Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

The labor story, part one

I have sat down to write this post so many times and abandoned the effort because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to summon the words to describe what a sacred and spiritual experience labor was for me this time around. Yes. Sacred and spiritual. Words you never thought you’d hear from someone who can talk about breakfast cereal and hemorrhoids in the same sentence with the hemorrhoids being the part that didn’t make you throw up.

Up until about the 30th week of my pregnancy I hadn’t given labor much thought, only that I was going to ask for the epidural two days before contractions started. I’m not kidding, that was the extent of my birth plan. There was no need to experience any of the pain, I thought, especially since I had been through this before and I remember thinking that the pain was so awful that it was going to kill me. Give me the epidural and any other pain relief, maybe throw in a couple dozen shots of bourbon, oh and how about you just put me under general anesthesia and wake me up two days later. I’m not good with pain. I tend to complain and holler and call people regrettable things. It’s like the Hulk, only he’s on his period.

I was also under the impression, having never really researched the subject whatsoever, that any woman who would opt for a homebirth was not only COMPLETELY OUT OF HER MIND but also not interested in the safety of her unborn child. I mean, there’s a reason that infant and maternal mortality rates are so much better than a hundred years ago, right? HOSPITALS. And MEDICINE. And smart people we call DOCTORS. Yes, women routinely used to go out into the field by themselves and give birth without any assistance, and many of them routinely did not return BECAUSE THEY DIED.

But then out of no where the publishers of Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein’s book Your Best Birth sent me a copy, just like the publishers of many books send me copies of other books all the time. Internet, I have rooms full of books that publishers have sent me. ROOMS FULL. And I was just about to toss this onto the mountainous pile of ones I’d eventually drop off at Goodwill when, I don’t know, I flipped through a few pages and gave a full minute to one or two paragraphs. And those two paragraphs happened to be ones that really pissed me off. So much so that I read them aloud to Jon and said something like GOD, THOSE HIPPIES! or I BET THEY SMELL LIKE PATCHOULI!

You know, something totally open-minded.

Those paragraphs pissed me off so badly, in fact, that the one part of me that resembles my father the most — no, not the pointy chin or the metabolism or the absolute inability to watch a movie where everything goes wrong and the protagonist just keeps getting pummeled by life and I’m all MAKE IT STOP and then I have get up and actually leave the theater, no, none of those things — my righteous indignation, it flared up so magnificently that I sat down to read the whole book, just so that I could be angry at it. WHO DOES SHIT LIKE THIS? Me and Michael Hamilton, that’s who. Both he and I will go to our graves filled with an inordinate amount of unproductive anger, but a smile will mark our faces because we will feel so justified. So RIGHT.

And then, oh God, the worst thing happened. And I didn’t even see it coming, but I’m sitting there reading that book, gritting my teeth, shaking my head when all of a sudden it started to make sense. I started to see just how medicalized labor and birth have become in America AND THERE GOES MY WORLD VIEW.

I’m not going to get into the specifics and the really convincing and at times jaw-dropping statistics of it here, there are so many other places and people who can write about it better than I can, but I will say this: if you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant, GO READ THAT BOOK. From now on when someone asks me what is the one piece of advice I would give to a pregnant woman, it will be: GO BUY A COPY OF THAT BOOK. Listen, I am not affiliated with that book in any way, I do not know Ricki Lake, she and I do not vacation in St. Tropez together (although if she’d like to come ride four-wheelers at my Mom’s cabin in Duchesne, Utah, THE OFFER STANDS), I do not owe that publisher any favors. But IT CHANGED MY LIFE. I’m not even kidding, I’ll say it again: IT CHANGED MY LIFE.

So then I watched the documentary Ricki Lake made, The Business of Being Born and that sealed it for me, I got my hands on everything I could read about natural childbirth. I read websites, forums, several other books including the excellent Birthing from Within, and then I talked to everyone I could find who had experienced birth without drugs. It just made a lot of sense to me, and after working through the specifics of what I went through when I was in labor with Leta — what I would call a classic example of a medicalized American labor and delivery minus the c-section — I decided that I wanted to have a natural childbirth this time. A very personal decision that made Jon go, HUH?????

