5-Step Birth Prep and Labor Guide for a Smooth, Natural Childbirth

A sweet newborn baby is a wonderful thing… especially when you're holding that baby after doing the work to prepare for labor and a safe, natural birth…

…a birth where you feel you had options and choices, truly helpful helpers…

…where you had a voice that was respected.

That is an awesome thing!

Having a great birth experience isn't some crazy goal that only a selfish mom wants. It's an amazing act of love – for yourself, and especially for your baby. And a “great birth experience” doesn't have one set definition. Where and how you give birth is really up to you…

…and that's the key. It's your choice. It shouldn't be dictated by anyone – your doctor, your family, or even me 😉 And it shouldn't be bullied away from you… it shouldn't be guilted away from you… it shouldn't be scared away from you.

You should be able to plan and prepare for labor and a great birth without guilt, and with confidence – and it's awesome that you're taking the time to find out how to prepare for a great birth and how to make it through labor naturally.. that you're caring enough to figure out how to make getting ready for childbirth part of your (I'm sure) extra-busy baby prep days!

Today, I want to turn on the light and show you exactly what I do to set myself up for a successful natural birth…

Keep in mind I'm doing this for two people (my baby and myself), and my goals are a) give my baby a safe birth, b) keep myself safe during childbirth, c) build a great bond with my new baby, and d) enjoy the mothering confidence I gain from having a smooth birth experience.

Kristen and Sadie in the birth tub

Me with Sadie after her birth

My approach to preparing for labor is one that finds a happy balance between learning about my own choices in childbirth (and making them) and doing practical preparation to make sure my birth goes as smoothly and naturally as possible.

It's really important to know the choices around childbirth, and it's really important to be able to make those choices for myself. But (and this is a big BUT) if I only do a bunch of reading about birth choices and scribble out a birth plan, I'm cheating myself and my baby.

Childbirth is totally naturally (and despite the fact that it's a bit messy, I find it incredible, awe-inspiring, and miraculously beautiful)… but there's a little more to it than just cranking yourself open and popping the baby out.

You're not some kind of upside-down jack-in-the-box!! (Maybe it bothers you, too, hospitals expect that… crank the Pitocin lever a few more times and out pops baby! Uugh!)

Anyways, the good news is, you CAN prepare for a great birthing, it's just that preparation goes a little beyond understanding dilation and centimeters (honestly you don't really need to know anything about the metric system to give birth)…

…you need practical labor preparation too.

So for my birth prep I: get the knowledge, learn the choices, make my choices… and then I get myself ready to actually give birth.

Let's go step-by-step how to do this:

(NOTE: Want a Perfect Birth Plan Template? Use this template and step-by-step videos to write a birth plan that gets your birth team on your side for a beautiful birth experience! Get the birth plan kit here.)

Handle Labor Pain

Step 1: Have a Healthy Pregnancy

I know this is supposed to be all about birth, but, well, it takes about 9 months (give or take a couple of weeks) to get to the point of birthing a baby.

That baby has to grow!

A great childbirth experience needs a healthy baby.

A safe childbirth experience needs a healthy mama.

You spend much of your pregnancy dreaming about your baby, and a big part of it preparing for your baby. You research baby gear, read up in parenting books, and decorate the nursery (or get the family bed ready).

You want a pretty baby to go along with that pretty nursery, so you need to take the time to understand what it takes to have a healthy pregnancy.

More relevant, perhaps, to what we're talking about right now… a safe childbirth depends on a healthy mama. See…

pregnancy is not just about building up a cute baby (though we all LOVE that part). It's also about getting your body ready to give birth. It's about preparing for labor! A healthy mama means:

  • A strong bag of waters that doesn't break too early
  • A strong immune system that fights off infection in pregnancy and birth
  • A labor that begins when it's meant to begin (which might be after 40 weeks and still be exactly the right time)
  • A contraction pattern that doesn't “putter out”
  • Endurance to go the whole birthing time (food and drink SHOULD be allowed to help!)
  • Strength to be active and work with baby – your baby moves and grooves right through labor 🙂
  • Strong pushing contractions that get baby out
  • Minimal bleeding
  • Abundant milk supply
  • Less time with postpartum “blues” and postpartum depression

There's a whole lot riding on you, Mama! The good news: we know so much about how you can keep yourself healthy during pregnancy and enjoy all of the benefits I listed above (and at the risk of sounding cheesy… many more!!).

