Positive Birth News

birth stories, news and articles to encourage and inspire


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Birth leaves an imprint on mothers for life

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Wise words from Justine Caines OAM in the foreword for Birth Journeys. The moment of birth and the hours and days that lead up to it are dismissed by many in our society including mothers.

While the Birth Journeys book steers clear of birth politics as much as possible and leaves it to each reader to draw their conclusions and make their own well informed choices, there is a clear message from Justine’s foreword that is carried throughout the book – through the introduction, birth stories, story editorials and information pages: “birth matters and how you feel matters – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

You only need to ask your mother, your aunty, or your grandmother about her births to see the impact birth has had on her. Even as she denies the importance of birth and comments that she doesn’t know what all the fuss is about, the emotional and mental impact of her birth experiences is written on her face and betrayed in her voice. A family member told me she didn’t see why people thought birth mattered so much…and then went on to share her birth stories. She spoke of pain, frustration, fear and pressure put on her, the sense that she had failed and couldn’t give birth. Her feelings of disappointment and anger were still strong more than 40 years after her first birth.

How do you have a positive birth? One that leaves a positive imprint on you? A good place to start is reading the journeys of other women who have been able to have positive births to see what is possible and learn from their stories.

Birth Journeys contains 29 detailed, beautiful and powerful positive birth stories chosen with input from midwives, doulas and mothers to be. It also includes information from Australia’s midwives, doctors, doulas and birth educators including Assoc Prof Hannah Dahlen, Dr Sarah Buckley and midwife/academic Rachel Reed.

The latest special is 50% OFF the ebook until Jan 2nd 2014. Download the ebook from www.birthjourneys.com.au for just $7.50 AU.

What if you are reeling from a bad birth? A “bad” birth may look “normal” or “good” from the outside while on the inside it has left you feeling sorrow, pain, disappointment, anger, guilt or hurt in some way. Birth trauma can be from any kind of birth where you have felt frightened, unsupported, in danger, unheard, or violated. If a mother is hurt or cut down in the process then the birth outcome is not optimal.

Reading stories of women who have healed from bad experiences, or who have explored their feelings as they have prepared for a more positive and empowering birth next time is helpful for many women. The message of Birth Journeys is “YES your feelings are valid. And healing is possible. You don’t have to feel this way forever.” You may have been let down by carers who did not keep you feeling safe, loved, respected and heard. You may have been set up for a negative birth by our culture of fear of birth and denial that birth is important for parents as well as babies. You may have been let down by a system of care that failed to provide the best care for you as an individual. Whatever reasons or lessons are revealed by your story, a different story is possible next time. Birth Journeys shares many stories from women who have walked this path too – each with a sensitively written introduction so you can pick and choose the best stories for you.

A good place to begin your journey to healing and a positive birth next time is talking to Melissa and Debby from www.birthtalk.org and getting hold of their book “How to Heal a Bad Birth” when it comes out soon. Melissa and Debby also wrote a piece for the Birth Journeys book on how to heal from a traumatic birth.

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Failure to Progress or Failure to Wait?

Failure to Progress and Preparing for a VBAC

For most mammals birth seems to be fairly straightforward. They seek a safe and private place to birth in the middle of the night. Some choose to birth alone and others have ‘midwife mammals’ by their side. If there is danger they either have a speedy birth or stall labour until there is another safe opportunity.

For humans, it seems far more challenging. We have to feel safe in our environment, safe with the people around us, and safe with the physical and emotional process that is taking us over. We have learnt to fear birth with our minds and hearts, yet nature requires us to feel safe in order to give birth. Sometimes ‘failure to progress’ is the result of this struggle.

‘Failure to progress’ is one of the common reasons given for a caesarean during labour. This label is a blanket term for times where contractions have slowed or paused, dilation has gone backwards, or contractions are continuing but the baby is making no further progress towards birth. Women’s stories suggest that the label ‘failure to progress’ is often used when their labour has taken several days, or simply longer than expected or allowed by policy.

