If you are a birth worker and you use social media you have seen posts like this:
I've done it myself for sure. So if you aren't revealing anything about the couple, or you have gotten permission in advance, then what is the problem?
Even vague posts may violate privacy.
You may have followers or mutual friends with your couple that you are not aware of. If you post that you are headed to a birth, and others know a couple have hired you and are due around then, you could be alerting family and friends of the arrival of a baby before your clients are ready. I have been able to easily figure out when my students or friends have birthed based on very vague details from other birth professionals. So even if you are just snapping a quick pic of the entrance of your favorite birth center, you may be revealing a lot more than your clients are comfortable with. In a society that puts everything on the internet for display it can be easy to forget that birth work needs to remain sacred.
Your experience may not be your client's experience.
Maybe for you this was an amazing birth to attend and you are buzzing on an early morning birth high, but that might not be how your client feels. Maybe she is mourning an aspect of her birth that didn't go as she imagined, but she isn't ready to talk to you about it. This birth could have been harder or faster or in some way, not what she expected. Seeing her trusted midwife, doula, or photographer post that her birth was wonderful may cause her to doubt her feelings about her birth. She deserves time and privacy to process her birth.
Tragic outcomes sometimes happen.
A military spouse once shared with me several instances where because of social media, military spouses found out their their loved one had died overseas before they could be formally contacted. I don't like comparing birth to war, but in both tragedies do sometimes happen. This is not for the couple to dwell on, but it is an aspect of birth that birth workers should always keep in mind. So if you post that you are off to a birth that ultimately ends in loss, not only is there is issue of possibly violating the privacy of a couple as I covered above, but if people ask how the birth went then you are put in the awkward position of trying to not reveal more than you should. You also deserve this time to process and heal in privacy.
It can be boastful.
Birth work is humbling, and I admit the vast majority of birth posts I see show the birth worker's humility and gratitude to be doing the work that they do. I love those posts, so that is one reason I had a hard time with my friend's perspective. But there are times when a birth worker seems to be posting every time they are at a birth to show how popular and busy they are. Sharing how many births you have that month or that every couple who attended a recent event hired you may cross the line between sharing your life and bragging. I admit this is a very fine line and I need to assess whether I do it too often as well. I want to see childbirth education, midwifery, and doula work talked about and promoted, but consider your true intentions before you share.
I hope that like me, these points will make you think and consider what you, or more importantly, what your clients feel is an appropriate way to share your birth work on social media. What is right will likely look different for different professionals. This is a great dialogue to keep going in our community, so what do you think as a birth professional? Moms, how would you feel about your birth being posted about? I'd love to hear from you.
May 2017 Update
Three years later, I don't feel differently about anything I shared here, however, social media is an important marketing tool, so we should be thinking about how we can use it effectively while protecting the privacy of our clients. I have discovered some excellent compromises:
Take pictures, keep notes... and wait. Do your postpartum visits and hear your clients experiences. Include in your contract that you may share on social media, but you will do so after a period of time, like 1 month, and with permission. This way they have had time to process their experience. People don't need to know that you are attending a birth in that moment that you are, but I do think it's powerful for images of birth workers supporting their client as they have their desired birth experience is a great way to change our culture's perception of birth, and to show that you are effective at your job.
Instead of posting yourself, include in your contract that if your clients do share about their birth on social media, they please tag you and/or your business page. I feel this is even more effective than you posting yourself.
Provide links to your yelp, facebook, and google review pages and ask your clients to post there. I provide a birth summary form for clients to fill out with their thoughts and I provide a place for them to choose whether I may or may not share their reviews.
Sharing our images is really an essential part of marketing. I do feel this is a totally different category, however, I do think leaving time between the birth and posting is important.
If you have found a way to both honor your client's, give them space to process their birth experience, and share your work on social media, please share in the comments section!
Wendy's journey is a good reminder that our birth stories begin long the first labor contraction. Thank you Wendy for sharing your story, I'm honored to know you... and happy 10th Wedding Anniversary!
After trying to start a family for nearly two years, my husband and I were diagnosed with a rare cause of infertility. Our lives changed forever in that moment. We spent the next two years meeting with doctors, undergoing testing and treatments. We finally succeeded with IVF and our perfect baby was born in December 2011.
During that extremely difficult time in our lives, my mantra was this - Someday a family. Someday a yard littered with toys. Someday the sweet pure love of a child. Someday the loving embrace of my husband with a little one tucked inside. Someday a Christmas Card with our family picture. Someday.
This past year, especially this past month have been full of "last year at this time" memories. The most significant being in March, on our anniversary, when our IVF transfer occurred. Then on April Fools Day when Dom got the call that our beta was positive and had doubled - he texted me a smiley face that I'll never forget. My baby shower in October that was so overwhelming at the time, but such an amazing day, a dream come true so full of love and friendship. Our office Christmas party, that I missed last year as it fell just after my due date after I'd mentally checked out.I worked until 39 weeks at which point I was so tired and uncomfortable, and mentally checking out.
My due date - that passed without any fanfare. and then the waiting, and waiting, and waiting. 40 weeks, 41 weeks, 42 weeks, with not any hint of any sign of labor on its way. I'd spent a good portion of my pregnancy willing this baby to stick with me til the end, begging it to stay put and grow big and strong, not fully believing that we would actually have a baby at the end. I remember our midwives telling me that it was okay to let go, to let the baby know it was time to join us, and realizing just how much mental energy I'd been devoting to keeping that baby growing inside.
