Well Rounded Birth Prep

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Part 2: Your replies to Obsolete: landline phones, film cameras, and... vaginal birth???

I recently posted about the rising cesarean rate (almost 1 in 3 and rising for the 13th consecutive year) and wondered, "Will the next generation think vaginal birth is obsolete?" I asked my readers, "What do you want *your* children to believe when they are grown about birth, cesareans, and women's bodies' ability (or inability) to give birth? What would you tell your child (in an actual or theoretical conversation)?"


Vaginal Child Birth From a Cesarean Mama's Viewpoint by Jamie
Blogger--  Parenting Three (When Can I Pee Alone?)
mother of 3 children, all born by cesarean

A close friend of mine is a birth instructor. She is very knowledgeable about everything related to birth, but a lot of her focus is on protecting normal vaginal child birth in our society, and teaching women how to make decisions that give them the best chance of achieving a good experience with their vaginal child birth. She's been working on a blog recently about how many things that we are all familiar with such as cameras with film, paper phone books, etc are all things that children born in 2011 will have no knowledge of. The premise of the blog is that, if the trends continue as they've begun, will children born in 2011 have any knowledge of what vaginal child birth is, or like encyclopedias, will that be something that's lost in time.

As preposterous as that might seem to some, if you've been paying any attention to the statistics, you know that despite the World Health Organization's repeated warnings that a cesarean section rate above 15% is doing more harm than good to our country's mothers and babies, America's most current cesarean rate is 32.9% (2008 statistics), which has climbed for the 13th consecutive year. If this trend continues, it's easy to see how cesarean births could tip the scales into being the standard method of birthing your babies. Particularly when we live in a culture of fear where television, movies, and grandmother's stories make birth something to fear, an emergency, and a punishment. The truth is that we've gotten so far away from our roots that no one seems to know what a natural vaginal birth looks like. We're in hospitals, surrounded by noisy monitors and machines, accosted by countless people who come in and tell us to relax while they invade our most personal areas with fingers and instruments, we're numb to the sensations of labor and birth, we're pumped full of chemicals, and we're told not to trust our own instincts, but to push, push, push on the flat of our backs, in time to the counting of the professionals. This is what normal birth looks like to us now, so why wouldn't women fear it?

So much of our maternal and obstetric care in this country is not evidence based. It's frightening how many women are grateful that their ob saved their lives and their babies' lives, never realizing that they would not have needed saving if that same dashing hero hadn't created a situation that was unsafe for them. Yes, they were saved, but not from the dangers of childbirth. They were saved from an emergency situation that never would have existed if they had been left to birth according to their own instincts and needs. Yes, there are instances where all of those interventions and emergency protocols are necessary, but for the vast majority of women birthing in America, we've been had.

I myself have had 3 cesarean sections. I feel that had I not had mismanaged care with my first pregnancy, I probably would have had no problem whatsoever giving birth vaginally to all 3 of my children. I'm okay with what happened, because it's in the past, and it does me no good to dwell on what might have been, or if only. I won't go into specifics, because there's not time or space here, but I now know that my situation was entirely mismanaged, my surgical births were almost certainly preventable, and there's no reason why, if I am blessed with another baby (And, no, I'm not planning on having more, but I wasn't planning the last one either.), that I can't attempt a natural vaginal birth again. I have done a lot of reading and research into vaginal child birth after repeat cesarean births, and I feel comfortable with the risks for me. I feel strongly that every woman should do just that. Research, research, research, then make the decision that she's comfortable with based on the facts, not on the pervasive fear that runs rampant in our culture when we discuss childbirth.

The close friend I mentioned at the beginning of this blog has asked me, “What would you want your kids to know about birth? Cesareans?” What would I want my children to know? I want my children to know the same thing that I want every woman to know. You are not broken. Your body is not broken. There are very few women on the face of the planet who are not physically capable of having a healthy vaginal child birth. There are no guarantees, but there's no reason to think that you couldn't have a wonderful experience giving birth vaginally. Do the reading, do the research, search your soul. Make the best decision that you can and let no one take your power to choose away from you. In a culture of fear, you have the power of facts. Use it. Nothing in life comes without risk, and it's a matter of looking at all of the risks to each option and deciding which set you're more comfortable with. Don't let anyone put you into a position where you decide in fear. Take comfort in knowledge and trust yourself. That's what I want my children to know. I also want them to know that regardless of how things turn out, they are strong and can overcome anything life throws at them. Things don't always turn out the way you hope for. You can do things to stack the deck in your favor, but there are no guarantees in life. We all just do the best we can with what we've got and move forward from there.

