I have a feeling this is going to be a 20 part series.
There is just so much to say.
I’ve been observing childbirth and studying childbirth for several years now. I have a special benefit in this because I work for a Certified Nurse Midwife as an assistant and I also work as a birth photographer. This allows me to observe homebirth, birth center births and hospital birth with different care providers and intimately get a close up look at what they do, how they do it, why they do it and their general attitudes toward the whole endeavor. It is fascinating. The added bonus being that I can look back and review births that I photograph and I journal all that I assist on. This allows me to study, read up on, and assess my feelings about everything I’ve witnessed.
I want to share ALL of this information with you and everyone else because birth is important. It sets a tone in our early days of motherhood for what kind of mothers we will be and more importantly how we feel about what we’re embarking on. I see so many mothers 2 days after their births empowered, ready to conquer the world and confident in their body and experience. I also see women after their experiences feeling like they failed, they weren’t successful and their body failed. It’s important to feel like you started out this journey empowered.
”Birth isn’t just about making babies, birth is about making mothers, strong, competent, capable mothers who know their inner strength ” – Barbara Katz-Rothman
I believe this quote. It resonates with me. Feeling strong, confident and capable going into motherhood changes how we raise our children, how our children see themselves and how they view us. It changes our society. That’s why this is so important.
This whole series is going to be focused on un-medicated childbirth. In our current medical system, this phenomenon is a challenge and I want to equip women with tools and education to help make that happen. Please don’t think I’m belittling any other kind of birth in the meantime. I’ve seen many women come away from their c-sections strong and happy because they made the decision. I’ve watched women decide for themselves to get epidurals because they hit their goal and they were ready for some pain relief. There’s nothing wrong with either of these things!! What I want to prevent is the women that are taken advantage of by their doctors or hospital staff or homebirth midwife (yes, I’ve seen it all at this point). I want women to decide what their goals are, decide what interventions they want and decide what they are comfortable with, and even more importantly-to find a care provider they can trust to make some of these decisions with.
I want to start with my birth library:
Taking Charge of Your Fertility. This is the vagina owners manual. I recommend it to ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE because you need to know this stuff. This is the beginning of understanding what’s happening to you every month, all month long and all of the info is beneficial to anyone that owns a vagina-regardless of trying to get pregnant or not. I keep 4+ copies around just so I can loan them out to my friends. The best part about it is how easy it reads-it reminds me of reading a blog. I anticipated a medical textbook style when I bought it and was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining and information it was. I plan on giving this book to my girls when they turn 14ish-it’s that important to me that they have an understanding of their bodies!
The Birth Partner. I love this book because I feel like I can recommend this to absolutely everyone, regardless of where they want to deliver, how they want to deliver or with whom they want to deliver. I also love that it incorporates their partners. I’m going to be dedicated an entire segment of this series to the importance of having you partner on board and this book covers that like no other. It discusses labor postitions, coping mechanisms, the roles of doulas and partners, interventions and everything in between. I love it and can’t recommend it enough.
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I’m kind of in love with Ina May Gaskin. Many midwives and birth junkies are. After the birth of my first baby I decided that all the “hypno-birthing-labor-doesn’t-hurt-if-you-don’t-acknowledge-the-pain-crap” was CRAP and I wanted someone to acknowledge the pain and tell me how to get through it. That’s when I became acquainted with Ina May. Just because contractions hurt doesn’t mean we can’t have a good time. I liked that attitude and it’s what got me through my delivery with my second. Having now worked in birth I can testify that this attitude works for many women and reading all of Ina May’s birth stories and direction sure helps foster that attitude. It’s a fun read and so down to earth.
Childbirth Without Fear. This was the very first book I ever ready about natural childbirth. I checked it out from our public library while I was pregnant with my first baby. I wanted to read it because at the time I was very, very pro-hospital birth and only hospital birth and amongst a slew of birthing books it was the only one that was hospital friendly. Dr. Grantly Dick-Read made some very important observations during his time helping women deliver and he noticed that those who were not fearful had the least amount of pain. Can I just say amen to this statement!? This book is the beginning book for many birth professionals and I very much recommend it to anyone as they’re starting this journey into the world of birth. His writings have been valuable to so many of those that have come after him in helping support women in their goal of having an unmedicated and pleasant labor and delivery.
There are a few others I love and so many more on the topic, but if you’ve only got time to read a few, these would be the ones I would recommend.
MORE: MY BIRTH DISCLAIMER
After reading these books I found my birth philosophy. I decided what kind of birth I ideally wanted, I felt more sure about what I was and was not comfortable with and I was able to council with my care provider about all of these things. I would recommend reaching this point before wading out into the internet. Nothing is scarier than webMD, everyone else’s birth horror stories and blogs dedicated to proving that homebirth will kill you. I would very much recommend choosing how you want to do things and then filling your pregnant mind with positive images of that very thing. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be aware about the inherent risks of everything, but pregnancy in it of itself is a risk and do we really need to dwell on that when we’re pregnant?
The next thing I would recommend is pretty much every pin I have on my birth board on pinterest. I have found endless sources of information, entertainment and help looking at blogs, reading stories and studying medical journals.
A few of my favorite blogs:
BirthWithoutFear. I love this blog. January Harshe and her team puts a lot of effort into featuring the birth stories, informational posts and infographics that are well-rounded and apply to all mothers no matter how, where, or with whom they deliver. Their goal is to support and inform all women and celebrate pregnancy and childbirth. I love following her on both her blog and instagram.
