Misty, age 32 

 When I found out I was pregnant with Katherine I knew that I was going to have a natural birth no matter what. My first three babies were all born with the assistance of an epidural. I felt so strongly that I needed to do this without pain relief and began searching for the method right for me. I decided to use the Bradley method because it encouraged my husband to be my partner and coach in the process. I also loved how simply it explained childbirth and relaxation techniques. Because I live in a small town I had no access to assistance from a midwife or way to take natural childbirth education classes in this method so I ordered Natural Childbirth The Bradley Way book from amazon.com and my husband became my coach. 

We prepared well together. We practiced all the exercises and I learned to relax my entire body. Learning to relax has always been difficult for me and following their methods helped me in many ways during the 9 months of Labor. Especially in my ablility to sleep at night. Out of 4 pregnancies this was the only one that I was able to sleep comfortably up until the day I had the baby. 

 So…on with the birthing story… Before the labor began I preregistered at the hospital. I sent in a note with my paperwork stating that I did not under any circumstance want an epidural. I didn’t want to meet with an anesthesiologist, I didn’t want the nurse to tell me it was time for an epidural. I just wanted no talk of one in my room. They were amazing nurses and no one brought it up…not once. They were very supportive. Excluding the fact that I have been contracting for weeks and quite ill for the last week of my pregnancy this was the easiest labor and delivery I have ever had. My husband and I spent most of the labor joking and talking. It was actually a relaxing experience and I never would have thought I could say that. My first 3 experiences with childbirth where extremely long and painful deliveries! I just needed to learn to relax. 

 After contracting all night on Wednesday, all day on Thursday, and into Friday morning I called Labor and Delivery because I was experiencing quite a bit of bloody show with the contractions. The contractions were very strong but I was able to relax through them. After visiting with them for a few minutes they asked me to come and be checked. I was actually upset they wanted to see me. My contractions were tapering off. They were only coming about every 5 minutes and the intensity was not as strong as I thought they should be. I went in and found I was dilated to a 4-5. That was shocking to me! I am usually admitted at a 2 or 3 and in so much pain I am begging for an epidural. Labor and delivery decided to observe me for an hour. I was upset because I only had about 10 contractions that hour and they were wimpy. But I kept walking around, squatting, etc. and resigned myself to the fact they would send me home until the contractions came closer together. I was emotional and crying a bit because I wanted to have my baby. The doctor came and checked me and informed me that I was a 7. I couldn't believe it. The contractions weren't painful enough in my mind! Actually they weren't consistent, hard, long or following any pattern...but they were working and I was relaxing through them as I should. My husband and I frequently joke that I relaxed the contractions away. I probably did! 

I was finally admitted at 6:00 am on Friday morning. With a smile on my face I began the work I prepared myself for bringing my baby into the world! I took a picture of myself at a 7 and sent it to my mom. I remember just thinking over and over "See me! Smiling! Happy! Almost done! What the heck?" I had a really good labor coach (my sweet husband) and apparently The Bradly Method really works... The scary part of the labor was ahead for me! It took me 4 hours to contract to a 9 and after another 3 hours I was still at a 9. It had been too easy. My really nice contractions were not quite enough to get the baby out so they gave me a very little bit of pitocinn. I didn't like that at all but I knew if the baby was going to come out I needed some help with the contractions. They also broke my water at that time and the pressure was so intense and the urge to push just overwhelmed me. (I wouldn’t let them break my water earlier because I knew it would make the contractions much more difficult) The doctor quickly came in to check and they discovered why I wasn’t progressing to a ten. The baby was turned face up…so the doc got to put his hand inside and turned her around. The moment he put his hand in to turn the baby I thought I was going to maybe die and the tears and nausea began to flow. It took a few contractions for me to recover from that before I could focus and push. For the next half hour the pain was intense. Yet it was amazing to be able to feel the baby as it was time to push. It was also great that I was able to run my own show. I had studied so well I knew exactly what my body needed and what was going on. It was invigorating. 

From this point on Relaxing was getting more difficult and My husband said that I kept sobbing that I should have got an epidural over and over. He kept responding sweetly that all I needed to do was give it a good push and our little baby would be here. He was right and after I finally convinced myself to push really hard little Katherine began her final descent. . A few pushes later and she was out. Beautiful little thing. I sure am happy I didn't give up and that my husband helped me stay strong to the end and not have any pain medication. I kept my eyes shut the entire time I was pushing and when they placed her on me I finally cracked them to see my beautiful baby was a girl. That was a pleasant surprise! With no epidural recovery was fast...with all the labor practice and preparation there was no tearing. (This was a first for me!) I didn't even swell after birth. I was a little shaky but I could walk around the room, go to the bathroom on my own and best of all I could take care of my baby without being stuck to the bed. With the best labor coach in the world there were no tears or stress and he even helped me through the last hour with all one could wish for in a husband/coach. The nurses were so supportive of me having a natural birth! They joke about how some women can just come to the hospital and give a baby as if there was nothing to it. Apparently that is me. Good thing they didn't witness the other three long painful labors I have had. I like the reputation I have here. 

1. When did you decide you wanted to deliver your baby naturally? As soon as I found out I was pregnant with #4 I told my husband we were going to have her natural. It just needed to be that way. 

2. What reasons or factors went into your decision? After having 3 births with epidurals I just knew I had to do it. I had some odd things happen with the last two epidurals and I didn’t want to worry about those with this delivery. Plus I wanted to prove to myself that I could master the pain and bring my baby into the world naturally. I wanted to understand how my body worked and see for myself what an amazing experience natural childbirth was. 

 3. What did you do to prepare for natural childbirth? (midwife, classes, methods, books, etc.) I wanted to have a midwife when I decided to go natural but I moved to a small town where they didn’t have midwifes or classes. I did contact an instructor for The Bradley Method via email and she answered my questions. My husband and I read, studied and practiced the exercises in the book entitled Natural Childbirth The Bradley Way. 

 4. What was the hardest part of your experience - before, during, or after childbirth? The hardest part was the last 30 minutes. The contractions were intense and I was terrified of feeling the pain of actually giving birth. 

 5. What was most helpful to you during labor to help make pain from contractions manageable? Breathing, relaxing, having my husband by my side reminding me of how to relax and let the contractions do their work. 

 6. What do you wish you would have known going into delivery? This time was number 4 so I was really prepared. When I had number 1 wish I would have known how to relax fully and let my body do the work. It made all the difference! 

7. Is there anything you would have done differently? Nothing…except I wish I hadn’t cried for an epidural at the end. I didn’t get one…but I wish I would have stayed a little tougher. 

 8. What did you feel were the positive benefits to your natural childbirth - were the benefits what you expected? It was empowering to feel the process that my body went through to bring Katherine into the world. The benefits were above and beyond what I would have expected. It was educational, wonderful, exciting. I just absolutely LOVED it! I loved that all the work I did educating myself and preparing myself really paid off this time. 

 9. Is natural childbirth something you recommend to other mothers, or something you'd do again? I think so. I realize that every delivery is different. I felt very empowered this time and happier than I have ever felt before at the end of a birth. But it took a lot of studying, practicing and emotional preparation to get to that point for me. I think you have to be really strong and really determined to make it work. If you aren’t willing to work for it then it isn’t going to be successful! 

10. What advice do you have for other mothers interested in natural childbirth? Read everything there is on the internet about natural childbirth. Watch movies of other natural deliveries. Be prepared. Find a method that works for you and stick to it. The Bradley Method worked for me…if it doesn’t work for you for you find something that does and stick to it. Relaxation is the key. When you are relaxed your body just does the work for you

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