How to Have Less Pain In Labor {even if you’re getting an epidural}


How to have less pain in labor


All women will experience some pain. At some point. Even if you get an epidural. So we thought it’d be helpful to give ALL WOMEN a boost & teach a few pain management techniques that many moms never even knew existed.

And they work. Really well.

They’re super effective ways to handle labor pains & are taught by a rockstar mama who wants you to at least have these in your tool belt. Just in case your epidural is slow to work or doesn’t work,  your labor moves too fast to get an epidural or you want an unmedicated natural birth. Whatever, let’s make sure you’re ready for baby. She breaks it down like a DJ on a friday night. 

Michelle had a 51 hour labor & a 4 hour labor. Both unmedicated. She’s excited to teach you how she worked through the pain of her 51 hour labor, so you’ll know how to do the exact same thing (even if you only need it for 5 mins).

She gives really helpful tips & specific examples on what worked during early labor… like warm baths, lighting candles (spa-like stuff) & why it’s important you relax. She also delves into toilet sitting (yeah, sounds weird but if it works are you really just gonna blow it off?), sleep breathing (she even demos this!) & why short term goals are super effective ways to work through labor (even if you feel like you’re struggling a bit- cause we all do ;-) ).

You’ll Also Learn:

  1. Why writing, then saying your own affirmations during labor is crucial to dispelling fear. (Michelle gives a great example.) 
  2.  How visualizing the physiology of birth can really help your mind relax & comforts you (She shares that’s it’s actually distracting- in a good way). 
  3.  Why you might need to have a pep talk with yourself if/when you hit the wall (she did, she shares about her wall)
  4. How being buck naked during labor helped Michelle minimize pain. Maybe it’ll help you too. She almost took her shirt off to show us how to get buck naked?!?

Who is Michelle VanOudenallen?

A complete Rock Star. Michelle VanOudenallen is the mama of 2 girls- 16 months & 4 ½ months old. She’s a super busy new mom & is also a Director of Youth Ministry. The VanOudenallens live in Cincinnati. That last name might be Dutch, which means she might like to wear wooden shoes & plant tulips. We also think she’s got a serious gift of communicating about all this birth stuff. Do you? Do you think she’d make an amazing Childbirth Educator? Michelle VanOudenallen rocks it. Michelle is afraid of computer animation movies and is a compulsive list maker. [private Premium Membership|Gift-Premium Membership|Coaching|Vault]

Watch the Interview: Part 1 (download MP3′s Part 1Part 2Part 3)

Part 2

Part 3


What do you think? Share below…


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Michelle VanOudenallen

How to have less pain in labor {Even if you’re getting an epidural}


Sarah:                          Hi this is Sarah Blight with Your Baby Booty Interviews, where we cut the fluff & keep things real and give you all the information that you really need to know and want to know in order to make the best decisions for you and your baby. Well how can you work through labor pain?

                                    Obviously, there’s going to be pain in labor no matter what route you choose. But are there things that really do work, aside from drugs, that you can do to help cope with labor pain. Well today we’re chatting with Michelle Vanoudenallen.

                                    She is the mother of two girls and she had two unmedicated births with each of them. Her first labor was 51 hours. I know you guys are all cringing, but she’s going to teach us how she got through it and she has a beautiful baby girl, well almost not even a baby anymore, to show for that and then she had her second birth with Ingrid here, that you see and that labor was four hours. So we’ll hear about how she worked through that as well, so thanks so much Michelle for joining us again.

Michelle:                     Thank you for having me again.

Sarah:                          Okay so what did you decide to do the first time around with Grey to prepare for birth?

Michelle:                     I really had set the intension that I wanted to have a natural unmedicated vaginal birth and I really believe that the more you know and the more information that you have, the less fear you have going in to the birthing process. And I really, I think that there are a lot of misconceptions going in based on what the media has portrayed in movies what childbirth looks like, stories that we have heard most of them tend to be negative I think. Um, pictures that we see, articles that we read are sort of slanted towards a medicated birth.

                                    And so, since I knew that I didn’t want that, I had to go out and seek my own information. So that’s the first thing that I did. Here comes number one (kid screaming in background). There she goes. So I enrolled in HypnoBirthing class.

Sarah:                          Why did you do that?

Michelle:                     Well, I wanted to be informed going in and I wanted to learn techniques and get myself a set of tools, because I did know that you know women get epidurals for reason and so in order to avoid that, I knew that there was going to be level of pain that I was going to need to manage and when push came to shove and I was in that place where I was reconsidering or wanting medication, my body was wanting that. I wanted the mental tools and emotional tools and the reinforced ideas going in, that would kind of keep me in the zone and in that intention that I originally set.

