Posts Tagged birth

Epidurals in Labor

8 February 2012

Today I read this article at The Feminist Breeder about epidural use in labor, and it was excellent. The author devoted the short piece to the scientific aspect of some risks associated with the routine use of this popular labor drug. Because she was being scientific and evidence-based, she stopped short of giving any personal opinion, anecdote, or bias toward why an individual woman might do well to avoid the epidural, if possible.

Well, since this is my personal blog, and if you pinky-swear to read the article, I will go one step further and give you my personal opinion as to why I chose (successfully) to avoid the epidural. Twice.

But first, shout-out to the Haters! They’re right. You don’t get a trophy. Or a medal. (although in my case it did involve a certain amount of jewelry, but that’s another story) Nonetheless, there are tangible benefits to doing without this drug, if possible.

Here’s the bottom line: epidural use robs you of your mobility. Mobility and gravity are your best friends during labor.

When I gave birth to my second baby, I was on my knees. In fact, I was in that position for the entire 2nd stage. No one told me to get in that position except my body and my baby. I was able to listen because I could still feel what my body was doing. I could not have been on my knees if I was limp from the waist down. Being in this position utilized gravity to pull my baby down. Mimicking a squatting position on my knees also opened up my pelvis 30% more than if I had been on my back, as one is with an epi.

During the first part of both my labors, I also enjoyed the freedom of movement that going drug-free afforded me. I took walks, ate, drank, sat cross-legged on the floor, did yoga, used a birth ball, leaned upright against a tall dresser, and best of all MOVED AROUND in between all my different coping strategies.

Did any of these things take the pain of birthing away? Of course not! If anything, they made it “worse,” and by worse I mean better. Better because all these things I did helped my body dilate, move the baby into position, and push that baby out. To which end I had a completely intervention-free vaginal birth. The Perfect Birth.

Sometimes people will tell horror stories about birthing drug-free. As a willful natural birther, I would say that if you prepare mentally, physically, and spiritually for a natural birth, it is not torturous. It is euphoric. But don’t think that you can just white-knuckle the pain. You must surrender. You will do better if you prepare with a class specifically designed for it, like HypnoBabies or Bradley.

I would also add that sometimes one must be flexible to very real complications in childbirth. If a woman has been in labor for 24, 30 hours and her body is totally fatigued, an epi may do her some good, giving her the rest she needs to push her baby out. Or if she is induced, the labor is already not natural, and few women can endure the pain of pitocin contractions without medication.

But if you are healthy, low-risk, and open-minded, and if you are serious about wanting to reduce your risk of surgical birth, vacuum extraction, forceps, episiotomy, pitocin, etc., you might be surprised at your ability to birth without an epidural. You’d be surprised at the strength that comes from within, and from above. And at the peace that passeth understanding.

Try it, you might like it! 😉

Theatre, Childbirth, and Existence… and tea.

20 September 2011

I once heard childbirth compared to brewing tea with a teabag.  When the heat of the water affects the tea, what’s inside comes out.

This is comparable to why I love performance.  Probably my very favorite thing about watching a performance by someone I know personally is getting to see that unmatchable effect it has on them when they step up on to that stage in front of an audience.  The effect is astounding.  The powerful become weak, the shy become witty, the mysterious become funny, and the outcast become glamorous.  I was even enraptured by viewing a video of my own son when he performed at an open-mic night here in Downey. He is incredibly outgoing, but sometimes chickens out when the pressure is put on him to “perform” in social situations.  But he went on anyway, and the excitement he had for the songs he shared was nothing less than charming.  The giddy delight he had every time he made a mistake and his repeated insistence that he sing just one more, and then another, and another, was heart-warming.  This is even true of my friends from my former life, professional chameleons like I once was.  Even though they are good at it– the vulnerability, the control of emotions, the focus on action–there never ceases to be something truly amazing and beautiful about seeing another facet of that diamond that is that particular human being.

So it’s not such a stretch that my passion for theatre extends to my passion for childbirth.  Women do the same thing in labor.  What is inside often comes out, for all to see.  This is why it is such a vulnerable and personal thing for us.  This is why it can be difficult to give birth in an unfamiliar environment or in the presence of unfamiliar or unwelcome individuals.  But what is inside will eventually come out– and I’m not just talking physiologically here.  The weak do indeed become incredibly strong, the loud and obnoxious might become silent and introverted, the flirty girl might not want to be touched, the angry might cry, the gentle become self-determined and powerful.

