Posts Tagged ‘Birth’

My Body Knew

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.


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Was I taught somewhere along the way that it is a weakness to need help from others? I don’t think anyone ever said so out loud, but it’s what I thought was true for a long time. But it isn’t true.

In fact, asking for help- and being willing to receive help- is one of the most powerful things I can do. I am strong enough to receive.

Women, especially when birthing, understand and know that although all the power that is ever needed is inside us, support from the outside helps us connect to the truth and power inside. We sometimes need to be reminded of our strength. We sometimes need to be surrounded by people who believe in us.

This week I asked for help from my friends- doulas, midwives, birth activists and moms. And I was awed and honored by their response. As I flexed my asking and receiving muscles, I could tell it had been too long since I really stretched them.

So I’m going to ask for your help too.

Next Monday at 1pm ET, I’m trying something new with my radio show, A Labor of Love. I usually connect with topics I feel are important to moms and moms-to-be by talking with guest experts. And although I enjoy the show, I trust that it is time to birth something new: I really want to connect directly with other moms and moms-to-be who are listening. I want to connect with you.

This is how you can help: Don’t just listen to the show- CALL ME! Let me know what you’re thinking. Share your experience- what worked and what didn’t.

The topic for Monday’s show is Taking Responsibility for Pregnancy and Birth. Read the full description HERE.

To connect to the live show, click this link: A Labor of Love at 1pm ET. Then call in during the show at 866-472-5972.

If you can’t make it to the live show, but have some thoughts you’d like to add to the conversation, send me an email. Include your comments, your first name and where you live, and I’ll share your ideas during the show. Email IntentionalBirth (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Thanks for connecting with me and for reminding me that I’m strong enough to ask. Will you help?

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Within the culture of labor and childbirth is a choice of language. It used to be that women birthed their babies. Then medicalization of pregnancy and labor began and women were delivered of their babies. While it may have been the case when women were coerced into unconsciousness during labor, that someone else assisted the delivery of their babies, it is no longer true and the terminology does not serve women.

Birth is an action word. Anyone who has given birth to a baby, knows the work involved in labor is her own.

No one delivers a woman of her baby. (In my opinion, this terminology doesn’t support women who must birth surgically either, although I respectfully leave it to those wise women to define their own experience.)

Babies are not delivered to a mother like pizza. There is sweat and blood and tears involved- for these the term “delivery” makes no mention.

This language reveals an attitude of disrespect for a woman’s active role in bringing her baby into the world.

An important step for women who desire to empower themselves and advocate for themselves is to own the word birth and select care providers who reveal a comparable attitude with their language.

ALL women are powerful. Women who BIRTH learn their power firsthand. This is the nature of birth.

Own your power. Own your BIRTH.

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I was thinking about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and his most famous speech- how one man articulated the dream of so many. It wasn’t his dream alone and he didn’t want it only for himself. The dream was so big & amazing and became possible only because so many were willing to speak out, be present and stand strong together for a common goal- real freedom & equality for all people regardless of their color.

My dream doesn’t make headlines. No one is marching – yet.

I have a dream that women (and men) might see more clearly that how women are treated during labor matters. That honoring the wisdom of the body, allowing labor to wind its way to birth, holding a sacred space for birth, and keeping intervention to a minimum matters- for both mother and baby (and for generations to come.)

I have a dream that women won’t have to struggle for informed consent and refusal and that the courts stop ordering medical management of pregnancy, labor and birth against any woman’s decisions. I dream that women have the resources they need to be educated about their body and the community support they need to remember their innate strength, and to find confidence from the experience of birth.

I dream that the hostility and judgment of women by women ends; that women unify to leverage their majority to create real solutions that support women and validate and honor individual choice.

I dream that women might not have to choose between caring for their children at home and earning a living apart from their families- that working together solutions can be found that allow babies to accompany their mothers if they choose to engage in professional work.

I dream women will no longer need to act like men to belong in the world. I dream that being feminine and female is honored- that the role of mother and nurture-giver is respected as valuable work; that women and men will each be respected for their differences- in perspective, in approach to problem-solving, in simply be-ing.

I dream that all women have the opportunity to understand and embrace conscious conception, bonding before birth, gentle pregnancy, and trusting birth; that women have empowered choices for labor; that they are recognized as the experts of their bodies.

I dream that my daughters grow up valuing their femaleness; and that being female is synonymous with wisdom and respect – and the right to bodily integrity.

What are you dreaming?

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In a way I want to begin this post by apologizing for my messy house. But the truth is, I’m not all that sorry. I don’t enjoy cleaning and scouring and don’t get the thrill of accomplishment, satisfaction of a job well done, etc., from cleaning- generally speaking.

So when I got up before 5 a.m. on Black Friday to get to a sale to buy a mop, my husband was baffled. (But other than his initial query, he knew it was better to not mention the fact that I don’t clean the floor very often.) I got to the store around 5:30. They had opened at 4:00- needless the say, the one in the flyer was sold out. But…

I found the last box for a different version of the same mop, also on sale. Woohoo! Success! (Not quite as cheap, but the cleaning pad was bigger and this makes more sense since 90% of my house is tile floor.)

