Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Woman! You ain' t nothing special!

Birth is nothing special. Any mammal can do it. Just because you got knocked up doesn't make you a goddess and it certainly doesn't matter that you were crazy enough to have the kid without medication.

That quote speaks volumes to me. It's not exactly verbatim, meaning I actually left out the more offensive stuff (if you can believe that), but that's the gist of it. It's an attitude that I keep running into and the really disturbing part is that like the quote above, a lot of it is coming from women. Aside from the fact that some woman would have the audacity to tell me (or any other woman), that my birth experiences are nothing special, I find it tremendously sad that she would feel that way about her own.

It seems to me that this push to devalue birth has reached a fever pitch and is part of a greater problem. There are misogynistic undertones to almost every debate made against natural birth, even when the debater is female. There is a scene in Business of Being Born where one of the doctors interviewed equated natural birth to "feminist machoism" (whatever the hell that means)and that he "frankly, didn't see the need for it". I can not tell how incredibly offended I was by that statement, not to mention shocked that it's not referenced more in the more "feminist" circles as the exact reason many men have NO BUSINESS in the realm of birth. But of course I shouldn't be shocked because like I said, many women feel the same way he does.

Where does these attitudes come from? Is the disregard for the process and act of birth a direct correlation to the disregard of women in this culture? When we are told our choices in birth don't matter and our accomplishments in birth aren't special, the underlying message is, we as women don't matter and we are not special. When you think back on the way obstetrics was practiced long ago and even now it's quite hard not to see a correlation. Misogyny, gender inequality, sexism are deeply ingrained in our culture, and so how can it not take root in one of the most powerful thing that sets us apart from men?

It saddens me to see these attitudes in women. It reminds me how effectively we've been pitted against each other. We are constantly seeking to invalidate each others choices, especially when it comes to birth. Whether it be vaginal or surgical. Pain-med free or epidural. VBAC or Repeat Cesarean. Each time we argue and belittle these choices, we forget the very meaning of choice and we devalue our sisters as a whole. Nothing, however, is worst than telling a woman that birth in and of itself is not special. Though it's been liken to any other physiological function (like shitting - an analogy I've really come to detested), it's not. It's by far one of the most complex and still in many ways mysterious physiological functions. We should all marvel at the fact that any conception is made and once made "sticks". The odds are usually against us. Then when it comes time to birth our babies, an even bigger miracle happens. We still do not know everything about why labor is started, but we do know that mother and child work together to achieve the goal of birth. When left alone and barring complications, it's a very harmonious dance between mother and child. It matters, how a woman is treated during this time. It matters how the child (both unborn and born) is treated.

Think about this: Without birth, our species can not survive. How we view birth is very telling about how we view life itself. Do you feel each life is special? If you are pro-life, then birth and how it unfolds should be special to you. If you are pro-choice, then choices in birth should be important to you. If you are against the death penalty because you value life, then how it's treated in the beginning should be of value and special. If you are a feminist, choice is one of the most holiest of words. How can you devalue another woman's? Birth is a very powerful thing and that makes it special. Women are the only one's capable of birthing a human child and so that is one of the many things makes us special. However, even if you choose not to birth or can not birth a child, birth is still special too you, because you were once born. If you've adopted, that child was once born. Let's stop denying our power as women and the importance birth. How our species thrives and survives depends on it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Birth Story of Simone! My wonderful home birth!

On January 18th of this year, just after midnight I started feeling my first rushes. Initially, I didn't think much of them. Even though I was "overdue" I really thought I feel a few rushes, go to sleep and wake up the next day still pregnant, ready to go about my day. Part of that was true.

After about 35 minutes I started to feel like something was happening. I wanted to get really excited, but I also wanted to rest too. It's a strange feeling, being up that late with those surge of emotions running through you. It's a surreal feeling. After an hour I decided that I would tell my boyfriend and mother (she was in town, waiting on the baby to arrive) that I may actually be going into labor soon. The birthing tub was in my 2½yr old's room and I needed that placed in the front room, as well as few other arrangements. Once those things were done, I told myself I would tell the midwives what was up, let them know I might be calling them back and then catch some shut eye!

