I loved bringing you into this world

About two months ago, we welcomed our second child (our first son!) into the world. With all the negative stories you hear about childbirth, I think it’s really important to tell people it’s not always like that: It doesn’t have to be a negative experience.

katelynne eidI genuinely think both my birthing experiences have been really amazing.

After having a natural birthing experience with my daughter, I knew as soon as we found out we were expecting again that I wanted something similar. Except this time, I really wanted to avoid being in a hospital setting.

There is a stand-alone birth center within a hospital not far from us. For me and my husband, this offered us the best of both worlds. While not completely comfortable with a home birth, we wanted our son’s birth experience to be as similar to a home birth as possible. Yet — God forbid anything were to go wrong — we were just down the hall from the labor and delivery unit at the hospital.

Editor’s note: Attachment Parenting International does not take a stance on childbirth settings or health care providers, but rather encourages parents to research their options in order to make informed decisions regarding the birth of their baby. Learn more about API’s First Principle of Parenting: Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting.

I think one of the most important aspects in planning a birth is making sure you have a provider who not only agrees to your birth plan but understands it. Instead of having to explain why keeping it as natural as possible was so important to us, we had a provider who inherently felt the same way we did. All we had to do was wait for our little man to arrive.

I had contractions irregularly for the last couple of months of my pregnancy, so we were surprised when my due date came and went. One Day 13, with no sign of labor starting on its own, my husband and I headed to the hospital for an induction. My midwife was committed to keeping the medical intervention as limited as possible and assured us that as soon as labor kicked in, we could move over to the birth center and continue as we saw fit.

At 9:00 a.m., my midwife broke my water. We fully expected this to tip my body into labor. My husband and I started doing laps around the unit to encourage contractions. We walked A LOT! Over the next seven hours, we must have lapped the unit 100 times to no avail.  This little man was comfy in there and wasn’t ready to meet us yet.

By 4:00 pm, my midwife sat down to discuss what we wanted to do. Throughout the entire experience, she was extremely knowledgeable and willing to offer her opinion, but she always left the decisions up to my husband and me, never pressuring us to go one way or the other.

She told us that most women were in active labor within 48 hours of their water breaking and that I could continue waiting. Throughout my entire pregnancy and birthing experience, I felt strongly that I should trust myself and my body. I knew my body could do this, but at the same time, I felt that my labor wasn’t going to happen on its own in that time frame. I knew that if I waited, I would most likely need additional intervention anyway.

We decided to try Cervadil, a gel that is placed on your cervix to stimulate contractions. The plan was to leave it in for two hours, after which I would hopefully be in active labor, and could go over to the birth center and get in the tub. Within 15 minutes of it being put in, I went from having almost no contractions to full-blown, active labor.

The problem with this method is that because it unnaturally stimulates your contractions, there is no break in between them, and because of the need to monitor the baby, I had to be lying down in bed. Laying down, for me at least, is the worst possible position to handle a contraction. My husband, being the awesome birth coach that he is, kept me covered in cool washcloths and reminded me that I was strong enough to do this and that our son was almost here.

There is a point in every labor where you doubt yourself. With my first birth, it came in the last few hours before I was ready to push. The intensity can get the best of you, and even though I was committed to having a natural birth, I at least understood why people choose otherwise. It’s in those moments that my husband becomes my biggest hero. He never wavered in his encouragement, reminding me that I was strong enough to do this and that our child was almost in my arms.

This time around, I thought I was prepared for that moment. I knew it would come, but I also knew it signaled that my body was in the final stage of bringing this child to me. I was not expecting it to happen 45 minutes into labor. My husband again became the voice of sanity, reminding me to keep breathing and stay focused.

Truly feeling each contraction, feeling your baby move toward birth, gives me a true sense of what a life-changing experience this is.

Seeing the surprising progress that had been made in less than an hour, we decided to remove the Cervadil and prepared to move over to the birth center. My midwife ran ahead to get the tub filled as my husband and the nurse helped me get up and into the wheelchair. There would be no walking at this point.

As soon as I stepped into the warm tub, my body immediately relaxed. I felt comfortable and knew that our son would enter the world the way we wanted.

A few contractions later and our son entered the world. He let out a quick scream to mark his arrival and then snuggled in on top of me. I have heard stories about babies who don’t cry when they are born since the environment is so calm but part of me was always suspect. We are constantly associating a screaming baby with a sign of a healthy baby, so when our son wasn’t screaming, we had to remind ourselves that it was okay: He was content and knew he was exactly where he was supposed to be.

