Saturday, November 7, 2009

Our First Series is in Full Swing!

Looking at my last post, I realize I need to post all the great suggestions I got from people on what makes a good Bradley teacher.

But that will have to wait. I'm just here to give an update on how our Bradley series is going. We are two weeks into the twelve-week series. Casey is teaching with me (we had not planned to do that every time, but it has worked out well, and I really think he adds a dimension that is helpful for the coaches, so we'll probably stick with it).

We have 2 couples for this first class, and though we are allowed to have four times that amount, I am so grateful to have ANYONE at all! It is my goal to transfer information and confidence enough that our students will finish the series ready to take on the challenge of giving birth naturally and glad that they took the class.

So far, the classes have gone well. I could stand to be a little better at teaching, but that will come with time and familiarity with the lesson plans. Between preparing the lessons and doing the evaluations after class, I feel as though I am not doing much besides Bradley and my usual duties during the week (which I'm not saying is small--just that I'm not finding time for much outside that). One of my biggest struggles is that there is no way I can fit the entirity of the lesson in two hours, and it is hard to decide exactly what topics I should try to cover in more detail. It's all important stuff, but it's very important that we stay punctual. After all, these are prego women and their hubbies on a work night.

One fortunate side effect of having these weekly classes is that our home stays company-ready much better than when we were having people over less regularly. I have a feeling my hubby will become a big proponent of my teaching a series constantly throughout the year for this reason. He does love a clean house.

This week, we are looking at pregnancy, and it just so happens that I got my Birth Atlas and Growing Uterus Charts today. These will come in handy when talking about fertilization and the changes mom's body goes through in the months of pregnancy. I am so pleased with these charts. If you want a good deal on these things, contact me. I just saved $100 or more.

My pelvis should arrive by class 4 (also a great deal, as pelvises go), and I am excited to start using this priceless visual aid. I hope it will be a powerful tool to show the practicality behind things like not lying on your back in labor, that the bony structure is not a fixed unit, but a combination of bone and cartilage that moves and flexes, how walking helps open the inlet of the pelvis, and how changing position even in the pushing stage helps the baby make important turns and movements. The pelvis model helps me understand these things better, and I hope to use it often in class to demonstrate a host of things.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bradley Students, I Need Your Help!

My Bradley series will begin in a little over a week. So far, I have one couple signed up. It is not a big class, but I am NOT complaining--the other two provisional affiliates have less students than I do, so I am counting my blessings!

It is very important that I do my best in this endeavor of Bradley teaching. That's where I could use your help. I am mostly directing this question to people who have taken Bradley classes, but I am happy to take suggestions from anyone, if you are willing to make them!

Is there anything that stands out to you about the Bradley class(es) you took that you found very helpful or wish had been done differently? It could be about the class or the teacher(s).

My hope is that I can get a few suggestions to tweak my classes to be more and more helpful for my students. No detail is too small. Even if it is that the thermostat was too high, or the floor too hard.

Please comment! Your two cents are appreciated!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bradley Class Starts Next Week

I'm teaching the Bradley 12-week series beginning Tuesday, October 27th at 7 p.m. in my home.

Women who are due with a baby after mid-January are encouraged to enroll.

In an oversimplified nutshell, these classes will inform couples on such things as how birth works and how to work with it.

It is my firm belief that any woman (barring physical abnormality) can give birth naturally. Natural childbirth is not about being tough; it's about being educated, prepared and supported.

By attending this 12-week series and applying what is learned, students will have the tools they'll need in order to "give birth," rather than "be delivered."

Please contact me for more information or to enroll in the upcoming series.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Trouble with Two Blogs

I've posted a little about what I've been up to lately over here. Some of the stuff, though it is regarding birth, is also about my own personal thoughts and I didn't exactly know on which blog to put it. My most recent post has to do with breastfeeding, among other things.

If you're wondering why there's a lack of postage here on FrogBlog, this will give you an idea (scroll past the pictures to read the birth-related info.). Oh, and by the way, it isn't a pregnancy announcement. I should be a little more careful about how I word things.

As I typed this post, it became more and more clear that the remainder of it belonged on my other blog. So here's yet another link if you're interested in how my Bradley certification is going.

Apparently, my life does not so neatly dissect as I would like to think it does.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Prodromal Precipitous Birth

Gloria Lemay has a post regarding a prodromal precipitous birth today. Though neither word is used in her post, they are both good descriptions of what went on. (Notice the mom mentioning she's been "doing this for weeks," then promptly giving birth within an hour of assuring Gloria that she's not having the baby.)

"What's that," You say? Can that be possible for the same birth to be described as both unusually long (prodromal) and very short (precipitous)? Yes! I've had two of them. My midwife charts my labors as two hours long, since for the births she has attended, that is when I have called her to come--when things have gotten so intense there is NO DOUBT we are not turning back this time: the baby is coming today. If I had more textbook labors (where close, strong, long and regular contractions didn't show up until birth day), I would be calling her much sooner.
The fact is that oftentimes in prodromal labor, a woman has been doing what she considers "the same thing" for so long that she may not realize the subtle changes (or there may not be any to notice) that have kicked her into active labor (not to mention that active labor can also stall and re-start hours and days later). It is in the nature of some prodromal births (where there is gradual and very subtle change) to not realize how close one is to delivery. This is the ultimate "frog in the pot of water" labor. By the time she realizes she really is having this baby, she's pretty much done.

If this interests and intrigues you, here's another post from another midwife in which she uses the term "precipitous" to describe one woman's 25-hour labor. It may be unusual, but this kind of labor does happen!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Another Outlet for My Passion on Natural Childbirth

To say that I have a passion for natural childbirth is an understatement. My passion for natural childbirth (which I define as unmedicated and without the routine use of interventions) causes me to be so strongly opinionated that I simply must have an outlet!

That's where this blog comes in. I care for my family and friends enough to not want to rock the boat too much on this subject if it seems we are not on the same page. (My hubby is usually much more expressive of his opinions on birth than I am--he volunteers enough information for both of us. It tickles me how passionate he is.)Of course, I am more than happy to discuss the subject with anyone who genuinely wants to learn and asks me (and if you have done this, you have probably received much more than an earful--sorry).

However, I will not usually initiate much when it comes to a woman's (family, friend or acquaintance) pregnancy, except to ask who her provider is and where she will birth. This usually starts a conversation that does not necessarily include me sharing any of my opinions, though I may mention that I know someone who has used that provider, etc. Through just a couple simple questions, I am able to see a little of the woman's birth ideas. Sometimes, I will continue to ask questions to get a feel for what kind of philosophy she has regarding pregnancy and birth.

