Tag Archive | birth experiences

Word Associations

If you could choose only one word to describe the type of birth experience you want, what would it be?

Something might come immediately to you mind, or perhaps you need some ideas…

Some possibilities:

gentle

fast

loving

relaxing

long

adventurous

exciting

emotional

charged

transformative

active

beautiful

orgasmic

at home

homebirth-like

natural

vaginal

surgical

harmonious

intense

empowering

amazing

medically managed

with drugs

serene

safe

pain free

comfortable

controlled

drug free

joyful

intimate

I don’t care, just get the baby out

triumphant

calm

free

family centered

——

After you pick your word, then consider what your answer might be if you eliminated the following ideas from your consideration: fear of birth, fear of pain, fear of the unknown, fear of wasting people’s time, fear of medical procedures, fear of failure, fear of dying, fear of disappointing someone, fear of the baby dying, fear of annoying your medical care providers., or any of a variety of possible fears. After you’ve cleared out these “cobwebs” is your one word different? Would you ask for/expect something different once you’ve removed fear? Or, is your one word still the same?

My one word is “powerful.” I’m not sure what I would have chosen before having children–perhaps “beautiful” or “joyful.” If I had to describe each of my sons’ births in only one word I would choose “empowering” for the first birth and “intense” for the second, and “transformative” for both. For the mothers reading this who have already given birth, what one word would you choose to describe that birth?

Source: Modified from a Teaching Tip from Lamaze

Birth & Courage

I wrote previously about when birth doesn’t go as planned and shared my perspective that a cesarean is often an act of personal courage by the birthing woman. I’ve been reading the new book The Doula Guide to Birth and the authors make similar comments:

“Remember, you are still giving birth to your baby. It takes courage to give birth whether interventions are used or not.”

And

“Whatever way birth happens, it is your rite of passage into motherhood, and that passage is to be celebrated. Natural childbirth is a passage, cesarean birth is a passage, and birth with an epidural is a passage to be celebrated. That passage cannot be taken away from you. Every mother’s birth experience is valid, and an act of courage.” (emphasis mine)

Another good quote from the book is with regard to vaginal exams during labor and whether they are necessary or not (they’re not!):

“Although there is currently a heavy emphasis on dilation, vaginal exams, and timelines for giving birth, labor is not about dilation. Your body knows how to give birth whether or not you ever have a pelvic exam during labor. Birthing women need encouragement to trust their bodies, and to be the stars of their own labors. Doulas help provide this encouragement. And the confidence a woman discovers in labor can help carry her through the demands of parenting and future challenges in life.” (emphasis mine)

Fear & Birth

I was interested to read a short segment in the book Labor Pain about studies on fear about birth. A Swedish study indicated that it was not pain that caused women the most anxiety about labor (44% of women had fear of pain). It also wasn’t fear of death of the mother or baby (55% worried about this). It wasn’t fear of their physical or mental capacity to give birth (65% feared this), but it was “lack of trust of obstetric staff during delivery” (73%).

This is tremendously significant! As I mentioned in the post, can I really expect to have a great birth, it is important to choose your birth care giver and place of birth carefully–to ask questions before your chile is roasted! Considering that the Listening to Mothers reports by Childbirth Connection and the Millbank Report on Evidence-Based Maternity Care reveal that many doctors do not utilize evidence-based practices, it seems that women’s top fear is very warranted.

Perceptions of Pain

Some time ago I wrote several posts about pain in labor, one of which addressed needing more words for pain. In the book Birthwork, there is an interesting list of possible perceptions of pain in labor:

‘Satisfying painenjoyable labour

–‘Positive pain’–it is birthing the baby

‘Constructive pain’–it is doing a good job

‘Functional pain’–acceptance of the process

‘Okay pain’–it hurts but everything is on track

‘Intense pain’–it is a lot!

–‘Abnormal pain’–something is not right

‘Overwhelming pain’–unable to manage alone (exacerbated by isolation, fear, exhaustion, and tension).

‘Off the wall pain’–utterly unbearable (usually associated with intense nerve or spinal pressure).

