Not brainwashed

I stumbled upon this article titled “Eve’s Punishment Rebooted: The Ideology of Natural Birth” and was immediately appalled. As I read, the entire article gave me the feeling that myself and women like me are being considered brainwashed products of misogyny. Perhaps that was the case, perhaps not. Only Ms. Egbert would know her true intent here. She would later claim in comments that it was not her intent. Unfortunately, when you go and alienate an entire group of women straight off the bat, it’s a little difficult to be so sure.

As I stated in a couple of my replies to some of the comments – as well as to most anyone who know me or has read my blog for any length of time –  of my five children, three were born in hospitals. My first (a cesarean) and my second (a highly medicalized VBAC) were both very traumatic to me. After the latter, I actually made the statement that having been raped before by someone I trusted, I know what it felt like, and that birth felt exactly the same. I felt bullied through the pregnancy by the OBs in the practice. Scare tactics were used even though there was no evidence that anything was wrong. In both of my first two births, I felt like a child being told what to do. I was treated as essentially nothing, worthless. WIth my VBAC – that I wanted to have naturally (i.e. vaginally, no pain meds, no unnecessary interventions), I was given pitocin – that I had previously made clear I did not want – “just a little” and “just for a little bit”, both of which ended up being total lies. When I finally insisted on having it turned off, I was informed that if I did not allow the nurse to turn it back on, the doctor would section me when she came in. No reason or need. But, again, I was just the little patient, expected to do as I was told. When I finally relented to the epidural, my nurse was ecstatic because I was easier to control. Once it came time to push, the OB actually yelled at me for grunting and breathing noisily as I was attempting to push. Again, I wasn’t being the good little girl, I guess. I truly wanted nothing more than to kick that bitch in the head, but knew that I needed to be that good patient. Naturally, she got me back by stitching me up so tightly that it hurt to use the toilet for months. That was a nice touch.

I will also say that my last two (home water birth and home dry birth) were my largest babies at 10 lb 13 oz and 11 lb 11 oz, respectively. Because I was able to move into positions that felt right at the time, I managed to avoid tearing. At all. Even though I did with my other smaller babies. In fact, after both of their births, I actually had to be told to calm down and take it easy. I was exhilarated and even, yes, empowered. Not because of any pain – which, as one previous poster pointed out, DOES NOT ALWAYS EQUATE TO SUFFERING – but because I did it. I did something that the previously mentioned OB would have sectioned me for. I was able to immediately start the bonding process. No baby was being whisked away. In fact, my midwife (CNM, for those keeping track at home) prefers that only mom or dad, but especially mom, hold baby for the first day or two, just to help increase likelihood of bonding. That’s fine with me because I don’t have to worry about people traipsing through, expecting to hold baby. In fact, when it’s in our home, we get to determine who we do and don’t want traipsing through. 😉

Upon reading the article, I immediately resented the implication that I have been brainwashed. If anything, I had been previously brainwashed to trust in the so-called “experts” to know what was best for me. I resent the implication that I – or others like me – are brainwashed into choosing natural (drug-free, vaginal) birth.

Unfortunately, many of the commenters also referred to us “natural birthers” as a cult. You’ve got to be kidding. If anything, this belief that you’re only safe in an icky, germ-infested hospital where you’re told what to do and only “allowed” to do certain things while being “not allowed” others is the one that is cult-like. After all, if you wouldn’t accept being “allowed” or “not allowed” to do things by a significant other, why is it suddenly okay for our care providers? Why should they be exempt from respecting us and our bodies?

I do wish that Ms. Egbert would have spent some time with us “natural birthers” as well as some midwives before she drew her conclusions. I also wish that she would reach out and take the time to find out why our need/desire/wish for such takes place. In many cases – at least the ones I know personally – we choose the natural method because we feel better taken care of, safer, and we feel like human beings.