If she is cavalier, disinterested, ill-informed (and content to remain so) or in other ways seems to have an attitude of "I just do what the doctor tells me," I will often just leave the conversation at that. If she shows interest in learning all she can and researching her options and the benefits and risks that go with them, my side of the conversation may turn a little more into the information-giving kind, as opposed to just information-receiving. Again, those of you who have fallen into this category will probably note that it can turn into a whole-lotta information giving once I get going. (I am trying to regulate and express myself more via other means in order not to do this so much--see below!)

Yes, I am a strongly opinionated person when it comes to birth, and yet the majority of my casual friends or acquaintances have no idea my feelings on the issue. (In order to be perfectly honest, I should mention that this may have changed slightly in the past few months, as I have started the certification process to become a Bradley birth instructor, and have mentioned this to a few people, but even then, I haven't usually introduced the subject.)

Most people who are not close friends of mine have no idea that I have birthed three children naturally, very few know that I have birthed my last two babies at home, and even fewer know that I feel so passionately about the subject that I continue to read, research and study about it even when I am not pregnant. In fact, my husband is more than supportive of my pursuing certification as a Bradley Affiliate, since at least then I will have something to show for all the time I put into researching birth (besides my own satisfying birth experiences, which is worth it to me)!

When given the opportunity, I will not shy away from discussing the issue, but I work hard to get a feel for a woman's interest in informing herself before laying it all out there. In fact, most women will have to come out and ask me about my thoughts on birth. Sharing such things is rarely unsolicited. And when I am asked, it is not uncommon for me to give a bit of a warning on where I'm coming from (that I feel strongly and don't mind telling it like it is).

God willing, a few months from now, I will have another means of sharing the information I continue to learn on a daily basis. My excitement in becoming a birth instructor grows as I study and research more and more (yes, Casey, it is possible for me to research more!).

As to my specific birthing philosophy, I will need to do a whole other post to express the why of my passion. I don't believe in going natural for the usual and customary reasons (a women's rights issue or a get-in-touch-with-your-inner-animal idea, or to prove toughness or achieve a rite of passage, to name a few).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Baby Born to Exhausted, but Happy Mama!

A while back, I asked a woman I'll call Elle if she would write out her birth story for my blog. I had been inspired by what little details I knew of her long and wonderful labor, and wanted to share another positive, hopeful prodromal birth story with my readers (i.e., prodromal birth is totally doable!).

I should mention that this woman and her husband had several things going for them, which contributed to her joyous completion of several days of labor with no pain meds and little intervention! Ladies, if she can do it (not a self-proclaimed "tough" person), you can, too! Elle and her hubby had taken thorough classes from an independent teacher (not a hospital--perhaps some day I will post on why this is important) that gave them many good tools for handling the labor she experienced. She had also chosen a midwife for her care, and I have to say, I was impressed that the medical staff encouraged her to go home several times, and that she was smart enough to do it!

Read on for a truly inspiring prodromal birth story! Oh, and of course, I LOVE how she starts it. Isn't that the truth about prodromal labor?!
I’m not sure when I would say that I “went into labor.” I started having contractions on and off as early as 4 months pregnant. Sometimes I would have them for an hour or two coming as quickly as a couple minutes apart, but then they would stop. About two weeks before my due date, I decided to have my midwife check to see if I was dilated and I was 3cm dilated and 80% effaced and the baby’s head was at 0 station in my pelvis.

"Three days before I had the baby, I started having contractions again around 7PM. I was excited and hoping the contractions would stay this time, so I decided to march around the room to see if they would get stronger. The contractions started to get stronger and closer together, sometimes lasting a minute long and being about 3-4 mins apart. I knew I wanted to try to labor as long as I could at home before I went to the hospital, so I kept watching for the Emotional Sign Posts that we learned in Bradley Class. I still felt like I could pretty much talk through the contractions, so I knew I still had time. That night I woke up on and off with contractions.

"At one point I couldn’t sleep, more out of excitement that my contractions were lasting all night, and I decided to march around the living room some more. Our cats came down and sat on the stairs and watched me like I was crazy. The next day we decided to call my midwife to let her know I was still having contractions every 3-4 min and they were lasting about a minute each. Even though I didn’t feel like it was time yet, they asked me to come in to just be checked and see where I was at. I was about 4 cm dilated now. The midwife told me to go home and get in the bath tub to help me relax and let my body work. I was hungry though and we decided to stop at a local pizza place across the street from her office.

"We started out at a booth inside, but I was so hot from all the contractions I had to go outside in the winter air and cool off. So we ended up being the only people out on the patio. My husband said the people inside were watching and sort of smiling but concerned at the same time as he had to keep getting up and rubbing my back through the contractions. I got about half my slice down and then I just knew I had to get home so I could really relax. My husband ran inside and grabbed a box for the pizza and we took off.

"We ended up going to my mom’s house, which was a little closer to the hospital. The bath felt so good that I ended up staying in it for about 4 hours while my husband and mom took turns rubbing my back through each contraction. My contractions were just as strong and close together as earlier, but the water seemed to lighten the pressure from my back labor a bit. It also helped me rest and conserve some energy for later. Around 5 p.m., my family thought I should check in to the hospital. I didn’t really feel like it was time yet, but I agreed to go since I couldn’t talk during contractions anymore and I figured it must be soon.

"We stopped at a health food store for some popsicles and honey sticks. I had about two more contractions as I hurried through the store to get what I wanted. Then we met my dad who was just getting off work at a burger place to get some food for everyone. I was the one who wanted to go get food, but I ended up regretting the choice and just wanted to leave. We made it to the hospital around 6 p.m. and the midwife on call checked me and I was still only about 4-5 cm dilated and my contractions seemed to slow down a little while I was there. Both sides of the family had come to the hospital and now I was feeling bad like I needed to do something for them. We tried to walk around and see if they would pick up again, but they were only about 6 mins apart now.

"The midwife knew I wanted to try going natural so she said the best thing for me would be to go home and try to get some sleep so I would have energy in the morning to have the baby. So we ended up back at my mom’s house to spend the night. I’m not sure I got any sleep that night as my contractions started to get really strong and close together.

"At 4 a.m., I got back in the tub and my husband would “wake up” every 4 minutes and rub my back or feet. I’m not sure he really was awake: he started to fall into the tub once as he was rubbing my back! I stayed in the tub most of the morning so I could try to rest between the contractions to make up for the missed sleep the night before.

