Now is the time to learn

A few years ago, a family friend messaged me about birth options.  She wasn't pregnant, she was just intrigued and wanted to learn more - to be prepared before she had to be prepared, before they started the pregnancy journey.  LOVE!  My favorite thing to do is to provide education, information, and general direction to someone BEFORE they're one trimester shy of a baby in their arms.  Don't get me wrong, I love giving one piece of information to anyone at any time, but the simple fact that stress and a time frame are removed from the situation when someone isn't pregnant is such an important factor in really learning, changing, and choosing options that are best for your birth.  We're always learning, every day.  To believe that one book, one class, one birth, or more will be the end of your educational journey is inaccurate - I learn something new about birth every day- but the earlier we're presented with the information, the more we can really take the time to research and develop an understanding of the birth industry and what we want for our family.  10 weeks, 2 months, 1 year is such a short amount of time to cram in all there is to know in our modern birthing culture, so start now.  Now is the time to prepare for your birth.  Now is the time to talk to midwives, doulas, birth educators, OB's, hospitals...etc.  Now is the time to learn about the most important thing you'll experience in your life.

I provided her with a few resources and recommendations, and most of all encouraged her to take an independent birth series.  She isn't local, and although I offer online classes, I really hope that couples take an in-person class when possible.  There is a level of interaction that really helps prepare you for birth.  She was driven to Hypnobirthing.  This is her beautiful birth story.

"I had just learned of your new business.  That's when I contacted you to ask for information.  I didn't know what I was looking for, I just knew I was looking for answers - why is child birth a medical process?  How do I go about having my baby the old fashioned way - natural and unmedicated?

Your reading and a couple friends lead me to Hypnobirthing.  I began reading and practicing Hypnobirthing almost immediately when I got pregnant.  Like most women, I attending an Ob/Gyn practice with 7 doctors and 3 midwives and any one of them could show up to deliver your baby - so it's important that you see all of them.  The practices where you see the same doctor throughout and that will be the doctor who will deliver your baby are harder to find and even harder to get into.  Plus, I was rather naive at the start of my pregnancy and didn't realize just how hard I would have to fight to have a natural, unmedicated child birth.

I started seeing a different doctor each visit, announcing my decision to use hypnobirthing for a natural, unmedicated labor and delivery, and asking lots of questions.  Like you - I was appalled at the Ob/Gyn practice as a whole.  Even the midwives were less than supportive and were very quick to say things like "it doesn't make you less of a woman to get an epidural" and "we just want you to have a healthy baby".  As if I was concerned my womanhood was determined by my birthing decisions and that my husband and I were aiming for anything less than a healthy child.  I began to have anxiety about my Drs visits - which were just a measure of the belly, a check of the blood pressure and a urine test (the office is very hands off medically during the pregnancy) - the rest of the visit is dedicated to questions and answers.

I will be honest, there were 3 doctors who were all very positive about my decision to use hypnobirthing to achieve my goal of a natural, unmedicated child birth and praised the teacher (Sharon Said) and class that my husband and I were attending.  They were very quick to tell me that their past patients had a greater rate of success with the method and wished me luck.  The rest were skeptical, amused that I would want such a thing, and even downright negative and discouraging.

Of course, all through my pregnancy I was reading online and meeting women who have had less then desirable birthing experiences - pitocin without their knowledge, inductions for no reasons at all that ended in c-sections, episiotomies that they didn't know they were getting that tore to stage 3 and 4 lacerations,  membrane stripping at a regular appointment at 40wks when they didn't know it was happening . .. you know the stories.  They are awful.  Outside the Drs office, friends and family were also less than supportive.  I was laughed at, made fun of, women that had children got angry at me as if I was wrong to think I could do something they weren't able to do, and I was even told that I was ridiculous to think such a thing as natural, unmedicated birth was possible these days.  Really?  How did women do it before hospital and doctors and epidurals?  Luckily, I'm pretty stubborn and determined . . . so the more negativity I encountered, the more I was determined to show everyone it was possible, I could do it, and hypnobirthing was the way!

I have to say that if hypnobirthing did nothing else at all - it at least gave me a mechanism to calm myself throughout and pregnant friends who were experiencing the same woes I was.  I considered the idea of a home birth, but neither my husband nor myself were 100% confident in that decision.  I know I would never ever forgive myself if something went wrong and I wasn't able to get to a doctor in time.  The only people I personally knew that used hypnobirthing for her 10hr labor ended up having a c-section because their baby had a true knot in her umbilical cord and it was wrapped around the baby's arm and neck.  they didn't know this until very late in her labor.  So you understand my thought process - medicine and doctors are great when they are needed and I wanted to have access to them if needed . . .. I just didn't want them around if they weren't.  But that's hard to get in any hospital these days!

