Monday, October 20, 2008

Natural? Are You Crazy?!

The topic of natural birth can be a difficult one to discuss. Those who've had one are typically very passionate about their experiences. Those who've not had one are usually just as passionate about how crazy we are to go natural!
Having a natural birth does not mean that a woman is better than one who had a medicated birth, or surgical birth. Having a natural birth is not a goal to attain in order to join the rank of "super-woman"hood. Having a natural birth is not something to be had in order to make others feel guilty, sad, defensive, or less of a mother. Having a natural birth is a personal decision that a woman must make for herself for her own personal reasons. It's just that there are so many good reasons, it's hard to keep them to ourselves!
My reasons for having natural births were my own, but I'd like to share them here with you:

My body was made to give birth. If all of the women before me could give birth this way, why would I need to do it differently? God made my body to do this work. He does not make mistakes.

No drug is proven safe for the unborn. Why would I shy away from any medications throughout my entire pregnancy in order to flood my body and my baby's with drugs just before they enter this new world?

There's a reason for everything. There's a reason for labor. There's a reason why our bodies surge with hormones, and why we work so hard to bring our babies into our arms. To brush away those things would be messing with an inner-working that is much larger than our ideas.

I am strong and capable. I did not want anyone telling me what I could and could not do. My body was strong enough to grow this baby in my womb, and it would be strong enough to work it out! There's no reason to force a woman to do things that make no sense when she's the only one who knows her body and her baby.

Everyone has a personal reason for their decisions. I just ask that you make an informed decision. Ask questions, look into the safety of each procedure. Think about the effects on your baby, and on yourself. Take care and do no harm!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

How Labor Prepared Me for Motherhood

In my childbirth classes, we mainly focus on labor, birth and the first few hours post-partum. Because this single event is so life-changing, many times parents focus so much on the birth that the actual parenting part is forgotten until you actually have to parent!
Even though we don’t’ go into great detail on parenting in my classes, I do feel that what I teach, and what these parents learn from coming to classes and going through labor, has life-long effects. What they learn about pregnancy, labor, and birth can greatly be carried over into parenthood.
Each of my own labors, just like each of my children, was unique. Each brought something new to experience, new challenges to face, and new victories to relish. This is how my labors prepared me for motherhood…

Labor is hard work, and so is mothering. Sometimes it can be painful, but mostly it takes a lot of time, effort, and patience.

Learning to work with your body makes things easier. Learning to work with your child instead of against him/her makes for easier parenting. Sometimes you want to cringe and grit and say, NO! It’s going to be MY way! But taking a deep breath, understanding the workings of their little mind and body, and helping them advance in their own natural way, rather than pulling against it makes for a smoother process.

Build up a toolbox. In labor, knowing that different stages call for different needs, you want to have a bunch of techniques, visual aids, physical aids, etc., to help a mom get through. In motherhood, the same applies. Sometimes children are at the easy, excited-to-be-here early first stage where all they need is your smile and hug. Other times they go through the difficult nothing-can-help-me-now transition stage where they need bigger, better, different, nothing, all of you. Having plenty of resources at your fingertips can help you all make it through.

Don’t interfere with “Mother Nature”. Your body knows what to do to give birth. When you start interfering, things start going wrong, and we get way far away from what childbirth is supposed to be. Your baby knows what it needs. It was born with the ability to let you know. Listen, and don’t try to change a baby’s intuition. Messing with a child’s nature will only cause further problems down the road. Children learn without us even having to try to teach them. Go with what their nature already is. Work with it, not against it.

The safer, more effective way usually takes dedication, hard work, and sacrifice. Dealing *with* contractions rather than escaping them usually yields greater rewards. It may be harder to experience all the sensations of labor and birth, but it is safer for the mother and baby, and usually allows the body to work the way it was meant to. Working daily with a child, being consistent in re-directing rather than relying on some “quick-fix” method, making nutritious, healthy meals rather than quick, nutritiously-void ones takes a little extra time, a bit more effort, but it safer, and allows a child’s body to work and grow in the way it was meant to. The easy way is not usually the best way.

Surround yourself with good support. It’s so much harder to do this on your own! Having the support of a loving husband and generous friend is what carries us through labor! It’s also what carries us through motherhood. Having someone you can release your emotions to, and knowing they can handle it can be a real life-saver. Having the support of someone who knows your true heart in spite of the words you may be uttering gives us freedom to feel loved despite our weaknesses. Mothering with community is good for moms, and good for children!

You can’t really understand it until you’re in it. As much as you learn about the physiological functioning of labor, as much as you practice relaxation, as much as you practice labor rehearsals, until you truly experience it, you really don’t know what it’s like. Mothering cannot be explained. It needs to be experienced. And unless someone else is mothering your child, they cannot really understand what it’s like to be you, no matter how much education they may or may not have.