Even though these aren’t new words for pain, I think they add to our vocabulary for describing what is going on with our birthings. Additionally, keep in mind that you can transform the language and perception of the sensations of labor even further, by not using the word pain or contractions at all–you can refer to “sensations” or “tightenings” or “pressure” or “waves” or “surges” or “intensity” and so forth.

Birth & Apples

What does birth have to do with apples? Well, I read two things this week that made me think of both apples and birth. First, in an Ode magazine editorial that was about “apples and entrepreneurs.”  The editor introduced me to the word “pleonasms” –used to refer to words that contain unnecessary repetition. He was discussing apples, “after all, what’s an apple that grows without chemicals? It’s just an apple. If any kind of apple needs a modifier, it’s the kind that isn’t grown organically. Those we should call ‘chemical apples'” (instead of labeling the other an “organic apple”). Of course, I immediately thought of birth. I was considering how we have to use the terms “natural birth,” “normal birth,” “organic birth,” “physiological birth,” “unmedicated birth” and more. Taking a cue from this Ode editorial, what is a birth that isn’t interfered with? Just a birth. In theory, the other phrases we use are pleonasms like “organic apple.” (Same with “breastmilk,” actually. Our own species-specific milk should not need a modifier…)

Still related to apples and birth, but moving into another area, I have a particular interest in “good birth experiences” and how mothers tend to get very valid and real emotions dismissed with comments such as “at least you have a healthy baby.” Or, they face insinuations that they are “selfish” for caring about a good birth experience (the assumption being she somehow cares more about “the experience” than “the healthy baby”). I have already explored this subject in an article for the International Journal of Childbirth Education in Sept. 2008 and also in this post, but I loved this explanation in The Big Book of Birth when addressing disappointment over having a cesarean birth: “…in cases where a mother feels disappointment because the birth didn’t go as hoped, it is like saying to her, Well, at least you got a healthy baby and dismissing any other emotions or experience. It is not helpful because the expectation was not to not have a healthy baby–the expectation was to have a vaginal birth. It is comparing apples to oranges since there were two separate individual hopes: one the joy of a baby, the other her experience of bringing that baby into the world. The apple being the healthy baby we all want and usually bear, the orange being what we hope for in our trials and tribulations on the way there.” (Or, the orange being our “good birth experience.”)

My Second Birth

The birth of my second son was very rapid and hence the story of his birth is much shorter than my first birth story!

The Birth Story of Zander Thomas

By his mama, Molly M. Remer


Zander Thomas was born swiftly and smoothly at home on Monday, May 29, 2006 at 2:45 a.m. Birth weight: 9lbs 2oz! Length: 21 ¼ inches. Head circumference: 14 ¾ inches. The labor and birth lasted a very intense & surprising total of two hours…

After a few hours of regularly spaced practice contractions during the afternoon of May 28th, I woke at 12:45 a.m. on May 29th finally having some “real” feeling contractions—I had tons of practice contractions throughout my pregnancy with Zander (including four different episodes earlier in May of several hours each with contractions every 5 minutes or so, but not with that real feeling edge to them). When I greeted these contractions in the very early morning, I felt a distantly familiar sharper edge to them and a sort of “sick” feeling as they built and peaked, instead of the gripping tension of practice contractions. I decided I needed to use the bathroom and spent 15 minutes in there considering whether something was really happening or not (loose BM’s made me think I could possibly just be feeling “cramps”!). I was disappointed that I had no “show” or any promising discharge at all 😉 I told the baby that it was okay to come out and we were ready for him. I finally left the bathroom and paced around the kitchen watching the clock on the microwave and wondering if it was too early to wake up Mark. At 1:30 a.m., I woke him up to tell him, “Something is definitely going on!” I got out my birth ball and we worked through about 3 contractions together, chattering excitedly in between about when to call our support people. I told Mark about not seeing any “show” yet and so it might not be the real thing after all—I rubbed my belly and said, “come out blood!,” got up to go to the bathroom and was pleased to see some nice bloody show! I felt pretty hyper and cheerful and was trying to figure out when I could take a shower and so forth. The contractions picked up even more to what seemed like 1 or less minutes apart—we stopped watching the clock after the first three on the birth ball, which had gone from 5 minutes, to 4 minutes, and then 3 minutes. It was like watching a labor in fast forward! I decided there was no time for a shower, but brushed my hair and put it in a ponytail and after two more contractions, asked Mark to run and get my birth shirt and my birth bracelet (from my Blessingway ceremony in April). It was about 2:00 a.m. at this point and we decided to call Mom and my midwife.