Sarah:                          Yeah, so cause a lot of women that go through child birth and choose to do it without medication. They still obviously… 99% of them still feel the pain. There are a few people that have said they don’t, but that’s everyone has different levels of pain tolerance and things like that, but I think lot of people think that you never do get up to a point where you want the drugs or never do get to a point where you just feel like you just can’t do it. What was your experience?

                                    I guess first let’s back track. We’ll talk first about what’s specifically did you do and what did you learn in HypnoBirthing and then what helped you during each state of labor. So what things in HypnoBirthing did you learn specifically…specific skills?

Michelle:                     The first thing that I learned was a deep understanding of the different stages of labor. So that when I was in those stages I knew that stage, I knew what you expect in that stage and therefore I knew how to cope with that stage and without the fear of it’s just going to get any worse right now it’s just going to get. You know, well how long this is going to last. I had an understanding. So when I took way those unknowns I was able to then just use my mind to focus you know I was able to focus my mind on what was happening. So that’s like the first most important thing.

                                    Then once I am there for example like in early labor I just took hot baths. The hydrotherapy was incredibly soothing and you know I really did a lot of things. A lot of it is the kind of things that you wanted to do for yourself at the end of the really hard day. You know just it’s a self-care. I wanted aroma therapy. I lit candles. I you know put some bubbles in the bubble bath turned out the lights and I just could help myself relax.  Getting to place of deep relaxation was essential for me and I think it is essential for any birthing mother or laboring mother, because when you relaxed your muscles are relaxed.

                                    Your stress hormones aren’t flying all over the place. You know you are in a better place to respond to what is going on. So those kind of principles are what I learned in the labor class and then I could implement those at each stage.

Sarah:                          So it sounds like you’re going to have a tool box of options and things you can pick and choose from and see what work for you?

Michelle:                     Absolutely.

Sarah:                          So did you practice these things before you gave birth like… I know some childbirth classes really hammer that in… did you have it down before you actually needed it? Did you practice before hand much?

Michelle:                     Well I have to just get my background. I have a background of I am a certified yoga instructor and also I have practiced meditation and taught meditation for relaxation and so I have some of those tools already and so yes in that sense, I have been doing that for a long time.

                                    Some of the specifics they gave us HypnoBirthing CD with some scripts that they read that are sort of deep relaxation exercises that I would play before I went to bed and I did that for months and actually I had it in the car on the way to the hospital birthing center, just because the familiarity of that was soothing to me. It just kind of put me in that place of okay this is what we’re doing right now. We invite the baby. This is what we have been practicing for. I also had some affirmations that I chose for myself. So these CDs or books usually provide sample ones and I had certain affirmations that we are addressing specific issues of fear that I had like my baby is the perfect size for my body and I would just say that over and over again or I would envision…my cervix is opening…as its ready to open, my cervix is opening or I would be breathing the baby down.

                                    It was just envisioning the physiological changes that my body was going through as I was giving birth. So instead of holding really tightly and squeezing my muscles and oh my gosh I don’t what’s going to happen, you know this baby is about to come out. I had the scientific picture almost in my head. I would picture my hips widening, I would picture my cervix opening. I was picturing the birth canal just being open and smooth and ready for the baby and that is really helpful because it took away the unknowns of what was going to happen. I just went in knowing what’s going on with my body and that is really helpful.

Sarah:                          Do I take a second?

Michelle:                     yeah

Sarah:                          Okay, so you mentioned that you used relaxation affirmation some visualizing. Let’s get back to the affirmation for a second, because I think a lot of people they have fear about child birth that is important that they address. It seems like having affirmations that you create for yourself  and I like what you said about addressing your own personal fears that you had. What do you recommend for people to do and kind of how far in advance do people need to start thinking about it? Because there is kind of that fine line… you don’t want to dwell on it but you also need to overcome it, so what’s the balance there?

Michelle:                     Yeah that’s the good question, because I really don’t advise women to begin to about birth, like I don’t start handing them my resources until they are really in their third trimester. You know you really can use the affirmations for your pregnancy, but you don’t want to start thinking about birth. You got to focus on growing that baby and that’s a whole nother stage. But I do think your body starts to naturally prepare itself for labor.

