Monday, November 25, 2013

Two Kind of Crazy, Out of Character, Things I Did

I would not describe myself as a naturalist, holistic, granola type of person.  I do buy organic food when I can, but I still take my kids to McDonalds.  I recycle, but I don't really think about my carbon footprint. I'm into vitamins and homeopathic remedies, but I'm ready and willing to go to hard core meds when necessary.  I'm just kind of plain vanilla average in this regard.

But last week, I did some out of character things: 

1) I did a natural (as in, no epidural) birth.

I don't know why, but having a natural birth always appealed to me.  Perhaps because of a fear of sticking a needle in my spine, or a fear of escalating interventions that would lead to a c-section. But really, it just always felt, for lack of a better word, natural to me.  As in, we women are meant to birth babies.  It's how nature made us.  So why not do it the way nature intended?  

When I was pregnant with Braden, my first child, I took a Bradley natural birthing class.  My husband and I went once a week and learned about birthing positions, relaxation methods, etc. But halfway through the class I ended up on bed rest, having been diagnosed with placenta previa.  For this condition, I would have to have a c-section.  I was disappointed, but resigned myself to my fate, and stopped attending the Bradley classes.  Lo and behold, a week before my scheduled c-section date, my placenta moved, and I was cleared for a vaginal delivery.  By that point, I was so out of shape and in such shock that I didn't have the energy for a natural birth.  I did try, but after a pitocin drip and 5 hours of labor, I asked for an epidural.  

For the birth of Casey, my second child, I again wanted to attempt a natural birth.  I reviewed my Bradley class materials, and took a "Comfort Measures" class at the hospital.  When I went into labor and arrived at the hospital, I told the nurses that I was going to go epidural free.  I labored for a few hours, until it started to hurt - I mean, really hurt.  Just like in the movies, I recanted my prior request and begged for the epidural.  I was 8 centimeters dilated by the time I got it.  I was almost there, but the pain (and temptation) was too much.

Lets talk about pain for a second.  In my normal, non-laboring mind, my reasoning went like this: Sure, it's going to hurt.  Really bad.  But it's temporary.  It will only last a finite amount of time.  And if I can just take it, for a little bit, it will be over!  How bad can it really be?  

Lets repeat that:  How bad can it really be?  

Despite the fact that I had experienced this pain twice before (and ultimately begged for an epidural), for birth #3, I was determined to try it again.  Only this time, I knew if I was going to do it, I needed to change it up.  I thought back to my instructor from that Bradley class I took - almost five years ago - who also happened to be a doula.  I signed her up.  (You can find her website here).

So what is a doula?  The official definition is:

"The word 'doula' comes from the ancient Greek meaning 'a woman who serves' and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to the mother before, during, and just after birth . . . ." (taken from

My definition?  Someone to help me, advise me, give me moral support, and in labor tell me that I can do it when the pain reaches a point that I don't think I can take anymore.

My doula, Ursula did that and then some.

She was with me at my house when I started having contractions.  She caravanned with us to the hospital.  She was with me when I almost fainted when they tried, and failed, to insert an IV twice. She gave me advice when my contractions slowed and my labor stalled.  She spoke encouraging words to me when I showered to try to get things going again.  She left the room to ask the nurses and doctors questions when we had been neglected for a while.  She got me ice chips (multiple times). She put my hair in a ponytail.  She coached my husband, coached me, and had me labor in a very weird position which actually got the baby moving down.  She cleaned up bloody show, urine, and God knows what else.  She was there when they started the pitocin drip, and she was there when I started to say, as in the last two times, "I don't think I can do this."  She told me I could.  I didn't believe her. But ultimately, she was right.

I did do it.

And man, was it a wild ride.

It hurt, no doubt about it.  But not in the normal way you think about pain.  It was a deep, internal ache, coupled with an intense amount of pressure.  For a while, it was manageable.  I breathed deep, I leaned on my husband, and I remained calm.  Then, in the last hour, I turned a corner. The pain intensified, the pressure intensified, and I got the answer my the question: How bad can it really be? No doubt about it, it can be bad.  Unbearably bad.

It was at that point I started to panic, and it was at that point that Ursula told me to relax.  She told me to take one contraction at a time, because if I started wondering how many more contractions there were to go, I would drive myself crazy.  She was right.  I tried, hard, to focus on the here and now, and on my breathing.  But when the doctor came in and told me I was only 7cm, I started to panic.  I can't do this, I said.

But I rallied on.  The doctor broke my water.  And about 30 seconds later, I could feel the baby's head crowning.  I don't think the doctor was halfway down the hall when Ursula went running after him, telling him that it was go time.