This is one reason I want to become a doula someday.  To be able to experience humanity in such a powerful and rich way seems to be so thrilling– even more than doing theatre.  This all happens in the theatre, and after the show we go for a drink, then go our separate ways, then come together the next night to do it all again.  It’s beautiful really, but also very mundane.  But birth… ah… birth is monumental.  Life is never the same after a new being enters this world.  It’s sacred.

And theatre was once a sacred, religious act.  But the passage of time has turned it secular.  I suppose the same could be said of childbirth.  Yet with all the changes that women have experienced in regards to the ways in which we give birth, the passage of time has not been able to rob humanity of the sacredness of birth.  No matter how many c-sections an OB performs during his/her day at work, each of those mothers still goes home a new being.

It’s the change that delivers permanence.  That’s something that the temporal existence of theatre cannot imitate.  All it can do is express it.

So at intermission, I will have a cup of tea.  And since I’m a mother, I’ll take it sweetened, with plenty of milk.

When I Was in My Childbearing Years…

1 August 2011

The national c-section rate was 34% in the US. Childhood diseases and unexplainable neurological conditions were widespread, as was maternal and infant death. Though few people would talk about that. Post- Traumatic Stress Disorder was also common with new mothers, as well as Post-Partum Depression. Breastfeeding rates were extremely low, and there was much social stigma attached to breastfeeding.

I was one of the lucky ones. I had two vaginal births. In fact, I was one of the rare ones, since both my babies were born completely natural and one of them even was born at home.

I would consider myself very lucky and indeed very blessed simply to be mother to these two boys, but the fact that I have had the amazing birth and breastfeeding experiences that I have had sometimes blows my mind. It could have so easily gone another way. Many– if not most– of my friends have not been so lucky.

I really hope my future daughters-in-law will have birth experiences like mine, and will be as thankful for their blessings as I am. But I do not wish for them to say, “I am lucky.”

I hope they will say, “I am normal.”

Ashley’s Birth of Hannah, or, A Memorial Weekend to Remember

10 July 2011

I got Ashley’s permission to post my version of her birth story which occurred over Memorial Day weekend, which I wanted to post because it is just about the most amazing birth story ever.  And I consider myself blessed to actually have played a little role in it.  I’m just going to say it: childbirth is a religious experience for me.  I really think God wants to teach us something about Himself with our births and I think this one really demonstrates this.


Sometime during the day I read on facebook that my friend Ashley was in labor.  So excited.  I knew she was planning for a natural birth, so I’ve tried to support her in this throughout her pregnancy.  I texted her that I was praying and that she should contact me if there was anything I could do for her.  I think I threw in a couple of pain management tips as well.

At 8:45 pm I get a text from her.  “They want to break my water.  it’s either that or pitocin.  What should I do?”  Now I don’t know her medical situation so I definitely don’t know what to do.  I do know that even a minor intervention like the artificial rupture of membranes (aka the doc breaking the water instead of waiting for it to happen naturally) can often lead to other bigger interventions.  And pitocin sucks.  She’s already been in labor for 8 or 9 hours.  I pick up the phone and call her.  While on the phone I listen to her go through about 4 contractions.  They were coming about 5-7 min apart and she could not talk through them.  She was breathing and relaxing and just sounding like she was managing them really well.  Turns out it was the nurse, not the doctor who was putting pressure on her.  I offered words of encouragement and told her it sounded like she was heading into late first-stage labor.  She was concerned that she wasn’t dilating fast enough.  I told her about the natural alignment plateau and that she may dilate quickly later even though she has plateaued right now.  Mostly I just tried to encourage her.  She was doing a really great job and her hubby was supporting her and they made a great team.  But the hospital environment wasn’t doing all they could to support her.  Although, she had heard that one of the doctors on call (a female one) had recently given birth naturally, in water.  That was hopeful news. (from now on I think I’ll call this doc Dr Natural)


2:12 am.  I get a call.  They want to put her on pitocin.  Doc says she should be dilating 1cm per hour.  It’s now been 15 hours and she’s only dilated 1cm past when she was admitted.  (She’s now at 5cm btw).  Again, I don’t know her whole medical situation so I can’t advise.  But she definitely doesn’t want the pitocin.  First I prayed for her.  Then, together we talked through the pros and cons of all her options.  The good news is that baby’s heartrate is good and Ashley seems to be doing well also.  Labor seems to have stalled completely.  She did not contract while I was on the phone with her this time.  When I hung up she still hadn’t decided whether or not to do the pitocin or go home and wait it out.  She was planning to discuss with Dr. Natural the idea of going home and get her opinion on that.  I told her to pray for wisdom and then just do what she thinks is best.

