Options and Pain Relief During Childbirth

October 29, 2008

I think that most women don’t realize that it is possible to reduce the pain of birth just by learning about their options. In fact, it is possible to have a painless birth or even an orgasmic birth.

I’ve experienced two painless births myself. I didn’t have an orgasmic birth but I did have at least two clients who did.

The first painless birth was with my first baby. The second birth was with my twins. I had an unusual set of twins in that they were mono-amniotic. They were wrapped up in each others cords 10 times! So, I did end up with an unexpected c-section. Unexpected because I wouldn’t consent to one until I was at 9 cm and was certain that this was the right decision without coercion. However, I did get to 9 cm without pain. I even started talking through my contractions at 8 cm because I got bored of waiting for them and I had to speak to the doctors and dozen residents who were in my room.

Although I had a spinal for the c-section, I never had any medication whatsoever AFTER the birth. Not even a tylenol. Nothing. I felt like I did too many sit-ups but I wasn’t in pain. I’ll have to write the whole story up one day but for now I’ll just say I used the power of my mind – just another birth option.

Why would I mention a c-section when I’m dong a blog on natural birth? Because when you educate yourself fully with independent childbirth classes, read great books, get a doula and learn several tools to help with reducing discomfort during labor, you will change your birth. Usually you will prevent unnecessary medical intervention but in the case of a true medically necessary intervention, you’ll find yourself feeling empowered and calm. No fear.

The biggest gift that I was given for the birth of my twins was my own book, “Journey into Motherhood”. After reading and re-reading the stories during the process of publshing the book, those stories of empowerment stayed with me. Despite having unusual circumstances at the birth of 29 week old twins, I had a really great birth. I always felt like I was in control of my decisions because I was. I had decided to be.

I’ll be posting these birth stories from the book daily. Read the additional comments and the author’s notes. You’ll find a lot of options to make birth better and easier.


More Baby Birth Stories

October 29, 2008

A Love Letter

by Anna Stewart

Listen, my child, I have a story to tell you. On the day you were born, my whole body smiled.

The morning of your birth day, I got up about 8 a.m., had a bowl of shredded wheat and orange juice for breakfast, and read the newspaper. My friend Sue called at 9:30. I told her I was tired of waiting for you to be born.

I hung up and tried to sit down on the couch again, but I was too uncomfortable. I was feeling cramping and pressure low in my pelvis. So I walked around the house, feeling restless. The cramping got more intense in just a matter of minutes. I called your dad at 9:50. “I think I’m in labor,” I told him, “but I’m not sure. I’m going to take a bath so why don’t you finish up whatever you’re doing and come home.” I sounded calm but then I started to cry. I felt strange—lightheaded, flushed. Dad was home in 10 minutes. He found me leaning against the shower wall, the hot water massaging my back.

Before Dad got home, I talked to you. I said, “OK Kyle, this is it. We’re going to birth you now. You tell me if there’s anything I need to know. We’ll do this together, gently, easily. I love you so much. I can’t wait to meet you and hold you in my arms.” I know you heard me. Do you remember?

My uterus was squeezing you down into the birth canal, hugging you tightly, pushing you down firmly and softly. My contractions were two minutes apart, each lasting about 30 seconds. Dad changed his clothes and called our birth assistant, Alice, between contractions. I wanted him close to me during them. I got out of the shower and walked around the house between contractions. It was hard work but I felt exhilarated, energized, excited.

Alice got to our house at about 11 a.m. and watched me through a few contractions. I was focusing on relaxing and keeping my voice low. Alice asked me if I was nauseous. I was. She said, “I think you’re in transition. We had better go to the hospital.” It hadn’t occurred to me that I would have to go anywhere. I was fully concentrating on our belly hugs.

Dad drove to the hospital in a hurry, arriving in six minutes. I was trying to hang on in the back seat as he changed lanes. I didn’t want to sit down. At the corner of Broadway and Arapahoe, I cried out, “I feel his head. I think he’s coming.” You were moving down the birth canal, gently and easily, just like we’d talked about. Dad was worried you’d be born in the car!

Dad stopped in the emergency entrance. I closed the car door and tried to walk to the maternity wing, but I only got about 20 feet before another contraction took over. I leaned on the pay phones in the lobby and moaned loudly. Heads popped out of doorways all down the hall. A nurse nudged me into a wheelchair and rushed me to the maternity ward.

