What Will You Take Away From Your Lessons In Birth?

26 07 2012

Everything that we are and have been through… the culmination of our experiences, our education, our choices, our good and bad luck, our destiny, and yes, even our intuition… what has it taught us? Do we understand it and direct the flow ourselves, or are we tossed back and forth in choppy seas, like clueless pieces of debris?

I had a dream last night.

I was pregnant again with Eve. Eve is 8 right now. In the dream she was a baby again just for the sake of being pregnant with her, as if she had to be inside of me temporarily to be protected. I was in a hospital room holding baby Eve, giving her a pacifier– something I’ve never done with any of my kids– but

these circumstances were different. I just needed to keep her happy for a moment. I had no fear of dependence or long term effects or how pacifiers are just ways to get babies to shut up without feeding them, because this wasn’t going to impact anything for the future. And then suddenly she was in my belly and I was 9 months pregnant.

That very day, I knew, I was scheduled to have a C-section. When it was just me and my husband in the room, I started to cut into my abdomen myself, but I stopped when I realized she wasn’t ready yet. I left just shallow, non-bleeding wounds. Totally unrealistic, just dream-stuff.


My husband and kids were there, and even my parents and maybe my sister, which was weird. It was a large hospital suite for birth with plenty of room, and an attached bathroom. Staff would occasionally come in and out. It was a sunny day and light was coming in from the windows. I went to go use the bathroom and as I closed the door, I heard a nurse come in talking about she was going to need a urine sample. I opened the door and tried to make myself available, because I just barely had to pee as it was… if she was going to get a sample from me, it was going to be now or never. When I opened the door, she was talking to my family, empty handed. I looked on a nearby tall cart for any signs of a specimen cup, but could only find a plastic cup with some water at the bottom. I picked it up questioningly, and glanced up at Dr. W. Dr. W. has been my kids pediatrician since Eve was a newborn. In this dream, I suppose he was the obstetrician. He quietly commented some words to let me know that he had no idea if the nurse intended me to pee in this cup. I was frustrated because I did have to pee and I didn’t feel like waiting on these people to get their shit together. You know how it is when you have a full term baby right on your bladder. Even a little bit of pee can sometimes feel urgent. I might have closed the door and decided to pee, anyway.

Eve at age 5

It is at this point that the thoughts start to creep in… is this what I am supposed to be doing? Yes, this situation is very different, but I was here to have a C-section? Was I sure that was the right thing to do? Was I about to submit to multiple unnecessary hospital treatments, or could I finally this time keep some control over the situation?

From in the bathroom I could hear another person enter. He was there to insert something or place something in me. I had the feeling it was like a catheter, but they were calling it something else. I exited the bathroom and faced him to hear what he was telling the others. He was irritated. It was the end of his shift or something and he wanted to do this quickly. I started to get twitchy, because this attitude was the last thing I needed right now, and I wasn’t sure I even wanted this thing. When I was in labor in the hospital with Eve (who was an induction at “41” weeks, for fear of placental deterioration) I had a catheter placed, but I had had the epidural and was close to delivery, so I didn’t care and I felt nothing. At this point in the dream, I hadn’t even had any sort of anesthesia. I’ve never had a catheter-type thing placed without it, and this guy was the last person I would want doing that– if I needed it at all.

Apparently I had been crying in the bathroom, because I realize that my face is streaked with tears, but my manner is firm. I interrupt him so as to not waste his time. I ask, “Is this thing totally necessary?”

He answers me with unexpected kindness, “No, it’s totally up to the charisma of the patient.”  Dreamspeak for “discretion“? If it’s up to charisma, I might be in trouble! 🙂

“Good,” I reply. “Is this something I can reject now?”

“Yes, just sign here,” he said as he handed me just a couple of forms. I gladly did and handed them over. I noticed I signed yesterday’s date on them. He left the room. My son Cian (who is 3) shot imaginary Spidey-webs at the man as he left, like he is prone to do in real life. I hugged my son and laughed with him and thanked him for being a good protector.

There was a feeling of a change in the air, the room was quiet, and everyone was looking at me. I sat in a chair by the window. Next to me was a man I don’t know in real life, but he felt important to me in the dream, like a guide or a father figure. My face was still wet with tears but I wasn’t crying. He said to me, “Now that was a very different Elizabeth from what we saw before.” And I nodded. There was a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. He said, “You’ve come a long way.”

