The Birth of a Mother

For me, ‘childbirth’ is a misnomer.  When my son was born, I didn’t see it immediately, but I’ve realized now that really it was my birth.  I became a mother, and was changed more in that moment than at any other time in my life.

My husband and I were not going to be parents.  I was unsure about kids.  I felt that I was too selfish to raise children, and, well… I never was a baby person.  To be completely honest, I just thought they were gross little poop/spit up factories.  As crazy as it sounds, I didn’t know that babies were people.  I thought they were little empty shells waiting for a personality to be dropped in by their parents sometime during childhood.

But then we met a couple that had a daughter.  The mother was healthy and fit, and didn’t wear “mom jeans” (you know the ones… with the waistband at the arm pits).  They went to friends’ homes and had friends over.  They stayed up late and drank wine and margaritas, with their daughter sleeping in her bedroom down the hall.  In other words, they still had a life.  It hadn’t occurred to me before then that it was possible to have children and not give up having a life.  God was preparing my heart.

We were surprised to find ourselves pregnant, and only months after meeting these hip parent friends.  I was panicked.  I forgot everything I had seen in our friends’ lives, and started believing my life was officially over.  I was going to be a fat, boring mom, stuck in my house with a drooling poop factory for the next 18 years.  And someone was going to call me ‘mom’ for the rest of my life…  Oh the humanity!!  How could this be happening to me?  Why was God punishing me???

My poor husband.  He struggled during this time, as he was ecstatic about having a baby, but trying to quiet the fears of his panicking wife at the same time.  It didn’t help that I threw up everyday for the entire nine months.  Friends would ask us if we were excited, smiling expectantly as they got a stone silent response from me.  How could I tell them I was scared to death?

We took childbirth education classes – 12 weeks worth.  And while this calmed all fears about pregnancy and birth (and in fact gave us a lot of confidence and empowerment, even over future parenting decisions), it didn’t do much for my fears of motherhood itself.  What if I hated it?  What if I hated the baby?  What if I was an awful mother?

Labor began for me around 1:00 am.  Contractions were a minute long and two minutes apart from the first contraction until his birth ten hours later.  While they were strong contractions, I was relaxed and confident, and calm.  My husband was an amazing coach, and being at the birth center with a supportive midwife was great.

As I transitioned into the pushing stage, the baby’s heart tones started dropping rapidly.  My midwife was concerned, so we transferred to the hospital.  I was not afraid, and trusted that it was God’s plan, even if we ended up with a still birth.

Thankfully, our son was born without complication… pink and screaming and perfect.  And I loved him the moment I saw him.  Suddenly, all my fears were gone.

Besides the frequent leaky diaper (I just couldn’t get the hang of that!), I found motherhood to be quite natural for me.  We took our son everywhere with us, even snowshoeing at only three months old.  We ignored criticism from friends and family who thought we shouldn’t be so relaxed.  We were determined to make our baby a part of our lives, not make our lives about our baby.

We had parties and friends over and played loud games and music late into the night with Henry asleep in the next room.  We went to friends’ homes and played cards until 2:00am with our son in a pack-n-play.  We went to a bed and breakfast, and took him along.   We planted the garden and took him to the farm.  He played with worms and dirt and bugs, and got covered in mud.  We were actually having fun!  And best of all, even from birth, our son was a little person, waiting for us to get to know him… this boy was no empty shell.

We decided to do it again.  This time, my fears were relegated to “How in the world will I be able to take care of two without neglecting one of them?” and “What if our son hates this?”

But my pregnancy was much better the second time around.  I wasn’t nearly as sick after the first trimester, and I was able to say yes when people asked if we were excited.  We decided on a home birth this time, and picked a wonderful midwife, Julie, to help us.

I expected to be in control, calm and collected during this labor and birth.  I had been through childbirth once already, and I imagined that this second birth would be somewhat similar to the first.  But while our son’s birth was ten hours long, this labor was probably a ten on the intensity scale.

The contractions I had this time, built slowly over hours of pre-labor.  By the time labor was active, there was only an hour and four minutes of it, and the contractions were very powerful.  And while I pushed for just seven minutes, I felt completely out of control, and quite afraid during his birth.  My midwives were a huge support and very reassuring when I felt so uncertain, and my husband was calm and confident throughout (not to mention, quite unabashed about lying to me that these contractions were just like the ones I had with our son, no matter how many times I asked him if HE felt like they were just way more intense).

The strength of this labor and birth were perfectly contrasted by the serenity and peace of being at home in the calm of our own bedroom.  The midwives treated us with so much love and respect, and really honored what we had asked for in our birth experience.

