Once you get pregnant, get ready for the many, many childbirth horror stories that lie ahead. Women who have had kids get a sick thrill out of scaring their newly pregnant friends, it seems. I’m here to tell you there are exceptions to the rule: Childbirth is not always excruciating.
I had two unmedicated births, one at a birthing center and one at home. I had my own personal reasons for choosing to go that route — many of them related to money since we did not have insurance at the time, and unmedicated births were cheaper — but I vividly remember getting an eyebrow raise from family and friends every time I shared my birth plans.
And it wasn’t just an eyebrow raise: Any mother who had popped out a baby before me felt it was her duty to tell me her horrific tale just so I would be “prepared.” Thanks, thanks a lot. After I had my first son, I was happy to report back that my birth experience wasn’t the slasher film scene I was told it would be. It was just fine, thank you. I had a moderate amount of pain, and I would probably do it again one more time (and I did).
I am adamant about the fact that we shouldn’t judge women based on their birth experience: go “natural,” get an epidural or have an emergent or elective C-section. You do you. But part of supporting mothers at birth also includes painting a totally accurate picture of the birth experience. Many times, birth is painful, scary and even dangerous. Other times, it can be quick, pleasant and almost pain-free.
The question I am dying to know is: why don’t we talk about the good times as much as the bad? If you’re wondering about the upside of birth, here are a few women who had a pretty good time bringing their babies into the world.
The pain was positive
Linda Carlson, mom of two babies delivered without drugs, isn’t going to lie — her labors were “probably the most intense pain” she had ever experienced, but she calls this excruciating pain “positive.” Carlson says, “You know something good is coming out of it. There’s little or no residual pain. This is not like breaking a bone, where you go from intense pain to a nagging ache. When that baby comes out (especially with a first baby), the pain is over immediately.”
The epidural was magic
Christina Nicholson of Mascara Maven and More, mom of a boy and a girl, calls her birth story “abnormal.” After popping out both kids, Nicholson felt good enough to go home and cook everyone lunch the next day. She told SheKnows: “In a nutshell (with both), I went in to be induced. By the time I was hooked up to everything, I was already in labor. I asked for the epidural before I could feel pain. I read or slept the whole time I was in labor. I was woken up every now and then for the dilation check. When my water broke, that started me — weird feeling. Then, I was woken up again to push. Did about five pushes during a three-minute span… and I was done.”
It was fast
Just like her near-record-breaking 12-minute birth, Cathy Milne keeps it short and sweet: “I was 20 years old. I swam every day of my pregnancy, but I was still overweight. My labor lasted 45 minutes and the actual birth took 12 minutes. I did not use an epidural; just basic Lamaze training.”
It was easier each time
Through the births of her three children, Maria Moser of Change-Diapers.com has seen it all: “One was a typical hospital birth ending in an epidural, the second was a med-free hospital birth and the third was a home birth.” With each child, Moser used her past birthing experience to make her next birth even better, so that, “By the time my second was born, I had learned the positions that worked best for me (and stayed home as long as possible) and worked with one contraction at a time, relaxing and letting it do its work. It was definitely painful — don’t get me wrong there — but it was easier to cope with than other types of pain.”
It was natural by accident
Marilyn Santiesteban, assistant director of career services at Texas A&M University, says she was “lucky” to have a fast, natural childbirth since it wasn’t what she planned for. Santiesteban recounts, “When I went to the hospital, I asked for an epidural. The doc set everything up and asked me to tell him when the pain got bad. It was my first child, and labor lasted over seven hours before I couldn’t take it. The doctor smiled and told me the baby was crowning, and it would be all over soon. No one was more surprised than me to have a natural childbirth!”
It was natural on purpose
Natural birth was what she wanted, and natural birth was what she got, says Tiffany Komba of Growing Pains Feel Good. Komba’s inspiration came from the fact that her mother delivered three children all-natural with no pain meds, so how hard could it be? Komba explains, “It wasn’t hard at all. I had prepared my mind for nine months to experience the pain of a natural childbirth. I remember constantly hearing my doctor say, ‘If you breathe, it will help tremendously.’ And it really did! I was eating chips and banana nut muffins while in the hospital bed during active labor. I was surrounded by family, and it was an absolutely amazing experience. And the best part is that I didn’t scream or yell not one time.”
It surprised me
Marie Bigelow, music childbirth educator and doula, is another mom who had a good time giving birth, despite the difficulty and intense pain. Bigelow birthed four kids without pain medication, finding motivation in the fact that her “body always rose to the occasion.” Bigelow’s uplifting outlook can encourage any pregnant mom who is nervous about giving birth for the first time. She says, “I became stronger as labor progressed, and as my focus continued, I was able to withstand more than I ever thought I could. Physically, it is the hardest thing I have ever done. The longer I am a mother (going on 11 years now) I realize that physical pain is much easier to bear than some of the emotional pain that life has handed me. The pain of labor prepares mothers to love selflessly and primes us to overcome the challenges that await us in the future.”