It's Time to Empower Natural Birthing Moms - Modern Alternative Mama
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It’s Time to Empower Natural Birthing Moms

admin July 3, 2015

 

A couple days ago, I shared my fifth baby’s home birth story.  It’s been a popular read, probably because this birth was unlike what I have experienced before.  I thought I knew how birth worked, for my body, after having three babies naturally and at home.  This birth threw me for a loop.  It was the hardest birth I have yet experienced, and it required me to do things very differently than I ever have before.

Mostly, just read the story.

I feel the need to write a follow-up, though.  Because there’s the birth itself, but then there are my thoughts about it all.  It was hard.  And while I was going through it, I thought, I understand why women want the drugs.  I don’t want to do this again.

But after?  After, I felt so grateful it happened the way it did.  I felt so grateful that I was at home.  That I had the chance to work with my body and make birth happen the way it was supposed to.  And honestly?  I felt sorry for the women who didn’t get to experience this, primarily because of the lies they’ve been told about birth.  It made me think that the hospital, and the way it often works, is not really a good situation for many women.

Let me explain.

Why This Birth Was Hard

This birth was hard because the baby was bigger — primarily because he had a big head.  Weight isn’t usually such an issue because the fat on a baby is easy to deal with, but the larger bone structure of the head, well…not as much.

He also was not optimally positioned at the beginning.  He moved around a lot when I was pregnant, often turning posterior (always head down, though) and sometimes ROT, ROA, and various different ways.  He ultimately rotated to the ideal LOA before he was born.  (If you’re curious, ROT = Right Occiput Transverse which is when the baby’s back is along mom’s right side.  ROA = Right Occiput Anterior, where the baby’s back is along mom’s right side but towards the front of her belly.  LOA = Left Occiput Anterior, where the baby’s back is along mom’s right side but towards the front.)

What this meant was that I needed to work with my body and my baby in order for birth to occur.  He wasn’t putting enough pressure on my cervix to move down when I was reclining in any position, and it really wasn’t helping his position, either.  (Reclining encourages babies to be posterior sometimes.)

My instincts told me strongly that I needed to be upright, on my hands and knees, or standing — I needed to somehow “make room” in my body for him.  When I followed this, he did indeed move down, and I did dilate.

At home, I had the freedom to change positions and try some interesting things.  I stayed on my hands and knees a lot, at first with counter-pressure on my back to help him move down.  Once he was far enough down, counter-pressure made my back hurt instead of helping, and eventually being on my hands and knees made my back hurt too.  That was when I needed to stand up so that the straight downward pressure would cause dilation.  And it did, and he was born.

By following my instincts and working with my body and my baby, I was able to give birth naturally and safely.

If I’d Been in a Hospital….

Unfortunately, based on my one hospital experience, this would have gone very poorly if I’d been in a hospital.

I likely would not have been able to be up and moving very much.  I would have been in bed, being monitored.  (Now — some hospitals are natural-birth-friendly and would encourage being upright and moving, in which case it would have been fine.  But that wasn’t my experience when I was in the hospital, and it isn’t many women’s experience.)  The baby would not have moved down while I was in that position, fighting against gravity and making my pelvic entry smaller by sitting.

This likely would have led to a cascade of interventions — Pitocin, an epidural, breaking my water (which could have led to cord prolapse if the baby was still high), and if things still didn’t progress, a c-section.

None of that was necessary.

Birth isn’t a passive thing.  It can be, much like my fourth baby’s birth was.  I pretty much laid on my back in a birthing tub and waited for him to be ready to come out.  (He was smaller.)  But that’s what my instincts told me I needed for him.  I even tried to get upright on my hands and knees and immediately knew it was wrong, that time.  Yet, I needed to be upright with my third and fifth babies, because they were bigger.

Rather, birth is about the interaction between mom and baby.  Mom needs a chance to get down inside herself, to think about what her body and her baby need, to follow her instincts.  Barring complications, most babies can be born naturally when the mom is allowed to go through this process without interference.