"About 10 a.m., we went outside in front of my mom’s house and walked around a bit. My contractions were getting very strong so we decided to call our midwife again. They were booked at the office, but were able to squeeze me in with one of the OBGYNs to see where I was at before we drove all the way downtown. I was now a good 5, maybe 6 cm and the OBGYN said he thought I would probably have the baby that night or early the next morning. He told me to go get something to eat and go check in the hospital whenever I felt ready.

"We decided to go back to my mom’s house one more time. I have low blood sugar, so I knew I wanted to get as much protein and energy in before I went to the hospital, where they have you stay on a liquid diet during labor. I went to lie down and read a Psalm as I tried to stay relaxed while my husband, mom and sister all ran around the kitchen trying to find foods that would be good for me. I could hear the excitement in their voices and sort of resented the fact that they were excited. I’m pretty hospital-phobic and by now I was starting to feel like it was too much for my body, I just felt like crying. But I was encouraged and reminded that God was going to give me strength.

"By the time they brought me food (around 4 p.m.) I knew it was time to go. I was in the serious stage sign post and I really wasn’t in the mood to eat, although I did force myself to eat a little since I knew I would have a blood sugar crash from not eating dinner. My mom drove us so that my husband could stay in the back and help me through contractions.

"We arrived at the hospital around 5 p.m. We checked into Triage where they got my IV ready for the antibiotic to kill the GBS [Group B Strep] that I had (which my husband and I now sort of regret accepting). The first IV the young nurse accidentally “Blew up my vein” she told me—a needle/blood-phobic person. My husband sort of whispered to her and told her not to talk out loud about it and tried to get her to fix it without letting me hear details so that I wouldn’t panic. Another girl came in to take a blood sample and then the young nurse came back and tried the IV again. My mom thought it looked funny and it felt weird to me, but the nurse assured us that it was right.

"She took us to our birthing room where I saw the most beautiful tub I’ve ever seen! I wanted to get in there right away, but the nurses wanted to get a dose of antibiotic in first. My mom and husband saw the little bed with the baby hat and blanket in it and were almost in tears with excitement that our baby would soon be here! I was excited too, but at that moment I just couldn’t look at it. I couldn’t think about anything else besides relaxing through the contractions.
"Well, it ended up that the IV wasn’t even in a vein and after almost getting a full bag of antibiotic fluids, we realized it was just going into my arm. My arm swelled to double its size and I realized I was trying to take deep relaxing breaths not for the contractions but because my arm was killing me. They brought in a good nurse who took out the bad IV. My veins were really constricted now so it took her two tries before she got a good one in. I was so thankful once the IV was in and it didn’t hurt anymore! I think the whole IV fiasco slowed me down a little, but they let me get into the wonderful tub and I stayed in there for quite awhile. I think I would have stayed there forever if they would have let me, but they encouraged me to try to get out for a little bit and move around to see if things would go faster.

"I loved the nurse and midwife I had that night! They just sat there with us in silence and let us relax. The midwife would rub my back or head to help me relax. Every once in a while she would give me suggestions for different laboring positions. I don’t really remember time periods anymore, but I know about 10 p.m., the midwife came in and checked me and I was about 7 cm dilated. She could tell I was getting really tired. She asked us if we would want her to break my bag of waters. At first I didn’t like that idea at all and wanted to experience it breaking on its own, but my husband and I talked and prayed and decided it would be good. So at around 10:30 p.m., they broke my water.

"Right away, I went into transition. I felt like I was on some kind of weird ride. It felt good to have the warm water empty out with each contraction, but it was also strange to feel so out of control of my body. I remember holding on to the bar of the bed and almost feeling like I was on some kind of swaying ship. I threw up once, but then felt fine in my stomach.

"Probably about an hour later I had an urge to push. I told the midwife and she checked me and said I was about 7-8 cm. She told me to make some grunting noises as if I was pushing to keep me from really pushing. It felt like only seconds later that I was telling them that my body was pushing and I didn’t know how to stop it.

"The midwife, who was about to leave, ran back to me and checked and said I was almost at 10cm. She told me I could start pushing with the contractions gently. Pushing felt so wonderful! My husband later told me he was sympathy pushing with me. :o) The midwife used her hand to help the cervix gently come over the baby’s head so that it didn’t tear. It felt a lot better once her head was past that point.

"The midwife asked me if I thought I could get up and sit on the toilet for awhile to push. I stayed there for about 3-4 contractions. We tried some squatting too, but after a little bit I was too tired and they had me sit up in the bed. They gave me some oxygen between pushes for extra energy. They also brought in the mirror for me so I could see my baby as she was crowning.

"I reached down and felt her head and saw the first little glimpses of her! They asked my husband if he would like to catch our baby. He looked a little unsure, but decided to do it. They told him to go wash up and get gloves on and right as he left the bed to do that I felt another pushing contraction and was a little worried he was going to miss it! But I still had a few to go.

"During the pushes I couldn’t seem to talk or look at anything. I felt this amazing rush of all my energy go into each push. At one point I tried to look as I pushed, but everything went black. I wasn’t scared though. It just felt so powerful and amazing! Birth really is such a miracle! After about an hour of pushing and 54 total hours of labor, our little girl was born at 1:05 AM January 16th, 2009. They placed her on my stomach and I looked down at her and she opened her eyes and looked up at me. It was love at first sight!"

Saturday, May 23, 2009

More Links for Birth Junkies

I have recently been following a few birthy blogs that I have found very informative and thought-provoking. These blogs are by women who think, and it is very evident in the well-defended positions they take.

Spouting off opinions may be good enough for some, but for me, I appreciate ones who will take the time to gather the research that defends their view, which in turn causes me to lean toward that view myself. Being a cynical and critical person by nature, it is very important to me to be able to see the logic behind the opinion.

It is not wise to blindly believe something just because someone important has said it, and I appreciate that these women (two midwives and an L&D nurse) for the most part keep from spouting opinions alone. (I will say, however, that I do not agree with every position they take. But so far, I do respect the way they take them.)

So, for any person who is gung-ho about researching birth and the things that go along with it, I encourage you to visit these blogs:

Jan Tritten's Blog
Jan's last post includes this great tidbit that I believe is packed with wisdom and meaning. Speaking of encouraging expectant parents to be educated and informed, she advises midwives and doulas to be aware of "the pitfalls of the mindless use of technology." The fact is that most expectant parents just go right along with routine tests and treatments without batting an eye or asking any questions as to the relevance of particular procedures in their own unique situations.

