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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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Wednesday, March 14th, 2012
I left you hanging at the end of My Birth Story: Part One having labored at home, driven to the hospital, then spent another couple of hours contracting in various positions before deciding I was done. If this birth was going to be anything like my first, I had another fifteen or so hours ahead of me. The pain of each contraction was too great, and they were coming at me faster and faster, so, um, no thank you. Done.
But. But! I’ll have you know that I’d identified this roadblock during my HypnoBirthing work, which asked: What might hold you back from navigating this birth drug-free? My answer, without question, was my first birth. To be specific: My first, 30-hour birth, which featured three tries with the vacuum, four—four!—hours of pushing, and a phone call to get the c-section doctor headed our way, before ending in a vaginal birth. I knew I’d have a hard time not fixating on those excruciating, drawn-out dramatics. I knew it would be hard to give this birth the chance to evolve on its own.
So there I was, not giving this birth the chance to evolve on its own. I told my husband and my doula, Dawn, that I couldn’t take this pain for so long again.
“It won’t be that long,” they both insisted.
I said I didn’t believe them. That they were just trying to trick me into staying with it. “I think you’re lying,” I said. I was serious. After all, how the hell did they know?
Dawn did her doula thing and made a deal with me. “Last time, you stalled out at a four [dilation-wise]. They want to check you at 10 AM—in just twenty minutes. How about you two walk a few laps, then come back and get checked, and if you’re at a five, we’ll go in the tub. I bet you’ll be a five.”
“Do you really think so?” I asked.
“I do,” Dawn said.
So I agreed. Clint and I went back to walking the carpeted hospital halls. When a contraction hit, I bent over the ballet-style bars lining the walls and stuck my tush out so Clint could squeeze my lower back in this crazy-magical way that took the edge off. It was a move Dawn showed him, and it helped just enough to keep me going.
The nurse took her sweet time coming in to check me, so it was 10:15 by the time we found out if we were heading into the tub or calling the anesthesiologist. The verdict: A five; stretchy six, and 85 percent effaced. I stuck to my end of the bargain. Into the tub I went.
Dawn was so sure of that five that she’d already drawn a hot tub and decorated the bathroom in a string of white lights. I slipped in wearing a tank top because for some reason, that layer of material made me feel a little less vulnerable while floating there, all massive, slippery and moaning in front of a small crowd.
I dialed back in to my method of dealing with the contractions, tweaking it ever so slightly to fit my new environment. I’d wait silently and gratefully in the stillness; floating, relaxing, breathing, with a cold washcloth (supplied by Clint) on my forehead. Then a contraction would surge, and through the white pain I’d picture it moving my baby down while I shifted and wriggled through the water.
Like my first birth, they came at me unpredictably—5 minutes, then 8 minutes, then 2, then 10. But they were getting stronger, sitting heavy on my lower back and wringing my midsection like a wet towel. In the quiet space between contractions, my skepticism resurfaced. I mumbled to Clint, camped out next the tub, “I really don’t think I can do this.”
His reply: “You’re doing great. You’re almost there!”
I willed my head up to meet his gaze and said, “You do not understand.”
Then came a machine-gun string of contractions. Bam! Bam! Bam! They hijacked my body, shooting down through my legs like an electric current. Sounds originating from somewhere deep inside me left my lips without my consent. In the brief moments between each, I was not so much relaxing as going limp; giving over to whimpering, watery eyes and chest heaves. Though it bore some resemblance to crying, it wasn’t. That would’ve required energy. I had none.
“We need to call the doctor,” Dawn said. “I think it’s about time for you to push.” I still thought this was the old It-Won’t-Take-Long-This-Time Routine, designed to keep me in the game.
But then I heard my doctor’s voice from the hospital room. He poked his head in the bathroom door. “It sounded like things were moving along pretty quickly, so I figured I’d come by,” he said. I knew that Dr. C only showed up for the final stretch, so reality began to sink in. Maybe it was true. Maybe I was almost there. “Let’s get you out of the tub and get you checked,” he said.
