Category Archives: Your Birth Stories

A safe place for parents to publish their child’s birth stories, whether considered AP or not — in order for families to learn from one another.

Traumatic Birth, Healing Birth: Melissa’s Story

By Melissa Brennan

imageMy name is Melissa, and I am a mama to four kiddos. I’ve been an Attachment Parenting mama since before I knew it was a phrase. For me, having the “perfect birth” with my first baby was The Most Important Thing Ever. I really can’t stress enough how tied up I was in having a perfect birth: dim lights, soft music, soft voices, at home, with just a doula and my then-husband. I would catch the baby in my arms, and we would cry and laugh, and I would heal so quickly, and life would be perfect.

Editor’s Note: As one of the Eight Principles of Parenting, Attachment Parenting International encourages parents to prepare for pregnancy, birth and parenting, which includes informing themselves about healthy birth and birth options. API birth stories are published for the purpose of giving parents a voice in telling their birth stories, and these stories include decisions and understandings that represent various levels of understanding about optimal birth choices. The author’s description of her experiences should not be considered medical advice or representative of API Principles. Representative of the API Principles in this birth story are the pursuit of education, knowledge, and empowerment as a parent to guide the choices that suit the well-being of one’s own family.

Then reality struck. At 20 weeks pregnant, my baby was diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction, and I was told I had a placenta previa. This meant immediate bed rest with the strong possibility of a Cesarean section later. I was crushed.

At 35 weeks, though, my spirits were renewed when the doctor found that my placenta had moved, so a vaginal birth was now a possibility. However, since my little one still wasn’t growing very well, I would remain on bed rest and would not be allowed to have a homebirth. My now ex-husband was in the Marines, and “allowed” is the exact word for how pregnancies were handled by our military hospital at that time.

No one asked about my birth preferences, but I had a printed birth plan. It is my understanding that my husband was asked about circumcision, but neither of us was asked about formula, sugar water or pacifiers. My husband was aware of my feelings about circumcision, that I preferred the baby be left intact. I explicitly stated in my birth plan that I wanted to breastfeed within an hour of giving birth and that the baby was not to receive bottles or pacifiers.

Labor came on quickly one night when I was nearly 40 weeks along. I had no pain or even real discomfort, and then suddenly, BAM, full-blown labor. I managed to call my husband, who came home from his second job, saw how very in labor I was, freaked out and called the ambulance. By the time I got to the hospital 20 minutes later, I was 7 cm dilated and fully effaced.

The hospital handled my birth in the same controlling way they handled my pregnancy:

“No! Of course you’re not allowed to get out of bed!”

“What? Why would you want to eat or drink right now? You’re in labor, get back in bed!”

“Yes, you HAVE to have an IV.”

“This is your first baby; you have no idea what you’re doing.”

That last line is what I heard when I said that I thought labor was going a lot faster than I thought it would, and I didn’t think it would be too much longer before baby got here.

Hearing those words was the final straw. I was 19. I was in horrific pain. I was tethered in bed with the IV, monitor and cables so I couldn’t get up or move. I was being talked down to. I started to cry. Then I started to yell. That’s when a nurse walked in and said, “The doctor says you can have this for the pain.” With that, she stabbed me with a needle and emptied a syringe of what I later discovered to be Demerol into my arm.

I remember I was on the phone with my mom, trying to tell her what was happening, but as I was speaking to her, the room became dark, and I suddenly couldn’t hear anything. I was blind, deaf, mute and in horrible, horrible pain. Pain was all I could feel. I passed out.

Then three things happened simultaneously: I awoke; my water broke, gushing green, smelly, meconium-filled fluid everywhere; and I screamed involuntarily.

Nurses came running, the doctor came in and everyone started yelling at me, “Stop pushing! Stop pushing!”

I gritted my teeth and yelled back, “I’m not pushing!” The baby was coming. I couldn’t stop it. I wasn’t pushing.

At that point, I reached out for my husband, who was standing off to the side in shock. I put my hand on his arm. A nurse slapped my hand away from him. She said, “He’s your husband, don’t do that to him.” My husband just stared, his jaw agape.

Then, with one tiny push (the only one I was “allowed”), out came my beautiful baby boy. And I passed out.

When I awoke four hours later, my baby had been through the hospital’s baby assembly line: immunization, circumcision, bottle of formula. (Despite my feelings, my husband made the  decision to have the baby circumcised.)

I did eventually establish breastfeeding, but due to the lack of support and lactation services in the small town where we moved just after the birth, breastfeeding was very difficult. We dealt with a month of thrush, hyperactive letdown and oversupply issues. Eventually, Riley went on a nursing strike, and I ended up switching to formula.

I suffered severe postpartum depression lasting over eight months following Riley’s birth. I was in the last days of my marriage, only 19 years old and very much alone. I received no support and no help. I didn’t even know where to go for help.

I am still dealing with the emotional trauma of Riley’s birth. The hospital left me feeling powerless and small. Telling my story helps me feel like I’m doing something about it. I’ve had three more children since Riley, and each birth has been immeasurably better than Riley’s, which has definitely helped a lot.

My second birth was with Mason, a late baby born at just over 42 weeks. It required two procedures and three days to get labor started. I had a pretty aggressive doctor, and I was too overwhelmed to speak up and ask for the C-section I felt I needed. Mason nearly died at birth from complications of shoulder dystocia. He was in the NICU for a few hours, but luckily he recovered quickly and was back with me by the next morning.

