Tag Archives: prepare for pregnancy and birth

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.

How Parents Can Support Their Budding Performers: An Interview with Actress Elisa Llamido

By Rita Brhel, API’s publications coordinator, managing editor of Attached Family magazine, and an API Leader (Hastings, Nebraska, USA)

elisaheadshotFrom the beginning, 20 years ago, Attachment Parenting International has been a community of parents coming together to support one another in raising their children with trust, empathy, affection, compassion and joy. We may come from very different backgrounds and cultures, but we are all alike in our approach to relationships with our children and our willingness to advocate for this in our communities around the world.

I’m excited to introduce television and theatre actress Elisa Llamido (www.elisallamido.com), who lives in Los Angeles, California, USA, with her husband, 18-year-old stepson and a 4-year-old son.

RITA: Thank you, Elisa, for your time. To begin with, please tell us about your career in acting and theatre.

ELISA: I’ve had some fun roles in The Unit, Invasion and Numbers. I’m also a martial artist and acrobat, so I did stunts for the kids’ shows Power Rangers and Big Bad Beetleborgs. For theatre, I did a number of shows at San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre [California, USA], including the world premiere of Stephen Sondheim’s first straight play, The Doctor is Out. I’ve also been seen in Los Angeles at the Kirk Douglas Theater in A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, with Los Angeles Opera in The Imaginary Invalid, with Will and Company, and with Shakespeare Festival/LA.

RITA: Many parents value involving their children in the arts, including theatre, and we’d all like our children to do well in their activities. As an actress, how can parents support budding performers?

ELISA: Children who learn how to perform on stage learn how to present themselves to the world. They learn control of their bodies, projection of their voices and how to be themselves even when someone is looking at them. No matter where a child goes in life, these are valuable skills that they can take with them.

The caveat, of course, is that these skills can only be learned in a loving environment. Parents can very easily make performing, which is an intensely personal act, into a terrible experience where children can feel as though they have done their best and been rejected. It’s important to remember that your “goal” as the parent of a performer should not be to make them the best no matter what the cost. It is highly unlikely that this is what they want or need. Your goal should be to nurture and accept your child and do what you can to help them reach their own goals. What you say makes a difference.

RITA: It sounds like theatre is a great option for Attachment Parenting-minded families seeking activities for their children. How did you first become interested in Attachment Parenting?

ELISA: My mother was a very sensitive mother who thought that children were just little people and deserved the same respect that adults did. When I became a mother, I brought that ideal with me.

When I was pregnant, my mother researched parenting books and bought me a copy of Dr. William Sears’ The Baby Book, which made a huge impact on me. I had never thought of cosleeping before—I thought it was dangerous to do before I was educated—and although the idea of babywearing seemed convenient, I learned that it is very good for the baby, too.

I spent so much time when I was pregnant doing research about natural childbirth, Attachment Parenting, child brain development and pregnancy!

RITA: That is wonderful that you had a great role model in your mother and that you had the foresight to prepare for parenthood during your pregnancy, as API advocates through the first of our Eight Principles of Parenting. How has Attachment Parenting benefited your family?

ELISA: My husband and I have an extremely close relationship with our son. He’s an extremely bright, fearless boy who is endlessly creative and so much fun for us. I also got a wonderful bonus that I never expected: Through the unconditional love that I give to my son, I have finally been able to accept myself in all of my gloriously flawed humanity. I never realized how hard I was on myself before I was a parent. Now, in showing my son how to love himself, I’ve become as kind to myself as I am to other people!

My son was definitely what Dr. Sears calls a “high-need baby,” who just needed more than other babies do. He didn’t want to be on his own at all for the first few years, but because I gave him such a secure base and never forced him to be “independent,” when he was ready, he went forth on his own. Now as he approaches his fifth birthday, he is a very articulate, confident child who loves to perform on stage, go to school and do other things on his own with joy. Because we have such a strong, securely attached relationship, when he comes home, he loves to tell me all about his day and any things that happened that concern him.

Before I became a parent, I had always heard that until you have a child, you will never experience the depth of love that parenting brings. That is definitely true. But Attachment Parenting has brought so much more to us than just love: It’s brought a sense of confidence and self-worth to my son—and to me.


