Tag Archive | natural birth

Lavender & Letting Go (Warning: Miscarriage/Baby Loss)

My life has taken a sad and unexpected turn. I was 14 weeks and 4 days pregnant with my third baby and we found out on Friday afternoon that the baby had died. Very early Saturday morning, he was born at home. Though it was different in some ways than a full-term birth, my experience of miscarriage was very much a birth–my water broke, I had normal contractions for about two hours, the baby was born (about 4 inches, well formed with eyelids, fingers, toes, mouth that opened, etc.), we saw the tiny umbilical cord, and so forth. I was surprised to discover that some of the same feelings of empowerment were also present after a “natural home miscarriage” as with a natural home birth–I felt strong and brave and like “I did it myself!” as well as amazed at how well my body worked and knew what to do. We learned the baby was our third boy and named him Noah.

I have a number of feelings and observations that I would like to share about this birth experience, but I’m not sure if this blog is the “appropriate” place to do so, because this is also my business website and I don’t want to “scare” any prospective clients away by being sad. There are a lot of losses that accompany the loss of a baby and one of the ones that is hard for me is that my life is devoted to helping women give birth with confidence, strength, and joy and to embrace pregnancy and birth as wonderful events. It is sad to me to now be a source of fear/elevated perception of risk—“if it could happen to her, it could happen to me!” Kind of like I’ve become a “bad omen” instead of a source of encouragement. 😦

One thing I do want to share about the birth of my third baby is that earlier that afternoon I’d received a package from Taylor’s Scarlet Thread. I had ordered a bonnet and apron from them for a Kirsten costume (Kirsten is an American Girl doll) for myself. They sent along a little lavender sachet as a free gift with my order. When my labor began, for some reason I wanted the sachet and held and smelled it throughout my labor. I also used it to kind of revive myself when I felt like I was fainting several times afterwards. I talked to the baby and to myself before I started having regular contractions telling myself and the baby that we need to “let go” of each other and that it was time to let go. During the labor, I chanted to myself, “let go, let go, let go” and smelled my sachet.  Several days later, I was reading a book about miscarriage and it had some aromatherapy suggestions in it. It listed lavender for “letting go”…

More Birth Quotes

Reposting some of the quotes I’ve recently shared via my Facebook page…I’m surprised by how many hits my blog gets for people looking for “birth quotes.” I think as long as I bother typing them into Facebook, I might as well then copy them here for those people searching for birth quotes to find! (Here is a link to a previous post with more birth quotes.)

“For far too many women pregnancy and birth is something that happens to them rather than something they set out consciously and joyfully to do themselves.” –Sheila Kitzinger

“Labor is all about finding your threshold and learning you can go beyond it.” –Father quoted in the book Fathers at Birth

“Wise women mean a spicier, more interesting world, not guided simply by linear reasoning and accomplishment, but by intuition, internal self-agreement and fiece creative love.” –Sareanda Lourdes

“Giving birth and being born brings us into the essence of creation, where the human spirit is courageous and bold and the body, a miracle of wisdom.” –Harriette Hartigan

“I believe in the power of accurate information to help women make the wisest choices for themselves.” – Judy Norsigian

“Humanity cannot invent a drug that can work better than a mother’s body can manufacture or a knife that is sharper than her instinctual nature.” –Patrick Houser

“It has been said that if each of us went out into the world tomorrow and shared our love with two people, ‘such that they got it, and they in turn went out the next day and shared it with two more…following that progression, in less than… 33 days we would reach the entire planet.’ *Thirty-three days*. It begins at the beginning. At birth. A peaceful birth, where there are no hunters and no game.” –Nancy Wainer

“Let parents know that they don’t need special techniques and gadgets to give birth safely and happily. Make sure to communicate to every mother you help, that she has all the essential ingredients for a safe, healthy birth within herself. …A womb, a baby, a vagina, and a few warm pieces of fabric make an excellent, complete birth kit.” –Laura Morgan

“Women’s bodies have their own wisdom, and a system of birth refined over 100,000 generations is not so easily overpowered.” –Sarah Buckley

What to Expect When You Go to the Hospital for a Natural Childbirth

I’ve been debating about whether to share this post or not. I’m concerned that it may come across as unnecessarily negative, pessimistic, or even “combative” or “anti-hospital.”  However, I do think it is honest and I’ve decided to share it. There is a fairly “normal” course of events for women having a natural birth in a hospital setting. In order to be truly prepared to give birth in the hospital, it is important to be prepared for “what to expect” there and to know how to deal with hospital procedures. All hospital procedures/routines can be refused, but this requires being informed, being strong, and really paying attention to what is happening. I hope this list of “what to expect” with help you talk with your medical care provider in advance about hospital routines and your own personal choices, as well as help prevent unpleasant surprises upon actually showing up in the birthing room. This list is modified from material found in the book Woman-Centered Pregnancy and Birth. I am not saying that is how your specific hospital operates, but that many American hospitals function in this manner.