Personally, this ignorance is what has made me (at least at this point) not consider midwifery as something I would like to pursue. There are so many people who do not consider themselves the primarily responsible party for their own health and well-being, and I think this has to be one of the most frustrating things about being a medical caregiver of any kind, let alone birth-related. I don't know how doctors, nurses or midwives deal with this kind of person (based on my conversations with friends who are in the medical field, I don't think I'd be exaggerating to assume these people make up the majority of medical patients). For me, I would find it too frustrating to deal with on a constant basis, with only now and then a person who is informed, asks good questions and wants to be involved in their own care decisions.

Gloria Lemay's Blog

I have especially appreciated Gloria's information, because she is very thorough, giving citations (I find this very important if you are making a claim!) and sources.

Along the same lines of thoroughness is Nursing Birth. I love that as an L&D nurse, she's right there in the middle of everything and can attest to what routinely (and unnecessarily) goes into a hospital birth. And it is very inspiring when, in that hospital, she can help an informed couple achieve a satisfying, no-frills birth!

Friday, May 8, 2009

How to Help a Laboring Woman--Suggestions from You

Here's a list I compiled using the e-mails and comments I received in response to the question: What Did You Find Helpful in Labor?

Ladies, thank you for your insight!

  • Ask your husband's perspective as a coach

  • Use prayer and Scripture to help with relaxation (Mom is a professing Christian)

  • Distraction from contractions (early-labor)

  • Don't leave Mom alone during active labor (either be there or free hubby to be there for her AT ALL TIMES)

  • Suggest position changes (birth ball, standing, toilet, glider rocker, hands-and-knees, bathtub, etc.)

  • lip balm, mints, extra pillows, tennis balls in a sock, snacks/quick energy for Mom and helpers

  • Hot/cold packs (rice sock and chilled washcloths)

  • Water--either tub or shower
  • Music & aromatherapy

  • Massage/counter pressure (and don't stop unless she tells you to)
  • Remind her to take one contraction at a time

  • Counteract getting too much in her head about the intensity of the contractions. ("That one was hard. Really hard. They're getting harder. The next one is going to be even harder. I don't want to do the next one. I can't do this anymore.")

  • Counteract "labor math." ("It took me 20 hours to get to 6 cm. It will take another 10 hours at least to fully dilate."

  • Read two of the books suggested in this post

  • Encouragement that the pain is normal. Affirmation that it is hard work.

  • Pushing--help her push effectively and tell her when she is pushing effectively, and that it is making progress

  • Refreshing beverage after birth! (And keep her nourishment needs met during labor)

The great thing about these suggestions was that many of them had a reason behind them--a mini story the women told me that brought home the importance of what they suggested.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


While I wait to ask my postpartum friend to give me the okay on a post regarding the birth of her week-old baby, I am going to give a list of things you all sent me that were very helpful.

For whatever reason, most people responded to my request for input via e-mail, which is totally fine. But I was thinking that, since there were quite a few great suggestions, it would be good to post them on my Blog for anyone who is interested in being a birth helper or preparing for her own birth.

First of all, here's a list of books I checked out at the library last month to brush up and re-educate myself about the birth process and things a laboring woman may encounter:

  • The Birth Book: Everything You Need to Know to Have a Safe and Satisfying Birth, by Martha and William Sears

I Love this book. If I were to recommend a book to someone who had time to read one and only one (usually first-timers who don't realize just how important it is to make preparation for labor a priority--I know. I was one of these first timers!), this would be the book. I own this book, but was letting my prego friend borrow it, so I picked up a copy at the library for my own reference.

  • Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way, by Susan McCutcheon-Rosegg

Ditto the above about owning/lending. This is the second book I would recommend if a woman wanted to work toward a natural birth. ("Natural" in this book means no medication and judicious use of medical intervention).

  • The Birth Partner: Everything You Need to Know to Help a Woman Through Childbirth, by Penny Simkin

This was one of the books recommended by both doulas who weighed in. I was not able to find the other one: Mothering the Mother (or The Doula Book) by Klaus, Kennell and Klaus.

I did find this book helpful, though it is definitely from a different perspective than the one I've come to respect most. It seems to be more Lamazish than I care for. Lots of talk about breathing patterns. My opinion is that deep, abdominal breathing is the best breathing for all parts of labor. It facilitates relaxation, since it requires relaxation of the abdominal muscles, and it prevents hyperventilation and assures plenty of oxygen gets to the baby and to the uterus, preventing rapid muscle fatigue.

Aside from the numerous references to breathing patterns, I found it a helpful enough book that I may purchase it in the future. But since I did not read it in its entirety, I do not yet have a good overview of it.

  • The Expectant Parent's Guide to Preventing a Cesarean Section, by Carl Jones

This may seem an odd book choice to the casual birther, but the fact is that in the U.S., with a cesarean rate of 31.8%, most cesareans are avoidable (Notice I didn't say "unnecessary." This is because by the time they are done, they have often become necessary, but usually the necessary c-section was caused by medical intervention or a lack of other options that could have been tried hours, days or months before.)

Since my friend had chosen an OB as her provider, and since her particular OB was not on call 24/7 for her, and since the only thing I knew about this OB was that she was "nice," I wanted to be prepared for whatever may ensue once we entered the hospital. Of course, the most obvious tactic was to wait as long as possible to go to the hospital. Check.

Even though this book is old (1991), it was very helpful and by far the book I spent the most time perusing. (I did not read any of these books in their entirety last month.) It is set up well, giving an overview of indications for cesarean, then ways to prevent those indications. And though it is old, much of what was being done in 1991 is still being done today--only more (25% cesarean rate back then). I would recommend this book to any pregnant woman with time on her hands (Ha!) and any woman who has had a previous c-section and expects to have more children, and most of all, to any woman who is or aspires to be a labor helper. (I just noticed that this book is apparently not widely available, but if one can get her hands on it, it would be worth the read.)

Okay, I think I'll stop with the book list and pick up again with the list of suggestions next post.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Guess What I Did Today

Just got back from the first labor I've attended since my own births and I am pumped!

Mom did stupendously and made it through a 25 hour labor (start-to-finish) with no medication whatsoever. She made it look easy. As labor progressed, she got better and better at handling the contractions. I was impressed.

Baby came out at 10:52 p.m. on Sunday (with the cord around his neck--no biggie) weighing 7 lb, 15 oz and 21 inches in length (13" head).

Mom and baby are doing great and getting established with breastfeeding.

The overarching impression I have from this experience (besides respect for this woman in several ways) is that education, preparation and support can make all the difference in whether a woman can "do" natural childbirth. Oh, and a steeled resolve to NEVER AGAIN have a baby in the hospital. It was good to be reminded why I went home to birth.

