Tag Archives: Preparation

My Birth Story

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Jeremy, Sydney, and I went to Anchorage to pick up Papa and Nenaw (my parents) on August 11, 2012, which was our estimated due date for Baby August. We joked that it would be really awesome if we went out to dinner at the Moose’s Tooth and then just stopped off at the birth center to give birth, since we were right there by it. We were so thrilled to see my parents, and made it to the Moose’s Tooth, and all the way back home, without stopping off at the birth center. We had a great visit with them, even though they were exhausted and on North Carolina time.

We went to bed, and at about 2:05 am, I woke up and needed to poop, bad. My labor had started with Sydney in this way, but I’d had so many stops and starts with this baby, that I had put it out of my mind to consider labor until I couldn’t ignore the contractions. As soon as I was finished using the bathroom, I had a sudden feeling of not only was I in labor, but it was time to leave the house for the birth center, in an expedient fashion. I did not, however, voice this to Jeremy, and instead climbed back into bed, where Sydney had opted not to sleep that night, so I was free to paw and writhe about on the bed while making my labor sound of choice, an angry cat sound. Jeremy woke up, and asked me if I was ok. After I continued to make more sounds, he leaped out of bed, in a semi-calm fashion, and got dressed and brushed his teeth. Then he went into the room where my parents and Sydney were sleeping, and told them it was time to go.

Within 10-20 minutes, we were in the van, and on the way to the birth center. The midwives and our doula, Stella were called at some point, and I started timing my contractions. Less than 4 minutes apart. We weren’t very smart the night before, and had not filled the van up, so we had to stop for gas. While timing my contractions, I tapped on the glass to let Jeremy know they were 3 minutes apart, he got a bit freaked out. Because our midwife was at a birth at the hospital, a different midwife called me back, and I was talking to her, and was overheard by Jeremy, who was driving, and he thought I was saying I had the “urge to push”, and started to gun it, until he found out I was not feeling like I needed to push. We eventually made it to the birth center, where my cervix was checked by midwife Felicity, 5 and a half centimeters.

I began cruising the medical building where the birth center is housed, and ascending and descending the stairs, in individual steps and lunges, with Jeremy or Stella applying counter pressure. I was very happy that we had the entire building to ourselves, and we were the only people at the birth center. While I labored, Sydney toodled the building with Papa and Nenaw, and made great use of the elevators. Never had she been awakened at 2 something in the morning to play, so this was a real treat.

Stella applying counter pressure

My contractions were coming about a minute apart, and Stella said it might be a good idea to get them to be spaced a bit more, so I went to the bed, and got on all 4s, howling like an angry cat. At some point, I switched to the birth ball, which was awesome, and my hips could be free to move, and I could be supported. I opened my eyes, coming out of one contraction, and midwife Karen was there. In the quiet, respectful nature of my labor atmosphere, she had appeared, so gently, and I was greeted with a smile.

I need to take a moment to mention that while planning for this labor and birth, music was a huge consideration. Music, for me, is what makes life flow so nicely, music helps life make sense at times, and music has helped me carry on through some tough times. So, I knew that music should be strongly considered for this birth. At first, I began to put instrumental and relaxation music on my iPod, but then began to consider that there were other types of music I might like. I ended up with quite a bit of music, from different artists that help my days pass more smoothly at times, they included: John Mayer, Deathcab for Cutie, most of the Garden State soundtrack, The Fray, Coldplay, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood. None of the songs were about birth, but they were all songs that I enjoy. The playlist was named Baby August, and at times during my labor, I was so very grateful for the music we had playing in the background. It added to the atmosphere, the ambiance, and really helped me to remain calm.

As labor progressed, I became increasingly more uncomfortable, but stayed fairly relaxed, with lots of vocalizations. I could feel my support system there, though my eyes were closed most of the time, their gentle, positive presence was ever present. It felt truly amazing. Most of the time, my parents were in the common area of the birth center with Sydney, keeping her entertained, and sometimes, they would enter the birth arena to quietly view what was taking place. I am so thankful, that though no expectations were discussed about them attending the birth, they were so peaceful and wonderful an addition to the birth environment.

Sydney in the common area

As labor progressed I had to use the bathroom, and asked for Jeremy to hold onto me. I was shaking and feeling increased pressure and my contractions were growing ever more effective. I knew I was in transition. I went to the bed to be checked and was 8 centimeters. I think I labored some more on the ball, then went to the bathroom again, and said I wanted to get in the tub, which was then filled, and I got in. Shortly after I got in the tub, Sydney entered the room, dressed in her swimsuit, and got in with me. She showered my belly and legs with water and love, and was just so peaceful and gentle and quiet. This is sort of a rare thing for Sydney-girl to be, and so that’s why I mention this. She realized the situation called for calm, and everyone else in the room was so calm and quiet, and she followed suit. I am so very proud of her. She stayed in the tub with me for a bit. Sydney was allowed to remain in the tub with me as long as I was not pushing.

Jeremy, Sydney and our midwife

Midwife Karin and me

I labored in there, sitting, working through contractions, becoming increasingly more uncomfortable, feeling like birth was right around the corner, and becoming a bit doubtful about whether I could give birth. I wanted to escape, and I began to feel like I could push, as my tones changed, and the midwife noticed. She checked me, and I had a cervical lip left along the front of my cervix, next to my pubic bone, so that each time I had a contraction, I got an intense pinchy feeling that translated to me as intense pain. I began to vocalize more in words, and because I knew my daughter was in the room, I tried to be aware of what I was saying, so most of what I said was, “OUCH!” The midwife left her fingers in there for a contraction and had me push to get the lip to go over the baby’s head, and asked me if I wanted to get on all 4s to try to get that to move (either out of the tub or in the tub), I decided I was NOT getting out of the tub.

