Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Births Are Successful When . . .

I love birth. It's one of those things that can't elicit a nonchalant response from anyone, really. It is as age-old, natural, primal, real, violent, intense, and terrifying as it is new, exciting, tender, vulnerable, loving, spiritual, and awe-inspiring. Talking, reading and researching about birth, watching women give birth (yes, I admit it - I am totally a youtube birth watcher!), and pondering its significance gives me a sense of all those incredible things. But giving birth, well - that lets me experience all of it for myself. And that is why I also love planning for and giving birth. I've been chatting with a pregnant friend of mine recently and talking with her made me realize that a successful birth - at least to little old me - includes all of these things:
  • Educating myself to the best of my ability about all of my possible options - for both best and worst case scenarios.
  • Preparing my mind and body for the experience through classes or home-study, including good general prenatal care (healthy eating, exercise, etc.)
  • Choosing a birth support team that I trust will assist me in making decisions that are truly in my and my baby's best interest.
  • Expecting the best. Positive thoughts all around! Even creating that vision in my mind.
  • Accepting and embracing whatever happens after all of that preparation, choosing and positive thinking has been done.
Notice, that interestingly enough I did not even include the cliche "As long as the baby is healthy and/or alive, it doesn't matter what happens during birth!" line in there. That is not the clincher to a successful birth to me. No, even women who had episiotomies, had to be induced, got epidurals when they hoped for an unmedicated birth, had unexpected cesarean sections, or severely ill, miscarried or stillborn children can still have successful births in my estimation.

I think back on the miscarriage I had before I had Lincoln, and I still feel that it was as successful, loving, and well-planned as I was able to make it - all circumstances considered. That birth experience was more painful and dark and horrible than anything I've ever experienced in my life, but it was also still sacred, intimate, lovely, purposeful and mine and my little baby's still the same. Success is as much or more about the journey of getting to that end point as it is getting to that end point. Is it not?

Oftentimes, that endpoint isn't even what we thought it would be anyway. I thought I would be getting a baby when I saw that faint second line on that pregnancy test. And I did became acquainted with that little spirit for a short time. But more than that my journey took me to a different endpoint than I had expected. At that birth's endpoint, I became acquainted with sorrow, and with humanity. I grew a little deeper. I gained an experience, and story to share, and heart to understand others just a little bit more. That was the endpoint for that birth. Yes, and it was a success.

I know other women who have had similar experiences to mine with the endpoints getting off what appeared to be the right course. And their "unsuccessful" births with tragic outcomes - they were successful, too.

But where am I going with all this anyways? Oh, yes! I remember now.

The outcomes of birth are often unexpected. But, just because they are doesn't mean that we can't hope, prepare for and expect the best. Whenever my choosing to have an unmedicated birth with Lincoln would come up, it was often met with resistance, eye-rolling, or reminders of all that could go wrong. And in the end, despite the dissent, Lincoln's birth was pretty ideal - though not completely what I had envisioned. First of all, it was so fast that I hardly had time to put on my pants and get to the hospital before having the baby - making my arrival very hectic. Also, I had an episiotomy - blast that little cut! And Lincoln having to stay in NICU for several days and having to be on oxygen and an apnea monitor for several weeks after the fact certainly put a damper on things. Even still, I love reminiscing on my birth experience with Lincoln. Because despite it all, I feel assured that because I had prepared as much as possible to have the best possible outcome, and had positive expectations for what would happen, though not all I went as I had expected, envisioned, or hoped, I was still at peace with it all. It was a great success.

I believe that women most often feel disappointment, regret and sorrow over their birth experiences when they missed out on one of those 5 things either through negligence, misinformation or lack of resources. (And, women sometimes feel momma guilt despite their best preparations, but that is just silly, ladies. And in your hearts you know that. That is not what I'm alluding to above.) The negligence, misinformation, and lack of resources - that is what I'm always looking to combat. That is one of the reasons I feel so impassioned about talking about birth and all the options and visions for it that are available, with friends and complete strangers alike! Because, if you don't know what is out there, you really can't make a choice! Am I right?!