Three hours later my rushes were still coming, but not progressing and I finally began to feel sleepy again. By 4:30am I started to drift off to sleep, being awaken every 20minutes by rushes. By 6am, after six hours, they'd stopped altogether. That morning I made some breakfast, saw my 5yr old off to school, watched television with my mother and felt a mix of emotions. I was slightly disappointed that I wasn't in labor yet, but still amazingly calm and patient. For the last part of my pregnancy I was blessed with a calm knowing that things will unfold as they were meant too. My baby would come when it was time and the fact that I wasn't in labor yet just meant it wasn't time. I wasn't going to rush anything!

By 11:30am I started feeling some twinges. Nothing big, just what I like to call a hint of labor. I had things to do so I decided if labor was coming, it would make itself known soon enough. I went on with my to-do list. By 1 pm my rushes got my attention. I called my midwife again and let her know what I was feeling. No big deal, just letting you know, yada, yada, yada. She told me to keep updating her and enjoy my day. My son got out of school at 3:35pm and by the time it was getting close to get him, my rushes were getting stronger and closer together. It felt, quite frankly, wonderful! I was excited and filled with adrenalin. My mother was with me. My boyfriend had been getting things ready. I was at home and we didn't know what sex our baby was. It was like Christmas. Everyone who was anyone was hoping for a girl, just because I already had 3 boys and so was I. Either way, I was having my beautiful baby...be it a Miles Christopher or Simone Renee!

I called my midwife and said I think maybe you should come over. She was already on her way to another birth and told me I had great timing considering where she was on the road! So she arranged for the other head midwife and student midwife to be at that birth and she would bring the other student midwife to mine. I decided to really test my labor by going to pick up my son. I thought with all the walking, if my rushes still felt strong, I would know for sure if this was it. Needless to say, it was :-). I called my doula and told her to come over and a dear friend who would update a cheering squad online as well.

By the time I got back home my rushes were strong and steady, maybe about 6-7minutes apart. I didn't bother with timing them too much after a while. I got out the birthing ball, stripped down to a tank top and underwear and rotated from straddling the ball to kneeling with chest across the ball. Both positions felt wonderful. My mother spent most of this time siting close by and we chatted. I can not classify what I was feeling as pain, just intense feelings in my abdomen. My boys played in the room together and from time to time got loud enough to where my mom would go in a remind them that I was working to get the baby out. They were fine though. They weren't a distraction at all. I thrive on the normalcy of it all. Chatting with my mom, Rick (my boyfriend) working on his computer in the office, poking his head in from time to time, the kids playing in the room, fussing, laughing, being silly. It all felt so right, so perfect. And me, straddling the birthing ball or kneeling, feeling these wonderful sensations! It made me feel so powerful and so alive. I kept thinking about how my mother once birthed me, and I birthed the two little boys playing in the other room and life goes on. It's surreal and humbling and wonderful.

Around 5:00pm or so, I started feeling pressure in my bottom with the rushes. I started to get a warm sensation as well and for a minute or two thought this might be an unassisted birth if my midwives didn't show up soon. However, at just a little after 5:30pm there was a knock at the door and it was them. They weren't even completely inside yet before I had another rush came and pressure, then pop! My water broke. I heard myself saying: My water just broke! And then they were quickly there, helping me get something under me to save my carpet and getting my underwear off. Good thing I had them on, because very little fluid got on my carpet :-).

After that, I sat rocking on the ball as they filled up my tub and we all chatted. The rushes were stronger, but still not painful. I briefly considered being checked (up until now I'd not been, not during my prenatals or anything), but realized that was remnants of the medical procedures creeping in my mind. There was really no need and I certainly didn't want to ever be put in the supine position. As soon as that tub was filled I got in and didn't get out again until after the baby was born.

