Posts Tagged ‘natural birth’

The last blog post I published was inspired by a morning spent with a friend of mine who had just had her first baby.  We were discussing birth again online and this is her story, from her point of view.  I have a great many thoughts on it, but will leave it to stand on its own.  I find it inspiring and beautiful, though she herself is probably still coming to terms with how the beginning of motherhood was not what she expected.  My birth stories (published in other posts) are quite different from hers, and I have love for every type of birth story:


Last night, a friend of mine posted an article to Facebook entitled “Why You Should Prepare for Natural Birth (Why Just Hoping for a Natural Birth is Not Enough)”.


I gave it a read through, and on first glance, most would probably find this article innocuous. Sure, you should be prepared for birth. You should do your research. Sound advice, right? Surely no one could find fault with an article that is simply encouraging women to know their rights, options, and bodies before embarking on the grand adventure that is labor and delivery.






And yet, this article, like so many like it, left me feeling angry. Left me feeling hurt, incredulous, and just downright pissed off. And I don’t think I’m the only one. I think I belong to a steadily growing new moms’ club that is comprised of women who, just like me, think this article and articles like it are not only misleading but also directly lending to more and more women walking away from their birth experience feeling like a failure.


I began researching how I wanted to give birth more than a year before we even began trying to conceive. I had been born at home, in an upstairs bedroom with a midwife attending. I was a firm believer that birth was a natural process, and I was also terrified of the entire medical spectrum. I rarely took meds, thought a hot cup of tea was a good substitute for antibiotics, never had vaccines as a child, and got the hives just thinking about hospitals. So for many reasons, I wanted to make sure I knew everything I needed to know to make sure I didn’t end up a “hospital horror story”. If you’re a mom, you know exactly what I’m talking about. We all have friends, or have read online, or know a woman, or were that woman, who gave birth at a hospital and got bullied into unnecessary interventions, didn’t feel listened to, and even experienced genuine trauma at the hands of medical professionals that treated your body like it wasn’t your own and your birth like it was a disease. I wasn’t going to be that woman.


We considered home birth, but the options were so limited in our state, and the home birth midwife that we had decided to use had closed down her home birth practice and was working at a local OB office that delivered at the hospital close to our home. Hesitantly, we decided that since we would have a doula, a homebirth midwife, and all the education in the world, we would brave a hospital birth. We had watched “The Business of Being Born” over a dozen times, we had read every Ina May Gaskins book ever published, we were ready. We were ready to say no to pitocin, refuse induction no matter how long little bit decided to camp out. We were ready to do skin to skin after labor in a dark and quiet room.


In fact, by the time I was hitting late pregnancy, I had spent two years so immersed in the natural birth culture and language that I had a downright story in my head of how my birth was going to go. I would go into labor in the middle of the night, I would labor for as long as possible at home with my doula, who would provide aromatherapy, take me for sacred walks in the woods, and bathe me in light. At the last moment, I would go to the hospital, bravely go into my warrior space as I pushed out my baby with no drugs, no IVs, and no vaginal exams. As soon as she was born and healthy, we would insist on being released, and I would bring her home and nurse her in my momma cave for 40 days while friends brought me food and offerings at the feet of my newly washed female divinity.


Oh yeah. I had it bad.


And yes, I knew that I couldn’t control my birth. I knew to be ready for surprises. But I also knew what these articles, books, websites, documentaries and women had been telling me over and over and over again.


Birth is natural.


Your body knows what to do.


Don’t be afraid of the pain.


Let go of negative messages about birth.


Birth is not dangerous.


Birth does not have to be painful.


Birth can be so pleasing as to even be sexual.


Even if something unexpected comes up, you can still birth your baby naturally.


And on and on and on. Those words, phrases and images assured me that no matter what happened, we would be able to have a natural birth. That the chances of a complication actually being so severe as to warrant medical intervention were so low and had just been blown out of proportion by medical staff anxious to avoid a lawsuit and to get you in and out of those beds as quickly as possible.


I was ready. I sat back and judged women silently that I saw on Facebook getting inductions at 41 weeks 5 days. “Oh, she must not have watched that documentary. Someone should tell her that her induction isn’t necessary.”