Somewhere around 41 weeks we started talking about scheduling a biophysical profile to check on the baby. Since we'd planned a home birth, it was a bit of a to-do to get an appointment with an OB. Luckily I had some connections and was able to get in fairly easily. It was stressful to go to the hospital, but everything looked great and the OB even asked us about our dates, convinced from the BPP that we must have miscalculated conception based on the results. As if! HA
We went back a few days later to test again, with things still looking good, but the 42 week mark making the OB uncomfortable sending us home. They pushed induction, but we decided to wait. Christmas was quickly approaching, we were hosting, and we had to make the call to cancel. We were trying everything in the book to induce labor at home. I asked my midwives to do a stretch an sweep, at which point we discovered that my cervix was shut tightly closed, still tilted far back, and that the baby hadn't dropped yet. My Bishop score was not favorable for induction, which was stressful.
We inquired about the OB schedule for our preferred docs and made an appt to induce on Christmas evening at 42 1/2 weeks. Dom and I spent Christmas driving down the coast, just the two of us, looking out at the ocean, stopping for hot cocoa and asking a stranger to take our photo - our last as a couple. I panicked at the thought of a hospital induction and we canceled the induction. Instead we went in for another BPP the day after Christmas and while things still looked good, we were approaching 43 weeks. As much as I wanted a natural birth in my own home, I wasn't about to do anything to put my baby in danger. I'd done massive amounts of research about the risks we were balancing. It was not an easy choice, but amid many tears, we decided to pack out bags and again schedule an induction for that evening. I cried on the drive to Natividad Medical Center.
We arrived, birth plan in hand, and got settled into a room. From the get go, I retained as much control as one can when you are checking yourself into a hospital. Knowing that they couldn't turn me away I felt empowered to assert my right to respectfully refuse anything that I wasn't comfortable with, starting with the hospital bracelet they wanted me to wear but that I promptly took off. I'd read a ton of birth stories, including many of minimally invasive induced births. I was committed to birthing my baby.
Dom set up our room, with a sarong over the bright light, my blanket on the bed, our music on the iod, snacks for the nurses laid out by the sink, copies of our birth plan distributed widely... We claimed the space as our own. I dressed in the special nightgown that Bestie had given me. I texted my mom and the midwives to come join us.
Sometime around 8pm the OB, one we trusted to support our desire for as natural a birth as possible, inserted a cytotec pill near my cervix. Shortly thereafter he attempted to place a foley bulb in my cervix, but because it was still closed up tight was only ably to fill 5cc (vs the usual 50cc) in the bulb. I rested with monitoring for a bit, then got up to walk around. I started having regular contractions, strong enough that I had to stop and breathe thru them, strong enough that I wanted to be back in the comfort of our room. By midnight I was on all fours on the floor, leaning on the birth ball, working hard to get through each really intense painful contraction. I felt a pop, on the inside, and everything intensified. We didn't realize that my water had broken until I got up and my waters leaked.
The nurse had wanted me on continuous monitoring, but I wasn't willing to get in bed, so she had to work hard to manually monitor me a few minutes a few times every hour. She also was under orders to get an iv placed, but I didn't want one and kept asking to put it off for a while longer. She was doing her job, and I was doing mine - with both of us remaining respectful of the other. I had a lot of support, with Dom and my mom, and the midwives too, which I can only imagine made her job easier, but she did have to document every time I refused her requests.
The waters showed signs of meconium, which was to be expected considering we were nearly 3 weeks past my EDD. I knew that there were risks with meconium, but also knew better than to worry about those risks at that point. I do recall that the nurse mentioned putting the NICU on call for delivery due to the meconium, but was so consumed with the labor at that point it was all I could really pay attention to. Since the pop everything was so much more intense, during the contractions, and in between the contractions. The nurse took the foly bulb out and noted that I had dilated a little to about 1 cm. I was struggling thru each contraction and needed to get into the shower. I remember feeling really happy that labor had started and proud of my body for working to deliver my baby.
I spent the next 8 hours laboring in and out of the shower, mostly staying in the bathroom where there were safety bars I could hang onto. I really don't have words to describe how intense that experience was. I was screaming through each contraction and had very little relief in between. It was so way beyond harder than anything I had prepared for - so much more intense that any labor I had read about, or birth video I had watched.
I was giving absolutely everything I had to birth this baby.
At some point I started feeling nauseous and began vomiting in between contractions. I told myself over and over that each contraction was bringing me closer to meeting my baby, the baby I'd waited so long for, the baby that I'd fought so hard for. I believed in my body, I knew that I could do it. And at the same time I was astounded by the intensity of the experience.
The passage of time is fuzzy in my memory, but I do have clear memories of Dom and my mom at my side the entire time, the shift change of nurses although I was so immersed in myself that I was unable to acknowledge it, the text affirmations that Bestie was sending to my mom and my mom was reading to me, closing the door to the bathroom so that I could labor with Dom without any distractions. More than anything though, the intensity of each contraction taking over my entire body and the lack of what I'd thought would be a break in between each contraction are what stand out in my mind.
Sometime in the morning I emerged from the bathroom and perched myself on the birth ball. I was exhausted and desperate for a break. As if my body knew, the contractions started to space out a bit and I give me some time to regroup. There was talk among the midwives and nurse about possibly being complete and this being a break before the need to push. I was afraid to move fearing that the contractions would pick up again, but agreed to climb onto the bed so the nurse could check my cervix. It was the first check that I'd had since the foly bulb was removed the night before.
I was spent, exhausted, feeling like I had given everything I had in me, wondering how in the world I could possibly have anything left to push the baby out. Contractions that radiated down each leg consuming my entire torso came back with a vengeance when I climbed onto the bed. I was crying, vomiting, and no longer able to hold my bladder. Intense is the only word I have, but doesn't come close to describing the experience.
Expecting to find that I was fully dilated, the nurse turned with shock to look at my mom and announced that I was barely 2 cm dilated. No one could believe it.
