You Birth How You Live

https://parenting.nytimes.com/pregnancy/domino-kirke-doula

Doula Domino Kirke on why your birth providers are so important, and how to choose them wisely.

(Blog posted in its entirety from NYT Parenting.)

As far as I was concerned my midwife was going to have my baby for me. She was God’s gift to birthing. She had so much confidence, and trusted the birth process so intensely, that I fell instantly, wildly in love with her.

This was an age-old habit for me. Show me an older woman who knew her place in the world, who told me she knew better than me, and I was putty in her hands. To say I have mommy issues is an understatement. My mother is a shrewd businesswoman. She’s sexy, critical and the most intimidating person you’ll ever meet. I cowered around her until my teenage years, then developed blood-curdling rage towards her. Around the same time I was diagnosed with manic depression. I was the first daughter, the first pancake. I didn’t know who I was if she wasn’t looking me up and down, checking to see if I measured up.

At 25 I became pregnant and needed other people to sign off on just about everything I did. I didn’t trust an intuitive bone in my body. Pregnancy became an invisible cloak I hid inside with lofty ideas of who I would become once my baby arrived. I felt safe pregnant, in a container made just for the two of us, and our potential.

I met my midwife late into my pregnancy. I left my first midwife’s care after she advised against a home birth. She said my relationship wasn’t stable enough, and with my history of sexual abuse, was skeptical I could sustain the intensity. How dare she!

In a storm, I found a cowboy. I was in awe of her ego and her stories of grandeur — the same way I was in awe of my mother. I was experiencing transference, when the feelings and dynamics from childhood relationships are applied to authority figures in adult life, or, in this case, to medical professionals. In the birth world we have a saying: we birth the way we live our lives. Now that I’m a doula I see it constantly — but at the time, I wasn’t capable.

I didn’t want my mother or any family members in the room during my labor. Little did I know she’d be there anyway; my midwife activated and occupied all the same spaces. There in my charming one-bedroom apartment in the middle of January I labored as a little girl, no one there to remind me how old I actually was, or what I was even doing there. Although my mother was across the East River in her own home, her tentacles reached in and grabbed us all.

After 24 hours of labor I felt my midwife’s disappointment. I was her last client before her vacation, and I couldn’t have the baby fast enough. The tension between us was thick and felt by everyone, especially the sweet young doula who also struggled with her authority. Doulas are there to support birthing parents, while midwives provide medical care, yet my doula broke like I broke, and was of little help to me.

After laboring at home for nearly three days, my fever rose. I was whisked to the hospital and diagnosed with a uterine infection, resulting in an emergency cesarean.

CreditSarah Blesener for The New York Times

The experience inspired me to become a doula. I knew there was so much more I could have received emotionally during my labor. My partner at the time was terrified and exhausted, and my doula wasn’t in her power. What I truly needed was a nurturing presence to counter all the old energy that occupied my system around my childhood caregivers.

It has helped heal me to become that presence for others. These days I train doulas, and we teach them not to bring their baggage to the most important moments of someone’s life —because it’s not about them. We are there to listen and watch, and to help our clients meet their goal, whether it is a hospital induction without fear or a loving home birth. The relationship is a two-way street; when we meet our clients, we want them to pay attention to how they feel about us, too.

We encourage our clients to treat their doctors and midwives the same way, and to ask loads of questions: Do you follow evidence-based birthing practices? Do you differentiate between high- and low-risk pregnancies? If yes, how? If I am considered low risk in my pregnancy, will you want to manage my birth? If so, what can I expect? What is your cesarean birth rate?

[Doulas can be for everyone. Read our guide to choosing a doula here.]

When they ask these questions, we encourage our clients to note how their midwives and doctors respond to them. Do they make eye contact? Is their tone harsh or punishing? We want them to not only observe their medical caretakers, but their own feelings as well. Are they upset by their doctor’s harsh tones? If not, why?

One client of mine complained about her doctor every time I saw her. He’d rush her, give her evasive answers about procedures and protocols, and speak down to her like a child. When I helped her realize her feelings around it, she said, “But how do I ask for things if I don’t know they are missing?”

She wasn’t wrong. It’s challenging to make these connections to your past, and difficult to ask for things you didn’t receive in your most formative, vulnerable years. A provider who doesn’t set off every warning bell in your body will be a game changer for your birth experience, no matter the outcome of the delivery. Even if you have little choice of your doctor or midwife for financial or insurance reasons, there are volunteer doulas — so with effort, you can find a caretaker that makes you feel seen.

We don’t know what we deserve most of the time, but I’m telling you, you deserve better. Get louder, get bigger and surround yourself with extraordinary love when choosing your birth team. It might be the first time you’ve ever done such a thing, but I promise it won’t be the last. You can challenge your past. You can rewrite the play.

Pregnancy Is Literally As Hard As An Endurance Sport

https://www.scarymommy.com/pregnancy-hard-endurance-sport

As it turns out, I am closer to an endurance athlete than I ever imagined. That’s not my opinion, that’s what six researchers found in a study published by Duke University that focused on finding a limit to human endurance. Apparently and shockingly, pregnant and lactating women live in the limit zone. What the what?!?