Surprises after delivery

After reading After-birth: 10 surprises from those first days after delivery by Meredith Bland who, by the way, is quite witty. I thought about it for a bit and decided I had to comment somewhere. She’s so right in that there are so many of the things that happen afterward that they don’t tell you about before.

Now, here’s the thing, I’ve experienced all the varieties of birth that, to my knowledge a woman can possibly experience. Cesarean, medicated VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), natural hospital VBAC, water HBAC (Home Birth After Cesarean), and HBAC.

I’d like to think that my experience is not to be discounted in the grand scheme of things.

Cesareans suck. At least, mine did. It also didn’t help that I wound up catching something nasty in the hospital – to be expected as, after all, hospitals are full of nasty germs and sickness – that took my voice away and made me miserable. Because that’s exactly how you want to feel when they’ve just handed you a baby to care for. In fact, the lovely OB chastised me the next day for not being up and moving. All I wanted to do was tell him to go to hell. But I couldn’t. I had no voice, remember?

I will tell you, however, you do not want to gaze upon your stitches those first several days. They’re not pretty.

Also, that tummy of yours? The one the baby just came out of? Yeah, you do not want to see it right away, either. They forget to tell you that it doesn’t just magically go away. No. You’re now the proud owner of a saggy, baggy belly. Nursing helps it lessen faster, I promise!

The super-augmented hospital VBAC wound up being awful in a multitude of ways. What many medical professionals don’t seem to understand is that a healthy baby is not the be all and end all of things. A healthy mama is incredibly important as well because, let’s face it, we’re the ones performing the majority of care for that healthy baby. Especially if we’re breastfeeding. If we’ve not healthy – physically and mentally – we’re not going to be doing a bang-up job of bonding with or caring for that healthy baby. But we may be doing a great job of having all sorts of negative thoughts or tons and tons of therapy bills and antipsychotics. Capiche?

After my (natural) VBACs, I was up moving around pretty quickly. As in, right after. Really. I’ve never felt so energized in my life.

Bleeding? Oh, yes, there will be blood. I didn’t really notice much difference in the amount between any of my cesarean or hospital births, but I did notice much less blood (lochia) after my home births. And, as the author pointed out, it is a very disconcerting feeling when something slides out of your vagina. *shudder*

Which brings me to pads. Yes, you can grab as many of those sexy mesh panties you can get your hands on before leaving the hospital. Heck, you’re paying for them all anyway, so grab what you can.

My CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) also gave me a bit of an education on things. Two words: Adult diapers. No kidding. They’re a fantastic thing to behold for a postpartum woman. I know, you probably don’t believe me, and I admit that I was very skeptical at first, but I found out quickly just how effective they are.

The “uterine massage” is truly a thing of the devil. And it seems to get worse the more children you have. Bonus, I know! And, remember that feeling of something sliding out of your vagina? Two-fer!! For bonus points, do you know what else helps your uterus contract? Yep, breastfeeding your baby.

As far as breastfeeding goes, I lucked out with my oldest. At least in the beginning. Things were going great. Until I started a full time job. And had not a clue about pumping. And had little success. It wasn’t long before I found myself staring at different types of formula.

With my second, I wound up on the NuvaRing which dried up my supply. Not all women have this result, I guess I was just lucky.

With my third, I had all of the issues with the crazy doctor and the hospital that resulted in my milk drying up.

With my fourth, I was fortunate enough to have a CNM who is also an LC (Lactation Consultant). She was able to diagnose an issue (oversupply) that I didn’t even know I had. Had I not had her, I’m convinced I would have had a similar result as the others. I breastfed him for almost a year and a half.

With my fifth, I had the same midwife as my fourth and she was able to “fix” a bad latch. When I say bad latch, I mean bad. No exaggeration here, I was so close to calling it quits because it hurt so bad, and I was bleeding to boot. Every time I would feed him, I would curl up in a ball and cry. She made a trip out to see us just a few days after he was born – rather than having me come in to see her – and solved the problem nearly immediately. She also gave me some awesome things to wear on my nipples to help them heal quickly. We hit the year mark earlier this month and we’re still going strong.