Thank you, all of you who gave me input and advice on labor helps. I don't know how I did with it all, (you'd have to ask her) but I know your suggestions helped me a great deal.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thanks for the Input

Thank you to all of you who sent me ideas on how to be a good help to my friend in labor (see my previous post). I especially appreciated the specific suggestions and general encouragement.

There were a few books recommended that I read in preparation for this, which I thought I should mention here, since they were not posted in the comments. Thanks to the two doulas who sent me these suggestions: The Doula Book and The Birth Partner. I look forward to checking them out at the library and possibly purchasing them for future reference!

I am still open to advice, so feel free to weigh in if you have just come across my request. I need all the help I can get!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Input Wanted

Over the past few months, I've been interested to see if becoming a doula is for me. Recently, an opportunity presented itself to try my hand at being a labor helper for a woman due next month. As I do not have any formal training in such things, there are many things I do not know. I want to give this woman as much support and help as I can during the hardest work she will probably ever do in her life.

This is where you come in: Do you, readers who have had babies, remember the things that made your labor harder that would have not been so if someone had just __________? Were there things someone did or did not do that you found helpful or think you would have found helpful? Is there anything that burns in your memory that I may be able to use or keep in mind? I'm really looking for specifics here, so please explain what you mean.

Any readers who have not had babies are also welcome to weigh in if you have good insight or experience on the subject. I really am looking for any good ideas to be a better help to her. Fire away!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Haley Kay's Birth Story, Part 5 (and FINAL!!)

The midwives tried to get situated between my contractions, pausing and not asking anything of me or Casey during contractions. Aimee sat on the floor next to me, waiting for a moment between contractions to check the baby’s heartbeat with the Doppler, while Barb (kneeling, using the bed as her desk) observed my behavior and took notes. I was in transition during the videos here, as well as the video on the last post. For about 30 minutes or so, the contractions were so overpowering and strong. The best way I can describe what it was like is that it felt like a very dark and heavy cloud of seriousness would descend on me as a contraction began. I would remain in that dark cloud for a minute or so, all other thoughts overshadowed by the intense sensations I was feeling. Then, as the contraction began to subside, it was if the cloud lifted and I was “me” again. I could talk, smile, whatever. {I point this out because women labor differently and I had heard that if a woman smiles, she’s not very far along in labor. This is just my way of saying: when you hear things like this, consider who you are and what you are like. That plays a great part in what your labor will look like. Though in general the emotional signposts are more accurate at gauging labor progress than something like how far apart contractions are or how dilated the cervix is, emotional signposts are not always very accurate, either; especially if you adjust quickly to change, are self-conscious or have a tendency to downplay what you are feeling.}

Casey left my side for a moment as Aimee started to check the baby’s heart rate. A severe contraction began and I suddenly needed Casey with me. I told him so and he came to me, knelt beside/behind me and supported me as I relaxed. Aimee stopped looking for baby’s heart, backed off and she and Barb sat in respectful silence as Casey held me through this forceful contraction. As it subsided, he prayed, whispering in my ear as we sat there together, alone in this moment of intensity. I don’t remember what he said, just that it was wonderful to have all those components together: my midwives present and watchful, everything in order, labor progressing beautifully (as obvious by the strength of the contractions), my husband very near and literally supportive to me and the mental corralling of my thoughts as he acknowledged God’s hand on this birth and this baby, asking His blessing on both. I was overwhelmed from the awe of birthing with all of these important pieces together. Words cannot describe my state of elation while smack-dab in the very “worst” of labor! It was wonderful.

I felt great (in comparison) between contractions and though they were the most intense ones in the labor, they were still doable because there were breaks. Casey gave me the third and final dose of herbs and vitamins, and I downed the Emergen-C much too quickly. Even though it was less than 4 ounces of liquid, I should have known better than to down it that fast at this stage of labor. (I find it funny that even when I’ve learned something by experience, it doesn’t mean I “know” it so well that I remember it at the time it would serve me well to remember it. I downed liquid too fast in Ruby’s labor and paid for it, and if you asked me a few big things I learned to do or not to do from that labor, the wisdom of sipping—not drinking—water that late in labor would have surely made the list. This is precisely why I believe one cannot be too educated or prepared for any labor—even the third! There will always be things that one reads—or in this case, knows by experience—that will escape one’s mind when in the heat of labor.)

Soon after this, we got on the subject of the woman (Dolly) who was in labor with me when I had Claire, who was due in a couple weeks. She lives south of us, and as soon as I had learned she was also expecting again, I began joking that we’d need to arrange a day to have our babies back-to-back so Barb only had to take one trip south. Within less than 30 minutes of Barb’s arrival to our home, Dolly and another woman called to say they were in labor! Apparently, today was the day, and we got the memo first. I didn’t feel guilty. We don’t ask much of Barb on labor day; just basically to get there in time to catch the baby. So these two women could hold off, I thought. (Really, though. It wasn’t like they were about to deliver or anything. We had time, and Barb wasn’t rushing.)

We got through a few more contractions as I knelt by the bed, assuring Barb that my knees weren’t sore yet and it felt best to be there. Sandy had brought the girls upstairs and put them down for their naps just as the midwives arrived, and Claire wasn’t too happy about it, as is noticeable in the background noise of the video. It was beginning to take longer to come out of the haze and recover from a contraction, and I became more vocal; “sounding” through them again. We were back on track after all the hoopla of the midwives arrival.
Between a couple transition contractions, I began to feel more nauseated, and Casey fetched a trash can. No sooner than he gave it to me, I threw up a few times. This was not so bad. I felt fine after it was over. The only bad thing I remember about it was thinking now my breath was going to stink. I knew it would affect my relaxation (same reason I took a shower earlier). I am very self-conscious, and things like this and modesty don’t necessarily go away totally (I have to make a conscious decision to not think or worry about these things—even at the very end) like they say they will at some point in labor (again, it depends on who you are). A little while later, I mentioned my concern, and Barb gave me a little mint so I could breathe through my mouth if I needed to.

I asked Barb to check me to see if things really had progressed as I thought. She checked me between contractions and said I was complete. As much as my tailbone had protested, I eventually made it onto the bed in the “frog-in-the-lounge-chair” position we’d used in Claire’s labor, (legs bent slightly, widely splayed and resting on Casey’s legs) Casey behind me, supporting me, whispering words of encouragement to me, stroking my arms. Strangely enough, this was not excruciating like lying down had been. But even so, I was not ready to push. I believe the broken tailbone had more mental ramifications than physical at this point, and though I wasn’t consciously thinking “I don’t want to hurt my tailbone more,” I must have had it in the back of my mind, because I was not ready to engage in the labor the way I needed to, now that I was nearing the end.

