*** Natural Birth Series ***

These are my posts from my natural birth series combined in one looooong entry that's easy to read and share:

birth: an intro to the series

Giving birth is a personal experience for every woman. I have friends {me included} who have such good birth experiences that they’re ready to do it again just a few weeks post-partum. On the other hand, I know some women who have decided not to have more children because of how difficult their birth experience was for them – both physically and emotionally. I am aware that this is a sensitive topic, and I want to be respectful of women who have had difficult experiences or whose birth experiences were significantly different from what they planned/expected.

In The Business of Being Born there’s a quotation that stuck with me, “People spend more time researching what type of tv to buy than they do what type of birth to have.” Women don’t know their options. While healthcare professionals generally have their patients' best interests in mind, sometimes their ideas about childbirth conflict with what might be best for the birthing mother {whether they want an unmedicated birth or not}. The national C-Section rate is over 32% {CDC stat} -- which is a really high number considering research supports that only about 2% of births are in need of emergency c-sections. While I’m thankful for the lives of both mamas and babies c-sections have saved, it’s been proven that vaginal deliveries are overall safer/healthier for the baby and the mama.

The intention of this birth series is to educate folks about unmedicated birth in a hospital system and to give my reasons for choosing natural birth. These posts are not to rebuke or look down on friends and others who have had an epidural or c-section {selected or not}. My hope is for people to do a little bit of research about what kind of birth is best for them. I understand that everyone will not come to the same conclusions as me, and I respect that. I just feel strongly that people should know their options.

All that being said: Birth matters. I think I’ve become pretty outspoken about being pro-natural because I care about my friends. I care about their birth experiences. My birthing experience, more specifically with Simonbecause he was the first babe, was my introduction to motherhood. I'm incredibly thankful for a good experience that set the tone for the first stages of becoming a mom.
{via}

Since posting Ragan’s birth story, I’ve gotten plenty of practical questions about having an unmedicated birth and how to plan/prepare for the experience. It makes me really excited to know that people are starting to question our hospital’s birthing ‘business’ and that more people want to be informed about their birthing options. It probably would be much easier to plan for a home birth or go to a birthing center – but I know many women {me included} who feel more comfortable being in a hospital setting. It can be done, but you definitely have to do a little more work and be more prepared. 

I’ve broken the "series" down into some sections to help organize information:

  • Why natural birth
  • Your doctor/midwife
  • Get a doula!
  • How I've gone natural and other info
Side note: I am not a doctor or medical professional. This is not medical advice. This is information based on my own birthing experience, what I’ve witnessed with others, and my own research.

birth series ::: why natural birth?
Part 1: Why natural birth?

Not sure how many of y’all have read Simon’s birth story, but in his birth story, I explain that I flat out thought my sister was ridiculous, maybe even stupid, for wanting to birth in a birthing center, without an epidural. 

Go to the hospital, get your epidural, and have your baby – that’s how it goes, right? I was SO against what she was doing that I was adamant to do some of my own research to prove that she was so wrong and was doing something incredibly dangerous. She was not only risking her own life, but the life of my nephew.

After doing some of my own research, I quickly swallowed my words. I found that America has the highest maternal and infant mortality rate as a first world country – and we have great medicine! I wish I had time to do for-real research because I think that before the 1900s – the maternal/infant mortality rate was really high, then with medicine in the early to mid 1900’s the mortality rate was significantly lowered, but with all the medical interventions and unnecessary surgeries, the mortality rate has gone up again.

Natural birth has proven to be healthier and safer for mama and baby. Birthing is a mysterious thing that our bodies were created to do; God made it so. There is this magical mixing and sending of hormones and messages from baby to mama during birth. When synthetic drugs are introduced to the body during this message sending, it interferes and often messes up the natural emitting/sending of hormones and messages – which complicates the birth.

A normal, low-risk vaginal birth can quickly turn into a high-risk, c-section birth when people aren’t informed or when medical intervention is unnecessarily applied. A c-section is 2.5x more likely with the admission of pitocin/epidural. So, the main reason I wanted to go natural is because I really didn’t want a c-section and this seemed like best way I could reduce the risk of an unwanted, unnecessary c-section.

