Archive for the ‘hospital birth’ Category

Blog Carnival – Grateful for Birth Experiences Due 11/23

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

I invite you to participate in Preparing For Birth’s upcoming Blog Carnival set to appear on Thanksgiving morning.

Topic: “Why I am grateful for my birth experiences.” This is your point of view. I encourage you to be open about expectations, what it was really like and how it impacted you as a woman, mother, etc.

When Due: Entries need to be received by November 23, 2010 to email desirre@prepforbirth.com

What to include: Blog copy and link to your blog along with name, website, and contact information for attribution.

I look forward to hearing from many of you.

What’s a doula to do?

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

There is such a deep chasm and fracture within the doula community regarding in-hospital and out-of-hospital birth. On the one hand there are those who say anything goes in supporting women and their choices. On the other, there are those who say no doula should support a woman in the hospital environment because it is a “bad and dangerous” place to birth,  or at the very least should get kicked out if she is doing her job “right”.

Who is right? This is where it gets tricky to be sure.

With upwards of 98% of the birthing women going to the hospital in the United States, are WE really within the general doula scope of practice by taking such a hard stance of ignoring those women in need? Who is benefiting here? It is well known, that I am all for a doula deciding her practice style, what scenarios she is best suited to support within, and knowing who she is best able to support.  But to abjectly say, no doula should ever support a woman in a hospital birth, is to me akin to very interventive practitioners who believe that birth is inherently dangerous and a trauma waiting to happen. Thus, viewing every women and baby through high-risk lenses and subjecting them to high-risk protocols where there is no medical need encourages more intervention and higher-risk scenarios to actually occur.

Who does this serve taking such a hard line? Perhaps those speaking it, thinking they are pressing for the greater good. Definitely not the mothers who need the support and assistance navigating a sometimes difficult and stressful system. The mothers and babies are caught then between a rock and a hard place. Then they are effectively forced to go without support and help. The truth is women having hospital births NEED DOULA SUPPORT MORE than women choosing an out-of-hospital option.

Bottom line: I make no claim that it is an easy task to doula within the hospital environment. It is not. It can be brutal. Imagine for a moment, really, close your eyes and think of what happens, what you witness as a doula when you are there — then think of all the women who have no doula present — what happens to them? What do those women experience? What do those babies experience? Now, open your eyes and breathe for a moment. It is not pretty is it?

Right there is what keeps me taking hospital birthing clients. It requires very open communication and immense work prior to labor during prenatals running through scenarios, detailing needs and desires, making certain informed consent and refusal is understood for a variety of procedures, medications, and cesarean. A mother needs to be well-versed in how to use her self-advocacy voice as does her husband, partner or other main support person.

Looking at the flip-side now.

So the other ideal, er rather idea, is that a doula should support anyone and anything because she is a doula poses other issues in my mind.  I do not see anywhere in the job description that this is what a doula ought do.  Any one doula cannot be the right doula for every mother or scenario. This way of thinking can fall into  a cookie-cutter way of practicing, thinking one can be all to everyone. Doulas are people too. Each has individual abilities, biases that need to be addressed, history and points of view.

I think it has been mistaken that a good doula is one that has no say in how she practices or who she is best to serve.  I believe there is a doula for every type of scenario and mother. It is a very individual pursuit and fit.

I know some amazing niche doulas out there who support only high-risk mothers, multiples, same-sex couples, in-hospital birthers, planned cesareans….. The list could go on.

Honestly, I will say there are some amazing doulas who can work under this very open practice style effortlessly and with excellence.  I applaud those doulas, though I think that is the minority and most are not able to keep it up without finding a comfort zone long haul.

Childbirth is such a deeply intimate and intense process with so many variables, being the right fit all the way around is necessary in my humble opinion.  I have seen doulas deeply wounded and traumatized by what happens in the birth room. Sometimes that is unavoidable, but through years of interaction with many doulas, the running thread is that the doula had misgivings even during the interview that this was probably not a good fit but chose not to refer the mother out to someone she knew was better suited for whatever the reason.

Are women and babies really being served best under this model of practice? This is for you to go ahead and answer for yourself.

Bottom Line: Women and babies need individual care whether from a doula, nurse, or care provider. Can a doula be all things to all mothers? Some, I am sure. Overall I believe not. For the health of a doula and the health of her ability to practice and support well, finding the “comfort zone” can make the difference for the mother, baby and doula. Why? Because doula work is such an intense giving of oneself (emotionally, physically, even spiritually). A continual self-assessment needs to be done just where her true and honest “comfort zone” is. By doing this, a doula is caring not only for herself by avoiding burnout, but also for her future clients and her ability to care for others with excellence and utmost professionalism.

That Pesky Due Date

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Women and babies are not made with a pop out button like some Thanksgiving turkeys indicating being done. That pesky due date becomes such great topic of debate. It can lead to unnecessary interventions (such as induction, provider change because of regulations or cesarean), emotional unease (I am broken, this baby is never coming, I am LATE one minute past 40 weeks), physical distress by way of decreased pregnancy change tolerance, and mess with a woman’s work schedule (when to start maternity leave or return to work date).

Prior to home pregnancy tests and ultrasound dating, the due date was much more of a due month. Now it seems everyone has bought into this mysterious due date being something very hard fact and unfailing.

Henci Goer wrote a tremendously helpful article called “When is that baby due? ” several years back that sheds light on this very issue. She states: “When it comes to determining your due date, “things,” as the Gilbert and Sullivan ditty goes, “are seldom what they seem.” The methods of calculation are far from exact, common assumptions about the average length of pregnancy are wrong and calling it a “due date” is misleading. Understanding these uncertainties may help to curb your natural impatience to know exactly when labor will begin.”

The most common way women are finding out the due date of their baby is by using an online calculator such as this:

However, this even from the federal website does not take into consideration ovulation, only length of cycle (which is an improvement over straight up LMP dating).

So how do women handle this notion of a due date? I asked the question and here are some responses.