5:52 am.  Ashley posts this on facebook (which I read at a more godly hour when I woke up):

So…I am all ripe and ready, contracting along my merry way, when I am told I have only dilated 1 cm in 15 hours!!! They wanted me to take pitocin but I declined…my body knows when it’s ready and baby Hannah will come out when she is ready, and not because of some protocol. Even the doc said I made a good choice to go home and wait it out! 🙂

I was glad.  That was a bold move.  It required a lot of courage and faith. And I was so glad that she did it with the approval of Dr. Natural.  BTW, I’d like to take a moment to discuss momentous occurances in childbirth.  Because I felt that I also had a pivotal moment in my first birth where a big decision had to be made.  One that would have ultimately determined the course of the rest of my labor and birth.  This was it for Ashley.  I’m so impressed with her ability to listen to God’s guidance and listen to her body.  Well done.

7:30 pm.  I called to see how she was doing and spoke with her husband.  Still in labor.  Over 32 hours now.  She is now at the hospital around the corner from her house.  (the previous hospital, the one she had planned to birth at, was about an hour from home)  They seem to be much more comfortable in this hospital than the last one.  Ashley has now started to have very painful back labor, and decided to manage her pain with an epidural.  Mind you, this is the first intervention of this entire labor.  This woman has gone over 30 hours completely natural.  And she’s only dilated to 7 cm.  Not done yet.  Not even ready to push yet.  I told her husband to please tell her that I thought the epidural was a good idea and that she should try to get some rest.  And that’s not lip service.  I’m all for natural birth, but getting an epi after 30 hours of hard labor sounds like a good way to stave off maternal fatigue, and hopefully prevent a c-section.  I don’t blame her one bit.

I start to wonder a few things.  Because this is a super long labor.  And now back labor.  I wonder if her baby was posterior.  I make a mental list of questions to ask her after this is all over.  Posterior labors are known to be long and hard because mom’s body has to turn the baby all the way around.  They often end in c-section because it’s very hard to get through the birth canal when the baby is faced the wrong direction.  Or sometimes the birth attendants are simply impatient and won’t allow a mom to labor as long as Ashley did!


I’m checking my phone constantly for texts or pictures of the baby.  I’m checking facebook all the time to see if she has posted anything.  There are a couple of posts from her and hubby that make it look like she’s still in labor.  Crazy.  We go to church.  She’s still on my heart.  Thinking, praying, wondering if she had her baby yet.  I started to think that maybe she hasn’t announced the birth yet because it was c-sec and she is in recovery.  After all, something must be going wrong to have a labor this long, right?  Oh Me of Little Faith!

3:20 pm  I finally get a call from her.  Little Hannah Rose was born at 11:20 (ish) am.  I am so happy.  And guess what?  It was completely vaginal!  Ashley’s daughter was born just about 48 hours after labor began and she still had a vaginal birth.  And almost a completely natural one at that.  The long and short of the rest of the birth story is that after a few refills of the epidural she finally started pushing.  Pushed for about 45 minutes when baby’s heart rate dipped a little too low.  Doc told her she need to push her baby out now and well, she did.  Ashley told me that she got really scared and just pushed with all her might.  One more push and it was done.  Wow.

After talking to her, it’s my educated (albeit un-professional) guess that this baby was posterior.  All signs just point to it.  She had the soft front to her belly, the long labor, the eventual back pain.  Just all makes sense.  Her body took 2 days to do it, but turned that baby allllll the way around so it could be born normally.  Wow.  Good thing she didn’t let them break her water at the first hospital.  Good thing she refused pitocin.  Her body wasn’t dilating NOT because it was broken.  Oh no.  Just the opposite– her body was turning a baby around 180 degrees, preparing it for a normal and safe birth.  God knows what He’s doing.

This is why I see birth as a spiritual, religious event.  I see God working in a marvelous, mighty way in childbirth.  Ashley wanted a natural birth and in so doing, opened the door for God to do something really amazing in her life.  She put her trust in God instead of men, and seized the opportunity to witness how great God is.  If she had bowed to the pressure of the interventions early on, she would have never got to see her body do this incredible work.  God really showed up this weekend.  And I am so amazed at the work of His hand!

Doctors who say it doesn’t matter how a baby is born, just that it is born healthy– well, those people are wrong.  This baby and mom were saved from a surgery, from massive amounts of drugs and other unnecessary interventions all because mom had faith, patience, and courage.  Baby and mom are way healthier because of it and the spiritual benefit of birthing in this way is even greater.

