Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Preparing for Childbirth

Trying to prepare for a natural childbirth this time, I spent a good deal of time studying different "approaches" and found that most of my friends who had a good natural childbirth experience did it using HypnoBirthing, so I read the book.

I agree with a lot of it, and like a lot of what they do.

I did wonder how the author could go into great detail on one page about not going out of your way to walk while you're in labor (it's unnecessary, she says) and then not 5 pages later include walking on her list of ways to keep labor going strong?! There were several contradictions in the book like that (saying we don't push to deliver a baby, but you  have a get a good rhythm going on your bearing down.....isn't that just a synonym for pushing? Most nurses use it that way!; Saying we follow our natural instincts on delivering a baby, but that we shouldn't push, but then using that terminology anyway when reporting that hypnobirthing moms say things like "Is it common to feel the need to push at this stage?"....).

I wondered, too, if the author had ever WATCHED an animal give birth. Much of her philosophy is centered on "Animals don't have painful births, why should we?" But people I know who have watched animals birthing have said the animals don't look comfortable, relaxed, and happy about what they're doing. Not to mention that many animals don't give birth to large babies--Panda babies come out the size of a stick of butter, and kangaroo babies are the size of a jelly bean when they're born!

Obviously, the editor in me won't let me read ANYTHING without the red pencil going in my mind. But that doesn't mean I didn't like the book. On the contrary, I really liked most of what it says, and I plan to use a chunk of it--probably most of it.

I have found there are a few things that EVERY natural birthing program uses that I just can't stand:

1) The idea that you can fail at childbirth. They never say this overtly, but it's infused into the philosophy that if you decide you want medicine, you've failed; if there are complications, you've failed; if you feel any pain at all, you've failed; if you let a nurse touch your baby, or it gets whooshed off to the NICU to save its life, you'll never bond with your child and they'll be damaged for life, so you've failed.  I just don't think that talk of success or failure should have any part in childbirth at all. Period. Plus, I think it's possible to have beautiful, happy, medical childbirths (I know--I had more than a couple). Even if it's not what you planned. None of the natural programs talk much about being flexible, and flexibility seems to be the key to happiness in so many situations, including childbirth. You can choose to be happy with what you got, rather than spending time mourning what image you projected for yourself and then bought into.

The overall idea of most childbirth philosophies seems to be that if you're doing things right, and your preparation is sufficient, and your mind and body are in sync, then things will go the way you visualize them, and if they don't, then you weren't sufficiently prepared (so it's somehow your own fault, not the fault of circumstance or--gasp--our methodology). That's just baloney. Life doesn't work that way--and the people I know who believe it most strongly also abuse children and believe things like you can fly to Hawaii--without a plane.

(To be fair, HypnoBirthing addresses this better than any other natural birthing program I've looked into, but the hints are still there.)

2. Breathing exercises. I can't stand breathing exercises. They don't help me relax. They don't distract me. They make me tense and angry. Can't see how THAT will help childbirth any! Don't tell me what to count to while I'm breathing in and out, or whether I'm supposed to be taking long or short breaths right now. Makes me crazy beyond crazy. I can't even express how utterly and completely irritating being told how to breathe is. I guess it must be effective for most women because ALL childbirth programs use breathing exercises, but I'd really rather trust my body to breathe like it does most days: without me thinking about it. I think part of my hangup about breathing is that, because I have asthma, any time in my life I've been forced to think about breathing has been associated with a great deal of fear and trauma--an asthma attack. Why would I want to take those associations and pin them on childbirth? No thank you. (Again, HypnoBirthing breathing exercises are better than most--they focus on natural breathing and maintaining that. I just can't stand breathing exercises at all.)

3. Affirmations. This isn't strictly a childbirth thing. I have a hangup about affirmations in any circumstance. You can say something all you want, and it doesn't necessarily make it so. So I can say loving and sweet affirmations to myself every day, and a part of my mind will be back there saying, "Are you kidding? You can't trick me that way. What a bunch of bunk. What about if _____ happens?" Kinda lessens the impact of the affirmation if you really don't believe it whole-heartedly, doesn't it? Consequently, saying over and over to myself in childbirth some sweet little thing WON'T help me relax. It will just make me angry that someone, somewhere is trying to manipulate me and I bought into it!

