From All-Natural to an Epidural Birth

Chaunie and her family, moments after the birth of her son.


I settled on to the examination table as best I could, my enormous pregnant belly crinkling the standard issue white paper covering the seat.

“So, tell me what you’re thinking about doing for pain relief?” my midwife said, flipping through my chart, no doubt noting my due date loomed only weeks away.

“I’m thinking of just playing it by ear,” I said brightly, in the way that only a first-time mother can. “I’m not opposed to an epidural, but I just want to see how it all goes, I guess!”

“Well, I don’t do epidurals, so that settles that,” she announced, snapping the clipboard shut with finality and standing up to grab the Doppler.

That did settle things, all right.

I went on to birth my daughter (and the sister that followed almost exactly two years later) all-natural, with the aide of my midwife and a labor tub.

{ MORE:  Waterbirth }

But before you go thinking I’m all granola, let me then tell you that last summer, I welcomed my son, smiling and joking with my husband right through contractions as I enjoyed my first epidural.

And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

I love that I have had the chance to experience labor and birth both ways; they were entirely different experiences and I’m grateful everything went well.

With my daughters’ all-natural births, the best way I can describe them is to say that they were both just much more intense. From my work as a labor and delivery nurse, I know that every woman experiences birth differently, but for me, contractions and pushing were incredibly painful. I found myself completely shutting down, focusing only on myself, my pain, and my baby. It was if my body was so intent on the work it was doing, I literally couldn’t process anything else. I barely remember my husband, let alone any healthcare staff, in the room with me.

I love that I have had the chance to experience labor and birth both ways; they were entirely different experiences and I’m grateful everything went well.

As I found out with my first daughter, for an all-natural birth to succeed, you need to maintain 110% focus at all times – there is no time for fear or relaxing your concentration, because the second you let fear take over, you lose control over those contractions. The entire process of maintaining that intense level of focus and concentration makes labor exhausting, but I also found that it made the actual moment of birth a crazy rush like nothing I can describe. The pure physical relief, the wonder at what your body just did, the surge of hormones that all hit at once – it’s a surreal blur of emotions.

When I chose to have an epidural, however, it was a conscious decision. If I’m being honest, I didn’t want to throw myself all-in to the labor and birth. I was tired. I had been there and done that. I wanted a break from labor this time, if such a thing is possible.


And that’s exactly what I got.

I went in to the hospital at 11 a.m., my doctor broke my water at noon, I had my epidural by 1 p.m., and delivered my son by 3 p.m.

After the epidural was inserted, I lounged about on the bed, feeling pressure in my bottom as my son descended, but no pain whatsoever through contractions.

My husband, who had witnessed me as a raving lunatic through the birth of our first two, couldn’t believe the difference. He pulled at his hair, disbelieving what he was seeing. We laughed and joked that this was the first time I recognized that he was there. If I dare say so, my labor with my son was almost fun.

When it came time to push, (and my doctor actually had to tell me to push, because I was just that comfortable) it felt almost awkward at first, because I wasn’t in that crazy, woman-in-labor mental state. When I did push, it felt almost too easy when he popped out after three pushes and honestly, it took me some time to wrap my head around the fact that it was over and he was mine. I just couldn’t believe it was all over so quickly and so easily.

In the end though, whether I had sweated and cried and thought I couldn’t go on another minute or laughed through a contraction, I’ve found there is only one thing to truly look forward to about giving birth:

Those precious first moments with your baby, who you know you would do anything for.

Oh, and your first post-birth meal.

That’s a really close second. 

What do you think?