I don’t compare Mason’s birth to others, because of the complications. The doctor had no way of knowing that there would be an issue of dystocia. That whole situation came down to what was necessary, and not what anyone “wanted.” I don’t feel bad about his birth or particularly good about it–I’m just thankful he survived.  As far as circumcision goes, Mason’s dad and I discussed it at length, and I agreed to let him make the decision. He chose to circumcise. I am at peace with that decision because I know that someone who loves my son very much made that choice with love. While I don’t think it was the best choice, it was his dad’s choice, not the hospital’s.

My fourth birth was a scheduled early induction to avoid complications, because the doctor and I both suspected that Harry was going to be a big baby. Given the situation with Mason’s birth, we felt good about proceeding with an early induction. Labor lasted just over two hours. I asked for an epidural, but it failed, so I felt every second of those two hours. Overall, I feel good about this birth, too. And I’m happy to say that Harry is an intact [uncircumcised] baby. He just turned two and is still nursing, thanks to all of the wonderful support I received from La Leche League and the local lactation consultants.

However, I think the birth I felt best about was with my daughter, my third child. On my due date, my water broke on its own at around 10 a.m., before contractions started. I took a shower, got dressed, called the sitter, cleaned the house, and just generally took my time getting everything ready for the baby. At about 3 p.m. my husband and I headed to the hospital. I was started on some Pitocin, and things moved fairly quickly after that. I labored while moving around, walking, eating freely, drinking water and juice whenever I felt like it, with my husband holding my hand and rubbing my back. We watched movies and played cards. Labor was intense but manageable, and the nurses were happy to leave me to it. I had telemetry monitoring, so I could go wherever and do whatever I wanted.

By about 9 p.m. the pain was bad enough that I couldn’t walk or talk or move, so the nurse offered to check me. I was at a very disappointing 3 cm, so I asked for an epidural. The epidural must have made my body relax because my daughter was born less than an hour later after only two pushes.

The doctor laid her on my tummy, and they left the cord alone until it stopped pulsing. The nurses asked if they could please take her to clean her up. They had her back to me, weighed, measured, wiped down and swaddled within 10 minutes. The staff cleared the room fairly quickly, and the lactation consultant stopped by to offer support. I was given a breastfeeding kit (not formula), as well as information on renting a pump and getting an SNS (supplemental nursing system) “just in case.” After that, I was left alone with my daughter and my husband for the rest of the night.

No one questioned my authority in making the decisions regarding my care or the care of my daughter. The two interventions I had were both necessary, and I have no regrets about them. I had good friends who offered advice and assistance in the months leading up to Lana’s birth, and I had a husband who wasn’t afraid to stand up for me.

Having what I considered to be a nearly perfect birth experience gave me hope. For the first time, I stopped blaming myself for the way things went with Riley’s birth. I had always felt like somehow I was the problem in that. But I realized it was just those particular nurses and doctors.

I guess if I had to sum it up in one sentence, I’d have to say that the biggest difference was that with Riley’s birth I was treated poorly and I was the least important person in the room, but with Lana’s birth I was part of the team and the person with the most input.

Every Birth is Natural

By Kelly Coyle DiNorcia, API Leader. Originally published in the 2009 “New Baby” issue of Attached Family magazine

Photo: Bas Silderhuis
Photo: Bas Silderhuis

When I became pregnant with my daughter, I had every intention of having a “natural” childbirth. I wanted to labor at home without pain medication, to fully experience her entry into the world. I left my obstetrician’s practice and found a midwife whom I loved and who assured me that the birth I wanted was within my reach.

Of course, life does not always turn out the way we plan. Complications arose, necessitating interventions that eventually led to a Cesarean birth. The whole birth experience was traumatic, and I was angry and disappointed. I spent the first several months of motherhood feeling inadequate and depressed, and missed a lot of the joy that new babies can bring. After much reflection, I came to recognize my two biggest mistakes:

  1. I treated my pregnancy as an impending deadline—Instead of embracing the coming transition, I used those nine months to finish up projects. I was a student, I worked full time, and I was an active and dedicated volunteer –and all these things were important to me. I struggled with the idea that once I added “mother” to my list, something else would have to give because I wasn’t willing to sacrifice any of them. I insisted on plowing on … when I developed gestational diabetes, when I broke my foot in the seventh month of my pregnancy, when my feet swelled so much that I couldn’t put on shoes, when my blood pressure began to rise. I refused to stop and rest.
  2. I believed that my body would be permitted to give birth as it was built to do—It is certainly true that women are built, from a biological, physiological, anatomical and evolutionary perspective, to have offspring and that most of the time this can be done safely without intervention. However, what I did not realize was that the modern medical system is not designed to allow that to happen for most women, and that it can take a great deal of education, effort and willpower to fight for a natural birth. Most birth practitioners see birth not as a natural process but a necessity to be endured and sped through if possible, using whatever means are available to move things along. Avoiding this pitfall requires a great deal of preparation and soul-searching.

Deciding on VBAC

With this in mind, I began preparing for my Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC) within weeks of my first baby’s birth. I quizzed the surgeon about the location and orientation of my scar, the reasons for my daughter’s failure to descend and my chances for a future vaginal birth. He assured me that the surgery had gone well, and there was no reason I couldn’t attempt a VBAC. At the time, I didn’t know this was doctor-ese for “But your chances of success are about nil.”

I joined support groups. I read. I wrote in my journal. I entered therapy. I learned about the current medical model of obstetrics. I researched how I could take care of myself to prevent many of the complications I had experienced. I waited, and when the time was right, I became pregnant.

