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My Thoughts on Birth:
I am a huge advocate for natural, non-medicated birth. I believe the benefits are too great to ignore. With that said I, also, firmly believe a woman has the right to decide what is best for her. This is her body. She will be the one birthing a baby, so when it comes down do it, she should decide how she would like to give birth. If she is not comfortable and confident, birth will almost be impossible.
We should support every woman in her decision. Even if it is different from our own. My only plea is that before you decide how you would like to give birth, educate yourself.
Read books about the different ways to give birth (natural, with an epidural, by a c-section, at home, at a birth center, in a hospital, with a midwife, with an OB, etc). Look up statistics, outcomes, long-term benefits or consequences for each one.
Speak to other women about their experiences. Speak to doctors. Speak to midwives. After all that, make your educated decision. Birth is a huge deal, and your experience will shape you and stay with you for the rest of your life.
You Have Options:
I utilized a birth center. Designed to resemble your home, each birthing room at the Birth Center possessed a queen sized bed, birth tub, walk in shower, oil diffusers, birthing balls, Swedish bars, and so many other tools to aid in your birth. Certified Nurse Midwives attend every birth along with labor and delivery nurses. If you are considering a non-medicated birth and have not looked anywhere other than your local hospital, I highly suggest checking out a birth center if your city or town has one.
Sadly, they are not everywhere, but they are on the rise! I am not against hospitals by any means (as you will read further down).
Hospitals play a very important role in our society and the amazing men and women who staff them save lives daily doing things I do not have the stomach to even think about.
However, for a lot of women hospitals are not the best setting for birth. For example, for the women who begin their labors in a hospital in America, the chance of their birth resulting in a C-Section is 32 percent as of 2012, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Essentially one in three women will give birth by C-Section in America in a hospital. Compare that to the National Birth Center Study which states only a six percent cesarean rate for women beginning their labors at birth centers.
Obviously, I am thankful we have evolved as humans to create the technology and skill set to perform cesarean births. They are vital, and have saved countless lives of women and babies.
However, they are often pushed as a birth method too aggressively for women who actually do not need one, and so many times the mother agrees without the knowledge of their dangerous risks because she is led to believe it is what is best for her baby.
No matter the amount of planning and preparation you pour into your pregnancy and birth plan things will not go as expected, so stay flexible throughout. Welcome the differences, do not fight them. My daughter arrived right on time. I awoke to my first contraction at 12:15am the morning of her due date. At 12:45am my water broke. I woke my close friend, Devin, who acted as my doula to inform her. Then, as suggested in every book I read, I tried going back to sleep. I pressed play on my birthing day hypnosis track from the Hypnobabies course I practiced and climbed back in bed.
Generally, water breaking at the beginning of labor means a long road lies ahead of you, so get all the rest you can! Not the case for me. At 1:00am I informed my husband, Charles, the time had come.
As I rode the waves of early labor contractions my husband remained by my side, comforting me the entire time.
Actually, no. That did not happen.
At 1:00am with his wife in labor he decided to take a shower… and SHAVE! Seriously?! While I roamed our bedroom making sure everything we needed was packed, Charles stood in front of the mirror, shaving cream on his face, running a razor blade down his cheek.
I looked at him and asked, “Are you shaving?” He answered, “Yeah,” like it was not an odd thing to be doing at that moment. “It’s Thursday. I was going to shave today anyway,” he reasoned. Oh goodness.
Charles played a huge part in my birth. He called our midwife throughout my early labor to keep her informed of my progress, he supported my weight as I hung off him through contractions, and he only left my side to hydrate or use the restroom, and during those times he made sure Devin stepped in for him. Solid as a rock, he remained calm and consistent.
I am extremely thankful for his strength. Without his arms to squeeze or his pressure on my back, labor would have been a lot more difficult. I give him a hard time for choosing to shower and shave the moment I informed him it was the real deal for fun. We all prepare in different ways.
My labor came on strong quickly. The average first time labor for a woman is 24 hours. My labor from first contraction to baby in my arms was just shy of ten hours. I labored throughout my home for the first five hours. Positive birthing affirmations from Hypnobabies resonated from my phone on loop as I sat on all fours upstairs, rocking through contractions, as my doula and good friend, Devin (who has given birth naturally twice, first in a hospital and the second in her home), timed the duration of them and the time between.