Good pregnancy health is pretty simple once you understand what your body (and baby) need. Since we're talking about birth here, I'll refer you to my:

Ultimate Guide for a Fabulous Pregnancy – exactly what you need to know to have a really healthy pregnancy. Oh, and grow a really healthy baby!

Midwife palpates pregnant mom's belly while older sibling looks on

A mama at her last prenatal appointment!
Above moment captured by Photo: Art by Jessica, serving Aurora CO & Tucson AZ

Let's move on to birthing that sweet baby now 😉

Step 2: Choice, Choice Everywhere!

Choice. The buzzword of our times 😉 Today we're talking about birthin' babies, though – and when we talk about choice for that, we usually mean:

  • Who attends your birth
  • Where you give birth
  • What happens to you while you give birth
  • What happens to your baby after birth

Who Attends Your Birth:

We hang a lot on this choice, and I do think it really makes a difference. Your care provider has a specific view of pregnancy and birth. That fundamental view influences how he or she educates you (or doesn't teach you anything, which happens a lot). It influences what tests he or she orders. It influences how long he or she “lets you” stay pregnant. It influences what he or she does (or orders done) during your birthing time.

Those things might be helpful – and they might be harmful. So this choice is an important one. Find a care provider who views birth the way you do.

I'm assuming that you have at least a passing interest in giving birth to your baby without drugs or interventions (you are reading this article, after all!). You need to look for a care provider supportive of natural birth. Don't pick someone who only gives lip service to natural birth…

…word of mouth is really helpful when you're evaluating care providers. Ask for recommendations (and reputations) from women in your community. Sometimes you can find information online – on forums, message boards, Facebook groups, etc. And don't forget to interview the care providers. Listen to their answers (and ask questions that make them think to answer – go beyond “yes/no!”).

Banner showing mom kiss newborn in birth tub

Where You Give Birth:

This is actually more important than your care provider in many ways. Where you give birth automatically dictates many things – the level of interventions pushed on you, the options you have, and who your care provider can be.

Think carefully about this. Generally you have a few options:

  • Home
  • Hospital
  • Birth Center
  • Some hospitals have an attached birth center with a more natural focus

The place you give birth to your baby has the potential to majorly impact your birth. I'm not saying that I think one or the other of these choices is always right, and there are many things that go into making the decision.

But don't make the choice by default. Don't pick hospital just because it's where you grew up thinking babies came from (I'm not being condescending here – I really and truly thought that for the longest time!!). Don't dismiss home birth just because it's not as “safe” as hospital (that's true in some cases, but not for the vast majority of births – click here for a lot more on home birth safety).

If you do know that a hospital is right for you, don't just pick the closest one. Look at your options carefully. Which hospital has the best track record for supporting natural births? Which uses the fewest interventions? Which lets a mom work with her baby… and doesn't make her race the clock? That's what you want to look for.

You should do your homework even if you're planning a home birth. What does your midwife believe about birth? What kind of “little hospital” will she set up (or not set up) in your home? When will she transport? What interventions will she bring?

Ask these questions if you're planning to birth in a freestanding birth center. Ask them if your hospital has an attached birthing center. Ask them if you're planning to birth beside a stream in the forest!

Obviously, care provider and birthing place end up being woven together. You can't really separate the two, but we think of them as two separate choices. I suggest you consider birthing place first, then pick a care provider who goes to where you prefer to give birth.

Sign outside of hospital that says Parking for Patients in Labor Online

Above moment captured by Captured by Cassie, serving the Jasper-Birmingham Alabama area

What Happens to You While You Give Birth:

We touched on this a little above, because where you give birth and who you have attend your birth greatly influences this.

What happens to you while you're birthing your baby greatly influence your labor and your baby's birth.

That's really important.

We think of birth as being mechanical. Maybe you've taken birthing classes or read about labor online and in your pregnancy books. You know all about dilation and the stages of labor. That's good information and I think you need to have it.

But it goes back to this jack-in-the-box paradigm. Crank open and out pops the baby!

It's not that simplistic. Your body does open up for your baby, but it takes time and there's a lot going on within your body to make that happen. Hormones are a major player, and environment plays a part in those.

I want to put a trigger warning here: if you've suffered sexual abuse or birth trauma (which I feel is a form of sexual abuse) and would like to skip this, please scroll to the “It Matters” heading.

