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♥ How Beautiful Relaxed Birth Can Be ♥

 “For some reason, I could not bring him into my pelvis with anything I was trying or doing, and I was working hard.”

 — statement from a mom’s homebirth story that ended in a transfer to the hospital, with baby coming out right as they got into a room. 

Photo credit: Melissa Butler

 

Maybe it was Because…

The clue here is that she was working hard. She was “doing” too much. Throughout the story, she mentioned how her baby was still too high, and wouldn’t come down. She felt him hitting her pubic bone, unable to get past it. And she kept trying to force him down. She never mentioned trying to help him go back UP to readjust. The thirty minute ride to the hospital, she spent upside down with her face pushed into the gurney. All her baby needed was the space to come back up and readjust himself, which she gave him on the ride to the hospital. Because she did that, he was finally able to come out on his own, without any help, or her “doing” anything.

This is a lesson I learned with my first birth. I “did” too much. I tried too hard to “help” her come out, only causing her more distress, and making my body stop labor every time it became productive. Sometimes, we need to just let go. We need to stop “doing” and just relax. This mom became anxious and panicked when her labor stopped itself.

 

A Better Way

My Experience

With my second birth, I stopped “doing” after I realized how silly it was to try to pressure my baby with homeopathics, essential oils, exercises, etc. This time, I didn’t want to stress myself and my baby out. I wanted to have a relaxed birth. By the end, I had practically forgotten I was pregnant.

At 42 weeks and 3 days, I had spent the day as though this were simply how my life had always been and would always be. Then, just as I was about to go to bed, labor began. I didn’t panic or worry or get anxious. Instead, I just thought “huh, I think I’m in labor… cool.” My husband prepared the birth pool while I went to the bathroom to allow my body to “clear out”. I spent a couple of hours laboring on the toilet (they call it the porcelain birthing stool for good reason!), which eased the pressure of the contractions. Then I got in the birth pool, leaned over the edge, and slept between contractions. I had my husband put on a couple of albums that facilitated my sense of inner peace and connection with myself.

I didn’t try to rush anything. Nor did I do anything to try to “speed up” the contractions. I simply relaxed, rested in between contractions, and waited for my body to do its thing. 

Another Mama’s Experience

Another mama I know didn’t push at all during one of her births. She labored in a cast iron tub and just relaxed and gave herself over to the process. Her body pushed her baby out without any effort from her (this is called the fetal ejection reflex, and it’s how babies can be born even when the mama is in a coma). She knew that birth happens, and it didn’t need any help from her.

This is How Birth Should Be

It doesn’t need to be a big production. It is life at its most basic. Relaxed birth is the most connected a person can be with the universe. When you relax and let it happen, it is the most beautiful thing you’ll ever experience.

 

How Can You Relax in a Society Filled with Fear?

1. Turn off the TV.

The news is full of tragedy and heartbreak. So-called “reality” shows only show you what’s dramatic, what will give you an adrenaline spike through fear or anger. The same goes for social media when your feed is full of panic-ridden taglines. Studies have shown that too much screen time can increase the risk of depression. It can also cause a lack of sleep and increase of anxiety, particularly during pregnancy.

2. Get more sleep.

As shown in the study above, getting more sleep can help decrease anxiety levels. It also gives your body more energy for growing that precious life inside you. Not to mention the boost your immune system gets, which helps you to avoid getting sick, and recover faster when you do get sick.

3. Avoid scary stories.

I know I have a habit of speaking out against the “good vibes only” mentality, but during pregnancy is the one exception. Many people, myself included, find that their intuition calls them to avoid negativity during pregnancy. And it’s for very good reason! Constantly hearing stories about what could go wrong, or what has gone wrong for others, during pregnancy can increase fear and anxiety. It sows seeds of doubt in ourselves and our bodies’ abilities. Therefore, protecting your mental health is just as important as protecting your physical health, and helps you to achieve that goal as well.

4. Surround yourself with positivity.

Read positive birth stories. Listen to podcasts that share positive birth stories. Ask your friends to share their positive stories of their own births. Envision yourself having a beautiful relaxed birth. Picture how you want the environment to look and feel. Listen to music that makes you feel happy and relaxed. Draw or print out affirmations and pictures to hang up around you that make you feel confident that you will have a relaxed birth.