When I was ready, the nurse checked my cervix. I was completely dilated. She wanted me to start pushing you out, but it wasn’t time yet. Dad put on the CD I had been listening to at home, Ocean Dreams. You and I had listened to it many times as we rested and prepared for this moment.

At one point when I was pushing hard, working with you, squeezing Dad’s hands, I noticed Dad was crying. “What is it?” I asked him. He could barely speak. I kissed him. “We’re about to have a baby. Our baby,” he whispered. That was the moment he fell in love with you. He hadn’t seen you yet but he knew he loved you as much as anyone can love someone.

Slowly, the top of your head emerged. Dad could see your black hair. My body stretched big enough so your head could pass through. You were born at 12:54 p.m. on Friday, October 7th. You started breathing right away and making little noises. Finally, I got to hold you in my arms. I was so happy… my whole body smiled. I whispered in your open, curving ear, “Welcome Kyle. Welcome to the world. Welcome to your family. We are so glad you’re here.”

A Mother’s Guidance: Practice surrendering by breathing and relaxing to music, especially in the last few weeks of pregnancy when the reality of impending birth is coursing through you. I took an independent/alternative birth class and read tons of books, especially other women’s birth stories. At that time, one of my favorite books was A Good Birth, A Safe Birth by Diane Korte and Roberta Scaer. I also like Penny Simkin’s book, The Birth Partner. Having a doula made a huge difference, both prenatally, because I could talk more about my feelings than I could with my OB, and during the birth. A doula reinforced the belief that birth is natural, and helped me stay centered and not get lost in the hospital environment. I also “daydreamed” a lot by meditating to the same ocean sound track that I used in my birth.

Additional Thoughts: Before your child is born, write out your vision for an ideal birth. Writing down your intentions will help your mind and body to manifest that. Then let go of that plan, so you are holding no expectations. If you can think of your contractions as belly hugs or bear hugs, you will perceive those sensations as something more pleasant.

Doulas are a wonderful addition to your birth team; they provide great emotional support, and so much more. There are two large organizations that certify doulas: Association of Labor Assistants & Childbirth Educators (www.alace.org) and Doulas of North America (www.dona.org). Interview at least three doulas, and choose the one that both you and your parenting partner feel most comfortable with.

Anna Stewart reads this story to her first-born on his birthday every year. They live in Colorado, along with her husband and two other children. She has published over 250 articles, essays, columns and reviews, and is currently marketing two books for publication. She can be reached through http://www.motherhands.com.

A story from the book …

October 28, 2008

I thought I’d post one of the first stories in the book. Actually, I’m planning on giving the book away as a PDF.

Yes, give it away! I know it sounds crazy but I’m out to get rid of the fear of birth.

Like Thunder Rumbling Through


Being pregnant brought me renewed vitality, but as every mother knows, there comes a time when you have had enough of being pregnant. Maybe it’s your body’s way of preparing for the separation that is about to occur. In addition to your own anticipation, there are the questions, the phone calls, and people dropping by with hopes of seeing you in labor. Your hormones are shifting and everyone wants to know, “HAVE YOU HAD THE BABY YET?” Maybe these social annoyances are nature’s way of conditioning us for the patience we will need as parents.

It was August and hot, of course. I was pitting the forty pounds of cherries that I had picked from my favorite orchard. I needed a project to pass the time, because I was nine-and-a-half months pregnant. As I finished laying the fruit in the dryers, I began early labor. I had the typical stream of emotions. Mostly I felt excitement: it’s finally happening! I had prepared our living room for the birth a month before with a birth kit, birth stool, and a variety of other things we would need.

Home birth is a common occurrence in rural areas of Colorado and many women hire a licensed midwife. My midwives, Suzanne and Jeanette, gave me such special care and attention throughout my pregnancy; I knew I could rely on them during my birth. In the last weeks, we had been in contact every day, either by phone or by home visits. When I called to tell them the good news, they assured me that they were prepared to come at any time.

Since everything was ready for the birth, I decided to go out to dinner. I was hungry and I figured this was my last chance to just sit and eat. Besides, my baby’s grandparents had just pulled into town and I wanted to visit with them. It was sort of nice, but my meal and conversation were continuously interrupted. I would be in the middle of a sentence and suddenly trail off… losing my train of thought; another contraction. I was surprised that they kept coming so regularly. The grandparents, seasoned in childbirth, understood my incoherence, but I felt awkward when I couldn’t carry on a conversation.

