The Joy Of Labor: Experts Reveal How To Love Giving Birth

Does giving birth mean hours of misery, or can it be a fulfilling and memorable experience?

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Giving birth can be beautiful. Just ask moms like Natalia Meddings, who wrote for The Daily Mail about her joyful labor and delivery as well as the experiences of other moms like her. Medding’s article isn’t about gloating over her good fortune. Instead, she’s advocating that moms can take very specific actions to set themselves up for more fulfilling birth experiences. She doesn’t believe that birth has to be a fear-filled, miserable experience. Instead, she believes that moms can enjoy their child’s birth.

Admittedly, her claim is a little hard to believe at first glance, given that it is contradictory to common cultural messages about giving birth. In movies, mothers are portrayed covered in sweat, screaming in pain, and hurling insults at the father of their child in the delivery room. Many mothers are conditioned to expect unbearable pain and even danger through stories of nightmare births from friends and family. It’s good enough to birth a healthy baby. A lovely childbirth, on the other hand, almost seems like too much to ask. Is it really possible to prepare for an enjoyable birth? Experienced moms and childbirth experts share their thoughts and experiences about giving joyful and fulfilling birth, along with a few helpful ideas for preparing to welcome your new baby to the world.

Moms share what made their births enjoyable.

“I never would have thought labor to be enjoyable when you think about the mechanics of what’s happening,” Crystal Henry, mom of two, shares with HealthyWay. She says her first birth matched her expectations. Henry had an induction and an epidural. In hindsight, she calls the experience painful and long. Her second birth, however, defied her expectations. She reports experiencing incredible pain, but the pain was accompanied by a euphoric high that made it all worthwhile. “It was absolutely one of the most enjoyable moments of my life,” she says. “I knew our family was complete, but I wanted to experience that high again. So I offered to be a surrogate for a couple who had been devastated by cancer.” Henry’s third experience with birth was just a enjoyable as her second. She felt a euphoria so intense, she says she never would have believed it unless she experienced it herself. Maggie Yount believes it was her mindset that made the birth of her first child so enjoyable. She had prepared with hypnobirthing, a popular technique for managing pain through self-hypnosis. “Contractions would come and go, and I would just kind of sit with them and breathe through them,” she shares. “I was in such a positive headspace that I really just flowed with it and lost track of time.” In Yount’s mind, a fulfilling birth has a lot to do with setting yourself up for success. She devoured childbirth education during her pregnancy, taking just about every class available to her. She also credits her connection with her partner, who made her feel supported and loved, as something that made her birthing experience so enjoyable.

Lastly, Yount shares that her perspective was one essential part of her birthing mindset. Years before her pregnancy, she almost lost her life in a horrific car accident that left her in a coma with 14 broken bones. “As a contrast to my accident, this was discomfort I was feeling and intensity, but it was not pain,” she says of labor and delivery. “I knew pain.”

“I was so proud because no one else did it but me. I was solely responsible for the birth of my kids, and that is truly awesome.” —Kate Anderson

When she was pregnant with her first child, Kate Anderson, mom of two, knew she didn’t want to let negative perspectives on birth scare her about what might happen. Although she does report feeling a bit nervous, she was also incredibly excited to give birth. “I had done a lot of reading and research and wanted to personally try to eliminate the ‘scare tactics’ that are so commonly shown in our culture and actually try to enjoy it,” she says. “I was so proud because no one else did it but me. I was solely responsible for the birth of my kids, and that is truly awesome.” Having an ideal birth or uncomplicated pregnancy isn’t the only opportunity for a fulfilling birth experience. With enough planning and preparation, moms who choose or need cesarean sections can also have a satisfying birth experience. “While I’d never characterize birth as enjoyable, I was very happy with my experience,” says Eliyanna Kaiser, who had a scheduled c-section for the delivery of her double-breech twins. “I got to have a playlist in the OR, my doc, who I love, was there, my wife and my best friend supported.” Kaiser says she is aware that planning a c-section can be problematic in certain circumstances, especially if things don’t go as expected. She admits that a certain amount of luck and good health was part of her easy birth experience, and she is grateful for her outcome. Like Kaiser, Anne Wolfe Postic had enjoyable experiences during two of her three c-sections. Although her first c-section felt scary because she was dealing with HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count) syndrome, a type of preeclampsia, she loved her other two c-sections. She says having an amazing team of care providers was a big part of her positive c-section experiences. She also knew her top desires for her delivery, including keeping non-essential personnel out of the delivery room and keeping mother and baby together after birth. “The biggest piece of advice I have for people who think they might end up with a c-section is to have two birth plans: one with all the bells and whistles and one with the three to four things that are absolutely essential,” Postic says.

How to Prepare for an Enjoyable Birth

If Medding is right, moms experiencing an uncomplicated pregnancy can prepare themselves for an enjoyable birth. In her article, she talked about how she has helped other mothers get the best possible outcomes from their labor and delivery. She suggested that mothers who educate themselves on the process of labor can use that understanding to ease their anxiety. It’s an important perspective, and birth experts share a few specific steps mothers can take to achieve a more positive birthing experience. Amy C. Peters, DO, OB-GYN at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California, suggests preparing for pain management during labor as one of the first steps any expecting mom should take. Even if the mother expects to have an epidural, Peters wants all mothers to prepare for the possibility that they may not have an epidural or that it might not work exactly as planned. “Taking a course such as Hypnobabies can help a woman achieve an enjoyable birth experience without all the drama,” she says. Peters says a supportive birthing partner is another essential aspect of preparing for childbirth. This could come in the form of a significant other or another close relationship. A doula can serve as a supportive partner as well. Birth education can be a powerful tool for removing fear of the unknown for expecting moms. Yen H. Tran, DO, OB-GYN, who practices at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, shares that, even as a doctor, she experienced anxiety about her first birth. “Don’t be shy to ask your physician questions,” she says. “Even though I am an OB-GYN, I found reading books about pregnancy and childbirth to be helpful and good for me emotionally.” She adds that mothers should remember that pregnancy is a natural experience. Mothers rarely experience complications. Caring for your body before and during pregnancy is another important aspect of preparing for birth. Labor is often long and exhausting, so staying active can help you to stay in shape during your pregnancy. This can set you up for a more enjoyable birth experience, Tran says. Lastly, expectations about birth matter. Every mother is different, and every birth is different. Getting in touch with what you want from your labor and delivery can be helpful as you begin to prepare for the big day. In her professional experience, Peters has witnessed how what a mother expects from childbirth quickly transforms into a self-fulfilling prophecy, pointing out that anxiety often intensifies the pain experience. “As a resident, it was interesting to see how different cultures responded so dramatically differently to the same event,” she shares. “I was so impressed with my Hmong patients, seeming to have such easy births. This contrasted so significantly against the excruciating births of women from other cultures, including mainstream American.” Because of this, Peters recommends that all expecting mothers get clear about their expectations, creating a birth wish list and then reviewing it with her healthcare provider in advance. Giving birth is a momentous occasion and the beginning of a brand new life. It is okay to want more from childbirth outside of nothing going wrong. Don’t be afraid to voice your desires for your birth to your support system, including your birthing partner and care providers. “Women are amazing, strong, and self-aware,” Peters says. “They deserve support with their birthing days whatever way things turn so that they may have an enjoyable outcome: healthy mom and healthy baby.”