“By no means is it justifiable for anyone to be made to feel negatively about whatever birthing options they choose or for whatever birthing experience they have had. We all deserve to have our birthing choices and experiences validated.” Read more by Tamara Parnay in “The Importance of Sharing Birth Stories

Unfortunately, my former midwife was no longer attending VBACs, so I was forced to start from square one and find a new provider. I was frustrated that I had to tell my story over and over and face so many negative reactions from providers who were pessimistic about my chances for success, but I came to realize that this was really a gift. I had the chance to start fresh, carefully consider my options and know that I had given myself the best chance for my desired outcome. I ended up going with the first midwives I interviewed – their VBAC success rate was very high, I felt instantly at ease with them, I liked their office and their hospital, and their backup doctors were incredibly supportive of natural birth and even collaborated with most of the homebirth midwives in my area.

I also asked a close friend of mine who is a doula to be with me during my birth. During my first pregnancy, I thought a support person was an unnecessary luxury, but this time, I knew better: having a woman there who was supportive and knowledgeable, and whose only responsibility was to help me through the process, was a necessity.

A Second Chance

I spent this pregnancy resting, eating well (when I wasn’t vomiting) and preparing myself and my family for the impending arrival of my son. I was able to avoid the medical complications of my previous pregnancy, I attended Bradley classes and when the time came, I was ready.

After a few false starts, labor started on a Friday at about 11:00 p.m. Unlike many of the videos I had seen of women giving birth surrounded by family and friends, I preferred darkness and solitude. While my family slept, I paced, showered, squatted, groaned and bounced. When daylight came, I called my midwife, doula and mother and then woke my family.

By the time I got to the hospital, I was 6 centimeters dilated and was having strong and regular contractions. We were given the room with the birth tub, which I was not able to use because there was meconium in the amniotic fluid, and I was allowed to use a fetal monitor that worked by telemetry so I could change position, walk and even shower.

I’m not really sure how long it took, but as darkness fell, the time had come to push. I walked around, squatted, laid on my back and side, and pushed for several hours. Eventually, I looked at my midwife and said, “Check.” But I knew that my baby hadn’t moved, that he was stuck high in the birth canal, that I was headed to the operating room again.

The nurses prepared me for surgery, the surgeon and anesthesiologist came in to introduce themselves, and my midwife helped my husband and friend pack all of our belongings as I struggled against the urge to push, waiting for an operating room to open up.

A little after 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, Harrison “Harry” Herbert Francis was born weighing 9 pounds, 1 ounce. He was healthy and robust, and the surgery went well. As soon as I was in recovery, my doula came in to check on us, and my midwife brought my son so I could nurse him, which he did easily and with gusto. He accompanied me to our room, where he stayed for our entire hospital stay.

Every Birth is Natural

When I met my first midwife, she had told me of her disdain for the term “natural childbirth.” She prefers the term “unmedicated childbirth,” because “natural” implies that there exists an unnatural way to give birth. However it happens for you, she said, is natural for you.

“Yeah, whatever,” I thought at the time, “be that as it may, I am going to give birth naturally, like our foremothers did, with no medication, no intervention, just me having a baby.”

Now, I know exactly what she meant. My second birth was not natural in the sense in which that term is commonly used, but I feel like it was as natural as possible under the circumstances.

I am still bitterly disappointed that I will probably never know what it is like to bring new life into the world on my own power, and I regret that I could not spend my children’s first moments of life snuggling and counting digits. Sometimes I feel like a marathon runner who fell within inches of the finish line and just … couldn’t …make… it … across. I hate that I am another statistic of a failed VBAC attempt and that I was unable to support other women for whom this opportunity is becoming increasingly scarce.

On the other hand, I am incredibly grateful to live in a time and place where the medical technology was available to bring my son and me safely through labor. I am empowered to know that I was strong and determined enough to at least make it to the finish line even if I couldn’t cross. And, of course, I am thankful for my two beautiful children. I won’t say that all the rest doesn’t matter as long as we are all healthy, because I believe that our birth stories do matter and that we are entitled to mourn the loss of the birth we wanted but couldn’t have. After all, whenever a baby is born, so is a mother. But in the end, I also believe that we all have the birth we need to make us better parents and people, and I am no less a woman or a mother because of the way my children came into the world.

To read more birth stories from our growing collection–or to find out how to share yours–visit Your Birth Stories on The Attached Family.com.

The Importance of Sharing Birth Stories

By Tamara Parnay. Originally published in the 2009 “New Baby” issue of Attached Family magazine.

 

Photo: Benjamin Earwicker
Photo: Benjamin Earwicker

Birthing is a hugely important subject for parents and parents-to-be. We have a great deal to learn from and share with others, but with this subject, due to its potential contentiousness, we may struggle in our attempts to tap into our collective wealth of knowledge and experience. While the purpose of this article is not to sway readers one way or another about where and how to give birth, it does intend to point out the availability of a wide range of firsthand birth stories, which—perhaps more effectively than any other form of childbirth education—encourages and enables expectant parents to inform and prepare themselves.

Cultivating an empathetic environment for the sharing of our birth stories is a first step towards returning to women the wisdom and control of giving birth. These stories are powerful and empowering. Childbirth is one of life’s most marvelous, miraculous experiences. Giving birth is not only about having babies; it’s also about motherhood. In the same light, sharing birth stories is not only about providing or collecting information; it’s also about community.

As for anything so personal, we need to start by providing a non-threatening environment conducive to open, heart-to-heart participation.

The topic of birthing is highly charged. The contention seems to arise mainly between those who have had natural births or homebirths and those who, for whatever reason, haven’t. One side may come across as patronizing, smug and self-serving. The other side may seem insecure, defensive, envious and even ill-informed.

