Monday, April 25, 2011

The Birth Nazi

I am continuously amazed at the way people twist my words all around.  I have a friend that said that to me the other day.  She said the comments I get on my blog are consistently 50/50 -- some supportive, some thinking I'm void of any compassion whatsoever and have totally lost my marbles.

Most of you don't know me in real life, but suffice it to say, I am very much the same sitting here at the computer as I am in person.  I will tell you what I think, and I'm OK with you telling me what you think, as long as it is kept respectful.  That's why I do not delete comments from my blog, even the ones that more or less call me a Birth Nazi.  You have the right to your opinion, just as I have the right to mine.

Before I go any further, I want to address my use of the word "Nazi" in this post.  I am using this word because I have heard myself referred to in this manner.  The "Soup Nazi" episode of Seinfeld has been laughed about for years, but when used in this manner, it's not funny.  At least I don't think it's funny.  I, personally, am quite offended by the use of the word, especially in reference to myself.  

Let's address a very interesting topic that I read several blog posts and Facebook statuses about this week:  Is it OK, even good, to expect a good birth experience?  According to most of them, no!  At least this is my interpretation:  You shouldn't get your hopes up because you might be let down.

A very fast recap of my birth experiences:  I have had 4 different births.  My first was an epidural birth where I narrowly escaped a c-section.  My second was my most emotional where I definitely experienced that "birth high." My third sucked and was my hardest (no one's fault but my own), and my fourth was the "easiest" but emotionally hard knowing it was my last and my son would never have a brother.  The only birth I cried tears of joy was my second.  The others, I was just mostly glad they were over.  Does that mean they were bad births because I didn't weep with joy?  Of course not.  They were all just different.  I learned very different things from each experience.  I hope those things I learned, I am able to pass on to my students.  Sometimes it's a case of "Do as I say, not as I did!"

There is this idea that Donna Ryan is an unforgiving natural childbirth educator.  If you have an epidural, I will make you feel awful about it.  And a c-section, forget it!  You might-as-well crawl into a hole!

OK, this is what Donna Ryan teaches.  Pay attention, Donna-haters!  I believe that there are some really awful OBs out there that are happiest when they are performing surgery.  They know nothing about natural childbirth and frankly, don't want to know.  They will scare you into an induction or make you beg for an epidural ("haha, let's keep her pit turned high and strap her to a monitor!"), or they will give you an episiotomy so long you will wish you had a c-section.  (Yes, I've heard a nurse say she heard an OB say this.) Are all OBs like this?  Of course not.  They do exist.  I think that the majority of them have not attended natural, intervention-free births enough to know what that looks like, sounds like, or how to help and encourage a couple on this journey.  Most of them will find a way to put you on their turf, where they are comfortable -- in a bed, strapped to a monitor, legs in stirrups, epidural, pitocin, etc.  See past blog post.

There are other resources in your community.  You may have to dig around to find them, but they likely exist.  Resources that support and encourage natural normal birth.  In Fort Worth, Texas there are so many resources available to families -- amazing midwives, in and out of the hospital.  With choices available, you need to use them.  These are the people who will help you have the birth you want -- or in some cases avoid the birth you don't want!  They encourage you to do the opposite of the (bad) OBs;  things like walking, intermittent monitoring, light food and drink throughout labor, choice of pushing positions, and just plain ole encouragement!  What a difference between a nurse (or midwife) saying, "You got this!  You sound wonderful.  Keep making those low, slow sounds," and "Oh, honey, if you think this is hard now, just wait till you're an 8!  Are you sure you don't want an epidural?"  Well, when you put it that way, of course I want an epidural!

I expect my couples to make the appropriate changes if necessary.  Don't ignore the red flags!  Nearly everyone that sits through my class does change their care provider and/or hospital if they see those red flags.  If you ignore them -- now, this does sound harsh, but it's true -- you have no one to blame but yourself for a "bad" birth if you do not make the necessary changes during the pregnancy.  It's not much fun to be left wondering if that c-section really was necessary. 

Your labor should be a wonderful, yet challenging, time in your life.  Your birth team is critical.  I've said that a million times here over the last three years.  Birth is probably the hardest thing you will ever do.  I never paint a rosy picture.  We don't get to pick the way your birth is going to play out, but you will have a very good idea of what normal birth looks like.  We go through lots of variations of normal too.

This is what I teach about an epidural:  You know what normal birth looks like.  You know what to do, what not to do, you have prepared in every way possible (birth team, relaxation, exercise, nutrition, hired a doula), and you know when you are out of the "normal" range, which can mean a lot of different things.  You have the education to know when you are on the path to a c-section.  Many an epidural has saved a mom from a c-section.  We all hope that an epidural is not a part of the birth equation, but sometimes it is, and sometimes it's even a good thing, a necessary intervention that saves a mom from a c-section.

