Archive for the ‘Natural Childbirth’ Category

Lessons from My Second Home Birth

Two weeks ago today we welcomed our second child into the world- a daughter! She was born into the water alert and calm, and weighed in at 8 lbs, 9 oz and ¬†20.5″ long. Here she is on her first morning earthside:

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Isn’t she lovely? ūüôā

I am working on typing out her entire birth story, but in the meantime, I thought I would share some things I learned from experiencing labor and birth at home for the second time. These are in no particular order of importance. Here it goes!

1) It’s really important to trust your care provider!

This came out really strongly to me during this labor. As you’ll read once I publish the birth story, we made use of several herbal concoctions to kick start and strengthen this labor. I’ll be honest- as much as I’ve researched pitocin, epidurals, and c-sections, I really don’t know a whole lot about black and blue cohosh and other natural inducers/augmenters. But because I feel very comfortable with my midwife and because I know we are on the same page regarding birth philosophy, I felt comfortable saying yes to her suggestions without going and Googling it during labor.

(Remember, I¬†never recommend blind trust without researching your options first. But there will always be times that your care provider knows more than you do. In this case, it’s better to know that you can trust that they will only suggest what is both comfortable for you and safe for your labor. If you don’t at least know whether or not you have a similar birth philosophy beforehand, you won’t be able to determine this in the midst of it!)

2) Birth works.

More than ever, I am convinced that in most cases,¬†birth works.¬†As Ina May Gaskin is famously quoted, your body is not a lemon.” Yes, there are medical circumstances and health conditions that can change this. Yes, there can be true emergencies. Yes, sometimes you¬†should¬†make use of natural tricks or medical tools to help your labor in some way. Please don’t think I am ignoring these situations. But in the grand majority of cases, when birth and the laboring mother are left well enough alone and relieved of artificial restrictions, it is simple (albeit challenging at times). Your uterus will work, your cervix will open, and the baby will descend and be born.

3) Your mental attitude towards birth is just as important (or even more so!) than your physical preparation.

Deciding to surrender to the birth process and releasing your fears can be even more effective than training your body as a marathon runner through your pregnancy. Yes, physical preparation is important and can help you to deal with the rigors of birthing. However, if you are mentally resistant, you can actually make the process slower, more difficult, or more painful. Adrenaline can slow or stop contractions. Fear and tension can literally close the cervix and hold up the opening that needs to happen for the baby to be born. And fighting the contractions is fighting the work the uterus needs to do, making each one more painful and difficult.

I’ve found that in both my two labors, when I decide to welcome the contractions as a sign that I am getting closer to meeting my baby, they become easier. When I decide to joke about them, or fake smile, or be silly just to distract myself, I am able to relax more and deal with each wave as it comes. I truly believe that accepting the birth process- rather than resisting it with misery- is probably the most effective secret to getting through a natural labor.

4) As goes the mouth, so goes the cervix!

I read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth for the first time this pregnancy. (What? I’ve been a birth junkie for this long and haven’t read it yet?!? I know, it’s weird, but at least I finally got to it.) While I don’t endorse everything she says, I felt like I learned a lot from reading it. She talks about law of the sphincter in her book- that sphincters don’t work on command, that they are tied into how a person is feeling, and that they work with each other. She mentioned how keeping your mouth and throat open and relaxed helps to open your cervix as well.

I took this to heart and tried singing through contractions this time- and it made SUCH a difference!!! I felt so much more relaxed than I did during my first labor, and it was much easier to deal with the intensity of each wave. I felt like I honestly could call contractions “pressure waves” for a lot of it. I also made use of low moaning vocalization during pushing, and it really helped me to get through it. I think it was much easier than when I was trying to hold my breath and push out my son.

5) Labors can be completely different. 

I knew this beforehand, but wow, what a different experience this was for me compared to birthing my son! You’ll get to read all about it, but here’s a quick comparison:

My son:

  • 14 hours total.
  • No false starts. I woke up to a clear, established pattern of early labor.
  • Slow, steady contractions that gradually increased in frequency, length, and intensity.
  • 3.5 hours of pushing.

My daughter:

  • Less than 8 hours total on the day of birth, and less than 2 hours with any pain.
  • Lots of “false starts.” I got bouts of crampy contractions for an hour or two at a time over weeks. Turns out I dilated to 5 cm before I ever started “real labor,” so I guess they weren’t so false.
  • Extremely mild contractions for a long time, then a precipitous, intense labor at the end. (Had my midwife not already been at my house for an appointment, we would’ve ended up with an accidentally unassisted birth. Had we been planning a hospital birth, I would’ve had my baby in the car en route.)
  • 12 minutes of pushing.