The Best Birthing Option

Expectant parents who have researched and considered all the birthing options available to them, while taking into account their own values and beliefs, are making an informed, proactive decision. They may plan on any combination of options, such as an assisted or unassisted homebirth, a birth center birth, a natural hospital birth, a hospital birth with minimal pain relief, a hospital birth with maximum pain relief, and even a planned Cesarean section. Of course, there may be unforeseen events that could change Plan A to Plan B, and these changes may be completely out of anyone’s control. So, for instance, those planning on a natural homebirth would need to consider the possibility, remote as it may be, of ending up in a hospital having an emergency Cesarean section.

Maternity care providers in all steps of the process, from pre-pregnancy through postnatal care, need to move more in the direction of assisting people in having personalized birth plans and helping them to safely realize these plans. In other words, maternity care providers must consider the family to be an integral part of the decision-making process.

With informed planning, financial considerations need to be taken into account: Some families may not be able to afford private care. Risk factors must also be considered: It may not be advisable to plan a homebirth for a high-risk pregnancy. Some women might desire pain relief, even considering it to be a crucial part of their birth plan. They may not want to experience the pain of birthing. Pain sensitivity may vary greatly from one person to the next, which would mean that some women may not be able to cope with pain as well as others. If pain relief wasn’t available to some women during labor, their birth experience could be overshadowed, even complicated, by their overwhelming inability to cope with the pain. We can never know what another’s experience is truly like. Parents-to-be need to be realistic about their circumstances and thus deserve to be free to make informed and unfettered decisions about their birth plan. Once they have become informed, the best combination of options for any family is that which they feel best suits them at the time.

Natural vs. Medicated Birth, Hospital vs. Home

Some mothers who have experienced a natural birth may find it difficult to understand why others have not, cannot, or do not desire to do so. Some natural birthers have described to me how they were successful at getting themselves into the right zone, pointing out that they had made the right choices; they emphasized that they hadn’t given up when the going got tough; and they described how they felt in complete control during their birth experience.

For some who chose or needed medical intervention, doubts and “what ifs” may creep into their thoughts when they hear natural birthers’ stories, even if they have processed their birth experience and have come to terms with any disappointment they may have felt, assuming they were disappointed at all. I have heard comments such as, “I must not have been able to get myself into the right frame of mind,” “I think I made some bad choices,” and “Maybe I didn’t try hard enough.” Their insecurities and defensiveness may actually end up reinforcing and perpetuating the attitude that all women can control every aspect of their birthing experience and its outcome if they really want to.

For some who choose a homebirth, they may feel misunderstood, even humiliated, by hospital birth advocates who consider home birthers to be reckless with their baby’s and/or their own well-being. Comments such as, “It’s risky business to birth at home” or “Something could go wrong, and then your baby’s and even your own life could be in jeopardy,” may undermine the confidence of those who are considering a homebirth.

Competition at the Root of Contention?

What might cause these misunderstandings and ill feelings to develop? Perhaps the answer lies in our culturally driven need to compete.

Western society emphasizes individual competition. Competition is not only prevalent in mainstream settings, it also exists in alternative communities and social circles. Society instills in us the need to compare the many things in our lives in order to determine what’s better or what’s best. Then we generalize that “What’s best for me must be best for you, too.” In setting up a better than/worse than dichotomy, competition stifles our ability to empathize with each other.

According to the article “Competitive and Cooperative Approaches to Conflict” by Brad Spangler on BeyondIntractability.org: “Obstructiveness and lack of helpfulness lead to mutual negative attitudes and suspicion of one another’s intentions. One’s perceptions of the other tend to focus on the person’s negative qualities and ignore the positives.”

Unspoken irrational comparisons might take place, such as: “I had the shortest and least complicated natural birth,” “Oh! My natural birth took longer than hers” and “Oh no! How can I share my birth story? I didn’t even have a natural birth!” For many reasons, everyone loses in competitive situations like this. One unfortunate consequence is that non-natural birthers may feel uneasy about sharing their birth stories. We may all lose out on their valuable input, because we don’t end up having the chance to view the bigger picture.

A competitive atmosphere that develops surrounding the sharing of birth experiences is a clear sign that on an individual level, everyone needs to reflect more on their own birthing experience. If individuals find themselves proving others wrong in order to make themselves feel right, then they need to have a look at possible reasons why. They need to give themselves—and then each other—credit where credit is due, as well as acknowledge their good fortune.

According to Spangler, cooperative conversation is characterized by “‘effective communication,’ where ideas are verbalized and group members pay attention to one another and accept their ideas and are influenced by them. These groups have less problems communicating with and understanding others. … Friendliness, helpfulness and less obstructiveness is expressed in conversations.”

Sharing with Empathy

A practical idea for encouraging a less competitive environment is to discover what we do have in common. So, it would make sense to emphasize the ways we have promoted bonding with our newborns from the time they entered into our lives. It is helpful to “fast forward” to the present time and talk about what we are doing now—and tomorrow—to remain securely attached to our children.

When we can get beyond our feelings of competitiveness, we are able to foster a healthy dialogue because we are more receptive to what others have to say. In a cooperative setting, “members tend to be generally more satisfied with the group … as well as being impressed by the contributions of other group members,” writes Spangler. Through empathic listening, we are less likely to make assumptions about others’ views, motives and feelings and more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. We are able to:

  1. Reflect on others’ birthing experiences
  2. “Try on” their situation—their “truth”—by imagining ourselves in their place
  3. Give validation and empathy, but not in the form of an unsolicited therapy session
  4. Increase our own knowledge of and sensitivity to birthing issues
  5. Help each other move on to our current parenting situations by sharing ideas for remaining as securely attached as possible to our children today, tomorrow and in the years to come.

