Why are Positive Birth Stories Like Rare Unicorns?

Does that mean I am going to tell you that birth is glamorous, something I’d chose to do for fun, or pain free?  I wish.  Really, I do.  I have to do it again myself in just a few weeks

Not everyone wants a natural childbirth.  DUH, I get it.

But I’m confident that every mother wants a positive birth experience.  The funny thing is, most of us aren’t exposed to many, if ANY, positive birth stories before we have to give birth ourselves.

Either we assume they don’t exist because of how the media portrays birth, or because people are so damn eager to share their horror stories, or because it’s just not the norm.

So I wanted to share my birth story, as a point of positive reference.

Does that mean I am going to tell you that birth is glamorous, something I’d chose to do for fun, or pain free?  I wish.  Really, I do.  I have to do it again myself in just a few weeks (Subscribe to follow this blog and get an update when the final part of the story is added:  How I feel About Birth the Second Time Around).  But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a positive, empowering experience when you look back on it.

So here we go, the Birth Story of a Mother, a Father, and a Baby.  Because that is the thing, you birth a baby and a new identity for yourself and your significant other, all at the same time.  Crazy to think about, right?!

At 33 yrs. old I finally felt like I had traveled, learned, and self indulged long enough, that I was ready for a child.  Fortunately my husband was also far beyond his college party days, willingly going to bed by 10pm., and was also on board with the baby idea.

After four months of trying, I took three pregnancy tests the day before Father’s Day and confirmed I was in fact, with child.  Why three tests?  I messed up the first one by not reading the directions (yup, it can be more complicated than peeing on a stick, for some brands myou have to remove the cover;), the second was a false negative, and the third was a winner!

baby 8.14.15

Once we found out we were pregnant I started down the traditional health care path.  I picked an OB-GYN, and as it turned out, I really liked her.  She was younger, active, and had two young kids.  I had no issues.

But the more I learned about birth in the U.S. (read Part One here: Natural Child Birth Sounds Insane, but You’re Still Curious:  Six Resources to Consider) the more I started to think about natural birth.  Honestly, I wasn’t 100% convinced I wanted to go that route, but once I found out that there was a midwife that could deliver at my hospital, I switched to her care at 33 wks.  I figured it was my best chance of receiving the coaching and attention I felt I would need to achieve the birth I wanted (read Part 2 here: Why Natural Birth Trumped America’s Other Options)

I felt good during the third trimester and continued to stay as active as possible.  I gave up running around 32 wks, but was still playing tennis, walking, doing light weights, and a little Zumba.

I went in for an appointment at 40 wks. + 3 days.  I wasn’t dilated a bit.  But, I figured my baby and body knew what to do when, so I wasn’t too worried.  Then the midwife started discussing inserting a balloon to start dilation.  I was not excited.  She said she would give me a few more days.

At 40 wks. + 5 days, I went to Zumba.  I had finished everything on my to-do list, so I decided to layout by the pool.  That was noon on Leap Day,  The one day my husband told me not to have the baby.  I felt what I thought may be the start of contractions, but I decided to relax and see.

By 6pm. when my husband came home from work, I told him I thought I was in labor.  Since contractions were still far enough a part, I decided to go to sleep around 9 pm.  After an hour they were getting stronger and closer and I started tracking them with an app.  I got up, took a bath, packed my bag, paced the house, sat on the exercise ball, and used a heating pad on my back.  By 5 am, or so, we texted the midwife to let her know I was in labor.  We left the house about 6:15 am, arriving at the hospital by 6:30 am.  When I walked in they said I seemed to calm to be in labor.  Ha, I didn’t feel calm.  I was in pain and just trying to deal with it internally!

When they checked me at 7:15 am, they asked if I wanted an epidural.  I said, that depends, how far along am I?  I was at 5 cm.  I decided to press on.

Once I got in to my hospital room, I was able to pace around the room and lean on various furniture, or my husband, for support when the contractions hit.  Once the midwife arrived she applied counter pressure on my back during each contraction.  She told me I could try out the labor tub at 8:45 am.  At this hospital you could labor in it until your water broke and then you had to get out because of increased risk of infection.

labor pains

By that point contractions were very intense.  I was groaning as I could feel the baby moving down with every contraction, and the pressure and intensity building.  Honestly I don’t know if I was totally coherent at that point.  I was just trying to block everything out.

