A natural lifestyle beginning at birth
Many Mamas are turning towards a natural lifestyle, as early as their childbirth experiences. There are not only many benefits to a natural childbirth, but also remedies to minimize labor pain. The most powerful decision a Mama can make is to bring their baby into this world, by truly connecting with them the way nature has intended. Feeling every movement, and using those movements to ease them into their new world.
Jenny from Wholesome Family Living, embodies the truest natural Mama. From pregnancy, birth, and beyond she is making the very best choices for her family for their health and overall happiness. I was so excited to hear Jenny’s journey on motherhood, as I connect with her in so many ways! It is so important for Mamas to hear positivity during their pregnancies, and to prepare for the birth with the power of their mind.
It is my pleasure on introducing this Wholesome Mama, Jenny!
Learn more about The Warrior Mama Series here.
1- Quick intro to you (how many children, and where you live)
I have been married to my husband for 7 years. We met at Purdue in a chemical engineering lab (romantic, right?). We have one daughter and are expecting our second in February. We currently live in Ohio.
2- What made you want to have a natural birth? What kind of research did you do beforehand?
My husband was my inspiration for pursuing an unmedicated birth. He cannot even stand the thought of needles, so just thinking of me getting an epidural made him squirm. After doing some research on epidurals and reading more about the amazing benefits of unmedicated births, I gave him the good news that I didn’t think I wanted an epidural! We were also very fortunate to learn that there was a hospital close to us that had actually just opened two new natural birthing suites. You had to remain low risk to be eligible for the experience, but they had birthing tubs in the room and allowed moms to eat and drink during labor. There was also a group of midwives that were able to deliver in the suites. We decided over halfway through our pregnancy to switch providers to the midwife group, so that we could deliver in the new natural birthing suites.
The best thing you can do to prepare for a natural birth (especially for a first-time mom who has never experienced contractions) is to mentally prepare yourself by reading other women’s natural birth success stories. I found that reading these stories built up my own confidence in my body and my ability to have a natural childbirth. These accounts also helped remove the fears that I had about the birthing process. It’s so healthy and important to process those fears before labor – some women have had their labor stall because of their own fears and worries. I read so many books and blogs to prepare myself for a natural birth. Some of my favorite books were Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May, Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize, and The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. My favorite, go-to website for any birth questions I had was Mama Natural run by Genevieve Howland. She also has an awesome book out now that I have been reading during this pregnancy called The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth.
3- Tell us (in as much detail) what your natural birth experience was like
In a word, it was exhilarating! There’s nothing more amazing than birthing a child – what a miracle! Now was it easy? No! But was it worth being uncomfortable for a dozen hours or so? Absolutely! Like most parents, I want the very best for my kids. For me, that meant giving my baby the best start to life. I wanted to avoid pain medications and other interventions to minimize the impact it would have on my baby. It was the truest sense of a “labor of love”. I was willing to work through the contractions, so that my baby and my body could work together in natural harmony for birth.
So what is labor like without pain medications and interventions? The only word I can use to describe it is that it is intense. Not intense as in painful and you just feel awful and want to die (which is what I feel like some people think it would be like). I mean intense in the sense that an unmedicated labor and birth takes a lot out of you not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually (for me). It takes focus and it takes confidence in yourself. I feel like our society has made it seem like women can’t give birth without pain medication or interventions. This creates a real mental hang-up for women where you almost feel like it’s impossible to have a more natural birth. But if you think about it, women have been giving birth since the beginning of time! Our bodies were created and designed to not only grow a child, but also give birth to that child. If this is your first time having an unmedicated birth, make sure you spend time addressing any fears you might have and building up your own confidence in yourself and your body with stories from other women who have successfully had unmedicated births.
As far as the details of how things went, I was ten days after my due date and so ready for our baby to come! At 1 am, I woke up with what felt like very light contractions. I got up and walked around our basement and started praying that this would be the day our baby would come! By early afternoon, I was tired and things hadn’t progressed much so I laid down for a nap. Around 2 pm I was startled awake with a real contraction – the show was starting! I called my husband and told him to come home from work! During contractions, I paced around our bedroom, swinging a little trash can (more on this later). I tried getting in a warm bath, but after about 30 minutes, I decided I liked walking better so I got back out. Around 7 pm, the contractions were getting quite a bit more intense and the midwife said that we should head to the hospital.
On our way there, my only prayer that I would be at 6 cm dilated – I really wanted to feel like I as over halfway there (even though I knew in my head that dilating is not linear!). I was SO HAPPY to hear that I was at 6 cm when they checked me at the hospital! It was a great confidence boost! They took us to the natural beginnings area of the labor and delivery unit, where we stayed for the rest of our time in the hospital. I tried getting in the tub, but it didn’t offer much relief. I needed to use the bathroom and after that, I honestly just sat on the side of the bed for a while. Around 10 pm our midwife asked if I wanted to be checked and I said sure. I was curious how things were going. When she checked me, she said it looked like my bag of waters had partially broken and she asked if I wanted it broken the rest of the way. She said it would probably speed up labor, but I was ok with hurrying things along! Soon after that, it didn’t seem like there was a break in contractions – they were coming quickly one after the other. I wanted to have a water birth, so I climbed back into the birthing tub, thinking it might be time to push soon!
