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What To Expect When You’re Having A Natural Childbirth at the Hospital

It took over 2 years to get pregnant with our eldest. With all that “idle” time, my type-A mind had already researched and decided that an unmedicated birth with minimal medical interventions was right for me by the time I took that home pregnancy test. Birthing at home or at a birthing center wasn’t quite my cup of tea, nor was it an option as it was not covered by my insurance. I chose a hospital that was natural childbirth friendly.

{Let me pause for a moment. Everyone is entitled to their own decision of what works best for their family. In the end, the most important things are the end result :: healthy baby and healthy mother! The journey to get there is unique to each person, and that is awesome!}

Little did I know, it did not matter how many plans or aspirations I had. I did not take into account that baby had her own plans, as well as the hospital with its own policies. Despite that, I was still able to deliver vaginally with minimal interventions {but still had medication :: pitocin}. It was a positive experience, so I took the same approach with my second-born and was also pleased with the result.

If you’ve also decided that you deliberately want to skip the pain meds when you bring your little babe into the world,  great! Or maybe you’re still on the fence as your belly grows. Here are a few things to expect when you have a natural birth at the hospital. The intention is to bring awareness as I do not think ignorance is bliss; however, I also do not want to invoke fear because you need to visualize a positive birth experience!

What To Expect When You're Having A Natural Childbirth At The Hospital | Houston Moms Blog

The hospital has policies.

These policies are in place with the intention of protecting you and your care team. In order to avoid any delivery day drama, compare your birthing plan to the hospital policies. Your OB should be able to help you with this, so review your birthing plan with her at the beginning of your third trimester. If there are any conflicts, re-evaluate your requirements and determine the importance as you will have to let it go. You won’t be changing hospital policy.

For instance, I had this idea that I would avoid supine {being on your back} position at all costs. However, my hospital’s policy was that I could labor in any position I wanted, but the final delivery position was supine. I did not find this out until it was time for my daughter to arrive, which was fine. I was so exhausted that I did not care, and everything turned out great. I was able to pull her into the world, Kourtney Kardashian style!

*Practices that often go hand-in-hand with natural births that you may want to validate against hospital policy are :: no IVs, no constant fetal monitoring, eating as you please {but really, you’re not gonna want to eat}, laboring in the tub… just to name a few.

You won’t see your OB for very long.

You can review your plan with your OB until the cows come home, but you will see her briefly on your child’s birth day. It’s not like Grey’s Anatomy where the attending physician {your OB} can sit at your bedside, hold your hand, and tell you everything will be okay. On a typical day for your OB, she may have rounds at the hospital early in the morning, a planned surgery, clinic, another surgery around lunch time, and more clinic. Your birth may happen sometime during that day, so that explains why she pops into your delivery room just-in-time to catch the baby. If you deliver at night or on the weekend, your baby may be delivered by the on-call attending physician. The other doctors you will encounter while you are in labor are most likely residents who keep tabs on you and report-back to your OB since she cannot be everywhere all at once. Even if you don’t see your OB for very long and she manages to make it to your child’s birth, it’s a very special moment as you’ve grown together over the course of the last 9 months.

Your L&D nurse is your BFF.

BE NICE to your nurse and worship the ground she walks on. She is by your side almost the entire time. She is the OB’s eyes and ears. She’s there to carry-out your birthing plan and make sure everyone on your care team is on board. She is your advocate! She literally wipes your butt, and like a John Legend song, sees all of you. ALL of it. If you’ve chosen a hospital that is natural birth friendly, your L&D nurse may have had some doula training as well. She probably has other patients assigned to her too, so birthing partners, make sure you ask just once where the ice, popsicles, and coffee machine are because that L&D nurse is B-U-S-Y! In fact, don’t ask; just figure it out. You’re smart.

A doula can be a godsend.

What To Expect When You're Having A Natural Childbirth At The Hospital | Houston Moms Blog

My doula, Patti Heimlich, applying a heating pad to make me more comfortable while I’m in labor.