I do remember that I was no longer a sweet pregnant woman  by the time my midwife told me that I needed to get out of the tub so that she could check me (9:50 am).  I was more of a barbaric, naked, grunting beast.  She said the sounds of my groans had changed, and it was a signal that my body was likely ready to push.

Pretty sure I could have pierced her heart with the daggers my eyes wanted to throw at her in that moment, except that would have taken too much energy and coordination, which I didn’t have at that moment.

Some how I exited the tub and they checked me .  Apparently my water broke when they checked me, and I was 10 cm (10:20 am).  I was ready to push.

I had imagined that I would want to push standing up, with the help of gravity working with me.  But once I was on that bed to get checked, there was no way I was moving.  By that point contractions were off the charts, I was screaming and squeezing my husband’s hand, and my body was starting to involuntarily push.  Instead I chose a side position, biting a towel, with one of my legs propped up on a push bar for leverage.

Eventually I was told that the high pitched screams weren’t helping anything.  Plus, I started to worry that I was scaring the laboring mother in the next room.  My midwife suggested that I use low groans, then hold my breath and use the power to push my baby out.

They told me they could see the baby’s head.  I figured they were just trying to humor me at that point.  They asked if I wanted a mirror so that I could see for myself.   I declined.   I don’t like medical stuff, there was no way I wanted to see what was going on down there while I was in the middle of it.  Some people say the pushing phase feels good after the pain of contractions.  That was not my case.  The amount of pressure down there felt scary.  To be a bit graphic, I felt like I was tearing in half.

But here is the crazy thing.  Through all of this, asking for an epidural never crossed my mind.  With the constant attention and affirming coaching from my husband and midwife, I felt convinced that this was all normal.  This was how birth was supposed to progress.  I could just get through it one moment at a time.  My body was not broken.  I did not need a doctor to fix me.  What I needed was a calm environment.  Love and support, gentle coaching to try new things (positions, breathing, etc.), and a belief in myself.

But had someone been in my ear asking if I wanted an epidural, or left me alone with my fears, I probably would have cracked.

After pushing for 45 min. the head started to emerge.  I was ready for all this fun to be over.  During the next contraction I pushed with all my might and the head and the body slide out at 11:08 am.  My midwife and husband were there to catch the baby.  She was perfect.

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I couldn’t believe it.  The pain was over.  The pain had a purpose.  The pain told my body what to do.  And that purpose was now in my arms.

I had some tearing, so I had to wait until I delivered the placenta and got stitched up, before I finally got to be left alone between my legs.  But once I was, it was awesome.  I wasn’t attached to anything.  I could freely move and bond with my daughter, soaking up those first few hours as a new little family.

I was pretty damn proud of the birth my daughter and I just achieved together.

Our first amazing adventure, on day one.

Baby Kisses

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So, the big question.  Would I do it again?  Yup. That’s the plan.

Subscribe to follow this blog and get an update when Part Four of the story is added:  How I feel About Birth the Second Time Around.

Want something else fun to read?  Check out my collection of loving and sarcastic children’s books (Love You to Pieces Beautiful Monster and My Mom is the Worst).

And, If you have your own positive birth story online (Natural, Medicated, or C-Section), please share a link in the comments below so that we can collect other examples of positive stories.  Thanks!

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Four Reasons Natural Birth Trumped America’s Other Options

Eventually my first pregnancy got to the point that I could no longer ignore that this baby was exiting my body, whether I liked it or not.  So I decided to educate myself on childbirth.

Something you should probably know about me:  I get real squeamish around anything medical.

I don’t like hospitals.  I don’t like feeling like a patient.  I didn’t like watching ER, back in the day.  I would try to watch, because, you know, Mr. Clooney.  But, I’d be caught off guard, every episode, by some bodily fluid spraying out.  GROSS.

Many of my family members work in hospitals.  I plug my ears when they share medical stories at the dinner table.

When it comes to medication, I’ve always erred on the side of less is more.  You’ve all seen the commercials where the list of possible side effects sounds far worse than the things the medicine is supposed to treat.