And then he choked on those questions marks and fell over.

First, there were several obstacles to overcome. One, I had to convince Jon that I wasn’t crazy. I had done so much reading and research that I had gone from thinking homebirthing was NUTSO to wanting to push the baby out in the tiny tub we have in the bathroom next to the garage with no one in the room but Jon and a midwife. Oooh, and lots of candles!

But I knew Jon would never be okay with a homebirth, and since I was going to need his help getting through the pain of a drug-free labor even in a hospital setting, having him on board was critical. Two, what was my OBGYN going to do when suddenly the woman who was all EPIDURAL ON THE ROCKS, PLEASE! suddenly starting asking about the c-section rate at the hospital, and what was her policy on episiotomies? And this? And that? And, what do you know, she started fidgeting nervously, biting her lower lip, subtly shaking her head, and that was the quickest check-up I’d had the whole pregnancy!

Now, I really like my OBGYN. She’s the complete opposite of me, very cheery and all smiles, and I bet she was popular in high school, as in, when she thinks back on those four years she doesn’t SHIT HER PANTS like I do. And instead of writing her off as someone who would purposefully stand in the way of a natural childbirth and seeking out another doctor or midwife at such a late date, I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.

And I’m glad I did, because she did nothing but encourage my plans throughout the subsequent check-ups.

And hoo-boy, there was planning. Because if I was remembering correctly there was a point in my labor with Leta when the pain had become so unbearable that I think I may have actually died, gone to Hell, and when Satan saw that it was me he was all, no, no, no, not that woman, I am not about to spend eternity with someone so crass that they would casually talk about duck farts while I’m eating small children for breakfast. Send her back!

I was going to need to prepare myself for the pain, mentally, physically, and emotionally, and surround myself with a team of people who could help me through it. So I hired a doula, and then I gathered the people who were going to be with me during labor and we worked through what I wanted and how to make that happen. Mind you, I went into this knowing fully that what I wanted to happen could be completely derailed by any sort of crisis concerning me or the baby. Making it out alive with a healthy baby was my top priority, of course, but if there was no need for pitocin or an epidural or intravenous drugs or a vacuum or forceps or an oxygen mask or an emergency c-section, then that’s what I wanted.

And really, that’s not a lot to ask.

….

Jon just walked in with Marlo and my milk came in so hard that it exploded all over the keyboard. Imagery! And I just realized how long this post is already, and I haven’t even gotten to the part where I asked our server at Outback Steakhouse if she’d be willing to cut the umbilical cord. Part two coming soon!

  • Yay Dooce! Heather, I am so happy that you had such a wonderful birth experience.

    I had both my boys at home — made the decision with my first after I read “Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth.” I approached the book with the same trepidation you describe in your post but by the end of it — after reading dozens of birth stories written by the mothers, midwives, and even the fathers which really served to demystify the whole birthing process for me — I realized that having a natural childbirth at home really would be the easier, less painful way to do it.

    … And it was. Sacred and spiritual, just like you said.

    I think we as a society would be much better served to remember that giving birth is not a medical emergency but something our bodies were created to do. We are as strong as we think we are, and anyone who thinks, “OMG there’s no way I’ll be able to stand the pain!!!” is going to have a much worse time than someone who thinks, “Bring it ON!”

    As to why birth survival rates are better now than 150 years ago? I remember reading somewhere that it’s actually tied to increased cleanliness in the hospitals, not so much the delivery methods practiced by doctors. (I mean, on your back in stirrups? SERIOUSLY? How about working WITH gravity instead of against it, people?)

    Thank goodness that someone with your reach is able to spread the message that birth doesn’t have to be a pain-filled nightmare we can only face when we’re numb to the eyeballs with drugs.

    I can’t wait to read part II!