See. I deserved what happened to me.


And then my due date came. And went. Now, of course, I knew due dates were the unicorns of the natural birth community. They only existed in fantasyland and that really, if they said your baby was due in March, it was completely fine if she decided to land in October. So don’t worry.


But I did. I was exhausted. I was enormous. I felt sick, fatigued, and dizzy all the time. I couldn’t stand, sit, or dress myself without assistance. I was in so much pain, and was told it was normal, but something in me knew it wasn’t. And I had every one and their brother asking me when I was planning on pushing that baby out, and I somehow was expected to not set them on fire with my eyeballs all the while laughing as if I hadn’t heard that exact same thing 6,000 times that day just before the breakfast I couldn’t stomach.


And on top of that, at least once a day a girlfriend that had gone before would ask me, “Any signs of labor yet?” And the answer was always a definite, “No. Nothing. Nada.” I mean nothing. No show, no Braxton Hicks, no plug, no back pain or cramping, no new stomach upset, no nesting instinct, no nothing. And I kept going to the doctor, and I kept refusing vaginal exams, and I kept waiting for my baby and my body to do the natural thing.


But they didn’t. And one day, my midwife who had delivered babies at home for 40 years sat me down and told me that she had seen women present like me a million times, and she could bet me good money I wasn’t going into labor on my own, that my baby was in danger, and that I needed to be induced.


And I felt like the world had ended. I went home and sobbed so hysterically for two days that it felt like I was breaking from the inside out. And everywhere I turned I was being told not to listen to her. Inductions being the antichrist in the natural birth community, and all of that. Even my doula, who was outwardly supportive, said in her words and tone and the spaces in between, “Oh, you’re just letting them use fear tactics on you, you don’t need this.”


But I felt somewhere deep inside of me that I did. So I faced every fear I had ever known, and I went in for an induction on a Tuesday evening. And immediately, my birth plan started going out the window. Foley bulbs, vaginal exams (I hadn’t dilated even a centimeter), monitors, IVs, and…. A completely awesome, gentle, supportive, empowering hospital experience. But I was on every drug you can imagine for two days. And labor never started. Not even a little bit.


They told me my baby was stuck. That contractions couldn’t start because her head couldn’t make contact with my cervix and her head couldn’t make contact with my cervix because contractions couldn’t start. And that she had probably been stuck for a while. And that she was probably in distress. And that she needed to come out, and she couldn’t, and no matter how long I had waited, things wouldn’t have changed. And right there in the hospital, we did every natural method we could think of to get that baby unstuck. We turned off all the drugs, the pitocin drips, we shimmied with the rebozo, we did the Miles circuit over and over, and nothing. And when I told them I was too exhausted, hungry, and in shock to face anything further, they let me go home for 24 hours. And they told me to see a chiropractor before I came back.


The chiropractor told me my pelvis was tilted up and to the side. My daughter was literally stuck sunny side up with her head splayed backwards, all on my left side (which explained a lot of my pain and very visible belly unevenness). The chiropractor spent an hour with us. And somehow, that miracle woman naturally moved my baby. I had bloody show a few hours later. The next morning, a fat 42 weeks pregnant, I went in for my second induction and had begun to dilate on my own. But things still weren’t moving fast enough.


More drugs. Someone broke my water (the one thing I swore I wouldn’t let anyone do). I had more vaginal exams than I could count. But I knew each step was what needed to happen to help my daughter get here safely. There was meconium in my water. She was struggling. I was struggling. And every single person at the hospital that was a part of my birth was there to help us.


And you know what? Labor was painful. Incredibly painful. Maybe it was because of the pitocin, or how fast my labor progressed once it finally began (barely six hours from start to finish). And my preparation helped me. I labored through hours of intense, long contractions, with barely any break in between them, with no pain medication.


