Monday, June 28, 2010

Thoughts About Labor Support and Unassisted Birth

I've been thinking a lot lately about unassisted childbirth. I must admit that the idea is becoming more appealing to me the more I think about it, and I'm starting to consider this as an option for my next baby's birth.

Don't worry, I'm not pregnant again... yet. We want another baby, but we're not trying to conceive at this time. I'm always thinking and planning for the future.

My childbirth experiences have been a journey. I feel I've been on this road, and I keep growing and learning as I go. My journey from fully medicated birth to unmedicated birth in the hospital, then to birth at home, has been a progression for me. I'm always wanting to find something better and more fulfilling, and possibly more challenging as I go.

I like challenging. It stretches me, helps me grow.

"When you're through changing, you're through." -Bruce Barton

What's the next step? Is it freebirth?

Don't get me wrong. I'm not going to put myself or my baby at risk just because I enjoy a good challenge. I don't make any big decisions without doing my homework and knowing all the ins and outs, exactly what I'm getting myself into.

I also believe in divine personal inspiration, and I'll pray about my options and move forward with what I feel is right and best for my family. I prayed about home birth with my last baby and felt such overwhelming peace that I knew that's what I should do.

Right now I'm researching and considering my options, and I'll pray about them when a decision is needed.

I'm all about labor support. I'm a doula. I DO labor support. I feel it's important to have the right support for birth. But what is the right support? I think it can be different for each birth.

When it comes to unmedicated, natural, spontaneous birth without unnecessary interventions, I've always felt that with the right support and care I can do anything. I love my doula and midwife who each worked with my husband to provide encouragement, comfort measures, and a level head to help me through what's always been for me a somewhat long process of labor and birth.

At one point during active labor with my planned home birth I found myself alone. My midwife was in the other room. She had left my husband and I alone because I was coping well with his support and she was respecting our private space. My husband had to go to the bathroom, and just as he was gone a strong contraction hit.

I had been depending on my husband's support, and it suddenly occurred to me that I was alone! Panic hit, fear set in, and I experienced the worst pain of the entire birth experience. It's the only part of Liam's birth that I consider to have been actually, truly painful. Even transition was nothing compared to the pain I felt at that moment.

I learned two things from that experience:
  1. The Fear-Tension-Pain syndrome is REAL. When we experience fear our muscles invariably get tense, which causes pain. This is definitely true in labor and birth, and I experienced it first-hand in stark contrast to the rest of my otherwise relaxed and peaceful labor.
  2. I have had the belief that I can only handle natural labor if I have support from others. Whether my belief was true or not, it was real and it affected me completely in that moment.
I've reflected on that experience a lot since then. What about women who experience spontaneous precipitous labor and have no support, but still have an amazing and beautiful birth? What about those who plan unassisted birth and handle it just fine without any outside support (other than that of their partner)? Why would I only be able to handle labor well with support, if others could handle it just as well on their own?

If I plan an unassisted birth I would still have my husband's support so I wouldn't be completely alone. Do I actually need the support of a doula and/or midwife or others in order to have a beautiful birth experience?


  1. Excellent, Cherylyn! This gives a nice clarity to the last post. You hit on some great point--one being that "labor support" can look like different things to different people or even the same person in another birthing situation. I felt similarly when my mom or my husband left the room while I was in labor. They didn't even have to do anything, but knowing they were there and focused on me was all that mattered. My midwife didn't even make it until I was complete and pushy, anyway. I think sometimes, because homebirth, assisted or unassisted, is so rare in our society, people can have difficulty envisioning what a quiet, peaceful birth even looks like.

    The second important piece is trusting your body, your baby, and your instincts. Given that your baby was a surprise breech, that innate feeling that resonated so loudly when you meditated about homebirth was truly imperative for outcome you had. So even if going unassisted makes others uncomfortable, respecting the mother to make the choice that feels right to her is paramount.

  2. I felt the same way when I was in labor with my first. Up until I realized that we might not make it to the hospital I really wasn't in pain...but then I became afraid that something was wrong because labor had gone by so fast...too fast I was afraid..then the fear/pain hit.

    I would seriously consider an unassisted birth, but I don't think that I trust the process quite that much. What I really need is just someone to make sure that everything is okay, although when I interview midwives for our next baby I will explain that I really only want them to observe from a distance. I almost birthed my first one alone, and I don't feel that I need help, just reassurance that the baby is okay.

  3. I just found this post months after you wrote it, but I'm glad I did. I've been having similar thoughts ever since my last birth. Part of me really wants an unassisted birth (if I ever get pregnant again) and part of me is still unsure if trust my body and the process that much. Like you said, though, I will definitely make it a matter of fervent prayer, should the opportunity arise. I have total confidence God will let me know what would be right for me at that time. Great post. I love the way you explain your thoughts.