Changing my views on birth

For the longest time, I was really afraid of getting pregnant and giving birth. Even in my earlier blog posts, I’d write about how I thought being pregnant would be similar to an alien living in your belly. (Which now cracks me up because it was so NOT like an alien — I loved being pregnant.)


(Thar’ she blows!)

My fear had so much to do with the unknown paired with the fact that I’ve always been a little bit of a control freak. When I first started to read about birth (which was now about 3 years ago? Time flies) I remember being paralyzed by fear. The fear would sometimes keep me up at night, and who knows, maybe it was a sign that I wasn’t really ready.

There are a few books, movies and tools that helped me feel more confident and empowered regarding the birth experience, and now that I went through it, I’m not afraid anymore. Even while I was pregnant, each drive past the hospital would raise my heart rate a little. I couldn’t help but wonder how our birth story would go, and pray so hard that my baby would be ok. Now each time I drive past the hospital, I can’t help but silently thank the nurses and midwives who took such amazing care of us. We were very fortunate in so many ways -a needle didn’t touch me the entire time, and Liv didn’t leave our side- and it makes me hope that we can be in Tucson for our next baby. If not, I have a few things in my tool kit that first gave me confidence in myself to get through it, no matter what the journey would look like.

Some of my favorites:

-Your Best Birth in conjunction with The Business of Being Born. The book and movie, respectively, entered transformed my thoughts about birth. The thought of an epidural and C-section were worrisome for me (that dang needle phobia), and these two resources taught me some strategies to advocate for your personal best birth.

-Ina May’s Natural Guide to Childbirth. Ina May rocks my world — check out this new documentary:

When I first read this book, even though it seemed a little hippie dippy for me at the time, I was blown away by the concept that birth can be a freeing and beautiful experience. I always pictured childbirth in a sterile and cold hospital environment, and reading each birth story, which was total different than the one before it, demonstrated the natural beauty and rite of passage for women. It made gave me the confidence that birth is a natural thing, and medical interventions (while sometimes totally necessary) can be the exception, not necessarily the rule.

-The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth. This book was a little dry to read, but provided a lot of valuable info. I used it more as a skim and read kind of book, just looking up the sections that I was particularly intrigued by before bed most nights.

-Bradley Classes. I can’t praise our Bradley classes enough. We were so fortunate to have an incredible coach (who had 3 at-home Bradley births herself) who was so kind and knowledgeable. If you live in the Tucson area, check out Nancy Capo’s classes- she is seriously amazing. These classes helped Tom and myself to learn about each stage of the birth process, ways to avoid certain interventions, when to stand our ground and when to falter, and lots of practice leading up to the big day (including weekly massages… three cheers for that, eh?).

-Seeing a group of midwives for our care. My midwives at El Rio totally changed my views of birth and the medical field in general. Throughout my life, I’ve had very few medical professionals treat me with such patience and kindness, and each during each appointment, the midwife took so much time to answer my questions. I never felt rushed, and always left feeling excited instead of scard (ok, except that one time I had to have my membranes stripped. Holy hell.)

-My supportive husband. I don’t think I can sing his praises enough, but he’s one of my top reasons why our birth story went the way it did. At first, he wasn’t really into the natural childbirth thing -he couldn’t get why I wouldn’t just want to numb the pain away, despite my intense fear of needles- but even so, he put our Tuesday night birth classes on his schedule so he wouldn’t miss going to class with me. Through that, he was able to learn the reasons why natural childbirth was so important to me and became my biggest supporter and coach. You can read his thoughts on the birth story here, but by having that experience with him, I feel so much more confident about future birth experiences. Even if I’m in a situation where I’m not able to respond to ask necessary questions, he’ll be able to act on my behalf. I married a good one πŸ™‚

Fellow mamas, what eased your fears about the birth experience? Any labor tips or tricks that helped you?

Friends sans kids, anyone relate to the alien thing? πŸ˜‰

Goods reads:

10 most disturbing movies for pregnant women

Apologies to the parents I judged 4 years ago

These are the lines of a story

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  1. Amber on May 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    I’m 26 weeks pregnant with my first and I think it’s like having an alien inside! hehe The fact that he can move around in there and I can feel and see it just blows my mind! πŸ™‚ My only fear about delivery is that my pilot husband is going to miss it. We are doing everything we can to possibly prevent that from happening but it’s still a fear….not sure how to ease that one!