From All-Natural to an Epidural Birth

Chaunie Brusie is a writer, mom of four, and founder of The Stay Strong Mom, a community + gift box service for moms after loss. ... More

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  1. Laura says:

    I really loved your article and the thoughtfull responses I have read so far. I was terrified of childbirth and had induced labor with my oldest son. Labor was horrible..I wanted to knock myself out with the telephone!! I had a planned c sction with my second son..but I often feel shamed because I never wanted natural childbirth or to have my baby in a pool (no offense..LOL) I wanted every painkiller that was legally allowed…I would not have had my second son if I was not able to have a scheduled c section…To backtrack after hours of horribly painful labor I wound up with a c-section…Thank God…I don’t think I or anyone loves their children any less because they don’t want to be “brave” “warrior” …words I have read from refusing pain medication..I really liked your article because you wrote from both perspectives. Thank you!

  2. Tylatha says:

    I had a similar view. With my first son I had an epidural and induction but only because we were having a lot of problems with him and I spend pretty much the last 3 months of my pregnancy in labor having to take every medicine known to man.
    With baby #2 I had an all natural birth and while I am glad I did it looking back and that I got to experience the natural birth it was also a horrible experience. Painful and ,like you, I couldn’t even focus on anything or anyone in the room. I have no memory of what else went on besides the focus I had to place on my body, the pain and pushing. To make matters worse my body went into shock afterwards so I didn’t even feel comfortable holding my son for the first time because I was scared I would lose control and drop him.
    When it came time for baby #3 I said epidural all the way and I don’t regret it one bit. It was a much more relaxed and peaceful birth. I still had enough control and feeling in my body to where I could feel him get in the ready position and was able to confidently call the nurse in the room and say its time. It was more relaxed, I was more relaxed, I was more in control.
    But I am also happy to be able to be able to say “100% natural birth! yeah I did that. I’m tougher than I thought. I’m kinda a beast.” Haha

  3. Christina says:

    I’ve always wanted natural birth. I 22 and im having my first child in February. I wanted to try natural birth with a midwife, but I’ve been told not to because it would be very painful. I’m still thinking about it. Seems exciting to me, but I’ll have to look into natural birth. It’s really nice to hear someone had thier baby natural. Very strong women.

    • Stephanie says:

      The cool thing is that you have the option to change your mind at any time during labor now. So you can go as long as you feel like you can naturally, but when you’re dilated to 8, exhausted, and facing six more hours of labor you can say “Ok, I need to rest. Time for an epidural” It’s great.

      I personally am on my first, about two weeks away, and given the size of my baby right now I am thinking I will go with the epidural when they recommend it. I am very scared of pushing out a baby that large without any kind of relief.

  4. this interests me because I also did the painful natural 12 hour labor with my first two and hear all the time about people loving their epidurals. one friend said her root canal was more painful than childbirth! but what about the recovery time after the epidural? our third is coming soon and the epidural does sound nice, if it works. do you think I will love the third as much if I do the epidural instead of the all-natural? it’s not like our moms even had the choice…

  5. Brandy says:

    I’m currently pregnant with #3 and i did the all-natural thing with my first two the first was induction and took about 17 and half hours for her to come. I’m great with dealing with pain and only towards the end could i not take it anymore but i did and with the second i went into natural labor at 39 weeks and it only took 7 and half hours for him to come. and the same as the first happened great dealing until the end. And my husband looked so helpless the whole time. i told him if we ever did it again that i would get the epidural but I’m not sure that i really want it in fact I’m not to sure that i don’t i’d love to be more relaxed towards the end but risk of them screwing up my back scars me. I’m very over weight and i haven’t hard one story turning out great after an epidural… but as always i think i’ll just play it as it comes and see what happens….

  6. Zaiynab says:

    LOVED the epidural for mine. Wouldn’t have had it any other way.

  7. sayhola says:

    Some great food-for-thought, as in a couple of months I’ll be delivering #2. I was induced, but no epidural or pain meds of any kind, and I was a raving lunatic for sure. Moreso out of panic that it was all happening too fast – almost too fast to even recognize pain. I just wonder if I go into labor naturally this time if it’ll take longer (without induction), or still less (second baby), and if the epidural will happen or not. I didn’t want it with my first, and was proud to have been able to do without it, but you certainly give me something to consider this second time around! Thanks!

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