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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The birth of Henry

This post has taken some time to write. I started writing it on 1, Feb and I’m only posting it on the 4th.

First, just to get everyone up to speed, I went to a Blessingway that a friend threw for me on the 23rd (January). Shortly before it started, I started feeling not-so-great. Jon and I went to lunch and I mostly just picked at mine. I ended up eating more of his raw celery (which I ordinarily hate) than any of my own meal. We went to the Blessingway and I had a good time, I just didn’t/couldn’t really eat anything there either.

That evening at home, I got sick. I spent the next few days with gastro-intestinal issues (which can be totally normal in early labor) along with contractions. I wound up being wracked with darn near non-stop contractions for the next several days. I. Was. Miserable. I could tell from the contractions that nothing was really changing.

I finally called the midwife office on Friday (28, Jan) to see if they could check baby’s position to see if maybe that was causing the lack of progress. The midwife on call, Holly, phoned back concerned that I was not in labor, but very dehydrated. She wound up coming to our house and giving me an IV which made me feel considerably better. The contractions were few and far between. I was ecstatic. The biggest challenge now would be trying to eat (something I hadn’t done in nearly a week) and drink. I tried hard to push fluids and I tried to eat a little bit, although eating was easier said than done.

Sunday we awoke to the sounds of Elias yelling about wanting to eat. We decided to go to breakfast. Before we left home, I went to the bathroom where I attempted to pee. I had noticed during the night that I had all the symptoms of a urinary tract infection. The morning brought no relief with pain and burning. This time though, when I wiped, I noticed some bloody mucous. I decided to phone the midwife back – I had already phoned asking about what to do for a UTI – and let her know. Holly wasn’t terribly sure. She decided to phone in an antibiotic and see if things improved in 24 hours.

I honestly didn’t want to go anywhere other than right back to bed but I knew that there was no way that would happen. Everyone was starving and, when Jon’s blood sugar gets low, there is simply NO amount of reasoning with him. So, I got in the car and we set off. It wasn’t too long in the car that I became very uncomfortable. Sitting down became an impossible task. I laid the seat back as far as it would go and found some (minimal) comfort. At one point, I told Jon we needed to go back home. He reminded me that we were already pretty much there (about a mile away) and that the kids were absolutely starving. I begrudgingly agreed.

We went into the restaurant and sat down. At least, I tried to sit down. I just couldn’t get comfortable. I finally went to use the toilet. I realized that I was semi-comfortable for the first time. I felt a tiny bit pushy whilst seated on the toilet. I quickly figured out that I couldn’t stay in here forever and need to get out. I went back to the table where I tried, very unsuccessfully, to get comfortable. Finally, the pressure got to be too much and I asked Jon to give me the keys. I went to the car and laid down again, while calling Holly back. I told her that there was definitely something else going on, that I was feeling a lot of pressure between my legs. She decided to come to our house to check me out. I knew that, with her having about a 45 minute drive to our house, Jon and the kids had time to finish up their breakfasts and then we needed to get home. I texted him as such.

The ride home was the longest ride I think I’ve ever taken. Realistically, we were only about 20 minutes away from home but it felt like three hours. And then there were the endless questions from Elias and several from Ceili Fey. I thought it would never end. And then, finally, we were home. I went inside and immediately removed my clothes. Don’t ask me why, I’ve no idea. I next went upstairs and tried to lie down and get comfortable. At one point I think I almost fell asleep but then I felt that pressure again and that brought me back around very quickly. I went to the toilet and noticed blood.

I went downstairs and got straight into the birth tub. It was nice and warm and felt good. I only stayed seated for a minute or two before the pressure became too much again. The odd part was that there were never any contractions, just a great deal of pressure. I hit the button to start the jets and finally found a somewhat comfortable position kneeling in the tub and sort of leaning over the side. I had either zoned out or actually fallen asleep, I’m not certain which. I stayed like that until Holly tapped my arm and startled me back to present. She asked how I was doing and I think my answer was “not well” or something similar. She went to do something and, while she was gone, I felt very pushy again. This time I surrendered to it and started to push. The feeling went away but then came back another time or two before she returned. One of the times, I felt something pop. It momentarily frightened me until I realized that it must have been my water breaking.

At one point, while talking to Holly, I remember sort of jerking bolt upright and pushing. She kept asking me questions like did that seem to help, etc. I told her that it did a little bit, for awhile.