There are many variations in labour and doctors and midwives face the task of judging when medical assistance is needed and when all that is needed is patience. No one wants an adverse outcome, however in the rush to keep birth safe, some mothers and babies are hurried into treatment for an emergency that just does not exist. Some caesarean births due to failure to progress are actually caesareans due to impatience and failure to wait.

“After 50 hours of intense labour, I had a caesarean.

I haemorrhaged and my uterus collapsed requiring manual internal manipulation to contract it back down again. I had to have the caesarean under general anaesthetic because of my previous spinal surgery – I was unconscious for the birth of my baby.

My husband was allowed into surgery to be with our baby. I’m glad of that, because I wasn’t ‘there’.

The last thing I remember was being pregnant. Next thing I knew, at least a couple of hours later, I was being wheeled up a corridor past a baby in a clear plastic crib and someone was saying, “That’s your daughter.”

It was a very surreal and disjointed experience. To this day, I still feel a gap. I don’t feel like I birthed my daughter, yet she’s gorgeous and I love her like I’ve never loved anyone or anything before.

It should not have happened this way. It was an unnecessary caesarean performed due to medical impatience with my long posterior labour. Neither my precious daughter nor myself were at risk during labour except when they intervened.”

From Jo’s VBAC story “Triumphant Birth”, in Birth Journeys – positive birth stories to encourage and inspire

The alternative response to a labour that seems to be failing to progress is to ask what obstacles are there to this birth. If a mother feels frightened, threatened, nervous, embarrassed, angry, unsupported, alone, disempowered, violated, exposed, worried, overwhelmed or any other negative feeling then this can slow her labour down and even stop her labour from progressing.

Women’s birth stories show that there are many ways to help a birthing mother to move through or let go of thoughts or influences that have made her feel unsafe or threatened if this is the cause of a slowed or stalled labour:
– a change in environment (can she leave the room, open or close the curtains, change the atmosphere if not location)
– a change in activity and pace (get moving if she has been still, be still if she has been moving)
– a challenging question (eg, what is it you are frightened of? What are you avoiding? Is she intentionally avoiding the intensity of labour mentally or physically by avoiding certain movements or positions that make her contractions more intense and more effective?)
– the removal of an unwelcome person in the room (is there an uninvited or irritating presence in the room? If it is a midwife or nurse, can you ask for a different one or buffer her from this person’s impact)
– or the inclusion of a loved and longed for person (is she missing someone special?)
a few simple encouraging words (you are made to do this, you are bringing your baby into the world, positive affirmations)
– a description of what her body is doing or needs to do (open up and let your baby come down)
– a cry (release the built up stress so she can feel ready to birth her baby)
– a reminder of the skills she has learnt and the strength she has to give birth and to be a mother (has she forgotten the birth skills she has learnt? Or is she worried that she doesn’t have the ability to be a mother to this baby?)
– some time alone (maybe she needs some quiet space to reflect and gather herself. A trip to the toilet seems to work well according to women’s experiences!)

Preparing for your next birth

It is important to understand the factors that contributed to the path of your last birth and to consider the possible impact your feelings (whether you felt safe or unsafe) had on your labour. It is wise to discuss your previous birth in detail with your chosen doctor/midwife for a birth after caesarean. Pay attention to the way your chosen carers talk about your past birth as this will tell you what you can expect from them.

If your doctor seems to blame you and your body for a failure to progress, then be wary of both the doctor and the truth of what they are saying. Keep in mind that a very, very tiny percentage of women actually have a physical reason why they cannot labour and birth vaginally and statistically you are unlikely to be this woman.

If you hear words like “Your pelvis is too small and your baby got stuck. Luckily we saved your baby’s life just in time. You’ll never be able to have a vaginal birth of course” then you can thank this carer and start looking for another! They have just revealed that they are unaware of or insensitive to the emotional issues around birth and they already believe you and your body ‘failed’. You could enquire about the evidence for their verdict or you could simply put this energy into finding a more supportive and respectful doctor first. There are ways to discuss a ‘failure to progress’ that would be more supportive, caring and respectful.

