Monday, May 27, 2013

A Birth Boot Camp® Birth Story - by Karolyn Dicken

It was just about a year ago when we found out that we were pregnant.  I’d been a little too anxious with the first pregnancy test and despite assuring results up to 5 days sooner; the test still came back negative. A week later when Mother Nature still had not run her course, I tried again.  POSITIVE!

For reasons I don’t even completely know, I’ve always desired to have an unmedicated childbirth.  Granted, that wasn’t a conversation that really came up in our dating days, so when I told my husband this after we received the pregnancy news, he was a little unsupportive.  Okay, he might have even scoffed and said, ‘yeah, we’ll see how you feel when the time comes.’  Thankfully, I was with my mother-in-law at the time and she does a wonderful job trying to help me understand my husband.  She explained that his only up-front experience with childbirth had not been a very positive experience.  My husband has an adorable 6 year-old son (whom I love with my whole heart) from a previous relationship.  They were young and unprepared.  The mom is tiny and my (step) son’s head is rather large.  All of that resulted in a lot of pain and eventually a c-section.  This is what my husband had in his mind.

After explaining my desires a little bit more and reading a book that got us both on the same page, my husband jumped on the un-medicated band wagon with me!  We enrolled in a local Birth Boot Camp class (instructed by none other than Donna herself!) so that we could both be educated.  Friday evenings were one of our favorite times.  It was great having time to be so intentional about understanding the birthing process.  What we both found most useful was the emphasis on the husband’s active role throughout the pregnancy, labor, delivery, and beyond.

What my husband found most uncomfortable was the birthing videos.  Seriously, he’d turn away, cover his face, catch glimpses of the video and be totally disgusted.  Uh….he was supposed to be my #1 support during the delivery; how were we going to make sure this happened?!  As classes went on, the whole birthing process became a little less…disgusting…to him.  However, to this day, he still will say he found the videos revolting.  Bless his heart.  However, having been exposed to un-medicated births via those videos let him know a little bit more about what to expect on D-Day (Delivery day).

When the day arrived (I would say finally but she came a few days early despite me being convinced she would come late – so perhaps unexpectedly arrived would be more accurate), we were as ready as we were going to be.  My husband had his affirmations written down for me, lots of lyrics and scripture saved, and an entire playlist put together for during labor.  I think we got through a few songs before she came much quicker than anticipated!  My husband was my #1 support that day as I had hoped he would be.  He was calm, encouraging, supportive and calm.  Did I mention calm?  When meeting my husband, calm probably wouldn’t be one of the words used to describe him.  Yet, thanks to a lot of prayer, the classes and conversation (and, yes, even the videos), he knew what I needed that day to have a positive birthing experience.  It was an incredible day all together.

I had a friend there with us taking pictures of the whole experience.  When talking to her a few days later, she told me the first thing she told her husband after watching our daughter’s birth was that she was super impressed (and even a little shocked) with how well my husband responded throughout the process.  Even my midwife commended him for his support.  While he might not have been the one to catch our daughter, he did manage to peak and even caught a glimpse of Kadence coming into the world – with her arm raised high by her head.  Really, Kadence?!  But to think he might have missed that if not for everything we had learned ahead of time.  I’m so incredibly thankful for our experience and how prepared we felt going into all of it.  My husband was so enthralled with how alert our daughter was immediately upon entering the world.  Really, he’s just enthralled with her in general.  I’m so thankful for Donna, Birth Boot Camp, our fellow Birth Boot Campers and the healthy arrival of our tiny newest addition.  We couldn’t have asked for anything more; we are incredibly blessed.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Guest Post by Elizabeth McKeown - Author of "In Search of the Perfect Birth"