At this point I was on the bed, gripping the bed rails, and looked at Dom and begged "Please help me". I was ready for some pain relief - I was desperate for some relief - I wasn't sure I could manage another contraction.
I don't remember details, but I was so grateful that no one questioned my request for drugs. We had a birth plan that specified as natural a birth as possible and had talked a lot about the possibility of holding me off for a bit if I asked for medication. Looking into Dom's eyes I could see that he was going to do anything in his power to get me some pain relief as fast as humanly possible. Things happened quickly. The IV that I'd refused earlier was quickly placed and the anesthesiologist was called for an epidural.
While I received IV fluids to prepare me for the epidural, they gave me a dose of some medication telling me that it would act quickly and 'take the edge off'. My desperation and sobs intensified when it did no such thing. How the hell could I have been so unprepared for this labor?
An epidural was soon placed, which I really don't remember much of, and although I could still feel the contractions they were so mild and manageable. Dom climbed into bed with me and we must have slept for a while. The epidural was amazing.
Not sure when exactly but I started itching all over, a side effect of the epidural. It was so strange to not have sensation on your skin, but to feel it itching. The nurse gave me a medication to calm the itching and it basically made me loopy and sleepy.
I was having to roll from side to side every 20 minutes to keep the epidural working correctly and we joked about the "epidural rotisserie."
Six hours into the epidural and pitocin I was still only barely 2cm dilated. Talk about 'failure to progress' and the possibility of a c-section began. I was really out of it, and honestly felt like I'd given it my all and wouldn't have any regrets about how our baby finally came into this world. The doctor came into the room and there was a team meeting. It had been over 20 hours of really hard labor and 18 hours since my water had broken. I was exhausted and still barely dilated. But the baby was holding up well enough.
They asked me what I wanted to do. If I wanted to proceed with a section. The anesthesiologist had reviewed our birth plan and was willing to accommodate all of my requests.
I honestly didn't care what happened next. But I knew that I wasn't in any shape to make such a big decision so I deferred to Dom. I can remember everyone weighing in on the decision before us, and ultimately taking a vote. My mom, a home birth mom herself, Bradley natural childbirth teacher, super advocate for natural birth, had never seen such a hard labor and was ready to send me in to surgery - but she abstained from the vote.
My amazing support team believed in birth. Believed in me. Dom listened to them and it was decided to wait another hour before making any decisions. As long as the baby was tolerating the labor we would wait another hour and hope that I made some progress.
The contractions were gaining strength, and getting stronger than the epidural. I was once again moaning through them, asking the nurse to turn up the epidural. Once she had exhausted the amount of increase that was up to her she was going to call the anesthesiologist back to increase the dosage but decided to check me one more time. It had been almost an hour since "the meeting."
Again the nurse recoiled in shock when she reported that I was fully dilated with a baby descending down the birth canal. No one could believe that I'd gone from 2 to 10 in less than an hour, with a baby ready to deliver.
The room was suddenly full of activity.
The epidural was turned off.
A pushing bar was set up on the bed.
A mirror was pulled into the room.
I could reach down and feel the head of the baby I was about to deliver. Against all odds I was about to become a mother.
I remember pushing, but feeling like I wasn't doing it right. I kept wanting to change positions because it was so uncomfortable, because I felt like it should feel more natural. Everyone talks about an 'urge' to push, but I don't remember feeling anything like that. And everyone also talks about how delivery is nothing like the movie scenes, but all I could do was scream and push. I can only imagine that I looked just like a crazy movies scene - a naked women screaming through every contraction, pushing with everything I had left in me, clutching the sides of my hospital bed.
Before I knew what had happened, there was a baby laying on my chest. It was shocking.
What was this and where had it come from? It was lying on my chest, all wet and warm. I was so relieved to be done with the labor, but completely shocked at the outcome.
All I could do in those moments were to focus on Dom. The intensity of love I felt for him in those moments was overwhelming. And yet there was a wet warm baby laying on my chest. Oh my god, a baby, our baby. While I was trying to get my head around the fact that there was a baby lying on my chest, someone asked 'what is it?' and Dom lifted our child to announce:
There was still a lot of activity in the room. The OB, Dr. Liem, was calmly yet firmly shouting orders at people, and I could remember my midwives telling me that delivering the placenta was an important next step that would require my attention. Apparently I was hemorrhaging, losing more blood than anyone was comfortable with and the OB was methodically doing everything he needed to do to get the bleeding under control. I don't recall exactly what all was done to address the situation, but it was finally deemed okay. Significant tearing took the OB the next hour to sew up. Many multiple second degree tears was what he called it later - on the internal vaginal walls, labia, everywhere. He didn't even bother to count stitches.
All this while, there was a baby lying on my chest. Our son. He looked up at me and Dom with clear bright calm eyes.
Our someday was upon us.
I am a nurse, I worked in labor and delivery for five years. I currently work for a high risk maternity home health care company. Not only have I seen a lot of births- I've seen it all. The good (a beautiful normal delivery), the bad (a full term baby that passed away for no reason), and the ugly (labor wards are full of drama).
Given my experience I think it blew everyone away when I decided a home birth was the way to go. Thankfully, my husband was great and backed me 100% as did my family. Everyone else thought I was nuts (and said so) but I knew it was right for my baby and me. I never once questioned my decision.
What’s ironic is that had I had a baby 6 years ago I would have thought I was nuts too! When I first started working LD my attitude was "If you don't have to be in that amount of pain, why would you be? Bring on the epidural- can they meet me in the parking lot???" Then a few years ago three things happened in under a month that changed my mind.
