Posted in Birth Stories, Hippy-Dippy Stuff, Parenting, stephanie2morrow, Uncategorized

Why You Won’t Have a Natural Birth

I rarely rant. I almost never rave. If I seem taller than usual, it’s more likely from my new sparkly summer wedges than from standing on a soapbox. But … well … I want to say something that’s going to make some of you furious and others of you feel justified:

Natural childbirth is not possible in an unnatural world.

And we do live in an unnatural world — X-Men, Photoshop, reality tv, fast food, Donald Trump’s hair — and we believe what we see. (Except maybe for the hair.)

Why You Won't Have a Natural Birth

Our culture encourages those same “unreal” perceptions regarding childbirth. Movies and tv shows tell us labor will begin with intense pain and agony. We are shown images of women screaming and begging to be medicated. We are told to freak out when water breaks and rush to the hospital. We listen to the horror stories of our “friends.” We ignorantly put ourselves in the hands of people who are exceptionally well-trained to handle abnormalities and emergencies, hence all our births have become such abnormalities and emergencies.

And that’s just not reality.

We are NOT educating ourselves. We have lost our communal knowledge of the art of birthing and have chosen instead to simply trust the medical profession to decide what is best for us.

You can SAY all day long, “I want a natural birth,” but if you aren’t educating yourself, your chances of actually HAVING one are practically nonexistent. I mean, if you want to be a safe driver, but you don’t read the Driver’s Manual, or learn to operate a vehicle from someone who knows how, or even take a driver’s ed class, you MIGHT get in the car and know WHERE you want to go, but what are the chances of actually making it there safely? Probably about the same as having an uneducated natural birth.

Now, by “educating yourself,” I do NOT mean taking the little hospital class that tours you through Labor & Delivery, makes you watch the epidural video and discusses all the things that “could go wrong” and how the hospital will deal with them. NO. NO. An emphatic NO.

Read for yourself: Literature from both ends of the spectrum, from Twinkle Ding-Dong Yoga Birthing toShut Up and Put Your Feet in the Stirrups. Go ahead and take the Labor & Delivery tour at the hospital, then go to an independent childbirth class. Drink in A Baby Story on TLC, then chase it with The Business of Being Born on Netflix.

Why You Won't Have a Natural BirthRead up on epidurals and episiotomies; C-sections and vitamin K shots; vaccinations and circumcisions; fetal monitoring and forceps; meconium and mucous plugs; contractions and colostrum; dilation and doulas; VBAC and PRoM; breech babies and birth positions; posterior presentation, placentas, pitocin & postpartum depression, and for heaven’s sake, PARENTING.

What determines the outcome of your labor hinges sharply on choosing to educate yourself and surround yourself with the support you need.  And, as a doula, while I heavily advocate drug-free birthing, my job is to help you have the experience you want. Schedule a C-section, squat in a cornfield, whatever. It is, after all, YOUR body, YOUR baby, YOUR decision.

Just please, please, please make it an INFORMED one.

Posted in Birth Stories, Hippy-Dippy Stuff, Parenting

One of many hats…

Last-minute maintenance before I go to bed: load dishwasher, brush teeth, wash face… it’s nearing 11:00 when my cell rings. I know who it is even before I look.  Oh, WHY didn’t I take a nap this afternoon?  Unable to keep from smiling, I answer the phone, “Are we ready to have a baby?”

The mom-to-be on the other end questions her feelings… Contractions? Gas pains? Wishful thinking? “Are they consistent?” I ask.  She thinks.. maybe 15 minutes apart, but she’s just not sure.  I ask if she wants to “rest” or “rock and roll”. She thinks resting sounds nice. (It sounds nice to me too, but it is not my decision.) I advise her to drink a glass of water and try to sleep – I will come whenever she wants me.

b4315eed478cf41c_bellyI am a doula. A birth doula, to be more specific. I support women during childbirth. Over the years it has become a job, a hobby, a ministry, a passion.