Lesson learned here? It’s a very good idea to consult with an LC – and not a hospital LC, either as, I’m sorry to say, my experience with them was severely lacking – if you have any concerns. Or maybe even just to have them take a quick peek and see if everything looks good. If you cannot afford one, see if you can find a nursing support group that’s led by an LC. Obviously this would need to be an in-person group but you probably already sensed that’s where I was going. 😉

The author also hit the nail on the head regarding pooping afterward. At least after a cesarean or medicalized birth. There was no issue after any of my natural births. Although, after the first two, I thought sure there would be. I was nearly petrified with fear, only to realize that, hey, there was nothing to fear at all.

Yes, I’m partial to my natural births – especially the two at home. They were the only ones that I had some semblance of control, competency, and empowerment with/from. After all, if I can give birth, I can do anything! Well, maybe not, but it sure feels that way for awhile.

I must reiterate here. It’s far easier to care for your healthy baby when you yourself are mentally sound. A traumatic, unnecessarily-controlled birth does not do that. In essence, it robs people. It robs the baby of a healthy mother as well as the opportunity to bond more readily to her. It robs the mother of the opportunity to bond readily with the baby. It robs the father because he is left feeling uncertain of what she has gone through and what he “should” be feeling – he’s torn, and that should not be. If there are siblings, those siblings get robbed too, and might be more likely to have animosity toward their new baby.

With all that being said, yes, there are some super crazy things going on after a baby is born. Here’s hoping you didn’t find out the hard way.

Guest post: Gavin’s Birth

After my own delightful experiences, I’ve decided to collect and feature stories of others’ home birth experiences on my blog from time to time. This is the first of such.

Hailey, 22:

My first birth was when I was 19 in a hospital. The experience overall was fine, it just didn’t feel like the right way to do birth. What truly pushed us to do a home birth was to avoid the unneeded interventions that we received with my now 3 year old.

On Tuesday, November 19, 2013 (Leary’s and my 4th anniversary), I was 36 weeks and 2 days along.  At 7:26 AM, I woke up in a small puddle of water; I was so excited I rushed to the bathroom. When I wiped I found clear fluid with a bloody tinge!  I ran into the bedroom to wake Leary. I called Lynda (my midwife) and let her know about the bloody show. At 8, my contractions began.  I once again had the wonderful back labor.  Leary and I were so happy; I told him to call into work and use his very last vacation day. I called my mom, dad, and brother to let them know that this might be the day.

The rest of the morning went on normally.  We got Addy up, fed, and dressed. My cousin Ari was staying with us, so I alerted her of the news.  At 12 PM, Leary and I left Addy at home with Ari to go visit my midwife for her to check my PH (to figure out if my water had broken).  My water hadn’t broken. Lynda told us we might not be having a baby as we had thought… She said I was 4-5cm dilated and 90% effaced. I walked out of Lynda’s almost in tears.  I was so bummed my water hadn’t broken. I alerted my doula and photographer. After a fairly quick pity party for ourselves, Leary and I decided to celebrate our anniversary over McDonalds in the car. I know it wasn’t the best fuel for labor but crap is all this little man wanted me to eat. 🙂

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We arrived home and broke the news to Ari. Leary, Addy, and I decided to try and keep my contractions coming so we walked to our neighborhood park to play on the playground. Addy had an absolute blast and Leary took tons of pictures. This wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for us to do, but this particular park trip is the most special to us. When I realized how emotional I was about the experience, it gave me another boost and I was once again convinced that we would be welcoming our little guy very soon. We headed home from the park about 4 PM.

Once home I bounced on my birth ball and rested on the couch while Leary made dinner and Addy watched some “Elmo” (AKA Sesame Street). We did our normal evening routine except I texted my mom and asked her to come pick Addy up on her way home.  My dear friend and volunteer Doula told me she would be over around 7 PM. I packed up an absolutely thrilled daughter and sent her on her way with “Gigi”.

