Birth is sooooo very personal and unique to you. Don’t let someone else’s story make you feel that yours is lacking in any way. This is purely my isolated experience with natural birth, and designed to answer your questions about it. (If you have any additional specific questions, write them in the comments section below, and I’ll answer them.) Obviously, I’m not claiming to be a doctor or give you medical advice.

I swore I’d never write a post about how to have a natural birth.

The main reason is that it really annoys me when people brag about having a natural birth. Yes, it’s something to be proud of, but so is potty-training your toddler. And, let’s be real: at the end of the day, your persistence helped guide the situation, but in all reality, you had zero control over what actually transpired. Birth is a lot like that. It’s a crapshoot. You can hope to do it how you want, but at the end of the day, it’s in God’s hands. And, obviously, the baby’s health is way more important than you feeling like Super Woman because you didn’t get an epidural.

How to Have a Natural Birth in a Hospital (14 Nitty-Gritty Details)

1. It’s actually not that bad. Basically, labor is just really, really, reaaaaaaally bad cramping in your stomach, back and entire midsection. It’s a very painful tensing, every few minutes, during each contraction. But, it’s not that bad. You can totally do it. (Disclaimer: Both my labors were 4 hours or less, so I realize that ‘not that bad’ is relative.)

2. You do get a break. Yes, the contractions suck. But then, it’s awesome because they stop. Your body gets a break to rest and prep for the next contraction. The longest contractions last about 90 seconds. And really, you can do anything for 90 seconds. (I mean, seriously. My toddler just spent 2 hours melting down over a broken graham cracker. 90 seconds is nothing, folks.)

3. Think of each contraction like a wave in the ocean. A friend of mine told me this when I was pregnant with our first son, and I’ve never forgotten it. During labor, I close my eyes and picture an ocean wave. I can feel the pain intensify as a contraction is coming on, and I picture myself rising up the wave. I know soon I’ll get to the top, where it will really hurt for a few seconds, and then the pain subsides like the wave. I focus on the fact that I know it will be over soon. And it is.

4. Take those breaks to rest your body. All I focus on in between contractions is laying down, closing my eyes, not talking and drinking ice water. This way, I can gear up for the next contraction. Rest when you can.

5. Use sound to release the pain. This sounds cray cray, but it really does help. A nurse told me that, rather than breathing short and hard with each contraction, take a deep breath and make a really long, low-pitched sound. So instead of ‘hee hee, who who‘ really fast, just do a long, deep ‘whooooooooooooo.’ (Do I sound like a total freak yet?) Picture the pain melting away with each long breath. It’s really helped me.

6. Don’t panic. It will make it hurt more. Above all else, you gotta keep your head in the game. There will be seconds where the cramping takes over, and you don’t think you can take it anymore. Panicking will only make the pain more intense. Instead, I like to tell myself over and over, ‘Women have done this for thousands of years. I can do this. I got this.’ There is an end. You just have to get through this.

7. Tell your partner (or birth coach) what you need. Most laboring women have no problem with this, but I will just reiterate. At this point, my husband knows that all I need from him is to stand next to me, give me water when I ask, and other than that, stay utterly and completely silent. I’ve found that any excess noise in the room, even the sound of a text beeping on his iPhone, totally breaks my concentration and seems to enhance my pain. Make sure your partner (and everyone in the room) knows what you need to get through this.

8. Take the wins. When the nurse comes in and says you went from 5 to 7 centimeters, tell yourself, ‘I rock.’ Take the wins and celebrate them. Be happy. Be proud. It will give you the mental momentum to keep going.

9. Music never worked for me. In case you’re wondering, I never did the ‘wear the earbuds and listen to relaxing ocean sounds.’ Honey, it hurts so bad I don’t really care if Mozart’s playing or not. All I’m focused on is getting this watermelon out of my freaking uterus.

10. Crowning wasn’t any more painful than the rest of it. The way labor has worked for me is the contractions gradually get more intense, and longer. By the time I’m crowning, I’m stoked because this means pushing is next, and I’m almost done. But, pain-wise, it’s not any worse than the rest of it. Before I had kids, I pictured crowning feeling like a terrible, burning, breaking, skin-splitting situation, and it just didn’t for me. (Again, this is just my experience, and probably TMI, but it’s encouraging so I want to share.)

11. Pushing feels good. Yes, seriously. While there’s a lot of pressure and it’s uncomfortable because it just feels weird, it actually feels amazing to push that baby out. It feels like a really big bowel movement. You know, it feels good. Seriously. (Again, sorry for the TMI, but you’re the one who clicked on this post.)

12. After birth, ask for Ibuprofen right away. Don’t LOL too hard, but I did want to include this one. (Another tip from my contractions-are-like-waves friend.) As soon as that cute little baby pops out, tell the nurse you want Ibuprofen. (I’m not even kidding. I ask, like, as she’s cleaning the baby!) I think I took 800 milligrams for the first few days after my first. After the second birth, I didn’t really need it except for that first night. It helps with the after-pain down there.

13. Don’t put pressure on yourself. I have gone into every labor saying, ‘It’d be nice to do natural, but I will do what I can and see what happens.’ Don’t put undue pressure on yourself and your body. Your pain tolerance could max out, your baby might need something else, your doctor could advise against it. Even now, as I’m 39 weeks along and prepping to birth our third child, I still would never say that I’ll definitely do it naturally. I will try, but I have to let the situation breathe and just see what happens, because…

14. The baby is #1. Not me.

How I Had 2 Natural Births (14 Nitty-Gritty Details)

Again, this is just my experience, every birth is different and I ain’t no doctor. If you have any specific questions, leave them in the comments section below, and I’ll respond!