  • KZ –    “Last time, I told everyone my due date, and when E had other plans, I got the, “Have you had that baby, YET?? How long are they gonna make you go?” *cringe* This time, I’m wising up and saying Spring. That’s it. Spring.”
  • SL – “I used a “due season”. I told my three year old that the leaves would change on the tree and we would probably have Thanksgiving dinner and she would be here sometime after that. :)”
  • KMC-M -“I love the Ish… december-ish”
  • CLM -“I always give very generic answers to avoid the annoying “aren’t you due yet???” comments. I’ve also written on Christmas cards … “baby #3, due Spring 20??”. Once I was due at the very end of July. My well meaning neighbor was asking … “are you STILL pregnant?” on July 4th. Ugh.”
  • LE – “Whenever someone asked my due date I always said, “he’ll come when he’s ready” or “when God decides he’s ready”
  • SC – “Mid to late month was the closest I’d get.”

Seems these particular women either have previously gotten bitten by the pesky due date or learned in the first pregnancy not to put too much stock in an arbitrarily determined date. I say good for them!

As a midwife assistant, I now participate in the baby assessments. Some of these post birth assessments gestationally date baby. Often the dates are different than the due date assumption. Some earlier and some later.  This happens even with women who knew exactly when the last menstrual period, ovulation, and conception occurred along with cycle length.

Only the baby (and God according to my belief) knows the due date aka when he or she will press start.

Early is not one day prior to 40 weeks EDD just as late is not 40 weeks and 1 day over EDD. Full term pregnancy is defined as 37 weeks-42 weeks gestation.

I think it is high time “we” layoff pressuring mamas and their babies. “We” must stop trying to evict them earlier than they desire without a true medical reason. One day to any adult is nothing, but even a day to an unborn baby coming earthside can mean the difference between alive and thriving.

What Does Pushing Feel Like? Many perspectives.

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Women often ask me what does pushing feel like. As an educator and doula it is probably one of the more challenging concepts to address.

Some of the imagery can be quite vulgar.  “Push like you are pooping.” Do women REALLY want the image of pooping out their babies?! Or the imagery puts pushing in a neat box. “The urge will overwhelm you and you cannot help it.” “You will just know.” Those do not adequately speak to what can occur. Some women get no urge to bear down until the baby is very low and engages the nerves. Others will have the urge when baby is high and dilation isn’t complete. Still other women do not get an intense urge at all regardless of pain management or natural birth.

For that matter, great rectal pressure may be felt, intensely abdominal use, incredible pelvic pressure may be experienced,  or frankly not much at all can be felt.

I believe whatever a woman’s body does is right for her birth and her baby.

Below are many quotes that others openly offered to help women everywhere have a deeper understanding of what pushing is like.

Quotes from real women

“My babies #1-4 practically fell out. #5 I was in what looked like early labor for 4 days. Midwife assistant came over, checked me, I was at 7 cm but ‘not in active labor’. I got into it quickly! Long story short I pushed, painfully, for 3.5 hours, baby had 11″ cord with a true knot. She needed to be pinked up but is almost 3 and is doing well.”

“When I was coached to push (w/ no 3..first natural birth) I was in agony. When I was left alone and did not push (w/ no 4), life was good.”

“I feel like if I can just get to the pushing phase, it will be a breeze from there.” (and it was. The whole “surrender/dilate” phase is much more challenging to me than the whole “take control/pushing” phase.)”

“Pushing was fantastic with my 2nd baby and awful with my 3rd! It was really surprising because after my 2nd birth I thought “Okay so pushing is the really fun and satisfying part! That’s when it gets EASY.” Then my third birth totally shocked me. Pushing was the most painful and difficult part of the birth. I had stayed so calm and collected… until then. Every pregnancy and birth is so different!”

“I love the way it feels to have a baby move through me and into my waiting hands.”

“The mirror really gave me focus and helped me push very effectively when I inspired by seeing a peek of baby head.”

“I *loved* pushing. I didn’t do it for very long (two contractions), but it was so great to finally get there. I was told to purple push (not in those terms – the nurse told me to hold my breath), and intellectually I knew I shouldn’t, but I tried it and it really did feel like I was more productive that way. I felt like a warrior. It was awesome.”

“Before anyone hates me for only pushing through two contractions, you should know that I’d been in labor for three days – so it all comes out in the wash ;-)”

“Pushing with my 2nd was horrible. 3+ hours of the worst pain I had experienced at that point in my life. Turns out her little fist was up by her cheek (um ouch) and her head did not mold much. My 3rd I did not push because she was precipitous and we were trying to get to the hospital. I felt like all the energy in the world was gathering and swirling at my fundus and then suddenly flowed through me carrying her with it. It was the best physical experience of my life.”

“I have heard some say that pushing feels good.. um, I personally have not experienced that and I have had clients remark the same … :p”

“Hmm…Definitely the best part of labor and delivery. For me though – never had any “urge” to push but still had baby out in 20 mins…I think I was feeling determined being a VBAC mom…still, would have been easier if I felt the need to and not just contractions. “

“Heard lots of clients say it feels good after hours of labor”

“Difficult. I had an urge to push “early” every time. Once I got to the “ring of fire” it was awesome though.  I knew I almost was there.”

“Ahhh, I’m not so fond of the pushing. Did it for 2 1/2 hours with my daughter (LOA) and though it was only about 20 minutes with my boys, they were both OP. That was, shall we say, unpleasant. I cannot relate to those who’ve told me it was such a relief!”

“My labor was surprisingly short, only 6 hours and she’s my first baby so far. I woke up in active labor and at 4 cm and I wanted to push THE WHOLE TIME! It was horrible having the nurse say I couldn’t push yet when I wanted to so badly, but once I did get to push, oh my goodness, it felt incredible. So much control and power, it felt so good to finally work to end. 3 big pushes and there she was. :)”

“Sheer, immeasurable power. Unbelievable!”

“Babies actually come out of your butt. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” One of my clients recently said that. :)”

“Birth is shockingly rectal” – Gretchen Humphries. She was totally right.”