Imagine you're getting ready for a romantic evening: dinner, candlelight, good conversation…

…rose petals strewn along the floor to the bedroom, soft kisses and caresses…

…then suddenly a nurse bustles in to hook you up to a monitor. She tells you you can only use one position (sitting semi-reclined in bed). She turns on all the lights, and lots of monitors go “beep” all around you…

Are you still in the mood???

Of course, then the doctor comes in and says he's going to use his hands to find out just how… um, ready… you are… down there…

Yeah, creepy.

The reason why this analogy works is because the hormones of intimacy and lovemaking are the hormones of labor and birth. That hormonal flow needs many similar things:

  • Privacy
  • Quiet (or mood music)
  • Freedom from fear
  • Trust

The last two points there weave together – if you feel threatened, you can't make love very well, and you can't birth a baby very well. If you don't trust the person you're with, it's not going to go well (and it's probably going to hurt).

I know we're not going for a romantic evening when we birth our babies, but…

we should be able to give birth in safety and security (and with dignity!!!).

The reality is, safety and security don't come from machines and procedures. They come from trusting your environment and those around you.

Machines and procedures, rules and regulations, can cause fear and even panic. That interrupts labor, stops labor, and leads to interventions that are in themselves, dangerous.

Michelle works with baby

Michelle found a safe, quiet spot to work with her baby

It Matters

Feeling safe and secure, and trusting that your care provider has your best interests at heart is important.

It's also important that you feel listened to. That your provider is hearing your voice. That it's not an endless list of regulations… that it's not just scare-tactics.

I'm not trying to vilify procedures and regulations from doctors, hospitals, midwives, nurses, etc. Sometimes they're necessary.

But many, many of the “standard” and “routine” procedures done to women during labor are not supported by evidence. Many procedures are not only useless, they're harmful. They interrupt the normal course of labor. They prevent labor from working the way it's supposed to. They cause the very issues they're supposed to prevent.

So what happens to you during labor matters. Some remarkable moms can just “spit out a baby” (as my mom used to say about some of her friends!!!)… but most women will have a harder labor when it's continually messed with…

…or when they can't get up and move with baby. But more on that shortly!

If you know that you'll need some interventions / procedures, that's fine. This is where the “listened to” comes in. If you've discussed this and know your voice was heard, that you made choices (you didn't get bullied or manipulated with fear) – then your birthing time is likely to go much smoother, even with a few procedures as part of it.

You should have the choice – you should call the shots when it comes to what you want and don't want.

What Happens to Your Baby: We're mostly talking about you here, but it's undeniable that your baby is a huge part of birth…

…and he or she is much more than the prize at the end!!

Your baby is actively working with you during labor and birth. Babies twist, turn, rotate, and navigate down through where they need to go. You help your baby by being upright during labor – and sometimes by moving and grooving right along with your little one 😉

Working with birth ball

Above moment captured by Shoots & Giggles, serving Los Angeles & Orange County

But where baby really shines is directly after birth. That amazing, out-of-this-world-miraculous “golden hour” has much greater benefits than just bonding with baby.

It actually keeps both you and your baby much, much safer than if baby were whisked away to be “cleaned up and checked out.”

There's a reason that women birth the way they do…

…there's a reason why our creamy, fuzzy, squashy newborns can creep up our bellies and right up to our breasts…

…there's a reason we find the smell of a newborn intoxicating and want to bury our noses in their sweet little heads (hold the hat, please)…

…Mama and Baby are biologically and physiologically programmed to need each other to ensure a safe finish to the birthing process, and a safe beginning to life on earth 🙂

Mother kisses her newborn in the birth tub

There is a REASON for this moment!!
Above moment captured by Shoots & Giggles, serving Los Angeles & Orange County

You should have the choice to have your baby with you, immediately, skin-to-skin. There are a host of other choices too (like not prematurely severing baby's cord and “rooming in”) – but for now, carefully consider how important those early moments are to you and your baby, and to the safe completion of the birthing process for both of you.

Okay, okay, I've given you a lot to think about when it comes to choice in birth. Now lets talk a bit about where choice ends and the action begins 😉

Step 3: Time for Birth Prep!

As I indicated above, choice is really important, and your choices do have a big impact on birth.