In a fully accepting and flexible atmosphere, people are safe to make themselves vulnerable by sharing their feelings, needs, disappointments, triumphs and dreams. Natural birthers are able to view non-natural birthers’ experiences and concerns with sincere, unbiased interest and empathy, and they will softly share their own birthing experience. Mothers who did not experience the birth they had hoped for will feel understood because their own birthing stories are validated, and they will be able to share in the joy of other parents who had the birth experience they had hoped for. Feelings of satisfaction we derive from feeling superior are fleeting; the good feelings we receive by helping other people feel good are long lasting.

Even the most informed people can run into unplanned, and sometimes serious, complications during the birth process. By no means is it justifiable for anyone to be made to feel negatively about whatever birthing options they choose or for whatever birthing experience they have had. We all deserve to have our birthing choices and experiences validated. Through our positive and non-judgmental contributions to this contentious topic, we create a collective harmony that enables everyone to leave the discussion feeling good. We bring these good feelings home to our families. Thus, the empathy we have given to each other touches the greatest gift we all receive in our birthing experience: our own children.

To read our growing collection of birth stories–or to find out how to share yours–visit Your Birth Stories on The Attached Family.com.

Jack Christian’s Birth

By Walker Powell

Walker Powell 1I became pregnant quite by accident when I was a senior in college. I’d never really considered different birth options before, but I knew immediately that I wanted a natural home birth.

I sailed through most of my pregnancy without a single complaint, received glowing reports at my prenatal exams, and avoided the hospital entirely except for a single ultrasound to determine the due date. My boyfriend was amazingly supportive, I think he might have been even more excited than me. I was a little nervous, but I was also looking forward to meeting this creature who had taken my by surprise. I was convinced I would do so at home after a relaxing, peaceful labor.

I read all the traditional natural birth books, but my favorite was Ina May Gaskin’s classic Spiritual Midwifery. At that point, I had never heard of Attachment Parenting, though unconsciously I was already planning an AP birth. Of course, things never work out the way we plan.

At my 38-week appointment, one of my midwives, J., looked worried. I had slightly elevated blood pressure, and the baby seemed to have stopped growing. I didn’t have any other signs of preeclampsia, and the baby was still kicking like crazy, so J. said she wasn’t too concerned. However, she suggested that I see the midwife at the hospital and get an ultrasound. I did, suddenly fearful, but the other midwife wasn’t concerned at all, and the ultrasound only revealed a perfectly healthy baby.

I returned home, worried now that my dreams of a natural birth were falling to pieces. We spent the next few days doing anything we could to get this baby out. Exercise, raspberry tea, herbal supplements, sex, whatever we could think of. Four days before our due date, I hiked to the top of a mountain. There were no contractions, but my boyfriend did propose on the summit under some trees. I said yes.

The following week I was told to go in for a non-stress test because the hospital midwife had realized that she had the wrong due date and was suddenly very worried about the baby’s size. I did, and we passed with flying colors, but no one was satisfied. The midwife suggested an induction but said she’d let us decide. We opted to wait.

That very afternoon she called again to say that the doctors had reviewed my case again and strongly recommended an immediate induction. They could have me in that night, she said. I was caught off guard, unsure what to do. I called my home birth midwives, and we decided together that I should go for the induction.

That night, my fiance and I checked into the hospital birthing center to have our baby. They gave me Cervidil, hooked a heart rate monitor to my belly, and left me to try to sleep in the narrow hospital bed. A nurse came in every hour to adjust the monitor, but I managed to sleep a little.

The following day started slowly. One of my midwives, M., came in the mid-morning and kept us company. We watched TV and relaxed all morning. The birthing center was a welcoming place where we had our own room and were rarely bothered by nurses or doctors. The contractions were starting but they were mild, barely worse than the Braxton-Hicks contractions I’d been experiencing off and on during the last few weeks.

By lunchtime I was restless and didn’t feel like eating. We took a walk instead, out to a scrap of grass behind the parking lot. M. did some moxibustion to speed up the labor because she was worried the nurses would give me Pitocin if they didn’t see some progress. It worked, and within an hour I could no longer talk through the contractions.

I took a long, hot shower with my fiance, swaying with him at each contraction. Things were going well, I thought, though it scared me a little that it hurt so much when I’d barely begun.

Then things got confusing. The nurses made me come back to bed so they could hook up the monitor, take my blood pressure, draw blood, and get a urine sample. There was a lot of hushed muttering. M. looked worried. I was focusing on the contractions and didn’t pay much attention. They drew my blood a few more times, leaving my arms dotted with bruises.

Next they were putting an IV in my arm and telling me I had preeclampsia and that I needed this drug to protect me from seizures. The drug made me feel heavy, so heavy I couldn’t even open my eyes. It also slowed the contractions down so much the nurses had to give me Pitocin as well. The Pitocin made me feel like I was burning up, and my fiance had to wash my face and neck with a cold cloth.

Several hours passed, I think. I couldn’t tell time, nor did I know exactly what was happening.The contractions came hard and fast due to the Pitocin; I never got a break. The nurses asked if I wanted a painkiller, and I said yes–not an epidural, but something that would dull the pain a little. The painkiller let me doze between contractions for a bit. Finally the staff checked my cervix and found that I had only dilated 1 cm. I did feel a little nervous then, but M. took charge. To this day I’m convinced we would have ended up with a cesarean section if she hadn’t been there.

The baby was positioned faceup, which we’d known for a few weeks, so M. suggested I get on all fours while she jiggled my stomach with a long piece of cloth called a rebozo. The nurses weren’t too happy about the monitor getting disrupted, but it only took about 10 minutes, then I was on my back again. Almost instantly, my water broke and the contractions grew much more intense. What seemed like a very short time later, I began to feel the urge to push. The nurse checked me again and with a big grin announced that she could see the head. “Let’s have a baby,” she said.