So many women end up reeling from their births, with something empty inside or a “why me” attitude. It’s not always easy to explain or define. Some cover it up and go along with life anyway, convinced that the problem is themselves. They chastise themselves and don’t question the way things are. Afraid to be ungrateful, some are ashamed to confide their feelings and they keep it inside. And then for those, like me, for whom that is not good enough… we go searching for more.
What was I “in search of”? Answers. Answers why my body didn't work like I thought it would. Why wasn't I a pain warrior in the hospital? Why didn't my baby latch well or take to breastfeeding? Why did I feel so void of raw emotion the instant I became a mother? Why wasn't that the happiest moment in my life? Logically I knew it should be. In my heart, I was like a conductor with no orchestra. Cue the teardrops, I urged. All I felt was hungry (not eating for almost 24 hours) and tired. Some natural birth goddess I turned out to be.
Years later I had still not given up on myself. I believed in myself so much that I decided that if only I weren't strapped down to that hospital bed I could have handled everything well. I was older and wiser, and maybe even tougher than that 21 year old girl I used to be. Homebirth midwives were going to help me have the birth I needed. Only it didn't work out that way. I was overdue. Pressure was on. I experienced a non-consensual membrane sweep. The following day I would give birth. Intense, increased pain in their presence, meconium, and an ambulance ride to the hospital created for me what was my most horrifying life experience yet. My baby and I were alive, but I was shaken. I knew I was not made for this. 
My disappointment and disillusionment surfaced. Bitterness in “natural birth” took the place where confidence in myself once was. I knew I could never give birth again. I wanted no one to give birth again, ever. When I thought of birth, I thought of tsunamis wiping out populations, and tigers tearing animals apart in the jungle. Nature was harsh and cruel and did not care about any of us. I felt like some lonely star wandering the cold, desolate universe. I was on God’s torture table subject only to his whims, suffering comedy and tragedy at random and completely out of my control. 
I was not content to let it end there. Not like that.
My epiphany came and hit me during my third pregnancy. Something was always getting in my way in the other births. What would happen if nothing was standing in my way? There were things I had no say in, people who didn't honor my requests or needs, with the feeling of being vulnerable magnifying every pain. Yes, I do like to be in control of everything. Yes, I do like the idea of going with the flow. There is some balance, or harmony to be stricken, between the randomness of nature and the power in my own hand. I was going to find that balance. My epiphany was that I needed to birth unassisted.
I began researching my needs and found, shockingly, that everything I felt was so specific to me was supported in science. Scientific observation of mammals, the primal birth space, the nature of birth physiology… these were all in tune with what I suspected were my own “preferences“. I flung myself deeper and deeper into research and gave birth undisturbed and unassisted in 2011. Shortly thereafter my book In Search of the Perfect Birth was published. It describes all my birth experiences in detail, the “errors” in each, and the triumph of learning how to trust yourself again after life’s hard lessons. 
I am so glad I never gave up on myself, never subscribed permanently to my own bitterness, and never stopped asking questions. The obsessive pursuit of truth will lead you to scientific and spiritual revelations about yourself of proportions you could never imagine. It is “perfect”. I tell my story so others can find their way out of the suffering, too. 
The Facebook page In Search of the Perfect Birth is dedicated to discussing these topics. The book of the same name is available (among other places) at Amazon and for Kindle.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Your Doula Can't Do It For You

One of my favorite things about birth is that every birth is different.  Some are totally awesome and others just suck to get through.  It varies from person to person and from kid to kid.  If you knew exactly how each birth would go, you would just plan for that experience.  That's the thing though -- no one knows how things will go down.  I like to think that it adds to the excitement!

The costs of adding to your family can be significant.  When you are planning an unmedicated birth, making choices that will help you achieve your goals is so important.  A childbirth class and a doula do add to the costs.  Of course, if you spend time with these people, they'll tell you what you really need with a new baby, which will probably save you money in the long run!

I've seen many couples hire a doula and call it good -- thinking the doula will be their childbirth class and advocate for them.  The assumption is that she'll help them every step of the way.  While this is partially true, it puts all the pressure on the doula and none on the parents.

Many doulas give discounts to couples who take a good childbirth class and birth with care providers who are natural birth friendly.  It makes their job not only easier, but more enjoyable.  They see the parents become empowered by making their own choices.  The doula is there for support and encouragement. She provides occasional education or information about something that may have come up in labor.

To not prepare physically, mentally, and emotionally for an unmedicated birth is irresponsible.  Remember my saying - "90% of birth is in your head, 10% is what happens to you."  I really do believe that.  Not just for moms, but for dads.  He needs to have his head in the game, too!

Are you ready for labor?  Do you know your stuff?  Labor is not the time to be learning or figuring things out.  It is often difficult enough when you are completely prepared!

I am obviously a proponent of hiring a doula, no matter where you are giving birth.  It benefits mom and dad.  I never hear people say that they wish they wouldn't have hired a doula, but I certainly have heard couples say they wish they had.

Childbirth education is my passion.  For me, education was the turning point, knowing I could do it, and having the tools to make it happen.  I want to see all couples being educated and then hiring a doula to help them maneuver through labor and their individual situation.

Your labor is your experience.  The doula is there to make you more comfortable, help you meet your goals, and enhance the experience.  She can't get in your head.  She can't take on the contractions for you.  Isn't is wonderful that no one can birth your baby but you?

A corny way to end this post?  Who cares!  People are always asking me about a gift to get their doula.  There are so many choices in beautiful jewelry.  I just found this necklace and loved it.  Your doula will too.

Happy birthing -- yourself -- but with a doula by your side -- and, of course, some good childbirth education behind you!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Political Correctness in the Birth Community

I enjoy expressing my opinion and writing this blog. The whole premise of Banned From Baby Showers is the freedom to say all the things you feel you can't elsewhere.  Maybe it's at a baby shower, a playgroup, a church meeting, or lunch with girlfriends.  It's that moment where you decide to keep your opinion (even if it's based on fact) to yourself in order to keep your friends.  Here, you don't have to do that.  Speak freely.