  • Expect to have at least some separation from the person who brought you to the hospital, whether this separation is due to filling out admission paperwork, parking the car, giving a urine sample, being examined in triage, etc.
  • Expect to remove all your clothing and put on a hospital gown that ties in the back.
  • Expect to have staff talk over you, not to you, and to have many different people walk into your room whenever they want without your permission and without introducing themselves.
  • Expect to have your cervix examined by a nurse upon admission and approximately every hour thereafter. Sometimes you may have multiple vaginal exams per hour by more than one person.
  • Expect to have an IV inserted into your arm, or at minimum a saline lock (sometimes called a Hep lock).
  • Expect to be denied food and drink (at best, expect clear liquids or ice).
  • Expect to give a urine sample and perhaps a blood sample.
  • Expect to have an ID bracelet attached to your arm.
  • Expect to have to sign a consent form for birth and for application of a fetal monitor that states that your doctor will be responsible for making the decisions about your care (not you).
  • Expect to have a fetal heart rate monitor attached around your belly—two round discs on straps that will often stay with you continuously until you give birth (or, at best, for 15 minutes out of each hour of your labor).
  • Expect to have your water manually broken at about 4 centimeters (or at least, strongly suggested that you allow it to be broken). After this point, expect to be encourage to have an electrode screwed into the baby’s scalp to measure the heartbeat and a tube places in your uterus to measure your contractions.
  • Expect to be offered pain medications repeatedly.
  • Expect to receive Pitocin at some point during your labor–“to speed things up.”
  • Expect to be encouraged (or even ordered) to remain in your bed through much of labor, especially pushing.
  • Expect to either have your legs put in stirrups or held at a 90 degree angle at the hips.
  • Expect to be told you are not pushing correctly.
  • Expect to hold your baby on your chest for a few minutes, before it is taken away to be dried, warmed, and checked over.
  • Expect the baby to have antibiotic eye ointment put into its eyes (without telling you first).
  • Expect to have your baby suctioned repeatedly.
  • Expect to be given a shot of Pitocin to make your uterus contract and deliver the placenta.
  • Expect not to be shown the placenta.
  • Expect your baby to be given a vitamin K injection.

I think it is important to note that what you can expect is often different than what you deserve and that what you can expect often reduces or eliminates your chances of getting what you deserve. In my classes, I’ve made a conscious decision to present what women deserve in birth and though I also talk about what they can expect and how to work with that, I think sometimes they are left surprised that what they actually experience in the hospital. At minimum, what you deserve are Six Healthy Birth Practices (as articulated by Lamaze):

  1. Let Labor Begin on Its OwnDownload PDF
  2. Walk, Move & Change PositionsDownload PDF
  3. Have Continuous SupportDownload PDF
  4. Avoid Unnecessary InterventionsDownload PDF
  5. Get Upright & Follow Urges to PushDownload PDF
  6. Keep Your Baby With YouDownload PDF

As an example of what I mean about what you can expect clashing with what you deserve, consider the second healthy birth practice “Walk, Move Around, and Change Positions”—monitoring and IVs directly conflict with the smooth implementation of a practice based on freedom of movement throughout labor.

So, how do you work with or around these routine expectations and your desire for a natural birth?

  • Discuss in advance the type of nursing care you would like and request that your doctor put any modifications to the normal routines in your chart as “Doctor’s Orders” (if your doctor is unwilling to do so, seek a new medical care provider!)
  • Labor at home until labor is very well-established.
  • Go through the above list of “what to expect” and make a decision about how to handle each one on a case by case—you may choose to actively refuse something, you may be okay with accepting certain procedures or routines, and you can develop a coping plan for how specifically to work with any particular issue.
  • Take independent childbirth classes and learn a variety of techniques and pain coping practices so that your “toolbox” for working with labor is well stocked.
  • Hire a doula, or bring a knowledgeable, helpful, experienced friend with you. It can help to have a strong advocate with you (this may or may not be a role your husband or partner is willing to take on).
  • Another tactic is to “never ask permission to do what you want, but to go ahead and do it unless the hospital staff actively stops you.” (An example of this is of getting up and walking around during labor)
  • “Many people, if they can find no other way to get around a dangerous or unpleasant hospital policy, unobtrusively ignore it”—a good example of this is with regard to eating and drinking during labor. Restricting birthing women to ice chips or clear liquids is not evidence-based care. Bring light foods and drinks and quietly partake as you please.
  • Leave the hospital early, rather than remaining the full length of stay post-birth. This can minimize separation from baby and other routines you may wish to avoid.
  • For some additional ideas see my post, “Can I really expect to have a great birth?

Finally, and most importantly, “birth is not a time in a woman’s life when she should have to FIGHT for anything,” so if you find that you feel you are preparing yourself for “hospital self-defense” I encourage you to explore your options in birth places and care providers, rather than preparing for a “battle” and hoping for the best. If you feel like you are going to have to fight for your rights in birth, STRONGLY consider the implications of birthing in that setting. Also, as The Pink Kit says, “hope is not a plan”—so if you find yourself saying “I hope I can get what I want” it is time to take another, serious look at your plans and choices for your baby’s birth.

Fear-Tension-Pain or Excitement-Power-Progress?

