what surprised me about childbirth

At my two-week postpartum visit (yes, my midwife practice has both a two-week visit and an eight-week; the two-week is just for a verbal “how ya doin’?”) I ran into my fabulous childbirth class instructor, who is (was? maybe she had her baby already??) pregnant. She asked Hubby and I that day what surprised us about childbirth, a question I hadn’t until that point considered.

We told her how fast everything went was what surprised us, and that’s true. I was expecting to have to use tons of coping techniques and be laboring for hours and hours, especially as a first time mom. Instead, my water broke at 7:15 pm and FJ joined us at 12:37, just after midnight — and I only had to use my slow paced breathing.

But after reflecting on the question later, I realized another thing that surprised me about that night was the complication we ran into after labor. I think I went into my labor with such an uber-healthy outlook on things that I hadn’t even considered that anything “scary” could happen, and when it kinda did, I was really thrown for a loop…especially because it happened a couple hours after FJ was born. At that point I felt like I was on top of the world — I had just birthed a BABY out of my BODY. (Roarrrr, right??? ;)) She was healthy and I did it…what could possibly be wrong in the world?

But looking back I wouldn’t change a thing about my preparation for our experience, and I won’t go into the second childbirth with more fear in my heart. The situation was handled and it could be handled again, if necessary. I think my healthy outlook on things played a key role in how everything went. Also I still trust my body to bring life into the world, and I am still open to considering a home birth next time around. I’m not so sure if hubby is on board, but we’ll see.

What surprised you about childbirth?

Water baby

Our birth was so fast we didn't get our water birth -- but the water got all over the floor!


my top pregnancy read recommendations

There are so many options out there in terms of what you can read during your pregnancy. Now at 40+ weeks, looking back on this wonderful and joyous experience, I feel like I’m coming from a pretty good perspective to give you my opinion of what was helpful to me during this journey. So for what it’s worth here are my picks for my top pregnancy reads. If you are going to read nothing else but a handful of things during your pregnancy, then these are the reads I would recommend going with:

  • CHILDBIRTH/CONFIDENCE: — Ina May’s Guide to ChildbirthRead this book to gain confidence in your body and in the fact that your body knows how to birth your baby! Even if you don’t agree with all of the “crunchy” ideals, I think this book will be of great benefit to you and your psyche as you prepare for birth.
  • BREASTFEEDING — The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding — If you read one book on breastfeeding, I’d recommend this one.
  • CONNECTING WITH YOUR BABY Meditations for Pregnancy — Hubby and I read these weekly meditations throughout my pregnancy, taking turns reading each week.  While again a little crunchy, I don’t think it would be off-putting to the “non-crunchy” crowd and I think it’s a great way to connect with your partner (if you have one/if possible) and your unborn child.  It was written by the creator of the hypnobirthing method. If this book doesn’t resonate with you, I would suggest finding one that does.  We looked forward to this time every week.
  • PREGNANCYBabycenter updates — I do NOT recommend What to Expect When Expecting or any similar book.  I was unable to find one that I didn’t feel was alarmist; they all seemed to focus a great deal of energy each chapter on the things that could be going wrong, and that wasn’t the tone I wanted to set for my pregnancy.  I had a basic awareness of issues that I needed to be aware of, and beyond that I didn’t think it would be healthy for me to focus on the potential negative.  Instead, I found that the weekly pregnancy updates from Babycenter.com were actually very mother- and baby-friendly, and informative.
  • BABY CARE — Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book — Again, this book is not fear-based and is breastfeeding and attachment parenting friendly.  If you are interested in those concepts, I would absolutely recommend exploring this book.

What books did you enjoy during your pregnancy?

things i learned about childbirth: my labor and birth affirmations list

For the last post in my mini series on labor tools that I believe may help me, I am going to discuss my labor and birth affirmations list. Both my doula and my childbirth class instructor suggested compiling a list of birth affirmations to help me during difficult parts of my labor — or even before, during pregnancy. In fact, I chose three that resonated with me and I felt weren’t particularly specific to labor itself (for example, I don’t want to focus now on anything involving my cervix opening up!) and posted them in three places I am often (on my bathroom mirror, my cube wall at work, and on my iPhone’s background.) These three are:

  • I am a strong and capable woman
  • I accept myself completely here and now
  • I am completely relaxed and comfortable