I honestly enjoy hearing what other people think, even when they disagree with me.  No, really.  I'm OK with it.  I've always said, as long as it's kept respectful, free of foul language and hate, speak your mind.  Of course, it's more fun when people agree with me, but it's unrealistic.  It would be boring if we all had the same opinion on everything.

My husband and I are of differently political parties.  We don't really discuss politics at home though.  When we do, our kids hear both sides, so I guess that's good.  I've had so many people tell me that it would make them crazy if their spouse were of a different political party, but I love him much more than I do politics or any opinion either of us might hold.  This week I did tell him that I was slightly disturbed that the push for the "morning after" pill doesn't bother him.  But it was one of those moments when I thought, I'm not going to change his mind by arguing with him and telling him that he's wrong.  He's not wrong for having an opinion that is different than mine.  It was respectful and the discussion was over as quickly as it started.

With that little bit of history, I had an experience this week that I found indicative of the direction society -- including the birth community --  is heading and it really bugged me.  On my BFBS Facebook page, I expressed what I thought of a picture that was floating around in my newsfeed.  It had nothing to do with the photographer, but that's how things got all twisted around.  I should mention that I never look at who takes a picture because I honestly don't care.  If I were a photographer, I might care, but I'm not.  I don't even really know what makes one picture artistically better than another.  I am clueless.  When one photographer critiques another, I don't get it.  They all look the same to me.  Full disclosure about just how clueless I really am.  But I sometimes think that pictures are interesting, sad, angry, or intensely happy.  In this case, I thought it was weird.  I jumped over to my BFBS Facebook page and said so.  I was kind of laughing and kind of shivering all at once!  Then I moved on with my day, shuttling kids around to their various activities.

I started getting texts telling me I started a riot.  Don't try to go read it - I deleted it.  It brought all the crazies out.  Here's where my problem is.  I was told my opinion was WRONG and that I was being mean.  Before that, there were a handful of comments that disagreed with me, which I was fine with. I am not going to have my words twisted around by someone who wants to take me down.  Nothing I said had come from a mean place.  That is not who I am.

This is what I see that is happening in the natural birth community:  It's offensive to say "you can have an amazing birth" because you might offend the people who struggle with infertility.  It's offensive to say "husband" because so many people aren't married or you might alienate the gay community.  To tell people that you loved your birth is a slap in the face to those that required a c-section.  The list goes on and on.  No one can share their experience because they might offend someone else.  Give me a break.

We've got one blogger who has taken it upon herself to police the other bloggers and make sure they are all politically correct and not making anyone else "feel bad".  She is telling people their opinion is WRONG.  The birth community has been brainwashed to think we have to stroke everyone's ego so their feelings aren't hurt.  Are we that fragile as women? Are we so self-centered to think everything is about us?  Honestly, no one can express an opinion EVER because you might hurt someone's feelings and said blogger will come after you.  Said blogger has bullied me and others - telling us who to "like" and not "like" on Facebook, what's "appropriate" to say and not say, and actively trying to turn others against us.  I hate bullies.  I wrote a post last year with said blogger in mind.  It's called Bullying on the Playground of Life.  For the record, I have never posted to someone else's page and told them they are wrong for having their opinions or supporting things that I do not.  It's not my place.  Banned From Baby Showers is my page.  I will not be treated this way on my own page.

Before you express your OPINION, please stop and think "Am I telling this person her opinion is wrong?  Am I respecting her right to her opinion, even if it's not politically correct or my opinion?"

The joke is that I should just write "vanilla" -- plain-Jane, non-offensive posts -- so that my words are not twisted.  Quite honestly, I'm not sure I know which those are.  I didn't think my comments this week were particularly offensive, just my simple observation and opinion.  It was in true Banned From Baby Showers form.

I am not a mean person.  I generally like people.  I would never post something malicious to pick a fight.  I just have an opinion.   I think I'm amusing.  I like a good discussion, but not so much a fight. Like you, I am very busy.  I don't have time for a pointless fight and neither do you! Facebook is the biggest time-suck on the planet. We all have children who want us to get off Facebook.  Go have a good day, and remember, everyone is entitled to an opinion, even if you don't agree.  Just because you disagree, it doesn't mean they are wrong.

I would like to keep writing this blog, but if this trend of walking on eggshells continues, writing is not fun.  I'd rather not write than have to worry who might get offended at my words that are not written with hatred.  Like I said this week, I really hate "vanilla".  Forgive me if I keep writing with a little spice.  If you hate me or what I write, you are invited to either politely disagree or step away.