Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What No One Tells You About Birth... My Version

We picked up an issue of FitPregnancy recently. Inside was an article entitled "What No One Tells You (But You Need to Know) About Birth. I know this is a mainstream magazine, but sheesh.

Three of the tips mentioned epidurals. Five mentioned cesareans. One mentioned broken blood vessels in her face... from all the purple pushing, no doubt. One mentioned how embarrassed they were that they had a small bowel movement while pushing out the baby. Two mentioned episiotomy.

What do I see wrong with this article? Even though I freely admit I am NOT mainstream in any way, shape or form, I used to be. I admit I had a cesarean. I had two epidurals. I had an episiotomy. I learned my lesson after 4 births of hospital protocols. But I still see problems with this article.

No one mentions doulas as an alternative to an epidural. Studies show that the presence of a doula can reduce the number of epidurals AND cesarean sections because Mom gets the constant, caring support she needs.

While I don't particularly feel comfortable performing bodily functions in front of others either, the whole "eww gross" attitude that we actually have bodily functions bothers me to no end. When will we admit that people actually can smell like people instead of flowery deodorant? When will anyone admit that they pass gas at inopportune times, or that baby helped clean out your bowels on the way out? Not our favorite moments in life, it's true... but it happens frequently. In fact, baby can actually pick up important immunities by passing so close... hmmm. Maybe that's why the vagina is located down there so close to the anus and not up by our belly button?

The fact that 1 in 3 women get cesareans today (or more in some hospitals), and another 1/3 get episiotomies even though studies have shown that episiotomies cause more damage than natural tearing is utterly amazing to me. What is wrong with easing the baby out? Your body will push the baby out whether you actively help or not, and taking a break and breathing through a few pushing contractions can actually give your perineum time to stretch around baby's head. Yes, it may be uncomfortable. They don't call it the "ring of fire" for nothing! However, letting your tissues stretch little by little prevents tearing.

The whole "eww factor" that many people seem to have today really gets to me. What will they do when baby has a messy diaper? When baby throws up what looks like more milk than they've eaten in a week? What will they do when their 4 year old throws up macaroni and cheese in the middle of the night? That last one is sure to get inward groans from me and fighting my own gag reflexes, but they can't help it. They didn't do it on purpose to make your life a living hell. Life is messy. If you're going to have children, it is time to get used to it.

Maybe we need childbirth classes that really teach what will happen in labor. Will people listen and understand?

Here is my version of what you should know before going into labor.

1. It will probably hurt. Some women are lucky and don't feel labor pain... whether this is because of reframing their perception of pain, or just sheer luck... I don't know. Either way, wish I had been them! For most of us... it will involve some intense pain. But it is only for a short time out of your entire life. Drugs will cross the placental barrier and your baby will get the drug just like you. Only your baby is much smaller than you, and they are not getting the baby dose.

2. Being active can actually help you cope with pain! It's true! I've done the beached whale syndrome in labor, and I've walked, rocked on a birth ball, leaned on a wall... anything that even remotely sounded good at the time. It helped! While the contractions were still intense in active labor and transition, I knew they were accomplishing something. I told myself every contraction I went through never had to be experienced again. In the midst of transition with its overwhelming feelings, I told myself that millions of women throughout history had done this exact same thing... and so could I. I could feel the baby moving down, so as uncomfortable as I was, I knew what was happening in my labor and could deal with it.

3. Your water may break before labor, during labor, just before baby is born, or it can be broken after baby is born in rare cases. All are normal. Having someone break your waters in early labor puts you on a clock that will lead to more interference with your labor.

4. You can do this! Women are strong! Our bodies are wondrously designed to bring life into the world. This is an amazing super power that women are blessed with!

5. Purple pushing (where you continue to push hard while someone counts to 10... slowly) is not only exhausting for you, but it deprives your baby of oxygen. There are only a very few instances when you want to push this hard, and they all involve situations when your baby is in distress and needs to be born asap. In a normal labor with a healthy mom and baby, exhaling while you push, shorter pushes and pushing only when you feel the urge will let baby be born gently and you will stretch better instead of tearing. By the way, an episiotomy is like cutting a piece of fabric a few inches with the scissors. Try tearing it before making the cut. Pretty hard to do, isn't it? Now snip it and try to tear it again. It tears all the way down. Your perineum is the same way.

6. Once baby slips out, the pain is miraculously gone. Take the time to get lost in your baby's eyes... smell his or her head, still wet with birth goo. This helps your mothering hormones kick into high gear! Don't let society's "eww factor" come into play. Watch your baby... they will begin to lick and lap at your breast. This is an inborn instinct.

7. If breastfeeding hurts, baby is not latched on correctly! Baby needs to open wide and take in as much of the areola as possible. Their tongue needs to be under the nipple and over their bottom gum line. Don't let them clamp down ON the nipple. The nipple should be taken deep into their mouth along the roof of their mouth.