I finally got the mop out of the box and put it together Sunday morning. I even read the directions (mostly about how not to electrocute yourself using water with an electrical appliance) and then ran the sweeper over the kitchen floor. I powered up the steam mop and then ran to get the camera to document the power of steam…

(this is before)

(this is after)

An hour later my husband found me kneeling on a towel, scrub brush in hand, bucket and rags nearby, scouring the kitchen floor, battling against the dirt (and winning!) So what happened?

The steamer worked pretty good. There were a couple spots that needed a little extra attention (the directions said that would be true) and I had applied a vinegar/water mix to clean them up and suddenly I was inspired by the mostly clean floor to really go all the way- to really get the floor super-super clean so I can keep it clean with my new mop. I’ve never been inspired to clean like this, so I was nearly as surprised as my sweet husband (who kept suggesting I take a break and watch football with him).

As I scrubbed with satisfaction, uncovering a much cleaner floor than I ever thought possible, it occurred to me how important inspiration and the idea of “ease of use” are in life- and in birth.

See, I think a lot of women are looking for “ease of use” in pregnancy and labor. So hypno-birthing, epidurals and other methods to make things simpler are attractive. For my first birth, I made sure to follow the hospital’s protocol for the epidural prior to my labor, so I would have a choice of how to manage the pain of my labor. I didn’t know what to expect, what it would feel like, and I wanted options. It seemed like a nice, easy alternative if things (like pain) got out of hand.

It gave me a kind-of safety net in my mind. I didn’t really want to go that route, but because I had that back-up plan, I felt I could manage better and longer. In some ways just having the choice available gave me inspiration to continue with a drug-free labor. Like knowing the steam mop would clean most of the dirt, an epidural might lessen most of the pain, but because it was there, I didn’t really need it. I knew I could do it, and the satisfaction at the end was a high unlike any other I’ve experienced. (It wasn’t the satisfaction of not having an epidural- it was the choice to believe in myself and follow what I really wanted.)

I was inspired to stay on track because I recognized I had options. What’s really great about recognizing options is then seeing how options for birth are everywhere. Even at home. So when my second daughter was born at home, the full cognition of my options made everything possible, all over again, even without an epidural standing in the wings.

I had chosen for myself. I had options available. I was free to make informed decisions for my care. I was inspired to believe in myself, to follow my gut, to trust birth. And this is what I wish for all birthing women- options limited only by your heart’s desire accompanied by trust in the process of birthing your babies. (And a clean floor might be nice too!)

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If only my blog came with a drum-roll button…

I’m excited to announce the release of Birthing Ourselves, the journey to conscious parenting. Originally a live tele-series, Birthing Ourselves was created to guide an inspire you on your parenting journey today. Whether you are an expectant mom for the first time or a seasoned veteran with multiple children, you’ll be supported and inspired to pay attention to your inner wisdom and witness the effect on your relationship with your children.

Go to http://www.intentionalbirth.com/products to download your copy.

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I’ll admit it- I have a thing for shoes. The man at the store may not know me by name, but he does clear off a bit of counter space as I wander through, occasionally bringing boxes forward, wearing anything except the shoes I wore in. Within each aisle, finding different styles- flats, mules, pumps, casual sandals, sport sandals. I try not to buy more than one of each shoe type on any given visit.

This morning was no different. I found a cute, dressy sandal in navy blue that matched so well with my outfit, I wore them out of the store. I also found several other shoes that looked absolutely adorable. But when I tried them on (in various sizes -just to be sure) I just couldn’t get the right fit. No matter how good they may look on the wall or on my foot, I can’t justify a choice that doesn’t fit my foot.

It’s a lesson long in the making for me, with too many shoes collecting dust in the closet because I won’t wear them if they don’t feel right. Birth choices can be like that too. Women can walk through information, testing this and that, researching, but when it comes down to it: what is a good fit for one woman’s birth, may not fit another.

Opinions and definitions of “natural” vary depending on the individual or entity providing information. When it comes to childbirth, opinions on what is natural can range from medication-free vaginal hospital birth (with or without hospital interventions) to unassisted homebirth. Where does the true definition fall?

It falls within the heart and soul of each expectant mother. Defining what is natural is about defining what belongs to each individual woman: how she views her ideal childbirth experience; where she will feel most safe; how and by whom she will be best supported in her choices. Natural, then, must be based on the innate internal desire of each woman.

The key to this premise is undoubtedly reliant on the ability, opportunity and desire of each woman to search within herself to find the answers to some challenging questions about her beliefs, about her body, about fear. This is part of the process of finding the right fit.

It may seem difficult, trying on so many ideas to find the best match- already it may look easier to just let someone else with “experience” manage the whole thing. The only dilemma: no one else can possibly have experience with your individual expected birth- because it hasn’t happened yet. No one else can possibly know what is right for you in your heart. It cannot be considered “natural” to simply follow someone else’s “rules” for pregnancy and birth, without considering how they correspond into your own desire.

So “natural” is really the connection of your internal truth to your desired birth experience. You do not have to accept another person’s view of what is acceptable, what is ideal, or even what they consider safe. You can choose to follow your own truth. You can take time to explore answers to the questions birth holds for you. You can explore fears and insecurity, question your beliefs, and discover, for yourself, the true definition of natural childbirth: a birth experience fully in line with your most intimate, loving, internal vision.

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