Pregnant Chicken. This blog will make you laugh until you pee your pregnant pants. I needed this while I was pregnant. Amy Morrison and her team do a very good job of entertaining and informing women through their pregnancies and births. She says: “When I started this site back in 2010 it was just me – haggard and stumbling out of the newborn trenches with a Scarlet O’Hara fist shake “as God a my witness, I will help pregnant women and new parents navigate this!!” Go check it out, she’s amazing.
Scary Mommy (not really just for pregnancy, but for all motherhood) If you haven’t heard of Scary Mommy yet, it’s time you did. It’s another entertaining blog that will help you through not only your pregnancy and delivery, but keep you laughing through motherhood as well. It’s necessary. It will help keep you sane. It keeps me feeling like I’m not the only one in this madness that is parenting and motherhood.
Momastery: This woman is amazing. I read one of her posts and cried SO HARD because I was laughing so hard and wow, I just needed it. I went on to read her book Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life and I just can’t recommend it enough to all mothers.
Cass Miller has many amazing posts about birth, pregnancy and nursing as well. She helps ground me and find the joy in motherhood. She has shared all of her birth stories and posts tips about nursing, birthing, and mothering. She is also a birth photographer and doula so I think we’re soul sisters.
And these are just a snippet of a few favorites. For me, finding a village of support helped me embark and navigate my way through both of my births. Being informed was my number one priority and it’s where I tell everyone to start. I think you need to know. The women that have bad experiences are often the ones that know the least. I’ll give you an example of two births I’ve seen, both low risk and both in hospital with obstetricians:
Woman A chose a care provider that was recommended by a friend. She spent every visit seeing him or his NP for 5 minutes-long enough for them to listen with a doppler and measure her belly. She never put together any sort of birth plan because she figured the doctor would take care of it. She wasn’t really into reading, so she didn’t do more than scan through a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting she received 7 months in at her baby shower. She went through all the testing, poking and prodding that they required. When she went into labor they admitted her to the hospital at a 4. She wasn’t progressing to adequacy so they put her on pitocin. The pitocin was killing her so she got an epidural. The epidural only worked on one side so she was switching sides back and forth in pain. They decided to break her water and place a monitor in the baby’s scalp-something she had never heard of before and was very surprised and worried about. Finally when it came time to push she was still in pain and worried that she was going to tear. 5 minutes before her baby was born her doctor arrived. She asked about the tearing and he explained that every first time mom tears. He sat there doing nothing and she delivered quickly and in pain, needing stitches quickly after. Her baby was held by the doctor for 1 minute, the cord was cut and the baby was taken to a warmer to be assessed after briefly showing him to mama-arms and legs flailing as they flew him through the room (this is such a pet peeve of mine). Her mom rushed over to take pictures of the baby at the warmer so she could go back and show the new mom what her baby looked like. After 10 minutes of assessment, and 10 stitches for the mom, the 2 were re-united, baby all wrapped up, covered in bracelets & stickers and diapered. After a trial to get the baby to latch, a young nurse showed up and asked for another set of vitals-breaking the latch because the baby was upset by the cold stethoscope. Mom had a difficult recovery because of her stitches and nursing was difficult after everything she had just went through. This woman walked away sore, confused and happy to have a healthy baby.
Woman B interviewed care providers and found one that she liked. She saw him for short visits, but brought a list of questions with her each time and wouldn’t let him leave until he’d answered them. (You pay A LOT for prenatal care-they should have time for you). She loosely put together a birth plan, allowing for variations when needed. She read, studied and put together a birth philosophy and spoke with her care provider and her spouse about it at length. She hired a doula. She also went into labor and was admitted at a 4. She used different birthing positions recommended by her reading and her doula to help labor progress and stayed upright as much as possible in early labor to help with dilation. She refused dilation checks and continual monitoring (like she had discussed with her care provider), and opted for a hep-lock instead of an IV so that she could stay mobile. At an 8 they asked to break her water and she decided to wait an extra hour before allowing them to. Her nurses and doula provided warm compress and oil while she was pushing to prevent tearing. Her doctor arrived 5 minutes before and she delivered squatting with a small tear that didn’t need stitches. Her baby was passed directly to her and she held him on her chest while they assessed him. The cord was cut after it stopped pulsing. They did take her baby for more assessments, and her husband carried him there and back returning him still naked for skin-to-skin and nursing (per her request). She turned the nurse away for the second set of vitals because the baby had just latched. She recovered quickly and walked to the bathroom soon after deliver all by herself.
Woman A had a lot of things happen to her and Woman B made a lot of decisions for herself (or had an informed spouse or doula to). I want everyone to be Woman B. I want you making your own decisions-this doesn’t mean starting fights, this means discussing options and knowing what those options are going into it. A big part of that is hiring a care provider that you fully trust-someone that knows and supports your birth philosophy, hiring a doula, getting your spouse on board, and preparing yourself physically and mentally for birth. This week I want to talk about all of those things, one at a time and how much they can help you.
It’s birth week here at adayinapril. It may turn into birth month with all the posts I have rolling around in my head…we’ll see!
Have anything to add to this post? What was your favorite book or blog you read while pregnant? Comment below!