I didn’t want to move. Not because I loved being in the tub, but because moving required effort. I geared myself up, and in the space between contractions they rushed me to the bed where Dr. C confirmed: I was at a nine-plus, and just a rim away from being completely effaced. I’d opened a full four more centimeters during my time in the tub, not even 45 minutes.
It was true. We were almost there.
Four more surges and I was completely dilated and 100 percent effaced. Time to push. Finally, I believed I wasn’t destined to repeat Birth #1. I would not push for nearly four hours. I would push simply as long as it took to meet my little girl. And with any luck, that wouldn’t be long at all.
My instinct was to tense and straighten my legs. My instinct was wrong. When each contraction came, I worked to tuck my chin to my chest, curl my butt under and push, push, push, push. On about the third round of pushing, I found it: The sweet spot. The pain disappeared, a white light filled my head and engulfed my body, and I could feel her moving through me. To me.
As much as I wanted it to, my body did not remember this position. It took a couple more tries for me to find it again. And again. The last time I did, I stayed there, pushing past one contraction and straight into another as the pressure and burning built, then released. Finally. Released. After twenty minutes of pushing, our baby arrived at 11:42 AM. Just 17 minutes before the “best case scenario” time I’d wished for the day before.
They put her on my chest immediately. She was absolutely perfect.
Clint cut the cord as I held her, transfixed. “Look at her,” I said. “She’s beautiful.” Then, prying my eyes away to look at Clint: “I can’t believe it did it. I did it.” It was almost a question.
Clint took off his shirt and had his skin-to-skin bonding with her as all my fun post-birth stuff unfolded. The placenta birth and stitches (an “almost two” tear—not bad) and whatnot. We did let them weigh and measure her (7 lbs 2 oz, 21 inches!), but after that, we insisted on keeping her near, nursing and snuggling her first hours away. She’s a cuddly one.
People keep asking me if Hypnobirthing worked, and my answer is: It helped. It did not erase the pain, but it helped me work through it in a way that I was unable to do instinctively during my first.
But enough about my first, already. This is the story of my second, entirely different birth.
The birth of our little Vera Loraine.
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Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
First things first: Everybody was right about the sex.
I was exactly one week overdue. I’d tried a whole list of things said to promote natural induction: Exercise, massage, eggplant Parmesan. People kept telling me to have sex. I kept telling them to take a look at my massive nine-months-pregnant self.
Um, yeah. Not interested.
But then I was 9.25 months pregnant. That .25 is a lot in LatePregnancyLand. The hubby and I discussed, and decided it was worth a shot. Three hours later, around 5 PM, I felt my first real a contraction, I kid you not. Here is a phrase I’ve never typed before: Yay, semen!
By “real” contraction, I mean it was in the right place. My Braxton-Hicks had been in the top-central tummy region. These contractions were what I remembered from birth one: low and achy, like period cramping. They were light and random, then they disappeared altogether, but I had a feeling. She was on her way.
Later that evening, my friend Konnie came down for a visit. As we sat on the couch sipping wine (another recommended inducer), I told her my dream plan: Get some sleep. Start to labor at home. Drop Roy off at daycare. Head to the hospital before morning’s rush hour. Have the baby by noon—ideally without any drugs whatsoever.
Konnie laughed. “You can’t control these things. She’ll come in her own time,” she said.
Konnie left, and I went to bed. Contractions woke me up around 1 AM.
They were light enough that I could get back to sleep, so I did, dozing off and on until about 3:30, when sleep was clearly no longer a viable distraction. Thankfully, streaming the pilot episode of “My So-Called Life” was. Angela’s earnest eyes and freshly dyed red hair and the troubled locker-leanings of Jordan Catalano tucked me straight back under the weight of high school’s angst and butterflies for another precious hour or so, until the contractions demanded my upright and undivided attention.
So I got up. Made myself an egg sandwich. Began timing them: Roughly 45 seconds long and seven minutes apart. I called my doctor. I called my doula. I woke Clint. You never know when things could speed up, especially since it was my second birth, and my contractions were all over the board during my first—two minutes apart, ten minutes apart, and of varying lengths, right up until push-time. Clint and I decided to go ahead and continue to labor at home awhile longer, see if we couldn’t make it to 6:30, that daycare/rush hour sweet spot. (Our doula, Dawn, offered to come help, but we felt comfortable making it to our goal time on our own.)
