My Best Tips for an Unmedicated Birth {During Labor} REVISED!!!!!

UPDATED/REVISED POST!!!!!!! I wrote the original post five and a half years ago. Since then I’ve given birth again, taught birth classes, and attended 26 births as a birth photographer/doula. I decided to republish the post with my updated thoughts. Also, for you pinners out there, so sorry but my domain name has changed which means that original link doesn’t work (the original post got quite a bit of love on pinterest).

photo by KC Lostetter of our family of 6!

*This is part two of a two-part series. You can read the first part on my advice before you reach labor here. Again, this is not meant to be a pros/cons list, rather a list of some of the things I found most helpful during labor. Please read the first two paragraphs of my first post to hear my heart on this sensitive issue.

Hey you made it! It’s go time! Hopefully, it’s the real deal. But if not, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Here’s a list of what I found most helpful to know/practice during labor. Hope it helps!

1. Stay at home as long as you [safely] can. My first OB, when I told her I wanted to labor without drugs, told me to stay home as long as I could handle it. She told me to come in when I “couldn’t take it anymore.” There are of course instances when this is not a good idea, and you need to be on the same page as your healthcare provider, but if everything looks good and there aren’t any reasons to be at the hospital right away, then by all means, labor at home. More often than not, you’ll get to the hospital earlier in your labor than you think. Once you’re in the hospital, you will be hooked up to monitors, IV drips, and the clock. Some hospitals give you plenty of time to labor, but if you’re not in one of those hospitals, you might be pressured to progress your labor faster than necessary. During my first labor I agreed to breaking my water and cranking the pitocin drip within the same half hour. OH MY DEAR GOODNESS do I regret that decision. There was no medical reason to either of those procedures (everything was going smoothly and it was only two hours into my induction), but in my naivety of it being the first time, I agreed. Here’s my advice: If you are experiencing a normal and healthy pregnancy/labor, go to the hospital when you really have to work through contractions and the rest of the world has ceased to exist.

2. Move it! I wanted to kill  the triage nurse when she prescribed two hours (turned to three) of walking before they would admit me. But it really is the best thing you can do to get all those centimeters accounted for. If you are experiencing back labor (I’m sorry), wiggle those hips like a hula dancer. You’ll feel completely weird (or I did at least), but it does wonders for getting that baby in the proper position. When walking gets hard and you have to stop every few steps for a contraction, take a breather for a contraction or two and then get moving again. I have a friend who did dance moves during her less than five hour labor. Movement really works!! Really truly. I can’t say this enough.

3. Relax as if your life depends on it. Read that sentence again. This is the line from the book Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way that is literally the best advice I’ve heard. When I first felt a true contraction, I cringed through the entire thing. It was my natural reaction, but it’s the last thing our body needs during labor. Fighting the pain will only make the pain worse and labor longer. In order to relax fully, you and your partner will want to find relaxation exercises that work for you. I found it best to mentally search my body and release any tension I was carrying (often in my shoulders and toes). Make your body go limp while that faithful uterus does its thing.
My favorite relaxing techniques:

Music. I found worship music to be incredibly helpful during labor. I focused on the lyrics and not the pain while I endured minute + long contractions. It was also helpful to know that the contraction wouldn’t last as long as the song. Our bodies give incredible rest during labor. Use music to look forward to that rest.

Jacuzzi tub. A nurse once described the hot tub as “nature’s epidural.” And to that I say Amen. It can be tricky though, because our bodies are super sensitive during labor. I wasn’t able to use the tub with El, and labor slowed down when I used it with Claire, but with Melia and Wesley? Magic. I was only in there for about 20 minutes before completely dilating both times. Give it a try, but it’s not your only option. (I also diffused essential oils and have seen them used several times in the delivery room. I LOVED having them!).

Birth photos by Stormy Solis.


Birthing ball.  Something about sitting on a giant rubber ball… If I wasn’t in the tub, I wanted to be sitting on that ball, leaned over with my hands around JD’s neck.


Standing up in a ‘slow dance’ pose. With all three labors, labor sped up when I was standing, so it was helpful to stand up with my head in JD’s chest, arms wrapped around his neck. During contractions I literally melted into him while we swayed to get baby in better position.