Thank you Ashley and Kevin for letting me in on your birth experience.  I was so blessed by it.  Baby Hannah is one lucky kid to have you two for her parents.

Planting a Placenta Tree

6 June 2011

Well, it’s better late than never, right?

After having L’s placenta in our freezer for almost seven months, we finally got around to this important ritual of childbirth.  When you have a homebirth, you get to keep the placenta.  Or rather, you are responsible for disposing of it yourself.  The placenta is the organ that nourishes the baby inside the womb and once both are birthed, the placenta is still rich with nutrients.  It makes for a wonderful source of nourishment for plant life.  In fact, it is so nutritious that some people encapsulate it and take it as vitamins.  But we opted for the tree.  We picked out a lovely looking dwarf peach tree and a spot where it should thrive and not interfere with anything else in the yard (i.e., lawn, fence, etc.).

Here’s why we are choosing to perform this ritual instead of dumping L’s placenta in the garbage:

  1. Planting this tree marks his birth in this place.  We rent our home, so we will not always live here.  But L was born here, and nothing will ever change that.  This tree commemorates his birth on this property.  It will be here long after we are gone. (…sniff)
  2. Planting a fruit tree symbolizes our children as the fruit of our marriage.  As we were planting it, I said a prayer thanking God for our beautiful boys, and our wonderful marriage of 10 years.
  3. It represents the circle of life.  Just as his placenta nourished L while he was in my womb, now it will nourish this tree, which will produce fruit of its own and in turn, nourish us.  (hopefully in a peach cobbler.)
  4. Dust to Dust.  As I tell my oldest, everything that lives eventually stops living and is put back into the ground, and becomes food for the next thing that lives.  The time for this placenta to do its job is over.  It must return from whence it came.

So we let the thing thaw in the sun while Andy dug a big hole.  PJ played in said hole.

The umbilical cord started to glow a bright white as it thawed, which made me feel kind of emotional.  It was a sight I hadn’t seen for seven months, and the last time I saw it I was in a highly emotional state.  Finally the hole was ready.  Andy dropped it in, and I said a prayer and started to cry.

PJ and Andy threw compost on top of it and it was gone.  More dirt, more compost, then finally the peach tree.

planting the tree

There you are, little tree.  You are the same age as my baby.  May you grow and flourish in God’s grace just as my children will.  Amen.


P.S.  The funds for this tree are also special.  Years ago when my great-grandmother, my Oma, was living she used to send us $30 always for our birthdays.  She was an amazing woman, a refugee of WWII, lived to age 90, and all-around very remarkable.  She died when I was about 20 and for some reason I never had the heart to spend the last $30 cash she had sent me in the mail.  I was wanting to save it for something special.  Well, this was finally it.  I pulled it out of my jewelry box after all these years and spent it on a tree.  A tree that celebrates life.

Quick: Why Birth at Home?

13 February 2011

I have noticed lately that some people who might not know me all that well, in the course of a casual conversation about my baby might quickly ask why I would choose to birth at home rather than in a hospital.  I find this to be a difficult question to answer.  There are so many, sooooo many reasons, but in these contexts I find that the individual really just wants a quick, nutshell answer.  So I have to consider what is really my top reason, or the defining reason for birthing at home rather than in a hospital.  Hmmm.  Perhaps I should list them.

1.)  Well, we could start with what my midwife said: “Births like yours don’t need to be in the hospital.”  By that she meant normal, very healthy, short, and straightforward.  It’s true.  Say what you will about my body (God knows that former managers and casting directors have), but when it comes to birth, my body really works.  I am a good birther.  As was my mother, and the women before her.

2.)  I have also said to people that hospitals have a tendency to intervene unnecessarily.  What I really wanted to avoid with both my births was the cascade of interventions.  You know, one intervention leading to another.  So you don’t avoid an epidural just to protect your mobility and keep your baby drug-free, but also to avoid labor slowing down, necessitating pitocin, etc.  Not sure that answer is quite right for the person to whom home birth is totally foreign.  Could do better.

3.) I want to avoid a(nother) C-section.  I personally never had a c-sec, but I know a lot of homebirthers go that route when VBAC in the hospital is either not allowed or they don’t think their provider will support them in it.  But it’s obviously not my reason, because I never had one.

4.)  Hospitals are for sick people.  I like this answer, because pregnant women aren’t sick.  And they don’t have a medical condition.  When a home birthing mother or baby develops a condition, then they transport to the hospital, which is what hospitals are there for.  But this response a little snarky.  And it could be offensive to those who consciously choose a hospital birth, as I did for my first.