Midwife helping me push the lip over the baby’s head

Moving the cervical lip, with a super cute Sydney in the foreground

I got on all 4s, and found that there was pain to be had in getting the lip to disappear. I continued to be cognizant of the fact that Sydney was in the room, but finally gave way with a word that is not so nice, and rhymes with ‘duck’. The midwife laughed and noted that the baby was likely not far behind. I continued to feel a lot of pain, and then sat back down in the tub after several minutes to be checked again. With the help of the midwife’s fingers, I was able to push hard enough to get the lip past the baby’s head, and to a position of rocking back and forth under the pubic bone. None of this was a picnic, and far more painful than I thought it could possibly be.

A note about pain: I will say that I had no idea that it would be painful at all, and I know that sounds very silly, but in my preparation for Sydney’s birth, I took HypnoBirthing that addresses comfort levels and not feelings of pain, and I had an epidural during her birth (not because of pain, but out of sheer exhaustion), so I experienced little pain. At this point, I had been in labor for about 5 hours, as compared to reaching the pushing stage in about 20 hours with Sydney, so my ability to process what was happening was different. There were many differences in my labors, and at this point, the baby was very ready to be born, quite literally around a turn, just around the corner, so close. I was very afraid at this point, afraid I couldn’t push the baby out, afraid of the pain (if it already hurt this much), and I wanted to ask to go to the hospital. But my inner dialogue was something like this… “Oh my God, I need pain relief! I need to go to the hospital. I wouldn’t make it to the hospital though, the baby is about to be born. The only way to get the baby out is to push the baby out. I can do this.”

The midwife kept reminding me to not hold back, because I was fighting what my body was trying to do, out of fear and pain. The patience of the midwife’s voice, and the whispering in my ear by Stella was incredible. At one point, I remember Stella telling me I could do it, and I started to repeat, “OK, OK, OK, OK, OK…” (While my inner voice was saying the complete: “Ok, I can do this”) over and over again. The rocking of the baby’s head continued, until one huge push, and there was no stopping what was taking place. I was no longer in control at all of my body, as the Natural Expulsive Reflex (NER) took over, and I shook all over and felt like I was yelling inside. I really wish we had video of the labor/birth at this point, because I feel like I lost all control. I know I was making noise, I felt like the baby was going to come racing out. I kept feeling for the head, and eventually I felt it. I remember feeling immense pressure and fullness as the baby’s head was emerging, especially at the front of my pelvis, and as if the skin from my urethra back were splitting, never to return to true form again. And, I couldn’t stop any of this.

While all of this was happening, Sydney was being held by Nenaw, and in all of the noise and commotion that I was producing, Sydney hid her face in Nenaw’s shoulder. She was scared. Nenaw reassured her, but she wanted to cry from seeing me in a struggle. Sydney eventually turned her head back to watch.

My midwife provided support of my perineum, and my husband waited with hands ready to receive our baby. My eyes remained closed the entire time, and on one of the pushes, the head came forth. Soon after, another push, and the shoulders, and the body slid out into my husband’s hands, and next thing I knew, our baby was on my chest. I was relieved to meet the baby, relieved to meet on the outside, joyful about everything. We asked Sydney if she wanted to tell us who the baby was, and she announced that it was “Collin”. This surprised no one, since all of us thought the baby was a boy, and everyone was elated to finally see him. Sydney stood there, looking at him, talking to him (we told her this was one of her jobs after the baby was born).

Here he is!

Sydney was so excited.

I don’t remember much, other than thinking that our Collin looked just like his big sister did at birth. He looked at me, calmly, wide eyed, as if he were in shock about what had just happened (I was too, my son). I continued to feel immense pressure, and about 2 minutes after he was born, I was informed that his cord had finished pulsating, and so it was clamped and cut. This was a choice that was incredibly important to us, so that Collin could receive all of his cord blood, to help him acclimate to the outside world and breathe more easily. The placenta was soon birthed, and Jeremy was asked to remove his shirt for skin to skin bonding to begin with our son. We were moved to the bed to begin bonding as a family. Collin was able to latch on, after he was laid on my chest again. After some time, Collin was weighed and measured. He was a whopping 8 pounds and 1 ounce and 21 inches long! (Sydney was 6 pounds and 10 ounces and 19 and a half inches long) Soon after that, I was wheeled down the hall to be stitched up (I tore in the same place as I did with Sydney). Collin was assessed and given his Vitamin K injection, a decision we weighed very heavily, and after much consideration, we decided we would rather he have a vitamin injection than a blood transfusion if for some reason he should have a bleed before his blood clotting factors became present.

I was brought back, and we were able to relax for some time, eat, and were attended by the most wonderful midwife assistant named Cindy. I really am so grateful for her presence after Collin’s birth. She was there as a gentle presence in the background, and after the midwife left, she remained there, helping me use the bathroom, showing me how to smash my uterus to make it clamp down, and just there as a resource for our family. We left the birth center about 4 and a half hours following Collin’s birth, and have been adjusting to life ever since as a family of 4.

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Afterthoughts about Collin’s Birth:

After giving birth to Collin, I felt completely different than I did when I gave birth to Sydney. There were so many differences in their births and the time immediately following. Sydney’s birth, for me, has brought up many angry feelings that are still healing. In some ways, I felt robbed of what my experience with her birth could have been. That is another post entirely. I’d do it a million times over, to get my Sydney-girl, of course, but there are some things I wish I’d known, wish I’d said, wish I’d done differently. Can’t go back, so I prepared for Collin’s birth differently. Following Sydney’s birth, there was no sense of dignity, peace or silence. There was always some sort of noise and activity, always someone coming in to look at my “bottom”, and at times, the nurses would bring in nurses that were not assigned to me, to see the trauma that had ensued from pushing her out. No sense of respect.

Following Collin’s birth, and during his birth, there was nothing but dignity and respect. I never felt barked at or talked down to, and there was silence and peace when the time was right. There was encouragement, support, comfort, and an overall environment of positive energy. I am so thankful to have given birth at the birth center, and there is nothing I would change about my experience there.

Postpartum Period:

Currently, I am 15 days postpartum. My postpartum period with Sydney was rough, to say the least. We had some trouble with breastfeeding, sleeping, stress, and all kinds of other things. I remember at some points wanting to throw her out the two story window, and being so weepy and frustrated all the time. What I did not know then, I know now. I will share.