As labor progressed I made my way downstairs. Shortly after Charles, Devin, and I (and Devin’s four-month old son fast asleep in his car seat) loaded up in the car and headed for the birth center.
We arrived at the birth center at 5:30am. I continued to labor on the bed in the birthing room. Through each contraction I recited the word "Peace," a trigger word from my Hypnobabies course that took me to a place of calm and relaxation.
See post: How Hypnobabies Worked for Me
Devin, also, applied pressure to pressure points on the bottom of my feet. A pain relief technique I knew nothing about, but worked amazingly. One of the many reasons having a doula is an absolute must. Even if you have a supportive partner active throughout the process.
Already seven centimeters dilated when I entered the Birth Center, I soon found my way into the birthing tub. The warm water felt amazing! It did not take away the pain of contractions entirely, but it reduced them back to the first part of early labor. The birthing tub gave me the relief I needed. I was in the tub for a long time. Long enough for the water to cool, be drained, and fresh water added. Contractions continued to increase in strength, and I found short moments to sleep between them.
Soon contractions rolled over the top of one another with very little time to rest in between. During this time thoughts raced through my mind. "I'm over this." I thought. "I just want to be done." Knowing this was likely transition, the shortest part of labor, and I would be pushing soon kept me going.
I aimed to have a water birth. I envisioned it for the last few months of my pregnancy. Be that as it may, a water birth was not in the cards for me. Here came the part in my labor that detoured from my original plan. I knew I had to brace the change if I did not want to derail my labor.
Common for a baby’s heart rate to drop during contractions, my baby’s was dropping alarmingly low.
The staff attending my birth continued to monitor its rate, as my concerned husband asked how far it dropped each time. I moved from the tub back to the bed in hopes a new position would help baby. Though her heart rate bounced back to normal after every contraction, it continued to drop extremely low each time.
The decision was made for me to receive a nonemergency transfer to the midwifery wing of the birth center’s partnering hospital. They did not believe a big concern existed, but felt it better to be safe and in a setting where interventions were available if needed because her umbilical cord being wrapped around her neck was a possibility.
It is important to note 84 percent of women who plan to start birth at a birth center do end up delivering at that birth center. Out of the 16 percent who are transferred during labor, majority of the time it is due to non-reassuring fetal heart rate (National Birth Center Study).
Upset by the news, Devin assured me I had not failed. Not wanting to disrupt my labor I prepared for the transfer. Dramatically, I transferred by ambulance. In the middle of pushing, the last thing anyone wanted was for me to give birth in a Toyota 4Runner stuck in traffic.
Once on the gurney I covered my eyes with my hands, and continued to recite my positive birth affirmations in my head. I cannot tell you a single thing about the physical characteristics of the paramedics who transported me. I never saw them. Riding alongside me, my midwife and I rode in the ambulance while Charles and Devin followed behind.
Once in my new delivery room I gained a second midwife who worked at the hospital. She coached me on the best way to push, and I finally understood all the other women who said pushing was easy, because it was now.
Soon my daughter began to emerge, her arm wrapped around her neck in a half-nelson choke hold explaining the drop in heart rate with each push.
“Look down at your baby,” the midwife said.
I kept my eyes shut and thought, “No. I’m good.”
“Look down at your baby,” she said again a little more firmly. Once again I ignored her.
At this time my daughter was just about born. “Reach down and pull out your baby!” The midwife commanded.
This time I listened. Looking down, seeing the beautiful cone head that was my daughter, I grabbed ahold of her, and like Kortney Kardashian, with one last push I pulled her out and up into my arms at 10:07am. “It’s over,” I sighed, exhausted, exhilarated.
True as they say, birth really is an experience like any other. All the planning cannot fully prepare you for what you will experience, but planning is crucial.
My ideal birth would have been in the tub back at the birth center. That obviously did not happen.
However, I spent months and months throughout my pregnancy studying relaxation techniques, learning about my body, and understanding my options and rights as a woman in labor.
I give all the credit to this preparation for my ability to remain calm and focused when things took an unexpected, unwelcomed turn.
After it all, I still managed to achieve my number one goal, to birth my daughter without the use of interventions.
I, also, cannot give enough credit and appreciation to Charles and Devin. All in throughout the process, they taught me how crucial it is to have a strong support team alongside of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
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