Positive Birth News

birth stories, news and articles to encourage and inspire

Inspiration – surrender and soar

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Guess what? You’re a Mammal!

Are you ready to admit you’re an animal? A mammal like a chimpanzee, a dolphin, a giraffe, an elephant or a cat?

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We have become so civilised and socialised that we go through the day forgetting we are mammals. Birth is a great leveller, because labour asks us to let go of self-consciousness and tap into our inner mammal.

I was confronted, horrified and mortified by the birth video shown in the antenatal classes at our local hospital. I don’t know why this video was considered appropriate to show a group of nervous and inexperienced adults who had never seen a real birth before – only dramas on TV. The only birth that looked like something I could handle was the one where the woman had an epidural and I had already decided I didn’t want to have a needle in my spine or risk the effects of an epidural on my labour.

Even the birth described as a ‘nice, gentle water birth’ was way too much for me. Labouring women looked sweaty and messy, their bodies were heaving, their sounds were animalistic and almost sexual. I felt like I was prying on some very private moment that I wasn’t meant to see. I certainly didn’t like the idea of behaving like this myself! It was terrifying to think of losing control like that in front of other people (this should have been a clue that I needed privacy!).

No matter how much I prepared for my first birth with reading and learning, I was still uncomfortable with the raw, animalistic nature of birth and I couldn’t imagine myself in this state. I needed to feel completely safe and unembarrassed before I could really immerse myself in labour.

During my second birth I was able to trust, relax and let go completely. The experience was powerful and pain free for me and a straightforward, safe and much faster birth for my son. I didn’t need to rehearse or learn how to give birth. It was instinctive. This is how it is for other mammals – most of the time. And this is how it may be for humans – most – but sadly not all of the time.

If you want your baby’s birth to be natural, normal and safe, then it is wise to understand and accept the nature of birth. Birth is raw, physical, animalistic and instinctive. Your mammalian body does know what to do but it needs the right conditions. You need to make sure your human self-consciousness doesn’t get in the way. To birth your baby, you need to feel safe enough and comfortable enough to let yourself move instinctively, to feel able to tear off your clothes, to moan and groan, to be loud, or to be inward, withdrawn and private, and to do whatever feels right for you. The hormones that drive labour have evolved to work when you feel safe, unobserved and willing to give yourself over to birth. The bottom line is you need to feel comfortable with being a mammal!

If you are uncomfortable watching a DVD of a woman in labour then don’t avoid them. Watch a whole lot more, but do choose your viewing wisely. Gentle natural births that show women moving around, making labour sounds, or entering into deep states of relaxation, and being supported and nurtured by carers and partners can give you a positive and realistic image of what labour can be like. Water births are probably the least confronting to begin with. Animal births may be a good way to ease yourself into watching births too.

In contrast, viewing frightening, stressful births and emergency scenarios do more harm to you than good. Don’t imagine that reality birth shows will help you prepare for an emergency, just in case one happens. The only thing that will help you in an emergency is knowing that you can trust your carers and that you will be treated with love and respect as well as medical expertise. Focus on ensuring you have that relationship of trust, respect and nurturing with your carers and supporters instead. This will serve you well, no matter how your baby is born.


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Ten Great Reasons to Choose a Doula

  1. A doula can help you have a better experience of your baby’s birth. A 2012 review of studies showed that women with continuous non-medical support throughout labour have better birth outcomes in every way.

    “Bottom line: Continuous support in labour increased the chance of a spontaneous vaginal birth, reduced intrapartum analgesia, caused no known harm, and women were more satisfied. In addition, labours were shorter, and women were less likely to have a caesarean section or instrumental vaginal birth, regional analgesia, or a baby with a low 5-minute Apgar score. There was no apparent impact on other intrapartum interventions, maternal or neonatal complications, or on breastfeeding… continuous support was most effective when provided by a woman who was neither part of the hospital staff nor the woman’s social network, and in settings in which epidural analgesia was not routinely available.From Continuous support for women during childbirth, Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C, October 17, 2012 http://summaries.cochrane.org/CD003766/continuous-support-for-women-during-childbirth#sthash.VsvNUnvh.dpuf

     