There definitely is a place for medical intervention, and I know some babies and mamas who wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for certain medical practices. I was actually induced with Simon because my amniotic fluid was very low. My doctor wanted to induce me, but I had a doula who informed me that my water could be broken instead of starting me on pitocin {pit}, which was a more natural way of being induced. Had I not done my research on the negative effects of pit or had a doula, I most-probably would have had a c-section because my body wasn’t ready to go into labor when it was forced to and there were things I did to help get contractions started naturally {more info in the last post}.

Unfortunately, our culture has turned birth into something that should be feared – almost making women feel like they aren’t fit to birth babies. Movies, tv, and even some doctors have made women believe that they can’t give birth without medication – and y’all this isn’t true.

It makes me really angry when I hear a momma wasn’t given the right to labor longer because her body was “failing to progress” according to the textbook, or when a momma is rushed to a c-section because she was pushing ‘too long’ {been there, done that. Pushed for 3 hours with Simon and am sure that I would have had a c-section had I not advocated for natural birth throughout my pregnancy or had a doula}, and it makes me angriest of all when I hear doctors sending patients straight to have a c-section {without allowing them to attempt a vaginal birth} because the baby is “too big” – only to find that the baby is not a 15 pounder and is a perfectly normal size – I feel like there are women who have been robbed of their birth-rights.

I couldn’t say what my doula {Bethany Robbins} wrote better without plagiarizing, so I’m just going to add her thoughts: “One thing I think is SO important is the topic of women's health, our rights to health care, and equality in our birth rights”. In this day and age, women get upset about not being paid equally, not being recognized for working in the home and demanding that they have rights over their own bodies-even to the point of abortion. With all the "equal rights" and feminism talk going around, us women need to be speaking up about the horrific numbers of c-sections happening in our country. We need to see childbirth as something WE do and can do well. It’s just strange to me that so many women fight for the right to have an abortion (or for others to be able to have access to them) but few women are fighting for the right to have longer labors and non-textbook labors and longer pushing stages and fewer c-sections and inductions. Honestly, we should be outraged.”


Benefits/Reason to have an unmedicated birth:

- Possibility of having a C-Section is drastically lowered (2.5x less likely)

- The cocktail of Pitocin/epidural - and sometimes more pit/anesthesia - frequently raises a baby’s heart rate and sends them into distress {cue: c-section}

- Epidural alone can lower the mama’s heart rate – causing the baby’s heart rate to drop

- If you get an epidural, you also get a catheter - and who wants a catheter?

- An epidural may decrease the mama’s ability to push effectively since part of her body is numb

-It’s never made sense to me that the medication we are allowed to take when pregnant is really limited, but then when the baby is about to be born drs/nurses often don’t think twice about the possible negative effects of Pitocin or anesthesia for the mom or baby.

-  For some who receive an epidural – it doesn’t or hardly works. Women still sometimes experience either “watered down” contractions or even full-out contractions with an epidural. In that case, why not go natural and be able to move around to help the babe move out.

I know women around my age and women in their 40s/50s who have permanent nerve damage from when they got an epidural. My opinion: I’d rather endure labor/birthing pain for the duration of birth than experience permanent damage that will hurt for the rest of my life.

If you have an epidural, you can’t move around. If you can’t move around, you can’t help your baby move out. If you can’t help your baby move out/down, labor is often prolonged. When your labor is prolonged, women often get a c-section because of “failure to progress.”

- With an epidural, the only position women generally are allowed to push in is on their back. The worst position to push in. The baby has to go over the pubic bone before they’re born {I do speak from experience on this one. With Simon, my contractions were back to back when I was ready to push, Simon’s head was right there! The telemetry monitor slipped when I tried to change positions, which caused my doctor to think his heart rate dropped, and she “didn’t want to take any risks” so I was forced to be on my back which slowed my contractions down to being almost 8 minutes apart – hence the 3 hours of pushing. Had I stayed in the position {side}, I feel sure he would have come out right away}. Being on your back is the best position for your doctor, not the mama or baby.

- An epidural may cause mamas to be more drowsy, disoriented, cause itching or nausea


Why I didn’t/don’t want to have a C-Section:

- for one: it’s major surgery. It happens so frequently that the seriousness of it gets lost. I mean, they’re digging around some major organs. So a possibility of major organ problems if they get cut. And the risk increases with each consecutive c-section.

