Prepping for a Second Natural Birth

I was dead set on having a natural birth with my first baby, Liam. I wanted the sense of empowerment and accomplishment that came with a drug-free birth, and was very confident that I could do it. I watched positive birth videos on Youtube, took a childbirth class with a focus on breathing and coping techniques, and really thought long and hard about my reasons for wanting my birth to be as natural as possible.

If you are unfamiliar with the benefits of a drug-free, natural birth, click here.

I will say, however, that I speak from personal experience when I share natural birth posts on my site – my births were transformative moments for me, and I encourage any Mama considering the natural route to trust herself and give it a shot. That being said, my intention is not to offend anyone who had an epidural or cesarean birth – all Moms are heroes, regardless of how they bring their babies into the world.

Although I went to the hospital super educated about childbirth the first time, I didn’t do much the second time around. I didn’t take a “refresher” course on childbirth, didn’t watch any videos, and didn’t reread Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth. I felt comfortable enough with the whole process having gone through it once. I will say, however, that I did prepare myself mentally for childbirth. I made sure I was confident in my ability to labor naturally a second time, and didn’t let doubt or insecurities get the best of me. I recommend that, no matter whether this is your first, second, or third birth, you make sure you are in a positive headspace as you prepare for labor.

Additionally, here are five things I did this time around to prepare for childbirth #2 . . .

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I think the number one reason I made it through my entire labor without an epidural or other pain medication is because of my breathing. Now, don’t get me wrong: I am no yogi or expert in breathing techniques. I did, however, realize that deep inhales/exhales took away some of the contraction pain, and allowed me to focus on something other than how awful they felt in the moment. I remember that during my first birth I found comfort in knowing each contraction built up to a peak, then got easier to manage as it faded out. As long as I got over the peak, I realized, the hard part was behind me. When it comes to breathing, I alternated between one long inhale/long exhale and one long inhale/a few short, steady exhales. Whatever works for you!

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It was crucial for me to have my Mom there for baby #2. I had a great experience giving birth with both my husband and Mom by my side and knew that if I wanted to feel comfortable, I’d need them both there the second time, too. Make sure that you feel good about whoever you choose as your support team – don’t do it to make anyone other than yourself happy. It’s about being relaxed throughout the whole experience, not tense and uncomfortable. That just defeats the purpose.

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The hospital I chose for both of my births has pretty awful food and isn’t really the most modern, beautiful place in the world. However, they have the lowest intervention rate in Westchester County, and is one of two hospitals where you can have a midwife-assisted birth. These two things were my utmost priority, not the room service menu. Bottom line is this: pick a hospital (and doctor/midwife, of course) that aligns with your philosophy and needs, whatever those may be.

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For my first birth, my midwife was very hands on. She told my husband how he could best support me throughout the contractions, and offered many different position ideas throughout my labor.  This was so helpful, especially when I started to panic and wondered whether the pain was bearable or not. Luckily, this time, I memorized a few pain relief positions to be able to figure it out on my own. Labor & Delivery was super busy the night I gave birth to Noah, and I definitely didn’t get the one-on-one attention I got the first time. I’m really glad I was able to work through the contraction pain on my own! This time, I did a lot of leaning onto the bed/table and swaying my hips. For some other pain relief position ideas, click here.

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This one is a bit controversial, but my midwives swear by raspberry leaf tea and evening primrose oil during the third trimester to prepare the body for labor (my first labor was a little under ten hours long, and my second a little under seven… Not the quickest births, but definitely not the longest either!) For more information on how both raspberry leaf tea and evening primrose work for pregnancy/labor, click here and here.

If a natural birth is something you are considering, make sure you check out my posts “Natural Birth Does Not = Torture” and “Is Natural Birth a Possibility for You? 10 Tips to Help You Achieve One”.)

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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