So I had my birth preferences written 2 weeks before my due date and had set my mental clock to 10 days after my due date (average time a first time goes past her due date) for the day of my baby's arrival.  At 37 weeks and 5 days I lost my mucous plug, had 3 contractions that I couldn't feel during my non-stress test that morning and felt great.  I worked all day (it was a friday).  I worked that Saturday as well trying to get things ready for my departure - I also felt great that day.  ON Sunday, I was shopping all day with my mom to finish up the list of things I needed to get before the baby arrived, doing laundry for the baby (finally washing things I might need immediately), and even made a nice dinner that night.  I had some very light spotting that day, but this was not entirely uncommon for my pregnancy so I didn't think much of it.  I had never been "checked" and I had no idea if I was effaced or dilated - didn't want to know, didn't want anything in there that didn't need to be. We had not packed anything for the hospital, put the cradle in our room, typed our birth preferences, put my hypnobirthing music on my iPod . . . we were not ready.

Sunday night was tiring.  I got up a more than usual and had to pee and move around a lot to get comfy.  I text my friend from work at 5AM on Monday (we met to carpool at 6AM) and told her I would be in late because I was going to sleep in a little extra.  This was the first day of my 38th week.  My water broke with a huge gush at 6AM . . . and kept gushing.  Now would be a good time to tell you that I made good use the website www.spinningbabies.com to determine that my baby was ROP/ROT, which was more likely to result in a posterior position at birth.  I had been doing inversions, rebozo sifting, pelvic rocking, seeing a chiropractor that specializes in kids and pregnant women, etc for the whole third trimester with no luck at moving her - Sydney was determined to stay that way.  SO I was prepared for the less ideal - a posterior baby and long labor with lots of back labor.  When my water kept gushing (like I was peeing constantly) I immediately thought the baby was definitely posterior since her head was not dropping down into the birth canal to plug it up and stop the gushing.  I also felt nothing.  NO contractions, no discomfort, no anxiety . . . nothing.  I had also learned that if your water breaking is the first sign of labor, it can be an indicator that your baby is in the posterior position.

My husband and I began packing our bag for the eventual trip to the hospital, I took a shower, dried and did my hair (figured i should do something) . . . .

and finally felt the first contraction at 7AM.  It was not painful, but uncomfortable in my hips and pelvic bone - I couldn't move while it was happening.  I didn't time it (didn't think I needed to) and when it was over returned to my packing expecting the next one to be 10-15 minutes away.  except that the next contraction seemed to happen almost immediately . . . and I had an extreme urge to pee. I went to sit on the toilet and left the packing to my husband.  contraction number three was as immediate as the 2nd one and was accompanied with extreme sweating and vomiting.  I didn't feel sick, but I just vomited.  the blood started gushing with the amniotic fluid at this point as well.  It was a surprising amount of blood and I didn't understand how there was that much amniotic fluid . . . . the contractions were too fast for me to think so I resorted to hypnobirthing.  I zoned out.  I lost track of time.  I lost track of counting contractions.  I left myself.  I know that while I was focused, I was not vomiting.  My husband says he asked questions and tried to talk to me during this time, but I didn't even acknowledge that he was in the bathroom.  I just sat on the toilet and focused. My mantra was "this is natural, my body is made to do this, just relax and let it happen" which I said over and over.  I remember getting really hot then really cold (like teeth chattering cold - I was naked but I would get hot as soon as I put clothes on) and back and forth.  I remember trying to drink water but that interrupted my focus and made me vomit.  I was drenched in sweat, amniotic fluid was still gushing as was blood, and I any time I drank water - I vomited.  The little tiny part of my medically trained brain that was still functioning told me that I was going to get dehydrated very quickly this way.

I had no idea what time it was when I finally opened my eyes and told my husband that we needed to go the hospital.  If I was going to do this for 12 more hrs (I still was not paying attention to how often my contractions were or how long they were lasting), I was going to need an IV fluid drip because dehydration was a laboring mom's enemy.  I love my husband - he pointed out that it was only 8AM (WHAT! it had only been an hour!? . . . not that I knew, it could have been 15 minutes or 15 hours, I really did not know) and that if we got there too soon, I was going to relinquish my freedom to labor how I wanted before I was ready.  We wanted to stay home as long as possible.  He did his best to make the decision for me and finally decided to to take me.

Anyway, by the time we got the car loaded and me dressed and to the car, it was 8:45AM.  I was still totally oblivious to everything, but my wonderful husband had started paying close attention to my body language and breathing and was keeping track of my contractions .  They were 1 minute long and 1-1.5mintes apart.

He later told me that he was very nervous taking me to the hospital only 2 hours after the action began, but he didn't know how to tell me no 🙂

He dropped me off at the hospital entrance at 9AM. . . where I had the bright idea to try and walk myself to the maternity floor . . . but as I mentioned before, if I wasn't totally focused and using my hypnobirthing techniques of relaxation, I was vomiting.  I ended up on my hands and knees in the lobby of the hospital vomiting (dry heaving at this point) into my little trash can while wearing a pair of running pants, a huge men's button up shirt, and a robe while sweating iike crazy.  A very nice nurse ran over with a wheel chair which was horrible uncomfortable to sit in - the toilet was the only thing I was comfortable on. My husband ran in to take me to the maternity ward - but he left all the insurance and ID and camera and everything in the car.  We were quickly checked in, thanks to pre-registration, and taken to a Triage room at 9:15AM.