                                    You can tell your baby drops, you know you get that kind of you can’t sleep at night and all that that kind of final stretch of pregnancy and that’s when I really think that they are useful, particularly if you are up at night…you might as well think good thoughts. And so I think it is when those anxiety start to arise.

                                    I had to… I mentioned in my last interview that I made a switch to a different practitioner and I had to say some affirmations to myself before I made that switch.

                                    Like I’m in control of this situation. You know I am in control of my body & the birth of my baby and I don’t know specifically what I said, but they are along those lines to help get me to that place. Yeah I think sooner than later, but not too sooner…if that makes sense. Second trimester really when you’re focusing on birth and as you get closer to the actual time that you are using them literally repeatedly in labor.

Sarah:                          Okay because obviously you want to remember it, so reputation is good to remember what you’re trying to say.

Michelle:                     Writing it down and I wouldn’t pick more than three. You don’t want to have all these things that you’ve memorized, but they’ll come to you. You know what fits for you.

                                    For me, just because I am small and I had an experience when I was like in middle school that some girl came up to me and said oh you are going to have C- sections you are so little. Just out of the blue that was in my head and so when I had just save my baby is the perfect size for my body that was important to me, because that lie was planted at a really early age so randomly, yeah, so the thing is we have so many lies and misconception that we don’t even realize.

                                    I mean, that was in seventh grade, you know we weren’t even talking about babies, but so those things are in there and identifying those things is a huge step in overcoming the fear. You have to identify what your afraid of and sometimes you don’t even know what it is this you are afraid of.

Sarah:                          So through your labor, your 51-hour labor with Grey, obviously when you starting labor you don’t know how long it is going to take, but you still have to prepare mentally the best you can. You said in early labor you were doing the hydrotherapy, the hot baths, things like that…as you progress into active labor what things were working for you that you were using.

Michelle:                     Once I was in active labor, the hydrotherapy still, um… getting in a shower & really feeling the heat on my back, the counter pressure my husband or the midwife or the nurse doing some counter pressure my back, I had a lot of back… I won’t call back labor but I had back pain because she was posterior in position. I felt that I had to keep moving. I was swaying a lot. I didn’t want to, if I was feeling a surge I didn’t want to sink into it and I didn’t want to give into it. So if I moved it was almost like I was kind of just like fleeing for a moment and kind of keeping it fluid.

                                    I also, as I mentioned before as soon as I was active labor, I was naked, like buck naked, and there was a reason for that…not only because you know you are in and out of the shower but and I have been, before birth, a moderately modest person…no longer is that the case [Laughter]. I’ll take my shirt off right now….

Sarah:                          Yeah show us Michelle, show us what you really mean.

Michelle:                     One of things that I learned & I learned this in the HypnoBirthing class, is that it’s so essential for a woman to be in a primal state and that includes not wearing clothes. I have to sort of strip civilization off of me. The same way you strip the images in the media. You have to really strip down, because birth is so core to our existence. It is a primal thing. Women have been doing it forever, you know, that’s how the human race has been going on. And that’s an another affirmation that I said over and over “women have done this for thousands and thousands of years.

                                    I am one of the woman who have done this for thousands and thousands of years and I kept picturing… like early native Americans and women in red tents and you know all kinds of women in a jungle. I mean women give birth in a non-civilized environment, so I felt like that  was huge… being naked & being primal, because when you are, you can access some primal tools that you can’t access otherwise.

Sarah:                          Very cool, yeah I like that. Okay as labor was going on, when did you hit a wall and if so, how did you overcome that wall.

Michelle:                     Absolutely I hit a couple of walls. One was sheer exhaustion, because I had labored for 12 hours at home and just kind of doing stuff during the day. But I hadn’t slept and you know towards the end you don’t sleep too much anyway and so you know when we’re going on 24 hours, I would like fall asleep, have a contraction, wake up and I was hitting a wall of exhaustion and that point, I didn’t choose to do this, but one thing I would recommend for women who are beginning to hit the sleep deprivation wall, just remove all clocks and all sense of time from your birthing space.  

                                    Because there is a fear and one of my fears a time clock would be imposed upon me. So if you can not know what time it is not know how long…I mean I had no idea that I was in labor that I was 7 cm dilated for 7 hours. It felt like 45 minutes. I had no idea. So you do this time, which is good but it’s also bad because your body is just exhausted and needs sleep. So one of the things that I did during that time was to kind of create sleep for myself, but still be working… you know doing the work. There is a tool called sleep breathing.

Sarah:                          Okay so you are talking about creating sleep for yourself and there is something you mentioned called sleep breathing?

