She opened up about her experience with natural childbirth in a podcast episode with her husband, Justin Ervin.

By Arielle Tschinkel
February 04, 2020

Just a few weeks after giving birth to her first child, Ashley Graham is introducing baby Isaac Menelik Giovanni Ervin to the world.

Graham shared the first photos of Isaac's tiny fingers in a heartfelt Instagram post on Monday, writing that he's already made her and husband Justin Ervin's hearts "incredibly full."

The couple also sat down for an episode of Graham's podcast, Pretty Big Deal, to chat about life as new parents and Graham's experience with childbirth. (Related: This Mom Gave Birth to an 11-Pound Baby at Home without an Epidural)

Graham revealed that she opted for a natural home birth with the help of a doula and midwives. ICYDK, a doula is someone who's professionally trained in childbirth and can provide emotional, physical, and educational support throughout pregnancy, labor, and the birth process, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Midwives, on the other hand, are health-care professionals who are medically trained to deliver babies and perform gynecological exams, per the American Pregnancy Association.

Even though Graham knew that a natural home birth was "a big decision to make," she also knew that her "anxiety would've been through the roof" if she'd given birth at a hospital, she shared on her podcast. So instead, she chose to deliver baby Isaac in a birthing pool inside her Brooklyn home—an experience that not only helped her feel more comfortable with childbirth overall, but that also made her feel "invincible," she explained.

"I have to say, now that I gave birth and I did it naturally and I felt everything, I feel like there's nothing I can't do," she said. "There's nothing that could come my way where I say, 'Oh, that's too hard, I can't handle that.' I went through laboring for six hours naturally at home." (Related: New Mom Pens Heartfelt Post About Self-Love After Childbirth)

Of course, every expecting parent and their health-care providers deserve to choose the safest, most comfortable birthing option for them. That said, natural childbirth—which involves delivering the baby "without the use of any medical interventions" like anesthesia or an epidural, per the American Pregnancy Association—can be anxiety-inducing for some. For one thing, as Graham said on her podcast, giving birth naturally means you'll "feel everything."

But get this: Feeling the pain of contractions can actually help labor progress more efficiently, according to a report by Judith Lothian, Ph.D., R.N., a graduate chair and professor at Seton Hall University's College of Nursing, published in The Journal of Perinatal Education. The idea is that, when a mom can feel everything during childbirth (even the pain), she can then respond to those sensations by, say, positioning her body differently, which might then encourage the baby to settle in and move down the birth canal more quickly, wrote Lothian. "When the pain is entirely removed, the feedback system is disrupted and labor is likely to slow down and become less efficient," she continued.

Even cooler: As labor progresses during natural childbirth, the body actually releases a flood of endorphins in response to the pain, explained Lothian. "The result is a decrease in pain perception, quite naturally," she wrote, calling the endorphins "nature's narcotic." (Related: Keira Knightley Just Wrote a Powerful, Candid Essay About What It's Really Like to Give Birth)

For Graham, her natural childbirth experience, while admittedly painful, helped her regain agency over her body—something she felt she'd lost during pregnancy when her body was going through so many changes, she shared on the podcast. (See: Ashley Graham Got Emotional While Opening Up About a Pregnancy Photo of Her Stretch Marks)

"Going through the hardship of my body changing, having to go back to 'practice what I preach [with body positivity],' and then going through the invincible laboring birth experience that I did, and now to be able to stand tall and say, 'Wow, I did it'—I'm so proud of myself," said Graham.

Graham said she hopes new moms everywhere—whether they choose to deliver at home or in a hospital, naturally or with medical assistance—can feel as unstoppable as she does now that she's brought her baby boy into the world.

"I want other women to feel that exact feeling of just being invincible," said Graham. "I feel like there's nothing I can't do."


Comments (1)

February 4, 2020
This is an incredibly upsetting and misleading article. Limiting the definition of "body positivity" as needing to choose to endure unnecessary pain and rejecting relatively safe modern medical procedures like epidurals discourages and shames women from choosing a path that requires less suffering and from advocating for their own well-being emotionally. Bearing a child should in itself be an empowering experience completely independent of whether that person experiences pain or delivers vaginally at home. Moreover I find it dangerous and unethical to encourage women to deliver babies outside a hospital which is equipped with fetal monitoring, physician providers, and operating rooms, allowing early and rapid intervention in emergency situations that midwives are not able to provide. There are many medical benefits to epidurals aside from pain relief, including preventing elevated blood pressures associated with pain and reducing the risk of requiring general anesthesia in the event of a C-section. There is a robust body of medical literature that concludes that epidurals indeed do NOT slow down the delivery process, nor do they slow or weaken contractions or endanger the fetus. A labor epidural generally still allows the woman to feel the pressure of contractions, and most women are still easily able to know when to push, especially with good coaching from her obstetrician. A quick look at Judith Lothian's resume shows an obvious bias towards home births and avoidance of medical interventions that have saved the lives of millions of women and babies in the last 100 years of obstetric medicine. Doctors do not intervene on laboring women for the fun of it. We do when it is medically indicated, which is determined by years of research, data analysis, and repeated verified evidence-based data indicating that the intervention improves outcomes or diminishes mortality. As an anesthesiologist, I am not able to consent a patient for a surgical procedure because I am not a surgeon. Similarly, Judith Lothian has neither the education to determine if an epidural is indicated nor the skillset to provide it. While I don't expect SHAPE magazine to adhere to the rigors and standards of medical literature, this article certainly does not advocate for empowering and encouraging women to seek whatever intervention is best for their well-being and the safety of their baby. In fact it propagates medically inaccurate information which puts women and babies at risk by encouraging women to reject access to potentially life-saving medical resources. Regards, your neighborhood anesthesiologist