  2. Alexis on May 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    Absolutely relate to the alien thing! Pregnancy terrifies me. haha Glad to know it can get better and less scary. πŸ™‚

  3. Sam on May 14, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    I feel exactly how you felt pre-baby and I guess that feeling won’t go away until I have a baby of my own. Glad I know that one day that feeling with go away.

  4. Melissa on May 14, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Loved this post–so good you had the birth experience you wanted. It is a scary prospect but the beauty on the other side is just amazing. Due to multiple medical reasons, I had a scheduled C-section with my daughter. I know it sounds crazy but watching a natural cesarean birth video was just what I needed to allay my fears of needles, surgery … I had never been operated on and let me tell you, being awake for it is daunting. I was petrified I’d feel something … instead, they were about to pull her out when I asked when they’d make the incision πŸ™‚ (Thank you, anesthesia!). Anyway, the video scared the hell out of me on one level, but also showed me ways to make my experience a positive one. I was able to hold my baby immediately (albeit with my husband doing most of the holding), she was by my side the whole time (except last 5 min when she went to recovery with my husband), and I nursed right away. So for as traumatic as surgery can be, it was quite a beautiful experience. Even the spinal–which I was PETRIFIED for — just felt like a little prick. I was shocked because, like you, Gina, I’m SO afraid of needles! I’m 19 weeks pregnant with #2 and am probably doing a repeat C. I hope to have a similar experience. And that video — while jarring — was also really powerful and helpful to read. All C-sections aren’t evil! And they can be “natural” in their own right, too πŸ™‚

  5. Katie@PopCultureCuisine on May 14, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    We are pregnant again for the second time and although I was a bit nervous again at the thought of going through childbirth, I felt more prepared knowing how things would go this time around, well at least how they would generally go. That all changed when at 16 weeks we found out yesterday that we are expecting TWINS, so a whole new set of worries crept into my realm of thinking. I know I am fully capable of going through the process and I will get to a place of positive thinking about it all, but man right now I am pretty freaked out haha!

    • Shaina Anderson on May 16, 2013 at 2:35 am

      TWINS! SO FUN (and scary, but fun)!! Congratulations! πŸ™‚

  6. Elizabeth on May 14, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    First, you are so adorable! I loved being pregnant too. I was very blessed with a completely uneventful pregnancy.

    Second, I’ll probably always be pretty pro-epidural, but I am 100% behind a woman doing what works for HER. If its a natural route – then that’s awesome. I think the key no matter how you are tentatively planning your delivery is having a doctor (or midwife) who you really trust. I lucked out and my OB was just an amazing woman. I loved her. When we moved far away from her, I was terrified to find a new doctor. I trusted this woman with my life, and that really eased so many fears I had.

    And on a side note, you know what was SO terrifying for me? As we drove away from my very first OB visit when I was about 7 weeks pregnant, I was reading through the material in the folder that most doctors give you, and I saw a picture of a birth – it literally looked like the baby was ripping the mom in half, and I started screaming and threw that brochure into the back of our car and was just horrified. I’m laughing at that now as I type, but yeah, I was SCARED.

    • Jen in MN on June 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm

      Pretty pro-epidural here, too (had one with each of my 2 girls), but definitely agree that it is awesome that women have some real choices (for the most part) these days. Love that we can each do what works for us!

      SO grateful that epidurals exist; while my 1st one didn’t work so great by the end, my 2nd time around, it was heavenly. I truly, truly enjoyed that entire experience. All of it! Was so thankful to have that experience.

      That brochure sounds like a very very bad idea all around (-;

      Great post!

  7. Abby on May 14, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Ooh my goodness Gina, just clicked overt and re read your birth story and now I’m bawling. Cue the pregnancy hormones in full effect haha.

  8. Amanda @ .running with spoons. on May 14, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    The thought of being pregnant definitely scares me. Not so much because of the alien feeling, but because I’m one of those people who kind of overreact to the slightest twinge or irregularity, so I have a feeling that I’d constantly be freaking out that something was wrong or might go wrong. That being said, I’d still love to have kids of my own someday, so I’m more than willing to put up with the anxiety and stress.

  9. Angie on May 14, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Yeah i had the alien feeling with #1. wasnt scared at all for the birth for #1 either even watched a Birth Story on TLC all the time….fast forward to #2 and knowing what birth was like..i wanted nothing to do with birth stories or a Baby story..I was terrified.
    Now with us trying to get preg with #3 at the end of the year. i am still scared for the labor. i loved being preg but labor with #2 was ROUGH!