  • I rarely comment here because OMG I don’t know how you get through all of those comments, but you’ve got me here –

    Good for you! I’m so happy to hear that you were able to allow yourself to change your mind, and I love how wholeheartedly you did it – and how we never heard about it here.

    My 2nd birth was a total reaction to all of the wrong things the hospital did during #1 – I decided to take ownership of it, while for the first one I’d figured it would all work out. Well, I got an amazing child out of it, but a horrible experience. For #2, I did the Bradley method, and it’s a treasured memory.

    Can’t wait to hear the rest. Also, while I’m here, I love Marlo – her name, and her little self – she’s perfection.

  • fiona

    Ahh this story is making me so excited. So happy that you have had this amazing experience.

    I have two kids. Had two natural births. Both in hospitals but it’s really supported here (Australia). I had easy recoveries. I was totally open to anything first time around, drugs if I needed them, didn’t care. But I am so glad I had an amazing midwife and I could stay “sober”. When pregnant the second time I was genuinely looking forward, yes you read that correctly, to experiencing birth again with my son.

    It’s terrible how afraid of pain women are made to feel. It’s GOOD pain not BAD pain. It’s your body, doing what it knows how to do. You just need to get the hell out of your head and listen to your body.

    DAMMIT I sound like a dirty hippy. Ick.

    Can’t wait to hear the rest of the story. Congratulations again.

  • joy

    GOOD FOR YOU! I planned a natural birth for both–ended up with epidural with my first as it was a long labour. Managed without anything with the 2nd and it was amazing! Awful and painful but so empowering. Had both my babies in the UK and was allowed to make my own decisions about everything. We live in the US now and I’m so glad I’m finished having babies because having one here scares the heck out of me. So good to see a non-hippie advocating natural birth. Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    I took a Bradley Method class and was 110 percent into the natural childbirth method too. The only thing I don’t understand is how you did it w/o an epidural. PLEASE EXPLAIN.

    3 hours before my daughter was born, I gave in and asked for an epidural, because the pain was so horrendous, that I could not move. I was doubled over in pain, clammy, red, sweaty, trembling, could not control my breathing, could not concentrate.

    The last inning epidural was just what I needed to complete my natural childbirth. A friend of mine from my Bradley Method class did the same thing, and the epidural allowed her to get two hours sleep, wake up and push the baby right out.

    I do think most women get the epidural way to soon, and the medical interventions snowball.

    I am really looking forward to your part II. I want to know how you had control over yourself w/o an epidural. I tried the whole mind over matter, and it just did not work.

  • Tracey

    In planning for my second child, I too found myself empowered by the idea of natural childbirth. I pored over every book on the subject, watched the Business of Being Born, researched doula etc. I was rallying against unnecessary medical interventions. I told my friends I’d never allow myself to be induced, that induction starts the downhill spiral of birth interventions…..ultimately resulting in a undesired c-section.

    And then, unexpectedly at 38 1/2 weeks, my baby died. Died in utero after a healthy and uneventful pregnancy. No answers as to why or how, she just died.

    And then all of a sudden, all of those thoughts of how we’d bring her into the world in a natural way seemed so shallow. What I wouldn’t give to just have her here, and alive – any degree of medical intervention, if I could just have my baby live.

    She’d be 6 months old now, and I’d willingly take a c-section scar over this hole in my heart.

  • Dude- you are much stronger then me if you made it through without drugs. I have three children I used some sort of drug each time. Much stronger. Good for you!