But, sadly, research has shown that even when women have pro-woman and pro-natural birth resources, outcomes don't necessarily improve. Even when women have midwives attending them… when they have constant labor support… the number of natural births doesn't always increase (and the number of cesareans doesn't always decrease).


If there is choice, why do we not see a difference?

Choice isn't everything. We also need mamas who know how to give birth!

Have you ever heard a mom say “I'm going to try to have a natural birth?”

Maybe you've even said that yourself?

Sadly, when a mom says this, she generally means she's going to attempt to “grin and bear it” through labor – at least until it gets too tough. Or until being stuck in a bed hooked up to monitors causes her baby to get hung up or even in distress because “Mama… just… won't… shift… a little… so… I… can… squeeze… through…”

Essentially she's just going to hang on until the going gets too tough.

I'm not saying this to be insulting – I promise. There are a lot of reasons why a natural birth doesn't work out, and some of it is related to outside issues like a crummy care provider or a baby who really was in distress.

But it's also very, very true that just saying you're going to “try” a natural birth does nothing to get you towards that goal.

If you said you were going to “try” and run a marathon, then did nothing to get ready for that race – how successful do you think you'd be on the day of the marathon?

You probably wouldn't make it through the race!

A mother works on a birth ball

Above moment captured by Shoots & Giggles, serving Los Angeles & Orange County

It's the same with birth. You need to prepare for a natural birth.

Preparing does mean educating yourself about birth and about interventions, complications, etc.

But it's also practical.

How will you work with your baby?

Remember, you and baby are in this together. He or she is working really hard to be born – and you're working with baby.

Learn ways to work with your baby now, while you're pregnant. How can you use:

  • Breathing
  • Relaxation
  • Positioning
  • Movement
  • Environment (ever heard that sitting on the toilet can help you dilate?!)
  • Tools (a birth ball, squat bar, etc. can be helpful)

These are all examples of practical tools and techniques you can use during your birthing time to work with your baby.

Let's take a minute longer on that thought: Work with your baby. I don't want you to focus on “natural pain relief” and what you do to get that during labor. I want you to focus on what you're going to do to work with your baby. To help him or her get born. Here's a secret: when you focus on helping baby out, you don't usually think about the pain! Women in my online MamaBaby Birthing class tell me that's one of the biggest things that helps them when they're birthing their babies!

Having a birth partner (your husband, your mom, your sister, whomever), and/or a doula is really helpful, too, especially when they go through the practical preparation with you.

These practical techniques are going to help you if labor gets tough, or if things seem “stuck.” They'll be helpful if it feels too hard to take anymore (often a change in positions will help with this – just a hint!).

Taking prepared childbirth classes can really make a big difference, but make sure the class you choose gives you a lot information on practical techniques to work with baby – as well as information on why natural childbirth is beneficial and how to navigate procedures and interventions.

I think some women worry that preparing for a natural birth is a wasted effort if something comes up and an intervention is required – but that's not the case. If you know you've made great choices, gained knowledge about labor and birth, and you've used the practical skills you practiced beforehand, you'll feel much more peace about needing an intervention. You'll feel like a part of the team – with a voice. That doesn't mean there won't be disappointment, but it does mean you won't wonder “what if…”

I think all parts of birth preparation are incredibly important, but practical preparation is probably the most empowering thing to do…

…not to mention it gives you time to focus on baby and think about your birth – a virtual “practice session” for you 😉

(NOTE: Want a Perfect Birth Plan Template? Use this template and step-by-step videos to write a birth plan that gets your birth team on your side for a beautiful birth experience! Get the birth plan kit here.)

Handle Labor Pain

Okay – enough with the prep… it's B-Day! What you do next can make a big difference…

Step 4: Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

Deciding when to go to the hospital (or when to have the midwife come over) can be a little confusing.

There are a few different ways that your birthing time can begin:

  • Lower backache or “period cramps” that gradually get stronger and closer together
  • Water breaking (contractions may or may not start right away)
  • Lots of mucus-y discharge (often tinged brown/pink/red)
  • Strong, regular contractions right from the start
  • Combinations and varieties of any of the above!

If you're wondering to yourself “is this it… is this it? …Is this IT!?!?!” – then it is almost certainly NOT time to go to the hospital or call the midwife over. You may or may not want to give them a “heads up” to let them know that you think you're in early labor…

…but don't go in when you're still in the excited, fluttery, not-quite-sure-this-is-happening stage.

