Alice’s birth in Le Cocon

Having given birth to her first child in Canada, Christina Reinards chose the Le Cocon midwife-led unit in Erasme hospital for the birth of her daughter, Alice. Here, she recounts the birth, outlines some of the advantages of natural birth, and shares her experience of those advantages.

Woman reclined on bed with smiling baby resting in her lap

I had Alice in ‘Le Cocon’ at Hôpital Erasme in Anderlecht which I quite liked – it’s “a space dedicated to having a natural birth which is managed by midwives and nurtures the mother-child bond right from the start”.

It was like being at home in 1 of their 4 large rooms with a big bed, tub, private toilet, various supportive tools to give birth with, like a birthing ball, birth sling, and dimmable lights. It was like I wasn’t at a hospital at all.

It was pretty much what I was looking for in terms of a birthing experience for my little girl. It didn’t take too long either. Maybe a few hours of contractions and then I knew she was ready. I had been laying in their bed and eventually I wanted to move to the tub in order to give birth in it. But I actually didn’t make it all the way there.

On the way, in mid-step, I knew it was time, and in what felt like seconds, with one or two pushes, my husband holding me up and my midwife ready to catch her, my little girl arrived – as if she was too excited to wait any longer. Alice was born on New Year’s Eve with fireworks and all 😉

I loved having a natural birth for my daughter. I had a natural birth for my older son too, in Canada, and it was spectacular. There, I had him in an actual birthing centre solely dedicated to such birthing approaches with skilled, certified midwives. During both births, the midwives took no risks, they reassured me and checked in on me and let me take my time, and honestly, in both cases it was like I was in an oasis prepared just right for remaining calm and letting my body do what other women have done since the dawn of time.

I just needed a dark, peaceful warm room with my husband beside me and let my contractions build up to THE moment it was time.

I realise the idea of natural childbirth isn’t for everyone, as it depends on individual preferences, values, and medical considerations. However, thanks to my wonderful cousin who suggested it back when I first became pregnant with my son, I really want more women to consider it.

Here are some potential benefits associated with natural childbirth [Editor: The part in brackets is Christina’s personal comment about each benefit she’s mentioned.]:

Sense of empowerment
“For many women, having a natural birth can provide a sense of empowerment and accomplishment. Some find that the experience of giving birth without medical interventions enhances their confidence and connection to the birthing process.”

(I definitely did, go me, go you!)

Flexibility and movement
“Natural childbirth often allows for more freedom of movement during labour, as women may choose different positions to ease the process. This can be beneficial for managing pain and promoting optimal fetal positioning.”

(Personally, I felt like a cat in labour. I lay on the bed in a fetal position and just breathed through the contractions until the moment it really felt like my babies were ready to enter the world.) 

Fewer interventions
“Natural childbirth typically involves fewer medical interventions such as induction, epidurals, and cesarean sections. For some people, avoiding these interventions is preferable for various reasons, including a desire for a more ‘hands-off’ birthing experience.”

(I was so confident I could do it and was adamant no one would force me to get it done their way.)

Bonding and breastfeeding
“Some argue that the hormonal changes during natural childbirth, such as the release of oxytocin, can promote bonding between the mother and the baby. Additionally, an unmedicated birth may make it easier for the baby to breastfeed in the early hours after delivery.”

(Not going to lie, breastfeeding was hard to figure out at first, but after a week or 2, I got the hang of it. My goal had been 9 months to a year, but 6 months was what I managed … mainly out of boredom, sorry kiddies.)

Faster recovery
“Women who have a natural birth often experience a quicker recovery compared to those who undergo interventions like cesarean sections. The absence of certain medications and procedures may contribute to a faster return to normal activities.”

(Down below did hurt for several days as it healed, but eventually I was up to walking and showing the world to my little ones. After a while, I went back to doing yoga to get back in shape.),

Avoidance of medication side effects
“Some individuals prefer natural childbirth to avoid potential side effects or complications associated with medications and interventions. These may include allergic reactions, headaches, or drowsiness.”

(The only thing I really needed was cream to repair very sore nipples from breastfeeding, but there are plenty of natural creams for that.)

It’s important to note that every birthing experience is unique, and what is considered ‘great’ can vary widely. Each woman’s preferences, medical history, and individual circumstances play a significant role in determining the most suitable birthing plan.

Ultimately, the choice between natural childbirth and interventions should be based on informed decision-making and open communication with healthcare providers and letting women decide.

If in doubt, find someone new you feel you can trust to guide you through it. Get the team you deserve. And have faith.

– Christina Reinards

Want to know more about natural, or unmedicated, childbirth?

This medically reviewed article from Baby Center talks more about the benefits of natural birth and how to prepare, including choosing a supportive caregiver and birth environment, developing a birth plan, ensuring you have good labor support, and educating yourself about childbirth and coping techniques.

In Brussels and beyond, there are many ways to prepare for birth, including multi-session antenatal classes, hypnobirthing classes, prenatal yoga, prenatal physiotherapy, or sessions with a doula. Read more about some of the many birth preparation options available.