Bragging about your birth? Let’s see more of it!

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Every now and then an article comes along that just pushes buttons. That’s what it’s designed for.  The writer knows it will push buttons. That’s why they write it – if it pushes buttons people will read it. Generally it is an article which suggests one group of women are “wrong” or that they are “making others feel bad”.  They call it the “mummy wars”, and I wonder if they would even exist without mainstream media? Probably not.

The latest article to do this (in my circles anyhow…) was one that suggested that women should not be bragging about their positive experiences.  Telling people you had a natural birth is bad. Posting photos of your positive breastfeeding journey is bad. As a colleague said I feel like I really need to provide an “antidote” to these types of articles, which is why I respond to them.  There are a few points I really feel the need to address from this article.

1). There seems to be a deep rooted cultural belief that the “best” way to birth is medically.  As long as you have medical assistance of some kind (pain relief, intervention, c/section) then you are all good to share your story (as long as you don’t share any feelings of emotional trauma – that’s “bad”). You get extra points if you add a thank you to your “amazing doctor for his awesome work” at the end of your birth announcement. No-one wants to hear “I did it myself”! Because that isn’t how birth is “supposed” to be done. We can’t have women believing they don’t need medical help to birth…heavens, just think of all those poor OBs who’d go out of business!!

2) I announced both my births by stating that bub was born by emergency caesarean. Only one person actually replied to my message with an “OMG – emerg C-section?! Are you and bub okay?” I had a few comments of “all that matters is a healthy baby”, but mostly people just ignored the birth altogether and moved straight to the baby. Because another deep rooted cultural belief is that birth doesn’t matter. And neither do mothers. Just babies. Why is that okay?

3)  The article goes on to state the stats on caesareans and intervention without adding that many jurisdictions are actually putting policies in place to reduce these. Yes “the majority of women end up with intervention” however there is ongoing speculation as to whether ALL of those cases are “needed”.  There’s no acknowledgement that organisations like ACOG are actually starting to state that the caesarean rate is too high and have put out a statement on reducing unnecessary caesareans. Closer to home NSW health department has recently put out a statement and started implementing policies aimed at reducing caesarean and birth intervention rates.

4)  The writer says we need to show the tricky times as well as the good.  I stopped showing the tricky times when I realised that the advice I was getting didn’t work for me.  If I mention my birth trauma I’m told “all that matters is a healthy baby”; If I say I’m having trouble with breastfeeding I’m told to “just put the baby on formula”; Baby won’t sleep? “Just leave them to cry it out”. There wasn’t really any empathy or bonding, just “do it this way, it won’t hurt your baby”. So I stopped sharing the “tricky stuff” and decided I would only share the positive.

 

I think it is really important that women hear more stories of positive vaginal births. That they hear more stories that say “I did it!!” Women need to know that birth can be a totally normal life event. Women need to know that childbirth can be amazing!! It is possible to have a completely natural birth. It is possible to feel positive about a caesarean section. I don’t care so much HOW you birth – but I do care that you feel positive about it.  After having two traumatic experiences, I feel a huge mix of emotions when I read positive birth stories a mixture of jealousy and hope. The “why couldn’t I” combined with the “I can in future”.

All in all this article seems to just be another spin on the healthy baby lie…Designed to make women feel bad if they want more than just for them and the baby to be alive at the end of it all. I’ve written on that topic before and it is NOT okay to tell women that their own expectations and experiences don’t matter. How you feel about your birth can have far reaching implications – for your health, your family’s wellbeing and future birth experiences.

As a colleague said in her own blog:  “I have a wish, a simple wish. I wish that ALL women felt like bragging about their birth”! I could not agree with that more – regardless of how you birth, I hope you feel like bragging about just how awesome YOU are!

Feel free to brag about your birth in the comments!  I’d love to hear your story. Brag about your 50 hour drug free home water birth and your beautiful elective caesarean. Brag about your kind and compassionate care givers. Brag about the vbac you rocked with an epidural in. Brag about your empowering emergency caesarean. Brag about your induced labour or your spontaneous labour. Brag about breastfeeding your five year old and brag about successfully formula feeding. Brag about your baby who slept through the night in their own room from birth and brag about still co-sleeping with a three year old who wakes approximately 5, 762, 998 times per night.  Brag about making the BEST choices for your family – because that IS brag worthy!!

Lessons from an ordinary conversation

Tags

, , , , , ,

I had a conversation this morning which taught me a few “big lessons” – lessons in life that can translate across to birthing scenarios.  The caller has taught me much over the years, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t her aim today.  Today’s learnings were totally accidental – but really quite profound.

So just what was this profound conversation? Well, in reality, it was really quite an ordinary conversation.  A close friend and previous supervisor of mine called me up to say “We have a position becoming available here for 6 hours per day. Temp contract. Would you be interested in submitting an application”? In the town where I live this is actually a fairly common occurance and has happened a bit over the course of my career. The “profound” things come next.

