it. After all, women had been giving birth without epidural or drugs for thousands of years.
How I prepared for a birth with no epidural or pain medication?
I am someone who likes to prepare beforehand. I did the same for labor and birth and let me tell you, it took a lot of preparation! Some things helped immensely while others not as much. But I did not want to take any chances! Here is a list of things that helped me have a natural birth that I had envisioned!
My team: My partner and doula
These two are the most amazing people without whom I couldn’t have had the birth I had envisioned. While it is true that I was the one who went through the labor and pushed the baby out, I couldn’t have done it without the support of these two incredible souls – my partner, Ranjeeth and my doula, Caren. If you plan to deliver without drugs, I highly recommend working with a birth doula. I chose Caren at Heart Work Birth Services and couldn’t recommend her enough! She is the best doula to have if you like to have a natural birth. She was there next to me throughout my active labor, encouraging me in moments of doubt and through the last push! She even stayed with us for a few hours after birth while we soaked in the euphoria of our baby’s birth. If you live in the Bay Area, I highly recommend her services!
And of course, my partner, Ranjeeth, who was my pillar of support not only through labor and birth but throughout my pregnancy. He was there with me every step of the way and I am so proud and grateful to have such a supportive partner. He held me tight during contractions, reminded me to breathe and was always there when I needed him the most. He even delivered the baby (with the help of midwife) and clamped the cord! That’s not bad for someone who faints at the sight of blood! 🙂
I am so grateful for having such an incredible team and thankful to Ranjeeth and Caren for supporting me through this beautiful experience.
Hospital and care provider
One of the most important steps I had taken during my pregnancy was choosing the right hospital and care provider, even if it meant changing providers twice! I felt that the OB-GYN I was previously seeing pressured me into medical interventions too often. I did some research and finally chose the midwives at Bay Area Maternity. I felt that they aligned well with my birth plan to avoid intervention unless absolutely necessary and I am so glad I took this decision. My midwife Lin had been practicing for decades and was amazing. She took the right decisions when needed and helped me have the birth I wanted.
I also switched to a different hospital – one I knew would let my labor progress naturally and avoid unnecessary C-sections. I chose El Camino Hospital, Los Gatos as I heard that the nurses are patient and are willing to wait for things to progress during labor. This is another decision that I am glad I made. The nurses there were an absolute delight.
Healthy diet and fitness
I am a fierce proponent of healthy, nutritious food and I didn’t expect anything less during pregnancy and for my baby. I ate healthy throughout my pregnancy (except the first trimester when food aversions kicked in) and worked out until the day before my labor. I did a bit of strength training, prenatal yoga, walking and running to prepare myself for labor. I enjoyed this short 10 minute yoga session every morning and did this longer prenatal yoga several times a week. I also continued to eat healthy throughout. For every meal, I made sure I chose nutritious food consisting of fruits and vegetables, protein and healthy fats for myself and the baby.
I believe this helped me have an easier labor. For one, I gained less than 15lbs throughout my pregnancy. This and the fact that I did all the strengthening workouts, yoga boosted my confidence and gave me the strength I needed to endure labor. I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence to go through without drugs if my body wasn’t fit and ready.
Determination and will power
You can do all the preparation but in the end, I think it all came down to my determination and will power. Sounds cliche but also true. I thought I could, so I did.
I am someone who goes down the rabbit hole all too often. But while pregnant, I was determined to not go down this path. I avoided all negativity and tried to stay positive. I only saw a few positive birth videos on YouTube repeat and ignored everything else.
Hypnobirthing and daily meditations/affirmations
Pregnancy is unpredictable and it is all too easy to fall into the trap of negativity and assume the worst. To avoid this, I spent hours listening to pregnancy meditations, affirmations and hypnobirthing meditations. Meditation and positive affirmations really helped me get through tough times during pregnancy. Every time a seed of doubt popped in my mind, I meditated and listened to positive affirmations. I listened to hypnobirthing sessions every night before bed and that helped me stay positive throughout my pregnancy and birth. Along with meditations, I did a lot of breathing exercises that helped immensely during labor.
A few of my favorite affirmations were:
I trust my body and trust my baby to do the right thing. My body and baby know what to do.
I hope to have the serenity to accept things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference between the two.
Every contraction brings me closer to my baby.