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.

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


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?


Spotlight On: Birth, Breath and Death

Birth Breath and Death Front Cover copy

An interview with author Amy Wright Glenn about her book Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula.

Tell us about your book.

Birth, Breath, and Death: Meditations on Motherhood, Chaplaincy, and Life as a Doula is a heartfelt account of my work with the birthing and dying. I am a doula. I hold space for women as they give birth. I am a chaplain. I hold space for the dying. I am drawn to life’s thresholds. I am drawn to these doorways.

Birth, Breath, and Death is also a deeply personal exploration of what it meant for me to become a mother, given the painful legacy of my mother’s mental illness. I write about the healing attachment found in cosleeping, breastfeeding and babywearing. I weave together research on attachment and brain development, with reflections on empathy and compassion.

Finally, I share personal stories about birth and death, combined with philosophical reflections as my academic background is in the study of comparative religions and philosophy.

What inspired you to write this book?

My husband, Clark, came up with the title of this book during my training as a hospital chaplain. However, I wasn’t ready to write this book at that point in my life. It was the birth of my son–and the subsequently profound opening of my heart–that compelled me to write this book.

I didn’t want to go back to full-time academic work after holding my newborn in my arms. I knew I could use my skill as a writer to contribute financially to the family and fulfill my heart’s longing, and the longing of my young son, to stay at home and nurture him with the best of my energy and talents.

Much of Birth, Breath, and Death came to me in meditation, and I often woke up from sleep with sentences running through my mind. Writing has opened up many doors for me, and I’m grateful to find a way to work from home and share my insights, struggles, hopes and experiences.

How will this book benefit families?

All of us are born. All of us die. I write about the deepest questions we can examine in life. Within our family circles, we encounter both the miraculous and the mundane. Within our families, we most deeply encounter the transformative energies of birth and death.

I believe we all benefit from reflecting upon what it means to be born and what it means to die. These are life’s big questions. Even if one disagrees with my responses to these big questions, it is still invaluable to take the time to reflect upon them with an open heart and mind.

Parents, in particular, will benefit from reading this book as I reflect on what it means to be a parent and find one’s own way, trust one’s intuition, and draw upon best practices and scholarship to bring out the best in oneself and one’s children.

You share birth stories and reflect upon your work as a chaplain supporting the dying, but tell us more about the “Breath” part of your book.

The first thing we do upon leaving our mother’s body is breathe in, and the last thing we do before we die is breathe out. The breath is the link, the thread. It is a powerfully loyal friend throughout life’s journey between birth and death.

I practice meditation and teach yoga. Conscious breath awareness is central to these mindfulness practices. It’s central to living a mindful life. The “breath” part of the book relates to teachings drawn from many wisdom traditions that help us keep our hearts open as we live with love and seek truth.

You studied comparative religion and taught this on the college and high school level, so how does this impact your writing?

My studies of comparative religion and philosophy profoundly impact everything I do. I love making links between the particular and the universal, between the day-to-day patterns of living and the deep reflections that thinkers across time and culture bring to human life. My book is academically rigorous in the sense that I draw freely from my training as a scholar in the telling of birth, breath and death tales.

What are your views of Attachment Parenting International and what API is doing? How does your book work within our mission statement?

Attachment Parenting International is an organization I admire, support and celebrate. I’m very grateful for API’s commitment to link best parenting practices with research, and support families to develop secure attachments that foster the development of empathy, courage and resilience.

I found myself naturally practicing many AP styles of mothering and applied my previous research in the field of ethical development to the work of nurturing my son. I certainly want to support all parents to “raise secure, joyful, and empathetic children.” We do this best when we as parents embody these qualities ourselves.

My book chronicles my own journey of working through the pain of a difficult childhood and emerging with joy and empathy to embrace openhearted mothering.

Where can readers find more information?

Readers can visit my website www.birthbreathanddeath.com to read reviews of the book and find purchase information.