But then transition contractions began. And maybe not every woman feels like Braveheart being disemboweled and sent to the four corners of the earth during transition. But I did. It was the most terrifying and painful sensation I had ever experienced in my life. Nothing prepared me for that. Nothing. I begged, I pleaded, I screamed, I cried for help, for it to end, for them to give me something. Against every one’s advice, I got an epidural. That’s right. Every doctor and nurse in that building told me I could do it naturally. But the truth was, I couldn’t. I demanded and received the most terrifying epidural I think anyone could imagine. In the throes of agony, panic, and the most gut wrenching sensation of my life, I had to hold still while a needle went into my spine that could’ve killed me or paralyzed me at best, and a transition contraction took place right as the needle went in. My mom was shaking and crying in the corner, unable to watch. The kind and gentle anesthesiologist yelled at me to not MOVE. If I had let them check me vaginally, they could’ve told me I was in transition, told me I was almost done, but since I thought vaginal exams were the devil and was trying to avoid them, and because I was in the throes of so much physical agony that I didn’t want anyone adding to it, I was terrified that the feelings I was experiencing were going to go on for hours. And yes, I had been told that when you think you can’t do it anymore, you are almost done. But I couldn’t do it anymore. Really.


The sedative they had put into my IV before the epidural kicked in, calming me just enough that I could realize what was going on as I lay on that bed shaking so violently it felt like I was seizing. But the pain and intensity of the contractions didn’t let up. We were told after my birth that the epidural didn’t have time to kick in, and that I took that risk for nothing, that I pushed without pain relief. But thank goodness for the pre-epidural sedative, that at least quelled the panic. Because then there was her head. And I could still feel my legs. And then I was pushing her out and there was nothing I could do to stop it. And I pushed her out right there in the most anti-natural birth position imaginable – on my back, with my legs up by my head, for over an hour before they told me she had to come out right that second and I pushed with everything I had in me and I tore almost in half but there she was. And it was what I wanted, what felt right, and the only position I could even think of moving in to in those moments, even though I had learned through the natural birth community that the best way to give birth was hanging from a tree branch.


And after she was born? Well first of all, I couldn’t tell every one to get out, or shut up, or leave us alone. There was a special team on hand to make sure she didn’t aspirate on her own poop. And there was this tricky little thing called a placental delivery that had to happen. I held her for moments, barely, and then the pain of labor (yes, I labored out that placenta) was so intense that someone had to take her for me. I was shaking so violently that I that I was going to die. My blood was everywhere, like a slasher film without the bad music. The medicine they gave me to stop the bleeding saved my life. It took almost an hour for my placenta to be forcefully delivered, with the incredible midwife on duty having to push on my stomach and force it out of me at the end because I was losing so much blood we couldn’t wait any more. It hurt more than my daughter did, coming out into this world.


After a few hellish days (yes, days) in the post partum ward of the hospital, we went home. And instead of worrying about myself and how to help myself heal from the bruised tailbone, the tearing, the incredible pain that made standing or walking almost impossible, the incredible amount of blood I was still losing, or anything else I needed to be concerned about, I holed up in my room and cried because all I could think was:


I failed.


I failed.


I failed.


My body didn’t do what it was supposed to do. Nothing went the way it was supposed to go. I caved in the face of the pain, I exposed us both to the dangers of drugs and interventions, I didn’t have the moments right after her delivery that we were supposed to have.


I don’t belong in the natural birth community.


I didn’t do it right.


And you know why I, and so many mothers like me, fell into that dark hole?


Because of articles like this one. You see? I was getting there. Just decided to take my time.


Because of every single “I had a kumbaya motherfuckers bath time birth in my living room and I orgasmed and so can you” story that gets shoved down our throats as “normal” while the women who have trauma and bad experiences are either the exception, or they were unprepared, or it happened to them because they were in a hospital and not at home, or whatever other story gets told, whether consciously or unconsciously, in the natural birth community.


There are truths about labor, there are truths about birth, and while the natural birthing community has it’s intentions in the right place, women are still being lied to – by BOTH sides.


Birth CAN be dangerous. It IS dangerous. I go to a mother’s circle a few weeks out of the month, and the moms that I share my Friday mornings with are as crunchy as you can get. They all cloth diaper, they all breast feed, we sit on the floor cross legged as the babies lay naked on sheep skin rugs and we burn sage. And their stories are heartbreaking. Some of them truly almost died. Many of them are scarred in more ways than one. And all of them were prepared. All of them did their research. And all of them were taken somewhere by their birth that they were told was wrong, rare, and shouldn’t really happen if you were just doing it right.