As I nuzzled our son, my husband helped me out of the tub and the three of us snuggled into bed to get to know each other. Then we introduced our daughter to her new little brother. Watching her face light up when she realized the little baby who was in Mommy’s belly was finally here was a priceless moment.

Going so far passed my due date, being induced, having a two-hour labor — these were all things that I had not planned for. However, none of them caused me to have a negative experience. We may have had to go with the flow a little more than expected, but the experience was amazing.

Instead of saying, “I love you in spite of the labor you put me through,” I can tell my son: “I love you, and I loved bringing you into this world.”

A Home Birthing Story

I’m pretty sure it never occurred to me I’d ever give birth at home. The first time around, I headed straight to the hospital, hooked up to the epidural, pushed her out and breathed a sigh of relief.

After researching homebirth extensively while co-writing my book, my perspective on birthing began to shift. Birthing was not a medical event in most situations, I realized. It was a life cycle event that belonged to the realm of the family, and it could be meaningful and loving and powerful.

Eight days ago, I gave birth to my second child at home in my bedroom. My three-year-old was watching raptly, making me laugh, bringing me presents and playing with the midwife’s birthing stool. My husband and two midwives rounded out my team of supporters, helping me to move through resistance and bring a beautiful new soul into the world.

homebirth baby

When my midwives came by the day after the birth to check on us, one remarked that my labor was a million births in one. What did she mean by that, I asked, having only been present at two myself. It had its boring parts, she said, like when she showed up and I was laboring in the tub. It had its intense parts, like when we were all shouting “yes!” in unison as I was pushing the baby out. It had its restful parts, like when I fell asleep between contractions during transition. It had its calm parts and its fearful parts and its dramatic parts–like when the baby’s head was out and he began kicking his body visibly inside me, trying to work his way out, something my midwife had never seen in her 35 years of practice. It had its funny parts, like when I initiated a round of laughter yoga and my midwife joined in. It had its romantic parts, like when I asked my husband to kiss me as I pushed the baby out.

For me, though, the birth came down to a tremendous physical and psychological challenge–overcoming my fear of the intense sensations I was feeling and finding my way through them using tools that shifted with each contraction. One contraction could be mitigated through rhythmic breathing, another through back massage, another through hugging my husband tightly. I was afraid, not of what could happen to me, but of what was happening to me, of why I was unable to mitigate the sensation through relaxation as I have been able to in yoga. My midwife wisely explained to me that my goal wasn’t to relax my uterus, which actually needed to be clenching and tightening in order to push that baby out.

When I finally pushed and then pulled my baby out and held him on my chest, I felt a huge sense of relief, as if I’d conquered a physical challenge akin to a marathon or massive mountain climb. I felt humbled by the experience yet elated by the magnitude of what I’d achieved.

Everything about birthing in my home environment was perfect: being available to my 3-year-old, even nursing her back to sleep while I was in active labor; having free range of my house, including bed and bathtub; having access to my clothing, blankets, pillows and food; being surrounded by skilled caretakers who followed my lead and contributed helpful suggestions when needed; and not needing to go anywhere when it was over.

My birth experience was challenging, it was exhilarating, and it was memorable. I’m glad that I had the courage to stick with it while living a society which has been trained to think of birth as a medical event fraught with danger. I’ve added birthing to my personal list of mothering experiences that I’ve been able to reclaim as my own.

Choosing Midwifery Care

Long before I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to have midwifery care. It was the first decision I made in preparation for pregnancy and birth. Now, looking back as the mother of a 5 1/2-year-old and a 2-year-old, I’m glad that I made that decision. I’ve had two midwife-attended births, and I would choose to have another if I became pregnant again.

I made the choice to seek midwifery care for a few reasons. I wanted to get to know my health care provider, and choosing a midwife team allowed that. My midwives worked in pairs, and I became well-acquainted with both of them through prenatal visits. When I gave birth, it was with someone I knew and trusted. I had a goal of giving birth without medications, and with few or no interventions, and my midwives supported that. And I wanted to be involved in my own care. My midwives’ policy of informed consent, coupled with their hour-long prenatal appointments, ensured that I was able to make my voice heard.

More conclusive results

When I wanted to know more about routine newborn procedures, my midwives took the time to answer my questions, and help me make the decision that was best for me. When I decided to forgo certain tests, and request others, they worked with me. I felt that I was part of a team, working together to ensure not only that my baby and I were healthy, but that we were really cared for.