Collin’s postpartum period has been filled with me accepting help from others, lying down to heal, napping nearly naked (skin-to-skin) with him, tons of breastfeeding, my primarily holding him, taking my time, being patient with myself, and consuming my placenta. Yes, I said it, I’m consuming my placenta. I had it encapsulated, in a process where it is herbed, steamed, dehydrated then ground up and put into capsules. Benefits include increased milk production, decreased postpartum mood disorders, and a more even keel feeling. My postpartum period this time, because of the combination of everything I mentioned above, has been incredible. I was weepy on day 2, when my parents had to leave, and I still am missing them terribly. My patience has been thin sometimes, and I feel tired a lot of the time, but I think that comes with the territory. I am joyful to have our son, to have all the love and support we have received, and I look forward to everyday.

Breastfeeding:

I mentioned that Collin latched on well at the birth center. All of that changed by our 24 hour visit with nurse Jen (she came to our home, so super nice). Collin had been refusing to nurse, had had no dirty or wet diapers since the day of his birth, and was extremely fussy. Nurse Jen looked him over, and suggested that we see the lactation consultant at the birth center after trying to express or pump milk and feed it to Collin in a spoon or syringe. I tried this, and he nursed a bit that day, but we had a terrible night filled with him crying, and my cringing because of a poor latch. Because my parents were leaving on day 2, we decided I would stay home with Collin to heal some more, and we would go to the lactation consultant on day 3 if we needed to. Another night of crying and feeling like my nipple was being sawn off with razor blades told me it was time to seek help. We saw LC Sarah, and she assessed his latch (weak and poor), saw that his lower jaw is short, and that he has a tight frenulum on his upper lip. She suggested we go see the chiropractor. I have to sing the praises of our chiropractor!!! I called, 5 minutes out, less than an hour before they were closing, and asked if we could be seen, affirmative. We were seen immediately. While there, during the adjustment, Collin peed for the first time since birth, and we borrowed some clothing of the chiropractor’s son (he’s over a year old). He also received a skull massage and cranio-sacral adjustment, and I received instruction on helping with his lower jaw. Since seeing the lactation consultant and chiropractor, Collin has been a champion nurser! At his 11 day visit with the pediatrician, he had gained 13.5 ounces since birth, and grown a half an inch! Go breast milk!

Sydney:

Sydney has really adjusted so well to being a big sister, and has worn this hat beautifully. She, perhaps, is a model big sister, and is so very proud of her little brother. Her challenge in adjusting was that she felt abandoned and unloved by me. I was able to set this straight with her, and reassure her of my undying love for her, and things have been much smoother ever since. Sydney is very gentle with Collin, and is always ready with a “Hi, Collin!!!” and “Is he awake?!” She loves to hold him and talk to him most, and has been extremely helpful with so much. She has also made a huge transition as a 5 year old: she started kindergarten!!! We are so extremely proud of her, as we always are, and are so pleasantly surprised by how well she has adjusted and acclimated to life as a big sister.

I would like to thank some people who have helped make our transition so smooth:

Midwife Felicity

Midwife Karen

Midwife Assistant Cindy

Nurse Jen

LC Sarah

Dr. Jessica (chiropractor)

Stella (Doula)

Dad & Cheryl

Jeremy’s Mom

Grams and Poppy

Nikii

Ladies that are participating in our Meal Train

Everyone who sent me a bead and a cloth

Facebook friends

And most of all, Jeremy and Sydney

The Questions to Ask

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Last night at the Natural Birth Meetup in Fayetteville, we talked about different topics.  The main topic of the night was Placenta Encapsulation, but it morphed into many other subtopics, as these meetings always do.  I am always so refreshed to hear other women’s experiences, and to share some of my own.  I felt compelled to share the experience I had with our OB when I was pregnant with Sydney, and during my birth.  I stated that often, women do not ask the right questions, so this post is going to be a guide, of sorts, in dialogue form, to help you with the right questions to ask your provider.

The Wrong Questions:

Sally:  I need to ask you some questions, do you have time?

Provider:  Sure, (glances at watch).

Sally (feeling rushed and embarrassed for even asking):  My partner/husband and I would like to do a natural birth, are you okay with this?

Provider:  Of course.

Sally (feeling more confident, now):  We would like to remain pregnant until 42 weeks, do you see any problems with this?

Provider:  No, not really.

Sally:  We would like to avoid induction, unless medically necessary, will you suggest medically unnecessary induction?

Provider:  No, we do inductions that are necessary.

Sally:  We would like to avoid c-section at all costs, do you have ways to help us do that?

Provider:  Yes, we have many ways.

Sally:  I would like to push in a different position than on my back, is this okay?

Provider:  Sure, why not?

Sally:  We request skin-to-skin bonding, where the baby is placed on my belly/chest immediately after birth, will you do this for us?

Provider:  Yes.

Sally:  We would like for the cord to stop pulsating before clamped or cut, will you honor this request?

Provider:  Um, sure.

Sally:  (Feeling peppy and like she’s chosen the right provider)  Thank you so much!!! We know we have chosen the right provider for us!

This line of questioning could go on forever, I could list so many more, but this line of questioning is all wrong.  Notice how the provider does not say much, provides no detail, and really is not answering the questions.  This is no indication of how the doctor might respond during birth.  The questions Sally is asking are the right questions, but need much more detailed answers.  She asks closed ended questions, or questions that do not require much more than a one or 2 word answer.  So I will outline the correct line of questioning.  This puts the ball in your court, and you can make a much more educated decision about your baby, your birth, and your provider or your place of birth.

The Right Questions

Sally:  Dr. Moe, my pregnancy and birth experience are very important to me, so I would like to ask you some questions quickly (pulls out a sheet of paper and pen).

Provider:  Um, Ok.  (Sits)

Sally (feeling empowered and confident.):  My husband/partner and I are preparing for a normal physiological birth (expound as much as needed: intervention free, few interventions, pain meds free, whatever you want to say), how many of the births that you’ve attended have been this way?  And, how will you help me to achieve this?