This is the sort of thing I would normally say “OMG YES!” or “OMG NO!” and leave it at that. I hovered between the two and stopped and thought for a moment.  Would this be a good opportunity? Yes.  The cash would certainly come in handy and it would be a good chance to keep my admin skills current.  Would this add a bit of stress to our lives? Yes. With a business to build, study to complete, a breastfeeding baby, severe sleep deprivation and being conscious not to overload my parents with constant baby-sitting this could be quite a bit of added stress. Not to mention the fact that I’m on call for a birth. Everything could be worked around except the breastfeeding – having pumped at work before I was absolutely not up for that again. So did I say “No thanks”? No way. I advised my friend that 6 hours, plus travel time was too long between breastfeeds – was there room for negotiation? She said there might be. So I asked for a bit of time to discuss with the other relevant parties and have a think about it. I came back to my friend with the hours I felt I’d be able to work and she came back and advised that they really needed someone who could work more hours.

Sounds perfectly ordinary when put like that.  But here’s the lessons I learned:

Lesson #1: It’s okay for your goals to be different to the cultural norm.  I was able to tell my friend that breastfeeding my baby is a higher priority than work / money. And I felt no shame in doing this. I know that many women would have no issues with adjusting their breastfeeding routine or weaning altogether, especially at 13months, but that’s not what I want.  And this is an important lesson for birth.  It’s okay to have goals that are different to all your friends. Our current cultural norm is to go to hospital and do what the doctor or midwife tells you. Want a home water birth? Don’t feel shame in saying that’s important to you. You should never feel shame in any decision you make with loving intentions and the best interests of your family at heart – even if others think it’s weird.

Lesson #2: It’s okay to ask for time to think about things and discuss them.  I often have trouble with this. I have someone on the phone who has a really tempting offer, and I often just think “I could just say yes and then work out a way to make it work” or “I should just say no and move on”. It’s okay to say “I’m not sure. Do you mind if I have a think about it?” Same for decisions during your birthing journey.  If your care provider presents you with some information you hadn’t considered feel free to say “Thank you for that information. My partner and I would really appreciate a bit of time to discuss this. Would you mind popping back in 10minutes so we can ask questions and / or give our decision?” If a care provider says “no you can’t have some time” then I would wonder if they are hiding something. You can generally tell if it’s an absolute emergency – the whole vibe in the room will change and people won’t usually be stopping to ask questions.

Lesson #3: It’s okay to be non-negotiable in your response. As women we always seem to give our response and add “oh, but I’m flexible” as if being inflexible in our choices is the most horrible thing ever. I worked out the maximum hours that would fit in with my and my family’s life and I came back to my friend with “these are the hours I could do”.  I didn’t suggest that “oh if they don’t work for your organisation let me know and I’ll change them to suit”. Sometimes it’s good to simply make a choice and stick with it.  The idea of “flexibility” is something that I see a lot when talking birth.  Women don’t want to do birth plans in case they are seen as “inflexible”. Women given an answer with an “is that okay?” on the end.  They say things like “I’d like to have a vbac / waterbirth / no VEs etc…But I’m totally flexible and open to what my care giver suggests”.  Sometimes it’s okay to just say “This is the best option for us”.

Lesson #4:  The universe knows what I need.  As I hung up the phone after my friend advised that the hours I’d proposed were unsuitable I let out a sigh of relief.  I didn’t know until that moment that I’d actually been hoping she’d say that they weren’t suitable. But all of a sudden I felt good that I wouldn’t have to stress about being on call, or about whether I’m neglecting my business, or about whether I’m really giving my all to the job, or my children etc. The universe always provides what is needed. After much reflection over nearly 3 years I’ve come to believe that my traumatic experiences were the universe’s way of sending me in the direction of birthwork.  If I had had a “normal” run of the mill experience I would not have been motivated to find out how to have an AWESOME experience.  I wouldn’t have started exploring hypnobirthing as a method of preparing for a safe calm and positive birth. I would never have hired a doula. I wouldn’t have learned about birth and birthing rights. It doesn’t take away the hurt, but I wouldn’t have found the passion I have without my previous experiences.

So dear friend – thank you for taking an ordinary day and turning it into an opportunity for growth. I feel like the process I went through will lead to me exploring, rather than completely discounting, opportunities that arise in the future. The biggest lesson I learned today is just how comfortable I’ve become with myself and my choices.  I discovered that I no longer have trouble saying “this is what’s best for my family”. And so I will have the strength to do that more often – that is a priceless gift to not only me, but my whole family.

FNQ Birthing after Caesarean Support Group

Have you had a caesarean? Planning your next birth can present some unique challenges – both logistical and emotional. Come along to:

FNQ Birthing after Caesarean Group

Planning a vaginal birth after caesarean (vbac);

Planning a family centred repeat caesarean;

Birth planning;

Birth support;

Healing from previous traumatic experiences;

Your rights in the birthing process;

Your care options here in FNQ

And how to bring it all together and plan the beautiful and positive birth experience that best meets the needs of you and your family.

 

Date: Thursday 31st July – meetings will then be held monthly.

Times: 10:15am – 12:15pm

Venue:  The Manunda Library meeting room, Raintrees Shopping Centre

Cost:  $5.00 to cover room hire

No children in the meeting – Babes in arms only.