Things are going to pick up, get more intense, and require a lot more concentration.

That's what you want to watch for.

There are numerous reasons not to get overly excited.

Firstly, you really want to rest as much as possible, and you can't do that if you're getting all worked up! If it's nighttime, try to get some sleep.

Giving birth is, in many ways, an endurance event. You want to have energy to make it through – and rest is essential to that.

So if you can sleep, sleep!

If it's daytime and sleep isn't happening, go about your daily routine. Take it easy. Enjoy your day. Enjoy the excitement!

Don't overdo it with cleaning and getting things ready… and I recommend against calling everybody, too 😉

Woman sips on water bottle during labor

Keep things low key for now…
Above moment captured by Photo: Art by Jessica, serving Aurora CO & Tucson AZ

This gives your birthing time the time it needs to get established. We've been talking about how birth is much more than a mechanical cranking open. I've told you about hormones and other chemical signals messengers that play and important part in your baby's birth.

Let your labor pattern get well-established so all of these players work together...

...every part in the orchestra works towards a magnificent (and safe) grand finale – one of the true masterpieces of your life...

...your precious new baby.

I want you to always listen to your body – if you feel strongly that it's time to go in or to call your midwife, you should do that. But you generally do not need to go in right away, or even when you're first starting to wonder “should I go in, should I go in?”

Obstetric research is actually starting to acknowledge this, with several textbooks telling new obstetricians to advise 1st-time moms to wait until contractions are too painful to handle easily. I don't know that I like that particular language, but it's a good rule of thumb. You should really be working with your baby and the contractions before you decide it's time to head in… or have the midwife head over.

Again, this means that baby is going to be well on the way and that your birthing time (and the flow of hormones that go along with it) is well-established. Interventions are less likely to interrupt.

There's also less time for interventions to happen once you get to the hospital, or have your birthing team arrive. If things are moving a long smoothly, people are just less likely to poke and prod at you!!!

I highly recommend you do take the time to research things now, while you're pregnant, so you understand that vaginal exams, fetal monitoring, etc. just tend to interrupt labor and undermine the confidence of birthing mamas (and their support team, for that matter). I can't say there's “never” a time and a place for these interventions, but the course of normal, uncomplicated birthing is NOT it.

Okay, so you know that things are well underway. Your care team is here, they're supporting you, and they're letting you do your thing. How are you going to make it through the rest of labor? That's what we'll tackle here…

Keep Moving, Baby!

When you know this is it… Get Active! I don't mean you need to be hopping around or dancing your way through labor…

…though THIS mama certainly did:

I just can't help smiling when I watch that 😉

Anyways! On to you…

Seriously, you don't need to rock and roll, but moving a little here and there, and especially getting upright and letting gravity assist your baby as he or she moves down is a real key to labor.

Moms are often really worried about having their labor or progress “stall.”

It leads to a dreaded…

…”Failure to progress” diagnoses…

…which leads to a cesarean…

…that was probably unnecessary!

In fact, research shows that waiting just an additional 2 hours will generally lead to a normal, vaginal birth – without any danger to mama or baby.

Staying completely still, stuck in one position in bed, however, is likely to increase danger to mom and baby. Blood can't circulate when you're stuck in one place, constantly compressing blood vessels.

Okay, you're (probably) not lying on your back. But there's still restricted blood flow when you stay in one place too long (I'm writing this standing up, with a baby on my back in a baby carrier, and my legs are feeling reallllly stiff from holding this position… so I keep swaying – it's the same when you sit or stand around in labor).

It's good to move. When you move, you keep blood flowing to baby. And as I've already mentioned, gravity helps baby move down. With oxygen and movement, your baby does well.

You also do better – in fact, if you're finding things really hard to deal with, changing positions is a good idea (remember that hint I shared above!). Contractions that seemed unbearable in one position may be easier to handle in another. When I was birthing Sadie (the same little one on my back right now!), I could NOT handle things sitting down. But standing up, leaning against a counter, worked well for me. I swayed and rolled my hips a bit – nothing you'd really call “dancing,” but it helped immensely.

Even many doctors know that getting up and walking, or even going up or down a flight of stairs, can create huge change that lets a baby move down.

Remember, your baby needs to rotate and move during your birthing time. Your movement assists his or her rotation and descent down towards birth!