Michelle:                     Sleep breathing essentially is a kind of tricking your body into deep relaxation by mimicking the kind of breathing that you do in sleep. So when you’re sleeping your breath tends to be really evened out, it tends to be really rhythmic and it’s kind of like where you just you’re not really thinking about your breathing. You’re letting your body just do its natural thing to get itself into a natural state of relaxation that will lead you to sleep. And so, you can kind of create that by intentionally breathing that way and your body will automatically respond to that signal from the breath, to kind of go in to a deep relaxation state.

Sarah:                          Okay, you had mentioned before it is kind of like you’re pretending?

Michelle:                     Yes, exactly. So it’s like you’re pretending to breathe, I mean to sleep. You’re breathing but you are pretending to sleep. So I’ll just do a little demo. So, if I want to sleep I will close my eyes and I am just going to do this for a few minutes or few seconds. (does the demo with closed eyes, slowly, deeply breathing in & out)

                                    So if you were looking at me you were thinking that I was either not narcoleptic or that I had just fallen asleep right. And really that is what you should look like.

                                    And it should look like you’re asleep to others, because you are like pretending to sleep and it is an incredibly, incredibly effective method not only for relaxing your body, but also to getting you centered because if you’re focusing on your breath, you’re only focusing on one thing, as supposed to stimulus around you, any discomfort you might be experiencing, any anxiety that might be creeping in, you just continue to focus on that. You know task at hand which is to kind of act that you’re pretending to sleep. And that really, really made a huge difference.

Sarah:                          Because also when you’re pretending, you’re not focusing on how to do it right way or wrong way… everyone can pretend right?

Michelle:                     That is an excellent point. When you’re pretending you are sort of letting go of expectations that you put on yourself or expectations that you read whether you should do or should be doing and you’re in the moment for one and you’re engaging in your right brain which is playful and you don’t really have any rules and so that’s exact kind of state that you need to be in, to kind of sleep into a primal state where you’re able to just let your instincts take over.

Sarah:                          Okay. What else did you do, you said you hit walls a couple of times during your labor. What else did you do to kind of get over those walls?

Michelle:                     Absolutely well, that was one reason I chose to give birth in a birthing center. I didn’t want to feel at all that I was constrained by an IV or an epidural that was going to keep me from being able to use my legs. So I found that when I was moving, it was also actually moving around any discomfort. It wasn’t letting it push on any nerves for too long. So I did a lot of rocking, standing up rocking that was just helpful to me and also rocking is really soothing, you know I mean babies liked to be rocked. It’s sort of that natural kind of moving the body back in forth to get… just soothed.

                                    You know, I wasn’t going on… like… when at the very beginning of my labor, when those contractions were beginning I would do walks around the birthing center…leaving my room. When I was in that the deep throws of active labor, I really liked, I was just kind of squat & I’d move back and forth. I’d just adjust. I’d keep things so that I was never focused on one kind of point of discomfort for too long. I also used a birthing ball where I would sit on the ball with my leg like I was on the horse and just opening up pelvis was really helpful and then sort of rocking in that state too… also it helps the baby in that positioning and helps the movement so that you know the baby is not pressing on and things doing some of those bad contractions.

Sarah:                          You also mentioned distractions and distractions that you chose, not just any distractions.

Michelle:                     Yeah, totally, totally, I think I mentioned I really wanted earplugs, because I was like… any outside noise at that point to me was like…I thought like if someone talked I was going to have another contraction. So every time anyone spoke… my husband, no one, there was no one in my birthing room, even the nurses knew to keep it down and so I did have earplugs in, I learned that kind of the hard way the first time around, where noise was such a distraction for me. So my second birth, I brought earplugs with me. Several pair.

                                    That was huge. Because I feel like you know anything that is going to take my attention away is going to keep me from focusing on the work that I need to be doing. And it is work you know, it’s like if you’re writing a term paper or you are, you know working on the dissertation, you don’t want all kinds of sounds and you won’t be able to focus and that’s what it is.

                                    I also used music and for me, music without words was essential so I had really low-key spa type music. I think mine was like native American flute, that was just a CD that was in the room and that worked. But just something… it’s whatever is soothing for you. I know other friends made birthing exercise music, like power like…

Sarah:                          Like pump a jam, pump it out…..