4. Birth Partner Scripts. Just like I don't do affirmations, I don't want Tim telling me things during labor that he wouldn't say in real life. I showed him some of the scripts we've found over the years, and we both had a good laugh. What on earth would possess someone to think that my goofy, down-to-earth, brilliant and straight-speaking husband cooing "Ocean waves roll onto the sand. A kicking, squirming being that has been part of you for a long time is going to be freed from your body....." would make me happy and calm? Might get him a nice palmprint on the cheek....Some of you know how much loathing I feel when missionaries used to give their homecoming reports in that "waterfall" voice? Yeah--birth partner scripts can't be read in any other way.  I DO want Tim there supporting me. I just want HIM there, not any of the myriad characters he could play, and certainly  not a poorly-scripted one that someone else defined as "THE Ultimate Birth Partner, played by Tim Jones".

5) The one-size-fits-all approach. How can we say that one way is the best way for everyone? Every body is so different, and anyone who has had more than one baby will tell you every baby and every pregnancy is different. So how can one way work for everyone? Some of the things they advise in some of the programs would be downright painful for me, even if I wasn't in labor, because of fibromyalgia (including sitting on a birthing ball or staying in one position for a long time like an epidural requires). Some things I just can't buy into because of the way I think and view life. Some things my body just doesn't like. Isn't it better to go with my body than try to fit myself into a mold? I think so.

That said, HypnoBirthing was MUCH MUCH MUCH better than most books I've read. I will most certainly adopt a big chunk of it and, as they actually advise in the text, skip the things that make me uncomfortable. I actually read it wishing my doctors had read the book.

I am tempted to say "I absolutely recommend this to other moms"--I liked enough of it to say that, I think. But, having not TRIED it yet, I can't really recommend anything yet.

What I'm not sure of is if any method actually works if you don't embrace it whole-heartedly. Can you just adopt little bits and pieces from many different methodologies and still have it work to your benefit?

We'll find out sometime in the next 4 weeks!

7 comments:

Enjoy Birth said...

I think a lot of moms take a combination of different methods and use what works best for them!

One thing I love about the Hypnobabies is great because moms can make things work the best way for them!

Sarah said...

I remember feeling that way about the Bradley method. There were some things there that made perfect sense to me and some that were so absolutely ridiculous I was surprised that anyone would print them!

I couldn't fathom breathing exercises either. Trying to count seemed so silly to me. The best thing I ever heard came from my doula. She said that it helps if you can open your mouth or throat, and create a audible, low key(meaning vocal register) sigh. You don't count it or try to do anything unnatural. You just breath in, and then breath out in an audible sigh. For me, this vocalizing actually reminded me to relax because I couldn't sigh this way and stay tense. Only the high pitched breathing kept me tense.

The whole wave idea did help me, but not in any of the ways the books said. Talking about ocean waves seemed silly, but when I could picture the contraction increasing, then peaking, then decreasing, that would help me. When a contraction would just seem to be increasing in strength, and I wasn't sure I could handle it anymore, I would think, "Oh -- we must be almost at the peak, and then it will start to diminish. Here...comes...the...peak.... .... okay, now it is getting easier."

The other thing I read (or my doula said?) was that most women, if given the opportunity to move while in labor, will find the position that is most comfortable and most efficient for delivering that specific baby. I remember finding positions that worked well for one baby, but when tried again with another baby, were EXTREMELY uncomfortable. I delivered my second child on my side, which is supposed to produce really difficult contractions, but it actually felt soothing to me. However, when I tried the same with some of the others, it was harder that time. It is sad that, for the ease of nurses, so many women are stuck in one spot in a bed - -when that might actually not be the fastest, smoothest position for them to use to deliver.