I sleep off and on for a couple of hours, anticipating the next call. This time from her husband – a sure sign she is ready for me. I dress quickly (forgoing my usual hour-long routine), grab my emergency birth bag, and drive the 27 miles in the middle of the night, meeting only a few other headlights. The roads are quiet at 1:15. I turn left onto a dark street where all the houses are resting except the one expecting me. Porch light is on, door unlocked, waiting for me to let myself in. I change shoes, wash my hands, and slip into the bedroom at the top of the stairs where she is laboring with soft moans and gentle swaying.  “How we doing?” I whisper after her contraction. She looks at me with eyes that say, “This is not what I was expecting. Is it supposed to hurt like this?”

Dad-to-be informs me she woke nearly an hour ago to steady contractions, about 8 minutes apart. She has now moved to 7 minutes and no longer wants to communicate when a contraction rushes over her. They sit together on the bed and with each wave of tightness, he holds her hand and rubs her arm. Her feet are cold, so I put socks on her, and remind her to breathe deeply through her nose and blow slowly out her mouth. I bring her a glass of water and rummage through the bathroom drawer for some much-wanted chapstick.

She’s been side-lying for the last hour, so I get her up to walk. The house is small, but open, allowing us to make uninterrupted circles. Hubby tries to catch a nap as she and I walk and talk, then stop and rock. When a contraction begins, she leans against a wall and I put pressure on her lower back with a distinctive move I learned from an Amish midwife. Other times, I put my arms black and white, hands supporting on birthing ballaround her back while she leans her head on my shoulder, and we do a little rocking dance. Back and forth. The waves strengthen and move closer. We rotate between walking the house, squatting on the birth ball, and standing in a hot shower. Time passes, marked only by the increasing daylight and the increase in the intensity of her moaning. Her deepening vocalizations are the marker I need to decide it is time to transfer. We load her bag, grab a pillow and move to the car, pausing for each contraction.

When we arrive at the hospital, dad helps settle her into the birthing room while I greet the nursing staff and go over her birth plan. By the time I get to the room, she is having a hard time opening her eyes. Dad is holding her hand and kissing her lightly on the forehead, but she is focusing on the pain and starting to become overwhelmed. A quick check shows she is only dilated to 5. She looks disappointed, hoping this would almost be over. I reassure her 5 centimeters is wonderful, she is working this labor like a pro, and I am proud of her. I really am.

She can’t seem to get comfortable in the hospital bed, so we stroll the halls, hubby and I taking turns in the rocking position. I encourage him to take the lead as often as he wants, completely if he wants. He is grateful for someone to help him know what to do, how to respond, how to help. It is hard for him to see her in pain. With every contraction now, one of us massages her lower back while the other whispers words of encouragement into her ear.

5502341_origBack in the room, we drop the lower half of the bed down to the floor and I get on my knees in front of her. She sits on the edge of the bed, her arms draped over my shoulders, her face glistening with sweat, long blonde hair in her eyes. I tuck the hair behind her ear and tell her what a trouper she is, but now it’s time to stop focusing on labor and start focusing on holding her baby.

With renewed determination, she moans uninhibitedly, less out of pain and more out of hard work.  Deep, guttural moans that seem to push the pain away from her body. In between, we breathe. Her husband lightly strokes her back and affirms how amazing she is. They are incredibly sweet. She is now in tune to the rhythm of her labor, staying on top of each contraction as she nears the final stage. Almost in an instant, her eyes grow wide and she starts to breathe fast, shallow breaths. Another check shows she is dilated to 8.5. I cannot contain my smile and she starts to cry. “You’re rocking this, and it is almost time to push.” But the reassurance is not enough to overcome the panic of transition.  Her moans turn to low cries of doubt (“I can’t do this anymore! I just want it to be over.”) I have difficulty stifling a giggle, as EVERY woman expresses this during transition. I tell her, not only CAN she do this, she IS doing this, and it. is. almost. over.

The hospital staff begins to descend upon the room, readying equipment and lights. We have been blessed this morning with a great nursing staff who respects the need for a peaceful environment. This is a real birth, the kind our bodies were made to do, not the kind you see in the media. Lights are dim, no one screaming or yelling, no drugs being administered, no one wielding a scalpel.

