Thoughts on natural birth in Mexico

I did not have a natural labor a year ago this month because I wanted to prove anything.

In fact, if they invent a risk-free pain relief solution for the next child I have, believe you me I will be on board.

The natural birthing people can kind of creep me out anyway. For example, the doula told me, “Just think of how your husband will admire you if you birth naturally!”

And as soon as Ryder arrived, “You’re a hero!”


Three and a half months pregnant, Teotihuacan

Look, Jacob better admire me for getting his baby out no matter the method. And I did not birth naturally to be a hero. Although I admit that I did tell myself in the week leading up to the labor: Kalli, you always think of yourself as tough. If you can’t do what millions of women have done before you without an epidural, how will you ever think of yourself as tough again? I don’t know why being tough is a value I have for myself. There are surely much more admirable traits that I should strive for, but for some reason being tough is important to me. I reminded myself of other tough things I’ve done, like walk out on stage to give my senior recital at college despite feeling nearly sick with fear. I told myself I could get an epidural if it was really that bad. And it wasn’t that bad, until I was pushing the baby out, when it was too late anyway.

I birthed Ryder medication-free for semi-selfish reasons, including wanting my recovery to be quick. I knew that pain only matters in the instant you are feeling it. Once the pain is finished, you don’t remember it any more. But the ramifications of childbirth such as needing a C section would last for a long time after the labor was over.

I chose natural labor ultimately because I thought it would be best for me and the baby. Let me outline the reasons why.

  • Epidurals can cause problems for the baby. It can increase their heart rate unhealthily and it can raise their blood pressure, sometimes even leading to an emergency C section.
  • Epidurals can cause problems for the mom. I have heard women get permanent back aches and headaches after the epidural. I have heard of the epidural not working but the woman still having to stay stationary because it partially paralyzed them. I have heard of women having adverse reactions ranging from mild to life-threatening. You don’t know how your body will react until you get one.
  • Epidurals reduce your range of motion. In Mexico, there is no such thing as a walking epidural. Had I had an epidural, it’s possible I might have been bedridden for hours and hours.

Worst of all, and what I most wanted to avoid, was that

  • Epidurals increase your rate of intervention. By allowing the epidural, you might be allowing all sorts of other invasive procedures which I wished to avoid: Pitocin, stripping membranes, even checking my dilation and effacement unnecessarily. Natural labor greatly reduces your chance of a C Section. The C section rate in Mexico is abnormally high—70% in private hospitals. See the infographic below:

birth infographic

In spite of all this, I would never tell anyone they *should* birth naturally. It’s a personal decision and I don’t think it’s for everyone. I don’t regret doing it naturally, but I do have some regrets about how it went down.

What’s funny is I had noticed many women seemed to have issues with the way their birth happened, and I used to be like,

“Who cares? C section or vaginal, hospital or home, and so on and so on, your baby got here, and he’s fine, so why do you care how it happened?”

I also assured others that I was realistic and knew that the birth may not happen the way I wanted and I was okay with that.

But the truth was, after it was all over, I wasn’t 100% okay with the way my baby came into this world, and I was mentally stuck on it for a while.

I had some resentful feelings concerning the birth that needed resolving, mostly because beforehand I thought maybe things wouldn’t go how I wanted because of a medical reason. I didn’t realize that my doula, the person who I was hiring to provide support to me, would end up being the reason things didn’t go as planned.

I wanted a water birth.

I chose Mexico City specifically for that reason. We could have chosen any city in Mexico but only a few did water births and so Medica Sur Lomas in Mexico City was the choice. I had heard that tearing was minimal with a water birth and that the natural warm water provided pain relief and helped a lot when delivering. I used to love taking hot showers when I had cramps, so it seemed a natural extension of the idea to give birth in a hot tub.

While I was in labor, despite repeated requests, my doula refused to let me get in the water. Some have asked why I didn’t insist, but at 10 centimeters dilated I was a little distracted with the contractions. Furthermore, she was in a position of trust and I felt there must be a reason why she was doing what she was doing.

And maybe there was. She felt it would have slowed my contractions down too much. Maybe it would have been dangerous for me to attempt a waterbirth. I’ll probably never know.

Jacob and I had taken classes with her, the cost of which was about $600. For her to attend the birth was another $600.

In her classes, she emphasized over and over again why epidurals were bad: they forced you to lay down—the least optimal position for delivering a baby.

Yet, when my body begged for rest after over 24 hours of labor and as I asked if I could just lie down and take a breather, she agreed but then told me to push as hard as I could while in that position, which was excruciatingly painful. She kept saying, “Trust your body! You’re not listening to yourself! Your legs are not relaxed! Push AS HARD AS YOU CAN!” All in the same breath, which was obviously very contradictory. Before she arrived, I felt confident in the choices I was making and the way my labor was progressing. After she arrived, I felt she had control over my labor.

Jacob was actually the perfect doula: ready to follow my wishes, supportive of me in the zone, sweet and mostly quiet. Next time, I think he will be all I need in terms of support.

My recovery was much more difficult than I was expecting—I was physically spent and I had a medium bad tear which required a lot of stitches.  I was very disappointed that I couldn’t be up and about after my natural labor; I couldn’t sit down properly for two weeks. I don’t know if that’s normal after you get an epidural or not.

I ended up sending the doula a couple emails expressing my feelings, but you know what? It didn’t really make me feel better. It went down the way it went down. I wasn’t meant to have a water birth, not that go round.

Ultimately, my baby was healthy, and I survived.

I guess you could say my natural birth experience in Mexico City in that sense was wildly successful, and really, better than my wildest dreams. I was in love at first sight.

hospital bed

The first day of my baby’s life: on Daddy’s lap in the hospital

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 371 awesome articles for us.

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