5.)  A strong reason for my choosing homebirth was that environment matters.  It matters so much.  That’s why I chose to stay home until the last minute with my first and to stay home the whole time with my second.  When a laboring mother is at home, she can do whatever her body tells her it needs.  She feels comfortable and cozy and secure.  Birthing a baby is similar–hormonally speaking– to having an orgasm, so a woman needs to feel private, safe, and loved in order for things to go smoothly.  Home is the ideal place.  But this is far too lengthy of a response to give people in a hurry.  And the orgasm part is probably TMI.

6.)  Laboring in a car.  Sucks.  And leaving for the hospital also adds unnecessary stress to a time when you most need to be relaxed and still, and definitely not moving at 45 mph.  Oh, and if you rush to the hospital the way they do on TV, you are likely to stir up adrenaline, the hormone that works against labor.  So your labor could stall.

7.)  Risk of infection.  This is ironic, because if your water breaks, the doc will usually tell you to go straight to the hospital to avoid infection.  But actually hospitals are full of bacteria, and bacteria that your body isn’t used to.  Sure, your home has bacteria.  But your body is already immune to all the germs in your home.  Women get infections from the hospital all the time, and they can become a serious complication of childbirth or in the postpartum period.  This is turn could effect breastfeeding, etc.  So in a normal situation, the risk of infection is actually decreased at home.

8.)  A peaceful birth.  This means peaceful in every way– physiologically, emotionally, spiritually, etc.  This was very important to me this time around.  Birth is dramatic enough on its own– let’s not add to it!  But giving this as my nutshell answer might make me sound like a little too much of a hippy.  And people who think it isn’t safe might think I’m putting my own personal experience above the safety of my child.  Couldn’t be further from the truth.  I’m actually willing to go to great lengths to protect my child from harm.

9.) Newborn Procedures.  Believe it or not, this is actually the issue that after my first birth made me realize I wanted a homebirth for my second.  I was extremely dissatisfied with the way we were treated during 3rd-stage labor (the part after the baby was born but before the placenta is delivered) and beyond.  Our wishes were not respected AT ALL and things were done without our consent and directly against our birth plan.  And not because we had any special medical considerations– all routine.  I finally decided that a hospital is a place of business.  When you choose to give birth there, you go on to their turf and have your baby by their rules.  You can fight and manipulate and get a few things you want (hopefully the big things), but they are always going to try to stick to their policies, because that’s what makes their job easier.  It’s just a job to them.  When I finally let go of my anger and came to that realization, I knew what road I was on.

10.) I want a natural birth.  This is the bottom line.  Can it be done in the hospital?  Yes, of course.  I did it.  But it’s not easy (or even likely).  In fact, it was an uphill battle all the way.  Birth is hard enough.  No family should have to fight their provider or hospital to allow them to have a healthy, natural birth.  But this is what happens all too frequently.  Now that I’ve had both experiences, I truly understand what a natural birth is.  And it’s worth everything– every cent I spent on the midwife,  every moment of pain in labor, every judgmental thought or comment from friends and family, and well worth every worrisome and agonizing emotional moment as I came to this decision and carried it out.

I ran across this quote from The Unnecesarean the other day about a practice that some seemingly malicious OBs are adopting.  It’s referred to as “Pit to Distress.”  The doc uses the maximum dose of pitocin in order to intentionally distress the baby (nevermind what it does to the mom), necessitating a c-section.  This is way scary.  Here are the final thoughts on this topic:

Jill asks the questions, “OBs, do you still think women are choosing not to birth at your hospitals because Ricki Lake said homebirths are cool? Do you still think we are only out for a “good experience?”

I imagine that all of us who have openly questioned the practices of obstetricians in the U.S. have been hit with the same backlash. We must be selfish, irrational and motivated by our own personal satisfaction. We’ve been indoctrinated into a subculture of natural birth zealots and want to force pain on other women or just feel mighty and superior. We fetishize vaginal birth and attach magical powers to a so-called natural entrance to the world.

Nah. It’s stuff like “pit to distress” that made me run for the nearest freestanding birth center. If I had to do it all over again, I’d stay home.

Not knowing if your doc is one of these is another great reason to distrust the system.  There’s also some practical reasons: wanting to birth in water, wanting to utilize different labor positions that hospitals don’t allow, wanting other family members present (like your other children), wanting to eat and drink during labor, not wanting to be pestered about pain management.  But for me, I think I’ll stick with reason #10:  a natural birth is easiest achieved at home.  This is my bottom line.  What’s yours?  Do any of my homebirthing buddies read my blog?  Let me know your reasons!