5. Educate yourself.

I chose the name Baby Led Enlightenment in part because enlightening (educating) ourselves on topics that arise during pregnancy and beyond is one of our duties as parents. Not only that, but knowledge is the best cure for fear. If you find yourself afraid of any specific situation, research how to handle it. For instance, once you’ve learned how to treat an illness or condition, resolve a shoulder dystocia, or stop a hemorrhage, you’ll feel a lot more confident in your ability to move past these issues with ease instead of panic. It’s a lot easier to relax when you’re confident that you can handle anything that comes your way.

 

What if I don’t Want a Relaxed Birth?

That’s okay, too. Some mamas prefer to have a powerful birth experience. They want to feel like they could wrestle a bear while they’re in labor. And that’s totally cool! What’s important is that you align your process with your goal. If you want a relaxed birth, you have to learn to trust the process and let go. If you would rather have a powerful birth, take charge and go for it! We are actually simultaneously at our most powerful and most vulnerable during birth. Both experiences are beautiful in their own way.

♥ My Homebirth Story — Freebirth ♥

 

Happy International Homebirth Day!

Since the restrictions of 2020 changed the experience of hospital birth so dramatically all over the world, many more women have turned to homebirth as their way of having the birth experience they want. Others have wanted to, but for one reason or another, not gotten that experience they so desire.

Some of you may know that I had a homebirth with my second. What you may not know is that I wanted one with my first, but thought I couldn’t have it because Medicaid didn’t cover homebirth midwives in Ohio, and my husband had been laid off for several months due to a natural disaster, so we had very little funds at the time. I probably could have found a way to make it happen if I’d had the support and knowledge then that I have now. I hear similar stories all the time, where the mama wanted to have a homebirth, but didn’t think she could afford it, or her insurance wouldn’t cover it.

If you want a homebirth, sometimes you have to work for it. It shouldn’t be this way in the US and other countries around the world, but it is. The important thing is that you know there are options, and if that is what you really want, you can have it. For instance, in Florida, homebirth midwives ARE covered by medicaid. There are still guidelines and restrictions put in place by governing bodies that limit the access to them for VBAC, plus size mamas, breech, twins, etc, nearly everywhere. But there are oftentimes ways around this as well. Sometimes, simply seeing an OB one time, regardless of what they tell you regarding their opinion on homebirth, is enough to satisfy the requirements. The red tape and hoops you may need to jump through can vary depending on your insurance, provider, and location. Seek out your local birth network and talk to birth activists in your area to find out more about ways you can advocate for your right to a homebirth.

Read on for more of my personal homebirth story:

 

Planning Makes it Possible

I planned to have an unassisted homebirth with my second daughter. I knew, even before I got pregnant with her, that it was the birth experience I wanted to have. I got involved in my local birth network, studied numerous books, took a course on homeopathy, attended a workshop for birth professionals, and just generally soaked in as much information about birth as I could. When I finally saw that second line, I knew I could do this.

 

Preparations

A few weeks before my guess date, a doula and student midwife friend of mine lent me her birth pool. We cleared a space in our living room for it, behind our couch. It was a cozy corner, where I hung up red Christmas lights and a double-heart light. My friend hosted a mother’s blessing for me, and I had brought home several beautiful drawings and quotes from friends, which I hung on the walls. I also put up a family photo with my husband, my oldest daughter, and myself, as well as a photo of my grandma from when she was younger, which we had displayed at her funeral just days before I found out I was pregnant. She was my rock, and I wished I could have had her there for my birth, but this was the next best thing.

Pardon the fuzzy photo, this was the only one I managed to salvage after issues with my camera. 

I’m in labor!

The night I went into labor, I had been sitting on the couch watching TV with my husband, and we were about to go to bed. I had been having contractions off and on all night, the same as I had for the past 3 months. Suddenly, I realized one of them made me sit up straighter than usual. After 2 more, I felt the urge to go to the bathroom, and knew that it was time. I spent the next 2 hours laboring on the toilet, which brought me considerable relief (They don’t call it the porcelain birthing stool for nothing!).

