Sense and Sensibility is having a blog carnival around Healthy Birth Practice #5: Avoid giving birth on your back and follow your body’s urges to push.
For this blog carnival, I feel like sharing my own personal experiences with following my body’s urges to push. I gave birth to my first son over six years ago in what was the only freestanding birth center in the state (related side note: when I told my landlord that my new baby was born in a freestanding birth center, she said, “oh, so does everyone there have them standing up?”;-D). When I arrived at the birth center, I was surprised to be ten centimeters dilated already. Fortunately, the midwife on duty said, “go ahead and push when you feel the urge,” and went about her business, rather than encouraging me to push simply because I was at ten or exhorting me to push with loud counting and the near-aggression as is so frequently depicted in the media. After some time, I decided to experiment with the “pressure” feeling I’d been feeling for several hours—as soon as I gave a couple of small, experimental pushes like that, my water broke. I stayed on my knees on the floor for some time—head and arms on the bed—and eventually the doctor suggested that I get up on the bed, where I ended up giving birth to my son in a semi-sitting position.
During this birth, I was very sensitive to suggestion and to “being good,” and so when the bed was mentioned, I felt I had no choices even in such a gentle birth setting. I feel if left to my own urges, I would have stayed kneeling on the floor.
With my second son, who was born at home, I was alone with my husband for nearly the entire labor. As I got closer to giving birth, I felt “driven” to my hands and knees where I began to push spontaneously (and again my water broke with the onset of pushiness). It was a very wild and rapid birth and I barely had conscious thought of whether or not I felt like pushing—it just happened! After several pushes on hands and knees, my son eased out where he was received by my midwife after her arrival five minutes prior.
My third son (second trimester m/c), was born at home with just my husband present. My labor was again extremely rapid and I found myself kneeling on the floor in child’s pose. This position felt safe and protective to me, but I finally coached myself into awareness that the baby wasn’t going to come out with me crouched on the floor in that manner. I told myself that just like with any other birth, gravity would help. So, I pushed myself up into a kneeling position and my water broke right away. I crouched forward again—feeling fearful—and then told myself to move upright again. As soon as I was back on my knees, some blood clots emerged. I stood then, with knees slightly bent, and my baby was born.
For me, being nearly alone is the best way to follow my body’s own promptings. I feel it can be difficult to heed our bodies’ own wisdom when other people in the room are encouraging directed pushing or are “cheerleading” loudly. Freedom to move as desired and to push spontaneously according to the body’s own urges is a mother and baby friendly approach to birth.
For more information about spontaneous pushing check out this video from Mother’s Advocate.
And, don’t forget my handout: helpful ways to use a hospital bed without lying down.