I had another perfect, pink baby boy.  And again, my fears dissipated with one look at him.  Our first son and my mom had come home from the museum while I was pushing, and were able to meet the new baby, right after he was born.  Our older son was so excited to meet his brother, and even now can barely keep himself from hugging and kissing the baby all the time.

So now, I am the mother of two!  I feel utterly transformed my becoming a mother.  I don’t look at the world the same way.  Some things that I thought were important before, just don’t seem to matter at all, and things that I had no idea about are monumental.

And I know that all my fears; being boring, having no life, being trapped with drooling poop factories – were completely irrational.  I don’t feel nearly as selfish as I thought I would be.  I actually like sharing my husband with our sons.  I don’t mind loosing some sleep when one of them is sick, or when the baby needs and extra feeding.  Breastfeeding is not at all gross, and I actually enjoy the quiet one on one time with my babies.

I’m excited to see who these little people become.

*originally posted on my personal blog on July 26, 2009.

The Unexpected Home Birth

Usually during your childbirth education classes you hear about how long a labor can be.  But what if your labor goes really fast?  So fast that your midwife can’t get to you or you don’t have time to get to your planned birth place?

While it’s a rare occurrence for first time mothers, it’s not a rare concern.  Here are the answers to some common questions surrounding precipitous birth and fast labor.

What is fast labor? Fast labor is considered to be less than three hours and is also called “Precipitous Birth.” It is not an emergency. However, it can be intense and sometimes frightening for parents.

How common is it? Between 2-3 percent of births are considered precipitous, however it is much more common in second (or more) time mothers than first time moms. If a mother has already had one fast labor, she is more likely to have another. The chances of a first time mother having a fast labor is very small. Continue reading

Birth Philosophies

Diana Korte, author of A Good Birth, A Safe Birth, said “If you don’t know your options you don’t have any.”

It is important to remember when choosing a care provider that not only do you have lots of options, but that you have the power to hire, fire, and change care providers anytime during your pregnancy and prenatal care.

Below are some generalizations on two very different ways of viewing pregnancy and birth-related care. Continue reading

Inspired! Some of my Favorite Quotes on Birth

Below are some of my favorite quotes – most are on birth specifically, but some are just generally empowering.  Enjoy…

“We have a secret in our culture, it’s not that birth is painful, it’s that women are strong.” ~ Laura Stavoe Harm

“The whole point of woman-centered birth is the knowledge that a woman is the birth power source. She may need, and deserve, help, but in essence, she always had, currently has, and will have the power.” ~ Heather McCue

“Only with trust, faith, and support can the woman allow the birth experience to enlighten and empower her.” ~ Claudia Lowe

“Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers – strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.” ~ Barbara Katz Rothman

“A newborn baby has only three demands. They are warmth in the arms of its mother, food from her breasts, and security in the knowledge of her presence. Breastfeeding satisfies all three.” ~ Grantly Dick-Read

“Midwives do it in any position.” ~ unknown

“Attending births is like growing roses. You have to marvel at the ones that just open up and bloom at the first kiss of the sun but you wouldn’t dream of pulling open the petals of the tightly closed buds and forcing them to blossom to your time line.” ~ Gloria Lemay

“There is power that comes to women when they give birth. They don’t ask for it, it simply invades them. Accumulates like clouds on the horizon and passes through, carrying the child with it.” ~ Sheryl Feldman

“Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.” ~ Clementine Paddleford

“Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware … To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory. She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”  ~ Grantly Dick-Read, Childbirth Without Fear

“My theory is once you begin challenging fundamental common practices in today’s society, once you challenge one, it’s easy to challenge them all.” ~ Robert Hutchins, from Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons

“Women today not only possess genetic memory of birth from a thousand generations of women, but they are also assailed from every direction by information and misinformation about birth.” ~ Valerie El Halta

In the News: Christy Turlington Burns Pushes for Maternal Health

Inspired by her own birth experiences, supermodel, Christy Turlington Burns, has made a film, “No Woman, No Cry,” documenting some of the most common causes of maternal deaths. She hopes the film will raise funds and awareness surrounding hemorrhage, infection, high blood pressure, unsafe abortion, and obstructed labor, in order to help reduce the number of deaths caused by these conditions each year.

“Hundreds of thousands of women are dying every year, and 90 percent of those deaths are preventable,” said Turlington Burns.

Christy Turlington Burns financed the film herself and took two years making it. During the filming, maternal deaths in the Peruvian community she visited were reduced.

Below is a trailer for the new film:

Visit everymothercounts.org to read more about Turlington Burns and her new documentary.

DOULA! The Ultimate Birth Companion

How exciting!  I just found out from a Facebook friend that there is a new film, set to launch this June all about doulas!  Many mothers are chosing to give birth with doulas as a part of their support team.  But some parents (or grandparents or friends) still have questions about what a doula does and what her role in birth is. 