In triage, my husband continued being wonderful by helping me get undressed, giving the whole timeline of events to the nurse, explaining that we were using hypnobirthing and wanted nurses comfortable with natural labor and delivery, handing them my hand-written birth preferences, asking for a room with a shower (the hospital does have big rooms with huge showers for moms who want to use water for relaxation), and finding out which doctor was on-call (one of my favorites!).  I wanted to sit on the toilet, but the nurse talked me into sitting on the bed for 5 minutes while she taped on a monitor and got a 5 minute tracing of Sydney's heartbeat - which looked great.  At that news, I stripped off the elastic band and all the monitors and got naked and went straight to the toilet.  THe nurses were super nice and didn't say a word to me for taking everything off.  I still had not been check for dilation. I was still totally in my zone, but was aware of everything around me and even answered some questions my husband wasn't able to answer.  He said I was calm, relaxed, and very nice (I thanked everyone who helped us).

At 9:30, they talked me into sitting in a wheel chair to take me to a Labor and delivery room where I immediately returned to the toilet.  The nurses were again super nice, they came into the bathroom to take my blood pressure and put on a hospital band . . . and finally talked me into laying on my side on the bed while they put in an IV.  In the state of Ohio, they require an IV to be inserted, but you don't have to have it hooked to anything - so they put the saline block in and finally got around to checking me..... as they were checking me, I told them I had an urge to push and maybe they should get a doctor.  I was done vomiting, I wanted to push.  The nurse, quite surprised, announced that I was 10cm but that I needed to wait because my doctor was currently doing a c-section on someone else and couldn't get here.  I told them to tell him that I was delivering my baby and he could come see her after it was over.  They went and got a second year resident, female 🙂  That was the next best thing available!

The resident checked me again for her own purposes and confirmed that I was 10cm and at station +1 and ready to push when I felt like it.  I got on my hands and knees and the resident informed me that it would be hard for her to help control tearing that way and asked if I might consider getting on my back.  I said NO! and asked for a squatting bar.  The resident had to asks the nurses what that was, she had never attended an unmedicated birth with a fully educated mother (the nurses explained this to us later) . . . . luckily the nurses moved fast and set it up for me and told the resident to smear some mineral oil on me and get down on the floor.  I pushed three times and my baby girl was born at 10:24AM on March 12, 2012 with an apgar score of 9.9 🙂  She was born in the anterior position.  She was placed on my stomach immediately, the chord was allowed to stop pulsing before it was clamped and cut and Sydney was nursing within 20 minutes of being born.  I had not a single tear, the placenta delivered almost immediately when Sydney started nursing, and she was later weighed and checked after she nursed and had time with Mommy.  My doctor stopped in to say Hi after it was all finished.

 McAlees Fam Photo

No one directed me to push, no bright lights were turned on, everyone whispered so as not to interrupt my focus, I was never told to do anything, but asked.  I was fortunate to have a wonderful hospital birth in which my wishes were respected and every effort was made to make my experience everything I wanted it to be.   I would not describe my labor as painful, but uncomfortable.  My pelvic bone felt like it could break into 2 pieces at any time, but I never fought it or yelled or cried or anything.  I just breathed.  I was relaxed, calm, and I felt in control the whole 3.5hrs of labor.  I realize I was probably in labor on Sunday, I just didn't know it.

I wish more women would educate themselves, learned about the process and their bodies and be responsible for their care.  I think your efforts are wonderful and I tell every pregnant woman I know about hypnobirthing and send them to your website.  Since my daughter was born, I have had 7 women use hypnobirthing at my recommendation 🙂  One by one, we can spread the word and someday change the view and approach and to labor and delivery!"

EB Build Trust

What a beautiful story.  Two reasons...  #1 - Because I can totally relate to her very prepared personality.  It takes me back to my first pregnancy when my birth educator looked at me with concerned eyes after I explained how I ripped the spine off my birth book, punched holes in each page individually, and organized it in a 3-ring binder to fit it with all the other research I had compiled.  Hilarious!  I love how that determination helps couples, and is really not an indicator of their inability to enjoy birth.  #2 - How amazing it is to find couples that WANT to learn about their options and take the time and dedication to make it happen.  "It" being whatever you dream is best for your family.  Not because someone else told you how to do it, but because you truly made an educated decision for yourself, your baby, and your family.  Imagine going into pregnancy already knowing what you learn in a birth class.  Imagine children knowing that birth and breastfeeding are a normal part of life from the time they're born - immersed in groups of breastfeeding families and knowing that birth isn't scary.  Then, in pregnancy, all you focus on are happy thoughts and relaxation.  The birth "method" doesn't make your birth, YOU make your birth.  Having a trusting relationship with your birth team where a birth guide isn't used as a way to get what you want, but used as a way to remind others of your wishes is what makes your birth enjoyable.  Trusting the process and being excited for birth empowers you.  Imagine what you can do for birth, mothers, babies, families, and culture if you look at birth as a part of life, rather than a separate issue to deal with only during the 42 weeks of pregnancy.  Imagine knowing your options and making the decisions to support what you believe.