4. Know the emotional signposts of labor. We learned in our birthing classes (and has been confirmed by nurses) that our emotions can be a better indicator of where we are in labor than actual dilation. For instance, I was emotionally very serious and concentrated when we went to the hospital with Melia. I was only 3 cms. dilated and 60% effaced at the time, but less than five hours later, she was out. The Bradley method focuses a ton of attention on the emotional signposts of labor as a guide for the birthing coach. With Wesley I was shocked to see how accurate the emotions were, even though squished into a two hour time period. I recommend the Bradley Method handbook for more accurate descriptions. In a nutshell, here they are:

Early first stage labor: “putsy putsy” You’re excited! Yay! Baby’s on the way, FINALLY! (this stage sometimes gets repeated, depending on just how many false alarms your body accomplishes before that baby is actually on the way). Toward the end of this stage, you’ll start working through contractions while steam cleaning the carpet… three times.

Late first stage labor: You’re now working through contractions and feeling serious about labor. This is it, it’s hard work, and you’re determined to get it done. You may or may not snap at somebody. This is when the Bradley method recommends getting to the hospital. Please note. This can take a loooong time. I’ve also seen this part of labor get confused with transition prematurely. While it is a good indicator of your progress in labor, I caution against jumping ahead of yourselves, especially with first babies.

–  Transition: Your contractions are coming strong and steady and close together. This is where self doubt usually kicks in and you feel completely done. Many women ask for drugs when they’re in transition (myself included), but try to hold off if you can, because chances are, you’re only twenty to thirty minutes away from pushing out a baby. And in labor time – that’s nothing. My advice during transition: take it one contraction at a time and remember that your next contraction could be your last. It will soon be over. Relax and let your body do its thing for just a short while longer! Transition is tough but it’s also short.

Second stage: This is when you push a kid out. And it’s pretty awesome. Depending on how long you push, you might experience the above emotions all over again in the same order, just before your baby comes. My pushing advice: get ‘er done. When baby’s head is crowning (you’ll know by the ring of fire), pause briefly and then complete the transaction. I finally figured this out by the third one.  Realistically though, pushing can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 3 hours.

5. Find your zone. There came a point in all three of my labors where I was completely closed off to the rest of the world and focused on what my body was doing. In each case, I had a picture, word, or phrase that I concentrated on in my mind during contractions. I didn’t plan ahead what they might be, they just came to me in labor. Images of floating on a wave, sitting on a rocking chair, counting to 8 over and over again (no clue why I did that), or repeating words were all coping mechanisms when I was in the hardest part of labor. I think your zone comes only when you are super relaxed. And that, my friends, is hard work.


6. Go to sleep. If you’re having a hard time relaxing, then just go to sleep. Cozy up on the birthing ball, lie in a comfortable position on the bed, sit in a chair – whatever feels the most comfortable to you – and close those eyes. By this point in labor, you might be exhausted. Take advantage of those nice breaks between contractions and sleep in between. Your body will be much more relaxed through the tough stuff if you are able to sleep during rests. I know this sounds crazy, but there came a point in each of my labors where I JUST wanted to sleep. So I did! Those precious moments of sleep gave me lots of centimeters toward completion.

7. Keep an open mind. Labor is unpredictable. Don’t be married to your birth plan. Labor and Delivery nurses joke that the woman who comes in with a birthing ball and extensive birth plan is destined for an emergency C. In two of my four births I had to surrender parts of my birth plan and it was fine. I still had a natural birth. Don’t let issues like fetal monitoring and an IV make or break your experience. If you’re really against those things, you’ll need to find a hospital that will accommodate your wishes or give birth at home.

8. Know your options. This comes with research done before labor begins, but even when you’re in labor, think carefully about your options when they’re given to you. Is there a medical reason to break your water or increase your pitocin? Sometimes there really is and those things are necessary. Sometimes, not. The more you are able to birth without intervention, the easier it will be to birth without medication.

9. Use a birth coach. Whether this is your husband, a friend, a certified doula , or all three- it is incredibly helpful necessary to have help and support during labor. Others can see things you can’t, and it’s always good to have an advocate in your corner.

A Word on Induction and Back Labor (this part is the most updated!):

I come to you having experienced a pitocin induction (twice) as well as back labor. Both situations make having an unmedicated birth hard, but not impossible. My first pitocin induction was vastly different from my fourth birth. I used to joke that if I ever had to be induced again, I’d ask for an epidural with my pitocin. However, because I started my induction at 4 cms dilated and had terrific providers, I felt the crunch of pitocin contractions for only a few minutes before completion. In fact, my nurse even decreased the amount of pitocin going into my IV drip! Here are my thoughts and advice in each situation:

Induction: Easy does it friend. Especially if this is your first. I need to also mention that there are various reasons to be induced and it’s important to communicate with your healthcare provider to understand your options. Since the writing of my original post, I’ve been to many inductions where hospitals automatically took it slow with mamas and it was beautiful to see. I recommend asking if you can have the most gentle induction possible with plenty of time to let your labor progress on its own. For some mamas, a slow induction means using a cervix ripening agent and/or a foley bulb. For other mamas, all that is needed is to have their water broken. And sometimes? It’s all pitocin baby. That was my situation both times, though my OB for baby #4 stripped my membranes for the second time right before giving me pit again.