“Pushing with my first felt like I was satisfying an urge, an uncontrollable urge. It felt almost desperate I couldn’t stop it. (kinda like having that rectal urge when you REALLY have to poop). Pushing with my second was no big deal, I followed my urges again and pushed 3x and out she came in her 10# glory. It was extremely satisfying and powerful I felt like I had just finished exercising. Amazing!”

“The ring of fire OH MY it is indeed! Though as soon as the burn started the whole are went numb almost like too hot or too cold numb and the power of the urge to push my son out was almost beyond description.  Pushing was never easy for me as I have an unusual pelvic shape.  But my last son WOW no molding and quite a large head to birth him was incredible really.  No tearing, just some abrasion.  Recovery was a snap.”

“I had at the point of delivery what was the best orgasm of my life!”

“Pushing was totally primal.  I had an incredible urge and it took over.”

“The pressure of the baby entering deep into my pelvis and vagina was wild and almost overwhelming.”

“Feeling my baby when he was partially inside and partially outside of my body was a euphoric and surreal moment. The hour of pushing was well worth it.”

Bottom line – you and your baby are unique. You work together during all parts of labor including pushing through to delivery. Be confident. Use your intuition. Follow what your body desires to do.

Questions and Answers

  1. I have had a previous episiotomy, do I need another one automatically? No you don’t.  Depending on how your scar has set and the position you push in the scar can re-open or it adhesions in the scar will need to be broken up.  I would suggest perineal massage prenatally if there are any adhesions to break them up and soften the area prior and to choose a pushing position that doesn’t put all the tension on that exact area.
  2. Is is wrong to push when I am not fully dilated? Not necessarily.  Now I think grunty smaller pushes with those contractions can be effective to complete dilation if you are in transition.  Prior to that change the position you are laboring in to change where baby is placing pressure.  Knee chest can be very effective to abate very early pushing desire.
  3. What if I poop during pushing? Some women will pass some stool and some won’t.  An open bottom is vital to pushing, so it is a normal but not always occurence.  A fantastic nurse, MW or doc will not actually wipe it away but simply cover as to not cause constriction of the sphincter muscles which can disturb the pushing progress. If it is possible to discard the stool without disrupting you, it will be done very quietly, quickly and discreetly.
  4. I am very modest, do I have to have all my “glory” showing? Absolutely not.  You can maintain good modesty all the way up to delivery.  Even then you do not need to be fully exposed.  Truthfully a home birth or birth center birth with a midwife if likely going to help you have your modesty concerns respected and honored. Really no one needs to put hands in you during pushing, needs to stretch anything, or needs to see everything either.  A midwife is trained to see by taking a quick peek or simply to know when she needs to have hands ready to receive baby and to offer external positive pressure if mom wants.
  5. Is there a “right” position to push in? There IS a right position for you, your baby and your pelvis. The only way to know is to try a variety of positions, pushing spontaneously and listening to your body.  Generally the lithotomy or semi-reclined position disallows the tail bone to move up and out to create more space. Side-lying, squatting, leaning in a mild squat, hands and knees, hands and knees with a lunge, and even McRoberts can be excellent to open a pelvis to a large degree. Pay attention and go for what feels right.

A woman’s voice birthed into fullness

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

This is a personal post written 10 years to the day of my third son being born. I was also birthed that day into my fullness of voice as a woman and as a full throated advocate for mothers and babies.  You see my son was a CBAC (cesarean birth after cesarean) after a failed natural VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).

I had a VBAC with my second son, though by other peoples standards might not be said to be wonderful because at the very end of a totally natural, spontaneous labor after arriving at the hospital at 9cm’s with waters having broken on the way in the car,  forceps were used by an impatient on call doc after merely an hour of pushing. I was thrilled though it was ultimately less than ideal with a baby overnight in the NICU. I was not broken. An impatient doc who gave me an awful episiotomy could not take it away from me. But I digress. We can talk heinous episiotomy at another time.

Of course when I became pregnant with my third some 14 months later I assumed of course I would have another VBAC this time with no forceps. Of course I didn’t have to think about another cesarean I already disproved the need. There is a piece  of information that I was missing though………

My pregnancy goes well. I am terrifically healthy though more fluffy than I should have been. You see  my dear husband was laid off during pregnancy and well, I clearly didn’t exercise and eat properly the second half of the pregnancy.  A very dear friend and her children were flying in from out of state near my due date.  She arrived and I was contracting already. I must have been waiting for her to arrive to round out the support team.  She has clinical skills so I ask her to check me and allow her to sweep my membranes (okay stop groaning at me I was already in the beginnings of early labor). I was a few centimeters dilated and well effaced. She wasn’t sure of baby position though.

The membrane sweeping helped move labor along. I was 5 centimeters before very much time once contractions became nicely regular. My husband had gotten a job two weeks prior and was scheduled for work so off he went though I knew I would be calling him before too long. Sure enough contractions picked up very nicely and I could no longer tend to any of the children.  I decided to call my husband home.

Around this time I was about 6 cm’s dilated… good news right? WRONG! I also began having severe back labor. I had this with my first and he had an acynclitic head ending in cesarean after 4 hours of pushing. After my husband got home it was so much worse. You see I am a natural birther but this caused a panic stricken heart. I really freaked out. Not from the pain, but thinking OH no not another cesarean. How could this be happening? I was screaming inside my head. Sheer terror actually. I had not prepared at all for a malpositioned baby – I mean I had gotten him to turn vertex at 37 weeks from frank breech on my own. OP how could this be? In my panic I insisted that we go to the hospital though my dear friend and husband thought we should stay home longer. I was about 7 cm’s at this time. My friend now suspected an OP baby but didn’t tell me. Why did they not insist we stay home? I mean I was in no condition to drive myself the 15 minutes to the hospital. I don’t know.

We arrive at the hospital, I am indeed about 7 cm’s and yes baby is OP. No one worries though that I am a VBAC again. Basic monitoring, no saline lock, all is well in l&d land (so it would seem). In my head I am still in sheer terror though from the outside apparently it was not visible. That is still tough for me to comprehend. I was screaming through my eyeballs but I made no noise at all from what I am told.