Provider:  (Slightly taken aback with this open ended question) Most of the births I attend at Candy Hill Hospital are medicated with epidural or some other form of pain management.  I have only attended maybe 10 unmedicated births.  I am willing to help you achieve this by allowing you to labor for as long as possible without intervention.

Sally:  Okay… We would like to remain pregnant until 42 weeks, unless it is medically necessary to take action before hand.  How many of your mothers have you allowed to continue being pregnant until 42 weeks?  And what are your reasons as a provider for requesting birth sooner?

Provider:  We generally don’t allow women to remain pregnant until 42 weeks, our cut off is 41 weeks.  We don’t like women to continue pregnancy until 42 weeks because the risks of a larger baby/aging placenta/elevated blood pressure/etc go up.

Sally:  (Red flags going up, immediately, she’s done her research):  Okay, I understand your reasoning, and I’d love to see some written research to support this reasoning.  But, in our case, we would like to request a non-stress test following 41 weeks to ensure everything is fine with baby and me, and to ensure that everything is going smoothly in my pregnancy so we can go until 42 weeks.

Provider:  I guess we could do that, we will talk about it more as time gets nearer.

Sally:  Sounds pretty good.  Since we would like a normal physiological birth, we would like to avoid induction, unless medically necessary.  What is your induction rate? And what are the reasons you induce?

Provider:  Our induction rate is pretty high.  We induce because the baby is too big, the baby is late, there are medical problems with the mom such as high blood pressure, diabetes, other issues, and to help the mother to be more comfortable.

Sally:  Oh, ok.  (Increasingly more uncomfortable with the answers her provider is giving)  We would like to avoid c-section, unless medically necessary, first, what is your c-section rate? And, how would you help us to avoid c-section?

Provider:  Our c-section rate is right along with the national average of 32-33%.  We would monitor you and baby, to make sure that both are okay, and allow you your trial of labor, until it is deemed that c-section may be the best option.

Sally:  (Thinks she may want to switch providers, at this point)  All right… I would like to push in a position other than semi-sitting or flat on my back.  How many births have you attended in which the mother was in an alternate position for pushing?

Provider:  Since most of the patients I attend have had an epidural, we require the mother to lie flat during birth.  I have not attended many births where the mother wanted to push in a different position, but I guess I’d be okay with it.

Sally:  Okay.  We would like our baby to come directly to my belly/chest following birth for immediate skin-to-skin bonding.  Are there reasons you would not allow this? If so, what are they?

Provider:  We generally take the baby directly to the warmer to do the assessments of the baby.  While we understand skin-to-skin bonding is beneficial, we like to get the assessments done as quickly as possible so you can have your baby following.  We could maybe do skin-to-skin bonding for a few minutes.

Sally:  (Disheartened)  Wow.  Okay.  We would like for the cord to stop pulsating before it is cut or clamped.  Will you honor this for us? If so, why not?

Provider:  We like to clamp the cord and cut it immediately, so the assessments can be done on the baby, and with the baby attached to the cord, we cannot do that.  I guess we could do that so you could have a few minutes with your baby before we have to do the assessments.

Sally: (Feeling disheartened, discouraged, and frustrated, yet she knows she can switch providers) Thank you so much for answering these very important questions, we have some decisions to make.

Like I said, the questions are endless, and they all depend on what is important to you.  In this line of questioning, Sally receives the complete picture of what her provider is like during labor and birth, and is able to make more educated decisions about whether she would like to switch providers.

Let me say something else, if you decide to switch providers, it is YOUR decision.  You will not hurt feelings or step on toes, and if you do (Say this out loud to yourself), “IT IS MY BIRTH”.  What happens at your birth should be the well thought out plans you’ve decided on, not that your provider has decided on.

My personal experience with this was much more like the first line of questioning.  I can blame it on being a first time mom, being uninformed, or whatever I’d like it to be about, but what it came down to was I chose my provider for the wrong reasons.  My neighbor at the time wanted a fully medicated birth, and said her provider was “really nice”.  Well, most providers are really nice, they wouldn’t have much of a practice if they were ogres.  So my decision was made because my neighbor, who wanted a totally different birthing experience than I did, suggested the doctor to me.  If you want an intervention free birth, unmedicated birth, natural birth, normal physiological birth, however you want to describe it, DO NOT CHOOSE YOUR PROVIDER BASED ON THE CRITERIA OF “NICE”.  Ask open ended, detailed questions that will require thought, words, and an indication of the actions your provider will take.

Also, remember that you may always decline any procedure.  Simply say no, stand firm, and ask to sign a document saying you declined, if necessary.  Again, I will say this, and again, I want you to say this out loud (let this be your mantra), “THIS IS MY BIRTH.”

Please share comments, experiences, input, whatever you want to say, myself and my readers would love to read it.

Thank you so much for reading. Have a beautiful day!

The Truth About (Medicated) Birth

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I read an article today that really lit a fire under my butt, made me extremely frustrated, and wanting to say a lot.  The article was about how a member of the media “delivered” his baby at home, and how it was made to be so dramatic.  This spurred me to think about my passion for birth, how much birth is made out to be an emergency, a medical event, or something that needs to be managed or fixed, and about how little truth women tell other women about how they gave birth.  The natural birthing community is often shunned because of how people who had medicated births perceive the natural birthers’ stories as bragging.  Come on, now, people!  We need to hear more of the natural birthing stories, they often have so much more vivid detail than the medicated birth stories.  Wonder why?!  Because the women who give birth without the use of medication actually remember their births.  That’s one reason, but I think that women who have given birth with the use of medication don’t necessarily want to tell the WHOLE story.  I know that after I had my epidural (after not planning or foreseeing such a thing taking place in my labor), that I didn’t want to tell the details.

