Natural Birth, or Not?

Natural Birth, or Not?

By Karen Schwendler

When I was pregnant with my first born, the initial reasons for having a natural birth were pretty straight forward: I was scared to death of needles and very sensitive to medications. I was willing to take the “pain” of childbirth in order to avoid those two things.

My husband and I found and attended a 12-week childbirth class taught by a natural birthing instructor 40 minutes away from where we lived. As those weeks went by, we learned more and more about our growing baby, and the incredible things my body could do. Our bond deepened as he helped me with my exercises, my diet and the relaxation techniques he had practiced to keep me calm and focused for the big moment ahead of us. We became a team, working toward the same goal.

When my due date approached, my reasons for having a natural birth increased, along with my confidence. I had a close partner who was trained and ready to coach me through it. We worked through the labor together — I focused on his calming voice as the waves of contractions washed over me. As our baby was born, we were filled with the most incredible amount of joy. I was able to look at our baby with a sense of pride and accomplishment. We had done it — we had survived a natural childbirth. Instead of fearing it, we embraced it. When our second child was born 3½ years later, we repeated the process.

Since then, I have become a natural birthing instructor. It is amazing how many women want to tell me their birth story as soon as they find out what I do. There seems to be a polarizing view of childbirth among women, but I find the number of women who wished their birth stories were different to be increasing. “If I knew that I had the choice of a natural birth, I would have taken it in a heartbeat,” one woman told me. “I thought what was happening to me at the hospital was what was best for me and my baby. I had no idea that I had the right to choose.”

That is exactly why I do what I do. There are always circumstances surrounding each pregnancy, and those which are considered high risk are certainly better served in a medical environment. Whether high risk or not, empowering women and their partners to make informed decisions about their birth experience is something I am passionate about. Knowledge is power, and power makes you strong. Whatever your birth story might be, my goal is to help make it about what you as a family shared together, as a team, in this incredible miracle of giving life.

Despite the high percentage of medicated births and c-sections in this country, a growing trend of women getting back to nature is being realized. Spurred on by the need of expectant mothers to have a more personalized experience with their care providers and their births, birthing center and home births attended by certified nurse midwives are moving closer to mainstream. Free-standing birth centers are on the rise. Portable, inflatable birthing tubs used in home births are becoming more and more popular.

For those women who want to embrace the job our bodies are designed to do, I would highly recommend learning how to birth naturally. It takes a good teacher who has a main focus of natural birthing, and not just a general overview of birth itself. Natural birthing requires lots of practice, stamina and a committed coach who can support you through it. The end result is something you will never forget, and treasure forever.

Karen Schwendler is a natural birthing instructor. For more information, visit her website at

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