Around 11:30 pm, I was having an urge to push, so with each contraction, I would push and could feel the baby moving through the birth canal. Around 12:15 am, the baby’s head crowned! What an exciting moment, to know that our baby was almost here! At 12:21 am, I pushed for a final contraction and felt the baby release through the birth canal! The baby was immediately brought to my arms – what an exciting moment!! My husband and I may have shed a few tears of joy. We couldn’t believe that our baby was finally here!
4- What techniques did you use for natural birth?
Many natural birth sources recommend using the 3 R’s of relaxation, rhythm, and ritual to help you remain focused and calm during labor. Rhythm was my go-to technique for my natural birth. Early on in labor I felt nauseous, so my husband handed me a small trash can. During all of my remaining contractions at home, I could be seen pacing back and forth in our room, swinging that little trash can while I focused on my breathing. Rhythm is what I needed during each contraction to keep my mind focused. The rhythm of my breathing, the rhythmic pace of my walking, and the rhythm of that little trash can swinging in my hand. Even as we headed to the hospital in the car, I had to keep my rhythm. Without being able to walk or swing my arm, my head became my new rhythm keeper and I rocked my head back and forth during my contractions while still focusing on my breathing.
I also used relaxation to help me have the endurance for labor. During early labor, my husband would help me lay down in bed and rest in between contractions. He was also great with the timer and would have me on my feet with my little trash can before the next contraction started. It’s amazing how the body itself works in a very rhythmic fashion! Once we got to the hospital, I got in the birthing tub hoping it would help with relaxation and lower the intensity of my contractions, but it didn’t seem to help me at all. It wasn’t too long before I was back out of the tub again. I know some moms get a lot of relief from being in a birthing tub, but that’s not what I experienced.
While I was pregnant, I had gotten all prepared with these different coping mechanisms, like creating an entire scrapbook of positive affirmations, including writing my own relaxation scripts. I also had aromatherapy, noise machine, having my husband give me a massage, birth balls, etc. all at my fingertips. But as I mentioned above, my main pain management technique was keeping my rhythm. I think that every mom is different and even each birth could be different, so it’s good to have different options available. You never know what you are going to be feeling during labor and you may need to switch things up.
To the mom getting ready for her first natural birth, I would encourage her to get everything she thinks she might want ready, and then just go with the flow during labor. Just because you made some big scrapbook doesn’t mean that you have to even open it during labor (that was me!). The process of preparing yourself mentally is just as important as preparing yourself physically for labor. Even thinking through what you think labor will be like is so important so that you are mentally strong when the time comes!
5- What was pain management like for you?
My husband will tell you that I’m one of those people where pain isn’t really something that I consciously let hold me back. I can work out hard enough to pull and strain muscles. I’m a go go go type person. While it may not be good that I can push myself to the brink of injury, that will power did come in handy for natural childbirth. So during my labor, I honestly didn’t do much for pain management. I was just so mentally determined to have a natural childbirth that NOTHING was going to hold me back. Unless it was something out of my control, then I was also mentally prepared to change course if it was what would be best for myself and the baby.
6- Can you share some more details on when your daughter was diagnosed with jaundice? When did she get it, and what were her symptoms? How did you help her recover?
We were totally caught off guard when we found out she had jaundice. We thought we were going to be discharged from the hospital and then all of the sudden they came in and said our baby had jaundice and that we couldn’t leave yet. They wanted me to start pumping extra milk right away or start formula. We didn’t want to use formula, so the hospital brought me a pump to start using. It was all very overwhelming, especially for a new mom like me. What we hadn’t realized all along is that jaundice makes a baby sleepy, but your baby needs that breastmilk to help them process the bilirubin (which is what causes jaundice). So instead of waking the baby to feed her every two hours, we were letting her sleep until she woke up and then I would feed her.
We were so frustrated that no one on the hospital staff had bothered to explain that we should be waking the baby every two hours to feed her until after it was a problem. No one had ever explained either that your baby is at a higher risk for jaundice if the baby has a different rH factor than the mother (I am a negative blood type and my baby was a positive blood type). Had we known these things, we could have done things totally different! But instead, we spent the next week with me trying to pump extra milk, using a bili-light, and we had extra nurse visits to our home and had to make tons of extra pediatrician visits.
7- Can you share some details on your breastfeeding journey?
Oh my, what a journey it was! Just because breastfeeding is “natural” and is how we were made to feed our babies doesn’t mean that it is easy! I think breastfeeding might have actually been harder than having a natural birth. Our daughter did not want to open her mouth and latch on deep, so I spent weeks in tears with bloody nipples as we did everything we could to figure out how to latch correctly. Luckily, during my pregnancy I had started attending local Le Leche League meetings and had a great group of moms to help and encourage me. They helped me figure out what the best position and hold was for us to achieve the best latch. I could not encourage new moms enough to try to find a breastfeeding network in their area before baby comes so that they have support!