The rest is a blur.  The pushing, and screaming, was completely involuntary at that point.  I remember an oxygen mask.  I remember being told to lay on my side.  I remember someone mentioning "meconium" and the "NICU" and getting worried, but then being overtaken by pain and pushing once again.  I remember being told to breathe "for Colin."  I did.  I pushed.  Hard.  And approximately 15 minutes after the doctor said I was 7cm and broke my water, he was out.

I cried almost immediately - it was a cry of relief and gratitude.  Colin was fine, and after being checked out by the pediatricians, they gave him to me and he immediately started breastfeeding like he was a pro.  Two hours later, I was up and walking and took a shower.

Would I do it again?

Hell yes.

It hurt, yes.  It was stressful, yes.  But it was natural, and there is something so satisfying about that. I'm not sure why, because I am certainly not anti-drug or anti-epidural (having had one twice myself). But ultimately, I am so glad I was able to have the experience - pain and all.  It was one of the most intense experiences of my life.  It made me feel real.  It made me feel alive. It made me feel like a woman.  And it made me feel like a mother.

I spent a fair share of all three of my pregnancies being resentful of my husband - that he didn't have to do anything.  That he got to sit back and watch me get big and uncomfortable, and then go through a painful labor.  How is it fair that women have to do it all?  I would think.  But now, looking back at it all, I have to say I feel the opposite.  It's men who lose out.  Sure, they get to avoid the pain and discomfort, but they have no idea what it feels like to have a baby grow inside of them.  No idea what it's like to feel the kicks, and all of the related sensations.  No idea what it feels like to feel that baby come out of you, into the world.  No idea what it feels like to feed that baby with the milk your own body makes.

We women can do amazing things.  And I'm so grateful that I was able to experience the full gamut of it, drug-free, if for only this one time.

2) I am eating my placenta.

Okay, hold on, before you get completely grossed out, it's not like I'm eating it like a steak.  I had it encapsulated.  As in, put into pill forms.  It doesn't look like a placenta.  It looks like this:

See, that's not so terrifying, right?

Why would one do this?  Well, there's a school of thought that eating one's placenta confers a lot of benefits.  It is said to reduce bleeding, balance hormones, increase milk production, increase energy, and reduce post-partum depression.  All animals in the wild consume their placentas, and it is actually common in certain cultures.  So really, it's not that crazy.  And it's becoming more common - there was even a piece on CNN about it today (you can see it here).

I figured at the very least, it couldn't hurt.  And it may be psychosomatic, but I am noticing some benefits.  My bleeding is the least it has been with any of my children, I do have a ridiculous level of energy (despite sleep deprivation), and my PPD/PPA is MILES better than it was with Casey.

Who knows?

The fact is, I am feeling good on all fronts.  I had a great birth experience, and now a beautiful baby.

But I can't say I'm ever going to do it again...  I believe my quiver is full.


  1. Ursula was also my doula, and if I could marry her I would. I'm only sort of kidding. Ursula was my rock. I have never known such intense, constant pain as I felt during labor- and she helped me achieve a v-bac with my second, drug-free. She also helped me post-birth as a I dealt with the significant trauma of a hematoma and third-degree tears. I practically want to keep on having babies just so we can work together (which I've told her). Giving birth naturally is my prodest accomplishment, and I couldn't have done it without Ursula. ~ Ann-Marie

  2. Ursula was my doula as well. I am convinced that without her I would have had a c-section. I also had my placenta encapsulated. I don't know if it helped, but it certainly didn't hurt.

  3. Thanks for this post! It makes me almost want to try a drug-free delivery if I ever have a second child.

  4. Ursula was our doula as well. I don't have the time to post in detail everything we went through right now (I will try to remember to come back and detail is), but I'm not sure what we would have done without her. A natural birth when possible is amazing (even for us husbands) and I wish I could breakthrough the temptation of pain killers for others.

  5. What a neat post! Ursula was pretty amazing for us too. Placenta pills...that was interesting...

  6. I did both of those things. And loved them ;)

  7. I did both of those things. And loved them ;)

  8. What a great post. Congratulations!! I was an epi-girl and I still totally feel in awe when I think about how I grew a person, gave birth to a person and then nourished him to grow. The female body is incredible. HOnestly. I'm so grateful to have experienced that!

  9. You have totally inspired me to eat my placenta. I previously thought I was nowhere near enough Crunchy Earth Mama to even consider such a thing, but who am I kidding? I do natural childbirth! I am still nursing my toddler! While pregnant! So, placenta pills, here I come. Why not?


Copyright ©2011 Small Bird Studios| All Rights Reserved |Free Blog Templates at Small Bird Studios