Where I live, midwives are licensed and regulated. They are covered under our public health care system, in the same way that doctors are. They attend home births or hospital births, and offer follow-up visits at your home in the days after birth. I realize that this is not the case for everyone, and that different medical systems may lead to different choices. But I feel fortunate that my midwifery care was covered in the same way that any other prenatal care would have been covered. I was free to choose my care provider based on what was best for me.

Looking pregnant at 24 weeks

Sometimes, complications arise that require midwives to refer their clients to an obstetrician. This happened during my first birth, when I went into labor at 34 weeks. But even in that high-risk situation, my midwives stayed with me as I gave birth, and provided follow-up care after my baby was born. They referred me, and I had an obstetrician, but they didn’t leave me. It meant so much to have them there to help me and advocate for me as I faced a very medicalized birth situation.

I am not sure where life will lead my children. But I know that they both got their starts with the help of some amazing midwives. I am so thankful to those women who stood with me, and guided me through my entry into motherhood.

Have you used midwifery care? Is it an option where you live? And what is important to you when you’re choosing a care provider for pregnancy and birth? I’d love to hear!

What Makes for a Positive Birth Experience?

My two children were both born in midwife-attended hospital births. I opted against using epidural anesthesia for a number of reasons. But the biggest factor, for me, was that with excellent support and relatively short labors I found the discomfort manageable. I trusted my husband and the midwives who were there with me. Looking back, I feel quite satisfied with my birth experiences.

Recently, a study was released comparing several indicators of childbirth in Canada. One of the findings showed that my home province of British Columbia has one of the lowest epidural rates in the country, at just 30% of vaginal births. There were varying reactions to this statistic. Some people suggested it indicates a shortage of anesthesiologists, and others were concerned that women who requested epidurals were being denied. The truth is, we don’t really know. Epidural rates vary for many reasons, including local economic and education levels.

Smiling between contractions
Smiling in between contractions during my second birth

In the absence of a clear reason, it can be tempting to conjecture. I have my own ideas as to what might be up, too. But I really think that is beside the point. What is most interesting to me is not how many women opt for epidurals – it’s how women feel about their birth experience.

One study reviewed of 137 factors affecting women’s satisfaction with childbirth, and 4 stood out: personal expectations, the amount of support from caregivers, the quality of the caregiver-patient relationship and involvement in decision making. These factors overrode age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, childbirth preparation, the physical birth environment, pain, immobility, medical interventions and continuity of care. It seems most mothers are more concerned with having people around us who we like, who involve us in decisions, honor our preferences and support us through the process than the epidural rate, specifically.

Baby Jacob
The first photo of baby Jacob, approximately 30 minutes later

One of the principles of Attachment Parenting International is “Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting.” This includes exploring different types of healthcare providers and birthing options, including natural birth and home birth. It includes being alert and physically active during birth, and trusting in your body’s ability to birth. It includes being involved in decisions surrounding birth, and possibly hiring a birth doula. All of these recommendations can help to ensure that we can make informed decisions, and find the support that we need to honor those decisions.

We can’t really say exactly how any birth will go. But if we take the time to prepare ourselves, and find good support, we can maximize our chances of having a positive birth experience, while still ensuring that both mother and baby are safe and healthy.

What do you think makes for a positive birth experience? Please share!

You can read more about Amber’s daily adventures with the two children she birthed on her blog at Strocel.com.

Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting Blog Carnival – 2010

Welcome to the first of the 2010 Attachment Parenting International Blog Carnivals. Today’s carnival focuses on the 1st Principle of Parenting – Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting.

Here is an excerpt from the 1st Principle:

The remarkable journey of new life is a positive, transformative experience. Pregnancy offers expectant parents an opportunity to prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally for parenthood. Making informed decisions about childbirth, newborn care, and parenting practices is a critical investment in the attachment relationship between parent and child. Education is a key component of preparation for the difficult decisions required of parents and is an ongoing process as each stage of growth and development brings new joys and challenges.

We received several submissions for our first carnival. Below is an excerpt from each contributor as well as a link to read the post in its entirety. If you didn’t get a chance to participate this month, join us next month as we celebrate API’s 2nd Principle of Parenting – Feed with Love and Respect. The submission deadline is March 12. Click to find out more about participating in on of API’s monthly parenting blog carnivals.

Without further ado, here’s how other attachment parenting families have Prepared for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting. Please note that these links will open in a new window.
Continue reading “Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting Blog Carnival – 2010”