If you are having a pitocin induction, ask for it to start out with a low dose and increase slowly. Mamas, I’ve got to be honest with you. Inductions can be LONG. I still believe in taking it as slow as possible for as long as it is safe to do so for you and baby. At whatever point your body kicks into active labor on its own, you are allowed to ask for pitocin to either cease or decrease the dose. Some women only need a little kickstart to get their labor going and a low dose of pitocin will do the trick. Unless there is a medical reason for doing so, it is preferable not to have your pitocin greatly increased within the same time period as having your water broken. This happened with my first baby and I went from small cramping to late stage hard labor in minutes. The only way I was able to avoid the epidural was because my L & D nurse relaxed me while we were waiting for the anesthesiologist and when he came to the door, I sent him away. Here’s a hint: if your nurse knows you really want to give birth without drugs and you ask for her help, chances are she’ll be your champion. I can’t stress this enough. With both of my inductions my nurses were my heroes.

If you’re having a marathon labor, not progressing, on pitocin, and you’re just done? I’ve seen mamas at this juncture several times receive an epidural and it was just what they needed for their bodies to relax. You’re not a failure. Not even a little bit. Remember? This post is about tips for having an unmedicated childbirth if that’s what you’re hoping for. Your identity is NOT found in your birth story. Putting a human out in this world is hard work and I am cheering you on no matter how that happens!!!

Back Labor: First – I’m sorry. Second – MOVE girl. Wiggle those hips, get on all fours (or child’s pose in the tub – I swear by it), make the birthing ball your best friend. Do everything you can to spin that baby around. If your hospital has a rebozo, use it (you can reference my third birth story here – lots of fun back labor)!! Third – get that hott man of yours (or a doula, nurse, your mom – whoever!) to use counter pressure on your lower back. Back labor feels like knives sticking in your back and the counter pressure feels great. Finally – wait as long as possible before getting drugs. It will be tempting – I promise. But if you are able to get that baby turned around during labor, pushing will be much easier (and most likely hours shorter). Once you have an epidural, you can’t move… that being said, much much sympathy to you if you’ve tried all those things and that sweet baby is still posterior. A nice cocktail of drugs might be just what you need



Final thoughts

While this list is long, it’s certainly not complete.  There are many ways women respond to pain in labor, and something that worked for me might not work for you. Every birth is different. In fact, what worked for me during one labor didn’t always work during another. There’s no way to tell what your labor will look like – just like there’s no way to tell when labor will start. One of my dear friends just went into labor because she was throwing up with the stomach flu! Guaranteed she didn’t have the labor she expected (love you Karyn). What it ultimately boils down to: you get a baby in your arms soon, regardless how he/she comes out. Focus on the end result, trust your body, work with what you have, and enjoy what you can. And know this: your identity and strength as a women is not measured in how your baby is born. Got it? Good. Now I have to post this immediately before my newest niece or nephew is born any second.