I called my friend around 2AM, who I had planned to have there as my doula. She told me to call her back when I wanted her there. I had no idea when I “should” have her there, but I wanted her there then. Since she clearly didn’t want to come right then, and I felt bad about it being 2AM, I just said ok and we hung up.

I went straight from the toilet to the birth pool. I just draped myself over the side of it without any water for an hour or two. Once I started feeling the need to vocalize through contractions, I had my husband begin filling the pool. We only filled it halfway for the first couple of hours. The contractions were easier to handle when the water was over my lumbar. My baby’s spine was facing mine, so I felt significant pressure in my back. I tried to hold off on filling the pool, so that the water wouldn’t get too cold too soon. I had my husband put on some music to help me relax in the meantime.

My friend called around the time we got the pool filled, and reminded me to have my husband bring me food and drink. I had been sleeping in between contractions, and he had too. He made me some scrambled eggs and brought me some chocolate coconut water, which took me a good hour to fully consume.

 

It’s Time to Push!

About 10 hours after that first contraction that made me sit up straight, my vocalizations became much louder and more frequent. My mom, who lived with us, came out of her bedroom because she could tell something had changed. Our daughter woke up and came out of her bedroom. We told her that her sister was coming. She stayed until the next contraction, but said that my vocalizations were too loud, and retreated to her room again. I began to feel the urge to push. About forty-five minutes later, she began to crown. My husband saw her forehead, but saw her pulling back in a bit in between each contraction. I went slower and panted through a few contractions as her eyebrows began to emerge. My husband told me to push, and I told him to shut up. I was listening to my body, and it was telling me that it needed time to stretch as we reached “the ring of fire”. A few minutes later, her head was free, and my husband worried about her trying to breathe under the water as he saw her mouth opening and closing. I assured him that she was fine, and she would not try to breathe yet, and she was still getting her oxygen from the umbilical cord.

 

I did it!

At almost exactly one hour from the first push, she was free. I had spent the entire labor on my knees, hanging over the side of the pool because my body wouldn’t allow me any other position. I was so relieved to finally be able to sit down properly. My husband helped me bring her to my chest. She was covered in vernix. He brought us a blanket to put over her to keep her warm against my chest, as the water had gotten colder than I had realized. This was when I finally decided to call my friend and tell her to come over. We spent a few more minutes in the pool, giving me a chance to rest. Once I had delivered the placenta, we placed it in a bowl, still attached to our baby, and moved to the couch, where we laid on chux pads together, with the bowl near my head.

My favorite photo ever. I feel it truly embodies the tranquility and connection felt after a homebirth. 

(yes, I wore a Wonder Woman camisole as my birthing gown)

Breastfeeding Begins

I placed her on my belly and allowed her to do “the breast crawl”. It only took her a few minutes to find the breast, but she needed a lot of help with latching. My first had needed help, and I just thought it was similar, her mouth was too tiny and my breast was so big that it was hard for her. I later found out she had tongue and lip ties. But with a little help from me, she was able to get enough colostrum to fill her tummy and she drifted off to sleep peacefully on my chest.

So teeny tiny in comparison!
Drifting off after a nice meal ♥

 

A Happy Ending

About two hours later, my friend and my midwife showed up and worked together to get me cleaned up and baby checked out. My friend brought a cord burning box and some candles. Around 10PM, my husband and I decided it was time to go ahead and burn the cord. We tied it off with some string left from the anklets I made for myself and my daughters at my mother’s blessing, then we got it situated in the box and began to burn through it. It took a lot longer than we expected, and dripped a lot, so we were glad we had the box to support the candles and catch the dripping.

A sacred family moment

 

The Less-Pretty Details (TMI WARNING!!!)

There were a few things I didn’t include in the actual story itself. I feel these need to be mentioned, however, to show that even the most beautiful experience can include trying times.

 

My Tailbone Broke

After about half an hour of pushing, I felt and heard my tailbone break. My mom asked me what happened, and I told her my tailbone just broke, and she told me that there was no way it broke. I began to lose my patience with everyone after that, and used some colorful language when telling both my mother and my husband that I was doing things my way and they needed to stop trying to tell me what to do. After a few weeks of postpartum agony, my chiropractor did an x-ray and proved that my tailbone had indeed broken, and it was due to a deformity caused by a childhood injury. This felt very vindicating.