The water felt so calming. It was where I belonged. Shortly after getting in my doula arrived and from that point I felt completely taken care of. I felt like the birthing part was my job and the job of everyone else was making sure I didn't want for anything during the birth. My mother made sure the boys didn't get too loud. My doula got me whatever I needed, my midwives were really just there. They rubbed my back a few times, listened in on the baby a few times, but mostly we all chatted when I wanted to chat and everyone was extremely quiet when they sensed I needed it and they had great senses. As it got darker, candles were light to keep the lighting dim and my rushes got stronger and closer together still, but again, I can never say it was painful. I did feel like my whole body was electrified. My senses were heightened. Everything felt hyper-real!

As my rushes got stronger, so did my focus. I let my body float in the water at times, other times getting into the hands and knees positions. Again, both positions felt right and I loved having the freedom of movement to decide which was most comfortable and efficient at the time!
With each rush I would let the tension go, again using water, but also allowing my mind and heart to embrace what I perceive as the true nature of the sensations. I was opening up, letting go, and allowing my body to do what it needed to do. In one very crystallized moment I realized that if I stay out of my bodies way, opening up my heart and mind to the process, it would be okay. I did just that and each time I let go, the sensations became at times almost pleasurable. Intense, always, but I never felt the need cry out in pain. I oohed, I aahed, at one point I even cooed and the sensations of that vocalization coupled with my rushes further electrified my body.

I could feel pressure building in me and eventually I knew the time to push was coming soon. This in between moment was to me the most unpleasant part of my birth only because I began to get nauseous. As soon as that passed and my doula got me something to drink and gum to chew, I felt fine again. Then the strong undeniable urge to push came. I didn't fight the urge at all, but instead relaxed my bottom to give into it. In my mind, I told myself I would lie back, let my body take over and gently allow my baby to be born. My body had other ideas. A strong wave came over me, all but forcing me to grunt and go primal, I think I called out it was time to push, and with that I quickly got back to the hands/knees positions.

I grunted loudly and it felt divine. It was fast and furious, but I had time to hear in the distance my 2½year son slightly freaking out and saying, "tell mom to stop making that noise". Even in the middle of that, hearing that grown-up tone in his voice made me crack up on the inside. I know I cracked a smile, but it didn't last long as the baby quickly crowned, then out popped the head. I didn't feel that burning sensation, but I did feel the stretching. She was completely out shortly there after and Rick was handing her to me, under water, through my legs.

The initial feeling of relief took over me, and then almost immediately I felt like I was drugged. I felt so high. The world melted away and it was only me and Simone. Oxytocin is a wonderful and powerful thing! It felt like forever before I got out of the tub. I just held my little girl, thinking of how maybe one day I will be able to share in her moment of birth like this. It made my heart swell up. Thoughts of her and her three brothers ran through my head as well. I could not have imagined a more perfect birth. It was 8:03pm.

My boys came in to meet their sister at that time, but this part is a blur because like I said, the world had melted away. Afterwards, Simone and I hung out on the couch, waiting for her cord to stop pulsating and the placenta to be born. I breastfed her for the first time and felt even higher. I love breastfeeding and had been secretly missing it as my 2yr old self weaned very shortly after his 2nd birthday! My mother and midwife surprised me with cake, fruit, and cheese. A wonderful after birth snack and I ate while Simone breastfed and we chatted a bit. No one touched my baby but me for what seemed like hours and hours, but in reality was probably 40-45minutes. I'm not sure. I just know it was shortly after the placenta was born.

We marveled at her true knot in the cord, took pictures, her weight, 8lbs 5oz, and the midwives gave her a thorough, yet quick evaluation and then she was back in my arms. I don't even think my mother held her for hours and hours after her birth. It was perfection, even the postpartum.