Michelle:                     Like workout, like Justin Timberlake stuff. It’s not for me, but yeah I do recommend bringing in creature comforts and things that is soothing. You know kind of like when you go near the going on airplane, you pack your little neck wraps and your iPod and all these little things to keep you comfortable during that kind of uncomfortable time. I think you need to think about birthing the same way.

Sarah:                          That’s good. You also mentioned that when you started hitting the wall you had a little pep talk with yourself in the bathroom. You had some alone time. Actually, you had alone time to get through it, what was that about?

Michelle:                     Well, I used the bathroom as that like… I need a minute… checkout time to go in and just get away from everyone, because the bathroom is a place where you can lock the door. And so I was in there a lot, not necessarily using the bathroom but using the space. There is a mirror in there and I would…that’s funny you say pep talk.

                                    I did give myself pep talks, but before that I had to have little reality checks with myself. Like I remember specifically looking the mirror and saying… “What are you thinking? Why did you choose to do this naturally again? And you know the regular hospital is just 100 yards away. So if you want to go and do this you know…the western medicine way…it’s still available.

                                    And I looked at myself and my hair was all over my face. It was all wet and I was like “You don’t look very good. You are definitely going to need to put some make up on, before the post baby pics.”

                                    But I definitely, I use that time to check in with myself. I mean even those kind of conversations and even looking at myself in that way was really helpful, because I like brought me back to like, okay let’s go, this is you, you’ve been doing this, hello Mitchell you know you can do this. So I had to touch base with myself in that way… looking at myself in the mirror and sort of being like… you are birthing right now…like you are in it….you’re doing this!

                                    Its that moment you so look so forward to and I feel like that was really important for me, even just being present and remembering what was happening. I know lot of people that look back on their births and it’s just a fog. It’s like wedding day, it’s like so much going on. And I remember those moments with myself and they were really sacred, because I was choosing to sort of stop and be like okay this is what’s going on and you are 7-cm dilated or you know alright you are getting ready to push.

                                    You gotta gear up, you gotta do this. I also had like a very significant moment that I remember right before I had Ingrid, which is my second baby and I had remembered very well what crowning felt like and I was afraid I was going to tear and because I tore with my first baby, which really wasn’t that bad looking back. But I just didn’t want that to happen so badly and so I remember just like… I even said to my midwife that I wanted an episiotomy.

                                    That’s when you knew I was going through transition. If you know me at all… I am like the poster child for no episiotomies. I like preach it…it’s  really funny. She actually just started laughing at me…like in the middle and my husband going ‘no no no’. That’s when I knew…okay I’m getting close, because I’m not making any sense. I did not have an episiotomy & and I did not tear and it was awesome…so…

 Sarah:                         So you also mentioned toilet sitting was really helpful for you, tell us about that. You even said before, you brought your pillow in to the bathroom with your on the toilet.

Michelle:                     Back to the bathroom…back to the bathroom. I am…toilet sitting is so huge. If I give women advice during labor… I would like… that is one of the single most effective ways of getting your body to relax and open up in “those regions”.

                                    Because that is where you naturally open and release things and your body knows that. It doesn’t do that, you know walking down the street and it certainly doesn’t do it in front of other people. And so you are in a birthing center room with strangers around, also your husband and you know even if mentally you might be okay with it, you have not trained that lower part of your body to be okay letting things out in front of others.

                                    So when you toilet sit Ina May Gaskin one of those amazing spiritual midwives of our century, has talked about that are sphincters, which are little you know, those things that open and close are shy and so sitting on the toilet is way of sort of like warming them up and telling them like… hey it’s okay. So I would sit there for extended periods of time holding my pillow.  I’d like to reiterate in all my buck naked I was… just to make that clear.  So I’m totally naked, I’m sitting on the toilet, I’m holding the pillow and I would just sort of do the sleep breathing on the toilet, but first it’s amazing because that position is sort of preparing you…like your baby is kind like oh birth canal…we can kind of start scootin’. And then its giving your sphincters permission.

                                    So it was huge. It helped to loosen a lot of anything, any muscles down there were holding in, because we hold in when we’re afraid and so that’s a natural cause of pain and if you can get those relaxed, you’ll not feel that kind of discomfort in that area I guarantee it.

Sarah:                          That makes so much sense, because when I think about like going and camping and trying to go to the bathroom in the woods, you know it doesn’t happen very easily because our body …you know aren’t used to doing that. But give me a toilet in the woods…I’m good you know so that makes lot of sense.

Michelle:                     And we really have to take into account, because birth is such a primal experience. So it really wasn’t intended at the beginning to be so much around people, around white walls and medicine and stuff it was kind of more of an in the woods experience you know, back in the day and especially when medicine wasn’t available.