 

I hemorrhaged 

After delivery, my friend showed up before my midwife, and urged me to get up and go to the bathroom. I had tons of chux pads ready so that I wouldn’t need to worry about this. I didn’t feel I had the strength to get up, and she had to support most of my weight when I finally relented and went. As soon as I sat down on the toilet, I dropped two big clots, and started to fall asleep. My mom panicked and started to call 911. Thankfully, my friend was able to wake me and get me up and back to the couch and hydrated, and my mom told them it was a false alarm. I drank copious amounts of coconut water over the next hour and took several doses of homeopathic remedies. This helped me regain my strength and begin to rebuild my blood volume. I personally think I should not have gotten up when I did, and could have avoided such trouble if I had listened to my body telling me to wait a little longer, rather than my friend urging me to get up, but there is no way to be sure of what was actually the best thing to do in that moment, or if the hemmoraging could have been entirely avoided either way. Had the coconut water and homeopathics not shown effective, the next step would have been to cut a small piece of my placenta off and stick it in my cheek. The placenta contains hormones that signal the uterus to contract, which would have helped to stop the hemmorage as well.

 

The Afterpains

One thing no one seems to mention when preparing for birth is the afterpains. The contractions after delivery felt so much stronger to me because I had nothing to push against them anymore. They lasted for nearly an entire day, with the worst of them happening over the first six hours or so. Taking homeopathic Sabina helped greatly, but the pain was still pretty intense. My midwife did a massage on my uterus to try to help it contract (part of the reasoning behind the “breast crawl” as well), and it HURT. I was not prepared for that at all. Clearly, I had missed a few things in my research!

 

If you would like to learn more about your options for homebirth, with or without assistance, here are a few great resources to check out:

American Pregnancy Association

Birthing Better

Midwives Alliance North America

The Unassisted Baby

♥ My Pelvic Organ Prolapse Journey ♥

 

Warning: This post contains very personal and not-pretty details regarding my anatomy, sex life, and bodily functions. If you don’t like TMI, you may not want to read it. Then again, you may not even be here to begin with in that case! 

“OH! NOW I see the problem!” — not words you want to hear your doctor say when they’re digging around in your lady bits.

But I did. And after 5 years of being told nothing was wrong, it was simultaneously terrifying and incredibly validating.

I gave birth in 2015, to an amazing baby girl. The birth was incredible. It was also incredibly physically traumatic, thanks to a deformity in my tailbone caused by a childhood injury I didn’t even remember. I only pushed for one hour when giving birth to her, but the first half of that was spent pushing against my tailbone until it finally broke to allow her through. All that straining caused some serious issues. I ended up diagnosed with stage 3 pelvic organ prolapse, specifically uterovaginal prolapse.

I knew things were a mess down there. You expect them to be after giving birth, right? But there are some messes that are a bit harder to “clean up” if you know what I mean. I didn’t tear; I just had a couple of small skid marks at the edge of my perineum. My midwife checked me out and said everything was fine. Even my broken tailbone was denied until my chiropractor did an x ray for me and proved what I already knew. I went to my family doctor a few months after birth, asking her to give me a referral to a pelvic floor physical therapist for pelvic organ prolapse because I knew I had it. She did a quick exam and told me everything was fine, and I had no prolapse. I felt dismissed. She gaslighted me. She wasn’t trained in pelvic organ prolapse. She didn’t even know the right ways to check for it, much less diagnose it. I asked her again a few more times over the next year, and was always dismissed. I gave up. I resigned myself to the new troubles I was having as a new way of life.

Over the years, it would improve for a while, especially when I was more sexually active. But during the times when I was not, it would worsen considerably. A student midwife friend of mine told me I just needed to “use it” more. She might have been right, but it’s hard to get in the mood when you’re in pain, or your cervix is hanging out of your body.