- Recovery is much longer/usually harder than a vaginal birth. As if taking care of a brand new human being isn’t enough, now the mama is recovering from a major operation.

- Sometimes mamas can’t nurse or hold their babies right away – delayed bonding and sometimes have a difficult time nursing. 

- I’m basically allergic to anesthesia – I’m that sensitive to it. I didn’t want to risk not being able to take care of a baby because I was busy recovering.

- Some babies have respiratory issues post birth because their lungs didn’t go through a cleansing/squeezing in the birth canal {Respiratory Distress Syndrome}.

- This is really rare, but I worked with a teacher whose baby’s cheek got cut while the doctors were trying to cut her our {insert horror face}.

- Some experience major infection at the incision site

- Increased loss of blood 

- Some have had to had their uterus removed due to hemorrhaging {preventing the mama from birthing more babies}

- Higher risk for emotional trauma and negatively viewing their birth experience

birth series ::: Choose your doctor wisely
Part 2: Choose your doctor wisely

One of the best ways you can ensure to have a natural birth is by finding a doctor who is on board with you having a natural birth. Unfortunately, this is harder than one might think. There are many doctors who will mislead you or even flat-out lie about how supportive they are of having an unmedicated birth. That’s why you have to do your research and find one of the many good doctors out there.

*Pitocin/epidural side note that I should have explained earlier: For those of you who don't know what pitocin {aka pit} is, it's basically synthetic oxytocin. Oxytocin is the natural hormone that starts contractions. While your body is capable of handling the contractions your body naturally produces, it often struggles to handle contractions brought on by pitocin. Because those contractions are synthetically produced, they're often stronger and last longer than 'natural' contractions. Doctors frequently use pitocin to get labor started. Because {pit} contractions are pretty rough, an epidural is administered. Sometimes the epidural reverses the effects of the pitocin {slows contractions down}, more pitocin is given. More anesthesia. Baby {or mom} have severe negative reactions to this "cocktail" {dropped heart rates, low oxygen supply}, so a c-section becomes necessary. This might be one of the main reasons I lobby for unmedicated births.

Before selecting an OB to deliver your babe:
find out what your doctor’s c-section rate is {can call their office-hospitals}
- find out what the hospital’s c-section rate is
- talk to friends – try to find someone who’s had a natural birth {intentionally} and try to get that doctor
- might be a good idea to find a doula before finding a doctor, that way you can find out which doctors they've worked with, which ones they'd recommend, and which ones to stay away from.
- Consider trying to find a Family Doctor to deliver your babe instead of an OB. An OB is a specialist. Giving birth is not a sickness, and a family doctor is a great option for a low-risk birth {which most are}. Some areas even have midwives who deliver in hospitals! What a great option for someone who wants to be in a hospital setting! {My doctor with Ragan was a family doctor, and I could tell that her care for my overall health was much greater than with my other dr}. Family doctors also do not perform c-sections, so you know that they're going to do what they can for you to have your baby vaginally.

Ask questions - lots of them: 
By asking doctors good questions, you will usually be able to tell whether your doctor would actually be on board with an unmedicated birth. At my first appointment with my OB with Simon – I expressed that I was interested in natural birth, and she seemed to be on board and supportive. However, I would talk about it each time and ask different questions, and after each visit – I was more and more sure that she wasn't really on board. The two most telling things are how long past your due date your doctor will let you go without induction and the second is what position your doctor is comfortable with you pushing in. Some doctors only do c-sections {emergency or not}, maybe stay away from those {questions to ask will follow}.

Something that I realize now and wish I’d realized earlier with Simon’s doctor, is that you hire a doctor. You hire them to provide a service for you. That being said, just as you hire a dr, you have the right to fire them. If you’re moving along in your pregnancy and realize that your dr has their own agenda, switch. I know that’s easier said than done, but you will be so thankful you did. Looking back now, I wish I’d gone with my gut and switched drs when I was pregnant with Simon - even late in the pregnancy. I wish I'd gotten over my fear of hurting her feelings and done what was best for me and my babe. I'm fairly sure that her feelings wouldn't have been hurt. Since I had a dr I completely trusted with Ragan, I cannot tell you the difference it made just to know that my doctor had my best interest in mind, not her own.

