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Giving birth naturally: A gift beyond words

Editor's note: We thank Jean from Chisago, Minn. for sharing her experience giving birth to her first child without using medication.

After learning that I was pregnant, one of my husband's classmates told me all about how wonderful it was to give birth naturally, without any medication. She said that giving birth to another human being was a "joy" and the most empowering and rewarding experience of her life. As I listened to her enthusiastically share her birth story, I thought to myself, "Sure, having a baby is rewarding, but give me a break, how could it be 'joyous' to go through all of that pain with no drugs!"

Before hearing this mother's story, I had only envisioned labor and delivery in one way: stressful. This may not have reflected reality, but all I could picture was an out-of-control women in pain, screaming her head off, snapping at her husband, and yelling "give me the drugs."

Although I was skeptical about this no-drug thing and thought this woman was a bit off her rocker, I was intrigued enough to learn more about how and why her birth experience was so joyous.

She told my husband, Dave, and me that being prepared, learning how to relax, having a dedicated coach, and truly understanding and believing in the childbirth process was key to giving birth naturally -- information that she and her husband learned while attending The Bradley Method of Natural Childbirth classes.

Dave, a chiropractic student at the time, was enthused by the idea of being an active member in the birth process, and of course was all in favor of a natural childbirth. He had a strong desire to learn how he could best support and coach me through the birth of our baby. And I had an interest in learning more about the birth process and of course wanted to learn any and all techniques that would help me experience less pain during childbirth. So after much thought and research we signed up for the same "husband-coached" childbirth class that Dave's classmate recommended to us.

The class was great -- much more than we had ever expected it to be. Not only did we learn the textbook birth stuff, we participated in and learned hands-on labor techniques.

Together we practiced relaxation techniques, birth exercises and labor positions. During mock labor rehearsals, we each worked on mastering our goals. My main goal was to completely release any tension in my entire body. Dave's goal was to keep me focused on relaxation -- identifying any unnecessary tension, massaging it away or supporting me through verbal encouragement. We knew that these practice sessions wouldn't be like real labor, but with each session we became more confident in our relaxation skills. We began learning how to work together as a team. Plus, we figured there must be some truth to the old saying, "Practice makes perfect."

After several months of classes, Dave and I felt ready - like runners who have trained for the marathon of their lives. For the first time I wasn't in fear of childbirth but instead looked forward to the adventure.

Shortly thereafter, our real-life marathon began. After on-again, off-again labor that lasted for days, we successfully achieved our goal and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on Father's Day 1998. I truly believe that because of our training, our birth experience wasn't at all like the frazzled labor scenarios portrayed so often in the movies. For me, giving birth to my son naturally was just as Dave's classmate said it could be -- a joyous, empowering experience. Childbirth wasn't painless, and it wasn't easy, but it was rewarding beyond words because we did it as a family. We did some of the hardest work that we'll ever do in our lives. And from that hard work and dedication came our greatest gift -- our son, Peyton.

When Dave and I were expecting our second child more than a year and a half after Peyton's birth, someone asked me if I was going to "just get an epidural this time around." My response was, "NO WAY, not unless it's needed for my health or the health of my baby."

I would never choose to give up the chance to experience my child's birth fully -- with every part of my being. To me, that's all a part of the miraculous gift!

After her positive childbirth experience, Jean underwent training to become a certified Bradley natural childbirth educator, and received the national certification. For more about natural childbirth, visit the Bradley national Web site.

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Source: Jean from Chisago, Minnesota

First published: 03/07/2000
Last updated: 10/14/2007

Reviewed by: Michael Slama, MD, Allina Health Mercy Women's Health Clinic