 

Facilitators:

Lizzie Carroll, Student Doula from Sprout Doula and Hypnobirthing, 0459543514, lizzie.j.carroll@live.com.au

 

Melanie Fogarty, Qualified Doula from Gentle Journeys and Beyond the Willow Tree, 0457745760, Gentlejourneycbs@hotmail.com

 

If you are interested in learning more about birthing after a caesarean but are unable to attend a meeting or are due very soon please feel free to contact either Lizzie or Melanie and we can look at putting on an extra session (if there is enough demand) or doing a one on one session (one on one sessions incur an hourly fee).

Why I do what I do

Tags

, , , , ,

One of the “big questions” I get asked about what I do (after people finish going “Huh? What’s a doula?) is “why on earth would you want to do that?” I generally say something along the lines of “My previous experiences simply meant that this was the next logical step for me” and leave it at that.  Most people don’t ask any more because hey, most people don’t really want to hear about experiences that leave a woman believing women deserve individualised and compassionate support during pregnancy and birth. So I’m going to share with you my story.  How I went from a 9 – 5 government admin worker to student doula, student hypnobirthing practitioner and birth activist.

My shift from – “birth in a private hospital as they have the best doctors” to “do your research and decide what is best for you – include homebirth in your reseach” probably started when I was studying at uni – the subject was “the politics of fear” and the assignment was “the relationship between experts and lay people”. Buggered if I know why or how, but I chose to do my assignment on the relationship between care providers and pregnant women. I googled things like, midwifery care, the history of childbirth, maternal mortality rates, recommendations for pregnancy and birthing care – and I got my first ever high distinction! And, more importantly for my journey, I started thinking about birth and the relationship between care providers and women.

A couple of years later and we’re flooded in in Ipswich. Couldn’t think of anything better to do than make a baby! We threatened to call the baby “Bremer”, but thought better of it. Anyway…fast forward a couple of weeks and it’s the day before Australia day and I’m sitting in a doctor’s office being told that the home pregnancy test is very accurate so “Congratulations!” Here’s a script for all the blood tests we “need” to do and the dating scan for in a couple of weeks. Slightly shell-shocked I went home and told my partner he’d have to drink the carton of beer on his own (too bad he had bought beer I liked!).

And that doctor appointment really set the scene.  I went back after my dating scan and blood tests to be given the results and a form to go for the 12 week nuchal translucency scan and bloods – I wasn’t given information about the risks and benefits and asked if I wanted the test, just given the form. Same for the 20 week scan. When it came time for the anti-d injections I was just told “we’re doing this this week”. As for the gestational diabetes testing, I was told of the biggest risk of the test – that if I “failed” it I’d have to birth in hospital rather than in the birth centre.  My biggest fear was hospital birth. I was not told that stress can cause an inaccurate result.  Or that I had a legal right to decline the test.  Or that there are alternative methods of testing my blood sugars. Or that there is no evidence with regards to what is even the best levels for blood sugars during pregnancy anyway. I certainly wasn’t asked to make an informed choice. And once I had that gestational diabetes diagnosis I was certainly not going to be asked to make informed choices during the rest of my pregnancy either!

I was sent for growth scans to check bub wasn’t “too big”.  At 39 weeks, when bub dropped, I was sent for a scan to check bub wasn’t “too small” – the ultrasound tech told me that bub was 3.34kgs (remember that!) – I didn’t know that weight guesses were just that, guesses. I didn’t know that it’s totally normal to go past 40 weeks. I didn’t know that I’d be bullied into an induction.  I didn’t know that an induction doubles a woman’s risk of ending up with a caesarean. I didn’t know that an induction poses significant risks to mums and bubs. I didn’t know that I could demand information and evidence. I didn’t know that having my waters broken prior to labour would increase the risk of infection for both me and bub. I didn’t know that all the VE’s I had would also increase the risk of infection.  I didn’t know that there was even such a thing as a posterior presentation – so I knew nothing of bubs position until I had been lying on the bed with a malfunctioning epidural for 6 hours, was 8cms dilated and told that bub was “malpositioned” and my best case scenario was that I’d get to have a forceps delivery, but I’d likely be having a caesarean. I didn’t know that when my baby was taken from me in the operating room that all they took her for was blood sugar tests, vitamin K shot and a syringe of colostrum and I certainly didn’t know that these things could very easily be done with bub on me in recovery.

By the way…the baby weighed in at 2.76kgs.

And when my baby was found to have an infection I blamed myself. Despite the fact that I had not actually made one single informed decision throughout my entire pregnancy, labour, surgery and immediate post partum period I still blamed myself for every decision that was made. I went home believing that I was a terrible mother because I had failed to keep my baby safe.  I had failed to protect her from all the hospital had to offer. As I started to realise how little I knew, how few decisions I was allowed to make I wondered if the reason I wasn’t allowed to have that information and make those decisions was because my care providers just knew I was a terrible mother and that I wouldn’t be able to make the right choices. I became hyper vigilant, suffered flashbacks and spent many hours crying in the shower wondering what the hell was wrong with me.

All I really knew was that if we were to have another baby, next time would have to be different.

As I started to plan our second bub I started to research and learn.  I found out what a doula was. I found out what “evidence based care” was (and how hard it is to find!). I learned about the evidence supporting or not supporting all the routine practises for a vbac. I learned about hypnobirthing and how beneficial it can be. I formulated a birth plan. I made decisions. I took control of my pregnancy and I took responsibility for my choices.  I found my power. And then I lost my power.  In my most vulnerable moment I learned that my midwife had lied to me. That she actually wouldn’t support my choices. That she thought I wanted a vaginal birth more than a live baby. I learned that the only person who totally trusted my ability to make good decisions for my baby was my doula.