I kept wanting to lean on something, but having trouble finding the right height. I was compelled to lean on something though (the recliner was too rocky, the birth ball was too low…). Mark suggested himself 🙂 I hung on him during several back-to-back contractions and realized that I was starting to feel some pushy pressure. I felt like squeezing my legs together, but instead reminding myself to let my legs be open and to be a clear, open channel for birth. I also said, “It’s okay baby, you can come out!” Mom arrived at about this time (approximately 2:15) and shortly after, I dropped to my hands and knees with my head and arms leaning over the birth ball. I quickly decided I felt like I was “standing on my head” and so pushed away the ball and went to straight hands and knees with my head leaning on Mark and his arms around me. I kept saying, “This is MAJOR!” I was pushing a little at peaks of contractions and vocalizing loudly as well as continuing to talk myself down out of feeling out of control with an ongoing chant of, “It’s okay, I’m okay, it’s okay.” I also made a joke about maybe only being 2 centimeters dilated 😉

I felt something drip and asked if it was fluid. Mom said “no” and I pushed again and my water broke with a soft warm gush (Mom said, “now it is!”) I asked if it was clear and it was. It was about 2:30 and I felt pushy in earnest. I soon started to feel some burning and knew the baby was coming soon. Lann woke at this point and joined us in the living room, held by Mom. I heard the midwife’s car pull up at about 2:40 and Zander’s head was fully crowning as she came in (no time for gloves!). I was conscious of letting myself gradually push him out, waiting for each urge instead of pushing through it (I also began to feel a tearing sensation in front). The midwife let me know as I eased out his eyebrows, then eyes, then nose, and entire head and then he blooped out at 2:45 a.m.! I sat down and she passed him around to me. I saw right away that he was a boy, just as seven different dreams had told me prenatally! My sweet new baby was all warm and slippery and covered with blood (me too! Even my feet! The blood was from two labial tears, one sort of inner “split” and the other right next to my previous unrepaired tear. Perineum, normal and intact—I tear the “wrong” way instead. Lucky me :(). Zander cried one small cry as we was being passed to me and then was quiet and snuggly. As he was born, Lann called out, “I like him! I like him!” Zander rooted around and nursed on both sides shortly after birth and the placenta followed spontaneously about 40 minutes after his birth.

This labor and birth literally drove me to my knees with its intensity. I felt a bit like it was a train and I had to hop on and keep up! I really feel I surrendered to the power of the birthing energy and let it flow and carry me along with it. I did not struggle or resist and if I felt the urge to resist, I consciously “doula’ed” myself to let go and be open.

Birth is an incredible experience that makes me feel so good about myself! I have never felt so awesome and powerful as I do as a birth giver—it is such a meaningful experience. I am pleased with my ability to surrender to the energy and power of birth and to finally, “get out of my head” (I am usually much more intellectual than I am instinctual, but that part blessedly shuts down and lets my instincts work during birth!). I feel I truly and authentically trust birth and that that inner knowing was manifested physically in my birth experience.

My First Birth

Reading other birth stories online recently made me realize that I’ve never shared my own birth stories online.  This story was originally written in my journal the day my baby was born and then went through a little bit of tuning to become the “official” birth story. Hindsight has altered my perception and interpretation of several of the events of his birth a bit, but I leave this account as it was originally written, because it is true to my experience and thoughts of the time:

Lann’s Birth Story

By his mama, Molly M. Remer

37 weeks 2 days pregnant (baby born at 39w2d)

On Sept. 20th I woke up from a nap at 4:30 p.m. with a, “whoa! This is different” contraction. I had heaps of Braxton-Hicks contractions through much of my pregnancy and so I was anticipating that eventually they would just get somehow stronger and switch over into being real labor. It was different from the beginning though–there was a sharper feel to the contractions and they would start in my back and build around into the lower part of my belly. At 5:00, I mentioned to Mark that I thought something might be going on. We made cookies, I watered my plants, and we watched Catch Me if You Can while eating dinner. We decided that if something was still going on at 7:00, we would start calling people.