It may sound basic, but I’ve learned and grown a lot from that 21 year old girl who gave birth the first time. Trusting, submitting to authority, naĂŻve.

This led to a whole new realization, and I pondered it aloud to all within the hospital room– should I really be getting a C-section? I was happy they were not inducing. That I wasn’t going to allow. They were just going to go straight to a C-section. But, perhaps I was wrong!? If I let them give me a C-section, would I be missing the opportunity for getting it right? “This isn’t like the last time,” I said. “She’s already been born!

This time, I really was worried that letting labor come naturally could be too late. Would labor even come? She’d already been born. This was not like a natural pregnancy and labor. This was unnatural. I was worried that not doing the C-section might actually kill her. Or, was this my chance to finally get it right, and by doing the C-section I’d be missing it? I was pacing and saying all of this and crying, trying to figure out what to do. I sat in the hospital bed and cried and talked some more, but no one really offered their input, only listened. It was so sudden to make a choice. I hadn’t had a full 9 months to consider the significance of this and figure out what the right choice would be, and it was just suddenly thrust upon me in one day.

In the midst of my tears, my open hospital room door was approached by a large group. “Heeyyyy!” I heard a loud friend of mine who I am barely friends with in real life say as she entered with her posse. She had been acting as a nanny for a Japanese family, and for some reason this entailed her bringing in several full grown Japanese women with her. She came to me and hugged me, as if unaware I was in the middle of a personal crisis, and started making light jokes about pregnancy and birth. Hardly the time! Now the room really was full, of people close to me and strangers alike. I feel like it was a coincidence she found me here, but I totally didn’t invite her, and now she’s making herself at home. Soon after they came, I said, “Hey. This is too chaotic. I am really just looking for peace. Can we maybe move some of the people who are right behind me to somewhere over there?” I motioned towards further into the room, closer to the door. A couple of the Japanese women got up from behind me and sat over there.

I went into the bathroom. I am not sure if I really had to go or if I was just trying to get away. Over and over again this whole time, trying to find my center, I am mulling it over in my head to try to arrive at the right conclusion. What am I going to do? The bathroom doesn’t look like a private bathroom anymore, it looks like a public restroom (even if it still isn’t… it’s my private bathroom). Over at the sinks, a girl is putting on heavy make up. Was she part of my friend’s posse? She is all done up as if she is getting ready to go some place special. A friend of hers is in the room with her. I’ve had it with all these people and I need to start getting people out of here, so I decide I’m going to start with her.

“Hey, I’m about to give birth soon, and there are really just too many people here. You’re gonna have to go,” I say.

“No.” She ignores me and keeps doing her make up in the mirror. She has this really elaborate metal compact, with multiple mirrors in it and compartments for various cosmetics.

“No, seriously, get the fuck out,” I say. I’m pretty sure her friend has left by now, but this lady isn’t taking me seriously. I take the compact and throw it. Glass shatters on the floor. I immediately see the glass as a weapon, which is a threat, and I’m not going to let it get to that point. She doesn’t get to turn to confront me– I grab her by her weave and escort her out the door. Finally, a moment of peace. But then she sends a male friend in. He’s playing with a lighter. I don’t know what exactly he thinks he’s going to do, but he’s not going to win. For a moment I marvel at how weird it is, to try to hurt a pregnant woman. I have a piece of glass in my sights. Is he going to cut me? How weird, to inflict a wound on a woman who will give birth soon. It’ll be superficial, unnecessarily messy, and pretty thoughtless… as if pregnant or laboring women need any additional problems.

This part gets fuzzy and I’m not sure how it resolves, but I think I scare him into leaving. When I exit the bathroom, the room is busy with people. There are at least two long cafeteria dining tables in the room, people seated at them, and some walking around. I don’t recognize most of the people. I see an ex-boyfriend sitting at the table, looking longingly at me. I wonder if I am especially pretty to him since I am pregnant. I pretend I am looking for something under the table to avoid making eye contact with him. The room is so busy, and night is here, and I’m still feeling unsure of what I’m going to do, but surely someone will be in the room soon to begin the procedure, or try to offer some other unnecessary medical intervention that I will likely reject.

