Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Natural Childbirth Story

This is the story of the birth of my first daughter.  It happened in Cleveland, but it could have been anywhere as long as I had had such a supportive team there cheering me on until the end.  I'm very happy to share it here for your reading pleasure.

Around 1am very early Tuesday May 6th, 2008 I started having contractions that woke me up about every half an hour.  I knew they were pretty bad, but kept sleeping in between the contractions because I knew that I would need my strength for what was coming.  I started to write down the timing of the contractions, and they started to get closer together.  Around 4am they were getting so strong and close together that I couldn’t sleep between them.  I knew I had an appointment at the midwife that morning.  I thought that if I could just hold out until 8am to get my progress checked, then I would be fine.  I sat on my exercise ball at the end of our bed and put my head down on the bed between contractions.  I kept letting Andy sleep through most of it, only squeezing his hand a few times during the contractions when I thought I needed to.  By 7:30am, my contractions were really regular, strong, and about 10 minutes apart.  Andy stopped and got me a bagel on the way and I only could eat about half of it.  We made it to the midwife’s office to be checked, and I was 5-6cm dilated.  She called the midwife who was on call, and we were in luck.  That was when we found out that my favorite midwife would be the one to attend the delivery!!  I was elated!!! 
We walked for a while around the hospital and slowly made our way over to Labor & Delivery where we were met by Jen—the midwife.  She had called ahead and reserved the room with the birthing tub in it!  As soon as possible, I got in it!  My friend Amy, our birth support person and a future doula, came with great music for us and loads of relaxation stuffs too.  With gentle samba music playing in the background and Amy rubbing my hands with lotion, I was rather calm.  Yes, the contractions were getting worse & closer together, but the bath was so warm and nice that it really helped me stay relaxed.  I was also relaxed because Jen was able to stay in the room almost the entire time with us.  She kept talking to me and really helped me to remember how exciting it all was instead of getting all wrapped up in the pain.  After about 2 hours, I got out of the tub so that she could check my progress again.  I was already 9cm dilated, and my water still hadn’t broken.  Jen talked to me about breaking my water to speed up the process, and even though I had been against it before this all got under way, I agreed that it was a good idea.  She actually had trouble breaking the bag of waters; it took her three tries with that huge crochet hook looking thingy.  It was then that we realized that the bed in the room was not a “birthing bed”.  There were no stirrups, no handlebars, no birthing bar, and the bottom didn’t drop down.  Jen had to sit at the end of the bed to catch the baby.  Not really the biggest thing on my mind at the time, but it had to be sucky for Jen. 
Finally it was time to push, and I was tired.  I was also in loads of pain and not so sure that I was up for all that pushing that I still had to do.  If you know me, however, you know how stubborn I am and that I was not going to budge on my plan to stay drug-free!  I tried every position that I had read about to see which one was going to work for me.  I stayed on the bed at first and tried to be on all fours, then modified that by sitting up to hold the back of the bed.  That wasn’t so great, so I got up out of bed to try standing, then partial and full squatting while gripping a chair.  I got back in bed and was on my back again, even though that’s exactly how I didn’t want to be.  I crossed my wrists, leaned forward, and pulled on Dr. F who had joined us in the room just before I started pushing.  ((Side note: Dr. F was actually really great and I would totally recommend her to anyone who didn’t want to use the midwives!))  I actually pulled the doctor so hard that she ended up bent over the bed.  I pushed a few more times in that position, but holding Andy’s hands instead of the doctor’s.  Finally, I turned onto my side and that was the one that worked for me!  Throughout all the position changing I kept pushing with everything I had.  I thought I was being really vocal, but apparently Amy thought I was being scientology silent.  I do remember someone telling me to focus my energy down below instead of letting it go out of my mouth with my screams.  I also remember thinking that I was pushing the baby out of my perineum instead of my vagina!  I was super annoyed with the nurse because every time I stopped pushing, she had to stick the fetal monitor (aka: machinethat goes ping) onto my gut to check the baby’s heart rate.  I really wanted to yell at her to get the heck out of there!!
“Open” was my mantra at the very end of it all, and I was happy to feel the burning of stretching skin because I knew it was almost over then.  They asked me if I wanted a mirror to look at the head when it was crowning, but I didn’t want to see my business in such a stretched out bloody mess state.  I did put my hand down there to feel all the hair on her head though.  A few more pushes and she was out and I was absolutely amazed and overwhelmed and feeling a million things all at once.  The midwife announced, “It’s a girl”, and at 2:17pm we were officially parents of a 7 lb 19 inch baby that we named Annika Susan.  Annika’s cord was actually wrapped around her neck twice and in a knot near her belly, though she never showed any signs of distress.  She scored 9s on both of her APGARs, which is great according to what the doctors say.  As Jen was delivering my placenta, I was bleeding more than usual, so she talked to me about getting a shot of Pitocin to slow/stop it.  I got the shot, and then after they weighed and measured Annika they brought her back and I fed her right away which also helped.  I did not enjoy the abdominal massage that they gave me afterwards to help my uterus start the shrinking process, especially since breastfeeding Annika had already kicked in the cramps to help it shrink.    
We stayed in the hospital until Thursday at noon, and had a really great experience overall.  Annika stayed in the room with us except for a couple trips to the nursery to get some tests and baths.  She was doing really well latching on to nurse there too.  Several of our friends came to visit us there and brought Annika some beautiful flowers and adorable stuffed toys too.  The best part of the hospital: the room service type food menu!  How often do you hear about how great the hospital food was?  There was quite the extensive menu to order from and the food was actually REALLY great!  Mucho props to the food service there!  It was pretty great that Andy could eat with me all the time by ordering a guest meal which only cost $5.  I appreciated that too!  My only complaint from the stay: the horrific chair that Andy was forced to sleep in for the two nights we were there.  It was busted; it wouldn’t lie all the way down, and they didn’t have another to replace it.  Apparently they kept breaking, getting sent out for repair, and never returning.  Needless to say, Andy was ├╝ber-happy to return to our comfortably flat mattress at home. 