Fear causes pain. This is the very basic of childbirth. Thanks to Dr. Dick-Read, our modern methods of pain-coping and childbirth philosophies rest on this principle. Our child-rearing practices should as well. So many mothers parent their children based on fear. What will so-and-so think? What will they say if I do this-or-that? My doctor said if I don’t do this, than that could happen. This only ends up causing pain to both mother and child. Do not mother based on what anyone else thinks or says. You are the sole mother of your child. You know what is best. Have confidence that you know what your child needs, and it doesn’t matter what others think because your job is not to meet their needs, but to meet that of your child! Fear-based parenting is just plain painful to live, and painful to watch.

It usually doesn’t go exactly as planned. You cannot predict how your labor will go. I held lofty goals for each of my labors, and none of them went according to *my* plan. They went according to how they were supposed to go! Children don’t understand your goals for them. They don’t understand the future you may have mapped out. They understand what they need to do to be themselves. And we as parents, while holding lofty goals, need to be open enough to accept changes along the way. It might be that you are blessed with a high-needs child who doesn’t follow your nap schedule and feeding plans. It might be that you are blessed with a child that wants to wait until he’s REALLY sure he’s ready to use a potty. Sometimes children don’t have the same athletic skills, or social desires that a parent has, and we parents need to be okay with that.

Motherhood is a roller coaster ride, that’s for sure. And just as soon as you think you understand what’s going on, you are thrown into a different direction, and get to learn all over again!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

How I Got sucked Into “Birth”

My first birth experience felt okay to me at the time. I had wanted a natural birth, but didn’t realize how important it was to have dedicated support when going naturally in a hospital setting. Laboring in the hospital bed, I caved in to the repeated offers of pain medication the nurse kept presenting. When my baby was placed on my chest, I didn’t realize it was the drugs, having messed with that natural workings of labor, that caused me to feel so disconnected from this baby that had just come out of me. I didn’t even realize I was *supposed* to feel ecstatic. I just felt exhausted, and said to myself, “oh, so that’s a baby”. We bonded over the next few days, but this baby was a lot of work, and I often questioned my abilities to mother him.
The second day after he was born, while I lay on the couch, bottom too sore from the episiotomy to sit upright, I remember thinking, “Alright, now that I know what it takes, I want to do it again – but this time I *will* do it naturally.”
And I did.
During my second pregnancy, I sought out Bradley® Natural Childbirth classes, which hadn’t been available in our area during our first pregnancy. I was so excited to get face-to-face instruction, and have my husband learn everything I was learning! I asked my Bradley® teacher to be my doula, something I hadn’t heard of before taking classes, because I wanted my husband to also have support. The birth was amazing. And so healing of all that didn’t go well in my first. I was lovingly, strongly supported by my doula and a husband who knew what was going on, what he could do, and what I needed. I cried with joy when my baby came out, and lavished him with love, saying, “Oh, baby! Baby, baby, my love!” I hadn’t torn and felt so good after the birth, we were discharged within twelve hours. The pictures of me after my fist birth and after my second are drastically different. In the pictures of the first, I’m puffy, tired and lethargic looking. In pictures of the second, I am bright-eyed, energetic, and radiating with joy.
And that’s what changed me.
Why would anyone want that first experience when they could have the second?! Why not offer everyone the chance at having a joyful birth?
When my second baby was a year old, I started going to Bradley classes, just to sit in on them, and glean all this wisdom from my teacher. I wanted to go to the Teacher’s Training to become a Bradley teacher myself, but felt I needed to wait a bit. In the meantime, the opportunity to attend doula training fell into my lap, and I just could not pass it up! The ALACE training was put on by a local licensed midwife, and gave me so much more to work with. I wanted to do this! I wanted to support women through one of the most life-altering experiences they could go through! And so I started attending births right away.
And, I got pregnant again.
I attended my Bradley® teacher training while 8 months pregnant with my third baby. After the training, and after a beautiful, gentle birth, I started teaching classes right away, so thankful for the year and a half of observing *my* former Bradley® teacher.
I love meeting with couples for 12 weeks before their births. I see their apprehensions turn to excitement, and their fears turn to conviction. When they call me to tell me about their births, I hear their joy beaming through the phone lines. I love sharing in their birth highs!
And that’s how this whole thing started.

About Me!

My name is Amy, and I am a Bradley(r) natural childbirth instructor as well as a birth doula serving the Kitsap County, Washington area.
I have four young children, and a hard-working husband. We stay busy at our house, but we have lots of fun!
I love being a part of the birth community, and always enjoy the opportunity to learn and grow.
I am currently working on getting all my ducks in a row in order to enter the world of midwifery. It's going to take awhile, but I'm excited to think of the future, while staying home with my kiddos right now.
I look forward to sharing some of my thoughts with you on this blog!

Kingston, Poulsbo, Suquammish, Hood Canal, Silverdale, Keyport, Bangor, Seabeck, Bremerton, Port Orchard, Belfair, Olalla, Gig Harbor, Olympic Peninsula