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.
"Why are you taking this class?",
Everyone laughs lightly as they glance at their significant other. A knowing smile passes over many of the women’s faces. Finally one of the guys says out loud what many are thinking, “I’m here because she told me we were doing this.” Laughter all around breaks the tension.
We get it. We really do. There are NOT many males who seek out an independent birth class for him and his partner to attend. In the 5 ½ years of teaching our classes and the 70+ couples that have attended, we have only received 1 initial class inquiry from a guy. All of the others have been from the pregnant women!
Many guys assume that since it’s her body and her birth experience, then she will be the one to learn what to do. She will do the reading to learn about what’s necessary to know. She will decide how she wants to birth. She will pick her birth provider. And he’s right in many ways. Women should take ownership of the experience that they want to have when it comes to birthing their babies. However, what we fail to share with the partner is that they can bring
tremendous value to the birthing environment.
A pregnant woman’s partner usually is the one who is closest to her and is most invested in the pregnancy. It is him who likely knows her the best; knows how she thinks; knows what makes her cry; and knows her passions. An encouraging word from him can be exactly what is needed to gently push her through a rough part of labor. A partner who is standing next to the laboring woman, holding her hand and rubbing her back, his lips pressed close to her ear as he whispers to her about how strong she is and how proud of her he is…
This. This moment is what can make a birth so powerful.
These are the tender moments when the man comes alongside his laboring partner that can weave a couple together for a life time. The work of encouraging your partner through the hardest physical moments of her life is what can bond you both together in ways that no other experience will do.
Speak comfort to her. Tell her that you will not leave her. Show empathy in how hard this is for her. Encourage her to press on, that the goal of meeting baby is so very close. Tell her that she is a warrior. Keep close to her and let your very presence bring strength to her.
Dads, your role in her birth is one that can’t be easily replaced. So thank you. Thank you for coming to this birth class with her. You being there speaks volumes to your commitment to her. We can’t wait to witness this journey that you both will go through as you learn in our classes and as you grow closer together, in anticipation of the big day when
you’ll meet your baby.
We hope to inspire trust, communication, and confidence. We know that we don’t just teach about birth. Beyond the birth, we desire to change relationships. So that after our classes and your birth is over, you both are a stronger team, an indivisible unit, and
a strengthened partnership that will last a lifetime.
“Giving birth should be your greatest achievement not your greatest fear.” ~ Jane Weideman
Fear. Many women and even men have a deep, internal fear about childbirth. Women have heard the birth horror stories from other mothers. They’ve had fear poured into them through this story-telling. Men fear seeing their partner in such pain. They fear feeling helpless and not being a comfort during labor. A lot of couples who take our childbirth classes come to Class 1 with fears that they need to communicate about. We love being that safe place to discuss these! And many find it’s through the education and knowledge-sharing that happens in class, that their fears get wiped away! Truly, it can be the fear of the unknown that triggers anxiety about birthing your baby.
My husband, Tim, and I were in the same position when we were expecting our first child! We wanted to learn all that we could about pregnancy, the birth process, labor and delivery…all of it; so that we could move into our first birth feeling prepared and empowered. And we did that! We felt that our childbirth class prepared us to enjoy our birth experience! That’s right, ENJOY it! There were no horror stories, no trauma, no panic, no regrets. Yes, it was hard. All of my 3 labors and deliveries have been the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure in my life. Hard, yes, but so incredibly rewarding. The quote above proclaiming that giving birth feels like an amazing achievement; that is exactly how I’ve felt about my births. They were empowering and confidence-boosting experiences, that brought me to my knees in awe of what my body was capable of doing. They showed me my true inner strength and the unstoppable pairing that my husband and I were together, as he was my rock and biggest encourager throughout the whole process.
So why prepare for birth? Why take a childbirth class? Because it’s a place to learn about what will happen in 9 months, to connect with others in similar life phases, and to be in a safe place to ask questions and discuss birth choices and options! It’s through the preparation that a momma can focus on having the best birth possible; by working on her good nutrition, prenatal exercises and communication with her birth partner, this will lead to better outcomes on delivery day!
I always like to use a swimming analogy when talking about preparing for childbirth! If someone told you that 9 months from today you would need to jump in and swim across the lake, but you do not know how to swim. What would you do? Would you sit back and just wait until it was time to jump in the water? Or would you go out, seek out swimming lessons and strive your hardest to learn how to swim? I know that for me, that 2nd choice would definitely make me feel more prepared and confident coming into my swimming day!
How will you prepare for your baby's birth?
We are excited to offer 8 week natural childbirth class series starting in August! Please check out our teacher website, www.confidentbirthwi.com, for more information about our classes!