Mom asks to change positions, so we help her get into a squatting position, and then everything goes quiet. No contractions, no moaning…no pain. A mini-reprieve. Time to breathe. Time to rest. Time to wipe her face with a cool washcloth. The OB confirms that her cervix is ready if she wants to push. And with the next contraction she does. I talk her through HOW to push (yes, there is a “right way”) and her husband keeps eye contact with her. Thirty seconds of pushing, then a rest. Another push, another rest.  With each push, the baby inches downward until his crinkled little gray scalp is visible. Finally, the OB instructs her not to bear down. I remind her while the baby is crowning  (much like putting on a new turtleneck) she wants to ease the baby’s head out slowly. So we pant. Short quick blows in and out of our mouths as we stare at each other. Her attention now moves to her husband, and I find the camera and get ready for baby’s first photo. Once the head has emerged, she closes her eyes and bears down hard with a primal noise until she hears the midwife’s words,“There we go!” and opens her eyes just in time to see a tiny wet little body slip out and hear his new lungs quiver and cry. Her hands instinctively reach down to comfort him.

“It’s a boy!”

She leans back and he is brought to her now-squishy belly and covered with a warm blanket. She melts into tears and smiles and relief as her baby’s cries subside and he settles next to her heart. babyhands“I love you so much,” she whispers as she glances from her son to her husband and back again. There is silent chaos all around as the hospital staff does their job, but she is oblivious to it as she puts him to her breast, enamored with the perfection in her arms. After a few minutes, she starts to weep and laugh at the same time.

It is a mere 10 ½ hours since the first contractions began. Much shorter than the average first labor. No drugs. No interventions. No complications. Mom is exhausted, elated, empowered, in love.

A beautiful new family. A beautiful new day. Time for me to sleep.

Posted in Birth Stories, Parenting

Birth du Soleil

So Carrie gave birth to a towheaded baby boy. He was born at 11:50 p.m.  Nine pounds, eight ounces and twenty-two inches long.  Nothing else interesting happened at all.  The end.

Except…

This was Carrie’s 5th birth.  Yes, that’s a FIVE with a “th” after it.  She called me on Thursday evening with an “I MIIIIGHT be in labor, but who knows?” call.  And since a 21-minute drive separates our homes, I put on my truly ugly birthing Crocs, crocsgrabbed my doula bag, and went to my daughter’s much-closer house to nap.  After some banter about flat, lumpy pillows, I fell into that twilight place where you begin to dream, but you still know where you are, when my cell buzzed.  Carrie texted, “WHERE ARE YOU?”

“Where am I?  I’m trying to nap until you say you need me!”

“Oh, well, I NEED YOU!”

So much for sleep.

I let myself into Micah and Carrie’s house and found her, quite comfortably lounging in bed, having VERY mild and VERY far-apart contractions.  “You needed me for THIS?” I teased her. (If I’d wanted to watch somebody lie in bed, I could have stayed home with a mirror!)

She assured me the contractions were much more productive when she was upright.  “Well then,” I prodded, “let’s get upright!”

We moved to the stairway wall, my hands on her lower back, working with her contraction to move things along efficiently when suddenly a deep, guttural moan rose from under the stairs, as though a poltergeist was trying to escape.  Turned out to be coming from the depths of Carrie herself.  “Carrie dear, we maybe might sorta kinda need to go ahead and transport to the hospital.”  

The first hurdle in our relay: Getting her into my van.  It was exactly 37 steps from where we stood to the gray sliding door of the Odyssey, but it took 9 contractions and 28 minutes to get there. I am so not kidding. “Carrie dear, we maybe might sorta kinda need to go ahead and transport to the hospital TODAY.” Once we made it to the van, and got Carrie semi-situated in the back seat, she made it abundantly clear that NO WAY was she going to ride 40 minutes without my hands welded to her back.  So I handed my keys off to Micah Andretti and we were off.

lombardThe second hurdle in our relay: Performing our backseat contortion act from Cirque du Soleil. Carrie is draped over the seat, one leg arched backward, I’m standing, my back pressed against the roof of the van, arms twisted sideways to give her counter pressure, both of us desperately trying not to toss our cookies as Micah drove – what I have to assume – was Lombard Street. He zigged and zagged every back road shortcut known to Google. Finally we hit the highway, and now it was simply a straight shot for the next few miles.