And, I pretty much blacked out during health class.  Too much information about the inner workings of my body.

All that said, I’m not sure if that made me a more, or less, likely candidate for natural childbirth.

But eventually my first pregnancy got to the point that I could no longer ignore that this baby was exiting my body, whether I liked it or not.  So I decided to educate myself on childbirth, using the six resources I mention in this post, plus lots of stories of woman with positive birth experiences.  (Sign up to follow the blog and you will get an alert when the rest of the series is added).

Below are the reasons I found in favor of natural childbirth.  Some are fact based, some are preference based.  This list was enough to encourage me to make natural childbirth Plan A.

Natural Birth Part Two

A 32% US Cesarean Rate, According to the CDC:

Really?!  So one third of woman are now incapable of safely delivering their baby?  Bull Sh*t.   There are scenarios where a cesarean is most definitely life saving for mom and baby, but there were two instances I was not comfortable with:  medical interventions that lead to a cesarean (more on that later), and doctors and mothers that casually consider a cesarean a modern option for any inconvenient pregnancy issue.  I’ve heard stories of mothers scheduling cesareans so they could pick a special date, chose their time off based on work schedules or visitors being in town, because they are told their baby is to big on the ultrasound, because they don’t want to push, because they had a c-section before, because a woman has a small-frame she is told she will have trouble pushing out a baby, or just generally because labor is not progressing and the mom is getting too tired.  The list goes on.  I can’t understand why these are sufficient reasons to under go major surgery.  32% was very discouraging to me.  I needed to arm myself with the best possible scenario for avoiding becoming part of this statistic.

One Medical Intervention Often Leads to Another:  

Many women that are part of that 32% cesarean rate, don’t enter the hospital thinking that will be their fate.  They have the best intentions to labor and deliver vaginally.  But then the realities of modern medicine intervene.

1.  An epidural is administered for pain management, labor slows down because your body no longer feels the natural sensations, nurses administer pitocin (almost 30% of births use pitocin or other induction methods)  to speed up labor which causes contractions to intensify (mom often doesn’t notice because she’s had the epidural), baby starts to go in to distress because of the unnatural intensity and frequency of these super contractions, the babies heart rate spikes to unsafe levels, mom is taken in for an emergency c-section to save the baby.

2.  A mother is at, or past, her due date so an induction is scheduled.  The doctors try to artificially start and progress labor, which can lead to the same scenario described above.

Again, cesareans are a great option to have when things go wrong, but if the medical interventions used to speed labor ultimately lead to the cesarean, we are a victim of our own medical side effect commercial.  Medical intervention comes with side effects, and I didn’t like the course that those interventions could put me on.  So I chose to avoid step one, the epidural, in hopes of avoiding the other interventions.

I Wanted Support, Not Ulterior Motives, Driving My Birth Decisions:

Many hospitals have standards about how quickly you need to progress in labor before they offer ways to intervene – for your benefit, of coarse.

And, most doctors will only be there for the last few minutes before baby arrives, leaving you to labor alone or intermittently with a nurse.

I knew labor would be difficult, and possibly scary.  As a woman you really have no idea what it will feel like.  You don’t get a practice run.  I knew I wanted a support system that would be there with me for the challenging parts, and keep me calm.  I figured the best way to do that would be to hire a midwife.   Because the majority of midwives regularly attend natural births, I felt comfortable trusting my midwife during the birth process.  You would never hire a coach that hasn’t regularly achieved that outcome you want.   That would be silly.  Why would I leave my intentions of a natural birth to someone that doesn’t regularly do it, nor encourage it?

I initially looked for a doula to come alongside my OB-GYN, but found that most were more than I had to spend.  Fortunately, I ended up finding a midwife that was approved to deliver at my hospital (I live in Orange County, CA – not some small town, and astonishingly there was still just one midwife approved to deliver at my hospital, at that time).   This meant insurance would cover it.   I got the best of both worlds: an experienced and encouraging coach and doctor, in a hospital setting in case any issues came up.