Now, please, don’t get me wrong, I know there is a time and a place for interventions such as medication to be used during labor.  Sadly, though, these interventions have been so overused that now it’s a problem, a BIG problem.  Women and babies are suffering, and some are dying, because of the overuse.  Babies are being forced out of their mothers’ wombs because they are “too big”, “too late”, and for many other reasons that are not medically related, and this has affected their health, growth, and has caused some of them to die.  Mothers are not being given time and patience to labor and birth, instead, they are put on hospital clocks, and often hurried along with the use of induction and augmentation drugs, which ends in cesarean sections.  While cesarean sections are sometimes very much needed, they also have MAJOR risks, and repeat cesareans put women at further risks.  Women are dying because of the overuse of cesarean sections.  Yes, interventions are sometimes needed, I know that, but not routinely.

What we need to do, as a society, is expose women to what birth is intended to be.  Make birth this glorious event, instead of an event that’s shrouded in dark mystery, with hints of disaster and doom.  So here is what birth is, to me.

Like all mammals, humans are designed to give birth, and in most cases, women are able to give birth, with little or no intervention.  There are many things that must happen within the body for labor to begin, one of which is that the baby must be ready.  Because the woman’s body is so perfectly designed, with a flexible pelvis, that moves to accommodate her baby, birth is entirely possible.  If a woman is able to let go of all fear, the muscles in her birthing body should work correctly, and a sort of birth dance happens, where muscles work together in perfect harmony, to help the baby move down, turn, maneuver to a perfect position for birth, and finally be born.  The mother’s perineum, which is strong and muscular, if it has been massaged adequately in the weeks leading up to birth will stretch perfectly for the baby to make his entrance.  The baby is so perfectly designed for birth, the skeletal structure is pliable, and the bone plates in the head (fontanels) are able to overlap each other to make descent into the vaginal canal, and out of the body possible.  Much more happens in the body, cervical changes that include so much more than dilation and effacement, and oh how I WISH providers would teach this to their expectant couples!  Hormones (specifically oxytocin, the love hormone) work in the body to drive off stress and fear, and make birthing easier, help the cervix to open, help the labor to progress, help the baby to be born, help the mother to BOND with the baby, and help the mother to feel protective toward her baby.  Many other things in life produce oxytocin (love, like-minded women communing, intercourse, breastfeeding, etc).  As I said before, this is the watered down version of what birth truly is, what it’s meant to be.

So let’s look at what happens when women do not go this route (for whatever reason).  And let’s address that many women are told (by media, friends, culture, family, doctors, language, their own experiences, etc) that they are not capable of giving birth without the use of interventions/medications.  Women who give birth with the use of interventions are mammals, still, there is no denying that, but different things happen in the body once medication and other interventions are introduced.  The lovely love hormone, oxytocin, that I talked about above, when pitocin (artificial oxytocin), epidurals, and other drugs are introduced is cut off.  This means that the lovey, floaty, euphoric feeling that some women feel during labor, that counteracts pain, is gone.  What I didn’t say about the hormones in the body, above, is that these also help the baby, because what a mother experiences, so does the baby (if a mother is experiencing a comfortable labor, so is the baby, and conversely, is a mother is experiencing a painful pitocin driven labor, the baby no longer has a hormonal love cushion to protect him).  Epidurals also cut off the oxytocin, and cause the baby to feel a much more painful labor and birth.  And when mothers feel threatened in labor, their bodies stop working in perfect harmony, the cervix will not want to open (a protective instinctual mechanism to keep baby from harm), and labor stalls.  The mother’s pelvis and baby’s fontanels still function, but once an epidural is introduced, babies often have to be born when their mothers are on their backs (the least conducive birthing position, because baby has to go against gravity to be born).   This is the version of interventive/medicated birth that people often describe, without the “what happens in the body” mumbo jumbo.  I will tell you more… Here is the part we often do not hear.

With pitocin, contractions, or surges as HypnoBirthing calls them, often feel like they never end.  I’ve heard pitocin contractions described as one big one that never let the mother regain composure, catch her breath, and was extremely painful.  So when we hear about inductions and augmentations, the whole truth is not being told, I fear.  And with pitocin, epidurals are often right behind, because labor is so traumatic with pitocin, that it’s like cruel and unusual punishment to have pitocin WITHOUT an epidural.  And with pitocin and epidural, especially combined, cesarean section rates rise.

With epidurals, tearing is a lot more prevalent, as is malposition of the baby (baby’s face not facing his mother’s back).  Episiotomy (cutting of the perineal tissue) is more common as well.  And here’s the kicker, because the mother is numbed, many things can be done, without her knowing anything is wrong (legs being cranked back so far that hip damage is possible, episiotomy, breaking of the bag of waters, or release of membranes as HypnoBirthing calls it, etc.)

Cesarean section is a major surgery that has a long and painful healing course.  The art of VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) is being lost among obstetricians, and so women who have primary cesareans are often put under the knife for no medical reason, other than the primary cesarean, for subsequent babies.  And the hard truth about cesarean sections, though some of them are truly needed, is that some mothers die following surgery.

My own experience was not what I expected it would be, partly because of Sydney being turned “sunny side up”, with her head resting on my tailbone, which made my labor much longer than I’m sure it would have been.  After 20 hours of unmedicated, unmessed with labor, I asked for an epidural, after having researched the risks and benefits.  What I never anticipated was how it would affect me, how it still affects me now.  Because I could not feel anything, my OB was getting my perineum ready for birth (which we had explicitly asked not be done (perineal massage) during labor, in our birth plan), and she tore me.  My legs were cranked back to my ears when I was pushing, to “make more room for the baby”, and I still have hip issues today (stiffness, pain, loss of flexibility).  After Sydney was born, I felt emotionally dead, all of my protective instincts I thought I would have were deadened by the narcotics present in the epidural.  Bonding with Sydney was near impossible, and took at least a month, if not more.  She had a poor latch to begin with, because of the drugs in her system from the epidural.  Sydney cried incessantly for about the first month, and I’m convinced that she had some sort of birth trauma from not being cushioned by my cocktail of love hormones during labor and birth.  I felt distant from her, and did not want to hold her, comfort her, and be with her, nor did I make an effort to learn how to.  I could probably go on, but you might imagine that this tore at me as a mother, and still does.  I don’t view myself as a failure at all, because at hour 20 of my labor, my body had reached a level of exhaustion it had never reached, and was ready to give up, and I was quickly heading for a cesarean.  So as a mother, I look back on my experience, and want desperately to do better, do more, educate other mothers, help mothers, help babies, just speak about this.

