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Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
A quick heads up for any of you who have connected to this blog or my birth story because you’re hoping to have a natural birth: I wrote a story on the Dos and Don’ts of Natural Birth for Parents.com.
It was nice to be able to pull together some of my thoughts and to pick the brains of other mamas who’ve gone the natural route. Of course I had a couple of experienced midwives weigh in as well.
Our advice includes some basics, such as finding a supportive practitioner and birthing environment, as well as things you might not think about at first, such as remembering your birth partner, going ahead and eating that egg sandwich and cutting off others’ birthing horror stories.
Come to think of it, you should do that last one whether you’re headed the natural route or not. No pregnant lady needs the extra worry.
Check out the story.
Natural birth hopefuls: I sincerely hope the full list helps you achieve the birth you want. I’m happy to try and answer any questions in the comments.
Natural birth veterans: What advice did we miss? Help the hopefuls by adding your two cents!
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Thursday, January 5th, 2012
So we finished up our HypnoBirthing classes, and I’m feeling pretty good about things. Clint and I have a little hypno session most evenings, where I relax and he reads what’s called a script—a story designed to help me meditate through labor. One takes me on a lovely hot air balloon ride with Clint during which I eventually tossing a box full of extra weight overboard so we can fly higher. Another walks me through a beautiful, magical forest in which I follow a playful little fawn into the bright light of day. Relaxing and symbolic and whatnot.
I’m also practice breathing. Sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair while working all day. Continuing with yoga and massage. Listening to birth affirmations and hypno scripts at night while I’m sleeping. Drinking raspberry leaf tea (to get the ol’ uterus in shape). I’m also sorting through things in my head; trying adapt the right mindset. The one that realizes this a new birth, hopefully one that’s shorter and less painful that my first.
I am about two-thirds of the way through HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method. A few things that have jumped out at me:
“The belief in pain surrounding childbirth is so strong that, instead of questioning the validity of the concept, there have been many efforts to rationalize its importance and attach some reason and higher purpose to it.”
That’s exactly what I did. My first birth hurt so badly that I was swearing at the top of my lungs that I would never do this again. (Paraphrased to exclude curse words.) Then I met Roy and knew instantly that I’d do it a hundred times over in a heartbeat. I decided that such a great reward shouldn’t come easy, and that was why childbirth was inherently difficult. Was I wrong? We’ll see.
“It is said that a woman births pretty much the same way that she lives life. For that reason, it is imperative that you take the time to do an assessment of how you see yourself and whether this image is productive for you or counterproductive.”
Hmmm. That’s all.
As you can see, it’s a lot of mind work. Which is cool, because I’m an overthinker anyway. Might as well use this possible character flaw for good.
Clint’s totally on board with all this. Willing to do whatever I want. Even if he does think any of it is in the least bit crazy, he would never say, which is so incredibly sweet. I suppose it’s smart, too. Who in their right mind would tell an eight-months-pregnant woman she’s crazy? Certainly not someone who has lived with an eight-months-pregnant woman before.
Make no mistake: This is a team effort. Have I mentioned that the last time around, Clint dislocated a few rib bones from his spine while helping me push? In the end, of course, the bulk of the pre-prep necessarily falls on me. Too bad, too, because the hubby is clearly better at the hypnosis thing than I am. Both times in class when Doula Dawn had us close our eyes while she read a meditation script, I worked hard to stay focused and relaxed, while Clint promptly fell asleep. It’s quite difficult to stay focused and relaxed with someone snort-snoring next to you. Kind of like when someone gives you the giggles in church or farts in yoga class.
I trust this will not be a problem in the delivery room, where snoring would be significantly less hilarious. If anything’s worse than the wrath of an eight-months pregnant woman, it’s the wrath of a nine-months-pregnant woman. In labor.
Image: A shot of a pregnant woman sitting on exercise ball, Shutterstock
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Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
As I mentioned earlier, I’m again hoping to have a natural birth. The main thing I want to change this time is the way I deal with my contractions. Last time, I fought each one to the bitter end, which was truly not fun—nor productive, I imagine. This time, I plan to get a breathing and meditation system in place ahead of time to see if the process can’t be a little less horrifically, excruciatingly, monumentally painful. Enter Hypnobirthing.