Birth is painful. Maybe not for everyone. Maybe you are lucky and have a fast, pain free birth. Maybe you did hypnobirthing and it worked for you. But for most of us, it is the most pain you’ll ever know, and if your transition period is like mine, it will move beyond pain and into a place that you may be able to handle. You may not.


Your body doesn’t just automatically “know what to do” because you are a woman. There are a million things that can go wrong, and that go wrong everyday, and those things make medical interventions not only necessary but the best thing that could ever happen to you and your baby. Maybe those stories of women and babies dying in childbirth still permeate our brains because they need to. Because we need to take birth seriously enough that we don’t endanger ourselves and our children by refusing medical care when it could be the difference between a positive and a life-altering outcome.


Hospitals are not the devil. Medical staff members are not necessarily going to bully you. I was in the hospital for a full week, I had two separate inductions, and each and every person there tried to help me have as natural of a birth as I could possibly have, and respected and served me in every moment of my birth.


You might not be able to have the “golden hour”. You might need drugs to keep you from bleeding out and dying. You might be in so much pain that you can barely hold your child for days.


You might end up with drugs, no drugs, water breaking, no water breaking, vaginal delivery, c-section, pain, no pain…


And you did it right. You were a warrior. Nothing should have happened that didn’t happen.


What has to happen is that ALL kinds of births have to be normalized. We have got to stop sitting in these camps that speak these surface languages that tell you one birth looks like this and is bad, one birth looks like this and is good, and for the millions of women that don’t fit into either of those camps, that there is no place for your birth and the implication is you must’ve done something wrong.


We didn’t do a damn thing wrong. Except maybe, spend too much time reading the articles.




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Another safe birth and healthy baby are miracles that not many people take for granted. Maybe that’s why so many of us want to hear each other’s birth stories and so many of us are happy to share them. I’ve had a few people ask for Darius’ birth story and I’ve always written them down for me to look back at anyway.

This year in particular I feel especially grateful. I’ve had 4 friends in the past few years lose children before, during and after birth, in the first year of life. I don’t think anyone can understand that pain unless you’ve lived it– I certainly can’t– but to have a third guy here, born, healthy while I recover quickly– it’s nothing short of the best thing that can happen to a family, really and truly. We can never underestimate what a gift it is.

Darius’ birth was indeed quite different from my first two. Births are so similar in some ways, and yet all the little details make them different.

You can never believe you aren’t going to have to face a birth again (at least I never can!) and then after you’ve done it… after you’ve faced the pain and pushed a 7 pound human being out of your body– you can hardly believe that you did do it.

My oldest was born in a very typical hospital setting, the only thing saving me from many of the interventions I didn’t want being my educating myself, having a doula and the big one— having a complete surprise of a super fast labor and having her 20 minutes after I arrive. It was the exact mad dash rush to the hospital that I assured my husband only happens in the movies, and not to worry.

The second, I knew I wanted another natural birth and I knew I didn’t want it to be at a hospital, so I traveled about an hour and a half to a birth center in Chapel Hill, NC, staffed by midwives and yet five minutes away from UNC-Chapel Hill’s hospital– my impression being that it is a much baby friendlier place than the hospital where I live.

That baby was *also* born 20 minutes after I arrived. Sheesh.

So this time our hope was for me not to be in transition– right in the throes of serious labor pain that will lead to pushing– in a car. Nearly identical to my second birth, I woke up on a Sunday morning having contractions, timed a few, and just knew I was going into labor. Unlike that birth though, my labor all but stopped while I was in the car. That birth it progressed and progressed and that ride I was coping with contractions the entire time.

This third birth my contractions slowed but were expected to pick up once we arrived. When a mother is in an unnatural or unsafe place to give birth, her labor will either speed up or slow down, according to what her body thinks is safest.

If my water hadn’t broken on its own, we probably would have gone home and called it a false start. After 3 hours and about three miles of walking around the birth center, the midwife advised I either go somewhere and rest and see if labor kicks in or augment the labor with black and blue cohosh and belly binding. I want to find more information on belly binding to share with you all, but so far preliminary searching comes up with postpartum belling binding.