In early 2020, I broke my ankle and spent 4 months unable to walk. I only really had sex one time during that timeframe, and it didn’t last long. Without any reminders, my vagina seemed to forget where it was supposed to be. I found myself having to “tuck myself in” more often, and had to wear my period panties all month long because of worsening leakage when I coughed or sneezed. I had more difficulty with urinating and bowel movements, regardless of their consistency, because my rectum was fighting with my bladder for the open space in my vagina. My vagina would bleed after bowel movements, because it would get over-stretched and the walls would tear a little each time, unless I remembered to “splint” it. I had to urinate much more frequently while on my period, when my cervix was at its lowest in my cycle. Whenever I tried to have sex with my husband, I would have to stop very quickly and then curl up in bed, crying in pain after he hit my uterus, so we stopped trying to have sex at all.
Finally, as I recovered from my injury and began walking again, I got determined to demand the care that I needed and deserved. No one deserves to suffer the way I had. I got a new doctor, who referred me without even doing an exam because she knew she was not qualified to diagnose pelvic organ prolapse. At first, the specialist I saw sounded like she was skeptical of my symptoms. I’m young and relatively healthy. I couldn’t possibly be having this much trouble. My body couldn’t be doing the things I said it was doing. Bodies simply don’t work that way.
Halfway through the exam, I finally got the validation I’d been seeking for 5 years. “OH! NOW I see the problem!” That’s what I heard her shout from between my legs, as she poked and prodded and told me to bear down. The tone of shock in her voice sent a chill up my spine, and filled me with dread, while a wave of relief at finally being vindicated washed over me at the same time. She concluded the exam, and had me hold a rubber glove by two of its fingers. She held the other end, and gestured to the palm of the glove. “This is your vagina,” she said. “And these are the ligaments that hold up the top of your vagina,” she continued, as she pointed to the fingers I was holding. “And this is what is happening to your vagina,” she explained, as she had me move the tips of the fingers to meet her hand at the bottom of the glove. My vagina was collapsing because the ligaments that hold it up had become stretched and lax. She showed how I was correct that it was my cervix that was protruding from my vagina and having to be tucked back in. She explained that it was blocking my urethra, making it difficult to urinate or fully empty my bladder. The harder I’d try, the more blocked it would become. My uterus was hanging down and filling the space, putting it in the path of my husband’s penis. She told me that it was technically stage 2 prolapse, but would feel like stage 3 to me because of the protrusion of my cervix.
We wanted to have another child. This news was devastating. I can’t even perform the act of trying to get pregnant, much less carry a baby, with everything trying to fall out of my body! And surgery to repair it would make it dangerous to attempt pregnancy again.
Thankfully, she did give me hope that a pessary and physical therapy could improve things enough to make it possible to have another baby, and pregnancy might even help hold things in place as my uterus got too big to fall into my vagina anymore. So we scheduled my pessary fitting, and she referred me to a pelvic floor physical therapist.

Unfortunately, at my first visit with my physical therapist, I was informed they will no longer take my insurance beyond the end of this month, and there are no insurances I could switch to that they will take. The next closest one is over an hour and a half away. I can’t drive 3+ hours round trip multiple times a week! I have a business to run and children to care for. It simply is not feasible for me.
Lucky for me, and for anyone reading this and going through similar, but unable to get treatment, I won’t give up that easily. Stay tuned for updates on my journey as I learn more about pelvic organ prolapse and ways to treat it without a professional physical therapist.

♥ Loss Never Leaves Us ♥

Trigger warning: Loss

 

 

I recently suffered something that a large number of childbearing-age women do every year. Something that is not talked about enough. Something that happens and then is swept under the rug. Something everyone tries to avoid talking about and pretend it never happened. Miscarriage. The loss of my unborn Child. It wasn’t my first, and it may not be my last, but it was a unique event all of its own, similar in generality, and yet entirely unique from any other experience. This particular one was what is known as a missed Miscarriage, where Baby has passed, but the body continues the Pregnancy for a few weeks, or longer, without the Mother realizing that Baby is no longer developing.

    At 11 weeks, I started bleeding, which is not unusual during pregnancy, but it lasted longer and was heavier than I had experienced in previous Pregnancies. I tried to remain optimistic, simply waiting for confirmation one way or the other. But 6 days after it began, it reached a point where I knew it was definitely over. It was a miscarriage. Instead of cramps, I began having contractions.