Now, before these three things ever happened I had already noticed something. The LD unit I worked on induced a lot of women. I worked on a small unit with five labor beds and Monday through Friday we induced two to three patients A DAY with the doctors pushing to add more patients to the schedule. It can make one think that babies wouldn't come out if we didn't kick them out! However, my favorite patients were those who came in on their own in labor which, given our induction rates, were few and far between. Those were always the best labors though- the babies almost always looked beautiful on the monitor, the mothers very rarely pushed more than 15 minutes, and the babies almost always came out without assistance and were healthy as could be.
The first of those three things that happened to start to change my mind was not so much a "thing" but a patient. I came on shift one night to a woman having her fourth baby. This woman was from Jamaica and had all of her other babies on the island completely natural. Her doctor had sent her over for induction because she was 40 weeks and the doctor was going to be out of town that weekend. My orders were to watch the patient and start Pitocin in the morning to get her delivered. I felt so bad for this woman because I knew there was no reason to induce her but come 5am we would start Pitocin. Thankfully, her body wasn't thrilled with the thought of being induced either because she went into labor on her own around 2am!
Standard protocol at our hospital is to ask all patients what kind of pain relief they want. Once my patient went in to labor I asked her if she wanted an epidural and she said no and kept breathing through her contractions. I was fine with this and helped her cope but when my charge nurse came in the room she practically brow beat the poor woman about an epidural. Finally the woman said "What is this epidural!?!" So we explained what the epidural was and when I got to the part of "A needle goes in the space around your spine" she looked HORRIFIED. "In my spine!?! No, no... I'm ok." The woman delivered within an hour of this conversation but something in my head had clicked- an epidural isn't normal. I saw it every day and assisted with starting them all the time but it was not normal. Light bulb on- somewhat dim- but on.
The second thing that happened was stumbling across a documentary called 'The Business of Being Born' directed by Ricki Lake. I'm not going to lie- I had heard of it and thought to myself "What does a talk show host know about birth that I don't already know?" Apparently- a lot. I had never seen a homebirth before and the only experience I'd had working with them were those brought to the hospital that needed assistance of some sort (IV fluids, vacuum assistance to deliver a baby, c section, etc.). In my head they weren't safe and working every day in LD with women who “needed” constant monitoring supported this. Now I realize how faulty this logic was- it's like sitting outside a mechanic shop seeing cars brought in and thinking all cars are going to break down at any moment. Wrong- they were only there because they needed to be and I never saw the other hundreds of women who delivered just fine at home because they didn't need to be brought in. Light bulb was starting to glow a bit brighter now...
The final thing that happened to push me over the edge was a conversation with a fellow nurse. It was one of the rare slow nights we had and we started talking about inductions and how few normal deliveries there were and she just casually said she planned to go all natural when the time came. We talked for a couple hours about unnecessary inductions, how epidurals affect labor, c sections, the birthing documentary, my Jamaican patient- everything. Light bulb was now fully glowing and by the end of the conversation I had decided when I gave birth it would be all natural- and I was instantly petrified. It might be how nature intended it but I just knew I was in for a world of hurt.
Fast forward a few years and I had gotten married and my husband and I decided to start a family. I honestly don't even remember the conversation we had about doing a homebirth once I was pregnant- it just wasn't a big deal after all the research and statistics I had seen over the years. Kind of ironic considering the fear I used to have over a natural birth. Sometime in the previous few years the fear had dissolved and now it wasn't this eccentric, risky thing- it just seemed normal and felt right. I didn't want to pack a bag to go be delivered- I wanted to prepare my home to birth my baby in.
Once I was pregnant the reading began in earnest and I read everything. I requested and checked out a stack of books from the library then went and bought my favorites. I devoured tons of homebirth stories online- I couldn't get enough. I also read birthing preparation books including Hypnobirthing, The Bradley Method, Birthing From Within, Ina May's books- anything and everything on natural labor. My husband asked me why I was doing all the research since I knew what to expect and what to do. It was something I couldn't put my finger on and then I finally figured it out- I was preparing for a right of passage and I wanted to hear everyone else's stories now that it would soon be my turn. I wanted to know what worked, what they wished they had done more or less of, how they felt during birth, EVERYTHING. I was no longer afraid- I was excited and could not wait for my turn.
One birth story I read a woman said she had envisioned her birth and it went exactly how she had imagined it. I've never been one to meditate or envision anything and, even though I do believe there is a very real mind-body connection, I don't think anyone can bring on labor just because they're ready (it's a nice thought though and I know many women would LOVE that). This being said- it did make me think. If I could envision my perfect birth what would it be? In a perfect world my labor would be on a Sunday because that's the most relaxing day of the week. I would labor all day at home with my husband while cooking (in early labor) to keep busy. I would watch a Dallas Cowboys football game to keep me distracted and maybe go for a walk (I was due in November and we live in Ohio- I may not have thought that through all the way). Then, once I was far enough along, I would get in the birthing pool in the living room and labor while overlooking the lake out of our back window. I also wanted a fast birth but not so fast it was overwhelming- I figured 3 hours would be good. Who was I kidding though? The average first time mom labored for 14 hours and I figured I would too.
The Birth Story
A few days before I went into labor I just felt off. Not bad or anything- but off like something could happen any moment. Even with this feeling though and only slightly increased discharge (which I attributed to my husband and I trying to speed things along by remaining active in the bedroom) I was only 37 1/2 weeks pregnant and the average first time mom delivers at 41 weeks, 1 day. Knowing this, I chalked it up to wishful thinking and the only people I let know about my little off feeling were my parents who lived 14 hours away and planned to be here within 24 hours of the baby's birth (we didn't know the gender) and my birth photographer since we still hadn't nailed down a few details. In hindsight, I also should've told my midwives but I really did think I was being silly. This baby wasn't coming for another few weeks!