I had a funny experience with walking during labor. I delivered my third child at home because I misjudged where we were in labor (I had been given some medicine to help me to sleep, and it dulled my sense of urgency). After that experience, I showed up to the hospital too early with my last two children's births. With one of them, I was determined to not have to be sent home, so I told my husband that we were going to walk ourselves into a more active labor. He was a sport and let me try. He and I walked flight after flight of stairs and up and down hills for about an hour. It didn't do a thing. I took a hot shower. It didn't do a thing. Finally, I let them send me home and I went to bed. A few hours of sleep later, I was in full labor, and by the time we made it back to the hospital, we had about 45 minutes until the baby was born. The only benefit of all of that stair climbing and walking was sore calves and thighs the next day!

More in a minute...

Sarah said...

The whole wave idea did help me, but not in any of the ways the books said. Talking about ocean waves seemed silly, but when I could picture the contraction increasing, then peaking, then decreasing, that would help me. When a contraction would just seem to be increasing in strength, and I wasn't sure I could handle it anymore, I would think, "Oh -- we must be almost at the peak, and then it will start to diminish. Here...comes...the...peak.... .... okay, now it is getting easier."

The other thing I read (or my doula said?) was that most women, if given the opportunity to move while in labor, will find the position that is most comfortable and most efficient for delivering that specific baby. I remember finding positions that worked well for one baby, but when tried again with another baby, were EXTREMELY uncomfortable. I delivered my second child on my side, which is supposed to produce really difficult contractions, but it actually felt soothing to me. However, when I tried the same with some of the others, it was harder that time. It is sad that, for the ease of nurses, so many women are stuck in one spot in a bed - -when that might actually not be the fastest, smoothest position for them to use to deliver.

(I am having to send this in pieces... sorry if they come out crazy)

Sarah said...

I had a funny experience with walking during labor. I delivered my third child at home because I misjudged where we were in labor (I had been given some medicine to help me to sleep, and it dulled my sense of urgency). After that experience, I showed up to the hospital too early with my last two children's births. With one of them, I was determined to not have to be sent home, so I told my husband that we were going to walk ourselves into a more active labor. He was a sport and let me try. He and I walked flight after flight of stairs and up and down hills for about an hour. It didn't do a thing. I took a hot shower. It didn't do a thing. Finally, I let them send me home and I went to bed. A few hours of sleep later, I was in full labor, and by the time we made it back to the hospital, we had about 45 minutes until the baby was born. The only benefit of all of that stair climbing and walking was sore calves and thighs the next day!

I realized something interesting too about pushing. Some women have an incredible urge to push and some do not. One of my sisters can't do anything but push when the time comes, and has to restrain herself just a little so she doesn't push too fast. I don't have that strong of an urge, but I have learned to wait for it. Once, I was at a 10, but I wasn't feeling any urgency to push or do anything. So, I took a nap for 10 minutes (thankfully I was with a good midwife who let me), and when I awoke, three times of pushing WITH my contractions was all it took. That was WILD compared to the 1 1/2 hours of fumbling to push with my first child.

(last piece coming up)

Sarah said...

My husband was my most important active partner. We found places he could push on my lower back during a contraction to create counter pressure, times he could lightly touch me to help me remember to relax specific parts of my body, and he instinctively discovered quiet things he could say that would help. I think that what works for each of us is so very unique.

I found that reading a lot, even the more technical books about labor, helped more than using just one specific method. Hopefully you will be attended by wise and flexible birthing help.

Best wishes on this exciting, and kind of trepidating, adventure! (My computer says that "trepidating isn't a word...hmmm....)

Sarah said...

Sorry to write a book. Hopefully it all came through. I think I might have accidentally duplicated part of it -- or the first part may have been lost. Sheesh!

Becca said...

Wow. Thank you so much. Hearing from other moms is more helpful than reading anything for me. I didn't know that about changing positions, but it makes PERFECT sense. Also the waves....

I'm excited to try this new adventure!