  10. emma on May 14, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    As I look back on my birth experience, I’m with you on being thankful things went well. We had a doula and I cannot emphasize how fantastic that was! Having a doula was so important for not only my birth but for after my daughter was born, she has been such a great support and resource.
    I also like your book suggestions, I think getting as much info as you can is so important- I read a ton and the info I got made me change some of my ideas about what our birth plan would be, I wanted my birth to have as few interventions as possible -no epidural, no induction, delayed cord clamping and skin-to-skin time. I think no matter what you decide, you gotta do what’s right for you and your family so research is real important. Love the flashback pic! πŸ™‚

  11. Beth on May 14, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    When I was in labor, my husband was always there. He never left me. He’d sit by my side holding my hand, reassuring me that I was doing great, saying how proud he was of me, coaching me through every contraction, and staying so calm through the whole process, that instead of screaming, i started to calm down myself. If it wasn’t for him and God’s grace, I never would have made it.

  12. Lilly on May 14, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Hi Gina! Did you go through Tricare to pay for your medical expenses during pregnancy/labor? If so, was it difficult to get them to approve using a midwife group, etc., and did it take forever to get approvals and reimbursements,? I’m currently on Prime, I’m assuming that if you did the Tricare thing you were/are on Standard. My husband and I are TTC and I really don’t trust the doctors/hospital on base here, so I’m contemplating a switch over to Standard when I get a positive. I guess what I’m asking is… did you have to *really* fight with Tricare to get the medical care you wanted?

  13. Kristin on May 14, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    That’s awesome you had such a positive birth. If things didn’t turn out how they did for me then I think I would want to go all natural if I ever have another child. I ended up going through full labor and pushing for a couple hours with no luck. As a result, I had to have a c-section. I never thought I would have a c-section and it scared the heck out of me. My biggest fear was always surgery and being awake while you know what they are doing was terrifying. To top it off I had problems a week after delivery with my incision opening. Then 4 weeks after delivery I had to have my appendix removed. Weird, I know. I walked away from all of that feeling like I got hit by a truck. It felt like a really long recovery for me.

  14. Aundraya on May 14, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    I found this entry relieving. I have joked about the alien for a while.
    I have not had children yet for other reasons but am just
    Becoming comfortable enough with the fear of this unknown
    to be ready.

    I really do wonder what it must feel like to birth a completely dependent being,
    and how that evolves a mothers self identity.
    I am a new fan of your blog and appreciate the
    Way you tell your stories.

  15. Chelsea on May 14, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    This is great, Gina! I took a number of women’s studies classes in college, and have a bit of an interest in “natural” childbirth as it relates to the ability of women to decide their own birth plan, but it’s always a little hard for me to talk about these things because I’ve never had a baby. And, you know, there’s only so much of an opinion you can have before you’ve been around the block. But I know that, as of know, I’m really interested in having a “natural” birth at a midwife staffed birthing center. But then again…I guess it’s good I’ve got this great new list of resources to check out! πŸ˜‰

  16. Anna on May 14, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this, and your previous birth story posts!

    Up until about 4 weeks ago, I thought the whole going natural thing was just for other “stronger-than-me” women.

    Now, almost half way through my first pregnancy… after talking with friend who have recently delivered without any drugs our interventions, and watching the Business of Being Born (a must-watch!)… I know that, barring any major complications, I can do it! I am excited, and yes scared, for my labor and birth!

  17. Halsy on May 14, 2013 at 8:26 pm

    I think all the resources you listed are awesome! I really enjoyed my Bradley classes and they gave me confidence and helped me get through a very long labor. I do wish last time I wouldn’t have skipped the “in case of a csection” portions. I was so convinced there was no way that would happen to me because I’m terrified of needles and surgery. I knew how to advocate for myself in case of non emergency csections. Then I was in labor for three days and my daughters heart rate dropped at an alarming rate and we found out she decided to become breech so I had a very unexpected csection within 15 minutes of arriving at labor and delivery. I was so unprepared but I didn’t have any time to think about it because it happened so quickly and I was so worried for my baby’s safety I didn’t even think about myself. However, because my husband and I made a birth plan he knew what was important and asked our doctor to make sure we still nursed as soon as possible and had skin to skin etc. I’m so glad the Bradley classes helped prepare the both of us!

