Ashley Graham Says She Feels "Invincible" After Giving Birth Naturally at Home
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."