So what does any of that have to do with why I want to be a birth worker? Is it a matter of “I had a crappy experience and want to “save” women from the same”? Well, no. It’s because I believe that women are the best placed people for making informed decisions about their pregnancy and birthing care. And I find it really alarming that no-one is telling women this!  When was the last time your care provider said to you – “I really think you should have a read of a range of articles about this test / procedure / issue and then let me know what you think is best for you. Because after all, you’re the baby’s mother and no-one is as vested in his wellbeing than you!” Never?

As a birth worker, educator and activist I want you to come out the other side of pregnancy truly believing that: You are a strong and powerful mumma. You are capable of making the best decisions for your family. You are the expert on your family’s needs. You are the BEST mother for your baby. I trust you. And you don’t need anyone’s permission to use your power. That’s why I do what I do – So that I can be assured that women out there are hearing about what a fucking awesome mother they are, from someone.

Preparing for pregnancy – don’t leave your birth to chance!

Tags

, , , , , ,

So you’ve decided that you’d like to have a baby. Or decided that you’d like another. What now? Do you just have lots of sex and wait for the day the two lines appear on a wee covered stick? Just see what the universe has to offer? Well…as a doula that’s not what I’d recommend.  Becoming parents is a BIG thing. It comes with some massive physical changes and can be an emotional rollercoaster.  I know women who spend countless hours and thousands of dollars preparing for “just one day in their life” (their wedding) who are very quick to remind me that birth is “just one day”.  But birth can have some very far reaching impacts on the health and wellbeing of babies, mothers and family units. It is well worth putting some time and thought into how you will prepare for this momentous journey.

 

This post was inspired by my good friend and colleague, Jenna, over at Footprints and Rainbows.  She wrote an awesome article 11 important things to help make your pregnancy and birth happier and healthier and more empowering (I highly recommend you have a read of this and her other articles!) and I wanted to add my own spin to some of Jenna’s ideas. My partner and I are looking at trying to conceive (ttc) in about 6 months, so this is very relevant to me at the moment.

Jenna’s article can be found here: http://footprintsandrainbows.weebly.com/footprints–rainbows-doula-blog/mon-jun-23-2014

 

I’m going to condense the first 5 points into two – see a physiotherapist and see a dietician. Exercising and eating well are really important during pregnancy and it’s a great idea to start before pregnancy (okay – it’s a great idea to do it all the freaking time…). However advice on just what is “healthy” can be conflicting. People recommend all sorts of special exercises and supplements and eating plans without knowing a whole lot about your individual circumstances. It’s a great idea to see an “expert” who can take your history and talk through any issues and help you set up a plan that is relevant to you. A dietician can help you increase your protein and iron intake (if necessary), recommend supplements if you appear to be at risk of nutritional deficiencies and help you work in your favourite meals and snacks so you don’t feel deprived. A physiotherapist can be great to make sure your body is aligned and strong, can help you work through any back issues (trust me, pregnancy does nothing to help your back!), can assist with helping to strengthen your pelvic floor and can recommend a personal trainer to work on an exercise program with you. As a bonus most health funds will cover part of your physio and dietician fees. I’m presently seeing a personal trainer once a week to work on strength (and socialise with a good friend!) and plan to see a dietician soon.

 

I’m going to condense a few of Jenna’s points into point 11 – RESEARCH!!! And then do a little bit of reading, a bit of thinking, a bit of googling, a bit of chatting to others, join a facebook group, and then do more RESEARCH! Let’s look at this in points:

 

Decide what sort of birth you want – elective caesarean, social induction, intervention free waterbirth. Okay – write out your perfect birth (yes…we are assuming that you want a healthy baby and mumma…write out all the other stuff that makes the birth “perfect”). Now research care providers in your area and see who wants to help provide the birth experience you are after. So many women don’t do this and they end up feeling let down or bullied at 40 weeks when they find out that their care provider doesn’t support their birth plan. So I’ll give you a hint: If you want an elective caesarean then an independent midwife who attends homebirths isn’t going to be your best option.  If you want an intervention free waterbirth then a private hospital with an intervention rate of 95% and a ban on waterbirth probably isn’t going to get you the birth you want. Decide what you want, then find someone to provide the service. Sounds simple but so many women do it the other way around and find they are disappointed.

 

Learn about pregnancy and birth. Specifically learn about the type of birth you want! Learn the Benefits, risks and alternatives to all the commonly used interventions and tests – Glucose tolerance test (GTT), ultrasounds, induction, epidural etc. If you know about how birth works and how these interventions impact on birth then you will be in a better position if your care provider suggests something outside of your plan. You will know what information you need in order to feel that you have made an informed decision. And it is really important to remember that YOU are the decision maker – so it’s great to make sure your decisions are informed!