                                    So if you can get back in that primal state your body does a lot of the work for you and it remembers, it knows exactly what to do.

Sarah:                          You also mentioned urinating hourly. Why is that helpful to over coming the wall?

Michelle:                     That actually was something my midwife encourage me to do even if I didn’t feel like it and I’ll tell you a lot of times I didn’t feel like going, but it does relieve a lot of pressure and that’s because you know the contractions alone are moving and pushing and so if there is pressure inside your abdomen and anyway you can sort of release some of that. It’s definitely going to make a difference. It’s kind of like when you have menstrual cramps you know and then you go to the bathroom and a kind of helps a little bit… it’s the same thing, you’re just creating space so that movement isn’t pushing up against anything and that relieves discomfort.

Sarah:                          Good ninja tip, I like that. Okay so let’s go back to pep talks in the bathroom for a second because you know the bathroom is magical in your labor? I should have done this Lesson in the bathroom. [Laughter] That would have been a great little illustration.

                                    So setting short term goals I know, for a lot of people, is another great technique that people use. Did you at any point use these short term goals?

Michelle:                     Absolutely, I was sort of trained as athlete when I would run it was like, okay if you can just make it to the mail box, if you can just make it to whatever, so that sort of definitely is in my psyche as far how I work. And I think that’s just an effective tool no matter what you’re goal is, but particularly when you are so much in your body and sometimes your body is trying to win out over your mind. When you can give your mind a task like that, it definitely helps it, stay calm.

                                    And the goal Is keep your mind calm and still. So your body can do what it needs to do without any interference. And so like some of the short term goals I would set usually during contractions are really the moments… when I was in a contraction if you start thinking about pushing and you are only 7-cm in a contraction and that people do that, they starting thinking ahead, I can do this and I can do that. You got to just focus on the contraction. You know its just…let’s get through this. A

                                    And I did I did slip in to that a lot, because especially I think when you giving birth before it’s a lot easier to jump ahead, because you know exactly what’s coming up, but I also think that when you have a goal there is some determination that comes in and this sort of fierceness that comes in if you are competitive person, like I am, so there is just sort of like I am going to beat my stats, I am going to beat my goal, you know like I was so excited that when they filled up the tub for me for my second birth and I spent hours in the tub when I birthed Grey and this one, they filled it up, I got in for ten minutes, I got out in like 10 minutes, I’m like  “done okay done with the water”. It was just like so excited, I didn’t even need the water, I’m out….[Laughter]

Sarah:                          So it could be something as simple as saying I am going to get through the next contraction or I’m going get through the next time until my midwife comes back in or the nurse comes back in and checks on me or I can make it until…I’m just setting really close goals just that are right around the corner, maybe in the next 30 seconds to a minute?

Michelle:                     Even I remember, in the very end, some of the pushing…it was like…my husband just comes back with some water. You know these things…like “I’m so thirsty”… all of a sudden all of your needs are super amplified. I was just like you, you’re not just thirsty… you’re like dying of thirst now and so I remember thinking things like just get through this until the water comes in, that’s your reward or maybe it’s the popsicle or whatever it is for you.

Sarah:                          Let’s talk about pushing for a second… What were the main things for both your labors that really helped you with the pushing?

Michelle:                     Well, for one…my birth vision or birth plans that I gave to my midwife and really asked that I could do self-directed pushing. So you know often in the media or any movie it’s usually a doctor at the bottom end of a woman saying push and a woman is responding to that command.  Not in my world.

                                    So really it was…I would say I’m ready to push and when I’m ready to push, they would say…“okay”. So… and pushing… its… I don’t really feel like the word pushing is accurate because you’re not like…it’s not as much pushing as sort of this…bearing down and like…helping something get out.

                                    So its kind of like…I really forget with the word is, but I would call it…like I’m ready to bear down. I’m ready to just…you’re using your muscles and you’re pushing it…I guess you are pushing that out. But I found pushing to be incredibly exhilarating actually, like in the way that you know you’re so aware that you’re in the final movements and your adrenaline and everything comes together and it’s the part of my birth that I remember the most and with most detail.

Sarah:                          And you mentioned before that trusting your body was really important. Why was that important for you doing the pushing part?

Michelle:                     Because I think that’s the scariest part and having knowledge about how my body works during the pushing was a relief for me. It relieved fear. So I knew for example that when the baby’s head was going to be coming through the birth canal, the top of her head was going to be pressing on some of the nerves in my birth canal that was actually going alleviate some pain.

