I recently sat down with a friend from high school who is now working as a Women's Services Nurse Educator. The hospital she is working for is beginning to offer a natural childbirth session as an add-on to their prepared childbirth class and she was wanting to a little help in coming up with some content for this class. It was an honor to work with her!
And that meeting produced an idea for this blog post. Our time to talk was short and she only has two hours to give her students the best information she can. So, I tried to focus on what I believe are the biggest keys to being successful in one's desire for an unmedicated birth. And with that I give you:
Keys to a Successful Unmedicated Birth:
Every mother who has an unmedicated birth has to find that place in which she is able to relax, let go, and surrender control to this beautiful process. This is pretty big. Absolutely essential, actually. No amount of reading or breathing techniques or squatting will override the inability to do this. And that can be hard for many reasons. Some don't learn how until they've labored for many hours. The earlier you are able to do this, the better it will be. If mom is fearful or anxious or is trying to control her labor, her body will be tense and working against itself. I wish that I could write out some simple steps to learning how to do this, but I can't. It's not that easy. This is something that I have worked through with so many clients. And it's something I'm only able to do in-peson, individulally as each mom's emotions and circumstances and reasons for being unable to surrender are unique. But, I can tell you that it is helpful to practice any and every relaxation technique you are able to throughout your pregnancy. There are many to choose from. Don't learn just one, try a few. It's also helpful to work through anxieties and fears with your spouse, a friend, your mom, a counselor, etc so that when labor begins you are more easily able to surrender.
Something that falls under this category that I've noticed is helpful is mom's ability to ignore her contractions in early labor. I tell my clients over and over and over again: whatever you would normally be doing at the time labor starts (middle of the night=sleeping, noon=make some lunch, do a load of laundry, etc), do it. And ignore the contractions until you absolutely can't any longer. The moms that are able to do this during the early phases of labor, are typically in better spirits and much less exhuasted than those that watched the clock, analyzing duration and frequecy of every contraction and/or tried tricks to make labor faster during early labor. You can not control or predict your labor and birth. No amount of analyzing will allow you to predict who your labor will progress and what the outcome will be. No combination of activities or techniques or tricks will enable you to control your labor and birth. You need to educate yourself and surround yourself with a supportive birth team so that you are able to control how you are cared for during your labor and birth, but you will not be able to control the process itself.
That's it. Two keys. Sounds simple enough, right? It is. But it really isn't.
On a cold afternoon in late January, I arrived at my new home. I had been filled with anticipation for days wondering what my new home would be like and what sort of things I would be carrying. When I arrived, my new owner squealed with excitment which was a nice welcome. Then she began open up my many pockets and exploring everything I had to offer. Within a few minutes, she was filling me with some of the strangest things...things I had never thought I'd be carrying. The set of clothes and toiletries and snacks were not unusual. But, then came the the little bag housing a small plastic pelvis, tiny baby, amniotic sack, placenta, umbilical cord, and uterus. Next, she placed battery-powered candles, essential oils,a hand-held air pump, tennis balls, colorful socks filled with rice, a small speaker, and a long but pretty scarf thing that she called a rebozo in me. I was so curious as to where we would be going and what she would be doing. Much to my delight, I soon discovered that my new owner was a birth doula and I was her new, much needed and much loved doula bag that would not only be housing all of her wonderful doula tools, but also witnessing several tiny new lives entering the world!
I quickly learned that I had already missed her first three births of the year. But, I was able to attend 15 with her and I visited many families in their homes during prenatal visits where she proudly displayed my contents and demonstrated in what ways they may be useful during childbirth.
My doula attended 18 total births this year; 9 beautiful girls and 9 precious boys were born. Of those 18 births, 8 were VBACs (Vaginal Birth After Cesaren). My doula talks all the time about how much she loves VBAC births because she had two of them herself. And of those VBAC births, one mom had had 3 previous cesareans, two moms had had 2 previous cesareans (and one of those had had a traumatic car accidnet which shattered her pelvis 2 years before!), and the last five VBAC moms had had one previous cesarean. Seven of those 18 babies born are the first/oldest in their families while the remaining 11 had sibling(s) eagerly anticipating their arrivals.
There were 3 births this year for which my doula never even unzipped one of my zippers. She always says her most important tools are her hands, her heart, and her head. And I don't carry those, obviously! There was one birth this year for which I wasn't even taken out of the car. That tiny boy gave us all a surprise by arriving 7 weeks early at home just 10 minutes after my doula was called...what excitement that was!
Two of the births we attended this year were ones we didn't have on the calendar, as we served as backup for doula friends. And then we had to call in those favors later in the year as we had three moms laboring at once this summer and then a few weeks later, two moms labored at the same time. Those weekends were long and a lot of work, but so very much fun!
During the weekend in which there were three births at once, two of the moms were laboring in hospital rooms next-door to each other and we called in a back-up. During those births, I was in one room and the back-up doula's bag was in the other room and both doulas used both bags. My contents were practically strung all over the hospital at the end of that weekend!
I spent many nights packed up and ready, waiting by the front door this year.
I had the privilege of going camping twice this summer with my doula and her family. No babies came during those weekends, so I ended up spending a couple days in a hot car, ready to go at a moment's notice. I imagine those won't be my last camping trips.
Some new things my doula added to me this year are an essential oils diffuser, a foam gardening kneeling pad, a wooden spoon (you'll have to ask her what that's used for!), and a super cool and comfy new pair of purple shoes to wear to births.
My doula mentioned a couple times this year how thankful she was that I have plenty of room for her tools and supplies, especially her extra set of clothes, toiletries and snacks. Some of those births we attended were really long and lots of work! But of course, worth it in the end!
2014 has been a wonderful year and I am happy to be so helpful in supporting families as they welcome a new baby and to have witnessed the miracle of birth 15 times over. I am looking forward to 2015 with much anticipation...it's looking to be a busy year!
Blessings to you all in 2015!
Amber Piller - Professional Birth Doula and owner of Agape Birth Services. Serving Northwest Houston including Jersey Village, Cypress, Tomball, Spring, and Katy Texas.