  • Loretta

    Heather, I had a totally natural childbirth 29 years ago when I gave birth to my beautiful daughter. I walked into the hospital around 4 AM and, when I was finally checked by a nurse, found out that I was dilated to 10!!! I asked her what that meant (I still had to complete a few childbirth classes)and she told me that I could start “pushing”. I was in pain so I asked for morphine (when in pain and in a hospital…you get morphine, right?) Well, she told me I could not have morphine or anything else!!! I thought that I was going to die right then and there. She helped me regulate the pushing with each contraction until I was able to push three times with every contraction. This went on for awhile until my husband said, “Whatever we’re going to have has a lot of black hair”! I asked him how long he was able to see the head and he said, ….”fifteen minutes, or so”. I excitedly told him to call the nurse who just happened to walk in and freaked out. She told me to stop pushing and she immediately wheeled me across to the delivery room. The doctor came in and said, “I’m going to give you a shot for the episiotomy but I’m afraid you’re still going to feel it”. I could feel the “tugging” as he cut but it was really nothing that hurt me. I asked if I could finally push and the doctor said, “Yes”. After two pushes, my daughter came flying out. I asked if I could push out the afterbirth and I was told to “push away”. The only medication I had since stepping foot into the hospital was a Tylenol because me tailbone hurt. The whole time I was in labor, I wasn’t hooked up to anything…no fetal monitor, no IV’s, nothing. I do remember feeling totally relaxed, calm and peaceful between contractions…a feeling I couldn’t understand and a feeling I haven’t had since. Looking back on the whole experience, I just thought that was the way every woman gave birth. Little did I know!!!!!!!!! My daughter gave birth 2 1/2 years ago to my grandson via c-section because he was in the breech position. She is going to have another baby in Oct. and she wants to try a VBAC. She has a great OB/GYN who will discuss that possibility as the time gets closer. She has heard my story a million times and she is hoping for a similar experience.

  • Cate

    Thank you so much for writing this post. I realize medical intervention is sometimes necessary and I wouldn’t deny that to anybody, but it’s so ironic to me that women who won’t have a sip of cola or an aspirin during their pregnancy are so willing to take absolutely anything to avoid any pain during the birth.

    The answer I have given to everyone who’s asked me what childbirth is like is “It hurts and it’s worth it.”

    Let’s hope you’ve inspired some women to try “natural”.

  • Effusive praise.

    My first was with a midwife in a hospital, drug-free kind of by accident actually. And it was absolutely a sacred and wonderful experience. Nobody believes me when I say that. Maybe they’ll believe you. I remember the hard work more than the pain. I remember feeling like the badassedest badass in the world when I was done. I still do.

    Every one of my friends who was pregnant at the same time, including all the women in my hospital birthing class, TO A WOMAN, was induced early, got an epidural, the labor slowed down, and she had to have a C section. Every. Single. One. One had a scheduled C section because they were certain the baby was huge, and she’d never birth it without a third degree tear. The baby was seven pounds, perfectly average. One of them was induced because she had a mild uncomfortable rash and the doc said “Let’s go ahead and get this baby out.” 40 hours of labor with little progression, she had a C section, they nicked her without noticing, she passed out from massive internal bleeding, and two hours later she was sans uterus. 30 years old. One kid. Hysterectomy. For a mild rash.

    I love doctors, I do. I love hospitals. They mostly do wonderful work. But I hate the way pregnant, laboring, and delivering women are treated. Hate it. It is not a medical condition. It is a state of being that yes, may lead to increased chance of a medical condition. But pregnancy is not a disease to be cured.

    I’d better stop, before my horse gets so high I reach the stratosphere and pass out from lack of oxygen.

  • kerry

    i’m glad you had such a great birthing experience. i wish i’d been able to have that with my two children.

  • Jo

    I’m so excited to hear the rest of the story. I started out wanting to go the natural route and was able to do so with all three of my babies. Seeing as how I cry over hangnails…well…it was truly a miracle.

    I just loved The Business of Being Born. If someone is here and looking for inspiration then I also recommend Ina May Gaskin’s book “Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth”. Also look into the Bradley Method. I swear, it will change your LIFE.

    😀

  • Wow, this resonates for me so much (right up to and including the sprinkler tits) except with my 2nd delivery I chickened out again and demanded the epidural en route to the hospital. Reading your post makes me wish I’d summoned the huevos to do it naturally… and I’m so curious to hear how it went for you! Please don’t keep us hanging too long.

  • After reading this amazing post, I know exactly why Heather manages to make a great living for her family through this blog. God Bless This Woman!! Seriously, you are incredible. This is the first comment I have every posted (because, who the hell is going to read it?).