I was having that baby whether she said so or not.

In a strange moment of clarity, I remembered reading that the pushing stage can last an hour or more. I knew with utter certainty that I was not doing this for an hour. I know that some women prefer pushing because it feels like they are finally doing something, and it was nice to know the end was near, but it hurt far too much for me to want it to last. I think it was about half an hour of pushing, in the end.

They tried to get me to feel the head when it crowned, but I didn’t care. I pushed harder, felt a sharp pain, then the baby slid out in one smooth motion. There was a sudden flurry of action as my fiance cut the cord and the staff swept the squirmy purple body away. As I expelled the afterbirth, I heard the announcement that it was a boy. I remember thinking they must have the wrong baby; I was going to have a girl. I had known that since I’d found out I was pregnant. Then they placed him on my stomach, tiny and wet and perfect, and he crawled right up to my breast and started to nurse.

Jack Christian was born at 11:47 p.m., a little peanut at 5 pounds, 7 ounces and 19 inches long, but perfectly healthy and alert, with his father’s monkey ears and my button nose. We chose to keep him uncircumcised, but at the time I didn’t know enough to have opinions about other routine hospital procedures. I only knew I wanted him with me 24/7, which I believe is the main reason we never once struggled with breastfeeding. The nurses were very supportive of that, which made it easier. Even with his low birth weight and some jaundice, they never once suggested supplementing with formula.

I don’t have any regrets about not getting the natural home birth I wanted, though I would like to try again in a few years with the next baby. I am just glad that Jack was born healthy and safe.  

For two weeks following his birth, I was surrounded by my mom and three sisters. Even though my fiance had to go back to work more than 60 hours a week just three days after Jack’s birth, I was able to relax during those first two weeks.

The rest of his first year was incredibly difficult, and I suffered from postpartum depression for several months, mostly due to my fiance being gone so often and Jack sleeping very poorly. I had almost no support besides online groups, and I think I also had a great deal of trouble adjusting to this enormous and unplanned change in my life. Luckily I discovered AP and can at least know that even when I was at my most depressed, I still gave Jack the best care I could. He is an incredibly happy, healthy, smart and loving baby, the center of my world.

To share your birth story with API readers, see our submission guidelines for more information.

 

Birth Story Guidelines

Share Your Birth Story

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Parents, we invite you to share your childbirth experiences. Sharing birth stories can empower parents to educate others, to break down barriers and help others become more accepting of experiences very different from their own, to heal from the disappointments and emotional pain of their own childbirth, to learn about birth from an Attachment Parenting perspective, and to celebrate the profound experience of childbirth.

Whether you had the perfect birth or one fraught with worry and complications, whether you chose pain relief or birthed naturally without medication, whether the birth was at home or at a hospital, every story is a valuable teaching tool for others and us.

A special note to expectant parents: The remarkable journey of new life is a positive, transformative experience. Pregnancy offers expectant parents an opportunity to prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally for parenthood. Making informed decisions about childbirth, newborn care, and parenting practices is a critical investment in the attachment relationship between parent and child. You can read about API’s Principle of Parenting: Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting here: http://attachmentparenting.org/principles/prepare.php.

Birth Story Guidelines

As you write your birth story, we invite you to reflect on the following questions. Not all of the questions may apply to your situation. Rather than answer all of the questions, please incorporate some of your reflections within your story, if they are applicable.

  • How did you educate yourself about birth and parenting? What were helpful resources? If you read the API Principle on Preparing for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting, what did you find helpful?
  • What did you think would be a certain way, only to find out it was different after you began learning about childbirth, parenting and attachment?
  • What are your beliefs about childbirth and parenting, and how have they made an impact on your choices?
  • What impact did your previous childbirth experiences, if any, have on your thoughts, feelings and decisions?
  • Did you have any negative emotions or fears surrounding pregnancy and childbirth, and how did you process them before the birth?
  • What kind of health care providers and birthing options did you choose and why?
  • What did you hope your childbirth experience would be like?
  • What kind of support did you receive during pregnancy from your partner, family or others? Did you join any support groups or forums?
  • Were there times during pregnancy or childbirth when your instincts were in conflict with what your health care providers suggested or demanded?
  • The childbirth experience: what happened, how did you feel and react, what role did others play in the process?
  • Were there aspects of “routine” newborn care that you felt strongly about, such as bathing, circumcision, eye drops, blood samples, collecting cord blood, and so on? Did your health care provider honor your choices?
  • Did you want to breastfeed? If yes, were you able to? How did your health care providers help or hinder this process?
  • Were there aspects of your pregnancy or birth experience that you regret or would like to have changed? How have you processed and healed negative emotions related to childbirth?
  • What kind of support did you receive after the birth from your partner, family, friends, health care professionals or support groups?

 

Tomorrow is the Last Day He is Four

By Emily Cherkin, originally published on StartEmpathy.org, reprinted with permission from Ashoka.

This morning, it snowed in Seattle.  And it reminded me of the night Max was born, almost exactly five years ago, when it was sunny and rainy and windy and then, in the middle of the night, when we were upside down about time and date, we looked out the window and saw snow swirling around.  I don’t remember much about those early days and hours, but I do remember the snow.525200_73544751 balloon

Five years ago, newly pregnant, my husband and I were full of expectation and wonder at how much our lives were about to change.  Like many mothers-to-be, I was fixated on the labor and delivery part of this journey.  I felt somewhat confident the newborn challenges would be manageable, but I knew the labor and birth were all on me.  I diligently took the birth classes, read the books, talked to our midwife and hired a doula.