Be Prepared for These Common Childbirth Interventions

By Amber Lewis, staff writer for The Attached Family publications

Common Childbirth Interventions“Childbirth is more admirable than conquest, more amazing than self-defense, and as courageous as either one.”
~ Gloria Steinem, Ms. Magazine, April 1981

Most pregnant women will tell you they have a plan for their labor, but just as parents cannot imagine how their children will turn out as they grow and mature, soon-to-be mothers cannot be guaranteed a perfect birth. Labor experiences are as varied and vast as the types of people who go through them and the children those experiences bring into the world. There are just as many emotions involved in this miraculous experience, and while many births are happy and uncomplicated, others can be deeply disappointing for the parents.

This leads to the question: What to do when childbirth does not go as it was planned to? Continue reading Be Prepared for These Common Childbirth Interventions

Luke’s Birth

By Jeannette Freeman, leader of API of Southeast Texas

Jeannette's family
Jeannette’s family

Editor’s Note: Attachment Parenting International does not advocate unassisted birth of any sort. We believe the safest birthing environment for every baby, whether at home or in a hospital or birthing center, is with assistance from a midwife, obstetrician, or another accredited birthing assistant. The following article has been published to give this mother a voice in telling her birth story only, without any endorsement of her decisions made regarding her child’s birth.

Luke Elliot was born Friday, Sept. 21, at 5:43 p.m., shortly before sunset and the beginning of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). My “due date” had been the previous Saturday, and I really wanted him to be born before the next Sabbath, as I was tired of everyone at church being surprised that he hadn’t arrived yet.

My original due date had been off by two months, and some of the mother hens of the congregation, namely those who birthed in the 1950s and ’60s, were more than a little anxious about my unassisted pregnancy and planned unassisted birth. It had gotten to the point when my husband, Mark, and I decided to visit an obstetrician to calm everyone’s nerves. The doctor refused to touch me unless I was willing to submit to a vaginal exam and whatever else he deemed necessary. I refused.

The morning of Luke’s birth, Mark, my two-year-old daughter Audrey, and I spent over an hour picking up branches and leaves from our front yard after Hurricane Humberto  our first hurricane experience  had hit the week previous. After I put Audrey down for her nap, I commented to Mark, “We may have started something,” referring to the yard work and my now-present uterine contractions. When Audrey awoke at 2:45 p.m., my labor became active. There was no stopping now!

It was a rather surreal labor, as I chose different positions, consulted two different birthing books, gave instructions to my husband, and practiced a variety of vocalizations to figure out what did and did not work for me, mindful than some noises might startle my daughter.

Our bathroom  truly a one-person room  became my center of command. For awhile, I labored on the toilet, leaning on a pillow resting on a TV tray table. For awhile, I labored on my hands and knees. My butt was in the bathroom and my torso in the hallway. Between contractions, I was leaning forward on two large couch pillows with my butt up in the air to slow progress down a bit. This was entirely different from Audrey’s labor that lasted so long I was literally out of energy before it was over. It was during this period that Audrey insisted that her father get her a pillow of her own to lie on. Now, when I leaned forward on my pillows during contractions, she did too. I wish I had a picture of that!

I consulted a book to determine if I had entered the transition stage yet. I had. I then read that after transition, there was often a release of endorphins. I felt that rush, than had two more contractions that felt like they were still part of transition before my body moved onto the pushing stage. During the pushing stage, I hung on the bathroom door.

A little bit into the pushing stage, I reached into my vagina to feel Luke’s head. This is something I had never considered doing, but it was exhilarating to touch the little person I had been waiting for months to see.

By this time, my husband and daughter were sitting outside the bathroom door and watching. A few more pushes and Luke’s head crowned. I took my time, knowing that he would come out eventually and that I didn’t want to tear. Soon, he was part way out. I got a hold of him and realized I could catch him myself, so I did. I was ecstatic. I held my boy for a few long moments and then exclaimed, “We did it!”

When I looked at the umbilical cord, it was already white and ready to cut. This was a good thing, as it was rather short. I suspected it would be, as it was with Audrey, and it was rather awkward to hold Luke. My husband did the honors. I balked at the smell of the rubbing alcohol he used to clean his pocketknife. It was offensive to my senses and out of place.

Mmy boy’s head smelled aseptic. It wasn’t a hospital-like, chemically created aseptic smell but a natural cleanness from his time in the womb. It surprised me until I thought about how the womb was indeed a sterile place.