I kept my eyes closed more and though I still talked now and then between contractions, I stayed serious and relaxed, and it was obvious when one was starting to get going, because I would suddenly start breathing very deeply and “Oooh!” ing or “Uuh!”ing as I exhaled. It was easy with these sounds to get a little too high-pitched as time went on and Barb would remind me to “keep it low” so my voice would help my body push down instead of tensing up. I kept asking the ladies if it was okay that I didn’t want to push yet. We made it through a dozen or more contractions with me just breathing through them, letting my body do what it needed to do. Aimee encouraged me that she could tell my contractions alone were pushing strongly: I was staying “open” between contractions. The baby was on its way whether I pushed or not! Somewhere in here, I was in the middle of one of these strong contractions when I heard the musical chime of our dryer downstairs and thought, "Laundry's done." I mentally shook myself and lassoed my thoughts back to the task at hand. My mind was no longer interested in what my body was doing. I bring this up, because this is how I am in everyday life: extremely sidetracked. Some people talk of being totally into the task of labor at the exclusion of everything else, and I have yet to labor that way. I really have to work to stay focused.

Suddenly, my body took over and started to push on its own. I grunted and that was the end of ladylike behavior. (Oh, wait; who am I kidding?) I have never been great at the whole “chin to chest” pushing thing. It just doesn’t feel right to me; especially in this case. My position wasn’t optimum for several reasons: I was slouched down a little too much (probably because of my tailbone) and didn’t feel like I could breathe well without throwing my head back. I still had a dry/scratchy throat from the cold I’d had a month before. My voice would catch, and when I pushed, my grunting sounded like machine gun bursts and I found it super annoying that I couldn’t just grunt one long, smooth grunt. We also had several pillows between Casey and I, and he couldn’t see much over the pillows (nor can I see much of his face in the video), which bothers me still (especially for the actual birth). I would have gladly resituated, even between those contractions, if I had known at the time.

The contractions were extremely forceful and this is where the music and the moment collided. There was a particularly intense piece of classical music playing at the height of one of these contractions (the video clip at the beginning of this post gives a little idea of what I’m talking about, only it was more annoying than that, if you can imagine). High-pitched violin screeching was not helpful in that particular set of seconds and I think I could have jumped out of bed and flown to the television and smashed it through the wall if I didn’t think my pelvis just might not come with me. Immediately after the peak, I said I couldn’t really handle the music and asked them to turn it down. At the time, I didn’t think it was funny, but now I do: Barb was the one who got up to turn off the music, only Barb was the only person in the room who is, shall we say, the least technically savvy, so it took her FOR-E-VER to figure out what button to push, and it seemed like an eternity before the horrid sounds were gone. I really was about to volunteer to do it myself by the time she figured out how to make it stop.

Anyway, there I was, pushing. I would lay completely relaxed with my head turned to the side (I could breathe better that way, believe it or not) until a contraction started, align my head with my body, grunt and bear down with all I had in me. Aimee was at the foot of the bed, Barb to the left of me observing/taking notes. The amniotic sac broke during a crazy contraction and the burst of liquid traveled a few feet, but missed Aimee (who was waiting for such an occurrence). There was an extremely short break, (perhaps a few seconds) and I smiled, but that immediately changed, because I then said, “Oooh, goodness. This is very intense!”

Contractions had changed since the sac had broken, and I began to feel as if my baby would explode out of me. “Oh, WOW! I think I need somebody right there,” I told them. I felt too vulnerable and that the baby would burst out and hit the wall ten feet away if someone wasn’t there to stop it. Aimee came to stretch the perineum and Barb said something encouraging. Aimee sat at the foot of the bed, and that’s what I really needed. If she believed I would explode, she would not have sat a foot away from me. It was comforting to know it just felt like I would explode, it wasn’t reality. However, Aimee is an apprentice. I felt saf-er, but not exactly the saf-est. I asked Barb to come to my side. I needed to know that I wasn’t a grenade, and I needed Barb to be near me to assure me that she wasn’t afraid of me, either.

Barb sat on the side of the bed and touched my arm, and Aimee warmed and rubbed my cold feet between contractions. I was having a difficult time relaxing between contractions, and would have to consciously tell myself to relax my facial muscles. Even Barb reminded me at times, by silently placing a finger on my furrowed brow. I asked if it was getting hot in here, and Barb motioned to Case to grab the washcloth. It was heavenly and refreshing on my forehead. They spoke quietly and encouragingly. Barb took the washcloth and spun it around in the air to cool it off, then laid it on my chest and brushed it across my neck. That felt amazing.

I was having a hard time relaxing my legs. Aimee rolled up two towels and put them under each knee, and it really helped. I thanked Barb and Aimee for some encouragement they’d given, and they cranked it up a notch when they realized it was just what I needed, verbalizing what was happening and reminding me to “keep it low.” Casey took the cue and said some more encouragy, coachy things, too. “Good job. Down low.”

Haley’s head was crowning and though it only took a little over two minutes, it seemed like the longest head on earth. I kept thinking, “Is that seriously still the head?” Anyway, right before the “ring of fire” (which Casey says really “doesn’t sound too bad”—HA!), Aimee and Barb were distracted with something for the delivery and I exclaimed, “Ow. OW.”“Help me, help me, help me, help me. PLEASE HELP ME!” as Barb said calmly, “Laaaaauts a pressure.”

I squealed, “OOOOWWW!” and immediately knew that wasn’t helping, so I pushed it down a few octaves and grunted: “Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Lrd. Pls!” (It really sounds like I cut out the vowels in the video.) Barb was coaching Aimee in supporting my perineum, all the while calmly coaching my out-of-controlness.

We had a little exchange that went like this:
Me:“Okay, Okay. Ooo-Kay. That really, really, REALLY hurts! (high-pitched, and then back low again): Really hurts. Really. Huuuurts. Oooooooohhhhhhh. . . ”
Barb:“Good. Good. Grunt through it. Grunt through it. There you go. Push your baby down, push, push, push. . .”
Me (in my lowest, gruntiest, robotic voice): “I’m afraid to push!”
Barb: “Goooow ahead.”
Me (sounding very much like Grover): “MMMM!”
Barb: “Little pushes.”
Me: “MMMMM!”
Barb: “Down here.”
Me (higher and higher pitched): “MMMM! MMMM! MMMMM!”
Barb: “Keep it coming. Good job. There you go. Nice work. Push your baby’s head out. Gentle, gentle, beautiful, beautiful.”