I went with this method (versus The Bradley Method, Lamaze and whatnot) simply because the doula we used (and loved) last time teaches it. We had our first class last night, in the comfort of our own home, and I’m feeling… good. A little overwhelmed. A little under pressure, remembering the pain and realizing I have to adopt an entirely new mindset to try and create the experience I want this time around. I’m committing to this. I’m just in the early stages of that commitment.
So from what I’m gathering, Hypnobirthing is all about re-framing the birth experience. My interpretation, via Doula Dawn‘s interpretation: When we go into the birth scared and expecting screaming and pain—and awfulness in general—that’s what we get. But if we educate ourselves on what, exactly, is going on with our bodies physically, then train our brains to re-interpret that experience positively, the resulting experience is gentler, quicker and a whole lot less traumatic. As a case in point, Dawn talked about those shows where people don’t realize they’re pregnant until they get a persistent stomach ache, then go to the bathroom and, whoa! Baby head! The pain leading up to the birth wasn’t as intense because the expectation of it didn’t exist.
As part of this re-framing, Hypnobirthing presents an entirely new birth vocabulary. A contraction is a “surge,” or a “wave,” for example. Those Braxton-Hicks I’ve apparently been getting are “pre-labor warm-ups.” The mucous plug and the bloody show are the “uterine seal” and the “birth show.” Both of those were past overdue for a rename, amIright?
So we learned the philosophy, the terminology and the physicality; stuff such as the different types of uterine muscles and what, exactly, they’re doing during a “surge,” and why. She ran us through a couple of meditation exercises, just to demonstrate the goal state, and she popped in a DVD featuring some Hypnobirths.
First was Mindy. The first shot showed her laying quietly on the hospital bed with her eyes closed. The second showed her laying quietly across the bed, face down, legs tucked under her. The third showed the baby quietly coming out, followed by quiet Mindy and her quiet partner sharing a quiet laugh while cuddling their newborn.
Next was Barbara. Barbara hung out in her hospital bed eating red Jell-o. When a “wave” hit her, she’d close her eyes for a few moments, not even bothering to put down the Jell-o. Again, silence. Rock on, Barbara.
This ain’t my first rodeo. I’m not expecting to breathe my way straight through a short, serene, pain-free birth. But I do want to try and do this without drugs. And I do believe in the power of meditation. And I do want to accept all available help to attain my goal.
One thing Dawn said last night that really resonated with me is that this is a new pregnancy, a new birth and a new baby. She deserves her own experience.
So for the next month, I will work on making it just that. Fresh. I’ll try and distance myself from my first birth and its many, many (many) hours of off-the-charts pain and screaming and pushing and acrobatics (all totally worth it, by the way, simply because it led to Roy). I’ll work on getting my mind on board so I can find out firsthand what that does for my body.
Yup. Here we go.
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Thursday, November 10th, 2011
When I found out I was pregnant the first time, the one that resulted in the 20-month-old ball of energy currently zipping around our home, I figured I’d ride out labor pumped with whatever drugs they’d give me. My instinctual philosophy went something like Pain: Bad. Drugs: Good. What kind nut job wouldn’t readily accept any and all available help in making what by all accounts is an excruciating experience more tolerable?
I am a researcher. I tend to spend a lot of time reading up and polling friends to ensure I’m prepared for purchases and experiences, for example, especially those that build up slowly and uncomfortably over the course of nine months and are 100 percent guaranteed to change my life forever. I read and Googled like it was my job, then watched “The Business of Being Born” with Clint. When it ended, I looked over at him, sighed, and said, “Oh, shit. Natural childbirth it is.”
To help me reach my new goal, I employed an intricate two-step program.
Step #1: Hire a doula. The nurses would know what was going on. Clint would be 100% on my side. Seemed it could only help to have someone in the delivery room who was a combination of both. I knew there was the potential to want to strangle a highly involved near-stranger at some point during such a painful and personal process, especially if she had some sort of cheeseball Earth Mother catchphrase or broke out flute music or, say, touched me, so I interviewed three doulas. We chose the one who said the right things and instilled the greatest amount of confidence, which is to say the one that we could most easily picture hanging out with as I screamed obscenities and pooped myself. Even then, I was only halfway sure I wouldn’t abruptly ban her from the room mid-event.