By Trebor Sutler, owner of Tre'Slings custom ring slings
mother of 4 children: 1 unplanned cesarean, 1 scheduled cesarean, 1 hospital VBAC with epidural, and 1 homebirth VBAC.

When having a VBA2C and Homebirth with my last two pregnancies, I have had to answer some questions that my older children have had, such as, "Why were we born at the hospital?" which led to "Why were cut from your belly?" This question my daughter seemed more interested in. The answer I gave her was similar to this. "When Mommy had you, I trusted that the doctors were acting with my best interest in mind. Later I learned that wasn't the case. My doctors didn't do the job the way the should have. They used medicine to control the way you were born, and Mommy's birth was medicalized rather than being normalized. So that is why Mommy decided to trust the way God made me to birth the next time and educate myself with the real facts about birth."

Michelle Jervis, mother of 3 children
first 2 children born vaginally, 3rd child born by cesarean

After having two vaginal births, my third child, a daughter, was born via c-section. My OB had sent me for an ultrasound at 38 weeks to check the position of the baby. Everything spiraled downhill from there. Within three hours of the ultrasound I was being prepped for an emergency c-section. Little did I know that this wasn't an emergency at all. It was truly one of the worst decisions of my life.

Even though my daughter is only 4, I have already started telling her about my birth experience. Of course due to her limited understanding at this point, the details are kept simple. Nonetheless, I want her to realize that Mommy didn't make the right decision. I allowed the doctor to "convince" me that this was necessary, when in fact it truly wasn't.

As my daughter grows older I will share with her in much more detail. I will tell her that I'm sorry she spent the first 12 hours alone in the nursery because Mommy was so sick from the medication in the spinal and unable to hold her. I believe this fact alone attributed to her being a high-needs child. She didn't receive the care and nurturing from me she so desperately needed so soon after birth. I will tell her that she should have been delivered vaginally and that God created women with the ability to do so. I will tell her that I should have said no to the doctor. I will tell her I should have researched things more and I would have known that her position at 38 weeks didn't qualify as an emergency at all. I will tell her that no matter how she came into this world, I love her more than anything. I will tell her that I want her to have the best possible experience when it comes to the birth of her own children and that if she listens to her own instincts, it won't even need to be in a hospital at all.

Dawn L. Meisenheimer Lewis

For my girls:

Birth is like all things in life, we have to be ready for any outcome.  However, there are patterns of birth and things that happen in a regular birth.  First, they need to know that under normative circumstances birth can happen vaginally and without medications.  Under normative circumstances they can stay home as long as they like, even have a baby at home.  If they do go to the hospital, under normative circumstances they do not need extra intervention, the help at the hospital is nice if needed but if not, then they have a right to be left untouched in birth.  When birthing, contractions are different for every woman, but it's always better to take one at a time.  Remember to be open to try different ways of movement, water, rocking, and such to cope.  Read about it, decide what you are willing to try (some things might go against your religious beliefs, don't do anything you are opposed to in this way).  Have a plan but remember birth is like a journey, sometimes things don't go as planned so just be prepared.   Have support with you, a husband, mother, sister, doula, whoever you need.  Pick your provider and don't worry if you have to change.  They are there to serve you.  Be polite but do stand up for what you think is right.  Get to know your provider and stay with the one you trust.  Once you trust the person, you will feel better if intervention is needed because you can be partners in deciding what is best.  Rest, eat, move, breathe to avoid panic, and often if it is less painful to do something it's what you need to do.  Sometime though, what hurts more is what you need to do, just sometimes.  Once the baby is born, again, be prepared for the unpredictable but know that in a normative circumstance, you can hold your baby right away and keep  your baby with you...even for assessments if in the hospital.  Hold your baby and nurse whenever.  Babies will let you know if they need you normally.  Mostly what they need is to be held, loved, nursed, cuddled, changed, and to rest.  Rest with your new baby.  When baby sleeps, you sleep.  Others should do your work for about 6 weeks if you can get help.  Plan ahead for this just like you did for labor and birth.