Here are a few frequently asked questions about doulas, with answers from doulafilm.com: 

What is a doula? 

A DOULA (n:pronounced doo-luh) is a professional birth companion, an experienced woman who supports you before, during and after your birth. Like having your mum, sister or best friend with you when you have your baby.

You can hire a doula whether you are planning a home birth or a birth in a hospital.  She is there to help you have the birth you want. 

What’s the difference between a doula and a midwife?

Midwives are responsible for everything medical and so it is midwives who “deliver” the babies, doula’s don’t do anything medical.

Unless you are working with an independent midwife, then midwives work on shift systems and so your midwife during labour will probably be replaced by another midwife shift changes.  Also, if you have your baby in hospital, midwives may “pop in and out” during your labour as they maybe be tending to other women at the same time, returning for the actual birth. Doulas stay by your side for the entirety of the labour and birth, however long it lasts, they don’t have shift changes and they finally leave a few hours after the baby is born when the mum is completely settled.

What about dads/partners?

The doula is there to support both the mum and her partner. It’s a 3-way positive relationship where everything the doula does is for the good of both expectant parents. By providing practical support, this frees up the partner to be with the mum 100% of the time. By providing emotional support, the doula is the rock which either parent can rely on; she is there to answer any questions and to be the advocate if needed, or to step in if the partner needs to rest. It’s not about the doula taking over, it’s about her working with the parents to help them have the birth they want!

Here’s a trailer:

 

This summer, look for FREE screening dates of “DOULA! The Ultimate Birth Companion” from Sweet Sprouts!  To find out more about the film, check out the website: DoulaFilm.com, and make sure to check out our links to find a doula in the Denver area!

The Passage

When I went to my childbirth education training last Novemeber, our instructor read this incredible passage from the book  She Births  to us during a visualazation/relaxation excercise.  I thought it was so powerful and beautiful.  I contacted the author, Marcie Macari, about publishing it here for my readers.  Thanks to her and to my friend Noel, who shared her beautiful picture, taken by Elizabeth Powis, here as well. 

The Passage

by Marcie Macari

The earth shook.  The women gathered.
The chanting
            of The Women Of a Thousand Generations began,  their hands intertwined.
I breathe low, moaning deep through my body to touch the depth of sound they generate.
                        And for a moment I am with them.

“We’re here-with you, you are one of us-you can do it!”

One of them

I breathe.
The coals glow-mocking my strength
            Embers flick their tongues tormenting my courage.

I step onto the coals-

The Women Of a Thousand Generations push closer to the embers-
            their faces glowing from the coals.
I keep my eyes on them, focusing on THEIR ability to push through the pain,
                       to keep walking in spite of their fear-
                                    remembering that they made it to the other side. 

I find MY courage and step again.
                        I feel the embers, and wince. 

The Women start beating a drum.
                        I find their rhythm in my abdomen, and slowly move forward: 

            One step- look at the face.
                        Second step- focus on the eyes.
                                    Third step… 

            I see the African dancers, rehearsing their steps as I walk my last few.
            I see the circle being set-the fire at the center,  the food and festivities.

This will be the stage for my welcoming into this elite group-
           this Women Of a Thousand Generations.
                                                my heart swells.
I am close to the end now, and my body starts to shake-Spirit stronger than flesh.
            I want to give up-to step on the cool grass
                                                And off these coals. 

I look for the faces, and my eyes meet theirs.

                                                One of them smiles.

She who is With Woman, reaches out her hand 

Her face is the clearest, eyes at my level.

           “Listen to your body and do what it tells you” She says-no trace of concern.

The chanting changes: “Listen to your bo-dy”

             In rhythm, hands are again joined, like an infinite chain.

I realize just how many have gone this way before me.

The one who smiled places her hand on the shoulder
           of the One who is With Woman
                                                            with me,
            and I breathe, stretching out my hand to grasp the outstretched.

I am about to cross over-
                        Silence comes over the Universe. 

I near the end-
            my body aches,
                        my mind is empty of everything but that last step.
            Last step.
                        Hands grasped.
                                    Cool grass.
On my toes, cooling my feet-
            my arms reach out to claim my prize-
                        “Reach down and take your baby.”
I hold him to me tightly, and proudly take my place in the chain.
                        I am now a Woman Of a Thousand Generations.
                                                The celebration begins.

 

Excerpt from She Births: A Modern Woman’s Guidebook For an Ancient Rite of Passage, by Marcie Macari.  SheBirths.com .  Photo by Elizabeth Powis (thank you, too!!).  You can see more of Elizabeth’s work at www.cameraliterati.com