I talk a lot more about helping move your baby down and keep your labor going in my 3-video mini class… check it out here:

Natural Childbirth Mini-Class

Another thing that keeps your birthing time moving is having enough energy. This is another place that policies and procedures can get in your way. Evidence doesn't support withholding (depriving) food and drink from moms in labor.

Going back to our marathon analogy – we would never expect an athlete to perform an endurance event without nourishment. It's silly to expect that from a birthing woman – birth is certainly an endurance event. I've got a full post on food and drink in labor (and the possible risks from using IV fluids instead) here: IV vs. Drink – a Birthday Smackdown.

Some mamas don't want to eat during labor, which is understandable (in case you're wondering, though, throwing up during labor can be totally normal and most mamas feel better after – and often dilate a lot shortly after).

Something as simple as a sports drink or a soft drink can work well. Some moms like to have “Laboraid” or “Laborade” – here's a lemonade version:

  • 1 quart of Water
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/3 Cup Honey
  • 1/3 Cup Lemon Juice
  • 1-2 Calcium Tablets, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda

Mix together and drink!

Click here for a few more recipes!

Okay, you're moving (and resting when you need to), drinking if you feel thirsty, and maybe having a bite or two of food to keep your energy up…

…what do you do next?

Step 5: Protect the Environment

I've talked a bit about environment and how one of the biggest problems with going to the hospital too soon (or calling over the midwife too soon) is that you interrupt the hormonal flow of labor.

That's crucial to understand, and honoring that continues even when things are well underway.

Maybe you had a cat or dog when you were a kid, and eagerly awaited the day her kittens or puppies would be born. You might have set up a comfy box in the closet or laundry room, lined with a warm towel.

Mama settled down in the box during the days leading up to labor… and you peeked in at regular intervals...

...but when the fateful day came, Mama dog or Mama cat was nowhere to be found! It was only later, after much searching that you found those cute puppies or kittens.

Mama wanted privacy. She needed to be away from prying eyes! It was likely nighttime – dark, and quiet.

I think that we humans have quite a bit more going on than an animal, but birthing women still need that peace and quiet. I wrote about needing to feel “safe” earlier in the article… and this goes along with that.

If possible, keep the environment calm and safe:

  • Darken the room
  • Play music you like
  • Limit the people in the room
  • Cover up the clock!
  • Decline routine monitoring
  • Decline routine vaginal exams

It doesn't really matter how much you just love your care provider – he or she could be the best doctor or midwife on the planet. You're probably going to get tense during a vaginal exam. It's just the nature of the thing…

…and evidence shows that routine vaginal exams do NOTHING to improve outcomes in labor. They cause problems and the information they give is usually useless. They just make you feel bad. Only have one done if YOU strongly feel that you should.

Keep the number of people in the room low. Ask people to leave – don't be afraid to offend family members. This is about birthing your baby, not being a 3-ring circus! They'll get to spend plenty of time with baby after he or she arrives 😉

You can also ask medical personnel to leave, and you may want to if you're feeling really pressured. Or, if many of them are there as “observers,” feel free to ask them to leave. Asking them to step back and give you a few minutes in the quiet to think, work with your baby, etc. can help you make a lot of progress.

Try to keep that quiet, warm, dark, private environment a mama cat or dog would like – you'll appreciate it too 🙂

Mom in labor leans on her husband for support

Notice how the lights are dim and mama feels protected…
Above moment captured by Photo: Art by Jessica, serving Aurora CO & Tucson AZ

Play by Play with Sadie!

OK… this is it… the “big day” – let me share with you what things looked like leading up to Sadie (the little gal that's still riding on my back…).  Remember, your birthing time will look different, but here's a picture of what it could possibly look like:

Early Labor

It's late at night (for me) – around 10pm… and I really want to sleep. I'm REALLY tired, but I think “something” might be happening.

I refuse to get up, except to go to the bathroom, and toss and turn, drifting in and out of sleep. I look at the clock around 1am, and then sleep finally sets in. I honestly think I willed my body to go to sleep instead of into labor 😉

I get up at around 6am and feel restless, like things are going to get started at any minute. Scott and I walk our dog, Altana, around 7am and I tell him that I think things are starting. He sets up the birth tub a little later, and gets it filling up.

Nothing takes off, and I spend the day trying to act like it's a normal day… but I can't think or focus and spend a lot of time staring off into the distance. I should have given up and watched funny movies with my kids all day!