                                    It was going to cut off some nerves and I knew that and so knowing that it was like…okay that’s a relief, I can trust that, that’s going to happen. That’s something I know is designed to happen. I can handle that and you know because I was breathing my baby down, I was breathing and bearing down and I was ready to push…you get to the point that you want to push, because it feels good to push and so I knew that I was there, I knew no one else was telling me something to do that I wasn’t ready to do. And that was really important.

                                    I also was…my second birth I was super excited to get that baby out. I had been pregnant for like two years and I was having these babies so close together and I was like “I am so ready to get this baby out of my body”.

                                    The was a major motivation too. So you know…also when you’ve done it before it went so much quicker because all my muscles remember…they’re like oh…we’re getting a baby out again…cool we can do this.

Sarah:                          You also mentioned that you have a relationship with your body and that when you are pushing, it’s not really the greatest to be like… “hey, hi body nice to meet you, what are all these things I have all about?”

Michelle:                     Absolutely, absolutely, that’s the part we go really, really deep inside…I mean that’s the part where because you know, like that you said, “I trusted my body…I let it go like on auto pilot and let it do what it needs to do” and that’s where my eyes were absolutely closed. The room was absolutely dark. No one said a sound except if it was to guide me in one way or another for safety, or the baby. I mean my first birth, I had all my hair in front of my face. I looked like “IT” from the Adam’s Family tv show and it totally covered…like…I felt like this like cave woman (some serious belly laughing) and you know it was awesome.

Sarah:                          It sounds like you were in the zone?

Michelle:                     I was in the zone. But in order to get in the zone, I had to… let me say one more time…be naked and I mean get to the point that all of those things you literally…I striped away anything that was of my normal life…things I normally cared about, like how I looked…any of that and just became a primal body…you know and I mean, I’m not trying to sound too hippie. I really, really believe in this, because birth is something… you know it’s like…you don’t take a shower with your clothes on…you’re washing, you’re scrubbing and doing your stuff.

                                    Anything, anything that’s just like… and you don’t have sex with your clothes on either… you know….that’s what this is…it’s in a way…like one of those kind of things that should be you…naked… you know, in the zone. You should be so far in the zone that you don’t care…you don’t…you don’t care if you’re naked… that’s what I’m trying to say. You don’t care because you’re in your own deep, deep place and that’s with the breathing and eyes closed and shutting off any stimulus….basically.

Sarah:                          So what advice do you have for mamas who are checking out the whole going natural vaginal child birth thing? They may not know if they’re gonna go with or without meds, but what advice do you give moms right now who are watching?

Michelle:                     Absolutely, I would say first of all…you can do it! You can absolutely do it! You are made to do it! Your body is designed to do it and so you can and if you choose not to, that’s a choice, but I would say gather as much information as you can about the benefits of natural birth this way, verses a medicated birth. And I’m not opposed at all to a woman who actively chooses that as her method of birthing, but do not make decisions by the fall and don’t do it an ignorance.

                                    So make sure you know what’s going on and what I found,  when I weighed the knowledge and the evidence…it made more intellectual sense to me. I felt safer, I felt better about choosing to do a natural birth in this way. It felt better…all around for my body and I was not afraid. I was more afraid going in to another situation, like I said I would be constrained and didn’t have as much freedom. Freedom is really important to me and it’s something that I value. I think that you need to bring your core values in your birthing experience.    

Sarah:                          That is so good. Okay we are going to end on that note. I want to thank you Michelle so much for being so flexible with us in our technical difficulties. To all the mamas who are watching, if you have any thoughts or questions, comments, please leave them in a comments below. Also remember we have tons of other Lessons that kind a piggy bag along the same theme we have one from Barbara Harper the founder of Water Birth International. She goes in the exclusive detail about water births if that something you are interested in, she also talks about birth positions during labor and why certain positions are far more effective and will give you less pain in shorter labors. It’s scientific stuff. It’s really amazing.

                                    So check out some of those Lessons as well. We also have an amazing Resources Center on our Resources 101 page with get smart articles. We have books and reviews and film recaps as well to check out. Thanks everybody. Thanks Michelle again for joining us will see you soon.


  • Stephanie Strauss

    Wow. This isn’t what I expected. Michelle sharing HOW she did things & what she did when she hit a wall…that was super helpful. I feel like so much I’ve been reading (a lot) talks ‘about managing pain’, but doesn’t actually show you or give you examples of how to do it. Michelle did. This was really good for me. Look forward to watching more of these & thanks for being so open Michelle!