The one piece of information from our birth class I recalled in the middle of a long and arduous labor was the phrase: “Transition is usually the shortest and most intense phase of labor, lasting about 30 minutes on average.”  When I arrived at the hospital birthing center, 24 hours into labor with Max and nearly fully dilated, I heard the nurses’ whispers: “Transition; she’s in transition.”  Five hours later, I was still “in transition” and nothing I had learned in class seemed applicable anymore.  It would be another seven hours before Max would make his appearance in the world. Continue reading

A Breech Birth Story

By Sarah Occident

Natural childbirth has always been fascinating to me. There is something so beautiful about bringing forth life the same way millions of women around the world have throughout the ages. So when we became pregnant, I had already begun the mental and physical preparation that would eventually lead to a perfect, natural birth at a birth center. I had read all of Ina May Gaskin’s books, watched The Business of Being Born, and had picked the brains of the other like-minded mamas that I knew. I was prepared! And childbirth ALWAYS goes exactly as we plan, right?DSC_0130 Sarah Occident

For most of my pregnancy, I was under the care of the midwives at a birth center. Our pregnancy was uncomplicated, and we were breezing past all of the milestones we needed to hit in order to birth at the center. We had completed a natural childbirth course, were  preparing with a doula, had meticulously written out our birth preferences in case of a hospital transfer, and had our bags packed and waiting by the door. But, as my mom regularly reminded me throughout those nine months, the first lesson of motherhood is that you can’t control everything related to your children, and our little one certainly had plans of her own.

Editor’s Note: Attachment Parenting International invites parents to share their birth stories, without endorsement of their decisions regarding their child’s birth. None of this information should be interpreted as medical advice. Click here for more information on our views regarding childbirth.

At about 36 weeks, we realized that this baby was frank breech and wasn’t turning. Initially I was disappointed, as a breech baby meant no birth center. So we tried everything—a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, and hours each day inverting myself while simultaneously attempting to bribe the baby with music, flashlights and frozen peas (really—Google it). I stayed hopeful until about 39 weeks, and then I decided I needed to let go. As my midwife beautifully put it, it wasn’t my baby who needed to turn, it was me who needed to turn. Continue reading

Moms and Dads – Share Your Birth Story

We are excited to invite mothers and fathers to share your childbirth experiences. Sharing birth stories can empower parents to educate others, to break down barriers and help others become more accepting of experiences very different from their own, to heal from the disappointments and emotional pain of their own childbirth, to learn about birth from an Attachment Parenting perspective, and to celebrate the profound experience of childbirth. 1402625_19862838 baby hand

Whether you had the perfect birth or one fraught with worry and complications, whether you chose pain relief or birthed naturally without medication, whether the birth was at home or at a hospital, every story is a valuable teaching tool for others and us.

Fathers – we extend a special invitation for you share what your baby’s birth was like from your perspective.

We are accepting birth stories on a continual basis starting in May 2013.

For inspiration, we invite you to read about API’s first Principle of Parenting, Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting. You can read about this Principle on API’s website or in Attached at the Heart by Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker. Email your submissions to Lisa at editor@attachmentparenting.org.

You can read submitted birth stories in Your Birth Stories on TheAttachedFamily.com.

An Interview with Myself: On Epidurals and Natural Birth

By Ashley Franz

Choosing to have a natural birth is such a personal decision. Everyone has their reasons to have, or not have, a natural birth. Several girls have tried to get me to talk them into having a natural birth, but I just won’t do it – because I can’t. I can’t do it for someone else; it has to be her own decision because she is the only one who is going to be experiencing the birth, and my own personal reasons for doing it might not apply.

Editor’s Note: Attachment Parenting International invites mothers to share their birth stories. The following article has been published to give this mother a voice in telling her birth story only, without endorsement of her decisions made regarding her child’s birth. Click here for more information on our views regarding childbirth.

Why have a natural birth? I usually answer this question with another question: Why does anyone run a marathon? Why does anyone sky dive? Why does anyone climb a mountain? Natural birth appealed to my sense of adventure; I wanted to have an odyssey.

I wanted to have a natural birth, because I was always interested in and curious about birth. I wondered what it would be like, what it would feel like. I appreciated the process of birth and was amazed by the miracle that it is. I wanted to see what I was made of: How much can I take? How strong am I – physically, mentally, and emotionally? What does real pain actually feel like? I wanted to do it for connection: connection with my husband in the form of a (positive) trauma bond; connection with other women, now and from the past when they didn’t have epidurals; connection with my baby, who is experiencing the rawness of birth; connection with God, who promised I can do all things, who promised He would give me nothing I couldn’t handle.

I knew that having a natural birth was my best chance for avoiding a Cesarean section or other interventions and complications of birth, and I was desperate for a good birth.

There were spiritual reasons, too; right or wrong, I was convicted by the fact that my husband would be spending his life fulfilling the curse of Adam (to work the “fields”), so I felt somewhat obligated to experience, at least once, Eve’s punishment as well (to have “greatly increased pain in childbirth”).

I had also heard of the amazing natural high that one gets after birthing naturally, and I wanted to (and did) experience it. It lasted for weeks the first time and warded off any baby blues that might have otherwise been there. In fact, I had read that the incidence of postpartum depression after natural births was close to 0% and that really spoke to me. I had also heard that birthing naturally helps you “turn on mothering” easier and breastfeed easier, due to the hormones released during labor and birth, and success in these two things was extremely important to me.