It was en entirely different experience for me… the walking around, the attempting to make labor keep going. It wasn’t anything I had ever, ever, ever had to consider with my other births– the births that started like freight trains and kind of left me dazed and pushing as fast as my husband could get me to the right place!

I decided to send my kids home with my mother and “augment” the labor. Of course, if I were at a hospital with a doctor that would be done with Pitocin, a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin, which will indeed interfere with a woman’s natural oxytocin after birth and doesn’t allow for breaks for the mother and the rhythm of natural labor. Sarah J. Buckley’s research on how pitocin affects our natural hormones is pretty interesting– I saw her speak on it several years ago at a birth conference.

But belly binding, though I’d only vaguely heard of it, seemed like an acceptable thing, and since my water was broken, I really had no desire to go and rest. At least my desire to go and rest was overshadowed by my desire to have the labor start for real. I kind of just wanted to have him! I can see now why women do choose interventions because once your water is broken its a tad frustrating that labor isn’t really kicking in. Had I had a homebirth, I bet my body would have acted differently, or at least, taking a nap wouldn’t have mattered. Either way, the belly binding seemed natural enough to fit into my comfort level of letting nature take it’s course while in labor. The contractions and water breaking happened spontaneously– when the little boy was ready.

They tied a sheet around my tummy as I lifted it, which pushes the baby downward and increases the pressure on my pelvis and thus the contractions. We decided to go to Whole Foods and pick up some gluten-free meals for me to eat after the birth, since it had become apparent that he would be born at night and not in the morning when we arrived– it was about 4 p.m. at this point, and we’d arrived at the birth center at 11:30 a.m.

First we went upstairs to the Birth Center’s boutique where I bought a nice nursing bra with a gift card that a guy who fell off his motorcycle in front of my house gave me. I’ll be he had no idea what I’d spend it on! Labor was picking up again directly after the belly wrapping. We then started to Whole Foods and by the time we got there I knew– it was going to happen soon.

I may have started to cry a bit and asked my husband why my body seems to think I have to be in a car or at a public store when labor starts to get painful??? Labor picked up for me or continued at Wal-Mart, a restaurant getting Azita food with the second, and now at Whole Foods. He ran in and got the food and I continued to freak out and tell him to get me back to the birth center ASAP. It was only 5 minutes away.

We got back and I told the midwife I was officially in pain. She checked me and I’d moved to 5 cm dilated, which is about what I felt like. She wanted to start the bath so that I could finally make it in time for a water birth, and with my history of fast labors, I’m glad she did– though at the time I– once again, even being the one in the middle of painful contractions– didn’t seem to realize just how close I was.

She put me in the shower, which always helps the pain, while she filled the bath.

I was in the bath for about an hour before he was born. In all I went from 5 cm to birth in about an hour and a half. He was born at 6:20.

It was an entirely different thing this time, being at the birth center, focusing on labor, letting it come while not at my house. The last hour of his birth was incredibly serene, actually, though during contractions my insides and head felt pretty tumultuous.

In between contractions I just soaked in the tub, holding my husband’s hands and almost… sleeping? Zoning out? I’m not sure but it was very, very quiet and the lights were low. During contractions I breathed very heavily, stared at my husband while he tried to keep me from hyper-ventilating, wished that my hands and legs hadn’t gone numb and wondered how many more of these contractions I could take.

About 45 minutes in the tub and the midwife told my husband that my contractions were about 3-4 minutes apart when he asked, and yet she told me it could be any contraction now that he descends down and my body starts to naturally push.

I freaked out inside— thinking that my contractions needed to be every 1-2 minutes… and yet, just a few contractions later, down he went and the huge climax that is birth was happening. Lord have mercy, what woman experience with a natural birth. Oy, how it felt when he descended into the birth canal. It’s indescribable. I started flailing around and trying to change positions, I don’t know what I was trying to do. Squat, maybe. But between the midwife and my husband I just did what they said– somehow willing myself that if I’d just calm down and push the pain would stop.