  18. Kelly @ Femme Fitale on May 14, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    Honestly, I found that no matter how much I read, classes I attended, and friends I spoke with, nothing totally prepares you for your first birth experience. I found the best thing for me was just being as relaxed as possible, and going in without a strict “plan”- letting things evolve as I faced them during labor.
    In the weeks leading up, any time a fear arose, I reminded myself, “Look at everyone else who has done this already. If they can do it, so can I!!!”
    Also, I knew that giving birth is one of the most natural things in this world and my body would know what to do, even if my mind did not.
    aaand just like that, it was over…and I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

  19. Carly @ Fine Fit Day on May 14, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    I love this. I loved being pregnant as well and I had a great relationship with my OB who was super patient and supportive and helpful. By the time I got to about 30 weeks, I was terrified of giving birth…really freaking out. Now? I count it as the number one best experience of my life. Yes, it was painful, yes, it was exhausting, but also exhilarating and emotional and wondrous.

  20. Emily on May 14, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    I love that you shared this, the longer we are married the more I know the baby phase will creep up ha! I love Ina, The Farm is actually a few miles from my father-in-laws house.

  21. Lara on May 15, 2013 at 12:26 am

    I love the idea of your best personal birth.
    I totally want to go to the Farm for my next birth, don’t you?!

    • Fitnessista on May 15, 2013 at 12:52 am

      omg YES. when we lived in valdosta, tom said he’d drive me there to give birth πŸ™‚ it’s a little too far now though.

  22. Lucie on May 15, 2013 at 2:59 am

    I can SO relate on the fears. I am not a Mom (yet) and I am a control freak too. I even wrote a post about the connection of control and getting pregnant or the thought of it and how I feel about it.
    Good stories about pregnancy (like yours) motivate me, but there are also so many scary stories out there. But I guess that everything will be ok in the end.

  23. Mila on May 15, 2013 at 3:55 am

    Not quite the “alien” analogy but babies/birth scare me from the “I’m SOO not ready” standpoint.

    Kids are cute! I don’t hate or dislike them – but I’m that person that is scared of holding babies, especially when people say things like, “now hold their head…” all I can think is, “oh my god, why?!? does it come off!?” That coupled with all those small things I read here like “made sure not to give her egg yolks” (or peanuts, or whatever…) I’m sure when you’e a parent you’re so attuned to what kids can/can’t have – I feel like I’ll accidentally kill mine by feeding them the wrong thing. “What do you mean kids under 2 can’t eat Taco Bell?” (j/k)

    Toddlers like Liv you want to just pick up and squeeze because they’re so adorable! Babies – yikes! and they sort of twist my stomach – I think it’s a not-so-subtle reaction that I’d be terrified of having one at this point in my life.

    I’m sure when the time comes, I’ll dive right into all of these types of resources that sound so foreign to me now (what the heck is a birth story?) and as far as other women go, I just hope most expectant mothers are aware of the options they have – regardless of what they choose.

    • Kristen on May 15, 2013 at 10:50 am

      Hahaha This comment made me laugh!
      It’s amazing when the time comes that you just KNOW you’re ready. Your whole outlook changes. It’s like something just “clicks” with you. You’ll be fine πŸ™‚

  24. Emily @ The Swallow Flies on May 15, 2013 at 9:02 am

    I have not given birth, but I LOVE the book “Baby Catcher” — it’s a midwife’s memoirs, and it totally changed how I view childbirth. And, more importantly, it made me respect and honor and celebrate my mom even more than I already did. Check it out. πŸ™‚

  25. Brigid on May 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    I’m only nine weeks along, but I most definitely feel like I’ve been invaded by an alien. I affectionately call it my little alien invader or the amphibian in my uterus. πŸ™‚

  26. Stephanie on May 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this! I myself am a little worried and as we are getting closer to the time of deciding to have a child (next 6 months?), I find myself both intrigued and scared! I have watched the Business of Being Born movies and found them incredibly helpful. Thank you for the additional resources!