Natural Labor in the Hospital
Walking Around to Labor, Temporarily Wearing the External Fetal Monitor to Check on Baby

I Didn’t Want to Feel Like a Patient: 

As I explained, I don’t like medical stuff, which includes feeling like a patient.  By forgoing the epidural I was able to wear my own clothes (no paper hospital gown), walk around the room, try any position I wanted to find comfort during contractions, soak in the bathtub in my hospital room, eat and drink, push in any position I wanted (instead of flat on my back – which actually makes your pelvis more narrow), and generally deal with the pain on my own terms with a trained and encouraging support partner.

Labor and delivery was hard work, but I felt like my body was doing something powerful and natural.  I was not damaged goods, waiting for a doctor to make me better.

Your body is not a lemon.  Our creator is not careless.  Your body was made for this.

Come back for the rest of the series – my natural birth story, and mentally preparing for my upcoming delivery of baby two.  (Sign up to follow the blog and you will get an alert when the rest of the series is added).

Note:  my intention is not to shame anyone that has had a different birth experience from mine.  My intent is to provide a positive example of what birth can be, in spite of what most of us are exposed to about child birth in the United States.  Educate yourself so you can feel comfortable with your own decisions.

 

 

 

If You Want to Comment on A Baby Bump, Here are the Rules

Thanks for commenting on my body’s beach ball similarity, said no pregnant woman ever. I just left shaking my head.

FullSizeRender (1)
Photo Cred:  @hegehost1

 

 

Sure, I’m emotional.  I’m 33 weeks pregnant with baby two.  I’m at the point where my tears have few limits while scrolling through social media.  Puppies – blub.  Babies – Blub. Blub.  Inspirational stories – Blub, blub, blub.

So it’s no surprise I was extra annoyed by the Ralphs cashier yesterday.  But some people really are so clueless when it comes to how to talk to a pregnant woman.  That, or they like to compare everything about their birth experience to the experience you must be having, because you know, every pregnancy is the same.

As the cashier was ringing up my bounty, she asked, “So when are you due?”

I smiled and replied, “January.”

“Oh wow, you look like you are ready to go now.  That’s what I looked like when I gave birth!”

Seriously –  Are some people just unaware of the  vomit they are about to spew when they open their mouth?!  I’ve gained a total of 22 lbs., which mind you is already more than I gained in total with my first pregnancy (so I’m a bit self concise), but honestly, I didn’t think it was totally out of control…until now.

The grocery store train wreck didn’t end there.  She declared, “Early January, I hope!”

“Actually January 23rd,” I mumbled.

She didn’t even pause, as if she had noticed how awkward the conversation had become.   Biggest eye roll ever.

Thanks for commenting on my body’s beach ball similarity, said no pregnant woman ever.  I just left shaking my head.

I’m not suggesting you walk on pins and needles around every obviously pregnant woman.  Just please stop to think of something positive and uplifting to say before you open your mouth.

Pregnant mamas have a lot on their mind.  They probably haven’t had comfortable sleep in awhile, they may feel like they are running out of acceptable clothes that fit, and they’re probably starting to think about this gigantic watermelon that soon has to exit their perfect peach.

After two pregnancies, the grocery store conversation was obviously not the only clueless run in I had.  Here are a few things I’ve heard that I wouldn’t recommend using as your one liner:

“Is it really safe to be running while you are pregnant?”

“You wanted that decaf right?”

A coworker who said, “Your pregnancy has been way to easy, something bad has got to happen.”

A cousin who said, “Why would you want a natural birth?  You wouldn’t get your tooth removed without pain meds.  Why would you do it with a baby?”

“You look like you’re ready to Pop!”

Obviously none of these made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Thankfully, I’ve had some positive interactions that have taught me what can really make a pregnant woman’s day.  Here are a few:

“Wow, that’s awesome that you are still working out!”

“From behind you don’t even look pregnant.”

A coworker that wished me a quick and easy delivery.

An aunt who said, “I honestly believe you are strong enough to achieve a natural birth.”

A guy who simply clapped for me when I ran by him on the trail.

Strangers that held the door open, or offered to carry things for me.

Pregnancy and childbirth can be a real mind f*ck for a woman.  Please don’t traumatize her with negativity.  Heed the old advice:  If you can’t say something nice, please don’t say anything at all.  We really don’t want to hear it.