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When it comes to birth, one thing is certain: nothing is certain. It's hard not to go into birth with hopes and expectations—especially if your goal is a natural birth free of interventions. Since every body and every birth is different you can't simply "will" a natural birth to happen, but there are definitely some things you can do to help swing things in your favor, because let's be real, you're probably going to want the drugs at some point regardless of what your original intentions were.
We polled real moms who've experienced natural birth successfully to get their best advice for achieving the birth of their dreams and here's what they had to say:
1. "Yoga was the key to my natural birth so it wasn't a freak show of me screaming. The practice of focusing and breathing really helped me get through contractions." - Chaunie
2. "Go in choosing that intervention is not an option. If you allow yourself the room to consider intervention, you'll want to choose it later on when labor gets tough." - Heather
3. "I spent weeks making birth art and because I'm a mom, that birth art was on the sidewalk while my kids were playing. When I was walking during labor, I was walking over my art. It helped me focus on all the openness I had manifested." - Baylie
4. "Being in water was really helpful and also repeating the word 'Ooooopen' with a deep exhaling breath during contractions." - Stephanie
5. "I think acknowledging that it hurts like hell is good. Like worse than hell—it's a horrible, horrible pain that is unlike anything you have experienced before. I read all these flowery birth stories where the women described the pain as 'pressure' and said they could listen to their bodies without the pain meds so they could move to where it wasn't painful. and then during my labor I could do nothing to make it hurt less. It was so intense! I thought I was doing it wrong, until my midwife said nothing I was going to do would make it not hurt except pushing my baby out. That helped me." - Kristin
6. "I chose a ridiculous image and taped it over the clock so I couldn't see the time and it made me laugh (and relax!) instead. Watching the time go by won't make your birth go by any faster and will make you more stressed." - Allie
7. "God bless husbands, they try, but for me the added support of my sister and two really close girlfriends helped a ton. They knew just what I needed to hear including lying to me that the epidural was 'on its way'." - Lisa
8. "I didn't wear my contacts or glasses. Not being able to see the clock, or faces of those far from me helped me to focus on what I was doing. It kept me positive and in the moment. Then when my daughter was born, the only thing I focused on was her face." - Jessica
9. "I focused on one spot on a wall and during a contraction, would count to take my mind off the pressure. I also alternated between hot and cold water in the tub." - Alora
10. "Playing my favorite, calming worship music. It became a very spiritual moment between me and God. That doesn't mean a few naughty words weren't thrown out during pushing though! Also a quiet room was key! I hated conversations going on around me. As little as they were, I needed complete concentration on what I was experiencing." - Anna
Having a damn good doula. One that can tag in when your husband has to tag out.
11. "Try laboring on the toilet. It's definitely not the most glamorous labor position, but it can be amazing for helping to make progress. Gravity is your friend when you're trying to push out a baby and sitting on the toilet is a position we're used to being in when it comes to 'pushing things out' so it feels oddly natural. Bonus, if you poop at all then you're already on the toilet. It's a win-win situation really." - Lauren
12. "Trusting the process and knowing that pain is my body doing hard work that it was created to do. The suffering was for a beautiful purpose. Also, my husband and I had a plan that if I was wanting to quit, he was supposed to ask me 'Can you do one more contraction?' The idea was to take my mind off of imagining the future and just complete the task at hand." - Jamie
13. "I LOVED having a doula! While I 'knew' all the things to do, in the moment it was so nice to have someone there guiding me and reminding me of what I wanted —an all-natural, unmedicated birth. It was my first and an incredible experience—and I did it in a hospital!" - Sarah
14. "Set yourself up for success. Surround yourself with those who share in your vision and can give you the physical and mental support during the toughest times." - Leah
15. "Having a damn good doula. One that can tag in when your husband has to tag out. Before active labor kicked in we laughed at funny YouTube videos and 'Friends' on DVD. I also just kept saying, 'I'm a total badass.' 18 hours later she was earth side and I, indeed, did feel like a total badass." - Ellie
16. "Visualization helped me so much. I had to keep picturing my baby descending and coming out." - Kaylah
17. "I read 'Ina May's Guide to Childbirth' and it helped me to train my mind to work with my body. You have to practice relaxing every part of your body, because the pain decreases the more relaxed you are. Look at it like discomfort rather than pain from an injury and that helps too. I totally buy into the idea that childbirth can be pain free. It's all in how you perceive it." - Randa
18. "Labor at home for as long as possible if you're going to a hospital. Remember that anyone can get through anything if it's only a minute or two. And with each contraction, say to yourself 'oh good' instead of 'oh no' (or other profanities). It helps you to relax instead of tense up." - Ann Marie
Knowing that my body was made to give birth, and that it knew what it was doing...
19. " Choose the atmosphere that makes you most comfortable (i.e. hospital, birth center or home...and also lighting, music, etc). Consistently communicate what you need from your support team, as these needs might change as your labor progresses. Follow your instincts and desires as your body talks to you (i.e. if you think you need to get up and walk around instead of staying in the tub or bed, DO IT.) Medical staff can make their recommendations, but ultimately you make the decision." - Brittany
20. "The only thing I remembered from birth class that helped me was to keep any noises you make at a low pitch. I always noticed that when I started panicking the noises I made got higher pitched. So as soon as I went lower, I was more relaxed and focused. Also just moving into different positions! And the tub was a definite game changer. That's where I had her and was the most comfortable!" - Michelle
21. "Knowing that my body was made to give birth, and that it knew what it was doing, helped. I had no doubt in my mind that I couldn't do it and that is a powerful thing. The moment you doubt yourself it becomes harder. That doesn't mean I didn't think I was an idiot midway through, but that's different." - Brynn
22. "I would focus on a spot on the wall during a contraction and picture something hard I'd done before like climbing a mountain and envisioned putting one foot in front of the other!" - Cailie
23. "I think it's most important to trust your provider and be comfortable with them as well as knowing your options. If you don't know the options available to you in labor and birth you can't make use of them. I always recommend taking a lot of time choosing your provider and researching birth in general and if you aren't clicking with your provider it's always OK to switch—even if you're 9 months pregnant. Trust your gut." - Bryn
24. "Have a game plan. I studied hypnobirthing and listened to my relaxation tracks and affirmations nightly for months. I was clear with my midwife from the beginning about my birth plan and to not offer me medication, and I hired an excellent doula. All of that helped me achieve my goal." - Katie
25. "Two things helped me. One, read lots of birth stories and ask your friends about theirs—all kinds. I did read a couple of birth books such as the Bradley Method, which were great, but reading about other women's births really gave me a good understanding of all the different things that could possibly happen. Two, wait to find out the sex of the baby! Going into labor was so exciting because I knew I would finally be finding out who the baby really was. I focused a lot on that excitement during contractions and pushing." - Elizabeth
26. "I attempted to prepare, but when the time came, it was all about staying in the moment and breathing deeply." - Shireen
27. "With all my labors, I stayed on my feet right until the moment of pushing. It helped me so much to be moving and swaying during labor! I would brace my hands on the wall or hold my husband's shoulders to get through each contraction, then I would walk and sway back and forth until the next one hit." - Allison
28. "Knowing that women have been giving birth without interventions or meds for thousands of years helped give me courage. Only in the last few generations have they been going to hospitals." - Evan
29. "Envisioning each contraction like a wave coming in to shore and breaking at the shoreline was a huge help." - Anne
30. "No one, NO ONE, can deliver your baby but you. It begins and ends with you. For myself I had to start there with ultimate surrendering and the rest followed." - Tiffany