I tried many positions to get him to turn, and probably would have but……..

At some point during a vaginal exam, my water was broken without my consent. This my dear readers is what caused the downhill slide to a repeat unexpected cesarean. I have since learned I have an android pelvis and without intact waters rotating a poorly positioned baby is near impossible if possible at all.  Back to the story.

I cannot say how much time went on for sure, a couple of hours I believe. Somehow in this room filled with two nurses, my dear friend and husband, a complete breakdown of emotional care took place. I felt totally and utterly unsafe, scared, terrified, and without hope. My husband too was overwhelmed and felt displaced in the situation though he admits he allowed it to occur. I did blame him and to some degree my dear friend in the beginning, but I do not now. I didn’t prepare well. I assumed. I didn’t define the roles of support between my husband and dear friend. I was a Pollyanna.

I was now complete and still trying everything possible to get baby to rotate. Nothing worked. I was desperate. By the way, I was unmedicated and only on intermittent monitoring for most of the time. So cannot blame the epidural or being strapped down.

I pushed for over three and a half hours in varying positions. During pushing (I am pretty sure of timing) an internal monitor was put on my son and a scalp sample was taken to check his stress level. Oh, the SAME on call doc that was impatient and used forceps on me during the last birth was my attending. That very much did not make for a safer, happier birth space.  At the end of the hours of pushing, she again pulled out forceps to see if she could rotate him or help me deliver him, but my dear friend discouraged it highly since he was still higher up (forgive me the station escapes me without my records in front of me).   I was then told the scalp sample came back showing my baby was becoming acidodic, which means he was getting very stressed. His FHT’s were fluctuating quite a bit as well.

At this point I could hardly keep my eyes open. I was in despair, heart broken, and becoming very angry. The doctor presented me with a cesarean consent form. I refused to sign it. I said I wouldn’t sign it but my husband had a power of attorney. I made him do it. I could not do it. I could not agree to another cesarean. Somehow having my husband sign it helped me face it better. Perhaps because then it was out of my control.

So another cesarean for a “stuck” and this time fetal distressed baby. So I was told. I was taken to the OR where the anesthesiologist would eventually place the epidural. I begged and begged and begged for a dose of terbutalin to slow the contractions as I still had the uncontrollable urge to push.  He essentially told me I was being a baby. To man up. He would get my epidural in soon enough. He was mean. He was verbally hostile. In between intense contractions, I actually thought over and over as I sat on the metal table with feet dangling of how I could take a swing at him without falling and hurting my son. I wanted to make this anesthesiologist feel pain. Punching him in his condescending, smug face would have been extraordinarily satisfying. I was so angry at how I was being treated. I will never know if he was punishing me for being a natural birther or a failed VBAC mother.  Maybe both.  He still is in practice and no I cannot be in the room if a client of mine gets an epidural with him as the anesthesiologist. My response is still visceral to his mere presence.

It seemed like a very long interval of time before the I.V was put in, the epidural was placed, the OR team was fully assembled and my husband was at my side. After reading my records it was a long interval. My husband signed the consent form and my son was not surgically born until more than 45 minutes later. Was he REALLY fetal distressed with that long of a wait in between? 45 minutes when the OR was open and available? I was IN there with the anesthesiologist the whole time. That is not an emergency or even emergent. Plainly he wasn’t coming. Yes he was OP.

I was laying on the table, armed strapped down, husband standing next to me watching the cesarean take place. I have no memory of what the epidural felt like. My eyes were closed out of exhaustion, grief and anger. My son was delivered at 535am.  His APGAR’s were decent not that of a highly distressed baby. I wonder if during the long wait and the rest period, he normalized. I may have been crying but not for the good reasons. My son was waved by my face. I do not remember seeing him. My husband was heading to the nursery with him. I screamed after him at the nurse, “If you give my baby formula, I will sue you.” It seems the woman who wouldn’t send back a wrong order at a restaurant was forever changed. Like a light switch my voice was established.

While I was being repaired. I decide to talk to the doctor (at this point I had no idea she broke my water without consent and had falsified my medical records in a few areas), so I tell her I want another baby. I then asked her if my uterus was good for another VBAC. She said sure you can have another VBAC if you want. No problem. My uterus looked beautiful. Wow, I should have felt wonderful that I am such an amazing healer from previous surgery.  I didn’t. Sigh. I wanted to die except my baby would want to nurse. Oh yes, my baby J.

Once out of recovery and into my room my husband came and gave me report on J. He was being observed, seemed very well. No they didn’t feed him anything. M had to go home and check on our other children who were just 4 and 23 months.  He swapped off with my dear friend who had gone to check on her children. I still hadn’t held my baby. I had no idea what he looked like. I was distraught but no one knew it. I would make a heckuva poker player I think.

Five hours post op and I want my baby. I want him NOW. He must be hungry. He must be wondering where I was.  The thoughts ran through my head. I called my nurse and asked her to bring me my son or take me to the nursery to feed him. She said no to both requests stating various reasons. This did not suit the new me at all. I asked her again. She again said no.  This did go on for a few minutes where we were actually raising our voices back and forth. Finally I noticed the wheel chair by the door, I looked the nurse in the eye (who by the way was no more than 6 inches from my face), and I said “Fine you want me to get up and walk across the room to the wheel chair then you will take me?” She said, “Yes” in a non-believing tone. HM she didn’t know me at all. THAT my dear readers was a dare in her voice. I called her bluff. I took a deep breath, held my belly, stood up and walked right over to the wheel chair on my own.  Needless to say she took me to the nursery to see my son.

My voice was completely in full bloom. Never to go back.

As she wheeled me around my son’s bassinet I grabbed his chart much to everyone’s dismay and horror. Why were they worried, well they had performed several tests, admitted him to the nursery for a minimum of 24 hours, started I.V. antibiotics and put in a central line ALL without consent. All done under implied consent which does not exist once the cord is severed and baby is his own patient. I thoroughly read his chart (no reasons given for the battery of tests), made certain they hadn’t him or given him I.V. fluids to curb his hunger, then I held my precious, sad little boy. Almost 8 pounds. Gorgeous. Very hungry. He nursed beautifully. I was elated and even more stricken. I stayed with him until he fell asleep then instructed them to call me at ANY sign of hunger.