I screamed through a huge push, and through another, and out he came. It was the only birth where no one told me to stop screaming— perhaps this was because I was yelling while pushing, not stagnating. I’ve never screamed the “f” word and pushed out a baby at the same time. First time for everything.

When they handed him to me I was in disbelief– more than the girls, I don’t know why— that he was out. I kept repeating “I don’t believe it.” I guess because this time it was an all day process, and also because I’d again convinced myself that it was going to be several more hours when the midwife said my contractions were 3-4 minutes.

But I finally got my calm, peaceful water birth. I didn’t tear at all this time and am recovering well… a world of difference from my first birth, which included third degree tears and passing out from blood loss several hours after the birth.

The funniest thing this time I was that I wrenched my calf and thigh muscle flailing around when he descended down, and that hurt about as much this week as the birth-recovery part!

I got out of the tub, made it into the bed, and have pretty much been nursing or holding him ever since. We got home that night about 2 a.m.

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Ada Violet Damghani was born around noon on Sunday Dec. 21. at the Women’s Birth and Wellness Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  It is a freestanding birth center that has 5 midwives.

I woke up around 7:30 in quite a bit of pain, with regular contractions coming 5 minutes apart.  We realized around 8:30 that I was definitely in labor this time (I’d had a lot of false starts) but it’s hard to tell how far along you are while you are in labor, at least for me.   

I called our birth center and the midwife said that I didn’t sound like I was too far along and to just relax a little for a few hours and keep them posted.

This was what my doula told me the first time I was in labor with my older daughter Azita, and I progressed rapidly.  With her, I was in labor all day, as many women are, but they were slow, mild contractions and the painful contractions, similar to what I was feeling the morning of Ada’s birth, began around midnight.  That was when I called the doula and was told to wait it out.

My water broke at 2 a.m., I immediately began transitioning (I only know this now, looking back at my behavior), arrived at the hospital at 3 a.m. and Azita was born at 3:23.

So based on this, rather than the midwife’s  initial advice, we decided that we needed to leave soon because the birth center was an hour and a half to two hours away, depending on traffic. 

I told her we would walk around Chapel Hill and if we had to spend the day laboring in public places it was worth the peace of mind to us. 

We were very paranoid about not making it to birth center but I was unwilling to return to the hospital near my home, or any hospital for that matter,  for my second child.

Approaching childbirth with a positive mind means letting go of what you cannot control.  I had to admit to myself that I was afraid of giving birth in a car, or in a rushed, panicky atmosphere, as almost happened with Azita or in a hospital that didn’t respect my wishes.   I had to let go of the fear of too fast a birth and choose a relaxing, nurturing environment at a freestanding birth center.

So anyway, we began driving up to Chapel Hill and my husband remarkably got there in an hour and ten minutes!  It may have helped that there wasn’t much traffic, being Christmastime and the university students having gone home.

I continued to keep the birth center informed of my status, but as a room wasn’t ready for me yet, and I was handling the contractions well, we decided to stop at a place called Foster’s market where my toddler and husband could get some decent food and I got a honey and fruit smoothie to give me energy for the birth.

Looking back, I can’t believe I was in such a public place when I was to give birth in 30 minutes.  Just as with Azita, it was hard to tell that I was really so far along as I was.   I had tiny urges to push, but nothing like what I would have expected based on how Azi’s birth felt.  With her, the desire to push was overwhelming.

When I called the birth center I remained calm.  The contractions were coming quickly and hurt a lot but I was handling them quite well.  I made myself breathe and relax.

For the two hours in the car and at the market, between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., my contractions would range from 5 to 6 minutes apart and be bearable with some deep breathing and relaxation for two or three in a row.

Then they would get quite intense and come 2 to 3 minutes apart.  Then they’d slow down.  Then they’d speed up.  It was like I was almost there but then my body would back off.

And I think that this is why, the moment I saw my midwife’s face, after we left Foster’s and went to the birth center, I felt the most painful contractions– the most painful moments– of my life and immediately was ready to push. 

There is a very real connection between mind and body.  Once my body knew I was in a safe place, it stopped weaving in and out of strong contractions and was ready to give birth. 

I know that had we gotten to the birth center sooner, I would have given birth sooner.  Its just how it is.  My body waited on me to feel safe. 