My point in saying all of this is that birth is not supposed to be scary, dramatized, medical, or an emergency.  When it is made to be these things, women lose their ability to think about what their babies might need, and instead think of simply getting through it.  With interventions come risks and consequences (lower rates of bonding, harder times bonding, lowered protective instincts in mothers to protect their babies, lower breastfeeding rates, higher infant and maternal mortality rates, higher infant and maternal morbidity rates, birth defects, emotional trauma, physical trauma, and the list goes on).  So here is my challenge for you.  Research everything, if you’re having a baby, research everything (your provider, hospital, interventions, alternatives, birth plans, having a doula, how your partner can better support you, etc).  And for those of you who have had beautiful experiences, PLEASE share your story (post it online, share it on Facebook, I’ll share it too!)!!!!

As always, thank you so much for reading this, and your input is always appreciated!

Birth and Death

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Recently, I’ve encountered some very real, natural life occurrences.  And as I have encountered them, I have realized the similarities between birth and death, and realized there are huge, vast differences between the two as well.  As I teach HypnoBirthing classes to excited expectant parents, I also know that there are people preparing for death.  Everyone dies, but it seems that we, as Americans are so afraid of death, that we keep it a secret.

I’ve had a challenge in explaining to my daughter, who will be 4 this year, the realities of life.  I don’t know how much she understands,  but I am as honest as I can be, at an age appropriate level for her.  I answer questions when she asks, while sometimes inside, I have questions too.  It seems that in this past week, I’ve reached a level of comfort and clarity with the end of life.  I’ve also discovered that I have almost as much passion for end of life issues as I do for birth.

I think this passion grows out of my Social Work background, and the belief that everyone has the right to dignity.  At the beginning of life, mothers choose to birth their babies in a manner that is most comfortable to them.  Dignity is present when mothers’ wishes are honored.  At the end of life, many people prepare an advanced directive, decide what they would like to have happen, and how they would like to be treated.  Dignity is present when the wishes of the dying are honored.

Sometimes, though, wishes are not honored.  Many providers who care for pregnant women have a skewed view of what normal birth is, and so their methods do not mesh with the wishes of mothers.  Many times, birth is hurried, labor is induced, babies are rushed, when this is medically unnecessary.  A similar situation arises with the end of life, hospitals are so concerned with saving life, that even in situations where patients wish for no intervention, intervention is ever present.  Advanced directives can be helpful, as can Do Not Resuscitate orders, but if they are not in hand, they cannot be honored.  Procedures are performed to keep people alive, because a large part of the medical system is there to “fix” what is wrong.  In dealing with birth and death, since they are both natural occurrences, there is nothing to fix.

I understand that we, as humans, are extremely selfish.  We want our babies here NOW, and we want our loved ones to stay with us forever.  The thought of saying goodbye is excruciating, but it is a reality that we must face.  Allowing people to be born and to die on their own time is essential.  It provides a balance to life, but it also provides dignity to those who are entering or leaving our lives.

With death especially, we must remember that there are some things that death has no power over.  Death cannot change the love we feel and it cannot take our memories.

For those of you preparing for the birth of a baby or the death of a loved one, I pray for the wisdom for you to know that it will happen in its own time.  I pray for you to feel the comfort of just letting things stay as they are, now.  I pray for you to understand that you cannot control what or how it happens, though you may feel an intense need to.  I pray for you to soak in every moment of waiting, allow it to saturate your very being.  I pray for you to just be.  Allow yourself to not rush or prolong what is inevitable, it will happen, and when it does, just breathe.

Additional suggestions:

Birth:

  • Think about the kind of birth you want for yourself, your birth partner, and your baby.
  • Research everything.
  • Take a birthing class.
  • Create a birth plan.
  • Talk to your provider at length about your wishes during labor and birth (if he/she does not agree or seem on board, switch providers/hospitals or both).
  • Be confident in what your body was created to do.
  • Be flexible in your approach to labor and birth.
  • Hire a Doula.

Death:

  • Talk to family about your wishes.
  • Create an Advanced Directive, detailing your wishes (on paper).
  • Decide on details concerning what will happen to your body, before you pass on.
  • Know that no matter how much everyone prepares, this will not be easy on anyone.
  • Have the confidence to express your details to those you love.
  • Determine whether Hospice would be a viable option for you in your final journey in life.

Your input is greatly appreciated.

Preparation for Birth

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There is so much talk about preparing for birth.  So I’d love for this post to be as interactive as possible.  Please feel free to comment, leave suggestions you might have for expectant mothers, and tell us how you prepared for your birth/s.

Pregnancy, for most women lasts from 37-42 weeks, and while that seems like a long time, it really is not.  In that time, couples/families become very involved in preparing for the birth, and I can’t help but wonder if families prepare enough.  We all know that couples, especially first time parents, go a little wacko on baby registries, and I’m sure stores are thrilled with this.  But are couples preparing adequately for the birth of their newest loves?

How did you prepare for your birth/s?  Do you think you prepared enough?  Do you think you could have ever been prepared enough?  So here are some questions I’d love for you to weigh in on.

  1. Did you take childbirth classes?  (If so, where were they offered?  Do you feel like you learned enough to feel comfortable with giving birth?)
  2. Did you interview multiple care providers, and shop around at several hospitals/birthing centers?
  3. Did you take other classes?  (Breastfeeding, Newborn Care, Etc)
  4. Did you research routine interventions that are used in hospitals?
  5. Did you research newborn care procedures in hospitals?
  6. Did you prepare a birth plan?  If so, did anyone help you with this?
  7. Did you have all of your questions answered by your care provider?  (Questions to Ask your Care Provider)
  8. Were you satisfied with the prenatal care your received?
  9. Were you comfortable with your care provider/hospital?
  10. Did you feel prepared to give birth?