Having regular contractions and trying to figure out if this is really IT…

During the movie, it seemed like my contractions were less intense and I got a little bit depressed thinking that it probably wasn’t really IT after all. I got up and walked around for a few minutes and they immediately became more intense again. 7:00 came and went and I kept trying to convince myself that it probably wasn’t really labor. I went upstairs and was looking up false labor on the internet–ironically, during each contraction I would think, “I need to call people now” but as soon as the contraction went away, I would talk myself out of it–when Mom called to see how things were going (this was at 7:45). She had been out of town all day and was checking to see how my “pot” was doing (we had a running joke about my belly being the “watched pot”). I told her that I thought it was going to boil. We decided that I would check in with our doula before we made the call about whether Mom should come over or not. I called my doula and she said she thought it sounded like I was probably in early labor, but it might just be practice. The contractions were about 7 minutes apart at this point. I called Mom back and told her to go ahead and come, even though it might not be real. By the time she arrived at 10:00, the contractions were about 3 minutes apart and some were very back-to-back feeling–like another would start before the one before it ended. I wasn’t sure how to time those—did they count as one long one, or were they two, no minutes apart?

Getting out of the shower after deciding that this was really the real deal…

I called the birth center to talk to my doctor around this time (had to leave a message first and she called me back. Bit of a “crisis moment” about the call, because I wasn’t anticipating just leaving a message and it really threw my equilibrium off a bit). She talked to me through several contractions to kind of gauge where I was in labor. She said that since they weren’t lasting a full minute, that I was still probably in early labor and to pay more attention to the long-seeming contractions (the double ones), but not so much to the shorter ones. She also said that first time moms often have 2-3 “trial runs” and to try to go to sleep and to check back with her in the morning. I took a shower and had seven contractions fairly close together while in the shower, but was still telling myself that it might not really be it! Mom, Mark, & I all put on our pajamas and decided to go to bed–I was even thinking I might read for a bit. Ha! As soon as I lay down with the lights off, I felt incredibly awful. I had a long, immobilizing feeling contraction and felt very trapped just lying there. I also had a funny pressure feeling deep inside. I got up after it was over and felt some wetness in my underwear. I put my hand there as I went down the dark hall into the bathroom. As soon as I turned on the light, I saw that the wetness was blood and I had unfortunately left bloody fingerprints on the bathroom door, the wall, and the light switch. Oops! I told Mark & Mom that I couldn’t sleep and we checked in with my doula. She was still fairly convinced that it was early labor and said to check back again later when things were picking up.

Mark & Mom were wonderfully supportive of me as I labored. I tried various positions and they stacked up pillows for me on the bed so that I could be on my hands and knees on a soft surface (they put the Boppy onto some other pillows to make a “well” for my belly) and then Mom read some of my birth affirmations to me. That worked for a while. I also tried the birth ball for a while and ended up spending a lot of time on my knees on the floor with my head and arms resting on a pillow on the bed.

Fused glass touchstone from a friend that I carried while in labor.

I had read in Birthing From Within about how women develop their “labor ritual”” and mine ended up to be humming a chant that was used during my Blessing Way in August (Woman Am I, Spirit Am I, I Am the Infinite Within My Soul, I Have No Beginning & I Have No End, All This I Am). I hummed that like my life depended on it and it was immensely helpful–volume of humming increased with intensity of contractions. I also found it helpful to hold a fused glass touchstone that a friend had given me. I had put it into an amulet bag and ended up wearing it until after the baby was born!