Sunday morning I woke up around 5/530am and went pee. When I went back to bed I felt like I could've wiped a little better but I was 9 months pregnant and tired and didn't care- I would take a shower when I got up in a few hours. 830am rolled around and I finally get out of bed and when I pee I see what discharge that looks like amniotic fluid. Not a lot, just a smidgen that I probably would've missed had I not worked LD. I coughed and nothing came out so I decide to take a shower. After my shower I put on my thong (yes- I wore thongs my whole pregnancy) and then a few minutes later I thought to myself “if my water breaks, I'm screwed.” So I grabbed a pair of underwear I bought the week before and a pad and as I went to change I felt a pop and managed to plop on the toilet right as I gushed fluid. I called my husband and told him my water broke but we could still go to his parent's house for lunch... which was about 45 minutes away... in the middle of nowhere. Once again, in hindsight, I may have been in denial and there was no way in hell I should've been suggesting that but my logic was I was a first time mom, no contractions, water just broke- I figured the baby would come in the middle of the night sometime. Thankfully my husband very nicely said no to my suggestion.
At this point I let my parents and the birth photographer know what was going on. I don't suggest this, but I delayed telling my midwives for a couple of hours because I wanted to see if contractions would start soon and then I could tell them how far apart they were. Around 1030 I realized I was having contractions that were no stronger than the Braxton Hicks I had been having for the last three months but they were about five minutes apart- so mild I almost missed them. At that point I let the midwives know what was going on and that baby was moving well so they didn't need to come. They said ok and to let them know when something changed.
I started cooking (banana pancakes, honey roasted sunflower seeds, bacon, general yumminess) and my husband scrubbed the house down- and I mean SCRUBBED. I think he nested for me! At 1pm the Dallas Cowboys game started and I got on the birthing ball still only having mild contractions and watched the game while snacking and texting/calling a few friends and family. I told my husband I thought the baby would come in the middle of the night and since I wasn't hurting anyway he went and took a nap to make sure he was nice and refreshed later on. I should've joined him but my team was playing and my best friend was available to talk so that wasn't happening. I believe it was while he was lying down that I remembered a girlfriend of mine had given me a few essential oils- one of which was clary sage. Once again, in hindsight, I should've mentioned to the midwives I was going to use a bit to see if it would bring on stronger contractions- oops. Anyway, I mixed the clary sage with some coconut oil and applied a few drops to my wrist as well as my lower abdomen in hopes of bringing on stronger contractions. It was time to meet this baby!
At 3:55pm (I checked my phone records) I was on the phone with my best friend when she said I stopped talking in the middle of a sentence. I said "No, I didn't" and kept talking. Then she said I did it again a few minutes later. At that point I realized my contractions were getting strong enough to distract me but they still weren't even as painful as period cramps. She had to go anyway so I got back on my labor ball and continued to watch the football game. About 45 minutes later the contractions were a bit more uncomfortable so I text my midwife and photographer to update them that the contractions were a bit stronger- maybe a 3 or 4 out of 10 on the pain scale but not horrible. My photographer was super nice and offered to come and I insisted no because I wasn't even really hurting and I didn’t want her to have to sit around for 12 hours waiting on me. By now it was almost 5pm and I got in the shower to relax a bit and clean up since I had been leaking all day (icky feeling) and shave my legs. About 20 minutes later I got out of the shower and the first contraction I had out of the shower I got on my hands and knees in the hallway and swayed my hips- I felt like that was my first real contraction and I thought “Here we go!” My water had been broken for 12 hours and I finally felt like I was in labor!
*Side note: Most hospitals insist on augmenting labor if your water breaks and you don’t start contracting within a couple of hours to prevent infection- numerous studies have shown that as long as vaginal checks are kept to a minimum (I refused all) the risk of infection is quite small and 95% of women will start contracting on their own within 24 hours of their water being broken. To expect a first time mom to be delivered within 24 hours of their water breaking is very unrealistic. Now back to the story.
My husband and I had a blow up mattress in our living rook from the time I was about 6 months pregnant on because it was better for my back so I laid down on it to rest and listen to the rest of the football game (he was next to me in the recliner- he asked if there was anything he could do but all I wanted was to breathe). During my next few contractions I would get on my hands and knees and sway my hips and breathe until it passed. I tried staying on my side for one contraction and it was horrible and I don’t know how women in hospitals strapped to beds do that. At one point I was in the middle of a contraction when the Lions quarterback snuck the ball in for a touchdown when everyone thought he was going to take a knee and won the game… and I dropped a F bomb. My husband thought it was a contraction until I told him I was just pissed we lost! On a scale of 1-10, my contractions were about a 6 and more intense but kind of a weird pattern where two would be close together and then nothing for about five minutes (on LD we called this 'coupling') and it can sometimes mean the baby is in a funky position so I asked my husband to text the midwives and have them come over to check me (this was at 545pm).
Right after this my contractions went from intense to painful so I got in the birthing tub. I thought to myself that I was being a baby and getting in way too early and I would probably have to get out again once the midwife came and checked me and said I was 3 cm but I didn't care- I was hurting and I was getting in.
About 15 minutes later we hadn't received a response from the midwives and I had started moaning through contractions. I never thought I would be vocal during labor-I figured I would mostly turn inward and just breathe which I did until this point. Now that I felt the urge to moan I did and it felt so good. All I kept thinking was "keep my jaw loose and my moans deep to let my cervix open up"- thank you, Ina May! I asked my husband to call the midwives since they hadn't responded and later on I found out when they asked how I was doing and heard me in the background moaning they said they would send the apprentice out to check on me without him even asking (they weren’t getting our texts and were wondering how things were going anyway). With their practice each patient normally has two midwives but since we agreed to an apprentice we had three which worked out well. I also had my husband text the photographer and ask her to come over. In the meantime, I just kept moaning and swishing my body around in the water during contractions while on my hands and knees.