Scott can tell I'm upset – he says I'm “distraught” and he thinks it's because it's so noisy in the house (that happens with 6 kids running around). I think he was right – and it's living proof that even in the comfort of your own home, too much noise can hold up labor.

Row of homemade oil candles on the mantle

Things Take Off!

We put the kids to bed and things start happening!

I insisted on tracking contractions with the app on my phone and because they're irregular, I worry they'll putter out again.

It's close to impossible, however, to sit on the couch and just take the contractions as they come. I stand and lean against the desk (remember, I mentioned this above!) and sway a little. They're much easier to deal with that way.

I head to the bathroom and sit on the toilet through a few of them, and Scott finally convinces me that I should be convinced by now that this is real! We call the midwife and she asks me if I want her to come over. I was kind of confused by the question, so Scott tells her to come over (I didn't want to be making decisions – I wanted to have a baby!).

We head out front into the quiet, dark family room and I get in the birth tub. I take sips from my water bottle here and there between contractions, but things are moving pretty fast and I don't feel hungry.

Helping Baby Move Down

I rock and breathe with my baby, mostly kneeling in the tub and leaning forward to rest over the edge and against Scott, who is sitting just outside of it.

They are feeling really intense and I really have to work, breathing hard. I feel kind of like I did after grade-school sprints (I was never very good at them and my cross-country stint was a total failure). It's challenging, and I need to breathe to calm down.

I'm starting to get that wild, exhausted feeling, not knowing if I can quite do it, and then I start to feel a little “pushy.” I know that what's coming will also be challenging, but it's a welcome challenge.

The midwife still isn't there – neither is the birth photographer. I'm a little bummed about that, but really, I'm glad. It means quiet, peace, and we'll bring up our baby with just the two of us.

Husband and wife in birth tub by fireplace

Into My Arms

My body starts to push and I feel my baby come down. I reach inside and feel the curve of a baby head, then out it's moving and I can only focus on the intensity of that. I feel a burn and want it to stop, and push a little at my own skin to try and get it out of the way (that doesn't work).

I breathe and then, finally, my body pushes baby out the rest of the way, and I bring her up with Scott's help. I look in the water as I bring her up, and I can still see that image of her, so fresh and new, in the eye of my mind.

I note that she is a she, and bring her to my arms, studying her. I see slight molding in her head, and we watch her get started – it feels timeless but really happens so fast (the pictures Scott took with his camera document how fast she “pinked up”).

Husband and wife gaze down at newborn baby by birth tub

Our midwife arrives about 15 minutes later, and a little after that helps me get out of the tub to birth the placenta over a birth stool. I like it for placentas!

Then baby and I settle into bed…

…I have no doubt that really working to honor birth and the physiology of labor went a long way towards her smooth, peaceful birth. Not that you can't have that with a midwife there (read Corwin's birth story for an equally peaceful birth with my midwife in attendance!).

The key is for you and your care providers to understand what helps birth run smoothly – and safely.

A great birth is a lot like a great marathon – you do the research and the work beforehand, then you ease into the rhythm of the race when the big day arrives.  Do your research now… go through your childbirth preparation… and then stay confident as you and your baby work (or maybe, just maybe, you really do dance) your way through birth…

…and into those timeless first moments of finally meeting – and totally falling in love.

Love these ideas, but get that “drinking from a fire hose feeling?” Preparing for birth can be overwhelming sometimes! I'd be thrilled to walk alongside you as you prepare for your baby's birthday – my online MamaBaby Birthing classes are self-paced, simple, and practical. Plus you get a weekly, live teleclass with me to get personal answers to all your questions 😉 Click here for more information!

(NOTE: Want a Perfect Birth Plan Template? Use this template and step-by-step videos to write a birth plan that gets your birth team on your side for a beautiful birth experience! Get the birth plan kit here.)

Handle Labor Pain

Collage banner shows moms in labor and after natural birth
Laboring mother on birth ball while midwife looks on

About the author 


Kristen is a pregnancy coach, student midwife, and a mama to 8 - all born naturally! I've spent nearly two decades helping mamas have healthy babies, give birth naturally, and enjoy the adventure of motherhood. Does complete support for a sacred birth and beautiful beginning for your baby resonate with you? Contact me today to chat about how powerful guidance and coaching can transform your pregnancy, birth, and mothering journey <3

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}