  • I wanted a natural childbirth when I had my first child. When the pain became unbearable, I begged for relief and my midwife, believing she was helping me keep my “promise” to myself, left me alone for an hour to think it over. I was in such pain I couldn’t think. I knew then that if I were ever tortured it would take me less than two minutes to cave in.

    My child ended up weighing almost ten pounds and being turned the wrong way around. I pushed for three hours and when he came out, I tore all the way through. I couldn’t have sex without pain for six months.

    The birth of my second child was like a miracle (apart from the absolute terror I felt until I got the epidural). I talked, laughed and participated in the birth. When she came out, I did not feel as though I had just been in a horrific car crash. I felt happy and exhausted and intact.

    I wish drug free childbirth had been something I could have loved and could have encouraged others to do. In theory, I do love it. In practice, it almost broke my spirit.

    I tell all first time mothers: Keep an open mind. Trust your instincts, either way.

  • Robin

    I’m excited about this change in you!!And so so surprised to learn about this after hearing your views on vaccinations. Also love Marlo’s name, my little guy’s name is Milo. Can’t wait for part 2!!

  • Anonymous

    So glad you had this experience. SO GLAD. I wish you didn’t have something against the hippies… because it’s the hippies that know how eff’d up stuff’s gonna get if we keep treating the earth and ourselves the way we are… but I’m REALLY glad that this particular light reached you. Like, stoked. Because people read you and love you… me included! And I only shave sometimes, and recycle everything, and cry about our atmosphere, and subscribe largely to a nature faith, and believe the disposable diapers are symbolic of our culture’s shortsightedness and pain. But whatever. You rock and I wish the number of times I ping your site and read what you write would somehow fund your use and advocacy of sustainable stuff. But we can all dream, right?

    Best wishes with your beautiful little girls.

  • Melissa H

    Thank you for writing this! I am pregnant with #2 and am already having nightmares about the delivery. Delivered #1 with no drugs and was fine but am already terrorized by what is ahead of me. I look forward to Part 2 (and maybe 3 and 4) to give me hope. And maybe I will go buy that book to remind myself why I want to do this au natural!

  • Joceline

    I can’t wait to read the rest of this story!

    I’ve had two natural births. The first was in a hospital, and the second was at home. Both were amazing in their own ways, but giving birth in my bathtub and being the very first one to pick my baby up, discover that she is a girl, and then hold her for two hours straight without interruption made me realize what a disservice the American medical system does to healthy moms and babies every day.

    I’m so glad you got to experience that incredible hormone rush and high after a natural birth! People look at me like I’m crazy when I try to describe it!

  • Diana

    As one of those dirty hippies who births at home, I’d like to say congratulations. Every birth is amazing, no matter the small details but there’s just something so fucking powerful in doing it naturally. You did good. Now, what’s your address so I can send you your complimentary welcome to the club bottle of patchouli?

  • Michelle

    I saw Business of Being Born after my daughter was born and was saddened again by my experience. I had been induced because I was ten days overdue, and everything I had read about induction happened to me, horrible, unnatural contractions, scary issues with my baby and all wrapped up in a c-section. The next time around I plan to empower myself and take control of the birth. I am looking forward to hearing part 2!

  • Wendi

    My God, I don’t know you, but you are NUTS and I love you!!

  • Heather, I’m sure that doulas everywhere can now see a jump in business, thanks to your mention. Can’t wait for part two so we can see how everything went! I’m a labor doula and a midwifery student in Portland, OR and I am so appreciative of your willingness to think outside the box. Natural birth isn’t for everyone, but it should at least be a viable alternative. And every woman giving birth in a hospital should be able to have a doula! Doulas can be a great source of support and encouragement, and numbers of women requiring cesareans and pain meds go way down with doulas. Thank you for this!

  • Looking forward to reading the rest of your story. I’m currently trying to conceive but I already watched the documentary and read the book. I loved them both! I can’t wait to be pregnant 🙂

  • Oh WOW! I can’t wait for part two, this coming from someone so incredibly petrified of giving birth that I’m up for cutting me from toe to fingertip if necessary to just get the thing out without an episiotomy!!!
    All of you natural-birth mothers out there are liken to superwoman in my eyes. I’m such a wuss!

