Amazing Birth Stories-introduction

     Birth is awesome. After more than thirty years in this work I am still amazed and inspired to be a part of this time in people’s lives. The power of women in labor, the intricate dance between mother and baby as they do the transforming work of birth, is incredible to witness. I am a midwife which means ” with woman”. I let the mystery of labor and birth unfold in it’s own unigue way each time. The word obstetrician means ” to stand before” and I think these words clearly show the difference in the way we attend births. I’ve had women say to me after birth, ” I didn’t think I’d know what to do”, or, ” I never thought I’d birth in that position.”

     Research shows that a woman’s satisfaction with her birth experience has everything to do with feeling she had some control and choice and very little to do with how long, difficult or even interventive her birth was. If a woman feels she has some power in the situation, she can handle pain, she can handle problems, and still feel okay about herself, her birth and her baby.

     Women and their babies lose out when choices are taken away. So many times I hear, ” I was allowed to walk”, ” They let me drink juice ” or the opposite, ” They wouldn’t let me get up.” Why do we accept this kind of control by others? We are aware, intelligent human beings. We have been taking care of our bodies for years and we are the ones entrusted with the care of our babies. When we are relaxed and trusting we know innately what foods to eat, what exercise to get during pregnancy and we know how to give birth.

     I have the most profound respect for my mentor, Dr. Michel Odent. He started as a surgeon in Pithivier, a small town in France. He told me frankly that he didn’t like being woken up to do cesareans and this was his impetus to find out what made labor progress effectively. He made a choice to quietly observe women to determine their needs in labor for a successful birth. It was clear the best environment for birth was similiar to the time of conception. Quiet, low light and a feeling of privacy and intimacy were most conducive to a smooth birth.

     A feeling of security was also achieved by the ‘motherly’ care of the midwives. As birthing women, we want nurturing in labor, affection and emotional support. Most of us are glad someone is monitoring the baby’s well-being and assessing progress. For the laboring woman this is a total transformative experience. It is emotional, it is spiritual, it plumbs the very depths of our being. It is a sacred journey– the birth of a family. We deserve to have this passage honored and respected. We deserve attendants who love being part of birth and share in our joy.

     As the birthing family, it is your task in pregnancy to find the care giver and birthplace that best supports your vision of birth. This will be different for everyone. For some, being at home with the dog on the bed with you is perfect. For others, the monitor beeping the baby’s heartrate is reassuring. It is your birth and your baby. For most families the experience of birth is limited to a few times. You deserrve to have it be joyful, special and your experience.

     There are many books available that talk about hospital routines, birth choices and the many aspects of pregnancy and birth. I have listed some at the end of this book for those who want to read more. I try to define words that are not common the first time I use them. There is also a glossary in the back of the book. This book focuses on birth stories from my practice as a midwife and also as a labor and delivery nurse. Sometimes birth seems like two different processes in the hospital and outside of it. Hospitals work very hard to make all births the same. There are multitudes of machines, interventions and routines. If you don’t dilate (the cervix opening in labor) on schedule, your labor will be augmented with Pitocin or Cytotec. If this doesn’t work fast enough, the baby will be born surgically by cesarean.

     One of the things I love in my work as a midwife is that every birth is different even for the same mother. She may choose different positions or even rooms to birth in; she may be quiet and inward or noisy and demanding. I’ve had women laugh and joke between pushes while others are fiercely determined or even snore between contractions. Movement and being upright increases the pressure of contractions by 35mm, making labor faster and more effective. I rarely see women choose to lie in bed for labor as it usually hurts more.

     Midiwives most often encourage women to drink in labor and eat lightly. a first labor is equivalent to a fifty-mile hike in the calories burned. If hospitals allow anything by mouth it is only liquids. Virtually 100% of women will have an IV in labor as well as a fetal monitor around their belly or inside their vagina and uterus. An automatic blood pressure cuff is on the arm without the IV. It is very hard to feel you are doing something normal and natural when hooked up to machines.

     The main reason I’m writing these books is to share what natural, woman-led labor and birth is truly about. So few births these days are without interventions, we hardly know what parameters are normal and natural. Even midwives, especially in hospitals, are held to time limits and may feel pressured to intervene though mom and baby are doing well.

     Women are diverse and powerful and we can have the births we want through knowledge and choice. The first woman whose story is in this book was riding horses at seven months of pregnancy and within a week of birth. Not what most mothers would choose but it was right for her.

     Make choices. Make it your unigue birth and you will have no regrets.

a walk in the park and when she returned to shower, oops, a baby!