As part of the Healthy Birth Blog Carnival from Amy Romano’s blog at Science and Sensibility, I wanted to add my two cents about this month’s topic, Lamaze Healthy Birth Practice #5: Avoid giving birth on your back and follow your body’s urges to push.
The first time around, I was so excited to see that my hospital was ahead of the game. They even had squat bars as part of the “special birthing beds” so women could labor upright and be in a more natural position to push. I talked to my doctor about it, got his confirmation that this would be fine, and included it in my birth plan. I knew from what I read (and instinctively it fit) that pushing in an upright position was easier on the body because the pelvis is open wider.
On the day of my labor, when the time came to push, the nurse began setting up the bed with stirrups. I reminded her I wanted to use the squat bar. She told me there were no doctors who used the squat bar, mine included. The doctor said, I won’t be able to see anything! I persisted. I insisted. (Women who have been through labor will understand that arguing can be quite difficult at this stage of labor, especially with an overwhelming urge to push.)
Although the staff agreed to let me try, I was allowed to push squatting for 3 contractions before being told, This isn’t working, and put on my back for the remainder of the birth.
(It occurred to me later that the doctor didn’t really need to see, and that if he really did want to see, the entire bed could be raised up 2-3 feet.)
The second time around, I let my midwife and doula know how important it was to me that I be encouraged (not just allowed) to follow my body, especially for pushing. I labored in the tub for about an hour before my water broke, and I quickly felt like bearing down. I went from hands and knees to semi-squatting, then back to hands and knees between contractions. It felt so natural and good to move with my body.
My daughter was born with a nuchal arm (her head and hand/arm together) and there was some tearing, but I didn’t even feel it. I felt only the power of the moment, the roar of a birth goddess within me, following intuitive guidance from the body I had learned to trust.
I learned later that many women, given the freedom to do so (both physical freedom and freedom from self-consciousness) will draw up into a semi-squat naturally, to open more fully to birth their babies.
I am blessed to have had the opportunity to trust my body to birth. And I am blessed to be surrounded by women who trusted me to follow my body. My body knew exactly what to do.