There was a lot of “Ow” and “That kills!” as they worked a nuchal cord (meaning wrapped once around the neck) over her head. (Not a comfortable procedure, I won’t lie.)

All at once, Haley’s head and body were born. I had turned my head to the side, (I think I was trying to get away from what was going on) and happened to look back over and was a little stunned to see her all the way out, because, after all, her head was still crowning a second ago. After realizing she was born, I reached down and Aimee and Barb lifted her to me. I immediately brought her to my chest, and Casey and I gasped and he cried, “Oh, the baby!” which made me cry, all before she did! It was 4:24 p.m.; 12 hours since that first very strong contraction. Haley “mewed” a few times, which just tickled us to death. The midwives put a towel over us and after a few seconds, we checked and she was a girl! Her heart rate was a little slow, so they gave me the oxygen mask to hold near her for a few minutes until she pinked up and was not so quiet. We named her Haley Kay immediately and I could not believe how much vernix was on her! She was totally coated in it. White all over. Chunks, even. I’ve never seen that much vernix on a premature baby! Barb suspected she may have breathed some in and that was why her respiration had dropped off a little. We discussed our guesses of her weight. She looked so tiny to me. Claire had had such a fat face and looked like she weighed 11 pounds, but Haley’s face was slim, and she didn’t have the chunky upper body that Claire did, so I was sure she couldn’t be even 8 pounds. Turns out she was 8 lbs, 2 ½ oz and 20 ¾ inches long.

(This was after a good hour or more, with most of the vernix rubbed in/worn off.)
We called out that we had a baby, and after awhile, Sandy came upstairs to ask what the baby was. I nursed Haley and she latched on strongly and just went to town. After the cord stopped pulsing, it was cut. I don’t think the afterbirth contractions were nearly as bad as they were with Claire. They were strong, but not excruciating. I got off the bed and knelt over the chux that Case had thrown a couple hours earlier to try to have gravity help deliver the placenta, and it eventually came out. Barb was pretty tenacious about checking my bleeding and keeping tabs on me. I hopped in the shower, and I swear I could not get some of that vernix off of my belly, where Haley lay for those first few minutes. It was like car wax! Every minute or so, Barb would pop in to see how I was and give me a sip of my Recharge to keep me from passing out. I think it concerned her that I was standing up, since I have had trouble with low blood sugar after delivery. I felt so great. After I was clean, I wrapped my baby girl and me in my robe and reclined on the bed as Sandy brought Ruby and Claire to join us for Haley’s newborn check. They were so excited to see and hold their little sister. I kept hydrated and took a little of the herbal injury/trauma tincture I had by the bed. A friend of mine came to see us. We got lots of pictures and our little growing family hung out on the bed, looking at our little girl.
Haley and Auntie Chrissy
It was dinner time, and I was about to go downstairs and join the family like it was any other day (I really felt that good). Casey wouldn’t hear of it, and brought the beef stroganoff to me in bed. I was ravenous! Haley was so sweet and just looked around, mewing now and then. It was so precious. Barb and Aimee had to jet to the next birth (which happened to be Dolly. . . . on the same day! What are the odds?) and then the next, and, as it happened, the next! As Barb had said hours before, apparently, we started a trend. They were a couple of busy midwives catching 4 babies in three days, with no break in between. Boy, that’s a tough job. Glad I got them fresh this time!

Haley had alert eyes and was very quiet and serious. She made very small noises and just looked back at us as we stared at her. She had a stork bite birth mark on her left eyelid, which was pretty dark for the first couple days, and comes out again when she is really upset. For the first few nights, she slept in the bassinet by our bed and probably spent half the night in bed with us and would just barely make a peep and I would feed her. She was so sweet and contented; we thoroughly enjoyed our babymoon!

Recovery for me was great. I felt like I could do anything within a few minutes after giving birth, but Casey knows that does not speed recovery, so he had me in bed alot, and when I came downstairs over the next few days, he'd have me rest and sit and observe mostly. I had torn just slightly (like the knicks I had in Claire's labor, about 1/4 of an inch) and that was uncomfortable, but it had completely healed by the home visit Barb made at 5 days, so it was no big deal. Sandy and Case were there for several days and took care of all the household chores and cared for the older girls. I am so blessed to have such a helpful mom and mother-in-law! I have never had to deal with the mom who sits on the couch and holds the baby all day while I stand in the kitchen washing dishes or doing laundry. My relatives come to help, and I'm thankful! People from our church and the mom's group I went to brought us meals for the first few weeks. We hadn't had that with our other babies; it was nice for Sandy and Casey to not have to worry about one more thing. I was especially touched by the fact that one of the moms who had cancer signed up to bring me a meal. That she would think of serving others while in such a state (it was very bad, she passed away at the end of the summer) just blew me away. Though I only knew her for a few short months, she has left an indelible mark in my life. I think of her selflessness all the time (especially when I'm struggling, and it's nothing compared to what she went through).

In comparison, I would put Haley’s birth in between my other two girl’s births as far as doability. Not that any of them weren’t doable, but Ruby’s birth (my first) was an extremely difficult experience (not so much the labor, but the whole of the experience), and Claire’s was like a walk in the park. Haley’s wasn’t terrible (I’d say it was pretty great), but the actual delivery with the broken tailbone was no picnic. All in all though, the really extremely intense part only lasted a couple hours, and like I like to say about labor, you can do anything for a day, right?