After my husband got off the phone I had a few more contractions and started to feel slightly nauseous and asked for a bowl. I got a bit snippy when he put it on the floor instead of the tray he had set up next to the birthing pool but I didn't think much of it. The next contraction I had I felt myself start to bear down and push. I thought I was imagining things since I had only been hurting maybe an hour so I put my finger in to check. I didn't feel anything but then it happened again with the next contraction. That time when I checked I felt the baby’s head! Shocked doesn't even begin to cover how I felt in that moment. Well- shocked and elated! I was almost done!
I told my husband to call the midwife back and tell them I could feel the baby’s head an inch in. He said her response was "Oh shit, we're on the way." My husband came and sat next to me and I had him feel the head. At one point in between contractions I looked at him and said "don't get me wrong- this hurts but it isn't near as bad as I thought it would be!" A couple contractions later the apprentice midwife showed up and she could see about a quarter of the baby’s head crowning. With that contraction I finally fully pushed- I felt the head go out then slide back in a bit which was actually fine with me because it had just dawned on me- a head... a SKULL was coming out of me. For a split second I faltered. From that moment until the baby delivered (which wasn't long) I thought to myself over and over "6.5lbs, the baby is only 6.5 lbs." I had no way to know if that was true or not but mind over matter, right? The apprentice told my husband once the head was out she would check for a cord, then with the next contraction he could deliver the baby. The next contraction I pushed again and got her head half way out then I had to wait for the next contraction. While I was just hanging out waiting for another contraction (with a head half way out of me) the other two midwives arrived and asked how I was doing. Of course they were talking to the apprentice but I looked at them and said "the head is half way out." When the next contraction finally came I pushed and out shot the baby- I turned over and she had a loose nuchal cord (around her neck) that my husband and I unwrapped and then I brought our baby out of the water. Arms spread out, eyes wide open, and blue (very normal). I rubbed the baby's back and a few seconds later we heard a healthy scream then saw a nice pink color. The apprentice asked me to get out of the tub because I was bleeding more than she would've liked and my husband helped me out and onto the mattress which the midwives had covered with a chucks pad and towels on top of our sheets. I felt like I was high as a kite- those endorphins are amazing!
After a few minutes of bonding my husband and I figured we should look and see if the baby was a boy or girl and as I held the baby up we realized she was a girl! I didn't realize how much I thought I was having a boy until I double checked for boy parts. I then looked at my husband and said "What the hell are we going to do with a daughter?" Don't get me wrong- I was thrilled, but teenage girls scare me! I was immediately in love with Scarlett though- all 6lbs 12oz of her. About 10 minutes after Scarlett Deja was born the photographer arrived and got some great shots of our first hour together. I still hate that I waited too long and we missed getting the birth on video but I am so grateful for the pictures we do have. Apparently my husband was even sneaking pics of me in labor so I have those too!
In the end, I got exactly the birth I wanted just not the video of it... I went into labor on a Sunday, got to see my Cowboys play (even if they did lose- I should've been more specific) and I got a fast but not overwhelming labor. Maybe it was coincidence, maybe not. All I know is there is very little I would change. I got the perfect labor and perfect daughter and I can't wait to do it again!
I just got this in my inbox and I'm excited to share it with you! No one thinks their birth story will take a long time to begin, but prodromal labor, or labor that starts and stops over a period of days or weeks, is more common than you'd expect, we just don't hear of it happening much because so many women opt for an induction instead of trusting the process. Prodromal labor can be a real trial, but knowing that it is a normal variation in labor is important. Thank you to Sam and Aaron for sharing another birth story here, you also read about the birth of their first son, Epic, who was also born at home.
Ace’s Birth Story
From the moment I saw the little blue plus sign, I knew what was to come. This was my second baby--I had gone through this before and it was a walk in the park. Two years previous I had a textbook pregnancy and at home water birth. To quickly recap that moment, 5 days before my due date, contractions began, slowly grew stronger (with breaks between them of course!), and 7 hours later (2 hours of which was pushing), my 9lb baby was born. This was my “birth pattern” and I fully expected #2 to follow in those footsteps and hopefully not push 9lbs much further…but he had another plan.
Once again we decided to stick with the at home birth along with the same midwife, and family friend, who delivered Epic, Leslie Drew. The nursery was ready, the supplies gathered, the tub inflated, we were ready. The last month of my pregnancy, my pelvic floor was killing me. It hurt to walk, it hurt to lay, it hurt to roll over. Baby was buried so deep into my pelvis, I thought that I could sneeze him out, but my cervix held him back tightly.
At 4am on Sunday (6 days before my due date) I was awaken by strong contractions. Could this be it?!? Grab a stopwatch!! 10-15 minutes apart. Awesome, I still have time before I call the midwives. I decided to go back to bed only to awake at 8am with no more contractions. Well, that was odd. Contractions didn’t stop with Epic. Maybe it’s just a case of that “false labor” I always hear about. The rest of the day I had irregular, random contractions, but nothing to write home about. I decided to call Jill, an acupressure masseuse, who put me into labor with Epic. I was determined that this birth would be the same as the first. She was available the next morning-Great! We will send Epic to stay with the Grandparents for the night.
Monday morning, 4am, I awoke to more contractions. This will be good! I won’t go back to sleep, Jill will come, and this labor will begin just like last time! Contractions are 5-8 minutes apart...better than yesterday. Good sign. I decided to eat an early breakfast, do some laundry and other ‘nesting’ chores, and go for a walk. Aaron and I went on a mile and a half walk so that my contractions would keep up. By 9am, Jill came and set-up for the massage-Yippee! I am getting my baby today! As soon as I lied down, I could tell my contractions were beginning to die off, but I wasn’t worried because this worked last time. I had a few good contractions throughout the massage, but it wasn’t happening like last time. Labor wasn’t beginning right now. As she finished her massage, I knew the effects could take up to 24 hours. We still have time. Throughout the day more irregular, random contractions, but still nothing to be concerned about. Aaron and I went on another walk. Epic stayed another night at the Grandparents.