I have never -- not even once -- told a mom that she failed when she had that epidural.  Or a c-section.  I would never do that.  In many instances, I've put myself in their shoes, and have no doubt that I would have made the exact same decision.  Now, I can't say that a mom won't beat herself up over it, but it's not because I made her feel bad. 

Here's the reality:  When people sit through my class and do all the "right" things and their birth does not go as they had hoped (epidural, transfer, c-section), rarely do I have someone seem to dwell on it and have a hard time getting over it.  Most people know that there are things in birth that are not within our control, but you do your part, roll with the punches, understand why those things became necessary in your birth, and move on!  Learn from them.  Don't become a victim of your birth!  I am seeing this all the time.  It's exhausting.  Your birth does not define who you are as a person.  How you deal with things that happen in your life is more important than the actual things that happen. 

There are some midwives that have told me that the reason they refer to my classes is not necessarily because they love The Bradley Method®, but because my couples seem to bounce back easier when things go differently from their original plans.  My couples also know that they can trust them to help them on this road and if they say they need intervention or medication, it's OK to trust them.  Attitude is everything.

I simply want to see women believe in themselves enough to give birth their all.  Sometimes, that may not mean an unmedicated birth.  It might even mean a c-section in the end.  But if you do your part -- not just become a victim of a very broken maternity system -- you will have a good birth!  Does that make me a Birth Nazi?  Then so be it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

When We Want our Friends and Family to Birth Like We Do



Natural birth advocates get a bad name sometimes because people perceive us as cramming our opinions down their throat.  The same could be said about all the folks who tell you to "just get the drugs!"  They often encourage a pregnant mom to be induced, find out the sex of their baby, and of course, get the epidural.  Rarely do I have people sitting in class who say that everyone in their life is supportive of their natural birth choice.  Often, class is the only "safe" place where they can talk about their desires for a natural birth and prepare accordingly.

I used to encourage friends to have a natural birth and talk to them about my class.  Some cases have worked out great, but more often than not, it backfires.  I have learned over the years that the desire to have a natural birth must come from within.  I have a friend from church who says of "the other side" that they just aren't ready to hear "the gospel of natural childbirth!" 

I heard of a couple recently that took a Bradley® class, hired a doula, and birthed with a group of CNMs in a hospital.  She has family members that are natural birth advocates and encouraged her to do all the "right" things as listed above.  Now, I don't know this woman, so I am speculating.  She ended up with a c-section, one that was very likely not necessary based on what I heard of the story, but I don't think her heart was in it at all.  In hearing the story, I've heard the midwives blamed and also the Bradley® teacher.  I don't think either is at fault.  The mom just wasn't committed to having a natural birth and was subconsciously looking for a reason to abandon the natural process.

I believe that when people want you to get the drugs, it's because it makes them feel better about their own birth.  I did this with my friend, Alisa.  I had given birth to one baby with an epidural. I didn't feel a thing and narrowly escaped a c-section.  Alisa was planning an unmedicated birth.  I wanted her to fail.  Somehow, that would justify my birth choices.  A bit twisted, I know.  I think that a lot of women that have c-sections want others to have them as well.  They would never come out and say it, but I think it's there.

I love it when women have a natural birth and everyone says to her how lucky she is that her labor was only 3 hours (the hardest 3 hours of her life!) -- "If my labor had only been 3 hours, I could have done it too!"  I had someone in my class a few years ago who said to me after her labor, "I just think my labor was harder than everyone elses, so I had an epidural."  Women who have natural births are working hard and are committed to the process!  They aren't lucky, have high pain tolerances, or have easy labors!  It comes from within.

It is interesting to ask people on the first night of class why they have chosen to have a natural birth.  Rarely is the answer, "My friend had one and so now I want one."  I will admit, however, that was a factor in my decision to birth naturally with the second baby.  I knew that if Alisa did it, I could do it too.  I don't remember her telling me that I should do it though.  Reading the birth stories of Martha Sears in The Birth Book played a big role in my decision, and also the history of childbirth in America.

Ultimately, I believe the reason we want our friends and family to birth naturally is because we have seen how powerful it has been in our own lives.  In most cases, it was probably the hardest thing you have ever done, but the joy and empowerment that followed was unbelievable!  We also know that they can do it but are choosing not to.  That's the most frustrating part of it all.  If they would just give in to the process and let go of the fear, they too could have this amazing experience.