It was right around this point that she decided to check me in the tub – she was originally going to have me get out so she could check things out but opted to have me stay in – and, to the best of her abilities since I couldn’t stand to have her checking for too long, she determined I was actually in labor. I think that shocked her to find that I was in labor with no contractions. It wasn’t too long after that I started to feel that burning and knew that Henry was well on his way. I kept putting my hand down to see what I could feel. At one point, Holly asked me what I felt… I wasn’t sure and whined something to that effect. She told me Penny (CNM) was on her way.

It seemed like no time at all, I realized that I was feeling Henry’s head! The burning was so painful and intense that pushing wasn’t exactly a fun option, any more than not!! Shortly after that, Henry came out. Well, it wasn’t quite that simple. I recall crying out for poor Holly to “get him out of me!” which was exactly what she was trying to do. She kept (kindly) reminding me that I had to help her by pushing. Admittedly, I felt like the biggest wuss afterward.

Relief!!

Finally meeting Henry for the first time
 It seemed as though it took forever but in reality, it all took just a few minutes. Yes, minutes! After a few more moments, it was time to get out and get dried off. I remember being uncertain about actually stepping out of the tub with Henry in my arms but it was much easier than I thought it would be. Holly also let Penny know that she didn’t need to rush. 
                                                     
Enjoying Henry, skin-to-skin
The placenta stayed inside me for about 20 minutes. I just didn’t feel ready to expel it earlier. Partially because I was afraid it would hurt and I had just been through some pretty intense – albeit short – pain. With Noah (my only other natural birth), it did, although I’m not certain why. Perhaps because I tore a bit or perhaps because it was tugged… I’m honestly not sure. I know that my fear most likely contributed to the lengthiness.
After the placenta was expelled, we snuggled skin to skin for awhile. Then Jon’s parents arrived. Only Jon’s mom got to hold Henry since Holly wanted him to stay skin to skin with me as his body temp had dropped when the back door got left open as Jon and Penny’s (the other midwife) husband drained the birthing tub. 
Henry and his Grandma Marilyn
Next it came time to weigh Henry. Holly held him over the scale and asked if any of us wanted to make any guesses. Jon and I both thought he would be nine pounds and some odd ounces. He weighed in at a whopping 10 lbs 13 oz!!  Yowza. No wonder it hurt so bad!
Henry, all 10 lb 13 oz of him
No one expected him to be that big!!!! I would later learn that he holds the current record for the biggest baby caught with the midwifery center. I also found out that this was the first birth Holly attended by herself. Glad it was an easy one for her. And me.

We all reached the conclusion that if Jon and I have any more children, we’ll be having home births without a doubt because we probably won’t have time to get anywhere if we wanted to.

Shortly after that my father and Connie arrived. They stayed with me while Jon, his parents and the kids (sans Henry, of course) ran up the road to grab a quick supper. It was nice to have a few moments of quiet. Even though the kids were upstairs for nap/quiet time during Henry’s birth and shortly thereafter, I was definitely aware of their presence. 

I have no regrets. Home birth was the best choice we could have made. I only wish we had done it sooner. The only thing I would have liked to have had differently was to have Jon a little more attentive as I was in labor. I think he had had some many false alerts that he was expecting this to be yet another one. Heck, even Holly had thought about not packing her birth kits when she headed out but changed her mind at the last moment. It would have been nice to have him rubbing my back or holding me. I think toward the end he was a bit freaked out. I know I was a little because of the speed at which things were happening. 

I did learn that faster is not necessarily better. When I had Noah, I had contractions all day so my body had time to get used to things and work up to birth. This time around there were just no contractions (on the day of Henry’s birth) so my body had no time at all to prepare. The best part? Besides a baby, of course, was that I barely tore at all. Just one tiny place that was so insignificant it didn’t even require stitches. Yay!!

Things are much better

Jon attended my therapy session yesterday… I didn’t initially feel that it went all that well. Apparently it did though because last night we finally talked.

I think he understands that when I was in labor last time, I wanted him right there with me, where he could touch me, and I him. There was a period of time where I was laboring in our garden tub and he was in our bedroom. That wasn’t good enough for me. I wanted him right there. I truly felt as though he had abandoned me, even though he was in the very next room. I don’t think he got that before. He also said he understands that I struggled with depression and that makes things hard for all involved. I also explained to him that, sometimes, at my low points, what I really need is just a hug or a pat on the back or something to let me know that he still cares.

He explained to me that he had felt pretty unloved and unwanted during my labors. He thought I was mean to him. I don’t recall that but I definitely hate that he felt that way. I am going to strive to make this time better.

In any case, I think we’ve come to a better understanding of one another, and of this next birth. I feel like we’re on the same page or at least very close. That’s really all I can ask.