I know way too many people who have been pushed into having a c-section by their doctor {and some nurses are just as guilty}. Women go in wanting a vaginal birth and because they’re ‘failing to progress,’ don't understand negative effects of pit/epidural, or don't understand the 'system' - they end up with a c-section.  {The term ‘failing to progress’ has to do with a mama’s body not following the standard, textbook timeline for labor. Just as everyone’s pregnancy is different, so is the timeline of how a woman’s body will experience labor.} Maybe some women don't get pushed straight into having a c-section, but a series of medical inductions and poor choices lead to no other choice but to have a c-section.

Remember the stat in the intro to this series: only 2% of births are high risk {in need of a c-section} births. But even though such a tiny fraction of births are dangerous, our national c-section rate is 33% and in some areas over 50%! 
{via}

Possible bad intentions for a doctor to push for a c-section:
They make more money {NPR article}  
Surgery is way more exciting than just catching a baby - an OBGYN is a trained surgeon
A c-section is over quickly – just.like.that. No need to ‘wait’ for a mama’s body to do the work
If your doctor isn't the one who delivers your baby, they don’t get paid for it {in some practices}
- Control – they choose the time so that their nights or weekends aren't interrupted with your birth {many c-sections occur around 5-6pm and 10pm and also on Fridays-before the weekend}
- Fear – some doctors {and nurses} graduate from med-school never having witnessed an unmedicated birth. Some may be afraid to allow the body to do what its designed to do if they’ve never witnessed it. Plus, women can do some crazy things when they’re giving birth {think Madea gone wild}.


Questions:
Here’s a list of questions you can ask your doctor. As always, trust your instincts. If you don’t think your doctor would be on board for an unmedicated birth – then switch {hopefully you’re in an area where you have some options}.

Doula:
A great question would be to see if your dr has worked with doulas before - and an even BETTER question would be to see if they have a list of doulas. If your dr. has a list - then YES! Stay with them - because that means they've worked with enough doulas to know which ones they have a good relationship with. If they seem like they frown upon the idea – switch! That is not a good sign. {Even my dr who was 110% on board with natural birth recommended I get a doula – because y’all, there are some pushy nurses out there and a doula can help you stand your ground until the dr. comes}.

Birthing Positions:
What positions are they comfortable with you pushing in - on your back is the WORST position to be in. You could give the example of maybe you'd want to squat, or be on your hands and knees, or a really good position is on your side --- the side is a great position because you can rest during contractions. When you're on your back- -  the baby has to go over your pelvis to be born - not the case with these other positions. Drs love it when women are on their backs because it's easiest for THEM! I pushed for 3 hours with Simon because my dr made me get on my back --- I pushed for about 15 minutes with Ragan when I was on my side. Now - I do know people who pushed longer on their side - but it's much better for mom and baby to NOT be on your back. 

The more I talked to my OB, the more I realized that she wasn’t ok with me pushing in any position other than on my back. She kept saying that if I’m on my back, she’s in the best position to help me; while I knew very well that the worst position for ME and my babe is on my back. If she were really interested in helping me, she would have allowed me to push in whatever position felt most natural {side, squatting, hands/knees, sit/squat, one leg up}.

Induction:

At what point does the dr start talking induction? Are they ok with you going 42 weeks without ANY interventions? Could they perform a non-stress test? (these tests are designed to make sure baby is doing alright around 41 weeks...problem is, if baby is having a sleep stage during the test, you will not do well and will likely have an emergency induction right then and there. happens ALL the time!) -Bethany Robbins

If you're healthy and baby is healthy - there is no reason why your doctor shouldn't let you go 2 weeks past due date - the key is to avoid medical intervention to start induction.- There are good reasons to induce early – however – unless there’s a pressing issue, there’s really no reason to induce earlier than 2 weeks past the due date. Many doctors will say that they won’t allow you to go a week over your due date, when maybe your baby isn’t ready then {remember all those mixing/sending of messages}. Also, when doctors induce – they have more ‘control’ over your birth.

Also remember that a due date is more of an estimation. Everyone's pregnancies are different. Some babies are "ready" at 37 weeks, some might even need longer than 42 weeks! Will share some tips on how to "get that baby out" naturally before your doctor starts talking induction in my last post.