I had a Sunday deadline for a wedding I was working on and I wanted to finish it Saturday morning. Working from home on a Saturday with all kids present equals zero productivity so I wake up early and head to a coffee shop with my laptop while JD and the kids slept. I wanted to finish so I could spend the day with family.
By 8 am I was coming to a stopping point but wanted to get just a little further. At 8:06 I sent a video message to my dear friend and second shooter showing her some of the photos. At 8:07, with clear blue skies and sun pouring into glass windows, the coffee shop fills with sounds of emergency alerts on our phones. This isn’t actually *all* that unusual in Hawaii as it’s usually used for flash flood warnings. I roll my eyes at the thought of a flash flood and look down at my screen. I have to read the words twice before registering what I see.
What in the actual world.
Everyone around me looks as confused and stunned as I feel and several things run through my mind in that moment. 1. Is this real? Where are the outdoor sirens we’ve just become familiar with? They must not be working. 2. It says NOT A DRILL (at this moment I read the text out loud to a coffee shop of strangers just to make sure I wasn’t the only one who received this message. A woman slips quietly out the door. Another woman starts sobbing). 3. I have 12-15 minutes before this thing strikes. I might make it home. I’m going to go for it.
I unplug my computer, grab my coffee and wallet, and walk/run out the door. I put my keys into the ignition, reverse out of my parking spot and call my husband.
“Did you get the message?”
“I’m coming home.”
“Yes come home.”
“I can’t believe this is happening. Get the kids in the hallway.”
“I know. I will. Just come home.”
Next I call both my parents. No answer, and I decide not to leave a message because at this point I might lose it and I don’t want the last sound of my voice to be hysteria.
Text comes from a friend, “GO TO YOUR CLOSETS. Get cover.” Their base sirens are going off. Emphasis on NOT A DRILL.
Shit. This suddenly feels very real and I look out the window to see if there’s a cloud. Call JD again, just to hear his voice and make sure the kids are in the hallway.
“I love you baby.”
“I love you too. Just come on home.”
“I can’t believe this is happening,” I keep saying.
“Just come home. We’ll see you soon.”
Half the cars know what is going on and half the cars are driving with aloha. We hit several red lights and eventually people start honking, because when a ballistic missile is headed your way and there is absolutely no cross traffic, it’s fine to run that red light. Light turns green and my foot hits heavy and hard on the gas. Still no mushroom cloud.
God please just get me home. Please stop that missile from hitting us. Protect us. Please get me home. On repeat. In the name of Jesus.
Texts from friends telling us how much time we have left and I pull into my driveway, sloppily park the car, and run in to see my babies crouched together in our hallway that encloses itself. Wes toddles around all smiles while his favorite people sit at eye level and provide human jungle gyms. What grace. I start to cry a little but without tears so it feels very strange. I am just thankful to see everyone. JD has three mattresses surrounding us in our hallway and I think briefly about supplies but figure there’s no time until impact and I need to hold my babies. Quick texts to our families:
Ballistic missiles coming our way.
We love you so much.
And we tell the girls. We did. We’ve had discussions with them before as their school has talked about the new sirens that have started recently and JD had already told them it wasn’t a drill. And I guess all I wanted them to know in that moment was that God is in control, He loves us, and we might get to be with Jesus today and at least we are together.
“Why are they doing this mama? We didn’t do anything to them?”
No baby but there is evil in this world.
“But why do they want to bomb us?”
Even still, God is in control.
And I believe it wholeheartedly. Blessed assurance that my inheritance is with Him. That peace without understanding is real even as my heart races and shoulders tense. Thankful that we are together and that we will be together. Trusting God with all of it and still praying mightily and loudly for God’s protection.
“It looks like it might be a mistake?”
“Looks like it was just a drill.”
“False alarm.”
The texts come pouring in and we are on our phones. JD searching twitter, me updating families, getting information from military friends. Hopeful that we are in the clear and all is well. Wondering what on earth happened. Waiting for official clearance because it’s all so bizarre. Neither of us expected a false alarm.
My shoulders start to shake and I hug our kids and tell them we’re ok. There’s no missile.
A friend who knows things tells me, “There was never a missile. You were always safe.”
Praise Him.
“Mama tell us what happened… Ok tell us the story again… Again.”
Yes baby, we can talk about this all you want.
The reality of this news is overwhelmingly good. Life is good and so beautiful and we live to see another day. Someone pressed the wrong button. Human error. A mistake. Never a missile.
Time for the good wine and good food and endless snuggles and sunshine and sand and friends.
Praise Him from Whom all blessings flow. And may this never be repeated.
Even as I say this I know there are people for whom this is daily reality. Jesus Come.


Groves Family Color 061

It’s been three years since my last post. <Insert big eye emoji here.> I can’t believe it. There are probably a lot of reasons for this, but I won’t unpack that much here. Instead, I’ll catch you up to speed.

In three years:

  • Grew a photography business.
  • Started to shoot film photography (I cringe at the past year of photos on this blog but I’m leaving it, because a season is a season). For my current work – check instagram or my website.
  • Had another pregnancy that threw me into nine months of vomit and joint pain, but resulted in the birth of our ten pound baby BOY who we love and adore. I WILL post his birth story. In the meantime, his name is Wesley Kawika and he is a clone of his father with his mama’s coloring.
  • Our church, which is the reason we continue to live on this beautiful island we call home, merged with our old church, became a new church, and has grown exponentially. I continue to lead our kids ministry and JD continues to lead us in worship week in and week out. It is our joy and calling to serve at Daybreak Church.
  • JD continues to work at Hilti and also brews beer, roasts coffee, sings, and is still my dream man.