 

I love Jenna’s point about looking after yourself. Pamper yourself and relax as much as possible. Enjoy some massages. Get out in the sunshine and fresh air. Go to the beach. Play with your other children.  I’ve been working on making more time to play outside with my kids.  We also try to have a family “adventure” once a week where we go for a drive in the countryside or to the zoo or the beach. Also make sure you have time with your partner – get a babysitter every now and then and just hang out or do something enjoyable together.

 

Which leads to my next point – Have LOTS of sex! Yes – even while you’re still on birth control. Practise makes perfect, it’s a great way to relax and reconnect with your partner, good exercise and if your libido has taken a nose dive recently then you will be pleased to know that, generally, the more sex you have the more you want. So have an aim to be doing it at least 3 times a week by the time you are ttc. You won’t regret it!

 

I would like to add an extra point for anyone who has birthed before. It can be a great idea to reflect over your previous birthing journey. Some women need to heal from previous traumatic experiences. It can be a good idea to do this prior to ttc. Seek help from a psychologist or birth trauma counsellor.  It can also be very useful to get your file from your previous birth and go over it with an independent midwife who can help you to process everything that happened and also talk about the impact your previous birth might have on the next. If your first birth was a positive experience it can be a worthwhile activity to reflect on just what made it a positive experience and whether that is something that you can ensure you have next time.

 

My final point in preparing to start ttc. Get a DOULA!!!! A lot of doulas will do a pre-conception appointment with you to help you work through all of the above points. This can be an awesome way to get your birthing journey off to the best start possible!

 

It is really important to remember that having a baby is not “just one day”. It’s a huge journey starting from the moment you decide you want to embark on it. It’s really important to prepare for a great birth – don’t leave your baby’s birth to chance.

Just whose uterus is it anyway?

Tags

, , , , , ,

Lately I’ve been seeing quite a few shares of articles about the “language of permission” and its place in childbirth – or rather how it doesn’t belong in childbirth. We are being reminded constantly that our care providers do not get to decide how we will birth our babies. “My body, my birth, my choice” is the rallying cry. And this is good – because it’s true. Doctors don’t get to decide what we do with our own bodies. They aren’t allowed to make decisions, even for “the good of the baby”. So why is it that we still allow other men to make decisions about how we use our bodies in birth?

 

“I really want to have a homebirth. I’m terrified of the hospital. But my husband isn’t comfortable with homebirth so we decided to compromise and I’m just going to hospital and maybe he’ll let me get a doula”. 

I see this sort of statement a LOT. I’ve said similar myself – twice. Most women who say this wouldn’t dream of allowing their husband to make other decisions about how they use their body – in fact they would consider it controlling or abusive if their partner started telling them how they are allowed to dress, who they could talk to, what feminine hygiene products to use, how to cut their hair etc. So why do we suddenly allow this same controlling behaviour when it comes to pregnancy and birth?

“It’s important to respect his wishes because it’s his baby too!!!”

 

This is generally the response if you suggest that a man should not be allowed to decide how you birth your baby. And, to an extent, I agree.  It is important to respect his opinion. Respect is integral to all partnerships. But it goes both ways – he needs to respect your opinion as well.  His opinion can be respected without being proclaimed as the more important one. Because I’m pretty sure we have reached a time and space where men’s opinions aren’t actually considered the more important…Maybe?!

What message does this statement send – That it’s okay for my husband to make decisions about my body? That my husband is better able to make decisions about my body? That my husband cares more about my health and wellbeing and that of our baby than I do? Is that the message I want to pass down to my daughter? That it’s okay for daddy to make decisions about our health and wellbeing, without doing any research or taking into account anyone else’s opinion, just because he’s the daddy?

What happens in regards to healthcare decisions of the baby once it’s born? If you disagree about a course of action does your husband simply get the final say? Unless he’s a specialist paediatrician I would think probably not. You both go and talk to your GP or a specialist. You chat to other parents who had similar experiences.  Maybe you chat to your own parents and get their opinion. And then you come to a decision together.  So why does he get the final say about the care of the baby while it’s in utero? Is he a midwife? No? Then what qualifies him to be making these decisions?  I would wager that most men (and people in general) who make these types of comments have never experienced a homebirth, spoken to a homebirth midwife, spoken to a homebirthing family, read one single article about homebirth or researched the risks associated with hospital birth. Most women who want a homebirth have done extensive research on the topic.

So the person who is LEAST educated on the topic is making the decisions. Why is this okay? Because the decision he is making is the most socially acceptable. If you have an argument with your husband about your birthing choices your dad is unlikely to step in and tell him “Son you better smarten up and respect my daughter’s bodily autonomy”; Your mum is unlikely to help you come up with ways to educate your husband and get him onside and your sister / best friend is unlikely to offer to take a hit out on him for upsetting you so much.  They are more likely to tell you that “he just loves you and wants you to be safe. And so do we”. Or they will tell you that he is just acting in your best interests.  Because we all know that pregnant women are totally unable to act in their own best interests, right? If they are feeling super supportive they might tell you “well if this birth goes really well you can always have a homebirth next time”.  Most people don’t realise that the chances of a hospital birth going “really well” are pretty slim.