Baby's size:
Ask them what they consider to be a big baby. Some doctors will want to do a c-section {without even allowing you to try to have your baby on your own} if they think your baby is too big. Rarely does your body 'make' a baby that your body can't also birth.


The value in having a doctor you trust is that you know that they have your best interest in mind. If you know that they're naturally minded and that they view induction, interference, and c-sections as necessary only to save either your or the baby's life, then you can trust that when they recommend something - it's not for their benefit or convenience. Remember that there is a 98% chance that you can do this. Naturally.

Birth Series ::: Get a doula

Y’all, GET A DOULA.

What is a doula? 
I like to think of a doula as a birthing lawyer. One wouldn’t walk into a major court case without a lawyer {advocate}, so why would someone think about birthing without an advocate. Some people prepare their husbands to be the ‘doula,’  -  in all honesty, I can't think of anyone I know who had an intentional natural birth without a doula. I do however know all too many people who wanted their husbands to be their doula and then for various reasons ended up with a c-section. 

The word doula comes from the Greek word doulos - meaning servant. They are solely there to help you work through contractions and also act as a moral support. Doulas are not medical professionals. Doulas become doulas because they want women to have good birth experiences. I think I'd hire a doula even if I were to ever get an epidural.

Before I had Simon, I would often joke that I got a doula for Tom's sake - I joked that he would need someone to take care of him. He's uh, rather squeamish, when it comes to blood, and I was sure I'd need a doula because I'd be in no condition to help him. Turns out Tom was a champ and physically helped me through all my laboring - but he wouldn't have known what to do if it weren't for our doula who showed him how to push my hips together to relieve pain.
{via}


Why you should get a doula:

because having your husband be your doula is a bad idea {there, I said it. And my husband would agree}. Husbands are emotionally involved; they aren't trained to help you throughout labor. And unless your husband is a doula or midwife or OB, they've probably never attended a birth {if this is your first pregnancy}. Tom and I have said countless times that we wouldn’t have been able to have the births we've had without doulas. Even though we both took the birthing class, were educated about natural birth -  when the wife is in pain and that husband wants to protect her, both people basically forget everything they’ve learned {that's been our experience}. Even though I've had great births, I would get a doula again if we get pregnant again.

Some husbands want to 'be the doula' for their wives, they want to be the source of strength and help - like I said, I know of few examples where this resulted in a natural birth. I know examples of women who don't even want to be around their husbands during birth {like I said, envision Medea gone wild}, so a doula is a good source of support. Some women just feel more comfortable having another woman there.

because doulas are trained to help you. They have all kinds of tricks up their sleeves, believe me. They know which positions to try, how to help alleviate pain, they're trained to navigate the system, they know which questions to ask to make sure you don't get unnecessary 'treatment' or inductions. They want to help you be as comfortable as possible.

because a doula understands the system, you have hired someone who can answer questions about interventions or procedures that are being suggested. 

because a doula has done this before. They are experienced and know how to meet your emotional and physical needs during birth. 

because it's good to have another body in the room. It has been my experience that most nurses are hands-off in terms of helping you work through contractions. My experience with them is mainly that they come in to monitory my vitals; not to mention that they almost always have at least one other patient their tending to - and if your husband needs a break or is hungry, you're not left in the room alone. There's someone else in the room to get ice chips and to basically serve you and your husband.

because one of the benefits of going natural is that you're not strapped to a bed and can move around and help your baby move down/out.  My doulas have served as birth “directors” as well as lawyers. A doula will instruct you when to move around, when to go to the bathroom, will aid in pushing your hips and apply back pressure to alleviate pain. If we didn't have our 'director' I think I would have just been like, ugh... what do I do now?

because doulas have great dr recommendations. They know which doctors are actually pro-natural and which ones to stay away from.

because they're with you throughout pregnancy and birth and even visit you after birth to see how you're doing! With both of my doulas, I asked them questions throughout pregnancy, they were  a source of moral support as well as helped with practical questions. Both of my doulas have been people I trusted, and the sense of 'security' and peace of mind I got from them is irreplaceable.