What have you learned from your different labors? Can you relate? Looking forward to sharing more and hearing back from you!


Pain Vs. Suffering in Labor

Here is Penny Simkin lending us some great insight on pain vs. suffering in labor. What do you think about her points? Anything you disagree with? Agree with wholeheartedly? Enjoy.

Stalled Labor: A Toolbox of Options

Photo Credit

In a stalled labor, you can feel frustrated, helpless, and like you REALLY want that baby to make his way out. You may feel external pressures to “get things moving,” or have family constantly disappointed that “nothing’s happening yet.”¬† Remember though, a stalled labor in and of itself is not necessarily a problem for mom and baby. But when it happens to you, what do you do?

Here is a “toolbox” of ideas. The choices you make will obviously depend upon your individual situation- medical factors, the mother’s energy, the position of the baby, etc.- but this list will give you a starting point.

  • Rest.
  • Go home.
  • Stay nourished and hydrated.
  • Pick a distraction (movie, music, company, children, etc.).
  • Walk.
  • Climb stairs.
  • Intercourse (only if your membranes are intact!).
  • Use nipple stimulation.
  • Shower.
  • Take a bath (again, if your membranes are intact).
  • Sway, dance, move, change positions.
  • Try lunges.
  • Get on hands and knees.
  • Use a birth ball.
  • Try tricks for turning a posterior baby.
  • Try acupressure for labor.
  • Change the environment if something’s bothering you.
  • Avoid vaginal exams. Sometimes they create more of an emotional hurdle than anything else.
  • Talk through relevant concerns. Strong emotions, such as stress or discouragement, can be enough to stall labor.
  • Wait.¬† Recognize that this could be an example of a Natural Alignment Plateau, when labor is still progressing but dilation doesn’t necessarily increase. Sometimes a mom can seem to be “stuck” for many hours, only to rapidly progress to pushing after a long wait. Recognize that this could be prodromal labor, or a long “practice labor” pattern. Rest and nourishment are in order in this case. If mom and baby are fine, there is no reason that the baby has to be born right away.

Any other suggestions? Please share your experiences with stalled labor. I love to hear birth stories!

Prepare for a Medicated Birth

Wait a minute, did I read that title wrong? I thought this was a natural childbirth blog!!!

I do have a special place in my heart for natural childbirth. I think that for women who are interested in unmedicated birth, they should pursue it wholeheartedly with thorough mental, physical, and informational preparation. I do think that¬†taking¬†the “try” out of “I’m going to try to have a natural birth” can be a tremendous affirmation for expectant mothers. Most women can achieve a completely natural birth if they want to do so. I don’t believe in freaking out pregnant women with “what if’s,” and that is not the intent of this post.

All that being said, however, there times that for one reason or another, whether necessary or unnecessary, birth plans DO change. A woman who was a hardcore natural childbirth advocate before labor began may suddenly find herself, for some reason, taking drugs for delivery. Maybe she had a 48 hour labor and desparately needs to be able to sleep to recoup. Maybe she had an abruption and needs to be put under. Maybe she is so tense from the pain that she is not dilating, despite her best efforts, and simply needs to be able to relax in order to progress. There are truly times that medication has its medical indicators and advantages, even if¬†I don’t consider it to be an ideal¬†choice for every birth.

Today I want to speak specifically to two groups of women. First, to women who HOPED to deliver naturally, but for one reason or another ended up taking medication. First of all, know this- you have not failed. You are not a sissy. You are not weaker than the woman who screamed her baby out in the next room over. You made a decision that you felt was best at the time, and you should not let anyone guilt you over it.