    • yourbabybooty

      Oh we’re so glad you found this information helpful. I also love the tangible examples that Michelle shares in this interview- a few of which I used myself during labor! If you liked this interview, also check out Barbara Harper’s interview on birth positions- there’s more tangible examples in there too that I think you’ll find helpful!

      • Stephanie Strauss

        Which worked best for you during your labor? Why do you think they worked so well?

        • yourbabybooty

          Ohhh. (Good questions;) the first is toilet sitting. It’s a miracle! It definitely takes some of the pressure off and what Michelle said about relaxing your sphincters…it’s totally true. I didn’t have a birth tub available but I did sit on a birthing ball under a warm shower with the water cascading down my back. Hydrotherapy (in all its forms) is really relaxing (if you like water;). So those both worked well for me!

          • Stephanie Strauss

            I appreciate that toilet sitting could work, but how do I get over the association of toilet with birth?? I’m not there yet. :)

            I did watch the Barbara Harper interview you mentioned above. Haven’t read or heard of the actual birth explained like that before…was very helpful to see how things will happen. It makes a lot of sense to me now. Especially when she says that the baby just has to travel down a straight line (with gravity to help), instead of through a birth canal that is angled up (without gravity). I can see why birth would be more painful & take longer when lying down. I’m gonna share these interviews with some friends. I’m learning a ton & look forward to seeing other ones. :) Thanks! Do you have a list of the interviews?

          • yourbabybooty

            Woot woot Stephanie! So glad you’re finding these interviews helpful:) Yes, go to our “Interview Archives” tab on the right side bar>>>> up near the top. There’s a list by category (and we add new ones each week as well!)

  • Cammie P.

    This might sound crazy, but a total lightbulb went off in my head when Michelle said sitting on a toilet helps because your trained to relax when you’re on there! Brilliant! I definitely plan on using her tips when I go into labor (hopefully next month!).

    • yourbabybooty

      Awesome! Glad this was useful for you. Please let us know how it goes and what you found to be most valuable during labor. We can all learn from each other;) You can dO IT MAMA!

    • AshStew

      Hahaha! YES! Me too! I definitely plan to try that technique as well :)

      • yourbabybooty

        Awesome! I bet you’ll love it!

  • Kim Beck

    Loving this! Favorite part so far is when you guys talk about sleep breathing (pretending to sleep) instead of focusing so much on ‘the right way to breathe’…this makes so much sense! Because that was me, I focused so hard on trying to do all the breathing the ‘right way’…I just couldn’t relax. These are my favorite:
    -”When you’re focused on pretending to sleep, you’re not so focused on breathing a ‘right way’ or a ‘wrong way’”
    -”which helps you let go of expectations you’ve put on yourself or that you’ve read that you feel like you ‘should be doing’”
    -”you’re in your right brain, which is playful, there are no rules”
    There are no rules…love it!

    • yourbabybooty

      Great takeaways Kim! We learned a ton from Michelle as well. It’s always neat to hear other people’s experiences and get ideas/tools to store up for our own births. And the “no rules” thing… definitely gives you a whole new sense that you can do what works FOR YOU and your body! We are each so unique:) Thanks for posting!

      • Kim Beck

        I felt like my birthing class was one big rule on “breathing”. It was really kind of funny. Our teacher was basically like “this is THE way you need to do things” …about everything. You might’ve seen my super long comment in “Preparing for Labor & Birth” – Dr. Michelle Collins….yeah, I didn’t have a very good birth class experience. :( womp womp

  • Jessie

    The biggest underlying message I got from Michelle was about letting go of any shame at all and embracing your own personal power over this experience. I realize now that because of media and misinformation, I have really been afraid of labor and birth because “traditional Western” methods seemed so degrading to the women involved. I am afraid of the image of being laid on a table with little to no control over my choices or feeling coerced into procedures.

    I’m really glad I found this site because so that I can read about normal births and it really dispels a lot of fear in me. I don’t know if I ever want to have children (certainly not at this point) but this has helped alleviate the fear of labor portion of my reservations about having kids. Thanks!

    • yourbabybooty

      Thanks Jessie for sharing. Isn’t it amazing what happens in our lives when we are set free from fear? I love it! Keep us in mind if you decide to journey to the Motherland:) Best wishes to you.

  • SP

    What is the link to the interview? I don’t see it on here.