I forget when I told them to tell my doula to come, but she came at 2:00 a.m. Mark & I were working so well together and he was so there for me and was so what I needed, that we didn’t need a whole lot from the doula really. She tried a few things with me and made some position suggestions. She also brought some nice, soft night-lights to turn on. I had an interesting quirk going on in that whatever anyone would suggest to me, I would say “no” to,  but then a lot of times I would try it anyway. I even recognized that myself and said, “I keep saying no to everything.” At this point the contractions were a maximum of 3 minutes apart and most of them were “double peaking.” I kept saying, “I don’t feel like I’m getting a break.” During each of these, similar to my earlier decision to call my support people in or not, I would think to myself “I need to go to the birth center NOW,” but I was too worried to say it because I was convinced I’d go and be wrong and only be 2 centimeters dilated or something, so between contractions I would talk myself out of saying it. I felt very internally focused and yet still aware of the people around me, though I wasn’t talking to them much and spent a lot of time with my eyes closed. They kept commenting to me and to each other about how calm and focused I was being and how “in control” I appeared. I don’t think I was really showing how intense and back-to-back these contractions were for me. I also started to have lots of internal pressure feelings during contractions when I was on my hands and knees.

My doula  wanted to me to take a shower to see if that would help with the intensity of the contractions. I went into the bathroom and then came out again and finally had the courage to say the magic words, “I need to go to the birth center now.” It was 3:00 then. The doula called the doctor to tell her we were coming. They were thinking maybe it was a little early though, because I could still talk through the contractions. Also, right before we left, I used the bathroom and still washed my hands afterward–the doula said during our prenatal visits that one of her cues that a woman is in serious labor and approaching transition is that when she goes to the bathroom she often doesn’t even wipe, let alone wash her hands! I kept saying that I was worried that I would be “too early,” but I still wanted to leave. I took my little amulet and my favorite pillow and Mark and Mom collected my other supplies, like chapstick and my basket with my birth necklace and some birth art that I had made (needle felted birth goddesses).

We decided to go in Mom’s car because it is an SUV with more room in the backseat than my little Toyota. The doula said that it could be helpful to lean on the birth ball while in the car, but that it would mean not wearing a seatbelt. I said “I didn’t keep the baby safe for this long, only to be unsafe during labor” and strapped on the seat belt (I may not have actually said that during the labor—I had said it to her earlier—but I remember at least thinking it again). The car ride to the birth center felt extremely long. I felt more and more inward during the trip and barely made any noise at all, unless we went over a bump in the road at the same time a contraction was peaking. Mark held me very tightly against him to try to help with the bumping and jostling and I felt very supported and secure. I had to sit rather uncomfortably with my legs off to the side and kept feeling that pressure feeling during contractions. I weirdly still had the presence of mind to ask in the middle of our trip though, “did you remember to blow out the candles?” (I had thought those little soft lights from the doula were candles). What helped me cope was the ongoing refrain in my head, “this is normal. My body is meant to do this.”

We got to the birth center at 4:00 a.m. and pulled in before the midwife who was to be assisting the doctor arrived. The place was so dark and I remember saying, “there is nobody here!” Ivy got there as we were still getting out of the car though and got us into the birth center. We did get the “good” birth room with its own bathroom and everything. Mark called my friend to come to the birth center and she arrived at 4:30. After checking the baby’s heart rate and my blood pressure, the midwife asked if I wanted an internal exam. I said that I did. She checked and said, “the baby is at +2 and I can’t find a cervix.” This was highly confusing to all of us and so we asked what she meant and she said, “your cervix has disappeared” and then said, “you can start pushing when you feel the urge.” I was in complete disbelief and stared at her and said in total seriousness, “are you telling me the truth?” Everyone laughed about that (and still do).

Later, the midwife told me (when I was asking her, “are you sure I didn’t tear?” to which she said, “don’t you believe anything I tell you?”) that she was a surprised as I was to find I was fully dilated. She said she can usually tell when a woman comes in where she is in labor and she did not think I was that far along.