It’s just that moms are told they don’t get it.  They don’t know how to birth.  They need some professional to tell them how it’s supposed to work.  They are told to ignore their instincts, and might even be afraid to follow them.  They submit to intervention after intervention, which increases the risk to them and to their babies, often without benefit.  All they would need, in many cases, is to have people surrounding them who trust them and trust birth.

(That’s not to say that true warning signs should be ignored, or that there’s no place for escalating interventions.  There is.  But not nearly at the rate that it occurs.)

We’re having worse outcomes because we’re afraid of the “what ifs” and we aren’t trusting women.

natural birthing moms

Why It Doesn’t Make Sense

When I shared my birth story, I had someone — a troll, clearly — comment on it.  I’m quoting the person, anonymously, below because I want to address this.  I think that this way of thinking is all too pervasive and it’s why so many women are bullied into interventions they don’t really need.

Quote:

“Wow, Kate.  I now realize what lengths NCB zealots will go, to keep the fantasy narrative alive. What you wrote here, isn’t quite the same as your laments you wrote on Facebook: Third/ Fourth-degree tears that resulted in groin muscle pain 8 days PP.  I thought women just “knew” how to birth?  I guess if you talked about your horrendous injury, that would contradict the pretty smile the NCB industry is holding.  Oh well. Do your Kegels religiously and smile! Everything’s swell in here!”

So let’s just break that down.

I mentioned in my birth story that I did tear.  It wasn’t, however, third/fourth degree, it was more like first/second and it healed by itself in about a week.  It’s perfectly fine now.  I had asked in a private group (where the troll was clearly stalking me) for stories from people who had tears that they opted not to get repaired.  It was apparently assumed it was worse than it really was.

But what was the other option?  To get the tear repaired by transferring to the hospital?  This would have placed me and baby at risk from the germs in the hospital.  I had a tear repair with my first baby, and it hurt badly for at least three weeks.  It was hard to sit.  And of course, it wasn’t as strong and tore easily in my future births (I don’t fully know which, because it was a gradual thing, but I know the repaired area is no longer “repaired” and it happened prior to this last birth).

Or, I could have avoided the tear by…having a c-section?  But why?  Why would it have been better for me and baby to have major abdominal surgery?  It would have required drugs that would have gotten in both our systems.  It would have meant we didn’t have that uninterrupted bonding in the first hour, a sensitive time.  It would have impacted breastfeeding.  It would have meant the baby wasn’t colonized during the trip through the birth canal.  It would have meant a long recovery time for me, at least 6 weeks.  It would have meant an increased risk of infection.  It would have meant increased risk with any future pregnancies or babies.

But sure, that would have been better than a tear that healed on its own in less than a week.

The groin injury.  With both of my biggest babies, I strained a groin muscle that was sore for several days after birth.  But this resolved in a little over a week.  By two weeks postpartum, I felt just fine and strong.  I have been seeing a chiropractor to help get my hips and sacrum (lowest part of my spine) back in the correct position after birth, which helps the muscles go back too.  Yes, it was painful for a few days.  Yes, it meant I needed to rest more and not carry heavy things for a few days.

But…it healed.  Fairly quickly.

Again, would it have been better to face things like a worse tear (and possibly worse groin injury) by laboring and pushing on my back?  Would it have been better to face a c-section?

People who do not support natural birth do not think about these things critically.  Natural birth is messy and imperfect, and it can result in tears, and muscle strains, and things of this nature.  It’s like an athletic event, in a sense!  It’s not going to be this amazing, orgasmic experience that leaves you unscarred and unscathed and ready to run a marathon the next day.  It’s birth, and it’s big.  And it’s incredibly important to rest after birth, to allow your body the time it needs to heal, whether you’ve been “injured” or not.

These minor injuries are less likely if you trust your body and work with it, but not completely escapable, depending on the position of the baby, the size of the baby, the length of labor, how quickly baby comes at the end, etc.