After the midwives left and the boys were put to bed, I spent time just staring at my baby. I hung out with her, just two of us. Eventually mom came in and hung out with us too and for the first time I felt a strong female connection to my mother I'd not experienced before, not even with the birth of my sons. It was three generations of women laying in my bed and I'd just birthed one of them. It was a very powerful and defining moment for me. I felt overwhelmed and calmed by that moment at the same time. I was so incredibly happy to be sharing it in my own home, surrounded by the people I love. Sleeping in my bed that night was a cherry on the top of a wonderful cake!

Here is a link to all the wonderful pictures my doula took at the birth!

Why I've been afraid to share my home birth.

Before I write this post I want to make you all aware that I may ramble a bit. This is more reflection than anything, but I feel compelled to share it. If, and I am sure it does, it fails to follow the usually blog writing rules, so be it.

When I birthed my baby this past January I thought I'd be dying to write about the birth and share it with everyone I knew, but it's been five months and I've yet to really share it with anyone. Yes, I've given a few details here and there to a few choice people, but something has been holding me back from really putting the experience out there. I've been telling myself, it's being busy with my work, research, four kids but the truth is it's been fear. I've been fearful of sharing it for two reasons: I've been worried what affect my birth story might have on others and I've been concerned about negative feedback.

If you know me, those fears probably sound crazy to you. I am after all the woman very fond of using the quote: "Opinions are like assholes; every one has one and they are usually full of shit". Yet here I am, fearful of sharing my story. The really crazy thing is I am beyond proud of my birth. I am extremely happy with it, as it was the best birth I've had and I think that is the big problem. For you see, I am not afraid of scaring other women with a horror story of a birth, but instead somehow shaming them or worse, giving them false hope with a story of what was in my mind a perfect birth. I know, I know it's ridiculous. First off, nothing I can say or do regarding my birth experience can cause shame in anyone. If there is shame, it's already there, it comes from within. I strongly believe in this, but somehow that notion still had a hold of my heart. The idea that something other than good, positive feelings could come from sharing my birth just held me back.

So we come to the false hope part. When I stepped out of the fake illumination of denial and really allowed myself to address why I hadn't shared my story, the idea that I felt this way horrified me on many levels. If I really thought that sharing my wonderful story would be perceived as giving some women false hope, what did that mean? Could it be that deep down I didn't believe in home birth (or natural birth) as much as I thought? No, that wasn't it. It's a different issue. I believe that somewhere deep inside, I was worried that sharing my birth was wrong because I might be hurting the feelings of women who can not do what I did. Then I also wrestled with the idea that somehow I may even be bragging.

I've seen this fear when other women share their stories. It manifests in the "if's", "and" and "butts". How many times have you read a wonderfully inspiring story, but at the same time see it qualified by the author with the "I know not every woman can", or "natural birth isn't for everyone". Worst still is the comments that often follow the story of those women who want to defend their births that are different than the one they read about: "But if I'd birthed at home my baby would have died", "I had to have a c-section, epidural, pitocin, because...".

So where did these feelings come from? Is it a need to sugarcoat things? Be political correct? Or is it bigger. Is it a part of the fear indoctrination culturally ingrained that surrounds birth. Is there a part of me that feels lucky that I birthed my baby at home and everything was okay? I really feel deep inside that isn't case, but I can't deny that I've felt afraid to share. Maybe I am just being a control freak by wanting everyone to feel inspired by reading my story. I can live with that explanation. It's very silly of me, but what the hell, nobody is perfect. Whatever the case, I threw the shackles on myself, and so I can remove them. I am proud of my home birth. I will not qualify any of it with any kind of warning or disclosure. I will share it because I was inspired by others stories and I want to do the same. I will share it because I want to make my mark in the world of home birth advocacy. I will share it because I am proud. I will share in hopes that other ladies will also share their experiences as well. Good or bad. It's how we learn. It's how we grow!

My birth story can be viewed here.