Here we are 6 months afterward, living it up in Berlin, Germany for a month. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Birth Intervention - Induction Story

It goes without saying that inductions have rapidly increased compared to previous years. I’ve often heard (even with my own pregnancy), “Oh when are they taking you?” Taking me? Taking me where? This statement is in reference to, “When are you going to be induced?” We now live in a world where it is almost expected for a women to have her labor induced for convenience or out of a doctor’s claim of necessity. I was induced with my first daughter. I thought it was totally normal and I was ready to get that baby O-U-T. Classic induction underway at 6AM arrival, rupture membranes, wait wait wait, epidural, push push push, BABY! This is very typical for an induction, you go to the hospital, they start your pitocin (synthetic oxytocin), and you get waves of heavy hard hitting contractions that are much stronger than natural ones. My doctor felt that I needed my water broken to speed things along and that just made the contractions stronger than before! I opted for an epidural and pushed for 45 minutes at the instruction of nurses. Fast forward to my second labor, I naturally went into labor at 3AM and the contractions were totally tolerable! I was thinking, “Oh man this is going to be a sinch!” I labored for hours with the help of my doula and honestly said out loud, “When does it get bad?” Little had I known I was already transitioning into my final phase of labor and had hardly even realized it! For 9 months I had been so afraid of labor due to my previous experience and I was delighted to find out that it was nothing compared to induction.

I had prepared myself to decline and resist induction for my second child; it was my pregnancy and I was happily in control of it (for the most part, you can’t rush perfection, you know?). I surrounded myself with women who encouraged me to appreciate my last days of pregnancy when I was so ready to just be done and hold my baby. I reminded myself during tough days that when my body and baby were ready, my labor would begin. As women we mustn’t put a timer on our bodies and babies. Your due date is an estimate, not an expiration! One of my main goals is to help equip women with the knowledge and confidence to let their bodies labor as intended and to help them make the best decision for themselves when faced with the suggestion of induction.

