Recently after a birth, I was very sad and very happy at the same time. I had a client who did everything right. She prepared for her birth by taking great classes with Pam. She read the right books and considered all of her options for her birth. Her partner was fully supportive as well as her mother who was in attendance. Although she chose a practice based on her insurance limitations, she chose the midwives within those limitations. She stayed healthy and emotionally balanced during the pregnancy. She labored at home through the night and into the morning with irregular contractions. She went by the midwives office for a labor check before heading to the hospital. She stayed active and upright during most of her labor. She never complained about pain or wanting to quit. And she still ended up with a cesarean birth. What happened?

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This is a wonderful article that helps a woman and her care providers understand her labor better than the medical model of the stages of labor. I think if you can embrace this information, you will find yourself learning how to listen well to your body and as a provider learn to watch a woman and understand what she needs.

The Holistic Stages of Labor
Written by Whapio Diane Bartlett

Embarkation
(Pre-labor and Latent Labor)

Labor is a Journey. The preparation has often been elaborate, conscious and consuming. There is usually an all-important ritual of Arrangement preceding the actual event. We call it nesting and Mother has moved about in a final flurry of activity, taking care of all last details…clothes are washed, food fills the freezer, house is ship-shape…all is in order.
Nesting is part of Embarkation. Mother senses that labor is soon. Perhaps contractions and the loss of a bit of the cervical mucus has offered a hint that the journey is about to commence.

Sunday at church Steve Gooch was preaching. He was talking about “re-uping” to the initial pledge we made to God. He shared a scene from Braveheart after Mel Gibson had completed his freedom speech and how he led the charge to battle.

It is quite timely as I had just completed the last class of my childbirth series and in it we do an exercise called “Warrior.” I always mention Braveheart and the battle preparations. It is not so much so that women will be ready to battle the medical community- but instead to battle the voices within them that try to seed the great doubt that they will often face in labor. This great doubt is definitely watered by the nay sayers- our friends, our family and often our medical support system. But we also carry the seed within us. The fear of the unknown and the fear of us not “performing” the way we hope or the birth unfolding in a way that is out of our control is always within us.

I love the way in the previous scene Mel discusses running from the enemy and how you will still be alive for a while but it will be without freedom. And is that really living. He encourages them to fight even if they fail because they will be fighting for something that is worth dying for. Often times women will choose to give up some of their dreams for their births and instead allow others to take away their freedom. They will perhaps have birth outcomes that will make them disappointed or depressed but more often feeling a bit controlled and manipulated.

I love teaching the classes I teach because I feel we give women options. We open their eyes to what is possible. We help women find courage to fight for the freedom in their births. We also teach that sometimes things are not within our control but that does not mean you are without the ability to make your own decisions as that birth unfolds in a different path than you chose initially.

I leave you with this video clip of Braveheart. I hope you will move into your labor feeling courage and confidence within you… holding steady to that which is right for you.

Braveheart Battle Scene

Holistic NYC Doula has a wonderful blog! We teach breath awareness in our childbirth classes. I think this video clip is a good one for understanding how breath enters into a relaxed preparation for birth.

conscious breathing-quick-easy-intro-to-yogic-breathing

Please consider that the he hes and he hahs of yesteryear breathing techniques work for some since it is the repetitive nature of the breathing or the “doing something” that kept your mind occupied. But this type of breathing is actually effective in calming down in most any situation.

We always think it is funny that partners stand over a woman and yell “breathe” to her. She is breathing! But he or she is trying to remind the mom to be aware of her breath. Staying on top of your breath- keeping your breath awareness so that you can keep air moving up and down- to your baby- to your body- to keep your muscles and organs full of power, is essential to staying calm and staying energized in labor.

Take time to watch this video. It may help you understand conscious breathing so that you can use this tool in your labor- and in your life!

This is a curious phrase.. Active Labor…

When you ask moms when their labors started it is funny when they think they were in active labor. Some think it is when their water broke although it was not accompanied by contractions. Others think it was when they felt the first contraction- but others would say they had felt contractions for days before they were regular. Some would say it was when they began to have to concentrate and work during their labors.