 

So, what if we change the story. “I’d feel much safer birthing in hospital. But my partner read a story in a magazine about a woman who was paralysed because of a botched epidural.  Then the following week he read a story about a baby that suffered hypoxic brain injury and it’s been linked to the use of syntocinon during labour. Now he’s freaked out and wants me to birth at home because it’s so much safer.” Hands up who’s going to tell me I need to respect my husband’s wishes. Where are the cries of “It’s his baby too – how will you feel if you do birth in hospital and baby suffers a hypoxic brain injury as a result?” or “He just wants what’s best for you and the baby – it would be really selfish to put your feelings of safety above that!” And hands up those who are going to tell me that my husband has lost his marbles and should just go join a hippie commune? Who’s going to suggest that my husband needs to do a little research about hospital birth and the actual stats? Who’s going to suggest that he have a chat to the Ob about his concerns?

It’s also worth remembering that MY health and wellbeing, my life, is on the line with every decision in regards to my birth.  My partner’s isn’t.  Women die in childbirth every day around the world. My risk (here in Australia) of death is tripled if I have a caesarean and my risk of a caesarean is around 30% if I birth in hospital.  Why is it okay for my husband to force me to take on that risk? There are also many interventions that may be recommended to me in hospital which increase the risks to both mine and my baby’s health and wellbeing – induction, AROM, syntocinon, epidural – all these carry risks to both me and the baby. None of these carry any risk to my husband’s health. So he gets the decision making capacity and none of the physical risk from the decisions.

I think that the women who make comments about wanting a homebirth but not being “allowed” fall into a couple of different categories. There’s, of course, those who genuinely want a homebirth but feel they need the support of their partner in order to feel good about the decision.  They decide they’d rather birth in hospital with his support than birth at home without it.  Then there’s the women who are using their husband as their excuse for not pursuing a homebirth. It’s easier than saying “I don’t want to homebirth” or “I’m scared” or “I’ve already been rejected by a dozen homebirth midwives and I can’t take that anymore”.

And then many women are confusing “active participation in decision making” with “controlling the decision”. Most of us want our partners to take an active role in the pregnancy and the decision making.  And I really feel like men should be doing this. After all – it IS their baby too! For both of my births I desperately wanted my partner to be an active decision maker – I did everything I could to encourage that. I gave him articles to read, I brought him to all doula appointments, all hospital appointments and he did the hypnobirthing course with me. Then every time I would ask his opinion on something or try to start a conversation he’d say “I don’t know” or “It’s your choice” or “I’m not interested in reading about that”. Despite that, he felt that he had a right to tell me that I “couldn’t” homebirth. I felt really let down by his lack of active participation in the process. It seems like a lot of men want to make the big decisions without doing any of the work.  And women do all the research and then allow their partners to “over rule” them. Because it’s the only time their partner actually takes an interest in the decision making process. And we figure that if it’s important enough for him to take an interest in our birthing journey for a few minutes then this decision must be IMPORTANT to him. So we’ll give him that.

Through my two birthing journeys I realised something very important. While I’d love for my partner to be an active participant in the decision making I don’t actually need him to be. Through his lack of informational involvement last time I now have the confidence to simply get on with it next time.  I have already made several decisions about my next birth (and we’re not even ttc yet – yes, I’m a control freak!) and I’ve simply been telling him as I go.  He hasn’t put up any argument. Maybe because he realises that doing it his way led to two traumatic births and that it’s time to see what happens when I enter a birthing journey feeling safe, supported and honoured. Maybe he realises that any argument would be futile as I now have the knowledge and the confidence to argue my own point – at length. Or maybe he is just sick of hearing about birth politics and birth choices. Either way – My body, my birth, my choice!!

Are you “trying” for a vbac?

Tags

, , , ,

The language we use around birth is so important. And one thing I hear a lot is women saying they are going to “try” for a vbac. Or that they are “hoping” for a vbac. Or, worse, they are hoping their care provider will let them try (but the language of permission will not be addressed at another time)

Why do I take issue with the word try? Well for a start it’s wishy washy. It doesn’t tell me anything concrete about what you want from your birth experience. If anything it tells me more about what you don’t want to do – you don’t want to think about your ideal birth and what that means to you and what you need to do to achieve it. You don’t want to put any plans in place to help you achieve your ideal birth. It makes me wonder if you are really committed to this course of action. It makes me wonder if you really want it. (keeping in mind that it’s totally okay if you don’t want a vbac – not everyone does!)

In my hypnosis studies I came across a very relevant and powerful statement about the word try: “The word try implies failure to the subconscious. So when you precede a suggestion with try the implication is that it will be difficult or impossible”. So by using the word try we are telling our subconscious that what we are going to be “trying” is likely going to be really hard, probably too hard. But at least we can say we tried.

Why is that a problem when facing a vbac? Because for most women, planning a vbac carries with it many challenges. It can be really challenging – doing the research, making the decision, finding a care provider to support the decision, facing road blocks and jumping through hoops, family and friends questioning our motives and abilities. We don’t need additional challenges, least of all from our own subconscious!

And I think that many women use the word try as an out for them. If what they wanted doesn’t come to pass they can say “Oh well. I tried”. I’ve known many women say that they don’t want to use firmer words as they don’t want to feel disappointed if it doesn’t happen. But if you don’t feel some level of disappointment when you don’t achieve something you wanted, did you really want it in the first place?