Addy left and we all relaxed; the early evening was calm and peaceful.  It hadn’t been what we planned for our anniversary, but what plan in life ever is? Once Carmen, my doula, arrived she pushed my lazy butt into active mode we walked around my neighborhood a few times to get things progressing. By this time my contractions still had no pattern and weren’t very painful. We got back from walking and I hopped in my birth tub.  Boy, did I LOVE this thing!!! I wish it was still in my living room! About 7:30 PM my photographer told me she was headed over, I let her know that we still had a ways to go and that she should head home until I was transitioning. At this point I once again started to doubt my instincts and body… this baby wasn’t coming. We sat in the tub and watched Under Cover Boss until 12am. Finally we all called it a night; it wasn’t going to happen.

I went to bed disappointed and lied down. Between 12-2 AM, I woke up a few times from a contraction here or there, but at 2:30 I woke up in full transition! I couldn’t even make it to the birth pool so I got in the bath tub instead. After a half hour of soaking I went back to bed exhausted and hoping to sleep a bit, (silly me), and I woke up a half hour later and my voice must have revealed the pain I was feeling because Leary, who is impossible to wake up, jumped right up with me and actually beat me to the birth tub. It was 3:30 AM and Carmen was on her way. We tried our midwife and it went to voice mail which I didn’t think anything of, after all it was 3am! Right after that a contraction came and I fell silent.

After the contraction, I decided to check on my progress… and there was his head!!! This guys, is where I began to FREAK out… I looked at Leary with tears forming in my eyes and said “CALL LYNDA!!!” We tried again— no answer (we lost the number she had just given us earlier that afternoon since her cell was not available). I remembered that we happened to have her husband’s cell and said “CALL HIM!!!” We got ahold of him (who was surprisingly calm about all of this) and he got ahold of Lynda. She called Leary back and he put her on speaker; she let us know she just left another birth was on her way and that if I felt the urge to push I should have Leary call back and she would walk him through the process… Panic continued until the next contraction.  Carmen walked in a contraction later.  I explained the situation to Carmen, appearing stronger than I felt.

Another contraction came and my body took over and I began to hum.  This was simply AMAZING, my body really did know what to do!  About fifteen or twenty minutes, but exactly 6 contractions later, Lynda arrived and Leary and I filled with relief.  She and her assistant efficiently carried in their luggage and prepared the room.  This took 4 contractions.  On the next contraction, I guess my body felt the urge to push, because that is exactly what it started to do.  Without the pressure of the hospital and midwifes telling me what to do this was both confusing yet refreshing at the same time. There was no instruction, no bare down and count to 10; my midwife simply told me your body knows, follow its lead. The humming continued, getting louder and louder.  At some point, I requested someone to get Ari.  Leary later told me that she sleepily stumbled on the scene during a particularly loud bout of humming and her eyes quickly became like saucers.  A contraction later the cursing began. Once again there was no thought about this, it just flowed out. My wonderful birth team just continued to support me and I just heard whisperers of encouraging words and true love all around me. When a contraction would end and I could consciously make eye contact I would get the most sincere and loving smiles. I could not have asked to be surrounded by more supportive people, I am glad I chose these people so carefully.

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As I began crowning the pressure and burning began; this is the push I forced a bit too much and my water then broke. I remember shouting out “My water just broke!”  At this point I only had a few seconds before contractions began; it was rough.  I just tried to remember I was almost there! This is the point Lynda came to me and began touching and checking with Leary’s help.  Leary prepared to “catch” Gavin.  Lynda was having him help position the baby correctly to help me not tear (This was uncomfortable to say the least). I just remember saying “STOP, OW, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?” Next thing I knew his head came out and I heard, “I feel his lips!” Lynda again reminded me to let my body make the decisions. In two more pushes my not so little guy arrived. At 5:17AM on November 20th 2013 Gavin Eugene Williamson was born, weighing 7 pounds, 9 ounces and 19 in tall. He was PERFECT.

