Courage Is Giving Birth Without Anesthesia

Courage Is Giving Birth Without Anesthesia

| Vanessa Birnbaum @allyoucanyoga

I didn’t give birth in a bathtub but in a hospital bed like many do.

That morning I woke up and told my husband that I didn’t even feel pregnant anymore. It was the day my doctor scheduled to induced labor because I was already 41 weeks into my pregnancy. We tried everything from walking, acupuncture and even sex.

Nothing worked.

So I went to yoga and when I got home I wrote my son a letter:

To my son:

Truth is that I’m scared of giving birth.  

Maybe I’ve given you mixed messages:

I want you, but I’m scared of having you.

I’m dying to see you, but I also love having you inside of me.

Today, I’m ready.

I don’t care what I have to go through in order to feel your skin against mine.

I only care about one thing: that you come into this world safe and sound.

I’m ready to accept whatever our birth journey unfolds.

I’m ready for you.

I trust you.

I trust that my body will know how to birth you.

I trust in my ability to nourish and protect you.

I trust our resilience.  

Come now! We’re waiting for you!

This letter became like an energetic seal between my baby, the world and me. After writing it down, my hubby and I went to the beach. We both knew that it would be our last Saturday as a “single couple”, without children.

After spending the whole day at the beach, we went home. Ate a big meal and made love. I truly believe that what was kickstarted labor. By 10:03 we were sleeping. It was almost as if we knew what was going to happen 19 hours later.

I believe that sex was what triggered the process.

At midnight I was woken up by my own moans. I wasn’t sure if it was really happening until many hours later. Around 2am I woke up Radu and got into the Jacuzzi. The perception of time started bending. I remember him fighting to keep his eyes open as he sat on the stool next to me.

We spent a couple of hours back and forth between the toilet and the Jacuzzi, the Jacuzzi and the bed.  For some reason, we still didn’t know if it was our son coming or the lasagna had gotten us sick!

At 5am, we decided to call Paola, our doula, with whom I practiced prenatal yoga throughout my whole pregnancy and who was also our Hypnobirthing® facilitator.

By the time she got home my contractions had a rhythm of their own. They came, like ocean waves, every five minutes apart and lasted between 40 seconds and a minute and a half. They varied in intensity, which I vocalized with an inexhaustible moan.

When the wave started I would “Ahhhhhhh” incrementally until it peaked and then, the song was transformed into a “Hmmmm.” The second part could have been mistaken by a sigh of pleasure.  

“One less,” my husband said.

The contractions started to intensify and were now every three minutes. I felt both present and in a totally different dimension. I could hear Radu and Paola talking, but I preferred not to intervene. I was deeply focused on myself, visualizing my son traveling through the birth canal. Paola decided it was time to go to the hospital. I was so excited for the next stage.

It took 40 minutes to get to the hospital. They were counted in contractions. “We’ll be there in 3 contractions,” my husband would say while Paola held my head, as if to prevent it from leaving my body.

We came in through the main entrance. I didn’t want to get on a wheelchair because, Hey! I’m not sick, and walking intensifies the contractions.

The nurses started checking me in and examining my baby when my mom, who is a doctor, arrived. I was so happy to have her next to me. I felt safe.

My hubby and Paola gave me massages and reminded me with each contraction to let it be. “Let it come. Don’t fight it. This is life force energy. Just breathe.”

The contractions became more powerful, and I can’t deny that I found a certain amount of pleasure in each one. I was definitely “in transition” when I felt the urge to push.

Little did we know, we had two hours left.


To my surprise, my doctor went on vacation and I was informed that a stranger was going to handle my delivery.

What a blessing. I loved this stranger.

He gave me perineal massage the whole time, which prevent me from tearing. I pushed with all my strength, but Eddy, my baby, would just peek out and then tuck himself back in.

It felt like there was an arsenal of nurses. Almost none of them had ever seen a birth without anesthesia. It was a must-see show! At some point I think I let out an “I can’t” and they all burst out laughing. “You’re giving up now? WTF Vanessa.”

My doctor was a huge part of this experience. He made sure to help me through it, and thanks to that I didn’t need an episiotomy at the end of my child’s labor.  

My baby, was born on October 21st, at 5:03 p.m. They put Eddy on my chest and we all cried of both joy and relief.

Many people asked me if I am crazy or a masochist for giving birth without anesthesia, and my answer is no.

I knew that the hours that it takes to give birth might be painful, but the rewards afterward are worth it. I wanted my kid to be born AWAKE, for me to have an easy recovery, and for me to feel one with my own body.

The world we live in moves on instant gratification, we want to put a bandaid to not suffer for a few minutes, instead of realizing that the gratification later will be much better.  I did study A LOT before taking my decision of giving birth without anesthesia.

Fear is our worst enemy when it comes to giving birth (and in MANY other aspects of life). It’s sad to see that fear is what keeps many women from having this experience. So the way I see it:

Less fear means more excitement.

Less resistance, more delivery. 

Less complaints, more acceptance. 

Less distraction, more connection.

And less procedures allow for a better recovery! And that’s the main reason why I did it.

Would I do it again? Heck yeah! As long as nature allows it.

“Don’t think of it as pain. Think of it as an interesting sensation that requires all of your attention” – Ina May


Special thanks to Orly Margulis and Debbie Rabinovici for helping us translate this beautiful piece!

Courage Is Having To Discuss Death With My Children

Courage Is Having To Discuss Death With My Children

Courage Is Getting a Divorce

Courage Is Getting a Divorce