I went back to my room and within another hour I was walking myself back and forth alone to the nursery. They had to ask me to come back for vitals to be taken and implored me to rest. He was MY baby not theirs. Mine to care for, nurse, be with….. Sigh.

When evening rounds took place the I asked the pediatrician to come to my room so we could discuss getting my son out of the nursery and into my room. He went through his whole chart with me and told me exactly what needed to happen for him to be released at 7 a.m.  Yes I noted it all.  He wrote it in the chart everything he told me.

During one of my evening trips to the nursery, the truly decent and kind night nurse informed me that my son never needed to be admitted to the nursery and she was better equipped to take care of in need babies. My son was fine. She said sure he needed to be observed for an hour or two but never should the tests been done or a central line placed for that matter. She encouraged me to stay as long as I wanted but it was good for me to go and sleep to heal best too.

In the morning I was there before the floor pediatrician was doing rounds. You probably guessed it, my son was in my room by 8 a.m. I can be very persuasive. The funny part about the scenario was that immediately when the doctor walked away the nurse implored me to help her get all the leads off and my son unhooked from everything quickly. Why? Because she had never seen a doctor release a baby like that and feared the doc would change her mind.

I finally had my son with me. Finally. I was hurting physically. I didn’t rest enough. I was his mother after all, that is what we do. Had I not done exactly what I had he would have still been in the nursery and breastfeeding could have been a disaster. More ibuprofen please. I do not even remember my husband bringing the other boys to the hospital. I do not remember anything but advocating for me and my son.

By 48 hours post cesarean I was desperate to go home. As I put it not so delicately to the doctor who didn’t want to release me so early after surgery, “I can sit on my own damn couch and I have better cable than you do here.” Seriously the full throated voice was speaking. Yes, she released me though against medical advice. I assured her I knew what infection looked like and I would be back if I needed to be.

My husband was there shortly thereafter with car seat and our other sons in tow. I was traumatized and shell shocked BUT I had well spoken up for the two of us when all was said and done.

Just like the Grinch who’s heart grew in size, I powerfully came into my own as a woman, as a mother and as an advocate.  For this and this alone I am tearfully grateful for my CBAC and though much was lost so very much more was gained.

Technology and the Prenatal “Diet”

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

In westernized countries, television and the internet have almost completely replaced the generational teaching and learning found in the “circles” of the past. Women would gather over sewing, quilting, canning, and life events including pregnancy and childbirth. They offered support, told their stories, spoke of family life, shared their everyday knowledge, wisdom and expertise while the children played at their feet.

At first glance it seems that through these technologies women are able to gain vast amounts of incredible knowledge regarding childbirth.  There are very popular websites, message boards and forums to meet and greet other women who are expecting the very same month.  Any topic is available to explore. Excellent places for a sense of community and belonging. The information is so prevalent that some women even eschew childbirth classes because they feel well enough prepared from all the exposure. Fantastic to be sure, at first glance.

Upon a deeper look  with a critical eye at the most popular shows and on-line communities, it becomes pretty obvious that overwhelmingly the messages and scenes actually have little to do with real encouragement and instilling confidence in a woman’s design and inherent ability to birth.

Let’s start with the satellite/cable television shows on the learning and health channels. Stop for a moment and think of what occurred during the last episode you viewed.  Did you see a spontaneous labor from entry to hospital to birth without augmentation, epidural, or any other intervention except for intermittent monitoring and perhaps a saline lock (IV port) placed? Was it an induction with an epidural? Was it a cesarean or a vaginal delivery? Did she have adequate support? Was her background given in any detail? Who made the decisions? What about informed consent? Was the laboring woman paid attention too or were the machines heeded more? What sort of comfort measures did she employ? Was she ever out of bed? Who delivered the baby?  What response to her baby did the mother have? Who saw her baby first? With that clear memory in mind, how did you feel after viewing it? What thoughts came to your mind? Now consider that essentially all of the births shown take place in a hospital. In fact any birth that does not, is often touted as extreme or some other like descriptive.

Let’s move on for a moment.

Now let’s take a look at the most popular pregnancy websites, message boards and forums where women connect with one another.  The “conversations” and threads are filled with all things related to the impending birth. Chatter about baby showers, maternity leave, body changes, vaccinations, previous experiences, breastfeeding, nursery preparations and so much more. Really anything under the prenatal sun. Inspecting further though, there seems to be an inordinate amount of discussion regarding the need for scheduled inductions and cesareans and very little conversation or even support for natural or spontaneous labor and birth.

With intervention appearing to be the ruling majority within the technological communities and filling the television, how is a pregnant woman feeding her eyes, heart, and mind on this type of diet supposed to feel confident, uplifted and excited about her upcoming birth? I am uncertain that she can with the seeds of inadequacy, fear, brokenness, helplessness, and lack of options being sewn into her being at such an alarming ratio.  Sometimes yes interventions are needed, however, in practice it isn’t a need for many women and babies.

These shows and internet locales are like junk food. Like all junk food they are not to be an integral part of a healthy prenatal “diet” that will be encouraging, expand useful knowledge, grow confidence, spark self-advocacy, promote self-awareness, ignite excitement, and offer joy to the expecting mother.

How can an expecting mother improve her “diet” regardless of the type of birth she is planning? What are the better places to “shop”?

  • Turning off the TV
  • Check out and attend local groups and support meetings. Educational sessions and workshops are often free of charge. For example: Doula Groups, ICAN, Midwifery Groups, Birth Network, Birth Circles, and similar.
  • Try some different message boards, forums and sites. See Blog Roll and Resources listed on this site.
  • Seek out positive free videos to watch on You Tube.  https://prepforbirth.com/2009/07/30/birth-videos/
  • Talk to women who have birthed in the hospital, birth center and at home. Get a variety of positive stories.
  • Try some different reading on for size. https://prepforbirth.com/books-videos-and-more/
  • Rent or borrow movies from Netflix, a doula or childbirth educator, such as, Business of Being Born, Pregnant in America, or Orgasmic Birth to name a few.
  • Take the challenge to learn about and be open to the variety of birthing techniques, locations, options and provider types that women are utilizing.