Anyways, here is what I was really going to write about when I started this post. The one I've been contemplating most lately is the fourth one - expecting great things.
Squire and I attended a "Childbirth Choices" class at the birth center last night, and I started practicing my Hypnobabies this week as well - and I am just feeling giddy about it all. Now that I've given birth once, I feel so much more at ease about what to expect. Not that every birth goes exactly the same, because no two do. Some from the same mom are drastically different! And I recognize that, too. But, I've been in that place before. I've overcome the hurdle once. I know better how my body reacts and how intense things will get. I know I can do it without the drugs. I know that the mind has pretty incredible influence over our bodies and experiences. So I'm sending all the positive thoughts to my little one in hopes she catches a glimpse of my vision for her special day. I'm letting all my little inhibitions go and expecting my ultimate dream birth. Which I'm sharing with you all now - maybe if I get it all down in writing, Santa will let me have these things as an early Christmas gift? ;)

I hope and expect:
  • To recognize when real contractions "pressure-waves" start, so I can get to the Birth center and have a bit more than 26 minutes to get acclimated to the new environment before my baby is born. At least a couple of hours, please!
  • To be even better at utilizing my Hypnobabies techniques.
  • To be in better control through the pushing phase this time.
  • To avoid another episiotomy (or tear) if at all possible.
  • To have a calm, comfortable, low-lit, intimate water birth in our local birth center.
  • For Squire and I to be able to hold our baby for at least an hour or longer before anyone takes her away to weigh, poke, or prod her.
  • For no transfers or long stays in the hospital - for me or baby.
I'm 23 1/2 weeks along now - looking huge but feeling pretty great, albeit needing a nap most days. And I am getting so excited to meet this baby girl! Bring on the birth!! (All in due time of course.) Because success is sure to be mine. :)

What does a successful birth mean to you?
Is there anything you could have done to make your birth more successful?
What would your dream birth be like?


  1. I would never have said that a miscarriage was a successful birth. What an interesting perspective on that.

    And I feel like my first birth was both successful and unsuccessful. To be honest, I didn't do a ton of research and home-study because I knew I would probably end up having a C-section, which I did. Was I prepared for the C-section? Absolutely. I knew what to expect and I didn't fear it at all. But, it's not what ideally wanted for a birth experience. I really didn't want to become another C-section statistic, but what can do with twins?? Even those who attempt vaginal birth of twins sometimes still end up with sections, or have BOTH kinds of birth! Crazy.

    HOWEVER, with our next child, assuming there will only be one peanut, I am fully planning on having a VBAC. Which method of deliver I will use is still totally up for debate, but I will do a ton more research this time around and be much more informed and I'll go with a midwife, who I feel won't be like "Well... we can TRY for a VBAC, but we'll just see what happens..."

    Glad you are looking forward to your little girl!

    1. Twins definitely make achieving that ideal birth experience more difficult for sure. But if you prepare well for your next birth and choose a good provider who is on the same page with you, you have great chances to reach that ideal. Women have VBACs all the time. I remember you mentioned being interested in Hypnobabies for your next pregnancy after I had Lincoln. I believe they have a special track especially for women who are hoping to acheive a VBAC. You'll have to try that one out!!

  2. Thanks for posting! Sometimes I feel the whole birthing debate can get so judgemental and nasty. Thank goodness someone believes in education so that YOU can make the best, informed decisions for YOU and BABY, especially if things don't go as planned.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! Things do get pretty judgmental in the birth arena for sure. I think as women we tend to be extremely harsh on ourselves and others on this issue because it's just so emotional I suppose. But, if we prepare, educate ourselves, and do our best to surround ourselves with people who we trust, I don't think any guilt (or judgement of others) needs to exist when less-than-ideal outcomes that were outside our control occur.

  3. I agree with Hilary about women getting judgmental about how other women choose for their birth. It got to the point for me that I almost felt embarrassed about what I wanted and it made me second guess up until the end. I guess it made me not become as educated as I should have. Though my little guy did come 5 weeks early, I still should have been closer to knowing what I wanted my birth to be like. I fully intend to be a lot more educated the second time around! Thanks for all your ideas--and for sharing your miscarriage story. I can't even start to imagine how I would feel or deal with that, but you seem to be so strong.

  4. Thanks for commenting, Rachel! I'm sorry you felt so judged for your decisions. :( Women are crazy sometimes. Giving birth once really helps you know to better what you can have as a vision and know what it is you want to change or adapt don't you think? You can read till you're blue in the face, but it still can't completely 100% prepare you for the actual experience.

    I hope next time around you have a birth in line with what YOU hope for and want and that you feel confident in pursuing that. :) And let's hope baby #2 decides to grow a little bit longer, too! 5 weeks early! Wow!

    About my miscarriage - I still have a good cry sometimes. But, things have gotten so much better. Anything I have learned or strength I have gained in handling the experience, has come from accepting it as something as a legitimate thing to grieve over (despite some crazy women who told me I was upset about it too long), lots of time, but above all - God. He's pretty awesome at helping us through those tough times. :)

  5. For me, a successful birth means I made my own choices. As much as a birth takes on a life of its own and may go in any direction, I think it's important a mother feels she has a voice and that her body and intuition have value.

  6. Amen, Cousin! I am reading a couple books by Ina May right now and that is defititely a theme I am seeing in the birth stories she includes.



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