For women who are planning a natural birth, I want you to continue passionately planning that natural birth! But think through this with me for a few moments:

  • There is a remote possibility that for some reason or another, we may decide that I need medication. I will not make this decision lightly. So long as the baby and I are healthy, we will wait a little while to make the decision to make sure that I am quite certain about taking drugs during labor. If the baby or I am not doing well, then it is totally alright to change plans and take whatever I need to help promote a safe and healthy birth.
  • In order to prepare for this remote possibility, I will learn about the different types of medication given during labor before I go into labor. This will help me to stay informed about risks and benefits of each type of drug. It will help me to make an educated decision about what would best fit my needs.
  • I will be aware that taking medication may change other aspects of my birth plan, such as freedom of movement and eating, or perhaps the ease of breastfeeding after birth. I will prepare for this as much as possible by having support plans in mind- a partner or doula who can help me change positions¬†even¬†while on an epidural, or a lactation consultant who can help me to work with a sleepy baby, for instance. I will make my best effort to maintain as much of my original plan as possible.
  • Even if I am disappointed that my original plan didn’t work out, I will remember that I am still making informed decisions for the sake of my baby and a healthy labor. I should not feel badly if I need to change my plans.

Now that we have thought through this, put your plan in a mental box on the shelf. Don’t return to it unless it’s for a quick revision. Continue to plan and prepare for your natural birth. Remind yourself that women have done this for thousands of years, and that in most cases¬†women will do just fine birthing their babies! But remember, if something changes, you can always pull down your little “box” and know that you are well prepared for a medicated birth. This can help to prevent disappointment or guilt if your birth strays from what you had hoped.

Has anyone experienced a birth that went completely awry from what  you had hoped? How did you work with the changes as they came? Please share what you have learned.

Saturday Morning Quote: Medicated Labor is Not Painless.

“The myth is that the medicated labor is painless. But it is the medicated mother who later talks most about pain (and it is she who is often seen during labor suffering and out of control). She may have thought drugs would see her through labor, so she didn’t take the opportunity to get her mind and body ready.

In contrast, the trained, natural-childbirth mother talks primarily of hard work- because she knows what to do in labor.”

-Natural Chilbirth The Bradley Way, Susan McCutcheon, p. 5.

Disclaimer:  My regular readers will know that I am not against a judiciously placed epidural or other pain medication when it is truly needed. I just found the concept that medicated labor is not painless a very intriguing one.

Proper preparation for what is to come, though it’s not necessarily a guarantee of an easy labor, can truly help the mother to navigate what she is experiencing. Even if plans end up changing completely or she decides she needs pain medication after all, she at least has the satisfaction of knowing that she was working with her body and the comfort¬†of being prepared for the changes to come.¬†Conversely, it seems that simply assuming that the pain meds will get¬†you through labor easily¬†is¬†sure to land you for a real shock. Just as preparation is not a guarantee of a fast and¬†easy labor, pain medication cannot be relied upon solely for the woman’s comfort.

What is your take on this quote? Has anyone experienced both a medicated and an unmedicated birth? And, if so, which one did you feel was more difficult?

Sunday Stories: Birthing Center Example of a Calm Natural Childbirth

I’ve been very passionate about sharing how birth can be a calm experience recently. Here’s another video of a natural childbirth from The Baby Place¬† Birthing & Midwifery Center. There is nudity and a close up of pushing, just as a warning for my squeamish readers.

I appreciate that the transition to the birthing center was later in labor and very calm. Mom was already somewhere around 7 cm when she arrived at the hospital. When it came time to pushing, this mama did an absolutely amazing job of breathing her baby down and out. Notice that she pushed in an upright position and her midwife is supporting her perenium rather than pulling out the scissors to cut it. Also, they waited until the cord stopped pulsing to cut it, so this little guy got his full blood supply.

I can’t get the video embedded, but you can¬†click¬†here to view it. Beautiful video. Enjoy.

Does Labor Have to be Terrifying?

Labor is called labor for a reason. It’s serious hard work. We are often used to seeing images and videos of mothers screaming, begging for meds, and calling their husbands and caregivers names. The work of labor, however, doesn’t neccessarily have to be terrifying!

This is a short post to say that giving birth is¬†intense, but you can do it! Here’s a woman proving just that in active labor:

And here she is again at 9-10 centimeters:

Not too shabby, eh? This¬†is just one¬†example to show¬†that labor doesn’t have to be a theatrical, frightening event. Good support from a trained labor assistant (a doula) and taking extra measures to keep mom calm and comfortable are great ways to¬†help¬†mom have a peaceful birth experience.

I encourage moms to resist the temptation to watch horrific birth videos and over-dramatized television birth media. It is much more beneficial to fill their minds with calm, empowering images that encourage their belief in their own ability to give birth. We should encourage women to look forward to the process of giving life, all the while reminding them that they are strong and capable. I will continue to share more birth stories and videos that demonstrate just that.