Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Weekend With the Sears

If you read my blog - ever - you know how much I love Dr. William and Martha Sears. Their books, literally, changed my life. They showed me a way of giving birth and parenting that felt right and ultimately helped shaped my career.

The Tarrant County Birth Network hosted the Southwest Birth Roundup with several amazing speakers, including the Sears and my friend, Jill Arnold. Y'all know her as The Unnecessarean or Cesareanrates.com. I just wanted to tell you about my weekend. Enjoy the pictures. :-)

We picked up the Sears at the airport on Friday afternoon. You might remember me commenting on my experience chauffeuring Ina May around when she was here. I'm a really good driver, really. But it is so nerve racking to drive someone around, thinking "I could go down in history as the one who killed fill-in-the-blank in a car accident." Fortunately, we had an uneventful car ride to the Stockyards Hotel and got them settled in.

That evening TCBN hosted a dinner where everyone got to mingle and take pictures with the Sears. I was lucky enough to sit by them at dinner. I had the opportunity to tell Martha how much her writings have affected me, as well as the Birth Boot Camp curriculum. She shared many things about growing up and their early years of marriage. She was super down-to-earth and lovely. It affirmed that she has been a good choice as a role model!

The next day was jam-packed with speakers, starting with Jill. She is so smart and has done amazing work on behalf of women and families in the US. My husband and I went to lunch with Jill, Sarah (Mama Birth - hiding her face!), my friend Alisa, and Jill's two kids. As fun as it is to "talk shop" hair is a really fun topic with Jill. I totally have hair envy so I wore my hair straight for the event - at least until the last day - but we'll get to that later. It was great to see her and get to hear her speak. The work she is doing is truly making a difference and is being recognized on a national level.

Saturday evening Dr. Sears spoke and shared tons of new information from his new book The Healthy Pregnancy Book.  It was fantastic! I wish I had had all that info when I was pregnant! In fact, we've added the book to our required reading for our 2015 Birth Boot Camp Instructors trainees.

The Birth Network Chapter Leaders (past and present) went to dinner with some of the speakers from the weekend, including Dr. Bill and Martha. We had an intimate, delicious dinner, including goat cheese ice cream -- ask Mama Birth about that one! -- and really had a great time.

We got to talking about the pictures that had been taken from the night before and I confessed that I made my famous "Tim eyes" in the picture. Of course, I had to explain my entire Tim McGraw story (including the picture) and we laughed about the whole thing. Dr. Sears said he wanted to see my hair curly so I promised to go home and wash it (sigh...).

I told them that I always refer to Dr. Sears as my "Tim McGraw of the birth world" and Martha found that quite hilarious. I told him I'd buy him a hat and we'd take a "Tim eyes" picture the next morning. Yes, he's holding my first edition copy of The Baby Book.

Sunday morning, Sarah Clark led a discussion with Martha about Attachment Parenting. It was so wonderful to hear from her. It was validating for many of us that this lifestyle can be challenging. She shared many things about raising her children -- even mistakes made -- that was refreshing and real.

Dr. Sears was hoping to take a picture on the longhorn out in the Stockyards but it wasn't out by the time we had to leave for the airport. We got a picture with a horse instead.

Honestly, they were the most down-to-earth lovely people. It was evident that their religion is important to them and governs the way they live their lives. They were thoughtful and thankful people and spending this time with them over the weekend was truly a dream come true.

And fun we had! Till next time!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why the "Evidence" Sometimes Gets in the Way of Having a Natural Birth

This is a post I've been thinking about for weeks now. I am conflicted about writing it, which is probably why it's taken so long. Last week I wrote about reasons that women chose to have a natural birth and some of the reasons given were somewhat evidence-based. A couple of weeks ago I asked the following question on my BFBS Facebook page:

From your childbirth class, what helped you the MOST in having an unmediated birth?
1. The "evidence".
2. Labor rehearsals.
3. Relaxation practice.
4. Your doula.
5. Your cheerleaders (I did it, so can you!)
6. Finding the perfect care provider.
7. Getting your head in the game (sorry, I LOVE High School Musical).

The overwhelming majority answered #7 is what helped them the most, which is exactly what I expected. 

Being the founder and President of a childbirth education company, Birth Boot Camp, I am obviously a fan of evidence. It is super important in what we do as educators. We need to know our stuff and be able to back up much of what we talk about in class. The Birth Boot Camp Instructor training is intense for this very reason.

Many people come to class because they've done some research, enough to know that natural birth and midwifery care is a healthy alternative to having their labor medically managed with drugs and interventions. The evidence got them there -- and they will continue to learn more while in their class -- but now they need to learn how to have a natural birth. Well, some of that process includes following the evidence and asking the right questions of your care provider and birth place. Not just the right questions, but learning the translation of what they are actually saying when they give you "answers". 