Tuesday morning, once again at 4am, more regular contractions. THIS is it! It has to be! We are still less than the 24 hour window since the massage! Grab the stopwatch! GREAT! 3-5 minutes apart! I went to the bathroom only to find a “bonus” sign of labor—my bloody show. I will call Leslie this time. I was confident that my contractions would continue to get stronger and closer, so I decided to go lie down and rest for the big event ahead of me. Leslie told me to call back in an hour. I woke up 2 hours later, contractions at 10 minutes apart and getting further. You got to be kidding me. This baby is NEVER going to come. He is just playing with me by this point.
Family and friends keep asking how I am feeling…do you really want to know? AWFUL! JUST TERRIBLE! I have been a prisoner to my own house for the past 3 days, my pelvic floor hurts sooooo bad that I can’t even walk around the house, I haven’t seen my eldest son in 3 days and miss him dearly, and between my hormones, false labors, and the strange quietness that fills a home when a two year old is gone, I am going insane! INSANE! I just may punch the next person who asks me how I am feeling (which 8 out of 10 times is my poor, unsuspecting husband. I am pretty good at putting on a happy face no matter how I am truly feeling). How long can this drag on? I could have accomplished so much more work these past few days, but no…who knows when these contractions will really turn into labor. This is frustrating. I just want to be left alone.
Wednesday morning, 4 am, contractions 2-3 minutes apart. By this time, I felt defeated. So what? They will probably go away too, but I better call Leslie. She seems to think my labor will go fast once it truly starts (if it ever starts). She decides to come over, prepares her necessary items, and we wait. And wait. And then I went back to bed. They stopped once again and she measures me at barely 1cm. This is ridiculous. I have had contractions for four days now and have gotten, not even, 1cm. She suggested I go to an acupuncturist that she has had a lot of luck with. I call and get an appointment at 1pm. It’s worth a try.
By the time we got to the acupuncturist, it began to sprinkle rain. I wobbled my way up to her second story office to take my place on the table. She placed about 25 needles deeply throughout points on my feet, shins, hands, ears, neck, and scalp. She then “intensified” them by hooking up a machine that sent an electrical current through two needle points. She left me on the table for about 2 hours so that my body would really take it all in. I had about 6 contractions during that two hour time period…woohoo?
After the session, I decided to make the best of getting out of the house. I wanted a hot cocoa and a couple of toys that baby brother could give to Epic. My sweet husband ran through the rain to get me a delicious hot cocoa, toys for Epic, rented a movie, and even brought me flowers. These little things cheered me up. It felt nice getting out of the house. I wanted to see Epic too, so we picked him up from daycare. It was great holding my first baby. I snuggled him close as we drove him back to the Grandparents house for him to spend yet another night. I watched him play as everyone was getting settled down to begin eating dinner. I felt a couple more random contractions and then was ready to go home across the street. I was tired. It was 5:30pm.
When I got into our house, I had the urge to go to the bathroom (a very common occurrence with pregnancy). As I went, another “bonus” labor sign—diarrhea. Lovely. Let’s see if contractions begin. Sure enough, a contraction began…and held…and held…dear goodness has my uterus seized up?? My toes began to curl, I couldn’t get off of the toilet. “Aaron! Get me a stopwatch, call the midwives, and fill the tub!” He was on it. Ahhh, finally a break. Let me get off of this thing…I refuse to have my baby born in a toilet.
As I am leaving the door, another contraction hits me. I began the timer. I wasn’t able to start the stopwatch with the first contraction, but I knew it had been less than 2 minutes. I just got my pants up for heaven’s sake! I threw myself upon the bed into a hunched position to endure the uterine hug. After 2.5 minutes, the contraction began to release. Dear lord these are strong and last FOREVER. I feel like I have just been hit with a bag of bricks. I have to make it to the tub...nope, I need to go back to the toilet, another contraction is coming, and it has only been 45 seconds since the last one ended! BAM! Another contraction, once again not letting up for another 2.5 minutes. This is it! I AM IN LABOR! A smile filled my face…only to be followed by a frown. I was in labor 7 hours with Epic. This is going to be a looooong night.
I finally made my way down the hall to the other bathroom (between the master bedroom and my ever cherished birth tub). I underwent a few more contractions on that toilet. “Aaron! Where are those midwives!? Shouldn’t they be here!?!?” It had only been 20 minutes, which meant it was at least another 10-20 minutes before they arrived. These contractions are ridiculous! I don’t remember Epic’s birth having contractions this strong to begin with. They started out slow and grew as labor progressed. They were not like this until right before the pushing stage.
I finally made my way to the partially filled tub. Aaron was still boiling water to add to it. I didn’t care. I needed that tub now. I climbed in and instantly felt some relief. I took a deep breath. Another contraction. I was paralyzed with each one. As I tried to change positions between the short breaks, if I didn’t quite make it to my desired position, then that is how I would have to labor through the next contraction. I had to be quick during those breaks. It was hard to be quick though as the contractions were taking every ounce of energy I had. They were so intense, so strong. There is no way I have experienced this before. Epic’s birth was not like this. How in the heck did I survive my first home birth?? Am I crazy?? There are no drugs here. Well, maybe…the midwives did leave everything ready from this morning. I bet there’s something in those bags of theirs. If only I could get to them. Never mind, there is no time for that. Just go get a shovel from the garage and beat me until I pass out. Please, I beg someone. Another contraction, this time with an urge to push.
I can’t be pushing yet.
Hold off the urge.