The other reason our breastfeeding journey was a struggle was because it took over a week for my milk supply to come in. During my pregnancy, I had been eating a ketogenic diet and my pregnancy rocked. I had a healthy amount of weight gain, but never had swelling and felt really good throughout my whole pregnancy on keto. However, I truly believe that my low carb level prevented my milk from coming in. My mom was actually the one who convinced me to try adding some Ezekiel bread and oatmeal into my diet just to see if it made a difference, and then my milk FINALLY came in. Once that happened, things went a bit smoother with breastfeeding.
But that didn’t mean that the rest of our breastfeeding journey was a breeze. I never had a large milk supply during our breastfeeding days, so after I returned to work, I spent many days crying at my desk over how little milk I pumped at work. I was always worried about having enough to meet the next day’s demand. We also worked through a couple of very painful plugged ducts. Every time it seemed like breastfeeding was starting to get into a groove, something else seemed to pop up. But I was determined to breastfeed as long as my baby wanted “mommy milk” (what she learned to call breastfeeding).
Despite all of our challenges and the rough start we had, I’m so happy to say that we successfully breastfed for 2.5 years. It was challenging, but it also had many rewarding moments. Those milk drunk smiles and snuggles after breastfeeding make the struggle worth it!
8- What made you switch to an organic lifestyle?
In all of my hours researching natural childbirth, those resources also talked about cleaning up your diet, water, and home in general. There also came this moment when our daughter was almost old enough to start baby-led weaning that I started questioning everything going into our mouths. Was it safe for my baby to eat? That spurred me to look for the cleanest, healthiest foods I could find. We changed everything from what we stocked our pantry with to how we prepared our foods to prevent unnecessary oxidation (which can lead to inflammation in the body). It also prompted us to install an RO water system to get the purest water possible for our new baby to drink.
After tackling what goes into our bodies, now we have started cleaning up the products that go onto our bodies. This means we are looking at everything from hand soap to shampoo and conditioner to face lotions. Our most recent product change was from regular store-bought hand soap to easy, DIY organic foaming hand soap. To keep our sanity, we just pick one product at a time to evaluate, determine if a change is needed, and then we research better options and make the switch! Trying to overhaul your entire life at once is overwhelming, so I highly recommend just choosing one thing at a time to tackle!
9- How do you feel during your second pregnancy?
The first trimester had some rough moments. All-day nausea and fatigue hit me early on in this pregnancy. On nights when I didn’t feel so hot, my husband was awesome and would do the dishes and take care of getting our daughter ready for bed. I also had some food aversions, and getting myself to eat anything some days was hard. After several rough weeks, I sought out the internet to do more research and found the Weston A Price foundation. Their recommendation is drinking one quart of raw milk every day during pregnancy to help battle nausea and for easy to absorb nutrients.
Luckily for me, there is a farmer just thirty minutes from our house that started a herd share program where you can receive an allotment of raw milk. Before signing up for the herd share, we went out to the farm to visit and inspect the milking facility and to see the cows. Drinking raw milk is a hot topic on the internet with people on both sides of the issue. All I can say is, it has been super helpful for me, but I wouldn’t have signed up for it if I wasn’t confident in the source that I was receiving it from. Now that I have entered the second trimester, I am pretty much back to my normal self and feeling great! My energy has returned and my favorite part is being able to take my daughter to different playgrounds around town, allowing us to get outside and enjoy some sunshine.
10- What are you the most excited and most nervous about having another child?
I am probably most excited to see my daughter’s reaction to the baby. She loves baby dolls and seeing other people’s babies, so I can’t wait to see how she reacts to our new family member! And I’m probably most nervous about juggling caring for a toddler and a newborn. I have no doubt that we will figure it out, but I’m guessing it will be an adjustment (and all of the moms with more than one kid are probably nodding their heads in agreement!).
11- What tips can you give to other Mamas experiencing challenges?
To any mama facing a challenge, let me encourage you that you will overcome anything you are up against. If you put your mind to it, you will conquer it! And if you feel like you are stuck and not making any traction, ask for help! I feel like so many moms feel like they have to be super mom and do everything themselves, but can I share a secret with you? You will be so much more productive and be able to do more than you ever thought possible with help!!
12- What is your favorite thing about motherhood?
My favorite part of motherhood is watching my daughter try new things. I love exploring new things with her and seeing the world through her eyes. She brings new joy to the small things in life and every day has new things to discover.
About the Author
Jenny is the founder of Wholesome Family Living, a blog that is focused on promoting the health and well-being of the mind, spirit, and body! The inspiration for her blog came from her desire to live a non-toxic and healthy lifestyle after the birth of her first daughter. Since then, she has been on a mission to discover how to make more things herself, including everything from the meals her family eats every day to the cleaning products she uses around the house. She hopes to embolden people on their own journeys to pursue God with their WHOLE heart, love their family with their WHOLE self, and craft delicious recipes with WHOLE foods.
Jenny is mom to a rambunctious toddler, who is also an excellent taste-tester for new recipes. When she is not working at her part-time job or on the blog, she can often be found experimenting in the kitchen, reading the latest health research, or at the playground with her daughter. Some of her favorite things are hot chocolate, escape rooms, and quietly watching a sunrise out her back window.