8. Sleep when baby sleeps! Don't take that precious time and clean the house or update your blog. Get as much rest during your babymoon as possible to get you and your baby off to a good start.

I have a zillion more tips... so more later. :) In the meantime, visit our site, for more tips and advice.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Stop the Mothers' Act

Congress is currently considering a bill that would make all women undergo screening for their potential to develop postpartum depression. Sounds good on the face of it, doesn't it? In fact, this bill would require many women to be prescribed antidepressants while pregnant. Babies exposed to antidepressants can be born with health problems, and many of them die soon after birth.

Antidepressants can help a lot of people, its true. They can also harm a lot of people, especially pregnant women and their unborn babies. Some women have adverse reactions to antidepressants. They can cause psychotic behavior and suicidal thoughts... the exact symptoms they are supposed to relieve.

Please write to your congressmen and urge them to vote no on the Mothers' Act. Mamas and babies should not be drugged. Pharmaceuticals cannot replace loving support and caring.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Midwifery Today Conference

I was lucky enough to attend Friday at the Midwifery Today Conference in Eugene, Oregon. Not only did I get to see familiar faces, but I got to meet new people, learn new skills and have a great time.

We had a small meet up of a few members of the Organic Birth group from Facebook. Not too many people showed up, but there was so much to see and do that I can hardly blame anyone for forgetting.

The general session included talks by Jan Tritten, Mickey Sperlich, Elizabeth Davis, Gail Hart and Penny Simkin. I enjoyed them all, but Gail has a way of getting her point across with humor while being able to underscore the importance.

Some tidbits from the General Session:
Jan Tritten: For every year your last baby is breastfed, you get one more year of protection from diabetes.

Elizabeth Davis: There is nothing normal about birth... it is ecstatic, transforming, extraordinary and orgasmic!

Gail Hart: When a newborn baby is skin to skin with Mom, they have a higher blood saturation and a more stable blood sugar. Babies who are separated from Mom or wrapped tightly in blankets do not fare as well.

Penny and Mickey had terrific talks as well, but they were a bit more complex and technical and hard to quote a quick nugget.

After lunch, I went to Kara Spencer's class on Bodywork for the Pelvis. Kara does craniosacral therapy and massage. This was an interesting class where we learned a lot about how to apply this technique as well as use the rebozo and other techniques to help reposition baby and help labor along.

Next was Massage for Labor and Birth with Elaine Stillerman, Kara Spencer, Eneyda Spradlin-Ramos and Naoli Vinaver. This was a terrific class on using acupressure points, massage, the rebozo and all sorts of physical tricks to help a labor along and reposition posterior babies.

I did not attend Dr. Michel Oden't's talk, or the Womb Dancing session. The Tricks of the Trade session was hosted by Gloria Lemay and Gail Hart, two of my favorites. This session was full of laughter, sharing and wonderful tricks to help everything from latching a baby on to emptying a waterbirth pool. It was a joy to be there. Many of the physical tricks we learned were graphically demonstrated... while we all learned much and laughed, I can't help but wonder what the hotel staff thought of all us crazy women. But then, they may be used to it... the conference is held here every other year.

It was a day I won't soon forget. Thank you, Kori, for letting me volunteer so I could get a day at the conference. I look forward to many more in the years to come.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Here's a Chance to Help Yourself and a Family in Need

This is from Carla Hartley, director of Ancient Art Midwifery Institute. She is offering a generous deal on her Introduction to Midwifery Course in order to help out a family facing a medical emergency. If you've thought about learning about midwifery, or maybe you want a refresher, this short course is a terrific option.

From Carla:

One of my daughters in law has a brother who has just been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. He has been in the hospital for three weeks already while they try to figure out what is going on with him. It is a very bleak outlook from what I understand and there is little that is known about his condition or the prognosis. He has a wife and two young children. He lost an eye in a paintball accident a few years ago which devastated them financially and now this. I cannot imagine being in that position with no income and no answers about the future, while bills are piling up. I am so concerned for David and Julie and their kids.

I want to raise money to give to them to try to help so I am designating every cent we get from ITM enrollments over the next two months to a fund for them. Will you help me spread the word about Introduction to Midwifery? It is a great deal at the regular price but for this fundraiser, I am going to let people enroll in this 3 – 6 month program for $199 and that includes a download of Helping Hands. It is a great idea for apprentices or for practicing midwives who want a review of some of the info and study techniques.

Complete the form and email to with fundraiser in the subject line
or mail with check payable to carla hartley to 330 N Prospect Ave Redondo Beach, CA 90277.

Please pass this on to EVERYONE you know who might be interested in this bargain.
Thanks so much.....Carla

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