If you’ve chosen the right doula, amazing things can happen. Doulas generally tend to the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the mother leading up to and during labor. Different doulas are stronger in some areas over others. I chose a doula who has attended over 1000 births, has a background in massage therapy, and a certified Hypno-doula. She’s kind of a doula legend and has trained many doulas in the Houston area. I truly believe that because of her expertise, we avoided a c-section with my second child. She was able to help with progressing my labor very quickly by positioning me in optimal ways and also massaging key acupressure points.

My husband was very skeptical of us needing a doula. Some of his thoughts were, “I’m here to support you, babe,” and, “Whatever I can’t help you with, we’ve got the nurse and the doctor.” This is true, but my counterargument was that a doula attends 100s of births as a living, versus a dear husband who has been through it 0-1 times. Plus, her attention is 100% on me.  Nurses have to watch monitors and communicate the patient’s condition in all directions while also tending to the actual patient. The doula is an extra set of hands to support the mother. After the experience we had with our second-born, he was incredibly impressed and also relieved that we hired a doula.

Ask and you shall receive.

If you need a birthing ball or other birthing props, just ask. Most likely the hospital has it and will gladly provide it.

You can’t control everything.

I chose Hypnobabies as my birthing technique {vs. Bradley or Lamaze}. I was all on board with visualizing a positive and peaceful birth, and the positive pregnancy affirmations that I listened to daily were the bees knees. However, when it came down to it, there was little that I could control when either my or my child’s health and safety were at stake. With my first, my water broke before I was in active labor so pitocin had to be administered to progress labor for the safety of my baby. With my second, a natural childbirth was more challenging as I had to be closely monitored for preeclampsia. Because of the risks associated with preeclampsia, I had to balance being an informed patient with trusting my very qualified care team of doctors and nurses.

You’re going to be briefed on anesthesia anyway.

Hypnobabies’ guidance is for the partner to intercept any talk of medical interventions and anesthesia so that the mother can focus on visualizing a positive outcome. Unfortunately, that is nearly impossible at the hospital … at least it was where I had my kids. It was policy for a person from the anesthesia team to come by before the child was born to confirm that I understood the risks I accepted if I chose to bypass medical pain management. I asked if it was necessary for me to hear of all the scary worst-case, rare scenarios, and if my husband could sign the consent form on my behalf. No, the actual patient had to consent.

*By the way, in case of an emergency c-section during labor without epidural, the {often} standard procedure is to use general anesthesia on the mother. Translated ::  you will be knocked out for the birth of your child for everyone’s safety.

You might question your decision for a natural birth.

My word of advice is to truly know why you opted out of pain medication. If it’s for the bragging rights or superwoman status, then I encourage you to dig deeper. When you are in the trenches, those accolades mean nothing. {Any woman who has birthed her child is just as big of a warrior as the next regardless of whether it was natural, epidural, or c-section.} I grew-up a competitive swimmer, and I have completed the MS150 a couple of times. I know pain and endurance. But that’s self-inflicted pain that you can stop by getting out of the pool or off of the bike. With labor, you cannot control the incredible pressure with each contraction {errrr pressure wave per Hypnobabies} that brings you closer to meeting your child.

Your body will tell you what’s up.

…so LISTEN. Trust yourself and your instincts. With my second, my OB checked me at 6 pm, and I was 5-6 cm dilated. We all thought I had a bit of time before baby decided to make an appearance. At about 6:20, I told the nurse I needed to push, and she nicely expressed disbelief by saying, “Tell me when the urge is persistent.” Well, my son was born at 6:38 pm. I am glad I insisted that she check me when I felt the urge!

Local anesthesia is the bomb.

After the baby is born, the OB may have to patch things up down there. Accept the local anesthesia! It does not cross into breast milk, and it allows you to focus on that brand new baby of yours!

There you have it, momma. Visualize and hope for the best but I hope this post can help you prepare you for the worst.

You have GOT THIS!

Kristine’s Houston Natural Childbirth Resources

Hospital :: The Pavilion for Women at Texas Children’s Hospital

OB :: Dr. Kimberly Bobo, The Women’s Specialists of Houston {They have midwives too.}

Doula :: Patti Heimlich

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