I think that’s it for now! I look forward to being in this space again.

photo by Jonathan Canlas Photography

Day in the Life {A 30th Birthday}

Two days before my 30th birthday I was having a rough morning. The kind where you just want your own mama to come and make it better. JD was extra attentive, and I was thankful for his presence when he came home for lunch at noon. Or so I thought. He led me outside our house, saying he wanted my help with something. Not finding anything to help him with, I turned around and there was. my. MOM. !!!!!!

An ocean separates us and there are many times, many days when I wish my mama was close by. It was so cool to have one of those moments and then bam! Magic. Mom’s there.

She flew out for my 30th birthday as one of many fine surprises that week. In terms of celebration – no birthday (Well, except my super awesome 21st) has come close. On my final eve of 29, a pins and needles type nerve pain started at my finger tips and crawled its way up to my shoulder. A feeling I’ve had before  (including on my face) and felt very anxious about. The next morning, on my 30th, my arm was still pins and needles and remained that way the entire time. I suffer from anxiety from time to time, and this sensation triggered some pretty frustrating emotions that I battled throughout the day. To make my month long story into a very short one – I saw a neurologist, had a brain MRI, got results and they are normal. Praise Jesus. Photography has been an incredible endeavor for me – but has also led to some pretty gnarly health issues which I’m still working through after a very busy season, including a pinched nerve, carpel tunnel, and some other issues. I’m working hard to take care of myself in order to heal and prevent further injury, including not being weak. (aka- we joined a gym).

My birthday started off with flowers and coffee and a super fun play date with our mama’s group at the botanical gardens where my friend Jen and I celebrated our birthdays with a surprise brunch!!

Next, mama and I went to lunch, a local chocolate shop, and shopping while our friends Kenji and Amy watched the young ones. This part of the day was so special because it was crammed with my favorite things to do with my mom!!

After a quick after school shower and lots of kisses from my girls, my mom and I headed out to meet 13 of my favorite island gals for our very own, private sunset cruise. SO. GOOD. I think every gal on that boat needed a night on the ocean, because we were in heaven. I actually would like to be on that boat right now. There is something so therapeutic about the ocean and sailing its waters. We capped our evening with drinks and pupus at a gastro pub in walking distance. It was perfect.

Even more perfect? The next day my man surprised me with an overnight stay in Waikiki. We met up with one of our favorite couples and enjoyed kid-free entertainment until as late as we wanted. The end.

Enjoy photos from my day – as you can tell, the camera was passed around by friends so that my face wasn’t always in the viewfinder, which was nice. Sometimes I’m more present with my camera, sometimes I’m less – I’m thankful that I enjoyed a little bit of both for 30.


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A Day in The Life {a 2nd birthday}

One day a month, from wake to sleep. A day in the life project, something new and purposeful. Seeing beauty in the everyday, seeing us. Follow us as the Foto Fifty group journeys into another project together.

August {a 2nd Birthday}

Sweet, sassy Melia Jean turned two in August 2014. And yes, I’m super aware it’s January 2015 and that I’m MONTHS behind in my Day in the Life posts. I’m carrying on anyhow. We celebrated Melia’s birthday a week after her actual birthday, so this post is more or less a typical Sunday with some extra Meme (pronounced May-May) love. She is all about that sass, this one. And we love her for it.IMG_9835IMG_9867IMG_9940 IMG_9930IMG_9960IMG_9969IMG_9973IMG_9979IMG_9984IMG_9990IMG_9989

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A Day in the Life {Wednesday}

One day a month, from wake to sleep. A day in the life project, something new and purposeful. Seeing beauty in the everyday, seeing us. Follow us as the Foto Fifty group journeys into another project together.

July {Wednesday}

On this particular Wednesday IN JULY, I hit the ground running with working my two jobs – as a kids ministry coordinator at our church, and photographer. I had a boudoir session scheduled for a dear friend, which ended up being too much fun as our other friend Katie the Makeup Artist joined the fun as well. My parents were also in town this day (yay!!!) and spent the evening with us after their morning of island exploring. This was a good day.

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Hey Two Year Olds…


I promise it’s ok to get excited about your birthday cupcakes.

These two are hilarious together. Almost identical personalities, born 4 weeks apart. We had a mini dinner celebration on the night of Hurricane Iselle (that thankfully bypassed us) and served them up some red velvet cupcakes. They wore these expressions almost the entire time.IMG_6455 IMG_6456IMG_6464IMG_6467IMG_6482IMG_6524