Bottom line, the most prevalent “food group” in a diet is going to positively or negatively affect the parts and the whole of the journey to having a babe in arms.  No matter what the mother and baby live with the outcomes from the birth. Enriching the prenatal “diet” is not a guarantee of outcome or path to the birth. It does however give much more possibility and opportunity for both mother and baby to have a better birth and start together.

Affording the Birth You Want

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Many times over I have heard something similar to “If only my insurance would cover the childbirth class, doula, that provider or birth location. Then I could have the birth I really want for me and my baby.” That statement sadly says to me that women are settling for a provider, birth location, type of birth even that would not otherwise be chosen.  Even so far as having a repeat cesarean because the insurance covered location or provider does not “allow” VBAC.

So practically how is someone going to get the desired provider, location or birth? First think of appealing to the insurance company to add a specific location (even home) or provider (even a  home birth provider) to the plan. This may or may not come to fruition, but unless the process is undertaken it isn’t even a possibility. Second, think outside the insurance box.  Be creative. I am a believer that almost 100% of the time there is a way. It may not be easy, simple, or lack stress but likely possible.

Here are some of my ideas for paying for the birth location, care provider, education, or doula support really desired.

Ask for family, friends, co-workers to donate to fund(s) in lieu of routine shower gifts (you will likely not use most of that “stuff” anyway no matter how much you think you will).

Trimming Down = Money Savings

  • Satellite/Cable tv – Lower or cancel service.
  • Cell phone – lower minutes, negotiate new fee structure, change plans.
  • Household utilities – Lower thermostat, take short showers, heat or cold proof home.
  • House phone – Get rid of all extras on phone that you don’t need or go VoIP. Even set-up answering machine.
  • Food – Grocery shop sales only (no impulse buying), use coupons, eat at home, brown bag to work, no more fancy coffee drinks.
  • Entertainment – Get Netflix instead of going out to the movies, visit with friends or family in their homes or yours.
  • Shopping – Cut back on extras you do not need to live.
  • Vehicle – Car pool whenever possible, only run multiple errands together, walk if possible, use public transportation is available.
  • Housing – Move to a lower rent area or to a smaller home. Even consider moving in with family to maximize savings.

Extra Cashflow

  • Sell any unneeded items via yard sale or something akin to Craig’s List. This can apply to second vehicle as well.
  • Take on a second job that can be done from home or even with a multi-level company.
  • Ask husband or partner to temporarily take on a second job.
  • Do you gourmet cook,  write, musically talented, sew, knit, paint or craft? You may be able to sell your creations or services.

Miscellaneous

  • Barter
  • Ask for payment plan.
  • Look for less expensive supplies such as a “fishy pool” versus renting an AquaDoula.
  • Choose a birth center or a home birth as the cost is significantly less than even a no-intervention natural hospital birth. Also your prenatal care is included in the fee unlike a planned hospital delivery.
  • Hire a training doula. Often a lower fee.
  • Start a savings account before you are pregnant.
  • Plan ahead and pay down any existing debt prior to getting pregnant or in early pregnancy.

I hope some “light bulb” moments are had and there is encouragement in the ideas. There is almost always a way.

If I have left anything off the lists, please feel free to leave a comment and I will add.

Rethinking the nature of intervention in childbirth

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

There is much awareness and conversation of what the routine interventions are that can occur during the labor and birth process within the hospital environment.  These interventions can include induction, augmentation with Pitocin, epidural, or cesarean. In all my professional and personal roles, I am privy to a great amount of pregnancy and birth stories. Within these experiences there are many “silent” yet obvious interventions that are hidden in plain sight under the guise of protocol, practice and societal expectation.

My current list of hidden in plain sight interventions in no particular order that can make a difference on how a woman labors and ultimately delivers her baby is below.

  • The uniform -Asking and expecting the mother to give up her clothes for the hospital gown.
  • Who’s on first? – If care provider is part of a large practice or on-call group a woman may have never met or have any knowledge of the person who’s practice style and philosophy is helping to guide and steer her labor and delivery. On-call CP may or may not adhere to the birth plan the laboring woman worked out with her own CP.
  • On a short leash – Continuous monitoring even if she is not high risk, medicated, or being induced/augmented.
  • The big drag around – Requiring IV running with absence of medical need.
  • Staying put – Asking or requiring the laboring woman to stay in bed for ease of staff without medical need.
  • Ice chips and Jello – Disallowing snacks and sometimes even actual water even though labor is hard work.
  • The marketing tool – Disallowing the laboring woman to get into the touted tubs or showers since it isn’t convenient for staff and she will not want to get out.
  • One is enough – Limiting the amount or type of support persons a woman is allowed to have with her.
  • I know more than you – Treating the laboring woman as if she knows nothing or shouldn’t know anything.
  • If you don’t… – Instead of giving informed consent and refusal, telling only what bad could, maybe happen.
  • Attitude and atmosphere – Negative, non-listening, lacking compassion, leaving the door open, ignoring requests, and the like when a woman is laboring.
  • Only if you ask – Though some wonderful practices are in place, they are only offered if a laboring woman or postpartum mother ask/insist on it.
  • Bait and switch – The official tour of labor and delivery and the reality of labor and delivery don’t fit together.
  • New with bells and whistles – The pretty with all the fancy bells and whistles like wi-fi, flat screen tv’s, etc. have to be paid for somehow. Because of this investigate the intervention rates there.
  • Routine vaginal exams – By and large VE’s are very subjective and can vary greatly between one person to the next on how they score a VE. This variation can deeply affect the course of a woman’s labor and delivery.  Women birthing in the hospital really only “need” a VE upon entrance for assessment of where she is in labor, if she desires an epidural/IV narcotics, if she is having a very prolonged labor, or if she feels pushy.
  • Pushing the epidural – When a woman is moving, moaning, making noise or just doing her thing in labor and it causes the staff discomfort or worry.  It could even be that anesthesiologist is going in to surgery and it can only happen now.