One doctor or midwife’s ‘failure to progress’ will be another’s call to action: how can I help you to feel safe enough to give birth?


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About Birth Journeys – positive birth stories to encourage and inspire

About Birth Journeys 

Birth Journeys – positive birth stories and encourage and inspire contains 29 birth stories and informative articles from Australian doctors, midwives and educators including Dr Sarah J Buckley, Prof Hannah Dahlen, Rachel Reed, David Vernon, Justine Caines OAM and the Maternity Coalition.

Birth Journeys is not a collection of ‘perfect’ birth stories. The stories in this book have been carefully selected to reflect different women, their unique journeys and their experiences of positive birth. The stories are diverse and they have been chosen to speak to different readers. Not every story will appeal to you – there may be some that you do not wish to read.

The stories in this book include: births in hospitals, birth centres and at home; vaginal births after caesarean (VBAC); a twin birth; and emergency and elective caesareans. There are: first births, second births and even fifth births; water births; and an unassisted birth. There are stories that give an insight into the experience of pregnancy and birth from a man’s perspective. The stories also show that there are many different experiences of labour: a strenuous challenge; a strong, determined fight; calm and deeply focused; a wild instinctive ride or a joyful and ecstatic trance.

In Birth Journeys, you will meet women who felt nurtured by carers, partners, family and friends during pregnancy and birth. They were celebrated and honoured. These women share the excitement and joy they felt as they anticipated their baby’s birth.

Some women carefully chose their place of birth based on their need to feel safe, private and comfortable. These women describe how important it was for them to find a carer who shared their values and beliefs about birth. Some deliberated over their choice, and others felt an immediate connection and just knew they had the right carer. Other women demonstrated open and respectful communication with carers.

There are women who spent considerable time reading and researching to educate themselves about labour and birth. They reflected on their beliefs and their past experiences. They filled their minds with affirmations and visualisations to become confident in their ability to have a positive birth.

Some women share a disappointing or traumatic first birth followed by a healing later birth. Many came from a place of fear, while a few entered pregnancy with feelings of ease and confidence. They had not been exposed to the culture of fear or a family history of birth ‘gone wrong’. For them, birth was a normal part of life.

There are women who stood firmly by their beliefs, intuition and wisdom in the face of challenges, and others who learnt the value of being flexible and willing to change. These women were graceful as their dream birth slipped away.

The stories are honest and real. They reveal the unique, deeply personal experiences of ‘everyday’ people. These women (and men) have generously shared their choices, feelings, beliefs and learnings. They have entrusted us with their precious memories.

(this is an excerpt from the Introduction to Birth Journeys)

Visit www.birthjourneys.com.au for more information or to buy your copy. We ship internationally to US, UK, NZ and Canada and Birth Journeys is also available as an ebook.

Birth Journeys is available at wholesale rates to retailers as well as other individuals and groups who would like to sell the book or include it in a package to clients or customers. These include: midwives, doulas, birth educators, birth photographers, yoga teachers, massage therapists, meditation and relaxation teachers, chiropractors, acupuncturists, wellness clinics and fundraising groups, playgroups, and friends who decide to buy together and take advantage of the wholesale price. Fill in the form to make an enquiry.


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Book Review of Birth Journeys – by Kylie Sheffield, published in Birth Matters, Journal of Maternity Coalition

“When I was pregnant with my first child, my lovely wise mum told me to be careful what I read and loaned me her treasured copy of Frederick Leboyer’s Birth Without Violence. Three babies (and four years on Birth Matters) later, the list of books I loan and recommend to pregnant friends and loved ones is extremely short. Leonie MacDonald’s Birth Journeys has just joined it.” ~ Kylie Sheffield, previous editor of Birth Matters.

Maternity Coalition Review of Birth Journeys
Maternity Coalition is a National, Not-for-profit organisation working towards better choices, care practices and access to Maternity Care in Australia, as well as education and advocacy for consumers. Find out more or join a group near you when you visit the Maternity Coalition website.