I sat on the floor in the mess for a few minutes and then crawled into the tub while my husband cleaned up. Then, my husband took Luke and Audrey into the library. I ended up birthing the placenta on the toilet. I knew it was coming and I tried to get to the tub. I wanted to check the placenta to make sure it was complete. I did fish it out of the toilet later and put it in a big bowl. I looked at it later but gave up trying to figure out if it was all there. Instead, I put it in a bag to send out with the trash.

Less than an hour after Luke’s birth, I was standing in my shower thinking, “Wow! This is great. Showering in my own shower. Never leaving home to birth my own baby. This is the way to do it. So much more relaxed and peaceful than the hospital.”

Audrey had big plans for her new brother. She had Dad read a book to him, and brought him a block to play with and a pair of her shoes to wear. Mark enjoyed this time of the three of them bonding while I cleaned myself up.

I have no intention of leaving my home to birth again. It was an amazingly empowering event that, three months later, I still ponder with awe.

I began my journey towards an unhindered birth with the belief that my Maker created my body to birth and that He created it perfectly. Planning an unhindered birth was my way of “putting my money where my mouth was.” I’m glad I did.

Audrey’s Birth

By Jeannette Freeman, leader of API of Southeast Texas

Jeannette and Audrey
Jeannette and Audrey

On Monday morning, August 1, I woke up with my first contraction at 5:30 a.m. I had another at 6:30 a.m., 7 a.m., and then periodically throughout the day. I was able to continue my usual activities, but by the time bedtime rolled around, I couldn’t ignore the contractions any longer. I tried to get comfortable. I tried everything I could think of. Even took a bath. No luck. I didn’t sleep at all. However, I did everything I could to conserve my energy, knowing I would need it.

Finally, at about 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday, I couldn’t take it any longer and had Mark call the nurse-midwife. I didn’t know how far I’d dilated, but I figured I was at least somewhat along. My water hadn’t broke yet, either, but that isn’t a good indicator of how dilated you are.

We drove into the hospital, went to the triage area, and they checked me out. I was only two centimeters dilated. They had me walk the halls for an hour, from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. During that time, my contractions went from just being in the front of my abdomen, to going almost all the way around my lower abdomen and back. That’s commonly called “back labor” and was more intense then the previous labor. I also lost my mucus plug. However, I figured out that the contractions were most easily handled if I walked through them.

They checked me again. No changes. I had the option to go home or stay at the hospital. I had no desire to be in the hospital any longer than necessary, so we left. We stopped at McDonald’s to get breakfast.

The morning and early afternoon were spent with a heating pad strapped to my lower back and attached to an extension cord. I lied on my bed between contractions; during the contractions, I would stand up and walk around the bed. Then, I would lie back down. I wanted some stress balls to squeeze but didn’t have any. I instead used two stuffed animals. At about 1:30 p.m., my water broke. It didn’t all come out at once. We called the nurse-midwife, and at some point, we headed to the hospital.

We got there at around 5 p.m. They put me on the monitor for 20 minutes, and then we went to walk the halls. They had a large labor pool, and when we came back from walking, I got into the pool and stayed there for the duration of the first stage of labor. I rested my chin on a pile of towels on edge of the pool and knelt the entire time in the pool. I had the lights dimmed but with no music or background noise. I just went with my body and followed its cues, with a lot of pelvic rocking and loud vocalizations. Finally, at 8:40 p.m., I was fully dilated and got out of the pool for the pushing stage.

Through all of this, I was trying to conserve energy but was slowly losing energy. I hadn’t eaten since 11 a.m., so I was running on empty. The only thing I would have done differently would be making sure that I kept eating every couple hours up until going to the hospital, even if I didn’t particularly feel like it. At first, I was kneeling on the bed, then I tried lying on my side to conserve energy, but that wasn’t very comfortable at all. My midwife then suggested that I try squatting. She said it would require more energy, but that she thought the baby could be born in about 30 minutes. This was at 10:09 p.m.