Simply because a societal norm is birthing at the hospital, as well as, what routinely goes on there, doesn’t mean the hidden in plain sight interventions are wise or harmless.

My goal here is to give pause and broader thinking to what intervention means for labor and delivery as another tool in planning and preparing for childbirth with eyes wide open.

Building Your Birth Support Team

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

As practice through the ages and evidence shows, support during the birth process can be greatly beneficial to both mothers and babies. It is not about having an experience. It is about healthier emotional and physical outcomes for mothers and subsequently for babies as well.  Putting together a support team is not as simple as inviting a family member or friend along. There are many components to consider as this is the most intimate time to allow others to share in except for the conception of your baby.

Prior to putting together your Labor Support Team (LST):

You and your spouse/partner are generally the only persons who can speak on your and the baby’s behalf unless another individual has a medical power of attorney for the labor and postpartum time period. Learning how to be a self-advocate is an important piece of the support team puzzle.  Answering very specific questions prior to looking at who ultimately will be with you at your birth will be helpful to you in addressing specific needs, goals, philosophy, and expectations.

  • What education and self study are you doing during pregnancy?
  • Do you feel confident and equipped to birth your baby?
  • Are you confident and at ease with your provider?
  • Are you comfortable with his or her requirements and practice style?
  • Are you comfortable with the policies, requirements, and protocols of your birth location?
  • Do you have special circumstances or health concerns?
  • When you close your eyes who do you see being the most supportive of you and your choices?
  • Are you a single mother or is your spouse/partner deployed?
  • What type of help does your spouse/partner or your main support person need?
  • How involved does your spouse/partner or main support person need?
  • What type of physical support do you need (massage, positioning help, any chronic pain or health issues to contend with?)?
  • What type of emotional support do you require (affirmations, encouragement, quiet and positive, no questions asked, reminders…)?
  • What type of educational/informational support do you expect to need?
  • Are you comfortable discussing needs and desires with provider?
  • Do you feel confident in addressing the staff at a hospital or birth center?
  • Do you have a birth plan?
  • Planning a natural birth?
  • Planning an epidural in your birth?
  • Traveling a distance to your birth location?
  • Are there any specific cultural barriers or needs that ought be addressed?
  • What other considerations or needs might you have?

Now that you have answered the questions, it is likely a much more clear picture why being specific about your LST is so important.  This is an opportunity to look at and personalize what is needed in labor.  It is not for anyone else to decide what it will look like, who is going to be there, and who is not going to be there.

Putting together your LST

The birth of a baby is only less intimate than the act of making the baby. Inviting anyone into the area surrounding this event can affect the process positively or negatively. Privacy, comfort, safety, and honoring the birth of a baby are a must so choosing the person(s) to take the journey with you needs to be well thought out. Some candidates for a LST are on the below list.

  • Husband
  • Partner
  • Mother/Father (other family members)
  • Friend
  • Older Children
  • Doula (skilled and trained labor support)
  • Care Provider (OB, Midwife or Family Practice Doctor)

Many on the list are pretty obvious choice considerations. The best person(s) to have around you during labor and birth will aim to provide what you need physically, emotionally, and by way of information while supporting your decisions and desires without bringing in negativity, fear, bias against what you want, distrust for the process, anger, a sense of undermining, etc. Your support team can make or break the outcome of your labor and delivery simply by what he or she brings into your birth.  Your birth is not about any one elses satisfaction, background, needs, wants or the like. This is your birth, your baby’s birth.

The one person on the list you may or may not have heard of is the labor doula. The labor doula was born out of this need.  Essentially this is a woman of knowledge and skill in pregnancy, birth, and immediate postpartum (yes there are a few men in who are labor doulas as well) who comes alongside a pregnant woman (family) offering education, physical support and emotional support to both the mother and partner/husband/other support.  A doula does not take away from a husband or partner during the process.  Doulas are shown to decrease interventions, cesarean, epidural use, narcotics use, need for induction, and increase satisfaction, bonding, breastfeeding success, and more! For more information regarding labor doulas, click here  https://prepforbirth.com/2009/08/09/what-is-a-labor-doula-what-does-she-or-he-do/.

From the Birthing Front

Here is a sampling from women who have birthed, are pregnant or attend women in birth who answered the question “Why is having a supportive birth team important?

“I didn’t realize that I didn’t have the right kind of birth support until it was too late. This in no way is meant to say that my practitioner, or the staff, or my husband were not supportive . . . they were, but I didn’t have anyone on hand to advocate for my needs. Even though I prepared extensively for a natural birth and hired a CNM, I ended up having a cesarean. I firmly believe that the most important member of your hospital birth team is your doula.” Kimberly J.

“…because a woman in labor is in the most vulnerable state of her life. When I was in labor I needed someone holding my hand telling me I could do it… telling me all those incredibly intense sensations were, indeed, normal. I was vulnerable, and my support team protected me and supported me as I gave birth.  “For me, feeling “safe” didn’t just mean feeling safe physically… it meant feeling emotionally safe to welcome the vulnerability that labor brings and thus to be able to let go” Lily B.

“Because it means the difference between a baby and mom being healthy vs. the million of things that can go wrong if a mom is stressed, confronted, or generally ignored.  Support during birth, whatever that means for the mom, is more important in my hunble opinion than support during pregnancy. Giving birth in a hostile or unfriendly environment is dangerous.” Rachel A.

“Birth is one of the biggest events that define a woman’s life. When she is in labor her senses are heightened by the hormones going through her body. Her perception of those around her will make or break her birth experience. A trained experienced birth team knows how to keep the emotions of both professional and non professional people positive and empower the woman to birth not only her baby but a stronger more confident self into being.” Amber-joy T.