  • I’m totally floored! When I first found your blog I read it from as far back as your archives go and read about the PPD you had with Leta and my first thought was: I hope she has a natural birth next time. I never imagined you’d do it! Or that you’d ever utter “home” and “birth” as a compound word 😉 I’m thrilled you found a second to get riled up over a couple of paragraphs that changed your life. I’ve met Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein a few times now at events surrounding The Business of Being Born and can’t thank them enough for the powerful service they are giving American women! Be sure and check out their website at http://mybestbirth.com/

    Kris, a midwife in Califorinia

  • Julie

    I feel like I’m reading my birth story. I also wanted the drugs (this was my first pregnancy) but once I started doing research I discovered I didn’t want any of that at all. And what really pissed me off was that when I went to my OB/GYN (who I had been seeing for years and knew it took us almost a year to get pregnant!) told me she didn’t even deliver anymore! WTF? Why did she never tell me? Probably because some people would be ok with that. But I wasn’t. I found a midwife (who rocks like there’s no tomorrow!!!), hired a doula and took the Bradley class for 8 long weeks. And you know what?!…people thought I was crazy. I actually had someone tell me that I should get the drugs because when you go to the dentist you get drugs…and I’m like “you’re equating birth to getting a cavity filled?” Anyways…I was fortunate that my labor went fast, my doula rocked and helped my husband (who does not like the sight of blood) stay calm, and my midwife delivered my little boy with no episiotomy and no drugs. I am proud of myself because I did the best for my little guy. I don’t run around telling people I did it…but man am I proud!!!

  • Cassidy Stockton

    Good for you! I haven’t read the book, but did see The Business of Being Born and had much the same experience- that I couldn’t believe how different we have made birth from the way it is supposed to be. Totally changed my worldview and I now feel confident that I will have a natural birth when that time comes. Way to go!!

  • I can’t say that I understand any of this natural stuff but I can’t wait to hear the rest of your story. 🙂

  • Jennifer in PA

    Wow. I am shocked and impressed. Seriously. I’m sure you felt you could move mountains after the experience. I can’t even imagine.

    I gave birth to my son (one and only child) 10 months ago and he was late, they had to induce (HORRIBLE!), it was back labor (AWFUL – epidural was a joke compared to the spinal pain) and they eventually had to go in with a vacuum to get him because I was low on amniotic fluid and he wasn’t coming. And then the placenta broke up and they almost had to wheel me into surgery. It was truly an example of why we needed the hospital and specialists — if we’d been at home without medical help nearby, neither he or I would have made it. HOWEVER, I do think our country totally opts for meds when we don’t need to. If I didn’t have so many complications, given that the epidural didn’t do squat, I think I could see going natural.

    Someday we’ll have baby #2 if we are so blessed and I’ll give it serious thought. I’m just so scared of pain (I was screaming and crying and felt I was dying in delivery — and that was WITH useless drugs), I’m not sure I can tough it out.

    Kudos to you, though, sister. Congratulations!

  • KathyM

    Birthing my two kids naturally, drug-free, was the most powerful, painful and profound experience of my life. I’m so glad you got to experience that. Looking forward to the rest of the story 🙂
    PS Heh, when I was doing the yelling duing labor it felt so primal–then, when I heard other women yelling later, I was all, oh, it just sounds like yelling… 😀
    PPS Love the new masthead

  • Erin

    Yay Heather!

    I am six months pregnant with my first, and I just read that book – it must be the 8th or 9th preggo book I’ve read, but I really, really liked it and it did really make sense out of it all without being overly preachy or nutso. I went out and got myself a doula about a month ago, because I’m not sure my fiance is going to know what to do when I start yelling and screaming at everybody.

    I’m stoked to read part two of the birth story!