Our reasons for wanting our friends and family to have natural births is anything but selfish.  We want this experience for them, to feel that they accomplished this amazing goal -- one that most of us will only experience a few times in our lifetime.  If they didn't grow into teenagers, I'd have a dozen babies!

So, my natural birth "junkies," lead by example, like Alisa did.  Give your friend or sister a book to read full of good birth stories.  Be available for questions.  Let her borrow your copy of "The Business of Being Born" or "Orgasmic Birth."  Everyone is coming from a different place.  Sometimes we have to have our own (bad) experience to start listening to other options.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Letter to My Dad

Even typing the title of this post bring tears to my eyes.  I am not sure how I'm going to get through this, but I have felt for weeks that I need to write this post.  I'm not sure how to start this post.  I guess the beginning is as good a place as any.

My parents got married very young.  My dad was 21 and my mom was 18.  They had been together for 3 years, but my dad was in the Army in Germany for almost 2 1/2 years of that time.  They wrote each other every day and got married 10 days after he returned home.  They got pregnant almost immediately with my brother.  It was a hard time for them, and for my brother.  Both my parents completed their education while my brother was a little boy.  No small feat - they were the first to leave Southern Illinois and to get a college education on either side of their families.

According to my brother, my dad was never a real compassionate, loving father.  I was born about 8 1/2 years after my brother.  I was named Donna because it was the name that my father would have had if he had been a girl.  My grandma named him Donald (called Donnie growing up) because it was the closest thing to Donna.  So my name was very special.  I have a tender picture of my dad holding me as a brand new baby.  I love this picture.  I think about how he must have felt, holding his new daughter.  Full of hope for me and the person I would become.  Not knowing anything about what the future would hold.


My sister was born 22 months after me, probably only because my mother wanted more children.  My dad, on the other hand, was done.

And so the years passed.  My dad was a CPA and owned his own business for as long as I remember.  He didn't really talk to us much when he came home.  Music was turned down when he came home from work, the evening news played while we ate dinner, and mostly, he sat in his chair and read who-knows-what most evenings.  I don't remember being tucked in at night - not to say this didn't happen - I just don't remember it.  I don't remember him reading to me or really even talking to me.  Raising the children was my mom's responsibility. 

My favorite childhood memories are family vacations and skiing.  I grew up in Santa Fe, NM, and we skied several times a month all winter.  My dad was a different person at these times.  He loved to play games and loved nature.  We rode motorcycles through the spring and fall.  But the day to day life was not much fun with him.

I started smoking when I was 12.  As a former smoker, this made my dad insane.  When I got caught smoking, he would make me sit and eat cigarettes or chewing tobacco (I was allowed one glass of water) until I threw up.  Ironically, we usually had a pretty good conversation during these times.  I assume that's because I had his undivided attention.  I continued smoking, just tried to be more careful in not getting caught.

We had a lot of run-ins when I was a teenager.  Sneaking out, bad grades, lots of parties and drinking, bad 80s makeup, boyfriends who were always bad news, and lots of lying.

I caused endless problems between my parents.  My mom always believed my lies and my dad saw right through them.  Eventually, it got to the point that my dad went through the application process to have me admitted to military school.  (I was accepted.)  I told my mom that if they made me go, I'd run away.  I had a boyfriend that was 5 years older than me and I think they knew I was serious.  She asked me where I wanted to go because I couldn't live at home anymore.  I said to live with my Aunt Judy and Uncle Gary in Indianapolis.  I was on a plane two weeks later.  It was the only time I ever saw my dad cry.

It was a long journey to get to the point that my dad and I could have a decent conversation.  Years.  As I got older I could recognize what a complete brat I was as a teenager.  Over the last few months I have started to really grasp the extent of rage he must have felt towards me. 

I remember sitting in an LDS Stake Conference several years ago with President Jim Kearns conducting.  He was sitting on the stand and surveying the people as they walked through the door.  He would jot notes on index cards and hand them to his "helpers" to deliver to certain people in the congregation to speak on a particular topic.  I remember being so touched by the Spirit throughout this meeting as I listened to these inspired speakers.  I felt so honored to be surrounded by these compassionate, loving men and wishing that my father had been more like them.  I've had feelings like these over the years, and even today, as I watched a BYU program between General Conference sessions called "Turning Point," I couldn't help feeling this way again.  I listened to 21 adopted children describe their feelings about their father and mother - and yes, all 21 belonged to the same parents.  I couldn't subdue those feelings again of wishing my father had enjoyed being a father.