For my boys:

Birth is like all things in life, we need to be ready for any outcome.  The mother of your child needs you to research or at least listen to her as she teaches you.  Mostly, when she is in pregnancy, labor, and birth, be with her.  Pay attention to her, listen to her.  Encourage her.  In pregnancy, help her out and make meals for her, walk with her, encourage her to be healthy.  Encourage her to spend the time she needs preparing for the birth and the baby.  If she feels she's uncomfortable with her provider, help her find a new one if that's what is best.  Share your feelings with her too, and remember that she likes for you to be there most of all to lean on, to listen.  The day of labor, help her to stay home as long as she needs.  Walk with her, serve her food, listen to her, breathe with her, encourage showers, whatever.  Your goal is not to get to the hospital fast and hand off your responsibility to her.  Your goal is to help her have as peaceful a birth as possible.  Remind her with encouragement that she will see the baby soon, that she is doing well.  When she is tired, suggest rest, food, drink.  When she is talking, listen, talk back, keep her mind going.  When she is quiet, protect that silence.  If you're birthing at home, prepare the scene, keep the towels warm, rock with her, dance with her.  Rest when she rests, if she needs to be alone use the time to either prepare something or rest.  Keep everyone at a distance unless she wants them to come in.  If you are going to the hospital, be there for her.  Ask questions if an intervention is suggested.  Work with her on what she wants.  Be honest with her, and asses the situation.  Be on her side always.  Encourage her to move, be creative and if she's told to stay in bed that doesn't mean she cannot move.  Do break a silly rule if need be, be cool about it...(like you cannot get out of bed...well, it's okay to get out of bed to labor and you are not the children who have to obey).  Give her a drink (remember to bring drinks and crackers...or something to keep her nourishment up).  You can easily pick up a cup with a straw and let her drink any time she needs it, don't ask the doctor/midwife just do it.  If all is going normally, she will be able to labor without intervention no matter where.  Encourage position changes, encourage coping strategies like shower, massage, etc.  Hold her hand.  When she is pushing, let her push in any position possible.  If things seem stuck, you can suggest she try a different position, it might help.  When everyone is talking above her, make sure you tell her what she needs to know (example, your Dad has made sure to tell me things are going okay when people are talking over me, if baby has been taken to a warmer he runs, looks at the baby, comes back and says what actually is happening so I am in the loop).  Don't yell at her, don't count as she pushes unless there's a real medical reason.  Always tell her encouraging things while she is going through the pain, while she is pushing.  Get involved as much as you can.  Remind her how beautiful she is. Don't forget to kiss her.  If intervention is needed, help her transition.  Help her know she's still doing great, she has been trying hard, and she's doing what is right.  If her worst fears happen, hold her hand, be near her.  Be her best ally.  Once baby is born, momma wants the baby.  Do everything you can to unite mom and child.  After a nurse takes baby for any reason, be the first to suggest/remind to put baby back on momma.  Be the one to get the baby.  If momma cannot hold baby, you need to hold baby.  Keep baby warm and in contact with you or momma as much as possible.  If baby goes to the NICU, find out when momma and you can see baby...and insist on finding out when you can be with your child.  It is normative in birth for a baby to be okay and momma to be okay.  Most times this can all happen without interventions.  When interventions are needed, thank God for the technology that helps.  Things can happen that no one can help, and that's when you need to be real with her and also be there for her.  Love, that's the first thing...most important.

Oh, most important for the girls...pray.  I prayed during labor, in my head, out loud....and for the boys, offer to pray with her.  Prayer after a baby is born can be very special for a family.

Michele C.
mother of 3 children, all 3 born vaginally

The "what do you tell your kids" part reminded me of Lauren when I was pregnant with Hannah. She was only 3 when she asked me if the baby was going to, "come out your poo poo hole." LOL I cleared up the confusion. :) (We've always been very open and honest about sex and childbirth in our home, age appropriate, of course.)


What about you? What do you want your children to know/believe about birth (both in general, and for themselves personally)? Which would you prefer that your children believe is the norm and which is the exception: vaginal or cesarean birth?


  1. Thank you so much for putting this together. It is such an encouragement to read the postive outlooks from other Mother's who have had similar experiences, and see how they are sharing those experiences with others.

  2. Thanks for posting! Trebor is right, it's very encouraging!


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