“A supportive birth team can mean the difference between a physically healthy birth and a birth that can take months to recover from. Regardless of the actual events at a woman’s birth (vaginal birth, cesarean, medicated, non-medicated, home, hosptial, birth center), a supportive birth team can also mean the difference between having a happy, rewarding, and empowering birth and a birth in which the birth is not owned by the mother emotionally. Mental health can be more important than physical health and more costly to treat down the road. Always take care of yourself emotionally.” Nora M.

“Birth is such a vulnerable and powerful experience. I remember that I had to tap into a side of myself that I had not yet known until birth. Every *vibe* from others around me affected my state of mind during the process. Without the complete support of my birth team, and husband, I would’ve when that point of surrender hit, given into the doubts and crumbled under the pressure; But becauseI did have a supportive team, I was empowered to press forward and experience the most amazing moment of my life uninhibited.” Julie W.

So now take a moment to think about who will offer you what you need and help you attain what you want in labor and delivery.  Having continuous support no matter the type of birth you want is important because you and your baby matter.  Your birth matters.

Preparing For Birth: 35+ and Pregnant

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Hourglass

The disturbing trend in treating ALL  “advanced maternal age”  mothers (over 35 at the time of impending birth) high risk continues to grow despite lack of evidence to do so.

My original post from 3.5 years ago still rings true today.

They are being subject to weekly Biophysical profiles or Fetal Non-stress tests tests that are normally reserved only for high-risk mothers and babies from as early as 32 weeks in pregnancy.  On top of the scans, these mothers are often pressured to agree to an early delivery of their babies by means of labor induction or cesarean even without other risk associations.  This is growing more and more prevalent especially for women over 35 who are first time mothers.

I have heard even from women that at their first OB appointment they are being told they will be induced at 39 weeks as a standard of practice and expectation for signing on with said provider.  The seed of fear and worry is being planted that their growing baby will die if the pregnancy goes to 40 weeks or longer.  What a way to start out a provider/mother relationship.  I would call that a red flag of immense proportion.

So what really is the big deal with “old” mothers?  This study Advanced Maternal Age Morbidity and Mortality correlates various medical issues with “AMA” mothers though the biggest hot button is an elevated yet unknown cause of perinatal death.  This statement alone has caused a huge shift in the way these mothers are viewed regardless of  overall pregnancy health and absence of any known risk associations. ACOG’s February 2009  Managing Stillbirths maintains there is a risk to older mothers with no explanation as to why there is a risk, what the percentage of  risk increase is or any prevention protocols.  Seems dodgy since the other groups noted in the bulletin have all the data included.

There are some serious problems with any practitioner taking this study and applying it across the board to “AMA” women.  The study even says so much, “It is important to note that the findings of this study may not be generalized to every advanced-maternal-age obstetric patient in the United States. Although the FASTER trial patient population was unselected, meaning that patients were not excluded based on any confounding factors such as race, parity, BMI, education, marital status, smoking, pre-existing medical conditions, previous adverse pregnancy outcomes, and use of assisted reproductive care, there may have been significant patient or provider self-selection.” So the population could have been skewed from the get go by provider or patient selection, along with the fact that it seems the only point of homogeneity is present in that most of the women were Caucasian.  Throw all these women in a pot and see what happens?  Next step is to make protocols and change practice style upon weak findings?

The study also shows an increased risk for cesarean by “AMA” mothers.  “As with prior literature, this study demonstrated that women aged 40 years and older are at increased risk for cesarean delivery. Older women may be at increased risk for abnormalities of the course of labor, perhaps secondary to the physiology of aging. It is possible that decreased myometrial efficiency occurs with aging. Nonetheless, maternal age alone may be a factor influencing physician decision making. It is uncertain whether the increased rates of cesarean delivery are due to a real increase in the prevalence of obstetric complications or whether there is a component of iatrogenic intervention secondary to both physician and patient attitudes toward pregnancy in this older patient population.” Very interesting. So “old” women are perceived as being unable or problematic so they have less successful vaginal birth outcomes. Now that is a self-fulfilling practice style with a huge dose of ageism thrown in.  I also wonder what the cesarean rate in this age grouping is going to be due to these protocols.

Let’s get to the perinatal and neonatal death risks.  The study says: “Studies regarding an increased risk for perinatal mortality in women of advanced maternal age have been controversial. In this study, the increased risk of perinatal mortality was not statistically significant for patients aged 35–39 years (adjOR 1.1). Age 40 years and older was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of perinatal loss (adjOR 2.2). There were only 119 stillbirths and 37 neonatal demises in total. As a result, we could not draw any meaningful conclusions about the etiology or timing of perinatal mortality in women of advancing maternal age. The reason that advanced-maternal-age patients may be at increased risk of perinatal mortality is unknown. The failure of uterine vasculature to adapt to the increased hemodynamic demands of pregnancy as women age is a proposed explanation. So in conclusion, we have no idea why this might occur and have no way of counseling “AMA” mothers to lower the risk especially those over 40. Another noteworthy thought is that this study had 79% under 34 year old women, 17% 35-39 year old women, and only 4% women over aged 40.  So with such a small grouping ALL women considered “AMA” are being put under very heavy handed protocols to delivery their babies in the 39th week of gestation.

In closing, I find it difficult to believe that anyone who reads this study would change practice style because of it and move pregnant patients who are otherwise maintaining a healthy pregnancy without risk associations to a high risk model of care. Amazingly the study itself says the same thing, “In summary, the majority of women of advanced maternal age deliver at term without maternal or perinatal adverse outcomes.” And, “The role of routine antenatal surveillance in women aged 40 years and older requires further investigation because these women seem to be at increased risk for perinatal mortality, including stillbirth. Although the likelihood of adverse outcomes increases along with maternal age, patients and obstetric care providers can be reassured that overall maternal and fetal outcomes are favorable in this patient population.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Since the original posting – – – instead of women being told they must be induced in the 39th week they are now being “offered” non-medical, cesareans as a first course of action.  This sort of pressure is not evidence-based or even medically ethical in my opinion.