  27. April on May 15, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    I went thru the SAME thing girl, was scared &&^less until i educated myself! And, my hubby never understood either until taking the classes together (and watching The Business of Being Born) – then he was more into me having a natural birth than i was – ok, not totally but he was SO ON BOARD, loved it!
    Child birth is such a beautiful thing, now i know why women do it over and over:)

  28. Laura B on May 15, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    I was never scared of giving birth, but I was interested in going natural. I read and watched the same things as you, but didn’t take a Bradley class. I wasn’t opposed to the epidural, but I wanted to see what it felt like. When my water broke, but contractions didn’t start, I had to be induced since there was meconium present. I held out as long as I could, and it could have been the pitocin, but ouch! About 22 hours after my water broke when I was still only 4cm, I got the epidural and it was the BEST. THING. EVER. I wished I hadn’t held out so long! And I still had another 9 hours til my baby arrived!

    With my second, I was hoping I’d get to see what it felt like without pitocin. Unfortunately, my daughter didn’t want to come on her own. I waited the full 42 weeks they would let me and then had to be induced. I waited a bit, but I got the epidural much quicker this time. The worst thing I have to say about labor is how boring it is! I still had about 8 more hours after getting it before my baby arrived, so I was bored out of my mind Facebooking and reading blogs the whole time. My husband and I had run out of things to talk about. πŸ™‚

  29. Lauren @ Confessions of a First Time Mom on May 18, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Great post! I’m so with you on this. Even though I had a very different labor than you (had an epidural, had an IV with Pitocin going and was strapped to monitors so I labored only in the bed…very traditional old school hospital birth), I’m really not scared for if/when the second time comes around now. Initially I had heart palpitations for weeks, months, hell, years leading up to it, but hindsight is 20/20 and those few hours of pain, sweat, and hard work, are just a wee bit worth it, wouldn’t you say? Just last night I was telling my best friend, who is trying to get pregnant (and used to share a dream of adopting with me just out of fear of labor), that labor is nothing compared to some other medical procedures she and I have been through. Not to mention that women have been going back a second, third, fourth time for a reason! Ain’t no thang! We women are STRONG.

  30. Charlotte on May 19, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Great post. I gave birth this past Tueaday and nothing went as planned! I feel having a great doctor that lines up with your birth wishes and the Bradley classes helped me relax about birth. We ended up going to 42 weeks and were heart broken that I would have to be induced. After 12 hours of labor naturally on pitocin, 4 of those at 8 cm, I took the epi. Again wanting a natural birth I was devastated, but knowing my doctor suggested it (and he would not have unless needed) and my husband was supporting me we moved forward. Then after dealing with a lip on my cervix and 3 hours of pushing we ended up with a c-section. Both me and my husband cried making that decision. However I now have a happy and healthy baby boy, who turned out to be almost 10 pounds with a head circumference of 14 in! In the end we did all we could to have a natural birth, but did what was needed for our son. Now that we have experienced all types, but going into labor naturally and I am not scared at all to do it again!

  31. Gurminder on May 22, 2013 at 12:41 am

    Wow, reading some comments makes me a bit anxious. I’m 6 days away from my due date and planning on a natural birth…have a doula, but didn’t get to take the Bradley classes. I’m reading Mindful Birthing and I feel that has helped reduce my anxiety quite a bit. I’m still nervous about things, but much better outlook on it all. I just hope things go well and I don’t have to make decisions about medical interventions in the event they are needed. But ultimately, I just want a healthy baby. Thanks for this post, Gina. I only saw it today but it is perfect timing for me. πŸ™‚

    • Fitnessista on May 22, 2013 at 1:09 am

      it’s hard (believe me, i know!) but try to relax. you know your birth plan and what you want. go with your instinct and know that you will have the best birth for you, and no matter what it ends up looking like. your doula will be a fantastic help (without tom and our doula, my birth would have been SO different), so just remember to hang in there and BREATHE. sending lots of love to you!

      • Gurminder on May 22, 2013 at 11:39 pm

        thank you! πŸ™‚

  32. Stacey on May 22, 2013 at 6:58 am

    Love your post! At 33 I still don’t feel “ready for a baby but definitely want one one day. There’s just so many decisions to make alongside the “do I want a baby?” your post puts everything into perspective and I love how the fears I have are totally normal : )

  33. Olivia on June 4, 2013 at 9:19 am

    Thank you for writing this!! I’m hoping to get pregnant within the next year and childbirth completely freaks me out (I’m terrified of IVs/epiderals) and I’m hoping to have a natural childbirth. I’m definitely going to bookmark this page so I can read all of this info. later on!

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