*There are, however, very appropriate times for induction and some are medically necessary; each woman should take into consideration her specific situation.

Risks of Inducing Labor
  • First-time mothers have approximately twice the likelihood of a c-section if induced as compared with spontaneous labor.
  • Induced labors can be more painful.
  • Induced labors cause the need for more interventions (IVs, continuous fetal monitoring, etc.)
  • Induced labors can cause problems such as uterine hyperstimulation (which can cause fetal distress).
  • Women are left believing that their bodies are not able to birth a baby.
  • Induced labor is often more traumatic on fetuses because the strength of the contractions are unnaturally strong.

    written by Abby Curtis

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Birth in TV and Movies pt 1: What to Expect When You're Expecting.

This is the start of a series of posts featuring shows and movies from a variety of different genres. I made a point to choose shows and movies outside of what I normally like, though I did include quite a few sci-fi shows in my to-watch list. The first movie up for critique is What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It had a lot of potential to be a great movie, but the plot fell extremely short. Like the pregnancy book, the movie was mediocre. The film is your typical rom com, insert a few births, and boy gets girl; though I digress, a movie review isn’t the point. I want to examine the important bits, the births.

What to Expect follows five couples through their pregnancies. Jules and Evan are both TV stars. Rosie and Marco are rival food truck owners who become pregnant after a hookup. Wendy is an author of a breast feeding book and her husband, Gary, is the son of a race car driver whose much younger trophy wife, Skyler, is pregnant with twins. Holly and Alex are in the process of adoption after several failed in vitro fertilization attempts.

The book does cover a wide range of topics and the characters in the movie mirrored the different birthing outcomes and methods. The movie covered loss, cesarean birth, vaginal unmedicated twin birth, a natural singleton birth, and an adoption. Though quite a few ways to birth and start a family were left out.

The character Rosie experienced a miscarriage fairly early in the movie. Loss is a very real part of pregnancy for many women, so including that in the movie was excellent. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding pregnancy loss, so having that in the film is a step toward creating more understanding of the parts of pregnancy and birth that do not have a happy outcome. Losing a pregnancy is earth shattering and can ravage the most stable of relationships so it was unsurprising that Rosie and Marco did not stay together after the loss, though more time should have been spent showing how they each coped with the loss. These two were also victims of the rom com "boy gets girl in the end" plot.

Jules and Evan, the TV couple, had an unexpected pregnancy. Their biggest issue seemed to be to circumcise or not to circumcise (my opinion of that will be left for another blog). She was a workaholic type as she had her own fitness show. Having a fit and healthy pregnancy is a wonderful idea, but her character made a remark about how she would have difficulty teaching people to lose weight while she was getting “fat." That statement is absolutely disgusting! Pregnant women don’t just “get fat." The weight gained during the average pregnancy is extra blood, the placenta,a little fat, amniotic fluid, and, of course, the most important part- the baby! So no, a woman does not simply “get fat” during pregnancy, she is, after all, making a human. She did plan to have a natural birth. When the time came she progressed very normally, though none of the birth scenes really showed the length of time a birth really takes. Most women are not ready to give birth a short time after arriving at the hospital, which is a big misconception people have about birth. The best thing about Jules and Evan’s birth scene was that she used a squat bar. The squat bar is an amazing tool for laboring mothers. Squatting allows the baby to move down more efficiently as the body is not working against gravity, plus it allows up to ten percent more dilation. That’s a whole additional centimeter, folks! Jules did end up pushing on her back, which was disappointing, but not shocking. She had her natural birth and the best part was there was no need for the circumcision debate to continue, since she had a surprise girl.