  2. A doula is an independent, educated professional who will give plenty of time to hearing you, sharing information and helping you to identify what you need and want for your journey into parenthood. A doula has usually studied pregnancy, birth, labour, how to support couples and how to be at births. An experienced doula will have knowledge and intuition.
  3. A doula can help you and your partner to understand and communicate with health professionals. A doula can offer you suggestions for how to bring up issues or ask questions. She can support and assist you and your partner to explain what you need, want and are concerned about.This is particularly helpful if you are seeking non-standard care (eg for a VBAC) or you are planning and preparing for a natural and unhindered birth. Some might even say if you are seeking a natural birth then you are automatically seeking “non-standard” care in many hospitals in Australia and the US! If the policies and practices of your place of birth are not aligned with your birth wishes then a doula will be a very good ally.
  4. A doula can give your partner a break, work with your partner as a team, or support your partner in a practical role. A doula won’t take away from your partner’s role, nor destroy the intimacy of experiencing this rite of passage as a couple. However a doula can support and reassure your partner so he (or she) can support you throughout the birth.
  5. A doula is someone to ask you questions and help you reflect on your pregnancy, birth and motherhood. She may ask questions you wouldn’t think to ask or may avoid asking yourself. This process helps you to know yourself better and helps her to support you.
  6. A doula knows how to be around women in labour, to set the tone and protect the birth space you want. A doula is trained and practised in being with birthing couples without allowing her personal circumstances, history or other factors to affect her or you. A friend or relative may not be able to give unconditionally like this especially if they have not experienced positive births before or are bringing their own fears or negative experiences into the room.
  7. A doula is someone who knows your needs, wishes and your history in a personal and emotional way – as long as you let her in and trust her. Your partner also needs to be comfortable with her and trust her. Someone who knows you well is better able to read your needs and support you than a midwife who has only just met you and you are one of several women in her care at that time. A doula who you feel comfortable with will help you to labour well because her presence makes you feel safer, unobserved and more relaxed. This supports the hormonal processes that drive labour.
  8. A doula is someone to stay with you if your partner needs to go with your baby to the nursery, or you need some medical attention post-birth. This is not a scenario you would wish to focus on, but it is reassuring to know that in this situation you would have support.
  9. A doula is someone to visit you in the post birth days to help with breastfeeding, mothering, and your wellbeing. This may be as simple as making you a cuppa, bringing you one-handed healthy food, or holding your baby while you shower. These things are really helpful post birth especially if you do not have other people who will be there for you in this gentle, reassuring and ‘no strings attached’ way.
  10. A doula becomes someone special who has witnessed your baby’s birth in a non-medical, personal way. She will be able to share in your story, hear and understand your feelings, and affirm your memories of what happened. She will hold a special place in your heart and your family.
    Not convinced? Are there blocks to you considering a doula for birth support? Making Good Decisions for a Positive Birth examines some of the common reasons shared with me for not choosing or not needing a doula and asks you to dig deeper and examine what is behind the reasoning. Only you can know whether your reasons are based on evidence, a deep consideration of your needs and an understanding of your fears.

A beautiful poem by doula Samantha Norman called Instructions for attending normal birth.

I wonder how many women have been lucky enough to experience a beautiful unhindered birth like this where all that is needed, and all that should be done is to watch. Watch and do not disturb. Beautiful! Thank you Samantha for putting this into words.


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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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Positive Birth Story – My Monkey Self

My Monkey Self

This is an excerpt from Birth Journeys. Christina’s journey is one of healing and accepting responsibility for her wellbeing and birth. After a traumatic first birth in hospital and the break down of her relationship, Christina moves to be near her family. She is pregnant with her second child and now faces pregnancy and birth on her own. Her baby is born in a beautiful water birth in a birth centre just as she had planned and dreamed.

Although I knew I was in labour, part of me was still in denial. I had been waiting for this moment for so long that I was beginning to think it would never arrive. When I phoned my midwife, I told her, in between contractions, that I might not be in labour. Anna laughed and said that I was definitely in labour and to meet her at the birth centre in 30 minutes.

By the time we arrived, the contractions were a couple of minutes apart and very intense. I promptly vomited! The midwives Anna and Penni were wonderful. They were very relaxed about the birth. Anna filled the most amazing bath I have ever seen, and I gladly stripped off and hopped in.

Kneeling in the bath, with my arms resting on the rim, was the most relaxing pose. With each contraction, I would lean over a bit more and Penni would massage my lower back. These massages were heaven. I would concentrate on the feel of her hands, and before I knew it, the intensity subsided.

After a little while, Anna asked me to lean back into a squatting position. She was unable to see what was going on and wanted me in a better position before my baby arrived. I really didn’t want to move. I was so comfortable.

At first, the contractions were hard to cope with as I had lost my focus – I started fighting them. I said to Anna that I didn’t think I could do this, and she replied, “Of course you can. You’re designed to. Women give birth every day. Why do you think you can’t go on?” I really needed that. With Lucas’s birth, when I said I couldn’t go on, no one talked me through or encouraged me. They just got the drugs out.

I remembered my little chant – “my monkey self can do this” – and I felt strong and empowered. Of course I could do this. Amazingly, the contractions slowed down. I relaxed and listened to my body. I even fell asleep between contractions. I was enjoying the experience again.

Every feeling was intense. It started raining heavily, and the rain on the roof was like a drumbeat that went through my body, relaxing me even more. I was able to sense my baby. I knew where he was, and I was able to visualise him moving down. I lay back in the bath and thought, “How beautiful! Here I am, lying in a warm bath with scented candles all around me, soothing music in the background, the sound of rain on the roof, and I’m bringing my baby into the world.”

Soon my waters broke, and all the pain melted away. Time seemed to stop. I was able to reposition myself so that I could reach down to touch my baby’s head – very much an out of body experience. I watched his head pop in and out, before coming out fully. All the pushing stopped, and I breathed my baby into the open. I watched in amazement as he turned around and slipped gently into my hands. It was a beautiful, heart-stopping moment.

I placed Noah on my chest straight away, and he stared intently into my eyes.

Christina and newborn baby Noah

You can read the complete story of Christina’s journey to this beautiful water birth in the Birth Journeys book.

Birth Mantras

Christina’s story is called ‘My Monkey Self’ because this mantra helped her to refocus and surrender to labour when she was feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed.

She explains, “Positive affirmations were important to me. There was a quote in Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin – ‘My monkey self can do this!’ For me this meant that monkeys don’t think about birth or fear it, they just do it, it’s a natural part of life.”

What mantra or phrase do you plan to use or have you used to help yourself, or others in pregnancy, labour or in everyday life?

Share your mantras and positive affirmations in the comments below.