But.  They are preferable, in most cases, to the escalating interventions that a woman would face in the hospital.  They are preferable to drugs, episiotomies, tears in the lithotomy position, and c-sections.  Those are all much harder to recover from, a much bigger deal, and have much longer, lasting impacts on mom and baby.

Natural birth isn’t a fantasy.  But for most moms and babies the ultimate outcome, in the short- and long-term, is better.

And that’s why women deserve a choice.  A choice about where and with whom they birth.  A chance to learn to trust themselves.  A chance to work with their bodies and their babies.  A chance to be empowered, instead of scared.

While there are some excellent hospitals and doctors out there, our system as a whole is broken and does not support or even understand natural birth anymore.  We have people who look at a successful birth, one that it only takes a couple weeks to recover from physically, and say it should have had interventions to avoid that “recovery” time…without actually, realistically comparing the outcomes of the natural birth and the intervention-filled birth!  (And since my baby was perfect after our natural birth, I can guarantee that his outcome would have been worse with interventions.  Why would I do that?)

We need to understand natural birth.  We need to empower women to choose it, when they want to.  We need to teach them how it really works, that it’s not always easy, but it is worth it.  It really is.

And no.  There’s no “NCB Industry.”  (NCB = Natural Child Birth.)  We’re just a collection of moms who are sharing our stories, in hopes of inspiring and empowering others to do what they’re made to do.

Do you think we need to empower natural birthing moms?

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13 Comments

  1. I don’t understand the trolls at all. Why was it necessary for that person to post that comment on your birth story? If someone is so seemingly against natural child birth, then why are they even reading natural birth stories? Why the scaremongering? No one is trying to say that hospital birth should go away or that interventions shouldn’t be used when necessary.

    Like you said, the biggest issues here are education and choice. Women deserve to know their options, and they deserve to know the potential benefits and potential risks of all things involved in birth. And when women do understand as much of the issue as they can, they deserve to be able to make that choice for themselves!

    Reply

  2. Trolls can be so disgusting….

    I’m thankful to have a choice on where and with whom to birth our children. No, natural, normal birth isn’t always easy and predictable, but it is life giving and (for me) life affirming and (also for me) a great transition to true motherhood. This is, of course, my opinion, but I am all for advocating and empowering women to know that Yes there are options, Yes those options can be safer and (in many ways easier on the baby/women and body), and Yes there is support if you choose a natural/normal birth!

    The lack of accurate information and encouragement and support (similar to breastfeeding) for natural/normal birth creates or (I’d even venture to say) supports a system in which pregnancy and birth are seen as traumatic events, illnesses, needing management and intervention. Unfortunately, the outcomes from such a system aren’t good. And for this reason, I too, will continue to support and encourage and advocate for not only choice, but also information for women and families to birth naturally/normally! 😀

    Reply

  3. I’ve had three home births and they’ve all been very different. My first was somewhat similar to yours in that baby had two nuchal arms (her hands were on her head) preventing her head from engaging my cervix. Thankfully I had a knowledgable experienced midwife who worked with me. She kindly but firmly told me I would not be having the water birth I had planned for because I needed to be standing or on the stool. She was able to work with me and my baby and let natural birth progress. My midwife had to help get her hands free, (she came out hands ahead of shoulders!) and as a result I tore internally. So in the end, was it the birth I planned? No. But it was still natural, at home and my daughter was a perfect 10 apgar! Recovery was super easy despite the tear and I loved being home. And I am 100% certain, had I been in the hospital, I would have ended up in a c section.

    My point is, no one is saying natural home births are these perfect fantasies where everything goes according to plan. But with a good midwife, home births are many times the safest healthiest options for women and their babies.

    Also, wanted to note that most CPM’s are perfectly capable of repairing tears. They usually carry lidocaine for numbing and sutures. No need to transfer to hospital just because you tear. I’ve torn 2/3 times and it was no big deal at all to receive stitches by my CPM at home in my own bed!

    Thank you for empowering women, Kate!