After finding out that I was fully dilated, I started to feel very odd and I really think I had to go through a sort of emotional/psychological transition to adjust myself to the fact that I had “missed” the physical transition point (which we hypothesize was happening in the car on the way to the birth center). I sat in the rocking chair for a while and kept saying things like, “am I dreaming? Is this real?” I also made a joke about feeling “trippy” like in Spiritual Midwifery. We also joked about what an A+ + + laboring woman I was (a family joke–I was a 4.0 student throughout college and grad school and so we always say that I like to get an A+ + + on everything I do). Those pressure feelings I had been having for a while, got a little more intense and I started pushing kind of experimentally. I was on my knees with my head on the bed on my pillow again and during one of the little pushes my water broke with a giant, startling POP and sprayed across the room including all over my friend. At this point, the midwife left saying, “I think I should call the doctor.”

I pushed in various positions and finally ended up semi-squatting on the bed. Pushing was very intense for me and I needed a lot of support and encouragement from Mark (who was by my side throughout and was so very there for me, both emotionally and physically). They brought over a mirror to help me see the baby’s head as it started to be visible during pushes. I got a little freaked out at this point about tearing. The sensations were so intense and I felt so much burning that it was kind of scary. I kind of liked having the mirror to see my baby, but on the other hand, I almost wish they hadn’t gotten it out because being able to watch what was going on merely intensified my feelings that I was going to be shredded to bits–i.e. not only did I feel the burning, I also could see that, yes, there is major stretching going on! I felt a certain sense of unreality and kept saying things like, “is this really me? Am I really doing this?” Anyway, I finally managed to kind of get over the burning and pushed out his head, which started crying while his body was still inside of me! I also could feel him moving both inside and outside, which was a very strange sensation. His body followed easily and he was in my arms at 6:15 on September 21st! (I pushed for about an hour and 15 minutes). It was glorious. He didn’t do as much of the “active alert” phase as I anticipated, but latched on and nursed for 30 minutes on each side instead.

The doctor had to apply a little bit of traction to get the placenta to come out (after 30 or so minutes of waiting for it) and Mark cut the cord. I was bleeding quite a bit and the doctor thought I should maybe have a pitocin shot (she had told me earlier that they rarely give them, so I took her very seriously). She said I was having lots of clots that were keeping the uterus from clamping down properly. I used the bathroom and was still bleeding quite a bit and so she said that she needed to get the clots out manually. That was absolutely horrible and very painful (Mark was holding the baby in the rocking chair at this point). I had to hum my Woman Am I chant very loudly in order to make it through. I didn’t see what was happening, but it felt and sounded like there were handfuls of clots being scooped out (I could hear them hit the chux pad). I also had a small labial tear that did not need to be stitched. Things seemed okay and the doctor went home after weighing, measuring, footprinting, and checking over new baby Lann Carlyle–8lbs 4oz and 21 inches! I kept bleeding some though and the midwife did end up giving me the pitocin shot (needed to hum again for that, since I hate needles!).

My friend went out and bought us breakfast from Perkins and we ate (I had French toast and bacon) and Lann nursed again. The midwife left and said the doctor would be back at 10:00 to check on us. She did come back at 10:00 and then left at 12:00 telling us to, “lock up when you decide to leave” (it was strange to be left in the birth center with the run of the place!). We left at about 12:30 and drove home. Lann slept in the car seat all the way home.

I guess I expected that at some point during the birth that I would kind of “lose myself” or something, but that never happened–for example, the doula offered me a Dum-Dum shortly after we got to the birth center and I looked through the bag to pick out my favorite flavor (butterscotch—which immediately tasted extremely cloying and horrible and I ended up throwing it away). I also anticipated becoming irritable or mean at some point and that did not happen either (I’m more irritable in everyday life, then I was in labor!). I almost felt like I had a mental observer part of myself that remained present, even though my body was so much in charge of the experience.

There are so many details that I’ve left out and I feel like I haven’t been able to adequately capture here the power of his birth and what it meant to me. I mostly just shared chronological details, but there was a lot of empowering stuff that was going on for me too that I can’t quite express in writing. Lann’s birth made me feel good about myself in a way that nothing else ever has. I feel so proud and pleased with how everything went 🙂

Just born Lannbaby!