After dinner I walked home, and put everything and everyone else aside. I labored through the night, sweating, moaning and even vomiting at times. During my pregnancy I had read every book on childbirth that I could find, watched lots of videos and talked with nearly every mother in town. I understood the physiology of childbirth, and part of my coping mechanism was to rationalize each sensation I felt. When there was immense pressure in my lower back, I told myself, “OK, the baby is against my back and I can counteract this pressure.” Luckily, the baby shifted positions after a few contractions, so that feeling didn’t last long.

My midwife came over and spent the night with us. Although her presence was comforting, I knew that I was the only person who could give birth. I retreated to the deepest parts of my mind, reviewing scenes from my childhood like an old film. Every spoken word, whether or not it was directed to me, became a distraction. I wanted silence. I just sat there, letting my body do its work. I didn’t want to move or be touched, just to be still. Contractions came and went, and in between I would drift off, resting without sleeping.

Unlike the hospital setting, where a classroom-sized clock is staring at you from across the bed, I had a tiny clock placed strategically behind me. But in the childbirth time warp, the hours, minutes and seconds didn’t hold any meaning. Soon the sunlight was shining softly into the room. My labor was changing. I felt the baby moving, like thunder rumbling through me, and I had to surrender. I pulled together every bit of strength I had left. Suddenly I was re-energized, as if I had slept through the night. For every bit of pushing, I had to do just as much letting go. I could not hold on to the fact that I was totally naked in front of a room full of people, or consider the sounds I would hear coming from my mouth. I understood why they call it the “urge to push”—I remember asking Suzanne, “Do I have to wait for another contraction?”

Finally, at 9:03 on a Monday morning, my son was born. The midwife immediately put him in my arms. I was stunned—the sight and sensation of holding your own child for the first time is not truly conceivable before it happens. He did not cry or breathe right away, and it seemed everything was in slow motion. I was speechless and holding my own breath. My midwife said, “Talk to your baby!” as she suctioned his airways and he began to breathe.

I felt as if we were calling his soul into his body. My words were probably a jumble, but in my heart I said, “I’m so glad that you’re here!” I watched him fill with oxygen and a rosy color spread through him. He was aware, but silent, and we watched each other closely. I felt that I was looking at a stranger, and gazing into the eyes of an old friend. Maybe, as he gazed back with a slightly wrinkled brow, he felt the same way. I barely noticed when our physical tie, a purple and shockingly rope-like cord, was severed. We had completed the journey and evolved into two individuals. With some practice I was able to nurse him, and we reconnected. Afterwards I began to cry. I was sobbing, not only tears of joy, but also relief and gratefulness. I realized the fullness of my being. Every muscle, every hormone and every action of my body was nature. I had experienced the completion of one cycle, and the beginning of another.

A Mother’s Guidance: I did not take any birth classes. Instead, I read midwifery books and spoke with women who had faith in the birth process. Some of the books that I read were Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin, Heart & Hands: A Midwife’s Guide to Pregnancy & Birth by Elizabeth Davis, Birth without Violence by Fredrick Leboyer, and Immaculate Deception and Seasons of Change, both by Suzanne Arms. I read everything that my midwife had in her office, and anything in the library that supported normal birth.

The secret to having a great birth is… hire a midwife! Finding a midwife for your hospital or home birth is the best thing that you can do for yourself and your baby! The midwifery model of care encourages freedom of movement, use of water during labor, and no separation of mother and baby. Midwifery care is very respectful of the process that mother and baby are experiencing.

Additional Thoughts: Kelly mentions that she strate­gically placed her clock behind her. You will find that it is much easier to labor if you are not concentrating on how long it’s taking. If you are giving birth at a hospital, drape a towel over the clock or take it off the wall.

Kelly Camden is the mother of two boys, both born at home. She has worked with families as a labor support and postpartum doula since 1999. Kelly facilitated the creation of the Albuquerque Birth Network (www.abqbirthnet.org), an organization that educates the community about options for healthy pregnancy and birth, and advocates for evidence-based care.

We interrupt this story …

October 28, 2008

I’m all about going green lately. Well, maybe not lately – I’ve been interested in the environment for a long time and trying to find ways to support a green movement. I’ve started buying organic food not only for the better flavor but I don’t want the pesticides and hormones in my body nor in my family’s body. I also want to encourage organic farmers to keep doing it right.