  • Ashley

    I don’t really ever leave comments, I figure you’ve had enough comments to last you many, many lifetimes, but I wanted to second the suggestion of reading Misconceptions by Naomi Wolf. I’m fairly sure you will like it, it seems in the same vein as the Ricki Lake book you mentioned.

  • V.

    Congratulations, Heather!

    Ricki Lake may not know it but she owes an enormous debt to Ina May Gaskin, who championed the un-drugged birth back in the 1970s. Her book, “Spiritual Midwifery”, filled with first-person birth stories, will knock your socks off. http://www.inamay.com/

  • I LOVED that documentary! I can’t wait to read the rest of your labor story.

  • Sherri

    Dude…You’re great! I can’t wait for part 2, 3, however many it takes…what a TEASE this was!!! I’m happy for you! I went through the All Natural birth with my first, my Son. I am now Pregnant again 5 years later, and have the same goal. I know the pain, and I know the inevitable amazement that comes for so long afterwards. I never felt more like a Woman; although I can’t say I would have felt any less so the other route, because that’s something I haven’t experienced. I’m glad you got your wish of natural labor!

  • Meredith

    Yeah, no. I am due in January and labor scares the HELL out of me! I have already told my doctor to have an epidural on hand cause I will need it! Plus, I am scared to death about a c-section. Let’s just hope that doesn’t happen. It may send me into convulsions.

    ~Meredith

  • Thank you for the book recommendation! “Your Best Birth” has been purchased! I am at 15 weeks in my first pregnancy, and have always dreamed of minimizing the effect modern medicine would have on my birthing experience. Water birth interests me, as does doing things drug-free. My main reason for wanting to be drug free is to be able to push like they will tell me to! But also, I want to be “present” for the whole thing. I figure, if women dating back to the dark ages did it naturally, I certainly can. I really look forward to hearing the rest of your labor story, just as I do each and every post of yours.

    Thank you for keeping Internet so closely involved in your life! I heart you!!

  • Sarah

    I’ve never commented before, but I just had to say that I had a very similar experience to you…only without being pregnant. I’ve always scoffed at the notion of home births but I randomly came across the Business of Being Born at 9:00 on a Sunday night and like you, it changed my life. I feel so ridiculously naive for not even taking the time to do the research on this subject. I am not pregnant yet but plan to be in the next few years (hopefully) and I’m so glad I have that time to do the research. Your story gives me hope and is so encouraging.

  • Michelle

    Home birthing/ hypno birthing nutso here, applauding and squealing with delight!

  • I am so not good with pain so I’m really excited about reading about how it all went. I’m definitely the one that would be right there with you on the epidural on the rocks, but knowing that that was you, makes me wonder if I could do this too. When I’m thinking about kids, I’ll definitely be checking out the book and movie you recommended.

  • I really wanted a natural birth and to breast feed and to use cloth diapers and to be a stay at home mom but nothing worked like I wanted it to and I am fine with it. I have a healthy happy 4 year old daughter. Now with baby #2 (that is still in the thinking phase), I will still want a natural birth and to breast feed.. I have given up on cloth diapers and being a stay at home mom… two out of three aint bad!
    I so wanted a nautral birth but after hearing my mom scream for 3 hours WHILE I WAS IN LABOR that I had no clue the pain I was about to experience I just went ahead and got the damn thing so that she would shut up! Breast feeding would have been a breeze if my sweet little baby was not intolorant of breast milk… it just all went down hill after that!
    But here I am with a happy health 4 year old and a mom that still yells that I have no clue… I wonder if they make epidurals that shut her up?? Worth looking into if you ask me!

  • Wow, I am REALLY intrigued to read the rest of your post and give that book a look because I, too, have viewed it skeptically and hope to get some painkillers two days before I’m due.