The third hurdle in our relay: Don’t get arrested.  As we reached the county line, doing Mach 3, I noticed a couple of shiny black and whites in the parking lot of a liquor store.  A couple of minutes later, those black and whites had turned to revolving neon blues in our rearview.  Micah got a bit panicky, “What do I do????”  Carrie’s scary underworld voice resurfaced, demanding “KEEEEEEP DRIIIIIIIIVING!”

Being the wife of a former police officer, I insisted we pull over.  “It will be fine. He will see what’s happening and let us go on.” 

The officer, who looked to be fresh out of 10th grade, emerged from his patrol car and approached the vehicle with caution. MIcah rolled down the tinted front and back windows, exposing our chauffeured circus act.  We tried to explain in terms of dilated centimeters, but he looked baffled and terrified.  We expressed urgency and the desire to not have to deal with roadside placentas. He stuttered with excitement and offered escort.  After a second thought, he ran back and suggested, instead, to just follow us.

Again, we were off.  Micah shaved a good 27 minutes off the 40-minute drive and soon we pulled into the entrance of Labor & Delivery.  Time of day: 11:30 p.m. on the nose. Micah got a wheelchair, I got Carrie out of the van.  Almost instantly, she’s moaning and swaying, leaning against the back of the Honda. Also almost instantly, Officer Joey is standing beside us, mesmerized.  I thanked him for his courtesy, when I heard him say, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies, ma’am.” (Okay, that’s not EXACTLY what he said, but it was so close I intentionally tried not to laugh.)  I told him this was about as exciting as it gets until the baby comes out.

The next moment gave me a great deal more satisfaction than it should, especially considering how courteous this young officer was.  As he turned to leave, I asked him, “Are you aware you have a headlight out?”  He dropped his head in shame, kicked some dirt on the ground and said sheepishly, “Yes ma’am. I’m sorry.” Was a sweet moment of vengeful satisfaction from the only time I was pulled over some 30 years ago.  But I digress.

call-the-midwife-third-season.14168The fourth hurdle in our relay:  Getting the nurse to call the midwife.  Once in the birthing room, our nurse was doing her best to follow protocol while being respectful of Carrie’s birth plan. Carrie asked her to call the midwife. That, however, is not hospital policy.  Certain things must be checked off the list before making that call, but Carrie was in no position to be helpful at checking off anything. Her next contraction was accompanied with an obvious attempt to push…and so the midwife was called.

During this “please call the midwife” phase, Carrie had to pee. For that matter, so did I.  And since Carrie had made me her conjoined twin, we did what girls do: we went to the bathroom together. She went first, then I suggested she lean against the door so I could take my turn and still have my hands free to put pressure on her back.  Chalk it up to having no blood in her brain, but the second my jeans hit the floor, Carrie yelled, “OHHHH, I’M SOOOO HOT!!!!” and flung the door wide open…to the shock and chagrin of her husband, who was STANDING. RIGHT. THERE.

Embarrassed much?

The fifth and final hurdle in our relay: Get Carrie comfortable. She got on her knees and hugged the back of the bed.  This was good. Micah whispered sweet things in her ear, and I breathed with her through each wave.  And when I say “each wave”, I really just mean two good contractions before she heard the midwife in the hallway and screamed, “GET YOUR BUTT IN HERE!”  Yes, yes she did.  And the midwife did.  She laughed at Carrie and said, “What’s the big deal?  It’s not like you need me to do this.  Besides, Stephanie is more than capable of catching this baby.”  Oh, I like her so much.

water slide blogAnd then Carrie pushed.  One push and there was a frenzied look on her face.  Hugging the bed had been fine for laboring, but made her feel out of control for birthing.  We got repositioned just in time for crowning. Carrie pushed, the midwife said, “Stop” and Carrie finished the thought with, “collaborate and listen.” Ice, Ice Baby. The final moments are best described in waterpark terms.  There was a tunnel and a blue mat and a big splash and a squeal and a naked child…and somebody yelling, “That was awesome!  Let’s do that again!”

So Carrie gave birth to a towheaded baby boy. He was born at 11:50 p.m.  Nine pounds, eight ounces and twenty-two inches long.  Nothing else interesting happened at all.  The end.

 

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