Recently I had a mom who was contracting regularly and working with many of the contractions- having to concentrate and stay focused. But her cervix was not changing at all. The doctor came in and did an exam and said that active labor was, “when you are contracting regularly and it is making a change to your cervix.” This mom was not happy when he said she was not yet in “active labor” as she felt she was working hard already. He in fact suggested she either go home or allow him to get her in active labor by either breaking her water or starting Pitocin.

Recently I had a mom who entered the hospital at the direction of the nurse at her doctors office since she had a list of regular contractions on a piece of paper documenting her labor. She was chatty and her demeanor was light and engaging. She entered the hospital and the nurse even said she was probably going to go home as she did not appear to be in labor. But the doctor came over to check her and found her to be 3-4 centimeters dilated. He said she was in “active labor” and they would be keeping her at the hospital. (more…)

Overcoming Fear in Birth by Bardsley and Newman
summary by Teresa Howard

Emotional fear goes to the thalamus and to the sensory cortex causing PTSD or it can take the short road to the amygdala where the immediate response is emotional- fear (the amygdala is the part of the brain that is responsible for arousal, controls autonomic responses associated with fear, emotional responses and hormonal secretions).

We need to bring our fear to a conscience level, process it and bring it down into our body out of our brain to begin to process it in a productive way.

The left side of the brain handles the cognitive, rational, explicit, verbal parts of our thinking and is very goal oriented. This is about what controls the areas of what we feel, our sight, touch, hearing, tastes, smells and temperature.

The right side of the brain controls the artistic, creative, impulsive, nonverbal parts of our thinking. It is about what we think, our beliefs, memories, culture and feelings.

IS, AM and ARE are belief words. (more…)

It is frustrating to me that folks spend more effort and time planning and preparing for their wedding day than they do for the birth of their child. Yet the birth of their child will effect a woman for the rest of her life…much more so than the flowers she chooses for the ceremony. I get it that it is expected that they will plan their wedding- but I think we need to change the perspective on preparing for their births. Many folks will not take a class since their friends said that the class they took was worthless. But then if you ask more, it was a one day, slam bam class where they hardly had time to formulate their questions before the class was over. I am not sure that is a good measure of a class that prepares you for your birth.

I get calls from folks who have not scheduled in the time to take a childbirth series- they want one private class or maybe two… because they do not have time to attend a full preparation course. Now granted that is better than nothing, but it is not ideal. (more…)

The 60’s and 70’s birth experience for a woman was going to the hospital, separated from her partner, laboring virtually alone and medicated. Times gave way to a surge of women seeking an unmedicated birth. But the 90’s brought the epidural epidemic, climbing to 80% or even upwards of 90% of Atlanta women giving birth this way. What has happened to women’s bodies – why do they no longer feel able to birth without the use of medications that numb their bodies and for many, their birth experience?When a woman asks can wear her own clothing in labor, or if she can choose her birth position, she has fallen prey to the idea that once entering the birthplace, she gives up rights that are not medically indicated. Choices are available.

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If you are making an informed decision, and are choosing your next approach based on what is the next best thing to do in our situation, then you are making a decision in awareness and thus birthing in awareness.Each birth is different and you have not idea what may be truly needed in that particular birth. That is why birth planning is difficult if not impossible. Certainly you can fantasize about your birth and make your wishes known, but to truly plan it is not conceivable having no idea how it may unfold.
In our childbirth class you will learn to develop a pain coping mindset. You will learn at least 20 things that will help with pain coping. For instance think in terms of a few you already know that work when you have pain now. In class you will learn how to decide what things to choose and when the timing may be more beneficial. But here is a list of 20 things to try in labor : (more…)

When a woman goes into her birth dreaming she allows herself to consider a lot of options. Many of the women I work with are looking for a non interventive, natural birth. One of the things she does not really let herself think about is if the birth ends up being a surgical birth. But it happens sometimes. Less often when she chooses the right location, the right birth team and educates herself to the risks associated with some options she may be given. But it sometimes can not be avoided.

These women sometimes return to her doula or initially contacts a doula in hopes of having a vaginal birth after that previous cesarean. As a doula, I have educated myself in the ways to help her achieve a non surgical birth this next time. I help her to research her options and help her to become empowered with knowledge so she can make the right decision for her. Sometimes women choose to have a repeat cesarean either out of fear or sometimes out of making an informed decision that they feel is right for them. And many times she will fight through her fears, look at the statistics and risks and go for a VBAC.

I have always tried to support women in their decisions. (more…)