  • I had truly nightmare birth experiences for all 3 of my children. The first was full term stillborn. All three had HIGHLY encouraged epidurals, none of which did anything for pain but slowed my labors to nothing. My second child was in distress and the doctor, also in distress over the threat of another stillbirth yelled at me during my first push to “not be a wussy and push that baby out”. They actually kicked my husband out of the room during my third while they tried to convince me that it would work this time. They then apologized to him outside of the room for the epidural not working once again as well as my turtle on the back status due to what they had done for the remainder of the labor. I want more kids and I absolutely crave a decent if not good birth experience. I suppose it is right to be grateful for two healthy out of three right? I am so glad to hear it was a great moment in your life. It is very encouraging and inspiring.

  • Yay Heather!!

    I had my baby in May and also did it all natural. I’m the biggest baby when it comes to pain, seriously. The other day when I asked my husband to rip off my band-aid, I was shaking! But learning about how unnecessary medical interventions have a greater chance of leading to c-sections sealed the deal for me.

    I had a wonderful birth experience!!
    (you can read about it here: http://mattrosanna.blogspot.com/2009/05/fins-birth-story-as-told-by-mama.html )

  • Kat

    And this, Ms. Dooce, is why I love you. 🙂 Looking forward to the next part.

  • L.

    Heather, to be honest, I couldn’t believe your doctor offered to induce Leta because he was going on vacation (if I remember correctly). But that sort of thing is sadly common. I believe our society’s cavalier attitude toward interventions has led to a high C-section rate and to other problems that are harder to see–more difficulty breastfeeding, maybe more PPD, etc.

    However, though I did two natural water births in the hospital I would never do a home birth, precisely because things can go wrong so very quickly. One of the most exciting things about birth in the U.S. in recent years is the conjunction of the medical and wholistic–hospitals are starting to offer birthing centers, practitioners are seeing the benefits of natural births and becoming comfortable with doulas, etc.

    I’m so glad you had that serendipitous encounter with Lake’s book. After my first birth I felt like I was high for MONTHS and I think it was something to do with it being natural. (Just had a second a week or two before you, it wasn’t quite as fabulous, but heck, it’s good for the baby too.)

    Congratulations again. Marlo is GORGEOUS. The most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen, honestly–except mine, of course 🙂

  • steph

    I too had a homebirth with my first (now 11) and natural childbirth with my second at a birth center (no pain meds available even if I wanted them).

    The homebirth was so un-effing-believably painful, at one point I literally tried to leave my body and squeeze into the the point in the high part of the wall where the cieling and the two walls all meet….that little point. I was certain I was going to split in half and die. I had 7 hours of hard labor, exploded my son out and then realized I still had to birth the placenta! I cried. No more. I truly believe I had post traumatic stress syndrome from the pain. HOWEVER, I am so glad I did it. I read many books on natural birth, attended natural childbirth classes, had a midwife, a doula and Husband. One book I read said the birth would be orgasmic! HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAHAHAHA. Not. A. Chance.

    My daughter came in 1 hour, pain intense, but much faster. Thank the sweet ass lord.

  • So here I sit, a week and a half away from my due date with baby boy number two and I’m hoping for a second home birth. I myself was a home birth baby (my Momma was a rebel!) but I’m pretty much the opposite of a hippie. I scoff at hippies and my husband and I make fun of them, but gosh! My first experience was labouring and giving birth at home and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
    We’ve had to work around a few obstacles this time around, but I’m still hoping for a home birth or if I have to go to the hospital to avoid all drugs.
    I had no idea this post was coming and I’m now eagerly anticipating part two!
    I also heard about this documentary recently and am hoping to watch it soon.

  • I’m so happy that you had such a great labor and birth. I know what you’re saying about having a natural childbirth being such a great experience. I have 5 children, and had epidurals with the first and the last 2. I had the 2nd and 3rd natural. The only thing I would say is that I am just glad they are all here and all healthy.

    As much as we think we can plan these things, really so many things can go wrong, or change and nothing works out the way you wanted it to. I have had too many friends and family members who have bought into the whole “natural is better”, who have had to go another route, and then felt like failures for not having been able to stick to their plan. That is my only issue. I’m happy I experienced both. At the end of my nine months, nobody gave me a gold star for having a natural birth, I had beautiful babies every time.