I also wonder how many women use it as a way to appease others? It seems that in many circles it’s not okay to have a birthing “plan”. We don’t want people to think that we are one of those selfish women who wants a particular type of birth experience. We don’t want others to think that we will be upset or disappointed if we don’t get the birth experience we want. We don’t want to tell people “I’m going to vbac” and then have to tell them that actually we encountered complications and had a caesarean. We don’t want to face “I told you so”.

But if not try, then what? How else could we talk about the vbac that we want? I prefer to use the word plan. “I’m planning a vbac and if I encounter complications I’ll change my plan”. Simple really. People seem to think that the word “plan” means “carved in stone”, but it doesn’t. We are totally capable of changing our plans. I can’t predict the weather, but I have no issues planning a trip to the beach. If the weather turns out to be crap on the day I just change my plan!

So are you “trying” for a vbac? Or are you “planning” a vbac?

Inclusivism and the “mummy wars”

Tags

, , ,

Why is it that everytime a meme appears on facebook supporting or promoting a particular personal or parenting choice everyone jumps up and down with the: But you forgot to include….! I saw a meme this morning about the monetary value of stay at home mums.  I’ve seen this before, but took the time to read the comments this time and golly…I kinda wish I hadn’t.  The comments were all: “What about working mums who do all this AND work”, “what about stay at home dads”, “what about working dads who also “help” around the house” or “this doesn’t represent parents of children with special needs“. I would have thought the comments would be more like: “Hey, how interesting to see it broken down like that” or “so that’s what I’ve / stay at home mums have been doing all this time, how cool”. But no…of course the page that shared it is just “inflaming the mummy wars” by acknowledging the work and input of one group of mums without acknowledging the others at the same time.

 

It happens all the time: share a meme supporting or promoting breastfeeding and you are accused of making women who formula fed their babies feel guilty. If you provide information about natural births then you are anti-medical care or anti-caesarean or anti-epidural – and therefore anti-everyone who accesses those. If I’m talking about breastfeeding I shouldn’t need to say “I chose to breastfeed and I’m really excited to have reached my goal and really enjoy it, but I support all women who choose not to or are unable to or who express breastmilk into a bottle…oh and I also support dads who give babies a bottle too”. It’s ridiculous! Why do I need to think about and include every single person or group in existence when I make a comment about my choices?

 

I’m pretty sure that if I posted a meme saying I like to drink coke, all the pepsi drinkers would be up in arms because “hey – what about us. Are you saying that you hate all pepsi drinkers?! We’re people too you know!” or heaven forbid I suggest that I don’t like to drink soft drink very much because I’m not comfortable with the risks it poses to my health: “All you people who drink soft drink are just big fat slobs who don’t care about your health or that of your families and you shouldn’t even be allowed to access medicare for all your soft drink induced illnesses!!!!” Hmm…No, what I said was “I choose not to drink soft drink very much because I’m not comfortable with the risks it poses to my health” – see all the “I” statements there…and all the “You” statements? I didn’t say that I think you are a bad person for drinking soft drink – I honestly think that it’s great if you enjoy it! The fact is that it is not a healthy choice, but so what? There’s heaps of things that aren’t healthy choices – and it’s totally not my place to decide what health choices you make. I don’t even mind if you drink it in front of me or around my kids or while you’re pregnant! And I’ll let you in on a secret – sometimes I feel like soft drink and I just go “Oh fuck it, screw the health implications I feel like a freaking sarsaparilla” and I do drink my bundy with coke (the lime slice counteracts the “bad” from the coke and alcohol!).

 

I read a great saying once “My choices aren’t judging your choices”.  I’m totally able to make choices for myself and my family without thinking they are the best choices for everyone else.  I’m an adult and I understand that I have come to make the decisions I have based on my own individual circumstances. I’ve used my own knowledge, my own research, my own cultural background and social circumstances and the events that have happened in my life to make the best choices possible for my family. I expect others will do the same. And I expect that their knowledge, research, cultural background, social circumstances and life events will be different to mine. So why the hell would I expect them to make the same choices as me?

 

And this is where the “mummy wars” come in. If a mother makes a choice for her family and then announces it, it doesn’t mean that she hates you for making a different choice. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t support women who make a different choice. If a woman shares information about her parenting choices that’s all it is – information that supported her decision making process.  The only reason the mummy wars continue to exist is because some women continue to get offended by information or promotion of choices they disagree with or didn’t make. And, hey, what about the “daddy wars”! I’m sure they’d love to be included, because they make parenting choices to you know!!

In defence of the uterus

Tags

, , , ,

In my usual facebook reading this week I came across a comment (again!) about a woman who is electing to have a caesarean as she doesn’t want to ruin her vagina. Aside from any question about performing major surgery when not medically indicated or whether there is more to this woman’s story: I need to ask – why do we hear so much about how vaginal birth (a normal physiological process generally) “ruins” vaginas, but very little about how caesareans ruin uteri? Keeping aside whether vaginas do actually become “ruined” by vaginal birth (I know a lot of women who say that they don’t, though) – Why is it okay to say “I want a caesarean as I don’t want to wreck my vagina” (although no-one ever uses the word “vagina”, am I the only one who notices that?!), but if I say that I DON’T want a caesarean because I don’t want to wreck my uterus I get told to “remember that all that matters is a healthy baby”?