    Reply

  4. my first birth was medicated in a hospital. I strained muscles in my arms pulling my knees back like I was told–while I pushed my OP baby out for nearly four hours. It was hard to even hold my baby for nearly a week! Guess the not-natural childbirth industry isn’t telling all either…

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  5. I have had three births, all in the hospital. With my first I had some IV drugs, my last two were med-free. I’ve always wanted to try to go med-free. I wanted to prove I could do it, and I wanted to avoid any side effects from medication, for myself and baby. If a woman wants drugs though, I completely understand. It’s painful! During my last birth I thought, “I totally get why women get epidurals!”

    That said, I am very against home birth. I, personally, felt more comfortable in the hospital. My pregnancies were all low-risk, but in the unlikely event something were to go wrong, I would want to be right where help is available. Why not be in the hospital just in case? Things can go wrong so quickly.

    Another reason not to birth at home? Too messy!

    Reply

    • Angela,

      I definitely appreciate that *you* felt more comfortable in the hospital, and in that case, you should absolutely be there.

      I, however, do not feel it would be in my best interests to be in a hospital. Yes, things can go wrong. But the chances of something going wrong that the midwives could not safely handle at home are extremely tiny. Whereas, the likelihood that I would face escalating interventions in the hospital is high. A risk-benefit analysis shows that under normal, expected circumstances, the risk would be greater in the hospital than at home. I have to make decisions based on the likely outcome, and not based on the teeniest, tiniest chance of something tragic happening.

      Also, home birth isn’t really so messy. There was no mess, for me, until the last few minutes, when I was pushing and my water broke. We had plenty of towels and chux pads available. It took only a couple minutes (maybe less) to pick it all up. Trash was thrown out, and towels were washed normally (and are not stained) and that’s it! It was super easy clean up.

      Reply

  6. Great post, Kate. I love your reflections on birth– no, it’s not a gorgeous fantasy! It hurts! But it can be wonderful all the same. I tore with both of my birth center babies and the midwives stitched me up perfectly– I was pain-free within two weeks and have no lingering effects.

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  7. Kate, congrats! I’ve been following your blog for a while and just want to say I’m so happy for you and your family. Also I can’t believe you left such a thoughtful and considerate reply to someone who obviously was just trying to be rude and had clearly never critically analyzed anything.

    I had a 100% natural birth in a hospital and tore because of a nuchal arm. While I am not sure if I’ll have a homebirth in the future, I honestly hated being in the hospital and could not wait to get home even though everything went well and pretty much how I wanted. I just can’t stand feeling like a patient.

    Thanks for the encouraging words to everyone regarding home and natural birth. It’s definitely worth it, and I found it interesting how everyone always wonders why your infant is so alert in an interventionless birth.