Wendy and Gary became pregnant after two years of trying. Her thunder was soon stolen by her very young mother in law, Skyler, who was pregnant with twins at the same time. Skyler seemingly unintentionally one upped Wendy throughout their pregnancies. Wendy was gassy and developed quite a bit of acne and Skyler was energetic and looked as well as she felt. Wendy still looked great, which isn’t always the case for pregnant women. Viewers didn’t see her pimples or even hear any farts for that matter. She did look a bit rough after she wet her pants or her water broke, it was hard to tell which happened, there was too much of Rebel Wilson’s character, Janice, making noise to focus on what was happening. Being the baby guru, she was aiming for a natural birth, but after laboring for a while she wasn’t handling contractions well and opted for an epidural. What none of the mothers in the movie had was a doula. I have to add that having a labor support person can greatly reduce the need for pain medication. After laboring a while with the epidural, Wendy’s doctor came in and informed her that she needs a cesarean. She didn’t want a c-section and protested and mentioned a birth plan. Birth plans are excellent, but a supportive provider who will honor a birth plan is equally important. Although her cesarean appeared to be necessary; according to the doctor, the baby’s heartbeat wasn’t where it should have been. I won’t over examine the whys and the why nots here. Wendy’s cesarean was fairly typical and her delirium from the anesthesia was really accurately portrayed. After my own cesarean, I distinctly remember remarking how the trees were dancing. Also the risk of cesarean was shown to some degree. Wendy lost a lot of blood in surgery and had to spend a lot of time being repaired. The problem was downplayed, but I am glad that it wasn’t shown as an “easy” experience as so many people believe about c-sections.

In contrast, Gary’s stepmother had a very easy pregnancy and labor. She was very easy going and positive the whole time. She bounced on the birthing ball for most of labor and even sneezed the first baby out. It was refreshing to see a vaginal twin birth. It is so common to assume a c-section is the best way to birth twins, but evidence supports that simply isn’t the case. As with all of the movie birth scenes the third stage of labor wasn’t shown at all. Boom, baby born, that is all. With Skyler the first baby was born and a short time later the second baby came. Where on earth did the placenta go? Am I the only person on earth who wandered about that?

Last but not least we have Holly and Alex, a couple who is in the process of adoption. They tried to have biological children but were unable to. Starting a family can happen in so many ways, which is why it was great that this couple was featured in What to Expect. They had had typical ups and downs that all parents have when expecting a baby. Their adoption came through much sooner than expected, which was quite the intro into parenthood. All parents have surprises and challenges, so it made sense to add a few bumps in the road in the movie for this couple. Becoming a parent is a journey and Holly and Alex made a big one, all the way to Ethiopia. They finally met their son and became a family on the trip.

In general What to Expect is not my cup of tea. I decided to watch it for this series so I could get a better idea of what the average mainstream person would watch and/or believe about birth. I don’t normally recommend the what to expect books to my birth clients. My go-to books are Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin and Your Best Birth by Ricki Lake. Birth Story and The Business of Being Born are the films that I recommend if someone is looking for specific birth related movies. The upside about the What to Expect When You’re Expecting is it showed a variety of ways to give birth and included natural birth. If I skipped straight to the birth scenes the movie wouldn’t have been half bad.

Stay tuned for more TV and movie birth blogs. Up next: Star Trek! If you have a suggestion for a birth scene for me to watch email it to: doulagroupofevansville@gmail.com

Written by Candice Beck

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Top 10 Reasons to Hire a Labor Doula

1. You want to give birth normally, without the use of medication or unnecessary interventions.

2. You want someone who is experienced and trained to help manage your labor pain. (Epidurals are not administered immediately and sometimes do not work properly.)

3. You've heard about the research on doulas and want the benefit of having one present.

4. You want someone knowledgeable present at all times to ask questions and explain your options. (The nurses and doctors will be in and out of the room.)

5. You want someone to act as an advocate for your and your partner's wishes.

6. You've experienced a traumatic or negative birth with prior children.

7. You're a single mother or your partner is out of town (for example in the military service).

8. You're trying for a VBAC (vaginal birth after cecarean).

9. You want someone present who can provide physical or emotional support, if the father cannot be present or participate for religious reasons.

10. You want someone to help the father participate more fully in the birth, to take pictures or video, and to deal with family and friends.

**This list is from Rachel Gurevich's The Doula Advantage, links have been added by the Doula Group of Evansville.**

Looking for a doula in the Evansville area?  We're here for you!