I know that right now, in my community, there are two hospitals.  I have attended births at both, and each has its own policies and procedures, some the same, and some very different.  I cannot say that one hospital is better than the other, simply because I am not a woman who is preparing to give birth in either.  Each woman preparing for birth, prepares in her own way.  And the consensus I hear around my area is that women are not necessarily feeling prepared adequately.

The sad truth is that there is over-crowding in the hospitals, and the time that women receive with their care providers is little.  I always encourage women to ask tons of questions, and ensure that her questions are answered before she leaves her doctors office – whether she feels good about the answers or not.  I went to a Homebirth Meetup Group in Fayetteville a couple weeks ago, and heard a woman say that she felt like cattle in the system that is caring for pregnant mothers.  No mother should feel that way, ever, but especially by the providers who will help her to birth her baby.

Preparing to give birth is HUGE.  I believe that couples should research until they are blue in the face.  Here are the things I think should be researched by every expectant couple:

  1. Proper nutrition during pregnancy
  2. Advantages of hiring a Doula/Labor Support
  3. Childbirth Classes – Which one is the best fit for you?
  4. Routine interventions – imposed by care provider, and by hospital
  5. Medical reasons for induction & augmentation of labor (when it is appropriate to do so)
  6. Medical reasons for Cesarean section
  7. Routine newborn procedures – who does them, when are they done, which are mandatory
  8. Circumcision – Do you want this done?  (Here is a guide for you to look at if you’re curious about why or why not to have this done.)
  9. Vaccinations – Will you vaccinate, will you delay?

Another sad truth is that many people research what car to buy, what TV to buy, what cable service to use, where to have their dog groomed more than they do how to give birth, where to give birth, who to have in attendance, and what the process will be like for them.  Some women do not feel confident with the care they receive, but do not switch providers.  So, if I can make one suggestion, it would be to prepare for your birth, and this includes switching providers if you do not feel comfortable with them. Prepare for birth, for you and your baby.

Make this interactive:  COMMENTS PLEASE.

Talking Birth

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Talking to my friend online about her birth reminds me that there are different views of birth.  There are the people who go to medical school to attend very medicalized births of frightened women who may or may not be prepared for the challenges of childbirth.  These same people attend births that are largely medicated in one form or another, and because of this, they see this as “normal”. The women who give birth in this setting often have to fight for their birth wishes.  Even if women don’t come armed with birth plans, some have desires that they would like met, but in the face of having to defend their wishes in the presence of staff, they give up.

The normal that the other group of people see is totally and completely different.  We see birth as nothing short of a miracle.  Birth is normal, it is natural, and it is healthy.  Birth is meant to happen to women, and women were built to give birth.  We grow babies that are the perfect size for our bodies.  The normal birth that this group sees has every confidence in birth.  Birth is not a medical event, and it certainly is not an emergency.  The women who give birth among this group of attendees often simply drift through birth  without a fight.  These births are peaceful, calm, quiet (sometimes eerily so), and have a sacred feel to them.  Women feel loved, at peace, protected, nurtured, and surrender to their birthing energy.

I love talking birth, probably more than anything else in this world (except for sharing stories about Sydney, of couse!).  My passion comes out, I get fired up, and I want for others to feel what I feel about this subject.  There are certain things about birth that anger me, some that make me so proud to be a woman, and some that just sadden me.

I think back to my own labor, when I felt totally in control.  And even upon arrival at the hospital, in San Ramon, CA, I felt the same.  The team of people I had supporting me was incredible.  Never did anyone treat the impending birth of Sydney like it was an emergency, or even a medical event.  I self hydrated, walked, did many position changes, had intermittent monitoring, and never heard a mention of my pain.  Going through labor was a time in my life when I felt the most vulnerable, but knew I was so loved and supported.  Sydney’s birth was at the very least challenging.  But it was also a time that defined much of my life now, it was a time that empowered me, and bonded us together as a family.

Birth is a time when women must feel supported, loved, and vulnerable.  Our birthing energy must be focused, intent, and committed.  We must labor with conviction, with a knowledge that we can do this.  Women who lose this energy, this conviction become easily steered in directions they may not want to go.  This does not make them weak at all, it just makes their path to birth different, and sometimes a bit more challenging, and sometimes still, more dangerous.

The births that OBs and L&D nurses see are dramatized because of the environment in which they are.  They are closely monitored, managed, and manipulated.  These births are mere fragments of what births should be.  Many of these births are not at all what the mothers or the babies want, but sometimes, mothers truly know no different.  Often times mothers are convinced of what they should want because of stories they have seen and heard from others (friends, family, media sources, etc), which creates fear in them, and they lose confidence and are convinced they need anesthetic assistance to get through birth.

Medicalized birth certainly has its place, it has its time, it has its necessity.  But it is not a majority of the time.  Healthy full-term mothers have a right to be fully apprised of how their bodies function, and how to work with their bodies and babies to have a birth with as few interventions as possible.

So here are some of my suggestions for a healthier birthing experience.

  1. Take ownership for how you want to give birth.  Decide now, and follow through.
  2. Eliminate the words “Delivery” and “Deliver” from your vocabulary.  They allow you no responsibility as a birthing mother.
  3. Create a birth plan.
  4. Research, research, research.
  5. Consider options you may not have considered before (home birth, birthing center, water birth, different hospital etc).
  6. Choose a care provider that is completely supportive of what you want.  If he/she is not, find another one.
  7. Prepare for birth by taking a birthing class that fits well with you and your birth partner.
  8. Believe in your abilities to give birth.
  9. Hire a doula.
  10. Be flexible about labor and birth, accept that some things in birth may shift a bit.
  11. Envision your birth, just the way you want it to be.
  12. Ask for positive birth stories only.  Walk away if people share anything less.
  13. Do NOT watch shows like Maternity Ward or A Baby Story.
  14. Arrange everything ahead of time so when birthing time nears, your life is free of undue stress.
  15. When labor begins, stay at home as long as you are comfortable.
  16. Have a happy, healthy, and safe birth.
  17. Take time following birth to talk about your birth to a person who respects you and will not judge.
  18. Do not feel like a failure if you chose to have interventions that you previously thought you would not.  You are NOT a failure.