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A HUGE thank you to my FABULOUS birth team! You will never know what you all mean to me!

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Calvin’s birth story

On Wednesday, March 6, 2013, I began having contractions that became more consistent, unlike the previous few days. I called my mother to come over and stay so that, in the event something went wrong and we had to go to hospital, someone would be there with the kids.

The morning of March 7, I awoke around 7-ish, definitely in labor. Thankfully, I’d been able to sleep most of the night, although the more we moved into morning, the more intense things were becoming.

Ceili Fey and Henry, camping out in the hallway, awaiting Calvin's arrival
Ceili Fey and Henry, camping out in the hallway, awaiting Calvin’s arrival
Noah dressed up to meet his new brother.
Noah dressed up to meet his new brother.

For some reason, wires got crossed and my mom thought she wasn’t needed so she headed home. I’m still not sure how that happened as I thought I’d made it quite clear the night before that things were really beginning to happen. I phoned her to see why she left, and she told me she was on her way back. It seems that my oldest sister had seen the post I made on Facebook to announce to everyone that labor had officially begun so she excitedly called our mother. Upon learning that things were really happening, my mother turned around and came back.

I spent the next couple hours laboring, until, somewhere around 9, we opted to call Penny, our (Certified Nurse) Midwife. She and her birth crew (Gretchen and Jan) packed up their gear and headed our way, and not a moment too soon, either.

As they were arriving, I took a shower to ease some of the labor pain – water feels wonderful during labor! I had really hoped for a water birth as I had with Henry, but there was much concern about the floors in our apartment (in a very old building) not being able to hold the weight. The shower definitely helped, though.

When I came back into the bedroom, Penny wanted to listen to the baby, so I laid back on the bed.

Next thing I knew, I heard and felt a pop and then a gush! as my water broke. All over the bed. There was meconium in the water and, boy, was it green!

No one was expecting that to happen, so the bed had not been fully prepped at that point. I had to get up and go wash off while everyone did their best to clean and cover the mattress.

I put some water in the tub because the idea of standing in the shower just didn’t quite suit me. I continued to sit in the tub for a bit. Jan asked me if I wanted to birth in the tub. I recall thinking about it for a moment, then decided I was feeling somewhat claustrophobic.

Shortly afterward, I returned to our bedroom.

Even when the contractions are serious business, there are breaks in between.

At this point, Penny decided I needed to receive the IV antibiotics we had previously discussed – I had tested positive for GBS (Group Beta Strep) at one point during pregnancy.

Now, bear in mind that, when in labor, the last thing I want is to be poked and prodded. I cannot stand for anything – excluding people – to touch me. It wasn’t too long before I was ready to rip the IV out! but I didn’t, I was good. 😉 I had discussed with Penny beforehand how I did not want a hep lock in place. I was fine with her just poking my vein as many times as it took, provided that the needle came out the moment she was finished.

Counting down the moments ’til the IV can come out!

That IV wasn’t done fast enough for me. I swear, I was almost to the point of crying. I also felt very bad because – and I think this was due to all the meconium – Gretchen kept putting the doppler on my belly to listen to the baby. I kept asking her to stop. I’m pretty sure I remember whining – yes, actually whining! – about both the doppler and the IV. *insert embarrassed face here*

I’d been feeling a little “pushy” but I believe it was very nearly the moment that needle came out, I was ready to really push. I couldn’t seem to find a comfortable spot. I had been standing next to the bed, sometimes leaning over on the bed, but this time I got up on the bed on my hands and knees. I was rocking back and forth and trying to push. I remember feeling as though the baby was stuck. I kept pushing as I felt the urge, but it felt as though nothing was happening. I would later learn that, for whatever reason, Calvin had not descended rapidly as babies normally do, so when I first started pushing, he still had a long way to go. Penny, Gretchen, and Jan kept assuring me that he was not stuck, but boy, did it feel like it!