I have looked at these affirmations so much I can honestly say they are pretty well ingrained in my head now, and I imagine I could easily call upon them during a time of struggle. There are so many birth affirmations to choose from (try googling them — I bet you come up with a ton of options!) and it’s important to choose ones that resonate with YOU. These are the ones (along with the three I listed above) that resonated with me:

  • I can feel my body opening up like a flower
  • Every surge brings my baby closer to me
  • This is a healthy, positive pain that I can handle
  • I allow my body’s natural anesthesia to flow through my body
  • Inhale peace, exhale tension
  • I have the energy and stamina to birth my baby
  • Today is the day I have been waiting so patiently for
  • I am not afraid
  • I trust my body to know how to birth this child
  • The power of my contractions cannot be stronger than me, because it is me

I think the power of our thoughts is an amazing thing, and by allowing peaceful, powerful thoughts such as the ones above to dominate your thoughts regarding your labor and delivery I believe it can do nothing but help. Most of all, I am thankful for an amazing team in my husband, midwives, and doula. I know we’ve assembled the right team to bring our daughter safely into the world, and for that I am so thankful.

I hope these posts have helped you think about what might help you during your labor and delivery. As always, all my best wishes go out to you!

things i learned about childbirth: tools for active labor through transition

Hey blog friends! So in my last post I discussed a relaxation/guided meditation CD to serve as a second step in your coping techniques during labor. When — or really, the key word is if, because for some people, the first two steps I discussed may really be all you need — that isn’t working for you as far as pain coping anymore, you may want to consider having a list of graduated breathing techniques along with labor positions.

I know at this point during labor I will not be in any mindset to be checking out my printouts of labor tools from my bag, so Hubby will help guide me through the techniques from this point on. If I tell him a breathing technique isn’t working for me anymore, for example, or if I seem to be struggling — losing my rhythm, focus, and limpness — he will suggest elevating the breathing technique and/or trying another position.

Because I don’t want to give away all the “tricks” of my wonderful childbirth class, I won’t go into detailed descriptions of the techniques here. If you have specific questions, leave me a comment with your email address and I will try and email you more information. You should be able to research most of these though to get a better idea of how they may work for you.

Breathing Techniques (remember these are again ordered in a list so that you can graduate to the next when the first isn’t helping you anymore, etc.)

  • Slow-paced breathing
  • Slow-paced breathing + effleurage
  • “He” breathing
  • Accelerated/decelerated “he” breathing
  • “He”-Blow breathing (in ratios of 5:1,4:1, 3:1, and 2:1, for increasingly shorter goals, if you are having a hard time meeting the longer goals)

Labor Positions

A key to note here is you/I really have no idea what will be comfortable to you during labor. At some point, I will probably be getting into a birthing tub for my labor, so I may use some or even none of these. But on the suggestion of my childbirth class instructor, I went ahead and listed the labor positions that resonated with me in an order I thought I might enjoy:

  • Walking
  • Rocking on birthing ball
  • Laying over birthing ball
  • Hands and knees
  • Modified child’s pose with butt in the air
  • Supported squat
  • Standing with one leg up on chair (kind of a lunging position) with partner’s support
  • Leaning on partner
  • Leaning over back of chair
  • Side lying (I imagine I would use this only if exhausted)

One thing to note is that you can combine any of the above with different comfort techniques, such as a shower, hot/cold, touch/massage (suggested between contractions only, not during), and hand massage. As always, make sure you are remaining limp and letting your uterus do its work. Your partner can help make sure your body remains limp and that you are maintaining whatever rhythmic ritual you are following. If you start to fall off that rhythm, he or she can help you regain focus.

Hope these tools help you as I believe they will help and empower me!  In a few days, for my last post in this mini series, I will share with you my labor and birth affirmations.  All my best wishes to you.

things i learned about childbirth: when distractions don’t work anymore

Welcome to the second post of my mini series on childbirth and labor coping techniques I’ve learned during this beautiful nine-month journey! Last time, I talked about the power of distractions during early labor. This time, I’d like to share what my second step will be, when distractions don’t work anymore!  The key with each of these steps is that you follow them until they can’t possibly distract you from your discomfort any longer. This way, you have tons of tools in your bag and go slowly through your tools, leaving lots to the end, when it may be hard for many of us. Don’t fly through your coping techniques. Really be purposeful about when you progress from one technique to the next.