Peer’s Birth Story Got Published!

23 December 2010

Birth Stories on Demand. Check it out!

Hypnosis or Drama?

18 December 2010

So while I was pregnant I started reading Mongan’s HypnoBirthing book because I know a lot of natural birthing-moms really like that method. I couldn’t explain the whole method well, but let’s just say that moms who use this method use visualization and concentration to relax their bodies to the point of apparently not feeling pain at all. In fact, the book emphasizes the importance of ridding the mind of preconceived ideas about childbirth– namely, that it’s painful–in order to free the mind and body for birth. In other words, if you don’t think it will be painful, it won’t be. And granted, the method seems to work. A lot of women claim to have had pain-free births.

Well, God bless ’em.

Even though I had a good attitude and a very positive curiosity about this method, once I began reading the book, I kind of started to reject the idea. I just can’t seem to fully swallow the idea that if something feels painful to me, that I shouldn’t call it for what it is. I guess it seems unfair to me that I should feel something painful and not be able to say, “I feel pain right now.” Now, I totally get the Grantly Dick-Reed philosophy of the inter-relationship between fear-pain-tension. (we fear pain, which makes our bodies tense, which increases pain) But just because I recognize something as painful does not necessitate that I fear it, don’t accept it, or don’t willfully prevent my body from tensing up as a result. This is why we do relaxation exercises, right? Because the natural tendency is to tense up when we feel pain and when we are afraid. And in childbirth education we train our bodies to relax under those circumstances. We practice mantras such as Hurt Not Harm, or Open The Door Let The Pain In. In fact, this is what Hypnosis does too, only the word pain is not used.

As I self-reflect on this experience I’ve started to realize that maybe my insistence to hold on to my right to pain is associated more with my sense of drama. Ever since my first birth, I fantasize about the dramatic nature of it. A woman’s labor and delivery is really a beautiful story arc, complete with a rising action, a climax, and a denoument. The pageant, if you will, of childbirth is so beautiful. This is one reason I did not want to anesthetize myself through it. You miss all that drama if you take the pain away.

Perhaps the same could be said of hypnosis. The women who use this method describe a peaceful, pain-free birth. It all sounds great… for them. I think maybe I just love the drama. Now don’t get me wrong– I don’t want real drama, like with ambulances or plunging heart rates or medical intervention. No thank you. But the natural drama of a healthy, normal, natural birth is just thrilling. I’ll take the pain with the adventure. It’s worth it.

So what do you all think? Is a pain-free birth possible? Is it even desirable?

You Were Wrong, Doc

12 December 2010

It seems now that I’m processing this second birth experience, I can’t help but compare it to my first. I suppose they are inseparable. Now I had a very good birth the first time around, but it was an uphill battle to accomplish a natural birth at a hospital, especially DRMC, and with the very unsupportive doctors I had. Even though Peer’s birth was natural, there were still many unnatural things that were done to me and the baby that I wanted to make sure didn’t happen again. Like the routine pitocin I was given after the baby was out. I was not asked or warned at all about this and only found out as I was receiving the shot in my arm. Or like the premature cord clamping and cutting, and the subsequent yank the doctor gave the umbilical cord to get the placenta out. Or, in general, the separation that we experienced just to have the baby bathed. Now that I’ve experienced another way, I’ll never go back. (if I can help it)

But mostly what I want to talk about today is the overall unsupportive attitude I had to combat with the doctor throughout my whole experience, and it was culminated in a final comment he made immediately after the birth and then again at my six-week postpartum check-up. He said that I was very small inside and that if Peer had been any bigger, I wouldn’t have been able to deliver vaginally. Peer was 6 lbs 2oz. At my check-up he told me if I ever have a baby any bigger, that I should have a c-section. I was just too small.

I always thought this opinion was hogwash. And guess what, Doctor Bender? I did it. Despite you. I had a bigger baby (a whole pound and three ounces bigger), again without drugs, no episiotomy this time, and considerably less tearing. You cut me badly last time because you thought I couldn’t do it. I needed 30 stitches. I took 10 weeks to heal. This time my birth attendant believed in me and let me do it on my own. As a result I had minimal tearing that needed only 3 stitches. You were wrong.