I filled the next hour and a half with showering and last-minute packing, with each contraction stopping me in my tracks. As soon as I felt one coming on, I’d sit down. Clear my mind. Breathe deep. Feel my uterine muscles working to move my baby down the birth canal and do my best to encourage them—and her. I talked to her a little, rubbing my belly and saying, “Good job, baby girl. C’mon. We’re ready for you.”
I think it was something about really tapping into her journey, taking place right then inside of me, but I suddenly started sobbing. The tears took me by surprise. I wandered over to Clint and hugged him, blubbering, “I’m just so happy. I can’t believe we finally get to meet her.” And then I went about contracting and packing until it was time to rouse Roy and get him to daycare. Clint and I drove to the hospital in light pre-rush traffic just as planned, pastel bands of sky insulating the horizon.
Dawn met us at the hospital, where we settled in and met our attending nurse. I changed into a tank top, zip-up sweatshirt and big, comfy skirt, then hopped into the hospital bed for the requisite fetal monitoring and dilation check. Since I’d dilated to a two more than a week earlier, I expected a high number, and so was disappointed to find out I was only at a four. A stupid four. To put this into perspective: I was at a four when I arrived at the hospital for my first birth. My son didn’t show up for another 17 hours. (I ended up taking one dose of the narcotic Nubain, which gave me a much needed half-hour break before nearly four hours of pushing. I really hoped to successfully skip all drugs this go-round.)
I was hooked up to the fetal monitoring equipment for about half an hour, which I spent quietly contracting and eating Jell-O, to help fuel the marathon birth I figured I had ahead of me. Once the nurse was satisfied that my baby was doing just fine, she set me free, and Clint, Dawn and I started doing laps down the carpeted hospital halls.
We did this for ages during Roy’s birth. We’d talk and walk like crazy, then when a contraction hit, I’d grab the ballet bar-type railing lining the wall with both hands and hang down into a squatting position until it subsided. I looked forward to this familiar tactic and so was completely surprised when this time, I hated it. It felt overly physical and active and public and unnatural. I gave it two laps around the nurses’ station, then called the walking off. We slipped back into my room to see what else might work. Now, it was around 9 AM.
Out came the birthing (aka exercise) ball. I sat on it, my hands planted on the foot of the hospital bed, circling my hips, around and around. As a contraction built up, I’d shift back, rest my head on the bed, and relax my body; breathe, breathe, breathe, letting my mind clear of all but a clean white light; envisioning my uterine muscles doing their job to move my baby down and out, down and out. Dawn turned on a loop of birth affirmations (“I am focused on a smooth, easy birth.” “I trust my body.”). She and Clint followed my lead, remaining silent. It was my version of HypnoBirthing, and it felt correct and productive, but man, I’ll be honest. It hurt like hell.
I’d been wondering how much of the “pain” my HypnoBirthing training might take out of the equation—I put the word in quotation marks because HypnoBirthing discourages use of it, preferring more accurate and less negative descriptions of what’s happening. “Tightening,” for example, or “pressure.” I get that. But even if you call it tightening, it’s intense, excruciating and off-the-charts painful tightening. One-millimeter-away-from-being-ripped-right-apart kind of tightening. My breathing and meditation tools did not prevent this sensation, but they definitely helped me work through it and with it productively. That is until I just didn’t want to anymore.
Sitting there quietly between contractions, dreading the next one, I was trying so hard to stay positive. Really, I was. I committed to a natural birth for many, many reasons. But the pain was so great, and it was still so early in the day, and if this was anything like my last labor, I could have 14 or 15 hours of this ahead of me. Contracting every five or so minutes, not to mention pushing—I didn’t even bother to do the math.
I opened my eyes and broke it to Clint and Dawn: “I don’t want you guys to be disappointed, but I can’t do this,” I told them. “I can’t take this kind of pain for so long again. I just can’t. I won’t. It’s too much.”
To be continued… (see My Birth Story: Part Two)
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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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