   I was in a training class for a promotion at work, and we were not permitted to miss any time of training under threat of losing the promotion and possibly the job entirely, and I knew that losing my job in addition to losing my Baby would just make things so much worse. So, for the last 2 hours of class that terrible Tuesday afternoon, I lied on a blanket on the floor in front of my computer (I work from home), listening to my trainer without really even hearing a word he said, and vocalizing through my contractions.

   I went to the hospital after my class ended, to confirm and ensure that nothing had been left behind, and that is where I delivered my tiny Baby into my own hand. The sac was still intact, and much, much bigger than Baby was. This was because Baby had not developed past 6 weeks, meaning that my body only thought it was still pregnant for half of my Pregnancy. My Husband was not permitted to be in the room while I had the ultrasound, so he was not with me when Baby came out in the bathroom in between tests. By this point, I had accepted that my Baby was gone, and shock had made me mostly numb. I had to endure another 10 minutes of testing before my Husband could come back in the room with me. I managed to hold it together until he had returned and the sonographer left the room, but just barely.
     The next few days, I spoke very little and I could not really focus at work. I made it through training, but not at the standards I normally hold myself to. During the week before, I told myself and those that knew what I was going through that I’d never be able to go through another pregnancy again if I lost this Baby; it was just too painful. But right after I opened the sac, held the baby on the tip of my finger, and said goodbye, I felt this immense emptiness inside. I’d spent the past 8 weeks believing that I had a life growing inside of me, and now, I did not, and yet I had no new Life to hold in my arms either. It felt like a cruel joke, and it just made me want to have another Baby even more. I told my Husband that I wanted to try to get pregnant again right away because I couldn’t wait. This was the spacing between children we wanted, and this was the time we had originally planned to try to have our next, and final Baby. And after all, immediately after miscarriage is a time when a Woman is at her most fertile.

   But it was not a good time to have a Baby. Pregnancy is very hard on me, and due to a deformity caused by a childhood injury, I break my tailbone in labor. Right after a promotion, in the middle of trying to buy a house and move, was most definitely not a good time to have a Baby, especially for me. And so now we wait. We will wait until next year. When things have settled, when I have healed, when our life is stable. Hopefully. And I’m okay with that.
     Mostly.
     I have accepted that this is not the time to bring a new Life into our Family. I have acknowledged that it is merely selfish desires that drive me to want to try to have a Baby again right away. And I need to think of the Children I already have first. They need me right now, more than ever. It would not be right to take my time and energy away from them. But it doesn’t stop my yearning to fill my womb to replace the Baby that is no longer there.
      I miss my Baby every day. Just as I miss the Baby that I was not given the chance to grow 11 years ago. One month has passed since the day I said goodbye to my little tadpole. No one asks about my Baby anymore. No one asks about me anymore. Life is moving on without my Baby. But I feel sometimes as though it is moving on without me, as well. I feel a tiny bit of my heart died along with my Baby. I have so many friends that are pregnant or have recently had Babies, and it hurts me so to see and hear about them. But, just as I did after losing my first Pregnancy in 2006, I will survive. I will be the best Mother I can be to the Children I have with me right now, and someday I may have more.
      I will survive, even though it doesn’t really feel like it right now.

Please, if you have been a Presence in the life of someone that has experienced a miscarriage (and chances are that you have been), ask them how they are doing. Acknowledge the life of their Baby. Let them know that you have not forgotten about that tiny Being’s brief life. Show them that they are loved and that their Baby still has a presence in this world through the love of others. Not constantly. Just once in a while, to let them know that they are not alone, and not forgotten.

 

 

Miscarriage can make us feel helpless and alone. For free resources when you need someone to talk to, you can dial 211 for the United Way (within the US), which can connect you with local free or low-cost mental health resources or even just for someone to listen to you. 

 

If you or someone you know show signs of suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) from within the US, or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Miscarriage can take a huge toll on our mental health. Even if you don’t feel that you are at immediate risk of suicide, they can also help connect you to local free or low-cost mental health resources.