I don’t think she realized how little energy I had at that point, because it was two more hours before Audrey arrived. My body definitely had slowed down. The contractions were farther apart and did not last as long. My midwife suggested an I.V. After awhile, I could feel my blood sugar level going down and I agreed to the I.V. After that boost of energy, the pace picked up a bit and it wasn’t too long before my daughter, Audrey, was born at 12:14 a.m. on August 3. Her cord was so short that my husband, Mark, had to cut it before I could even hold her. My midwife was concerned that my body wouldn’t expel the placenta naturally and that I would hemorrhage, so she had Pitocin ready if necessary to encourage it along. But the placenta came out by itself five minutes after Audrey.

We were in the delivery room about one-and-a-half hours before they moved us to our postpartum room. From then on, it was a standard hospital stay. We were discharged Thursday morning at 11 a.m., 35 hours after Audrey’s arrival.

The Story of Emily Fran

By Rita Brhel, editor of The Attached Family publications


Emily Fran was born at 8:27 a.m. on Tuesday, October 23, at 19 inches long and six pounds, 12 ounces. I waited a long time to write her birth story. Emily was more than a year old when I finally decided to sit down and put it on paper. The reason is because my pregnancy with her was rather bittersweet: I had been happy to be pregnant again, but stressed by the fact that my previous pregnancy had ended in a dangerous condition that had formed for no known medical reason. I didn’t want to put another baby in a life-threatening situation, but with none of my questions answered from the previous pregnancy, I didn’t see how this pregnancy could be any different.

Emily is our second child, our second daughter. Unlike her sister Rachel, my pregnancy with her was never threatened with anything more than my extreme fear that something may go wrong and that Emily would be born early. But Emily was no less a miracle child. She didn’t survive against all odds, but she was my hope…a wonderful, beautiful gift from God that helped me heal and taught me about faith.

Emily didn’t come when my husband Mike and I were planning for a second child — in fact, I found out I was pregnant only a week after Rachel came off the last of her medicines for apnea of prematurity; Rachel was nine months old.

Through my mother’s OB/GYN office, I found a very experienced specialist who was able to answer all of my questions of what exactly went wrong with my first pregnancy. Terry Foote, MD, had more than 30 years of experience; in fact, he delivered my brother John and shared the office with the doctor who had delivered me when I was born. He helped me come to terms with what had happened with my first pregnancy and what had to happen with this pregnancy. I learned that the placental abruption most certainly had its root in a fluke in how the placenta had developed and that the threatened miscarriage was the sign of this, but that the real reason for the abruption was undiagnosed pre-eclampsia. The fact that I suffered no edema, not even swollen ankles, during Emily’s pregnancy and that my blood pressure never rose supported this theory. The premature labor and birth with Rachel was likely the only one I would ever experience.

However, the fact that I had such a difficult time delivering a three-and-a-half pound baby with my first pregnancy was troubling. I have a narrow pelvis, meaning that my bones along the birth canal are misshapen so that I cannot deliver a baby larger than four pounds. I would have to have a Cesarean section; a vaginal delivery is impossible for a full-term baby.

The night before my scheduled C-section, I couldn’t sleep at all. I was nervous for the surgery, having never gone through one before — anxious for myself, for Emily, for Rachel. Mike got me up at 5 a.m. on October 23, at 39 weeks gestation, and drove me from our home in Sutton, Nebraska, to Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital in Hastings, Nebraska, the same hospital where I had been born 26 years earlier.

The surgery wasn’t pleasant, and there were some complications for both Emily and I, so I couldn’t hold her anymore than I had held Rachel when she was born. A nurse held her up for me to see for a couple minutes before I had to be put to sleep to finish the surgery.

Unbeknownst to my doctor, I had become anemic during the last month of my pregnancy and with a hemorrhage during the surgery, I had lost a lot of blood. My iron level had dipped down to 5, when the normal is 12 to 16. I also had a spinal fluid leak due to the spinal injection for the narcotic-anesthetic for the C-section.

Emily had low blood sugar when she was born, but more than that, her poor nose had apparently been smashed up against my pelvis since she turned head-down in utero. The newborn doctor used a naso-gastric tube to open up one nostril to make sure she could breathe through both sides of her nose.

Editor’s Note: Read the rest of this story in “Pregnancy & Birth” section of TheAttachedFamily.com with the article, “Sibling Spacing: One Year Apart, Too Close or Just Right?” or click here.