Here’s another thing that I now know I was right about. The whole issue of the perineum. As I mentioned, last time I had a really bad cut/tear because the doctor insisted that I “needed” an espisiotomy and then when I resumed pushing, the tissue tore like crazy from the already-started laceration. With both my births, I seem to have gotten really powerful and determined at the end (what woman isn’t?), paying no mind to my perineum. So some tearing is probably inevitable for me. Ever since Peer was born, I always knew that I had been somewhat robbed of that culminating sensation of childbirth– the ring of fire. This is the feeling of the soft, thin tissue between the vagina and the rectum stretching (or tearing) as the baby’s head crowns and is born. Why, you may ask, would anybody actually want that sensation? Shouldn’t I be grateful to have been spared? True, it was frickin’ painful. It burned like crazy. But one also must observe how considerably less damaging this series of events were than during my first birth. Last time, my birth attendant intervened and injured me badly. This time there was no intervention, and my perineum remained mostly intact. I am far less injured this time around. And what “injury” I do have from this second birth was my natural fate– not the result of the poor judgment of a pompous, faithless doctor wielding tiny scissors.

Also, in terms of my own experience, feeling the ring of fire was extremely encouraging in the moment of birth. It was obvious what this feeling was, and I knew that I would be completing my hard work and meeting my baby very soon. On a personal level, the more intense the sensation, the more meaningful the memory. In other words, it was an amazing feeling. I’m so glad I got to feel my baby coming out. Fire and all. I’ll never forget it–in fact, I will cherish that moment in my memory forever.

Dr. Bender, you laughed at me when I said I wanted a natural birth and told me I’d be screaming my head off in labor. Well I did it once in your presence and did it again without you. Your words have been lingering in my memory for three years. You don’t know what you do to women when you say these things. You should believe in us. We have more power than you think.

Our Homebirth of Leif William Wahlquist – November 7, 2010

12 December 2010

Here are the highlights of our birth story. This is pretty much the same version I posted on facebook a while back, but I wanted to blog it too. (Not sure if there’s anyone out there who reads my blog but not my facebook activity, but that’s okay.) It was actually a rather “boring” birth. There isn’t much to tell. I suppose that is the best kind of birth. I prefer to think of it as The Perfect Birth.

Saturday I woke up feeling crampy. I experienced mildly painful Braxton-Hicks all day. This was somewhat normal for me. I went to yoga and thought that if today was the day, yoga class would be a great way to start it off. Afterward I went to the Downey Farmer’s Market and a stranger rubbed my belly for the first time. After lunch, I put Peer down for his nap, which always starts and ends with nursing. This caused a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions. Afterward, I really wanted to get out of the house. Andy suggested going to Seal Beach for dinner and a walk on the pier. After getting ready, I came down the stairs and announced these contractions were “starting to bother me.” We actually timed them in the car. They were irregular in span, duration, and intensity. Not rhythmic, regular, or increasing– they way you’d expect real labor to be. The walk along the pier was nice, I contracted a lot and got very tight, but it still didn’t feel like labor. The contractions weren’t going anywhere—although I noticed they weren’t stopping, either.

By the evening, I had decided that this wasn’t it. I had just had a bad day. I knew I wasn’t dehydrated, but I was probably exhausted. We put Peer to bed and I got really sleepy, even though I was still experiencing contractions. I napped for about an hour or an hour and a half while Andy finished putting Peer to sleep. I woke up and felt great, but the contractions returned before long. We watched some Hulu, then I went to bed. Andy hung out next to me, reading or something. Tomorrow would be the end of Daylight Savings Time.

11/7/2010 – 12:45 am
I was almost fully asleep when I awoke to the sensation of my water breaking. I was so surprised. After all I had convinced myself this wasn’t the night, now it was. As I sat on the toilet, I made sure the amniotic fluid was clean and odorless. It was. I got really nervous, and I asked Andy to pray for me. I was still sitting on the toilet. I thought that was funny.

Andy began to prepare our bedroom for the birth. The first thing this meant was cleaning up and folding laundry. Labor hadn’t really begun yet, and I began to feel very anxious. I knew this was going to be tonight, and this was going to be really hard. “I can’t believe I have to do this again,” I cried in anxiety. I had a lot of self-doubt and fear at the thought of doing this very, very hard thing again. I was very anxious. I told myself I needed to enjoy this time, because it’s the easiest it will be all night. But I was afraid.

Our roommate Ben came home (our other roomie David was out of town) and we could hear him downstairs in the kitchen, adjacent to where our birth supplies were. Andy wanted to go down and get them, so I made him promise not to say anything to Ben and try to be discreet. Nothing was really happening yet, and I didn’t want to feel watched. Ben totally didn’t notice. I think he even snuck out of the house for work the next morning after the birth without noticing.