 

I’ll give you a clue – it’s one word and it starts with “P”.  Not penis although you are close – it’s “Patriarchy”! (who guessed it right?!).  Vaginas aren’t just a pleasure centre for women or a convenient escape route for a baby – they are a pleasure centre for men too. I know men out there (not many of them…but still…) who don’t even know what a uterus is! Let alone the benefits to mum of keeping it intact. But they ALL seem to know what a vagina is and they all seem to be aware of its benefits for them. And many of them seem a little concerned about what a baby going through the vagina will mean for them. Society (read: patriarchy) seems to have forgotten that the primary function of a woman’s reproductive system is just that – reproduction.  The pleasure part is an awesome side effect, but not the primary function.

 

Taking this a little further I often hear comments following a caesarean – “you poor thing. Now you’ll have a scar. Now you won’t be able to wear a bikini in summer”. I know a lot of women who’ve had caesareans and I know a lot of women who’d like to avoid a caesarean – not many of them cite the aesthetics of their bikini line as the primary reason for not wanting a caesarean. But why is everyone concerned with the aesthetics? Because that’s what women are for – we are supposed to be aesthetically pleasing. As I was being wheeled in for my second caesarean the OB asked if I would like her to “fix” my scar – apparently it wasn’t a nice pretty scar. I said that I had no idea what she was talking about but sure, go ahead.  Once the surgery was over she came out to recovery to tell me that “Your uterus was torn vertically during the surgery, which means you cannot ever have another try at a vaginal birth. But, hey, I fixed up your scar and it will look much better!” Says a lot about society when a “pretty” scar is more important to the OB during your caesarean than keeping your uterus strong and healthy.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong – I LOVE my vagina. It’s a pretty awesome body part (I get a lot more joy out of it than my elbow, for instance) and I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to it. I also love my tummy – it does a great job of keeping my insides, well, on the inside. But I also love my uterus, and I think that getting a hole cut in it big enough to get a baby out isn’t really a great outcome for it. Never mind the risks to other parts of my body – like deep vein thrombosis, blood transfusion or death.  I love my vagina, but not enough to risk my life for it! And even if a vaginal birth does result in painful sex for a few months is that really more devastating than surgery resulting in painful walking for a few months? I could have a caesarean, go back to having sex straight away, but be physically unable to roll over afterwards. Gee that sounds like fun!

 

So when we talk about how vaginal birth is “ruining” sex and caesareans are “ruining” tummies let’s keep the wonderful, useful and very hard working uterus in mind. The uterus is where your baby lives, and where any future babies will need to live. It birth’s your baby.   It’s an exceptionally important and beautiful organ and deserving of some thought and consideration when planning your birth.  Your uterus doesn’t want to be “wrecked” any more than your vagina does!

 

“There is no other organ quite like the uterus. If men had such an organ they would brag about it. So should we” – Ina May Gaskin

A wish for my unborn baby

Tags

,

I often talk with doula clients about visualising and articulating what their “ideal birth” would be.  I feel that this can be a really powerful tool to help build a positive and peaceful pregnancy and to help ensure that everything needed is in place when the time comes. And I’m a huge believer that we can effect our reality with our thoughts.  After the two poems I wrote detailing the circumstances around my son’s birth I decided to write out my “perfect birth”, my wish for my next child.  For some reason it came out as a freaking poem again (I honestly have no idea where this sudden need to write poems has come from?!).  Anyway, here is my wish for my next birth.

42 weeks and there’s nothing to do but wait,

Through pre-labour niggles, sleepless nights and back-ache.

Oh God, how much longer?  I ask

Hoping I don’t have to wait as long as I did for the last.

But I wait and I wait trusting that my baby knows best,

I wait and I wait and try to get some rest.

Things start to build up and then it’s time, I just know this somehow,

Oh my goodness, holy crap, what do I do now?!?!

The surges build up, slowly getting stronger,

Slowly getting closer, slowly getting longer.

My doula is called and arrives on the double,

My circle is complete, I go into my bubble.

Light turns to dark, I labour under the starlight,

I wonder if my baby will arrive earthside this night.

I walk with my lover out under the trees,

I ask him to hold me, just be with me please.

We walk and we dance to that magical birth song,

Oh how I’ve waited for this for so long.

Time loses all meaning as the moon rises high,

I marvel that my baby will be born under its watchful eye.

Then it happens, the mood shifts, things start to get hazy,

I suddenly wonder if I’ve gone really crazy.

Transition arrives, we walk through it with no fear,

Transition is gone, my birthing time is near.

Breathing deep, breathing down, as my baby descends,

Breathing deep, breathing down, it is nearly the end,

Of this amazing journey to bring our baby to earth

Of this amazing journey to a beautiful birth.

My baby is born under a beautiful tree,

Born into loving hands and passed up to me.

Put on my chest all covered in goop,

I look at my baby and let out a whoop!

I birthed my baby! They said I couldn’t do it but you see,

My baby has been brought into the world by no-one but me.

The sun is starting to rise and the birds start to sing,

I just birthed my baby, what an incredible thing.

My baby and I as safe as can be,

My baby and I worked together beautifully.

No doctor or midwife or hospital in sight,

I birthed my baby and this time everything felt right.