Labor is not a left-brain act. The left side of the brain is analytical and logical. It reads/hears/analyzes the evidence. It is totally used during childbirth classes and making decisions about your care provider and interventions you would like to avoid. But when it comes to the actual act of labor and birth, the right side takes over. Birth is very primal. My midwife with my last baby, Barbara Pepper, always encouraged me to let go of things I knew, and just feel. The right side of the brain is known for being the creative side, but it's also the side where intuition and reading emotions happens. 

I believe the left side of the brain can seriously get in the way of labor. Take vaginal exams for example. You get a number -- now what? The left side of the brain often starts doing "labor math". For example, "It took me 15 hours to get to a 5... I can't do this for another 15 hours to get to a 10!" 

In Birth Boot Camp classes, we offer lots of ways to help mom (and dad) through labor, encouraging him to do the left-brain work and letting her do the right-brain work. At some point, letting go of "the evidence" needs to happen in labor. It's that moment where you are in the moment, listening to your body, moving the way you need to, and making sounds that keep you relaxed. It's truly "getting your head in the game" and sometimes that takes as much work during pregnancy as learning the evidence! Evidence in-and-of-itself isn't what gives someone a great birth experience. It's a tool, but preparation -- physical, mental, and emotional -- is essential for both partners. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Top 10 Reasons Women Want a Natural Childbirth

I've been teaching natural childbirth classes since 2003 and have encountered all kinds of reasons people find themselves wanting a natural birth:

1. Because they have a friend/sister who did it.  This is why I had a natural birth. My friend, Alisa, did it and darn it, if she could do it, so could I!

This lady is the reason I had a natural birth!

2. They are afraid of the epidural.  I've had several people in class over the years that are just plain scared of the needle in their back. They are more afraid of that than they are the "pain" of natural childbirth. I've always been fascinated by this one. Occasionally, they can't have an epidural because of medical reasons so that's what lands them in my class.

3. They've had a bad experience with an epidural previously.  Every now-and-then someone has had a bad epidural where it didn't work right and they want to avoid not being prepared again. Often, these women feel like they didn't even have an epidural even when technically they did.

4. They've had a bad recovery when they had an epidural with another baby. This can coincide with #3, but sometimes their epidural worked fine but afterwards they were numb for hours. Or they had the spinal headache and couldn't care for their newborn or other children. It happens more often that you realize.

5. They've had a c-section and want to avoid another one. Inductions and interventions can often lead to c-sections. If a mom wants a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean), her best odds are having a natural birth and not forcing the labor along.

6. They believe their body was created to do this. These are not in any particular order, although I'm leaving #1 where it is because it's quite common and it was my reason for wanting a natural birth. #6 is probably the second most common reason I hear women say they want a natural birth. They believe in the process and their bodies.

7. Their mom did it, so can they. I love it when women have the support and encouragement of their mothers. I hope I instill that in my daughters.

8. They want to breastfeed.  Sometimes I've had women in class that have said their reason for wanting a natural birth is because they want to breastfeed and they believe that the birth can affect how well breastfeeding works. This is true. That's not to say that women who have epidurals and/or c-sections can't breastfeed, but it is more likely to be less complicated without medications/interventions, etc. involved. Even though they may or may not say so, I think this one is somewhat equated with #6.

9. They want to challenge themselves. You know these people - they want to be on Survivor or the Amazing Race. Yes, people do actually want to have a natural childbirth to face their fears or challenge themselves. They are so fun to have in class. They are sponges and actually DO the homework. Love these couples!

10. They saw a water birth on Baby Story.  There's at least one in every class. They saw a water birth or homebirth on TV and thought it was pretty cool. Or maybe they wanted to be able to say "I did that." Whatever it is, we'll take positive media representation of natural birth wherever we can get it!

Notice: Evidence is not on this list. I am working on a post about this so I'm not going to dwell on it here. It's not to say that it doesn't play a role in choosing to have a natural birth, but honestly, I've never had someone say that "evidence" is the reason they want a natural birth. It's is almost always an emotional decision, not a factual one. We'll circle back to this later.

As a side note, occasionally it the dad who is excited about natural birth. I have to tell you, this rarely works out well. Every time I've encountered these couples in class, the moms have had an epidural or a c-section. I love that dads get excited about natural birth, but ultimately, mom needs to also be excited for her own reasons.

If you want an AMAZING birth -- for whatever reasons -- sign up for a Birth Boot Camp class today, either with an instructor or online.