I think contractions officially started around 1:30am, and sometime before then, I did the HiboCleanse Rinse, since I had tested positive for Group Beta Strep, but didn’t want antibiotics.

Our midwife Sue had told us that she would come when I couldn’t walk or talk through the contractions anymore, so Andy was watching for that. I was glad that it would be a little while. I wanted this private time to labor with just Andy and I also did not want to be checked for dilation yet. For my last birth I wasn’t checked until I was complete, which was perfect. I didn’t want the discouragement of not being as far dilated as I felt. Anytime I grew curious about dilation, I tried to tell myself that dilation didn’t matter, that length of labor didn’t matter. This baby will come out when it’s ready and God would give me the strength to do it, when the time was right. Reflecting on these truths helped me through the great fear I felt.

Now that the contractions had started, I went to work. I first laid down for a little while, then I started following Andy around like a puppy dog. The contractions were strong and mostly felt like intense pelvic pressure. I labored entirely in our bedroom. Often I would lean my head and arms against our tall chest of drawers and sway my pelvis to relax. Sometimes I would get on my knees and lean on the yoga ball and moan. I moaned a lot, and employed the toning practice from yoga. The only sound that worked for me was “HAAAAAAAA.” All these things really helped me relax through the intense pressure and pain of each contraction. I remembered how after my first birth, I was so amazed at the incredible way my body worked to get the baby out. But now that I was in the moment again, the reality of the overwhelming sensation was coming back to me as well. This was really, really hard! I remember crying out “God help me!” and thinking that I was way too early in the labor to be acting so desperate. At some point I thought, “I understand why women get epidurals!” 

I needed a distraction, so I watched Waiting for Guffman. Andy pointed out how rapidly my labor had picked up during the movie. By the end of the movie, the tub was ready and I put my bathing suit on and got in. The water felt sooooo good. It didn’t take my pain away, but it definitely helped me cope with each contraction. Peer woke up once and Andy went in to comfort him. I got out of the tub to pee and my labor really picked up. I had several strong contractions that made me very emotional. When Andy came back I told him that I didn’t want to go through another contraction alone. We should probably call for help. After we called the midwife, I think he called my parents. I remember thinking that for every phone call, Andy sounded so business-like and calm.

In the tub, I pretty much stayed in one position– on my knees, with them spread in a V, with my upper body resting on the side of the tub, or on the yoga ball next to the tub. Before anyone even arrived, I started to grow “push-curious.” I suddenly wondered if applying gentle pressure would give me some relief. So I tried bearing down gently on each contraction. It felt so good. I pushed on every contraction since then. Our midwife Sue arrived with another midwife. They came in quietly and whispered whenever they spoke. I told her I was pushing gently and she nodded in approval. (I’m still amazed and so pleased at how I somehow knew exactly how and when to push– no one ever gave me permission or told me how to do it. So different from a hospital birth.) My mom arrived and asked how I was doing. I told her this was really hard! She helped me through a contraction and then went to talk to Andy. They were talking through a contraction and I snapped at them to be quiet!

At some point, Peer got up and came to give me a kiss. At another point, he gave me a cold wet washcloth (that was his designated job) and then went downstairs. I had wanted him to witness the birth, but in the moment his joyful energy was disrupting the quiet peacefulness I needed. So he played with his grandparents downstairs.

I kept pushing on every contraction, pushing harder and harder all the time. Maybe I pushed too hard, but it felt good. I noticed a drop of blood drip down from me and sink to the bottom of the tub. Suddenly I felt a pop! I still don’t know what that was. They checked the baby’s heart rate with the doppler a couple times. It was perfect. I was pushing harder and harder and the excitement in the room was growing. It was almost time. Leif’s destiny was at hand– the moment of his birth was immanent. Our baby was coming straight down, pulled by gravity, pushed by my body, and guided gently by God. I pushed hard and started to feel the ring of fire. That was an incredible sensation. It really hurt. The contraction ended and the baby retreated a little. I pushed again (by now my contractions came one on top of another without any breaks in between) and felt the ring of fire again, this time more intense, and longer. I roared like a lion out of pain and power. Sue asked if I wanted to reach down and touch the baby’s head. “No!” I shouted. But Andy did. He touched his little nose. Another contraction came and I pushed again, feeling the ring of fire one last time, and then feeling the baby slip out of me and the most incredible release imaginable.

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