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After what truly felt like forever, I pushed and felt him starting to come out. I felt the so-called “ring of fire” and knew we were finally getting somewhere. I pushed a couple of times through this, then, even though I knew he wasn’t fully out yet, completely lost the urge to push. I kept waiting for it to come back, but it didn’t. All the while, I’m being urged to push. I just kept saying, “I can’t!” which resulted in everyone telling me “You can!” which, admittedly, was a bit frustrating because, physically, I couldn’t just then. Poor Calvin was stuck partway out while I willed myself to push.

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I’m not certain what changed, but at last, I felt one last urge to push! At a few minutes after 10, Calvin popped out, onto the bed.

Almost out!
Almost out!

As I was scrambling to climb backwards over him to scoop him up, Penny told me to stop! but by that point, I was already in motion. I was later told that the cord was wrapped around his neck and Penny was trying to remove it.

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I stated to scoop him up – although, he was so very slippery, I actually dropped him back on the bed. Luckily, it wasn’t much of a drop at all – just a few centimeters – but just enough to make me feel awful in that moment. I succeeded in scooping him up the next time. 😉

On his way out, he had more meconium, so Gretchen suctioned him a bit to remove it.

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Gretchen suctioning the meconium from Calvin.

As I was holding Calvin in my arms, and looking at him, I realized he was not breathing. I’m not sure if I noticed this first or if Penny did but she immediately began talking to him, telling him to breathe. At this point, I was starting to panic. I started rubbing him – I think Penny did, too – and continued to panic. I’m a bit embarrassed that I was so panicky instead of thinking more clearly but I think, at that point, it was a bit of PTSD kicking in. The only thing I could think of was losing another child! Thankfully, Calvin began to breathe. I realize that this all happened in mere seconds, but it felt like an eternity.

Penny, telling Calvin to breathe.
Penny, telling Calvin to breathe.

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After that, everyone started coming in to meet Calvin Elias.

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Ceili Fey came in right away. Noah and Henry were more standoffish. They didn’t care to be photographed with their new brother.

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Henry, no longer the youngest.

 

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Soon came time for weight. Drumroll, please!

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Calvin Elias weighed in at 11 pounds 11 ounces.

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He didn’t look as though he was over 11 pounds!

He checked out okay. No issues.

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All his fingers and toes.

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So beautiful and so perfect!!

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While I was getting cleaned up, Jon had some one-on-one time with baby Calvin. I love these pictures!

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We (Calvin and I) did have a bit of an issue with breastfeeding for the first few days. I was having excruciating pain whenever I breastfed him. I was perplexed because he seemed to have a good latch and he was definitely getting milk, it was just so very painful. Luckily, Penny is a Lactation Consultant. She actually came to us and observed and then pointed out the problem. It seems that, when Calvin was awaiting my last push, his shoulder and neck might have been made somewhat sore by the length of time he was partway out and that really opening up to breastfeed could be actually causing him pain. She said it was that or, he could be a lazy baby because she’s seen those, too. After things cleared up in a couple of days, I’m pretty sure that it was because he was sore. Otherwise, I think we’d still be having the issue. 😉

I am so grateful for Penny because, had it not been for her, I’m not sure how long I could have continued breastfeeding at that rate. I was crying every time I had to feed him. But things are 100% better now. He latches – and eats – like a champ, every time.

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With our newest addition

Calvin continues to gain weight and grow as he should.

We’re so excited to have him. Noah warmed up to him right away, Henry is getting there. Noah and Henry constantly kiss and hug him. Ceili Fey frequently requests to hold him.

I know that the wait seemed so long (almost 42 weeks!), but it was all worth it.

Extra special thanks to Lillie Weihe for photographing Calvin’s birth!