A few random pics from the first week of Haley's life (in no particular order):

Friday, January 9, 2009

Haley's Birth Story, Part 4

Casey called Barb, who then asked to speak with me. I grabbed the phone. “Barb, Casey says they remind him of when we called you with Claire’s labor.” She asked me if I had checked myself lately. {Barb had encouraged me to check myself those last few weeks to see what was happening. Neither one of us wanted an “official” check. We really didn’t expect much to be happening, and Barb’s pretty hands-off about vaginal exams—even IN labor. (She’s experienced enough to know, based on a woman’s behavior, where her cervical progress may be.) So she asked me now and then what I had discovered. The whole thing was very new to me, and she thought it would be good for me to feel what exactly was going on down there. The few times I checked myself, I wasn’t sure what I was feeling, and I ended up asking Aimee and then her to check me once “while they were there” swabbing for GBS at 37 weeks. Turns out my cervix was still so posterior at the time that it really didn’t matter how effaced or dilated it was. If any really serious change was happening, my cervix would not be so posterior.}

I told Barb I hadn’t checked myself at all today, and she suggested I do so right then and she’d call back in a few minutes. So I hung up, put the phone in my robe’s pocket, and quickly explained to Casey and Sandy. We have a bathroom downstairs, but I felt better about being upstairs to check. I think I might have been a little afraid of what I might find; being mentally impaired enough to not make it upstairs if I did find that her head was crowning or some such craziness. As I was just about to climb the stairs, another contraction started (2:11 p.m.). I started the stopwatch and pretty much ran up the stairs. I didn’t want to get stuck on the stairs, so I hurried to get to the bathroom, where I could rest, before the peak. Barb was going to call any minute, and I didn’t want to tell her, “Sorry, I haven’t even made it to the bathroom yet.” Looking back, I’m pretty sure that would have answered her question quite well! She would have known it was time to come even if I didn’t have a report for her. Ah, the silliness of labor-brain.

Waddling to the bathroom, I could hardly stand it anymore. I was not going to regain a relaxed state in this contraction; survival was all I was going for at this moment. I sat on the toilet and the contraction’s intensity was SO VERY OVERPOWERING that I had to lean waaaay back and figuratively hold on for dear life. I made a note on my contraction chart: Must lean back. (I picture Captain Chameleon in The Tick Versus the Idea Men: “CAN’T! DO! PLAID!”) The contraction lasted 2 minutes and 45 seconds and at least 2 minutes were experienced on the toilet—not a good position at this stage of labor, in my experience. When it was over, I hurried to check myself. Barb was surely going to call while I was checking! In what seemed like the same moment, I jumped up, washed my hands and the phone rang. I answered, shaky and nervous. “Barb, I don’t feel a cervix, but I think I feel the bag of water bulging.” (And yes, for any smart alecks, it WAS Barb on the phone!) I had felt what I would describe as a thin rubber band around a very pillowy huge squashy round thing. It freaked me out. I told Barb I wasn’t sure it was the BOW, but I couldn’t feel anything else, save the rubber band, and I thought it was probably the BOW. “I’m sorry if doesn’t turn out to be, but that’s what it feels like.”

Barb very calmly said if that’s what it feels like, then that’s probably what it is and they’d leave right away. I immediately ran downstairs and into the kitchen to tell Casey and his mom this was it. Casey told me “You need to be upstairs.” I told them since I had gotten a little scared and pitted out, I wanted to take a shower first. We hurried upstairs while Sandy stayed downstairs with the girls. It was 2:26 p.m. Casey got some video while I waited for the water to warm up in the shower. I had another contraction—one that I waited just till after the peak before resuming activity. I wasn’t where I wanted to be, and didn’t want to stop for long. I was sure that when I did stop, it would be for good. I mentioned in the video that I’d need to lie down soon. I had one more contraction while in the shower (2:34 p.m.). When I was finished, I began squeegeeing the shower until Casey reminded me that I was in labor and could leave it this time. One would guess from that detail that I am extremely anal! I'm really not that anal, I just constantly have to work at staying on task. Even when it comes to labor, I am so easily sidetracked!

Out of the shower, I quickly dried off, put on my contacts, some lip balm and my labor nighty. Casey stripped our bed and re-made it with a shower curtain and old sheets while I crawled around on the bathroom floor for the next two contractions (2:38 and 2:41 p.m.). I still had to move around, but couldn’t (or didn’t want to) stand anymore. I think it may have been because I didn’t know how long it would take Barb and Aimee to arrive (remember I still thought they were a good 45-60 minutes away) and didn’t know if we had that much time. I remember being taught and reading about “hands and knees” to slow things down, but I think there were additional reasons I did it: I was afraid my posterior-last-appointment-baby hadn’t yet turned and it felt best to be both moving and avoiding the effects of gravity while waiting for the midwives. (I did not feel comfortable delivering this baby without Barb.)

Casey finished the bed and gave me the go-ahead. He helped me get onto the bed and on my side, where I promptly had a doozie contraction (around 2:50 p.m.) and realized I could NOT lie down. Contractions became sharp and excruciating when I did, so Casey piled a huge amount of pillows on our bed and I got back on hands and knees, leaning over the mountain of pillows. After a few minutes, I felt a little too vulnerable up there on the bed. What if, in all my concentrating and hip-swaying, I fell off? So Casey threw a chux on the floor and I moved to kneeling at the bed, swaying my bottom from side to side. (In my mind, I was fiercely waiving it like a mad woman—possibly trying to get away from it—but it was not so accentuated in real life.) We hadn’t ever gotten to burning a C.D. of labor music selections (I kept getting paralyzed in choosing selections by wondering, “Am I going to find this song/music super annoying in labor?”), so we turned the T.V. onto a classical music channel, complete with picturesque and peaceful photography.

I had another contraction (2:55 p.m.—1 min. 15 sec.) as Casey videotaped for another minute, teasing me for continuing to time contractions. I smiled and said it was “something to do” while waiting for Barb and Aimee. It helped me stay focused on one contraction at a time. I had to keep my mind occupied so I wouldn’t freak out thinking too far ahead. I mentioned in the video that between even these contractions, I still felt “really great.” {I find it very refreshing that in three births now, rarely have I had a great deal of contractions so close together that I have absolutely no break in between (though I have to admit, my “false” labor with Claire was often painful no matter if I was having a contraction or not). These people who talk as if labor is one long, excruciating, 36-hour contraction must gloss over God’s mercy in this area. (Could it be they don’t notice the breaks or they even keep themselves from having breaks because they’re too tense and afraid?) I’m not saying labor is easy or pain-free. I guess I’d say it’s both LESS terrible and horrifying than you’ve heard and MORE work than you’ve ever thought possible—work to stay calm, work to relax muscles, work to keep focused, work to be attentive to your body, work to push your baby out . . . HARD WORK!}

Barb and Aimee arrived at 2:58 p.m. and I hung up my contraction-timing hat (as I did when Barb arrived at Claire’s labor) and began to take a more vulnerable role as a laboring woman. They would now take over as the “protectors” of labor—all I needed to do was concentrate on the task at hand. I find this transfer of responsibility very important for relaxation of mind and body at the end. I don’t know how women can purposely do unassisted birth. I need to focus entirely on the work of giving birth, and I have absolutely no room in my mind for also making sure that everything is okay. I happily give this to the birth attendant, and Barb’s knowledge, experience and peaceful manner are just what I need to get my job done.

For Part 5 (The Concusion!), click here