So when distractions don’t work anymore, my second step (recommended to me by my wonderful childbirth class instructor) will be to pop in a relaxation/guided meditation CD (actually already loaded onto my iPhone so I can play it no matter where I am) and go through the CD of guided meditations…until that can’t possibly work for me anymore.

So for this second technique, I selected a guided meditation CD that we practiced with in class and that I really enjoyed. Check out this woman’s list of pregnancy-related guided meditation CDs here, or just pick out a guided meditation CD you like that relaxes you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be pregnancy or labor specific. I purchased the “Imagery and Meditations for Labor and Birth Preparation” CD, which is also available, I believe, as an iTunes download.  One key to the success of this step is practicing with your CD from the moment you get it…our instructor suggested doing a meditation every day so you practice that deep relaxation. I have to admit I haven’t done it every day, but I have done it at least a few times a week and really enjoy it — even Hubby enjoys doing them along with me! Her voice is so soothing.

Make sure during any of these steps you are remaining limp through your contractions…as I learned, our only responsibility as birthing mothers (up until the pushing phase) is to remain limp and let our uterus work and bodies open up. When you tense up, you work against your contraction and also don’t release the pain — rather storing that energy in your muscles. So relax, breathe, and listen to your CD until you can’t possibly listen to it any longer.

Later this week I’ll talk about the breathing techniques and positions I will use during active labor and transition. As always, I can only share what I think might work for me, but as we all know none of us truly know what our experience during labor will be or what will work for us. I encourage you to do research, take a class, and find something that feels it will be a good fit for you!

things i learned about childbirth: the importance of distractions during early labor

Today I’m beginning a mini series in which I will share some of the wisdom and knowledge I’ve learned while studying childbirth and labor throughout my pregnancy and in a wonderful childbirth class focused on natural childbirth and coping techniques. In this post I will focus on the importance of distractions during early labor.

Early labor, on average, may last about nine hours (keep in mind that’s an average — yours may or may not be near that number at all.)  During that time, most women will experience contractions of mild to moderate intensity, but it will not yet be time to venture to the hospital (if you’re going to one) or to focus on your contractions.  I will not be focusing much on the ins and outs of early labor here — so if you’re curious about how often contractions come during this period, or how much you are dilating then, please feel free to do some extra research.

One thing I learned and do want to share with you though is that if you focus on those early contractions for a long period of time you will almost begin to want them to feel intense because you’re hoping so much for progression…with all that focusing on each contraction you’ll begin to focus on the increasing pain rather than coping with it/breathing through it, which doesn’t help for those who want to labor all the way through unmedicated — because you’ll have a lot stronger contractions ahead of you!

Instead, our childbirth class instructor suggested coming up with a list of distractions for early labor — a list that you can pull out when the time comes and you are so excited that you want to focus on your labor but know that it will not be in your best interest to do so yet. I did ask our instructor about those who may already be dilated to a three or so — do they still go through this time of early labor? She said they may not, or may not notice it, or it may just be for a very short time.  If it’s a noticeable amount of time, my plan is for hubby to go straight down the list suggesting things for us to do, and for me to call out yay or nay for each item:

Our Early Labor Distraction List

  • Go to the grocery store
  • Go to Barnes & Noble
  • Cook/freeze something
  • Watch a movie at home
  • Take a walk
  • Look through wedding album
  • Go to the mall or movie theatre
  • Write a letter
  • Work on baby album
  • Play with the cats
  • Go out to eat
  • Do yoga or stretches
  • Write a blog post
  • Nap
  • Write a poem
  • Play drum and/or guitar (hubby plays the guitar, not me — but I could dance or sing!)
  • Have a glass of wine
  • Start a journal of labor

I learned that there will come a time when early labor approaches active labor that you will no longer be able to be distracted during a contraction. This is the time to pull out the next in your line of coping techniques and labor tools, which I will discuss next time. To each her own, and the two of us are excited about this loose plan for labor!

why we switched to a midwife group

I mentioned last week that hubby and I have made the very exciting decision (for us) to switch to a local midwife group for our little Valentine baby, and I want to share with you the experience that solidified our decision and convinced us to make the switch. I’d like to say, as I always try to, that I believe everyone’s experience is different and everyone’s needs and desires are different…so what works for my husband and me may not necessarily work for you. And you could have a completely different experience with your OB than we did. So take this for what it’s worth…our experience…and then make your own discoveries, analyses, and conclusions.