(Click link above to read the article)

How to Advocate for Yourself in the Delivery Room

https://parenting.nytimes.com/pregnancy/birth-advocate

Giving birth draws you deep into your body, yet you’ll depend on others to get through it. Whether you have a brief labor eased by an epidural, deliver on all fours in your own living room or have an unplanned C-section, what matters most is how you are cared for and if you are listened to by your providers. The best way to advocate for yourself in the delivery room is to begin the process well before your swollen feet ever step into the space itself.

It is possible to get compassionate, respectful care from many kinds of providers — midwives, obstetricians, family physicians and nurses — and in settings including hospitals, birth centers and your home. But, according to a recent international survey, up to one third of women experience some trauma during birth, which means that at some point during labor, they felt that their emotional well-being or even their — or their babies’ — lives were under threat. And according to the latest Listening to Mothers report, one in four American women who underwent either labor induction or a C-section reported experiencing pressure from a health professional to do so.

(Click to read this great piece by Angela Garbes on nytimes.com)

Using Sports Psychology for Childbirth

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/15/well/family/using-sports-psychology-for-childbirth.html?em_pos=small&emc=edit_hh_20190116&nl=well&nl_art=12&nlid=59957724emc%3Dedit_hh_20190116&ref=headline&te=1

Any woman who has ever carried and birthed a child, in whatever fashion, deserves her own ESPN highlight reel — blood, sweat, tears and the eventual triumph of holding her newborn baby. To be clear, childbirth isn’t a game. You can’t plead with the referee when you don’t like a call or leave the field when you’re tired. 

Still, as a lifelong athlete, I saw childbirth, especially an unmedicated one, as the ultimate challenge of physical endurance, mental stamina and my ability to handle pain.

When I became pregnant in January 2018 and set about preparing for the monumental task of birthing a human, I loaded up on prenatal vitamins, kept a daily routine of birthing stretches and exercises, and endured an eight-week birthing course. An image of the lead female competitors in the New York City Marathon, who bring me to tears when they run past my Brooklyn apartment each year, filled me with confidence for labor. Washboard-like abs. Lean legs showing off every strand of muscle. Calm, focused and confident expressions on their faces.

However, as my due date came near, I clung to a fear of pain and the unknowns out of my control. How long would my labor be? Would my mind fall apart? What if my pelvis wasn’t the optimal shape or I stopped dilating?

(Click to read on NYTimes.com)

I WENT TO A “VAGINAPRACTOR”—HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED

https://www.wellandgood.com/good-advice/what-is-a-sexological-bodywork-kimberly-johnson-wmn-space/

When I met Johnson at WMN Space, my first question was how, exactly, she started doing this kind of work in the first place. (I mean, it’s not something you can major in at college.) The former yoga instructor and bodyworker told me she found her calling while dealing with a serious pelvic-floorinjury brought on by childbirth.

“I started researching [treatment], and all I could find were tens of thousands of entries on postpartum depression,” she recalls. “But I was like, ‘Of course I’m depressed.’ I was pooping in my pants, sex was impossible, my low back was killing me all the time—and I’m someone who was totally fit and healthy [before giving birth.]

(Click to read about pelvic floors on wellandgood.com)

Labor Day: We Asked a Midwife What to Expect

https://goop.com/work/parenthood/labor-day-we-asked-a-midwife-what-to-expect/

If there’s one thing the experts agree is guaranteed about pregnancy and birth, it is that “it will likely be very different from whatever you might be imagining.” This is Julia Bower, a CNM (certified nurse midwife) in Austin, Texas. Bower has delivered over 800 babies in her over her twenty-plus-year career. In case you are unfamiliar, certified nurse midwives like Bower are health care professionals who have a graduate degree in midwifery and have passed a certifying exam. Certified nurse midwives (as well as certified professional midwives, though they don’t necessarily have a degree) are licensed by their state* to provide much of the same care as ob-gyns and are experts in low-risk births.

We asked Bower to give us her unfiltered play-by-play of childbirth.

(click to read on goop.com)

New Guidelines Establish The Rights Of Women When Giving Birth

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/03/01/589860155/new-guidelines-establish-the-rights-of-women-when-giving-birth

 

For more than 60 years, it has been the standard of care to try to speed up childbirth with drugs, or to perform a cesarean section if labor was seen as progressing too slowly.

Now a new set of recommendations is changing the game.

A little history is required to understand the importance of that one recommendation, says Dr. Aaron Caughey, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University, who did not work on the report. In 1955, Dr. Emanuel Friedman studied 500 women and concluded that labor is normal when, during the intense phase of contractions, the cervix opens at a rate of at least one centimeter (about 0.4 inches) an hour. “Dr. Friedman showed that 95 percent of women progressed” at this rate, says Caughey. “And that became the standard of care.”

(click to read on npr.org)