Acupuncture and acupressure
Weekly acupuncture throughout pregnancy also helped me keep calm, relaxed and prepare my body for labor. I also used acupressure mat every night to help me sleep better.
All the things that added up
Like I said, I like to prepare and did not want to leave anything for chance. So I did everything possible to prepare my body. That included seeing pelvic floor physio, perineal stretching, kegel exercises, yoga, dates, evening primrose oil, sitting upright, working on my posture and everything that Caren and Lin suggested.
Things that helped during labor
Listening to my doula and midwife
I listened and did everything my doula and midwife asked me to. And that made this whole process so much more easier.
Breathing, breathing, breathing
Breathing is everything. It helps not only the mom but the baby as well. Baby also goes through an intense experience during birth. Deep breathing helps supply oxygen and keep baby’s heart rate stable. So I focused on breathing through my contractions and in between.
If I can recommend one thing during the transition phase, that is hot shower or bath tub. My labor from 4cm – 9cm dilation lasted only 2.5hrs. But the transition from 9 – 10cm took an hour and hot shower gave me the most relief. I stayed in the shower for an hour with Ranjeeth helping me throughout.
The most amazing support
I cannot stress enough about having a supportive team. If it wasn’t for Ranjeeth, my incredible partner and Caren, my amazing doula, I couldn’t have done this!
Labor and birth
My active labor was pretty quick. The most intense and draining period was the 2.5hrs of transition and pushing. Dilation from 4cm – 9cm took about 2.5 hours. Honestly, those 2.5 hours were totally manageable. I probably expected much worse and the pain wasn’t as bad. Ranjeeth and I were pleasantly surprised Lin checked me and said I was already 9cm dilated and we can expect to have the baby soon! During this time, I used Tens unit as an aid, focused on breathing and moving around.
The transition from 9cm – 10cm dilation was when my primal instincts kicked in. As soon as Lin said I was 9cm dilated, I immediately hopped in hot shower. That 1-1.5 hours was THE most intense experience of my life, even more than pushing the baby out. Before going into labor, my main worry was screaming and embarrassing myself. But in that moment, my primal instincts kicked in and nothing else mattered. I screamed, moaned and made all kinds of noises imaginable! Hot shower and Ranjeeth holding my hips during contractions were the two things that helped me the most during this time. I stayed in the shower until I was ready to push.
I pushed for about 1.5 hrs under the guidance of Lin with Ranjeeth and Caren by my side. I shook uncontrollably and felt so drained due to lack of food and sleep. I had to dig deep within and use all my strength and energy for that last push. I had significant tearing and couldn’t feel my legs but all that mattered was hearing that sweet, sweet cry and holding my baby on my bosom. It felt like I was meant for this. The euphoria of giving birth and holding our little one was so surreal!
Was it the most painful thing I had to endure?
I wouldn’t say “painful”, but it was definitely intense. It may be the hormones at that time but it did not feel like the worst pain ever. I was more exhausted than in pain. It certainly was not as bad as I expected it to be. At no point did I feel like I need epidural or think I couldn’t do it. I also think it was due to the fact that I really wanted to do this and that gave me extra motivation. In fact, the sutures after (for which I had no pain medication either. This time, not by choice but because the drip didn’t work!) felt more painful than the birth itself!
What I learned from this experience?
- This beautiful experience was a revelation to me! It was incredible, gratifying, intense, positive and empowering, all at the same time. My first thought was, “If I could give birth without epidural or drugs, I could do anything!”. 🙂 After this experience, I feel like I could endure anything. I learnt that if I set my sight on something, there is no stopping. I never once doubted myself during labor. And when it mattered, I drew strength that I didn’t know I possessed. And for that, I am extremely proud of myself. I now feel like there are few things that I cannot do!
- I also learned how important it is to surround yourself with the right people. I couldn’t have done it without an incredible support team.
- I learned that positivity breeds positivity. Positive thinking and avoiding negative was key for me. There are many things that could go wrong during birth but I tried to focus on the positive.
I hope this post is useful for other women who would like to try a natural birth with no drugs. If you have any questions about pregnancy or labor and birth, let me know in the comments below or DM me on Instagram!
I am Aswani Kurra. I am an engineer, dreamer and part-time wanderlust, writer and wine lover. I always had an urge to write, create and travel. So I created this space to satisfy my creative itch and combine all my skills to help you plan your Charming Escape.