A Labor and Birth Story

I have been a reader of the extremely popular dooce.com since I was pregnant for the first time six years ago. A coworker suggested the site to me during my first trimester because of my ever-so-regular complaining and sharing of entirely too much information. She thought I would like the blog not just because the author, Heather B. Armstrong, was also pregnant for the first time, about 3 months ahead of me, but because she had a delightfully candid and deeply funny take on the joys of pregnancy. And I do use “joys” loosely.

While I approached so many aspects of birth and first time parenthood very differently than dooce (I had a home birth, she had a hospital birth. I used Pantley, she used Ferber…), I never let that stop me from reading. So much of what she was going through in pregnancy and postpartum reflected my own reality – and as it turned out, that of thousands of other women. In fact, speaking of tmi, when I was working full time and away from my baby during the day, I reserved my breastmilk pumping time for reading dooce. Her touching stories of her own postpartum struggles – and plentiful, gorgeous pictures of her baby girl – increased my let down!

I checked in on her daily and was grateful for her willingness to share her life with millions of strangers. When she was hospitalized with Postpartum Depression I remember telling a good friend how shaken I was because I saw so much of myself in her writing.

Fast forward several years, I had a second child, was working on becoming a doula and birth mentor, and was still reading dooce as she got pregnant again, suffered a miscarriage, and then happily carried her next pregnancy to term.

In her first labor story five years earlier, she’d had several “standard” medical interventions beginning with Pitocin to augment her labor, an eventual epidural and an episiotomy as her baby was crowning. I wondered and looked forward to seeing how her story would unfold the second time around.

So when she finally wrote it- in three installments – I was absolutely delighted that attending another mama’s birth, hiring a doula and reading Birthing From Within were part of her story! It was dooce at her best: hysterically funny, heartfelt, grounded – and open to an amazing transformation. Labor and birth stories can have so much power and I am thrilled that I can share this one with you:

Part I

Part II

Part III

I’ve Been Reading…

I should be doing my reading and writing for achieving my DONA and Birthing From Within certifications. And yet, I’ve been seeing all sorts of interesting items online, pulling my attention away from the hard-copy stack on my desk. Social media: good for networking and getting new information, bad for getting things crossed off a doula and birth mentor’s to-do list.

Here is a sampling of the articles and blogs that have caught my interest as of late. They span birth, motherhood, breastfeeding, feminism, racism and a bit of pop culture thrown in:

LA Times, “Childbirth: Can the US Improve?”

Henci Goer: Elective Induction of Labor

From Healthy Times “Risk to Baby Rises With Repeat C-Sections”

MamaHeartsBaby: A Baby Came Out of My Vagina

Science and Sensibility: First, Do No Harm: Another Reason to Ditch Routine IVs in Labor

Hoyden About Town: Missing The Point Awards, Manchester poster edition

Chicago HypnoBirthing: Kismet

Anti-Racist Parent: Just Like Me

Birth Write: Remembering Pearls of Mothering Advice

Hit Me Back!: Thoughts on the Mom-in-Chief

Womanist Musings: What White Women Can Do

Nov 30: A Sad Day for This Trekkie

Feel free to add your own!

What I Learned About Birth Last Week

I spent quite a bit of time attending birth last week – spanning 3 days at home and at hospital. And I learned a lot. Here are some gems I collected for myself as a doula, in no particular order:

* It is important to take care of myself: take breaks, rest, drink water, eat and pee – definitely pee! Even if the mama is laboring at home in the only bathroom and I have to have to kick the dad out for a minute to do it.

* Remember to remind mamas to pee too! And remind dads to remind mamas.

* After labor goes into day 2, resist the urge to say “It’s normal” until I ask myself if I really know.

* Look for large puddles and wet washcloths before sitting down on the edge of the tub to give support

* Bring a spare set of lightweight pants (or keep wearing lightweight ones to begin with) in case of forgetting the gem above.

* Keep cultivating connections with other birth professionals. It is great to already have met the other folks attending ahead of time!

* Love and appreciate my mentors, backup and childcare providers.

* Keep absolutely loving mamas and dads – helping them stay present moment by moment – knowing that when they are lost in laborland: they rock, they are doing their best and they are capable of more than they or I realize.

More birth in popular culture: An example from Spain

Wow. This?! This amazing, heartwarming, tender birth video from Spain? Is a MATTRESS commercial. On TV!

You can see another English translation below the video.

The text of the video:

Mom:”We spoke and we decided that the best option would be for our daughter to be born in our bed, in our home.”
Dad: “It’s the place where our first son was born. Repeating this in the same bed is important.”
Mom: ” It’s a miracle, isn’t it?  That there is one life inside another and you are going to help it be born. And being able to do this how you want, in the place that you want, in your home.”
Dad: “You relate to the space in a much more intimate way.”
Midwife: “Slowly, slowly.”
Mom: “There is a light, a smell, a warmth in this space when a new life comes that is just so special.”
Flex slogan: “Your bed. The most important place in the world.”

Sound and Movement in Labor

In Birthing From Within® classes I work with expectant parents to establish a pain-coping mindset. Uninhibited sounds and movement can be two integral parts of pain management in normal labor. Yet when we explore vocalization and begin thinking and talking about women making noise in labor, the images that often come to mind from popular culture aren’t necessarily positive or empowering ones. (Think ER)

When it comes to how we picture women moving in labor, we often don’t. It is rare to find images of women laboring in any way other than sitting or lying down in bed – as if to say that labor pain is so immobilizing that it literally lays women out. Yet, for normal birth, just the opposite is true: rather than laying women out, early labor pain encourages women to move our bodies in just the right way to help babies come through.

Yet, these images make sense when we think about the not too distant past of birth in our culture – when birth was hospitalized and women were routinely fully medicated and in twilight sleep while their babies were delivered for them by obstetricians. It also makes sense that, as women and expectant parents have struggled to reclaim low-risk, healthy birth as a non-medical event, there is a lag in our collective consciousness reflected, in turn, in our popular images. Those pictures, tv shows and movie clips of birthing parents as panicked patients are what has been, until recently, all that was readily available in contemporary popular culture.

How fabulous that now that we have DIY online video services it is possible to find so many more examples of empowering birth. With women making noise! And moving around however they like! The flipside, of course, is that there is a whole lot more of the same old stuff out there as well. So, I have sifted through quite a lot of it for you to find what I think are a few gems.

Here are five videos of women vocalizing, moving and remaining present during labor. They are from hospital and home births, and illustrate so much more than the power of sound and movement. You’ll get the fullest effect with the volume up, and be advised: some of them may be a bit noisy for work. Enjoy!

Singing and rocking on a birth ball during part of labor:

Moving and making noise in a whole home water birth story:

Moving, moaning (and more water!) in one contraction:

LOTS of different moving, positions and comfort techniques in a whole hospital birth story:

Update: The last video that was here has been removed by the original hosting site.
If you have other examples of empowering birth videos, I would love to see them. Please share.