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  8. Hi Kate,

    I know it gets discouraging when it appears things aren’t changing when it comes to natural birth in our world. But, as a 52 year old woman with grandchildren, I can assure you things have changed for the better. When I was a young woman, I had the same passion as you do. Natural home births, alternative medicine, no immunizations, organic home grown food, home schooling my kids, and getting back to nature. Believe me, there was a lot more opposition 25 years ago, and a lot less knowledge about natural birth and remedies.
    Although, I do live in Washington State which I believe is and was much more open to this than many other states. I was surprised when my daughter gave birth in Tulsa, OK how behind they were in this area. I hope and pray that other states will advance in these areas.
    In Washington state I have seen these changes over the last 25 years:
    1. Most Hospitals now have ‘natural birth centers’ and support natural birth and the mother’s desires. These did not exist when I was young.
    2. Midwifes are much more accepted and respected here than they were 30 years ago.
    3. Insurance companies here now cover office visits to Naturopaths and midwifes the same as an MD. We had to pay cash.
    4. Public school principles and staff are much more supportive of home schooling, and there are MUCH more materials available today than there was 25 years ago. I had to fight with public school principals to get the curriculum that the law stated I could have to teach my children.
    5. Today, it is much more common and accepted to not immunize your children. I had to fight to keep my children from having immunizations. As school officials and doctors tried to intimidate me and threaten me. I stood my ground and my children grew to be strong healthy adults.
    I had my first child at a ‘birth home’ with a midwife. It was a difficult birth, but I was determined not to have drugs if I could help it. I would much rather ‘feel’ the pain and power of childbirth. I did tear a lot, but my midwife stitched me up and me and baby cuddled together peacefully.
    My second child I had at home with a midwife. I had a birth tub which was awesome for labor, but I got too hot and did not give birth in it. Both of my babies were turned face up, so I had terrible back labor. Being on my hands and knees felt the best, most of the time or in the tub. It was powerful to let out deep but loud war cries with each labor contraction that seemed to open me up for the powerful event that was about to take place. It was an absolute joy to have another sweet girl at home. My 5 year old daughter got to cut the umbilical cord. We still own the home she was born in, which also makes the place so special and magical.
    My youngest is 24 now and super amazing. My girls never rebelled or went through what other parents call the terrible teens. Both my girls graduated high school two years early and went onto college. My youngest is a graphic design artist doing what she loves and making a good living from it. My oldest is a school teacher in the public school system in Texas and loves what she does. She has two young boys and is happily married.
    Change is progressive, but it is people like you and me that fight against the ‘norm’ that bring about change. We were pioneers that were scoffed at and threatened because of our passion and belief that everything we need is within us and in God’s wonderful creation.
    Our world and even modern medicine is changing, but it won’t continue to change without resistance. Don’t ever give up, you are making a difference.

    Blessings,
    Debra McClory

    Reply

  9. Awesome post, women absolutely need to be empowered and encouraged to choose the birth they r most comfortable with and also be given factual info to base that decision on. I am days away from delivering number 5 at home and all of mine were different and I believe u would have most definitely had a much harder time in the hospital and a longer recovery. So glad to hear u and baby r doing so well. Maybe the trolls comment is coming from a regretful space of not having the birth she longed for or maybe did not even know until now she longed for it. Even more reason for women to unite and support and encourage 1 another 🙂

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  10. I had a deep 3rd degree tear when I delivered my first baby at home. She had her hand up by her face and lifted her elbow just as she was being born. The recovery from that of course was not fun, but I still wouldn’t do a thing differently if I could go back! I know that was NOTHING compared to the interventions I would have received in the hospital (I delivered at 42 weeks 2 days…..so thankful for a midwife who trusted birth and acknowledged all the variations of “normal”!) At a follow-up appointment to check on my perineal repair, the nurse midwife at the hospital told me she had had both a c-section and a fourth degree tear with a VBAC…..and that she would choose the tear over the c-section any day.

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  11. I had two great home births – both very different. I did have a tear which the midwife repaired quickly. After the first birth (about 24 hours altogether, had a very hard time pushing, walked a LOT, used toilet backwards as well as a birth stool) my midwife told me if I had been in a hospital, they would have pronounced me ‘no progress’ and would have done a c-section. And of course after the first, having the second baby as a VBAC would have been very difficult, if not impossible.
    I totally agree: empower and educate. I find many, many women know very little about the mechanics of birth and almost nothing about pain relief short of drugs or epidural. Everyone must make a decision that is right for them in the end, but don’t make the decision without having all the facts and research under your belt.

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  12. Love this story. Also, grateful that I live in a city (PDX) that is focused on becoming more “progressive” when it comes to natural birthing. Because my pregnancy was a surprise and my employer’s insurance covered 80% of the birth we decided to have a hospital birth. However, my OB is the mother of 4, all at-home-water births and the daughter of a midwife. Literally, she said, “whatever you want, you get” and when I looked at her during birth and thought, “drugs?” she said, “you’re so close, stay in this moment.” My room was dimly lit, fake candles flickered, music played, and essential oils flowed from the diffuser. Now, they’re building a birthing center to support water births – amazing! So true that it’s time for the medical world to get on track with recognizing every birth is unique and requires only mom and baby working through the experience, giving and taking together. It’s a beautiful task we get to work through together after 9 months of building trust and love between one another!

    Reply

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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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