Dear Dad-
 
This June, it'll be 5 years since your death.  Not a day goes by that I don't think of you -- sometimes good and sometimes bad.  I look at my kids and feel sad that their memory of you is fading.  Except for playing games with you.  When I play a game, I act just like you -- a worse winner than loser, that is -- and they tell me so.  I tell them I'm just trying to keep your memory alive!  

You'd get a kick out of Darcy.  She is such a firecracker, and yet very sensitive.  And Abby too.  You'd just love to spend time with her.  Such a quick sense of humor.  Independent, organized, and motivated.  Vena is very much the same as she was when she was little -- a very deep thinker and remembers every mean word ever said to her.  She doesn't like sarcasm and for this reason, you would have a hard time with her and vice versa.  Her memories of you are not entirely good and this makes me sad.  A few harsh moments with her went a long way.  Further than the good ones, I'm afraid.

It is my experiences with Daymon, however, that have caused me to reflect on you and our relationship lately.  I see a lot of the same characteristics in him that I possess or did possess as a teenager.  His number one love is music, both playing it and listening to it.  I know you would not have this in common with him!  He is quiet at home.  When you died, none of us were on Facebook.  You would hate it, trust me!  Daymon seems to have a highly addictive personality, just like his mother.  He really enjoyed Facebook, but more than that, he really loved to text.  I use the past tense because he lost all those privileges in January, after having 15,000 texts in one month.  

We've had a hard time with him lately and it makes me realize that so many of the things he does -- or sometimes doesn't do -- remind me of me at that age.  I can't begin to tell you how frustrating it is.  I really do know what is best for him and what would be good for him.  I've been around the block a time or two and if he would just listen to me, I could save him so much pain! 

I remember very well how I felt at his age and so I feel like I have a good understanding of how he'll handle different situations.  You tried to control my every move when I was a teenager and it had the opposite effect.  I ran the other direction and lied to cover my tracks.  You really never knew me, but you didn't take the time to get to know me either.  Had you talked to me when I was younger, maybe I would have talked to you when I was older.  

Something I have learned, we can't make people do what we want them to do.  Daymon has horrible acne.  I tried washing his face for him, but at 14 years old, it's ridiculous!  I can't brush his teeth for him or make him wear his retainer.  Does it make me completely insane that he chooses to not do these things sometimes?  Of course.  But he has his free agency to make his own choices.  I try to teach him the right things to do and talk with him, but at the end of the day, it's up to him.  No matter how much I'd like to, I cannot make his decisions for him.

I can say all these things right now at this very moment because I'm not mad at him!  Several weeks ago, he got caught lying to us.  It was a pretty big lie, too.  David and I were in a heated debate with Daymon and I finally had to walk out of the room.  I spent the rest of the evening crying -- not because of our fight with Daymon, but because I think I had an glimpse into how you must have felt towards me because I was feeling the same way towards Daymon. 

I have determined that you must have hated me.  I'm not saying this looking for sympathy, just stating the facts.  I know you loved me because I am your daughter, but I think you really, really disliked me as a person.  I can't blame you.  You always hear parents say things like, "I hope you have a child just like you when you grow up."  I don't know that you ever said that to me, but now that I have a child that is similar, I understand.  I was much worse than Daymon, however.  

Dad, more than anything I wish you were alive so I could look in your eyes and tell you how sorry I am for putting you through all those years of hell.  I talked with Judy this week about those years and she agreed that you didn't like me until many years later.  The damage had been done.  It's such a tragedy that many parents and teenagers don't realize exist.  It may last for many years.  Even when I was 25, 30, 35, I knew I had been a difficult teenager.  But it is 25 years after the fact that I finally get it!   I feel fortunate that you and I did get to a point where we got along pretty well.

I have no bad feelings -- never did -- over being sent to live with Judy and Gary.  So much good came out of it in so many ways.  Thank you for loving me enough to let me go.  I know it had to have been so hard to give me away to someone else.  I never saw you cry before that day. 

I hope that one day, you and I will get to sit down and have a good heart to heart and get to know each other better.  I can't blame you for who you are any more than you can blame me for who I am.  I am sorry for dishonoring you and for all the heartache I caused you.  This has been a difficult few months for me as I have had these realizations. 

I love you Dad. Despite wishing you were different in many ways, I wouldn't change a thing -- except that you would still be alive so I could say these things face to face. 

Love,
Donna

 

Thanks for your patience on this post.  I had a lot to say.  I do feel that all things parenting related are relevant to Banned From Baby Showers.  Parenting teenagers is not fun so far!  It is challenging in totaling different ways that parenting small babies or children.  It's even causing me to enjoy the "tween" years more.  Abby (10) keeps watching Daymon, saying, "I will not act like this when I am 14!"  Should we believe her?  Of course not!