It was also waiting for my toddler to be playing in the waiting room with my mother.  Just outside the door of the birth center, I began to whimper in the middle of a contraction and my daughter began to cry.  I immediately took ahold of myself, thus I think her presence was slowing down my labor too.

I’m proud of myself and how I handled the pain until my midwife, Jewell, walked in the room.  I developed several coping techniques on the drive and felt in control (as much as you can be when your body is really the one in control) and relaxed during some significant pains. 

This is a contrast to how I felt I handled my first birth, when I was completely panicky from the pain and the startling surprise that I needed to hightail it to the hospital or else have my baby in my home or car.  Homebirth would be great, but not an unplanned one for my husband to deliver. 

My caregivers have told me after both of my births that homebirth would be a great option for me.

So I was handling and coping well.  But when Jewell came in, the contraction that I felt made me completely lose it.  Three contractions came one on top of the other, and I’d never felt anything like  that during my first birth or up until that point.

I honestly believe that because my body had been holding back on having the baby until I was safe that I either dilated a few centimeters in a matter of moments with those contractions or they at least pushed the baby farther down very quickly.

I had never experience any burning with Azita’s birth, and the intense burning, which many women call the ‘ring of fire’, coupled with those mind-boggling final contractions, was something I could never have prepared myself for.

I have never freaked out like that— and that seems an understatement.  I let out a scream that I can’t even believe came from me.  You’d think someone was murdering me from what I can tell I must have sounded like.

I wondered if Azita had heard me and was upset.  That probably didn’t help me to focus on what I was supposed to be doing.

I was lying on my back on the bed  and my husband, the midwife, and nurse were all there, speaking calmly, asking me if I wanted to change positions.

They were calm but I was drawing within myself, in a way that was not productive.  It was like everyone was speaking Greek and my mind was retreating into itself, because I was completely unable to cope with that amount of pain.  Azita’s birth was fast and intense, but not overwhelming.

I was breathing raggedly, trying to control it to make the pain go away, trying to make sense of the midwife telling me that turning on my side might ease the pain.  Which I knew, intellectually, was completely true.  Every contraction I’ve ever felt while lying flat on my back was much worse than in another position.

I couldn’t do anything but sit there and stare through my husbands face—I was looking at him but unable to focus.

I couldn’t cope with moving, pushing or anything I was being asked to do.  In my mind at the time, this lasted an eternity.  In reality, the midwife told me my “freakout”, as I think of it, lasted about 5 minutes.  I finally remembered that the only way to make the pain stop would be to push out the baby. 

It helped that I got the midwife I like the best.  I told my husband earlier that week that she would be my first choice.  She remains incredibly calm and soothing even when you are screaming your head off, which I like.  I don’t want someone telling me what to do, but gentle guidance is okay.  I needed to find my own way and bring myself back into what I needed to do, and she let that happen.

And then the nurse, Ellen, reminded me to push ‘like you’re going to the bathroom’, and that was concrete enough for me to wrap my freaking out little head around! 

The pain of course didn’t go away immediately, but after about ten minutes of pushing, Ada Violet was born.

I was calm, she was calm, laying on my chest, the intensity of the birth over with. 

I got to hold her while the midwife did one small stitch, and, thanks to some perineal massage while pushing, which at the time I did not appreciate at all, I am sitting here at 6 days postpartum walking normally and feeling like my body will be back to its old self in a week or two. 

Who doesn’t want that after 9 long months of pregnancy?

No one took her away from me for hours after the birth and it was perfect.  It was nothing like a hospital birth.

It was exactly as I wanted. 


A book on childbirth and pain that I read while pregnant cited a study which found that a woman’s satisfaction with her birth was not necessarily related to how she rated her pain.  Many women who used epidurals reported high dissatisfaction with their birthing experience, while many who used no pain medications reported high levels of satisfaction.

This I can fully understand.  After Azita’s birth, I swore I’d never do it again.  It was stressful and I felt traumatized and afraid to give birth again.

After Ada’s birth, with worse pain so that I completely lost it, I feel that I could endure a natural childbirth again without reservations.

And it all has to do with the environment of the birth and my caregivers, not the pain.

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