Comments Welcome.

Birth Changed Me

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Sydney’s friend’s mother asked me the other day how I came to this profession.  No one had ever asked me that, and I guess I’d never really told anyone.  The truth is, if someone had asked me what I was going to do with my life, I certainly would never have thought that I’d be doing THIS.  In fact, at the age of 18, with the world before my feet, I ventured off to college in Greensboro, NC, where I was ready to take on the world.  Social Work was my major, and I wanted to be a Marriage and Family Therapist.  Today, I do not believe that’s where my gifts and passions lie, nor do I want to do anything like that.

But, it was in college that I first heard about HypnoBirthing, and became dedicated to a gentle birth for my future children.  Little did I know that I’d become a HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator.  It was in 2007, when I was with my mother in Babies R Us at a Breastfeeding Fair, which was meant to be a pitstop on the way to Barnes and Noble to buy the HypnoBirthing book, because I had no idea that there were classes to help me along my journey to the gentle birth.  As I was filling out a raffle to win all kinds of baby items, I happened to glance at a sheet of paper that had the word HypnoBirthing on it.  I picked the piece of paper up, and saw that classes were offered in my area, so I flagged down the manager and asked where the distributor of the flyer was.  I was directed to Nicole, who taught my HypnoBirthing classes, attended our birth, and continues to be one of my friends.

Fast forward to my labor and birth.  July 16, 2007, at about 5:30pm, I began to feel the first of the surges, accompanied by diarrhea.  They began at 20 minutes apart, sped up to 10 minutes apart (which is when I ate dinner), then accelerated to 3 minutes apart upon entering the bath tub to relax.  My mother in law informed my husband that I was in labor upstairs in the tub, and that I was surging at 10 minutes apart, so when my husband came into the bathroom and heard me say, “I think it’s time to go”, imagine his shock.  About an hour later, we were on the way to the hospital, and were soon checked in.  We had Birth Preferences that were given to the nurse who would attend, and I was given the privacy to labor, with intermittent monitoring, vaginal exams only at my request, no mention of moving or hurrying things along, and freedom from an IV.  There were no references to pain, only to comfort level and how it could be improved, and my team was with me (husband, mother-in-law, and Nicole).

 

Relaxing during labor

As labor continued, exhaustion began to set in, and my focus became diverted to what was beginning to be translated as discomfort, and my relaxation was dwindling.  Position changes, sitting on the toilet, moving, walking, squatting, swaying, moaning, breathing, swaying, moving, moving, moving… Baby come out.  At hour 17 of labor, I said I needed “help”, and everyone in the room knew what that meant, but no one acknowledged it, they instead encouraged me, stayed with me, loved me, comforted me, took me on the journey of labor.  At hour 20, all relaxation had left, and I again spoke of needing “help”, and out of exhaustion, cried and begged.  Jeremy and I talked about it, and I told him I could not get our baby out of my body without first resting, and I was getting none with my extreme exhaustion and surges that were doing their job.

At hour 20, when help was requested, I was 10 centimeters open, but our sweet baby was not moving, no progression, just sitting there, and at hour 20, the nurse told us our baby was “sunny side up” (OP – Occiput Posterior, back of baby’s head on my back, not the optimal position for birthing a baby).  We tried one last position to get the baby to drop out of my pelvis so she could reposition correctly for birth, but to no avail.  Shortly after, help was delivered, and I drifted in and out of sleep.  I rested, and eventually was awakened so our baby could be born.  The doctor arrived, and was extremely hurried, so much so that the understanding nature, beautiful bedside manner were all gone.  Instead, the person who sat with her fingers in my vagina, stretching my perineum was a stranger to me.  Because of being medicated through epidural, I was not able to feel my natural impulses to aid my body in birthing my baby, so I had to use forced pushing.  About 2 and a half hours after beginning to push, our beautiful Sydney was born.

 

Skin to Skin Bonding

It was at that very moment that my life changed, and I know everyone says that, but a shift took place in my life.  We had never known that we would have a girl, and at that instant that she was there on my naked skin, something in me began to heal.  Years of tattered relationships with women in my life, years of hurt from my own relationship with my mother, years of anger toward her, years of not forgiving her, years of pain, were welling over with a healing power I had never experienced.  It was at that moment, when I looked at my daughter, that I knew my role as woman had been defined.  I felt an overwhelming sense of appreciation and love for her.

It was not until much later that I decided I needed to help women to give birth in a conscious, gentle manner.  I am so thankful I’ve made this choice, and so grateful for the support of my Sydney and my husband to do what I am so passionate about.  For me, birth was my defining moment, it was when I’ve felt strongest in my life, it was when I felt most empowered, most in control, and above all, I knew my body was built to give birth.  Never in my mind was there a doubt about my ability to birth my baby vaginally.  Sydney’s birth is the reason I do what I do today, it is my reason for looking forward to doing it all over again when I’m blessed to do so.  It is the reason I tell women and their birth companions that they can do it, that they are made to do it, that it is normal, natural and healthy to give birth freely, gently, consciously…

The births I have attended as a doula have all reaffirmed my belief in the power of birth.  I’ve witnessed as women became women, men became men, and they together became parents, nurturers, providers, givers, unconditional lovers of their new little life that they created together.

I do this because it has to be done, I do this because Sydney’s birth guided me to it, I do this because I believe in my entire being that women have a right to know they can give birth gently, I do this because women are powerful beings, I do this because I love it.

Birth changes me everyday.

A very special thanks to the couples who have welcomed me into their births, and to my Sydney who is the catalyst for this change.  You’ll never know how much this all means.

Comments Welcome.