I needed confidence. Some women are extremely confident in their abilities, going into motherhood, but I wasn’t. I was scared stiff, and I needed a boost. Birthing naturally was a way for me to literally and figuratively face and conquer my fears about being a parent. I had heard that once you’ve had a natural birth, nothing ever seems difficult again. I have found this (so far, at least) to be true. It has been extremely empowering to be able to compare giving birth to other parenting (not to mention, non-parenting) challenges, beginning with breastfeeding and continuing with sleep deprivation, disciplining a toddler, and the list goes on. I can always say to myself, “If I can give birth, I can do this.”

Why have an epidural after you’ve already done natural twice? The same reason everyone else gets an epidural. It hurts! And, no, it doesn’t get less painful each time…easier and faster, maybe, but not less painful.

I was gripped with fear about the birth, due to a less-than-ideal experience with my second birth, and I felt I had to plan an epidural birth in order to let go of the fear. After my second birth, I swore to myself (and others present) that I would never have natural birth again unless I was in a better setting for natural birth, like home, a birth center, or at least a natural-friendly hospital (which doesn’t exist where I live). I also swore off natural birth unless I was to be surrounded by doulas, midwives, or at least other women who had birthed naturally. I was so tired of fighting to the death for my natural births and having people stare at me like “Why, you idiot?” while I was trying to focus on getting through a contraction, to still just be hooked up to pitocin after the baby was out in order to…what, deliver the placenta? Because that’s hospital protocol? After working so hard to birth naturally, it sucks when they hook you up to pitocin and kill your birth high.

I had also been having multiple dreams about the actual birth, and in the dreams, there was no pain or struggle of any kind. I’m a big believer in dreams and that some of them can be telling you something or explaining something, so I took it as a hint that this is the direction I should go.

With two other very small children, I just didn’t feel like my husband and I got to prepare, let alone even talk about, the upcoming birth. I wanted a free pass, a freebie – a get-out-of-jail-free card. And I felt fine about it, since the reasons that I had a natural birth in the first place didn’t really apply anymore: Mothering has been turned on and locked in the “on” position; breastfeeding almost couldn’t fail if I tried after more than three years’ experience; and I felt confident that my body was experienced enough at birth to be able to birth with an epidural. In summary, I just wasn’t up for it this time. And you have to be up for it, at the very least, in order to succeed and enjoy natural birth.

What is the difference? There is absolutely no comparison. Apples to oranges, people!

Bad birth versus good birth? No! Birthing naturally is a wonderful experience. The difference is having to labor versus not having to labor at all! Laboring with an epidural is like sitting here typing on the computer – there is no labor. Whereas, feeling one’s labor is actually really hard work, intense, pretty much indescribable. It’s just a totally different experience.

Did I like the epidural? I liked not feeling the pain and not having to struggle and work through the labor. I did not like getting the epidural. It was just as scary as I thought it would be; it seemed so unnatural to be getting a procedure done when there was no medical problem, and it felt really weird. I also felt funny not having complete control over my body and having ports and things going into me from everywhere (the previous two times, I didn’t even have an I.V. drip or monitors, so I was free to roam). And I hate needles, especially ones that go into your back. But, again, it was an experience to be able to sleep through centimeters six to ten, and then be completely mentally aware during pushing.

Do I wish I had had an epidural with the first two? No. All three births have been wonderful and memorable in their own ways. However, if I had my wishes, I would have had an epidural with my second birth and gone natural with this one, because the hospital I was in this third time had a better bathtub and my water wasn’t broken from the beginning (labor hurts more after the water is broken). I felt like I could have done it again once I reached my goal of getting to five centimeters, but I didn’t want to be fickle and I had made my mind up not to change my mind about the epidural once I got there.

Am I going to have an epidural next time? Everyone assumes that I will now be an epidural convert, but I would say that, now that I’ve had a little break, I will be more ready to face another natural birth next time. I don’t promise anyone anything, because it’s not about proving anything to anyone, but time will tell.

Sydney Rose’s Birthday

By Kyle Mills

Few things in life are as intense, painful, scary, and mind-blowing as the birth of your child, but I would say that excitement is probably what most people remember feeling when thinking back to the day their child came into the world. At least, that’s how it was for me and my husband when I had our daughter, Sydney Rose.

I remember beginning to feel some strong contractions around 3:30 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. I was putting some groceries away when they started, and by 6:00 p.m., they still hadn’t let up. We considered going to the hospital, but I didn’t think the timing was close enough and I didn’t want to be turned away. Besides, we had never attended a childbirth class, and we hadn’t even watched the Lamaze video we’d gotten. After dinner, we took a walk, and then settled in to attempt the video before heading to the hospital, all the while keeping a close eye on my contractions, which were getting worse by the half hour. Finally at 9:00 p.m., I said we should head to the hospital because I was definitely in more pain, the timing patterns were right on — anywhere from five to eight minutes — and I wanted to get checked before it got too late in case they were to send me back home.

We checked in around 9:30 p.m. and were told I was one centimeter dilated — one measly centimeter! They were going to monitor my contractions and check me again in an hour, and if I’d progressed another centimeter in that time, they would admit me. An hour later, I had not progressed, and although they could see my contractions were close together and acknowledged I was in active labor, it was their standard procedure to send people home and tell them to come back when the contractions were three to five minutes apart. By the time I walked in the front door of my house, my contractions were definitely closer to the three-minute mark, but I refused to get back in the car until I could barely stand it. After all, checking in, getting in a gown, waiting until the doctor can see you, getting checked, and lying around for an hour — just to be sent home — can take a lot out of an uncomfortable, nine-month pregnant woman. So I got in bed, and basically writhed in pain for five and a half hours, with minute-apart contractions until, at 4:30 a.m., I decided I was getting in the shower and then going back to the hospital. Continue reading