My husband is completely ignored and no one introduces themselves to him, aside from our actual OB who does include him…somewhat
MIDWIFE: Makes him feel comfortable, welcomed, and asks him for his questions too…she also got him a chair to sit in during our consultation as there were initially only two in the room

One of eight doctors in the practice, none of whom we can meet except for my OB
MIDWIFE: One of two midwives (possibly three if they hire a third on that they’ve been trying to get in the group) and we will rotate between the two for each visit

About 35%, what we are told is the standard, and what is about the standard for Northside Hospital, which many woman love delivering out of in the metro Atlanta area (many women will call us crazy for leaving this hospital…but I felt crazy staying!)
MIDWIFE: About 8% of their births have to be transfered to the on-call OB for a c-section

“Well, of course you can deliver without an epidural…but we really don’t see that anymore.”
MIDWIFE: “About 90% of our patients don’t elect to have an epidural, but the option is there if you want it.”

Any, but I would have to be prone on my back at the “end”, because the doctor says that’s the “best position for [me] to be in if they encounter a problem”
MIDWIFE: Any position I want to, and they are the only hospital in Atlanta to offer water births and/or tubs to labor in

“Yes. It’s essential. Some old midwifery practices say this isn’t important, but that’s incorrect.” (By now we’re beginning to feel that anything outside the medical “norm” is ridiculed by the OBs here.)
MIDWIFE: Intermittent monitoring is all that’s required in most cases — which to me provides a very important thing — MOBILITY!

7 days. Which is funny, because my due date was pushed back 6 days in the blink of an eye after I measured behind at my first ultrasound. If six days are that easy to add on or take off my estimated delivery date, does it really make sense to only allow my baby to incubate in my belly 7 days past my due date?
MIDWIFE: Up to about 2 weeks…after 1 week after they start doing tests to ensure that everything is okay and we can let the baby keep progressing naturally

We didn’t get to ask this question. We didn’t get to ask the OB a lot of questions. We were very rushed at our appointment with them.
MIDWIFE: I can eat and drink during labor if and when I want

Didn’t get to ask
MIDWIFE: Yes (and he is actually considering it…COOL!)

Didn’t get to ask, but I am guessing yes, since I know this is pretty common

Didn’t get to ask

Didn’t get to ask
MIDWIFE: Yes and yes

Didn’t get to ask
MIDWIFE: I can’t remember the exact amount of time she said but it was NOWHERE near immediate and made me feel comfortable

Didn’t get to ask
MIDWIFE: Yes, as long as I don’t mind if it gets dirty

They do allow this, but I have heard stories about nurses and hospital staff pushing you to let them take the baby to the nursery so you can rest, etc
MIDWIFE: Yes, as long as there aren’t complications that require otherwise, which of course I understand

This is not something we asked, but I have a friend who just delivered out of Northside, and I know they pull the bottom of the bed off, you have your feet in stirrups, and they shine a pin light on your vagina
MIDWIFE: We did ask about this, and while the rooms aren’t as plush and hotel-esque as those at Northside, they do have dim lighting and absolutely do not put you in a bed with stirrups and a pin light — HURRAY!

I know this cross section of conversation between us and our former OB and us and our current midwife runs the risk of becoming a narrow view of the two types of practices, and I don’t intend it to be. This was our experience, and was one in which we walked away deciding that the midwife group would give us our best chance for having the natural, empowering, and peaceful birth that we are desiring. If you take anything away from this post, I hope it’s that you have the power to ask questions, research, and make your own informed decisions. Don’t be afraid to question your practitioner or look around if you aren’t satisfied.

I do recommend the documentary The Business of Being Born to any expectant mother. It is definitely pro midwifery/natural labor but was absolutely eye-opening to me in terms of the history and science it explained to me, and I think there’s value you can take away regardless of your beliefs on childbirth. My husband and I found it supported our inclination to switch to a low intervention practice and made us feel more empowered and informed. If you are interested in exploring a home birth, this is also an excellent resource to begin learning about that. While we did consider a home birth as well in the end we decided it was not for us for several reasons.

So we’ve made the switch. We couldn’t be happier. And we have our next appointment next Monday at 11 weeks. Can’t get here soon enough!