because sometimes you have a nurse who you're just not really meshing with. Women often don't know that they have the right to request a different nurse if the nurse's personality doesn't mesh with theirs. Or if a nurse is being pushy about pit or an epidural - a doula will probably pick up on this before you do, and a doula can go to the charge nurse to request someone else for you {let them do the dirty work - and they willingly will}.

because doctors generally don't show up until you're ready or almost ready to push. Doulas are with you from the beginning of labor until the very end - they can even help with breastfeeding. They'll even come to your house to help you labor there! 

because my doctor, who was 100% on board with natural birth, recommended one! With Ragan I thought, hey, I've done this before, Tom's done this before, I completely trust my doctor, so no need to spend the money on a doula - wrong. When I asked my doctor, she said, yes, still get a doula. You just never know what kind of nurse you're going to get and often labors usually progress faster with a doula because they are working with you to get that baby out.

*All of the above has been in reference to a birth doula, but did you know that you can also hire a postpartum doula who can help with post-birth issues like breastfeeding, scheduling  your day as a new mom, adjusting to being a mom and/or having a new person in the family, some even clean/cook!, offers advice on how to cope, and general newborn care. This is a great resource for new mamas - because adjusting to being a mom is hard!

So....
Get a doula. It will be the best money you spend on your birth. An average doula costs between $200 - $800. If that is unaffordable, ask for money as part of your shower-gift. Doulas will often also accept a lower amount than their going rate because at the end of the day they care more about your birth experience than they do the money in their pocket.

Seriously, the peace of mind I've had with both births from having a doula was worth every penny. To know that there was someone who knew my birth plan/desires and was going to do whatever it took for me to have the birth I wanted was such a relief going into a hospital setting.

Take 7 minutes to watch this:


How to find a doula:

- ask friends for recommendations

- look on DONA International site - an organization that doulas go through to get certified

- ask your doctor {remember, if they frown upon this idea - switch doctors!}

- look for local doula organizations 


Questions to ask {questions taken from DONA}

For any doula
  • What training have you had?  - see how long she's been doing it as well. Does she have kids of her own? Why did she want to become a doula?
  • Do you have one or more backup doulas for times when you are not available? May we meet her/them?
  • What is your fee, what does it include and what are your refund policies?
  • Does she have sample birth plans? {I can send you mine if you'd like it to look over, you could discuss it with her and see where she stands on certain things....}
When interviewing a birth doula
  • Tell me about your experience as a birth doula. Try to find out what she does during the birth...what her role typically is. 
  • What is your philosophy about birth and supporting women and their partners through labor?
  • May we meet to discuss our birth plans and the role you will play in supporting me through birth?
  • May we call/text you with questions or concerns before and after the birth? - {My doulas were/are my friends - so I totally felt comfortable asking them anything - you want someone who you feel like you can ask questions of at almost any time.} 
  • When do you try to join women in labor? Do you come to our home or meet us at the place of birth?
  • Do you do any post-partum care check-ups?
  • Ask if she's had breastfeeding training...

My two cents: the most important thing is that whoever your doula is  - that it's someone who you feel like you can trust. You need to trust in her abilities to be able to serve you. The great thing is that you interview a doula before hiring her. This relationship is really important. I'm thankful that both of my doulas were friends, good friends. I never would have thought that I'd want friends at my birth, but come to find, I felt more comfortable with a friend than a stranger. If you don't have the luxury of having doula friends, then get to know your doula. See if they'd meet you for coffee to talk about birth or babies or basically anything to get to know them. Y'all, get a doula.


Stats stolen from my doula's page:
Studies have shown that the presence of a doula improves birth in the following ways:
·                50% reduction in cesarean birth
·                30% reduction in requests for pain medication
·                60% fewer requests for epidural anesthesia
·                25% decrease in the length of labor
·                Lower postpartum depression rate for mothers
·                Increased breast feeding success
·                Greater overall satisfaction from the mother about her birth
-Klaus, Kennell and Klaus, Mothering the Mother, 1993

Birth Series ::: Tips for going natural & Tid-bits

This is the last post in my natural birth series. It's been good to write all these things, for myself, and hopefully for others as well. I'd like to state again that I'm not a medical professional, but this is information I've learned throughout my own births. My hope is to empower women to believe in their bodies' ability to birth naturally.