When I had my twins 3 1/2 years ago, I tried going to cloth diapers but I just didn’t get the family support i needed and to tell you the truth, I needed to learn more about how to do it. Now I regret all the money I threw away in disposables and the amount of trash I contributed to.

It wasn’t until a year ago that I discovered washable – reuseable feminine pads. It never dawned on me to check to see if they existed. Well they do and they are awesome. They are soft and comfortable and they will save you money in the long run.

Do yourself a favor and check out willowpads.com. Please, tell your friends about it. I wish someone would have let me know there was an alternate years ago.

Remember, these are a great thing to have around right after childbirth.

By the way, I have no stake in this company and won’t get a thing for referring people. I just wanted to point it out and help out Catherine Bolden who has put so much into helping women, babies and the environment – yes she sells diapers too!

Labor Natural or With Medication: The Big Question

October 26, 2008

Continued …

Or maybe this is a digression again.

When I decided to write the book, I decided on having only stories of Natural Birth. Little did I know that I would create a firestorm of controversy. Didn’t know that “natural birth” was a loaded word or that the planet was so divided by natural versus medication.

My point was that it was possible to have a painless birth without medication. It really is. I had one and I’ve had plenty of past clients who can attest to this. I also have lots of friends in the birth world now who know this to be true. There is a whole world of women who have experienced the phenomenon of painless birth but it is still a taboo subject.

I thought that the book would be embraced by those wanting medication at birth. It would give them confidence that if someone who didn’t have any type of pain medication could do it and have a very good – sometimes painless – experience that they could have one too whether or not they took medication.

My agenda was “Your body, your baby, your way”. Give people all the facts, take away the fear and birth will become much better! You’ll make better decisions during pregnancy and during birth and have a happy birthday despite labor.

Learn from the successes of others.

To Be Continued:

How to Get Published: Publisher or Self Publish

October 26, 2008


I have so many people ask me how to get publshed that I thought I’d interupt the story to answer a few of those kind of questions.

Did you look for an Agent?

No, I never looked for an agent nor did I look for a publisher. In September 2003, right before I decided that I wanted to write a book, I took a wonderful 3-day course from Dan Poynter in Santa Barbara on How to Publish.

Ok, hold on, why would I take a class like this when I had no intention of publishing a book?

Well, I had two friends who had told me about Dan Poynter, Kim Wildner, who had already publshed her book. I met Kim when I was producing and co-hosting a radio show in San Diego on birth. Pamela Chilton had also mentioned him and his books as great references.

My husband and daughter (who was 2 at the time) were planning on taking a trip to Santa Barbara the very week that Dan was offering a workshop on publishing. Kim pointed that out to me and I thought that the class would help me learn how to promote my CDs. (I had two hypnosis CDs out at the time – one on breastfeeding and one for stress and fear relief).

I took the class and really didn’t think I’d be publshing a book.

I came back from the seminar when this idea unfolded. I think it had been there for a while but it certainly wasn’t crystalized. I do remember working with my co-host Dee Nipper a bit on creating a book but it never really got off the ground. Dee got busy with other things and her ideas and mine differed enough to cause my enthusiasum to wane.

So back to when I decided to write a book:

I had a lot of information from Dan Poynter on finding a publisher versus doing it yourself.

The big disadvantage of going with a publisher is that they don’t usually help you to publicize the book. If they do, it is only for a few weeks to get the books off to the reviewers. They might help send out some other galleys and do a press release but for the most part it is your own responsibility to promote and sell the book.

At the time I did have the money to publish (Although it ended up costing me 5 times more than I thought it would with all the unforseen expenses and lessons). I also loved marketing and promotion so I figured that if I’d keep all the extra income by doing it myself. I was also afraid that if I did go with a publisher, that I’d lose the creative control of the type of stories that they wanted in the book. I kept seeing them forcing stories upon me that mirrored the current state of birth. I also thought that the whole process of finding an agent and working through the publisher’s timeline would take too long. After all, I was determined to be finished in 3 months. This couldn’t be too hard, right?

I started White Heart Publishing back in late 2003. I know I came up with other names but they were already taken. White Heart conveyed that the book was coming from my heart in a way that would help humanity. It felt pure.

I dove into every book I could possibly find about publishing, marketing, etc. Good thing I taught myself speed-reading a few years earlier. I also got onto several publishing newsgroups and joined Publishers Marketing Association. I devoured all information that I could get on this subject.