I love re-framing traditional concepts of birthing to more positive and empowering perspectives. Recently, I was reading an older issue of the International Journal of Childbirth Education and came across a concept that I immediately loved and will incorporate into my birth classes from now on. Most  childbirth educators are familiar with the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle–wherein fear raises tension in the body which leads to pain and so on. Reducing one element in the cycle leads to reductions in the others–i.e. reducing tension through relaxation techniques leads to less pain and then less fear.

While this is still a very useful concept and I will continue to use it, the new perspective I just read about was the Excitement-Power-Progress cycle. The idea being that labor can be greeted with excitement and welcome instead of fear and anxiety. As the power of birth grows, so does the progress towards meeting your baby! So, you can greet the increased power with excitement and confidence and know that your body is making beautiful progress.

The author of the article I was reading (Stacey Scarborough), phrased it like this:

“Fear = EXCITEMENT about being labor and having a baby!

Tension = POWER, strength, or energy!


Personal Mastery and Birth

I wanted to share a link to a post I wrote recently for the ICEA blog. In this post I discussed some research from the book Childbirth Education: Research, Practice, & Theory:

The book also shares the research that when mothers were interviewed postpartum who had had epidurals, their comments following birth focused almost totally on the baby. Women who had relied on relaxation and other non-pharmaceutical coping methods talked about the baby AND about the emotional and psychological benefits of their birth experiences. Women in both groups expressed satisfaction with their birth experiences, but for those in the epidural group “the element of personal accomplishment or mastery was missing in their comments.”

I believe that starting out the parenting adventure with a sense of “personal accomplishment and mastery” is a tremendous gift and I wish all expectant couples had the opportunity to experience birth in this way. In my classes, I strive to emphasize that both process (giving birth) and product (healthy baby, healthy mom) are important!

As long as I’m discussing posts I’ve made elsewhere, I wanted to also link to my CfM blog post this week which was about what are we thankful for? (in the “birth world”). I have a lot to be thankful for and hope you do as well!

Top Five Birth Plan…

Birth plans are a topic often discussed in birth classes. There are SO many things that could be put onto a birth plan that sometimes it is difficult to sort out the most important. I encourage couples in my classes to complete two different “values clarification” exercises to help them include those things on their plan that are MOST important to them, rather than trying to cover everything on a one page birth plan. They often ask what I think is important to include. So, recently I started thinking that if I needed to create a birth plan for a birth in hospital that was as normal and natural as possible and could only include five elements, what would be most important to me, my baby, and a normal birth?

These are my top five after first going into the hospital as late in labor as possible (this isn’t included on my birth plan and doesn’t need to be on anyone’s birth plan–“I plan to labor at home as long as possible”–because it isn’t relevant by the time you get there and people are reading your plan. It belongs on your own personal plan, but not in your “official” plan):

  1. No pitocin.
  2. Minimal fetal monitoring and preferably with a Doppler only.
  3. Freedom of movement throughout labor (stay out of bed, use it as an active tool rather than as a place to lie down. Stay upright during any necessary monitoring.)
  4. Push with the urge in whatever position works best for me (NO coached, directed, or “cheerleader” style pushing).
  5. Baby immediately to me. NO separation.

Words for Pain

May 2015 146I recently purchased a new educational DVD about natural birth called It’s My Body, My Baby, My Birth. A childbirth educator interviewed during the film briefly discusses pain and says that we need more words for pain, because it is ridiculous that we have only one word that is used to describe a hangnail, a broken leg, being hit by a car, and labor. I had already been musing about pain during labor and how we perceive it, talk about it, and so forth and this comment was additional food for thought for me. I’m thinking that there are many other words used to describe women’s experiences of labor and birth other than pain–a word that is limited in scope and that for some women may well not even apply to the experiences in birth (I’m thinking of the intriguing “comfortable, easy birthing” philosophy of programs such as Hypnobabies).

I reflected on my own birth experiences and how I would describe them, especially my second birth, which was very quick. I would describe it as:





Major (this is a word I kept repeating during labor…”This is MAJOR!”)





If someone then asked me, “yes, but was it painful.” I would have to think a minute and then say, “oh yeah. I guess it was painful.” However, pain is very far from my dominant interpretation, impression, or experience of this birth. It does not make my “top ten” list of descriptors. I’m interested by that. I’m also interested to know about the other words women use to describe their births and where “pain” falls on their lists (feel free to leave a comment sharing your words for your birth experiences! If pain is at the top of your personal list, that is okay! I’m fascinated by women’s experiences of all kinds.)

I have heard people scoff at this kind of language to describe birth–triumphant, empowering, etc.–saying that it is just natural birth “rhetoric” trying to lie to women or that if giving birth is so wonderful why do we use “euphemisms” to describe it, but the words I chose above are truthfully my experience. Why would describe my births as painful, if that truly is NOT the best word to describe them? If I had to pick the best word, I’d probably say triumphant. Or, I might choose intense (particularly with that second, fast labor and birth).

As I said, I’ve been reflecting a great deal about pain and the word pain and how to address the issue of pain during birth classes. I hope to share some more of these thoughts soon.