My Tips:

-  Get a doula! {Y’all, this is so important}

-  Take a natural birth class - the class we took was awesome. It was a natural birth class provided by our hospital. A doula actually taught the class and I loved having her because she'd tell us what the 'hospital' would tell you, and then say, "but as a doula, I'd say...." I've never taken Bradley classes, but know people who have benefited from them.

-  Stay at home as long as possible. Don’t go to the hospital until 5-1-1 {Contractions are 5 minutes apart, lasting 1 minute, for 1 hour}. It's also beneficial to have a doula to help you decide when to go. MOST people go way too early.

-  If you arrive at the hospital and your labor has slowed down – go walk around and get them going again before checking in 

-  State in your birth plan that you don’t want an epidural and that you don’t want it offered to you. Both hospitals I used respected this and it was never offered. {If you need a sample birth plan, feel free to contact me and I'll send you mine}.

-  You can refuse to be checked regularly. If you're checked way too often and aren't dilating/progressing "fast enough" then they'll want to start medical inductions.

-  If you have to get a heplock {iv port} – get it in your hand, not in the crease of your elbow so that you can move around

-  Request {and get your dr to approve} being hooked to a telemetry monitoring machine. That way they only monitor you about every hour. Otherwise you’re hooked to a machine and cannot really move around.

-  Prepare: will you need music? Tennis balls for back massages.

-  Take a hospital tour and envision how you might utilize the room/move around

-  MOVE AROUND throughout your labor! The more you move around – the more you are helping your baby move down and out. I feel like the little babes hardly get any credit for the great work they have to do to be born. Make it easier for them by opening your pelvis to help them shimmy down.

-  Go to the bathroom every hour {with Simon – I had the most intense contractions while I tinkled} but having an empty bladder is important because it helps make room for the baby to descend

-  Change positions every 30 minutes – help that baby move out. This is also a good reason for a doula because they'll act as a "director"
- Here’s a link to some good laboring positions: Labor Positions Link

-  Have your husband or doula push on your hips during contractions – this opens up the pelvis – helping the baby move down {learned in birth class}

-   focus during contractions – ride the “wave” and don't let the pain overwhelm you - work through one contraction at a time. You don't have to think about if you're going to "make it," just think about each contraction.

-  BREATHE through contractions. Screaming/yelling just expends unnecessary energy. Instead breathe.

-  Keep your eyes open during contractions - this was a biggy for me. I'd go to a 'dark place' when I closed my eyes, so it helped me cope with pain to have them open. I told my doula to tell me to keep my eyes open if she saw that I was closing them. Each person is different, but this might help!

-  If a nurse says that your doctor is recommending pitocin, and your doctor knows that you don't want to be induced, ask to speak to your doctor directly. There are definitely nurses who are pushy, might even lie about what your doctor said regarding induction, or may even say that you want pitocin {as seen in Kristal's story}.

-  Fortunately I never had back labor with either babes, but again, a doula is helpful because they'd know what to do to help you.


I couldn’t have birthed naturally without:

1.     My doula. {I really had to work for Simon’s birth, Ragan – not so much.} Couldn’t have done it without a birthing lawyer or someone to direct me – to help me change positions and to have a plan for how I was going to labor.  A doula is an asset to the mama and spouse.

2.     Tom. While a doula usually does the physical work, Tom was the one who put pressure on {squeezed} my hips throughout basically every contraction with Simon. I think maybe he was more exhausted from laboring than I was.

3.     Focusing on a point. This was so huge for me, but I realize it might not work for everyone. With both babes – I’d find a small point or an object, and during each contraction, I’d only think about that point. Nothing else. With Ragan, I did most of my laboring at home and I found a nail on our dining room table that was my focus. With Simon I was in the hospital the whole time and there were hardwood floors. I’d find the spot where the boards connected, and that was the spot. Some people chose to use a sonogram photo or something like that. For me that wouldn’t work because I moved around too much. When you’re having an intense contraction you’re not going to want to say, “hey, would you please mind bringing that photo over here to help me have something to focus on?” By that time, the contraction is over.