To be continued:

The story of laboring on Journey into Motherhood

October 26, 2008

… Continued

God please make it stop! I don’t want to write or publish a book! Can’t someone else do it?

I was a woman obsessed. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It sucked because I didn’t want to do it.

Ok, how hard can it really be to write a book? – I reasoned with myself.  If I write a book like Chicken Soup for the Soul – a book with stories that others wrote – I won’t have to be a great writer.  I can probably publish this book in 3 months.

It will be a massive bestseller. It will sell to a big publisher for $4.1 million dollars. I’ll bump “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” off the bestseller list. Then I’ll write a series of these books and change birth forever. (I have a someone large imagination)

I had to get birth stories.

I had had hundreds of couples in my years as an independent childbirth professional. I started emailing past clients for stories. Most were very slow at writing a story. I had to get more stories fast.

I posted on newsgroups for new moms, I bought advertising in the electronic newsletters for Mothering and Midwifery Today. I asked all my friends and family to pass the word too.

At first, I told everyone that I wanted Beautiful Birth stories. I figured that would be the title of the book. I didn’t realize as I expanded beyond my own clients that beautiful birth stories meant something very different to most people.

My whole purpose of finding stories was to find ones that would reduce the fear of birth. I also wanted to find hospital births, birth center births, and home births. I wanted to find as many childbirth methods as possible. I didn’t want a book only on hypnosis for childbirth birth stories. I felt that many women who hadn’t taken those courses wouldn’t be able to relate to the bigger message and picture. I wanted stories that every pregnant woman would be able to connect with.

What I received was a lot of horror birth stories. Most of them made me sob. They were stories so full of fear, massive interventions, distress, emergencies, etc. I was so distressed that I called my friend Kim Wildner. She assured me that I’d find more positive stories out there and that I wasn’t losing my mind. After reading so many negative stories, I was wondering if the stories were positive and I just had a convoluted way of looking at the world of birth. Certainly, most of the stories that I was reading weren’t ones that would inspire me to want to get pregnant or give birth.

Did these women purposely send me horror birth stories? No, I don’t believe so. I believe that they thought the stories were great, beautiful, etc. They had never heard positive stories so how would they know that their birth was so tragic it would break someone’s heart? How would they even know that their was a different way? They couldn’t possibly.

They didn’t know how they were affecting other friends, family and strangers by telling their stories. They all thought that they were preparing them for birth. Well, little did they know that they were helping to create more pain and complications then are necessary for birth. I’ve actually met people who won’t have kids of their own because they are so afraid of birth!

I wish I had known that I was going to write about this process. Had I known, I would have kept better notes about the process.

To Be Continued …

My story of birthing this book

October 26, 2008

After years of teaching hypnosis for childbirth, I felt frustrated.

The fear of childbirth was an epidemic. Every client I had told me of times when they were approached by strangers who had noticed the big belly and felt determined to tell them a horror birth story.  My past clients who really had fabulous births – some with no pain told me that it was difficult to tell their stories. They felt the anger of other moms who didn’t have a joyous birth. They felt like keeping quiet about their stories.

The final straw came in September 2003 when I had a client sobbing in my office. She had heard 8 horror birth stories that week and she was already terrified of birth long before that week. Coincindentally or perhaps not, I had another mother come to me the next day who was also sobbing. She had heard 2 horror birth stories that week that really upset her.

I set out to the local bookstore to find a book on positive birth stories. I was certain that a few more positive stories would counteract the negative stories. I searched for 6 months and never found a book that was solely about stories and solely dedicated to positive birth stories. The closest I found had a lot of great home birth stories but my moms were giving birth at the hospital. They needed the wisdom from other moms who had something positive to share.

I remember telling my husband that I couldn’t believe no one had written a book on positive birth stories. I knew if I wanted one written. I had to do it. I didn’t want to. I’m not a writer and I knew it would be a large and expensive project. My daughter was just 2 years old at the time. I didn’t have time.

I tried to convince everyone I knew to do this project. It fell on deaf ears.

I tried to forget about this darn idea but it wouldn’t let me go. I thought about it daily for 3 years and it drove me crazy!

Who was I to write a book? I’m not a great writer. I’m a terrible editor, I’m not a detail oriented person. I have no background in publishing. Please God, don’t make me do this!

To be continued…