The midwives arrived. Oh thank goodness a witness to these crazy contractions! No time to say hi—another contraction once again ending in an urge to push.
I need to be checked. It has only been an hour since this madness began. I can't be wanting to push. Don't push. I look to my midwife. She doesn’t check me...she doesn’t need to check me. “You are ready to push.” No…no I am not. I have at least 5 hours left. I’ll wear myself out if I begin to push! No pushing. Not yet. No way.
Another contraction, my body still wanting to push. I reached down and felt the tip of his head only about a knuckle deep. This was really happening. He really was coming. My body really was ready to push. I got into a frog like squat position. I slowly relaxed with each contraction to allow the baby to descend deeper and deeper. As soon as I felt burning, I would blow air upwards and out to allow stretching to occur. The pushing phase felt much more relieving. This was all going to come to an end soon. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I felt a pop—my water had just broken. I flashbacked to that feeling from my first birth and the thought that my uterus had just burst. I giggled under my breath. A few pushes, and his head was out. I could see his right ear and his fuzzy, hairy head. I waited for the next contraction to push his body and to catch him. Aaron was behind me helping to bring him forward. As I gave the final push, he rotated to sunny side up. We brought him out of the water, and I fell backwards into Aarons arms as our new baby lay across my chest.
Ace (still thinking of a middle name) Magenheim was born at 7:16pm, approximately an hour and a half after my first set of contractions. 9lbs 1oz and 21.5 inches long, he didn’t make a peep. He just looked at us quietly, no need for crying. Everything was at peace.
As I sat in the tub, I waited for the after burn. I recollect it more than anything else from the first birth--The two weeks of not wanting to pee because it hurts so much. The constant frozen ice packs between your legs. The throbbing from all of the swelling. But it wasn’t there. Nothing was burning. I slowly got out of the tub to get dried off. I didn’t need that much help. I wasn’t hurting like my first birth. Leslie checked and sure enough, there was no tearing. Not even swelling. Oh praise the Lord! I will still be able to somewhat chase after my two year old!
During my check, Ace began rooting on Aaron’s chest. Aaron handed him to me and he immediately latched.
After getting all cleaned and dried, we had all four grandparents and Epic come down to see the new addition. It was so nice being able to share this special moment with our whole family—especially Epic, who was now a big brother!
I am a childbirth educator because I love to talk about birth and help couples achieve their birth goals. So when a friend asks my advice on pregnancy, natural birth, or breastfeeding... I love it. I love it just as much as when a couple signs up for my class because for me, this is about the information, not the money or a business, even if those are necessary aspects of this work. However, no matter how many messages we exchange, my friendship and my advice aren't enough to help you have a natural birth.
Natural Birth Requires Commitment
Some couples do zero preparation and still have a natural birth, I'm not denying that it's possible. However, with the social, cultural, and medical obstacles to normal birth couples face today, there's usually a great deal of luck involved when that happens. Commitment can come in the form of the financial commitment of hiring a doula, midwife, purchasing books and taking a birth class; the time commitment of traveling for access to a supportive provider, taking a comprehensive natural childbirth class, practicing relaxation exercises and following up on resources your teacher gives you; and the commitment to take responsibility for your birth by getting the information you need to make informed decisions. In a birth class I provide information that I expect couples to take in, process, and make their own. When you are in the thick of birth you won't remember what I posted about two months ago, it has to be something you have intentionally learned about, in context, and made the information apart of you.
Natural Birth Requires Context
Do you remember what it was like to take a college class? There was an order to learning the subject. Your professor had specific information that came in the beginning of the course, then built upon that information over the semester, and then finally at the end, if you showed up and did the work, you had an understanding of the subject. If your professor just gave you random articles and answered questions as you thought of them without providing context with a structured curriculum, your knowledge of the material would be disjointed and likely inadequate. This is one of the reasons why taking a class is so important. I can't speak for every curriculum, but each of the ten Birth Boot Camp classes play a part in preparing couples for a natural birth. The information is built upon, strategically presented so it makes sense and is easy to learn. Will I withhold information I teach in a class from my friend who asks, absolutely not, but my advice lacks context so it may not be as valuable as it may seem.
Natural Birth Requires Forethought
If you posted or texted me that you are in labor chances are I'll be up refreshing the screen until you post a birth announcement... so calling me at 2am because you need advice isn't an issue. I've answered those calls, I will give it my all every time... but I'm sad to say it usually doesn't help if the couple hasn't prepared beforehand. When you are blindsided by an induction or cesarean recommendation in the final weeks of pregnancy, or your water breaks at the onset of labor but you had planned to labor at home... it's too late to consult google, or me, or that book you promised yourself that you'd read. Now it's happening, your emotions are involved, maybe your provider or partner is playing on your fears and you are questioning everything... but even if you find the right advice for that moment, lacking the reasons behind the advice will make it very hard to follow.
I'm not that doctor who rolls their eyes when someone says "hey can you look at this?" at a party. I love to talk about my work and I want you to ask me questions. But without making the decisions necessary for a natural birth like taking a class and hiring a supportive provider, my advice will not be enough. It sure would be flattering if it was. I hope my rants on social media and blog posts inspire my friends to learn more and take responsibility. I'm cheering you all on from my computer screen!
Natural Birth Series
Sept 28 – Nov 15
Infant Sleep for Expecting & New Parents
6:30pm - 9:00pm
Gentle Cesarean: Planning & Recovery
Toro Park, 3-6:30pm
Natural Birth Refresher
Salinas, 1– 4pm
Preconception & Early Pregnancy Class
Salinas, 1– 4pm
Sibling Prep for Parents & Kids
November 4th & 5th
Toro Park, 2:-4pm
Fall Home & Birth Center Birth Series
Nov 7 – Dec 12
Natural Birth Series
Nov 29th – Jan 17th