There are many goals that I have for the students who take our birth classes, but this…empowerment…THIS may be my ultimate goal for them. I desire for them to finish our birth classes feeling empowered with knowledge and confidence, ready to experience the life-changing birth of their child without any fear or anxiety.
We don’t just idealize birth as it may be seen in some lovely birth video with beautiful music in the background, the laboring woman calmly breathing through each contraction, gazing in connection at her partner who is there each step of the way, always knowing just what to do to support the woman. Though that would be an ideal picture of birth, we know it’s our responsibility as birth instructors to also teach our students how to handle a complication or how to know if an intervention is needed to help the natural birth process along. And choosing an intervention is not failing at a natural birth plan. We are extremely clear about that. There is no room for guilt or shame in the delivery room.
So to prepare our students we teach about achieving informed consent during labor –knowing the questions to ask to make informed and wise decisions during the delivery process. This involves showing our students how to use their BRAINs during labor! When a problem or complication arises, can they use their BRAIN to determine how to proceed? For a proposed intervention they’ll check: Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Intuition (what their gut says to do) or do Nothing. However, the PRECURSOR to realizing informed consent during labor is first establishing a positive, trusting relationship with your birth team. Open communication and mutual respect is necessary to form that solid bond that glues you and your birth professionals together as an unbreakable team; aiming for the same goal of meeting your sweet baby as naturally as possible.
I’d like to share with you a recent student’s birth experience! We couldn’t be prouder of them for using their BRAINs and feeling empowered and strong throughout their labor and delivery. Enjoy their story below!
“After about 9 or 10 days of intense itching combined with being a week overdue, I was asking some friends for advice or suggestions and doing a bit more research about PUPPS. I realized then that although I had a lot of redness from all of the itching, it wasn't really a rash that was causing the itching in the first place. Although I didn't have any itching on the palms of my hands or soles of my feet, I started to wonder if maybe we had misdiagnosed with PUPPS. I called the midwives back to discuss my thoughts with them. After they did some more research and consulted with the OB on call, I was told that given my symptoms plus the fact that we were a week overdue and it would take a week to get results back on blood tests for cholestasis (a more serious form of itching during pregnancy), we should assume that I have ICP (cholestasis) and proceed accordingly. This would mean induction ASAP. The midwife told me she knew that was the last thing I probably wanted given our birth plan, but given the risk of stillbirth with ICP, this would be the best decision.
My husband and I talked it over and agreed, so we finished packing our bags and headed over to the hospital on Sunday night, not really knowing how the next few days would go! We said a prayer, prepared to surrender to the process and headed inside. The midwife started us with Cervadil that evening, hooked us up to the monitors, and we tried to get some sleep before things got going. Even by that point we were amazed at how many things we were equipped to deal with and ask for to stay in control of our birth (a super stressed out nurse, asking for a portable box so we could walk even with monitors, being assertive and making sure we knew all of our options, etc…) At one point, one of our nurses was filling out paperwork and asked if we had taken childbirth classes. When we told her we had taken modified Bradley classes, she goes, "Bradley classes, hmm. That's the one where the husband makes all of the decisions, right?" And then she looked at my husband and said, "So you're calling all the shots here, hey?" Needless to say, we asked that that nurse not be invited back into the room during her next shift! =)
Mild contractions started the next morning around 2 or 3am. By 5 or 6am, they were strong enough where I at least had to pay attention and progressed throughout the day. My husband and a close friend were there to help me labor, and things seemed to be going well! We found our zone, were snacking and laughing in between contractions, and were dilating about a centimeter every few hours, so by 3pm we were at 5 centimeters. Unfortunately that's where we got stuck! After about two more hours of contractions we were still at 5 centimeters. They asked if we wanted to try breaking my water, nipple stimulation or Pitocin, and we asked if we could try walking around, stairs, different positions, etc... first. After two hours of every natural method we could think of, we were still stuck at 5 centimeters.
Given the ICP and stillbirth risk, we decided to break my water and go from there. (I think before that point I was scared to try any other form of induction since the contractions were already pretty bad and I knew they had to get worse for things to progress!). Anyhow, after that things sped up, contractions intensified and we were in hard active labor for the rest of the night. I could not believe how powerful the contractions were and how difficult it was to stay focused and breathe through each one. We had the water birth room so we got in the tub and that definitely helped for a while. By midnight we thought we definitely had to be close to 10, the nurses were getting delivery supplies ready, and we were exhausted but excited to deliver. Then after checking me, they announced that we were only at 7 1/2 -8 centimeters. My husband said he's never hated the number 8 so much in his life! =)
I was spent and the midwife who was with us for a solid 24 hours, suggested that it might be time to consider either Pitocin or an epidural or both. I decided I wanted to keep going for another hour or two to see if we could progress any further on our own, but by 2am we did another check, and we were still stuck at just under 8 centimeters. Knowing it would still be several hours, even if we did progress, and then we would have to start the hard work of pushing, we both realized that my body didn't have anything left, even if my brain wanted it to!
I think the worst part was the barrage of thoughts about how I had failed and how many other women I know have been able to do this on their own and what everyone else would think. But that was also the point when I think I most embraced the need for surrender that had been such a huge part of the entire pregnancy. In birth class, the one birth affirmation that I really grasped onto was, "My labor will be exactly the right labor for me and my baby." And it really was! I heard one woman who said she could look at each of her labors and point to exactly what she needed to learn through it!
So we opted for the epidural. And once we made the decision the worst part was walking to the next room mid-contraction and waiting for the anesthesiologist to arrive. Once they had me hooked up, they started me on Pitocin and we both were able to get some much needed sleep. By 9:30 the next morning, I was at 10 centimeters and was surprised by how much I could still feel even with the epidural. I could definitely sense baby moving down and they said it was time to push! We were both well-rested and the sun was out and I brushed my teeth and things looked a whole lot brighter! It only took an hour of pushing before our baby girl was born!
She came out screaming and she had lots of skin-to-skin time, both with mom and dad. My husband got to cut the umbilical cord, and my Dad showed up about an hour after which was awesome since he's been waiting to be a Grampa his entire life and could not be more smitten! Her name is Amelia and she was 9 pounds even, 20 ¾ inches long! I remember the moment after she was born and I looked over at my husband. He had just one single tear roll down his cheek. I asked him about it later, if he was excited to be a Dad, and he just said he was so relieved that it was over and that I wasn't in pain anymore. He was such an amazing support and coach!
Overall, giving birth to Amelia was one of the most surreal and spiritual bonding experiences of our entire lives. After finishing our classes with you guys, we basically agreed that we felt prepared for the fact that there was very little we ultimately could prepare for or be in control over, and that really served us well during our entire birth experience. We're so grateful for everything we learned and can't wait for you to meet our little snuggle monster!”
**Story shared with permission.**
Do YOU feel empowered to have the best birth for yourself and your baby? Can we help YOU in any way on your birth journey?
Check out our Confident Birth website for more about us –www.confidentbirthwi.com. Prepare. Empower. Connect.