4.     Breathing. I breathed through each contraction. I’d focus on my point or object and just breathe through it. Think about the object and breathe. With good breathing, you can actually play the game of reverse psychology on yourself. With a contraction your mind freaks out and make you think you’re in severe pain. But if you breathe, your body is sending the signal to your mind that no, you’re fine.

{via}


Natural ways to induce 
*I wouldn’t do any of these until you’re 40 weeks. I believe that babies do best when they can cook as long as they can inside their mamas.

- massage {I had one the morning before Ragan was born. Of course there’s no way of knowing if this actually helped  – but I’m thinking it did!}

- acupuncture or a chiropractic visit {call ahead to make sure they offer prenatal services}

- LOTS of walking

- Climbing stairs – definitely helps that baby drop and helps them move down

- Sex - our childbirth educator said – what got them in there will get them out {sperm 'softens' the cervix

- evening primrose oil capsules- you can buy this at target - you can stick a pin in it to open up the capsule, then insert it like a tampon. Wear a pad though because the oil will leak out. I think you can take it orally too {but more affective if inserted} - it helps soften the cervix {maybe start at 39ish weeks}

- raspberry leaf tea  - you can start drinking this around 36-37 weeks – said to “strengthen” the uterus to help have more productive contractions. Also good to drink post-birth to help contract/reduce the uterus to its normal size

- nipple stimulation - {I know...... weird right?} - but this is actually the best method to bring on contractions because it causes your body to produce oxytocin - which is one of the labor "chemicals" that your body produces {pitocin is the synthetic version of oxytocin} - this works for sure, can use a breast-pump too.  Can look here for info about how to do it.

-spicy foods - I'm sure you've heard of this - not sure how effective it really is....

- your OB can strip your membranes - this works for some, but will only work if your body is ready. Recommended to wait until 40 weeks

- dancing or any kind of bouncing/squatting

- apparently eggplant and pineapple have some sort of "properties" that can help induce labor

- use an exercise ball when you sti – I sat on an exercise ball for almost 3 weeks before Ragan was born when we watched tv at night. You can sit with your legs open and sway from side to side or do small pelvic circles {like you’re hoola-hooping}. I was 6 cm dilated when we checked into the hospital with Ragan, so I think this helps!

 Drs want to see a baby and nurses/drs tend to be concerned if you’re “failing to progress.” Often when we allow our bodies to do what it was made to do – there isn’t an exact scientific “progression” formula that will be true for every woman {and yes – there might be an appropriate time where intervention might be necessary – but that’s why it’s important to have a dr you trust. Do they want to intervene because it’s REALLY going to be best for you/baby or are they wanting to intervene so that they can be home for dinner at 6?}

 If you’re interested at all in having an unmedicated birth or if you just want to learn more, watch The Business of Being Born. It’s on Netflix streaming and you can also find it on youtube. It’s a documentary, so it’s biased, but there’s truth to the information it shares. It's the source that gave me information about what to research.


Books my doula recommends:

Ina May's guide to natural child birth - she's a hippy kind of birthing pioneer - anyone who's done any research on natural birth would have heard of her


What ifs:
What if your husband isn't on board? Have him watch the business of being born. :) I was nervous about what Tom would think, and at the end of the day, as I presented information to him, he saw that it was healthier for me to labor sans medicine. He's become a pro-natural birth spokesperson as well. :) 

What if your family doesn't seem supportive? Well...it's your birth. It's your experience, not theirs. Even if you're in a "medical" family. You are not putting yourself or your baby in danger by going au'natural. In fact, studies show that you have a higher chance of having a safer birth if you're not induced or don't have a c-section.

What if you don't think you can do it? This thought crosses everyone's mind. It sure did mine. The good thing is that you only experience 1 contraction at a time - not all at once. Another good reason to have a doula is because they are such a major support/cheerleader for you. And birth doesn't last forever. It WILL be over. I was so nervous about pushing and how painful it would be, and it does hurt, but it's also totally doable. You're so unaware of time, that even if it's a long labor, it really does go by quickly. I just kept thinking that if I have an epidural, I could have pain in my back for the rest of my life, whereas if I just suck-it-up and deal with the pain, it WILL be over in a few hours.

Feel free to pass on any other what-ifs questions to me {chanehart {at} gmail {dot} com}


***Please feel free to share this series with anyone who you think would benefit from it.***

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