Step #2: There was no step #2. Big mistake. It should have involved researching breathing techniques or meditation or some type of natural pain management. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Breathing through contractions did not come naturally to me, as I assumed it would. I fought the contractions so hard that eventually, doing so became the point. When Roy finally arrived, after 30-some hours of labor nonsense, I was all, “Ha! Contractions, gone! I won!” and then, “Wait, why is there an inconsolable bird in the room?”
I never asked for an epidural because I am too stubborn. I did, however, ask for “anything that would make this godawful pain stop because I can’t take even one more contraction I’m not kidding give me something now it must end.” Horse tranquilizers? Bourbon? Yes thank you and hurry it up. My doula and the nurses conferred, which resulted in an offer of Nubain, a fast-acting narcotic that I was told I could take just once. They couldn’t deliver it quickly enough. It lasted all of 30 damn minutes. It didn’t take away the pain, either, but it did allow me to sleep soundly between contractions. That rest came in handy because little did I know I was about to embark upon four solid hours of pushing.
So, technically, not natural. But pretty darn close. And despite what I vowed at the top of my lungs during those final four hours—my doctor called it “the most acrobatic birth he’d ever attended”—I’m going to again try and go natural when I deliver this January. (We’re taking hypnobirthing classes this time.) I don’t feel like outlining the whys. I’m not here to change anyone’s mind. I believe that however a mama can make it through childbirth and end up with a healthy baby is perfect, for her. My choice wasn’t The Right One. It was the right one for me. So I’m making it again.
Because apparently, I am that kind of nut job.
NOTE: For another take on birthing, check out my fellow Parents.com blogger Jill Cordes’ post on why she’s scheduling a C-Section.
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Thursday, September 29th, 2011
Last week, my awesome doula, Dawn, posted this on Facebook:
“Yes, I turn placentas into capsules for new moms. It’s not as crazy as it sounds, moms feel sooo much better! They have less fatigue, postpartum depression, increased milk supply and many more wonderful results.”
When that spate of placenta-eating stories hit a few weeks back, I admit: I couldn’t get past the pictures. I didn’t care what the touted “benefits” were, no way was I even considering eating anything that looked like that. I didn’t read one word.
Then Dawn, whom I trust completely, brings up the subject. And look at that photo. Nice, neat little pills! Surrounded by pink flowers! Oh so pleasantly palatable. OK, I thought. Let’s talk.
I opened my mind and dug into the topic a bit. My main questions:
1) Seriously. Why?
Answer: Apparently one of the main benefit claims is that it helps cure postpartum depression connected to a drop in hormone levels. (When the placenta is inside you, it supplies you with those hormones, like Oxytocin, which disappear abruptly when it does.) Other purported benefits include more energy and increased milk supply, as Dawn outlined above, and decreased postpartum hemorrhaging and pain.
2) Have people been doing this for centuries? Meaning, is it one of those “natural” things that industrialized society hastily dropped?
Answer: No. Other cultures do revere it, though. After all, your body produced the placenta, its very own temporary organ, solely to nourish your developing child. It’s often given a ceremony and proper burial. Most other land mammals, however, do practice placentophagy, as it’s called, possibly to evade predators by destroying this evidence of birth. To paraphrase KJ Antonia at Slate.com, most other mammals also eat their own poo. Folks don’t seem too eager to jump on that bandwagon.
3) How does one turn a placenta into pills?
Answer: Well, Dawn rinses, steams, dehydrates then grinds the placenta, in your home or hers. She then puts the powder into those neat little capsules, then puts the capsules into a tidy bottle, labeled with instructions. Her charge: A very reasonable, in my book, $125 (Gerbera daisies not included).
4) C’mon. Does it really work?
Answer: There doesn’t seem to be any medical proof that it does. On the other hand, plenty of mamas who’ve done it and doulas like Dawn swear by its benefits.
My conclusion? If I were at risk for postpartum depression, I would do it in a heartbeat. No doubt. And I do see why others who are not at risk might as well. To each her own. But as it stands, at this very moment, I think I’ll skip the placentophagy, even in pill form. Maybe I’ll bury it instead? Or not. I’m giving birth in the dead of winter, and I’m not sure how respectful it’d be to wedge a life-sustaining organ between the Tombstones and frozen peas for a few months.
Image courtesy www.placentapills.com.
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