There are a few incredibly sought-after unicorns that exist within the mothering community. Things which seem so unlikely and rare to actually exist that when discovered, they are met with denial and shock from others. Take for example, the baby that actually sleeps through the night. Or the toddler that doesn’t tantrum. And then there’s the pain-free labour and birth.
I’m here to admit something; I am one of those unicorns myself. I’ve had not one, but three pain-free labours and births, which came as a result of experiencing a very painful and traumatic first birth and not wanting a repeat experience. It took a lot of hard work to get my following three pain-free births. No, I’m not making it up. Yep.. they actually happened. And they actually did not hurt. Whenever I share my pain-free birth stories with other women who have had experiences on completely the other side of the spectrum, I’m sure they don’t believe me. They probably think I’m glossing over the hard bits or just out to get attention. But I’m totally not and below I will tell you how I did it.
I hired a pregnancy midwife
After experiencing an incredibly traumatic birth with my first daughter in hospital where I suffered PND & PTSD as a result, I sought alternative care options for my next pregnancies. In my case, I hired a midwife to support me through my pregnancies. Someone who got to know me on a very personal level and someone who I trusted implicitly. Continuity of care was paramount for me.
I read lots!
I learned as much as I could about natural physiological, unhindered birth. I pored over the factual evidence-based literature surrounding vaginal birth. I would highly recommend the books Birthing from Within by Pam England, Birth Work by Jenny Blyth and anything by Michel Odent. These people know what they’re talking about. I also spoke to women who had had natural pain-free births themselves to find out what they did.
I practised breathing techniques and visualisation
I learned about and practised (while pregnant!) different breathing techniques and visualisation strategies. I know many of these sound woo-woo but they honestly work, and they are something I came back to over and over again. I practised breathing in for four counts of breath, and out for seven. I visualised my lungs and diaphragm like a cup, filling up with water (air) from the bottom slowly and then pouring out from the top to the base again as I breathed out. I also visualised petals opening and spirals flowing in and out.
I surrendered to the experience
One huge contributing factor to a painful birth is simply fear. When we are scared, our body’s natural response is to fight, flight or freeze. So we may try to deny our body its natural progression, we may try to escape from it or we may feel stuck like a deer in the headlights. The most critical thing I did with my labours was to simply surrender to the experience. It is what it is, and my body is strong and capable. I would tell myself that each and every surge I felt was bringing me closer to my baby. On this note, I actually changed the wording around labour from “contractions” to “surges” or “waves”. By putting this spin on the experience, I felt more at peace with what was happening and less afraid because it was my body working to birth my baby. A fantastic book which explains this is Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering by Dr Sarah Buckley.
I addressed my fears
The final important thing I did to prepare for my pain-free births is sort of connected to the previous point: addressing fears. Any fears or anxieties I had regarding my impending birth, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant they may have felt – I discussed with my midwife, husband and support team. When we as women discuss our fears and come up with strategies to help manage them, they’re less scary and we feel more in control. It absolutely made a difference.
Pain-free births are absolutely achievable. They do require a lot of work and preparation, even if birth is just one day.