Like so many of the people who are locked in some kind of opposition with me over my beliefs, I would not dare not learn from my life lessons, lest they be in vain. When put to the test and faced with an unexpected choice, I would be a fool to relive the same pain and prove to the universe that I had been no better or wiser for it… that I hadn’t learned anything. Forced the replay the same roles, again and again. Not me.

Elizabeth and baby Eve

In waking life, had this been a real-life scenario, I might have gone with the C-section. Unnatural circumstances cannot be counted on to be worked out through natural means. Forcing a baby who has already been born to stay inside the womb could lead to death (I would imagine), and the price of that is more heavy than if I were to miss my chance at redoing the first birth right. In other words, I would gladly repeat my mistakes if it meant my child lives. Would it mean the same thing in the dream? Is that the real test– to see if I know enough to separate life’s patterns from a unique life or death choice?

The dream never concluded one way or the other.

So, what about you? Do you have dreams about previous (or future) labors that haunt you? If you had to do it all over again– literally– what choices would you make?

Avoiding Post Partum Hemorrhage (PPH)

11 07 2012

One of the things that concerns laboring moms (particularly freebirthers, but not limited to these women) is a fear that they may “bleed out”, and experience post partum hemorrhage. “Oh, I’m a bleeder”. “Oh, all redheads bleed more.” Whatever. Whether this is true or not is usually not studied in such a way that we rationally take into account that various factors which lead to post partum hemorrhage. Know the causes and you can eliminate the undesired effect. Here are some scenarios.

Problem: laboring too long or too hard/fast.
Solution: Take it slow and easy. Sometimes birth is precipitous and sometimes it is slow, but if you are able to have control over the circumstances, we should take care to keep everything balanced. Labor on your own time. When labor is unhindered and undisturbed, things take their own course and tend to flow beautifully. This is not to say put a time frame on your labor. If you are consciously or subconsciously holding a stopwatch to your birth, you may be inadvertently sabotaging yourself. Your mentality will set you up to tense your body and create fear around your timing. However, if you’ve had a calm mind and body and instinctively and logically feel this labor has been too long or that something isn’t right, you may require additional expert medical assistance. Also, avoid purple pushing or letting someone else tell you when to push. Dilation of centimeters and counting to 10 to push are birth management techniques that are standardized, not personalized… your body is unique and playing by those rules (unnecessary exams, forced pushing or cessation of pushing) can lead to swollen cervices, hemorrhage, further invasive intervention, and worse. Letting the body push the baby out naturally in a normal birth has the gentlest impact on mother and child. Pushing only when you have the urge and being as easy on yourself as possible is very important.

Problem: having a disturbed birth space.
Solution: honor what mammals require during birth. Women are animals who experience a specific kind of brain activity in natural labor. Work with it, not against it, for a peaceful birth by providing them with dimness/darkness, warmth, quiet, and solitude (no feelings of being observed… even cameras may add to this). If you don’t, the consequences include activated fight/flight adrenaline response, heightening the mother’s fear (subconsciously or otherwise), thereby adding risk and difficulty to the birth for mother and child.

Problem: rushing the third stage (placenta delivery).
Solution: be patient and do not manually extract it. I took a nap after my 2nd stage of labor. This meant for a couple of hours, I ignored the third stage. I was exhausted. My baby and I needed to sleep, and I was comfortable and secure enough to know what was best for us, and I honored that.  Some women get really worried if the placenta doesn’t arrive after 20 minutes, or 1 hour. While some women can deliver the placenta within 10 minutes, there is no sense in panicking if yours doesn’t come right away. Give it time. Enjoy your solitude and warmth and peace and quiet in this stage. Getting freaked out and attempting to use cord traction or going to the hospital for a doctor’s manual extraction often leads to avoidable post partum hemorrhages. Remember… the placenta wants to come out. It’s meant to. Unless you are certain something isn’t right, don’t assume that something is wrong. If your instincts tell you to acquire assistance, follow through. If you retain placenta due to hasty interference, this will increase your risks of infection and PPH.

Problem: laboring on your back.
Solution: labor freely in positions that come to you instinctively.Being on your back is unnatural and makes labor longer and harder for you and baby. You want to allow labor to flow along, not impede it. Not only does back delivery increase tearing and produce more immediate blood loss, but the various effects stemming from the disadvantage of the position could stress the body out and increase PPH risk.

The baby actually has to move in a way not conforming well to the pelvis if the mother is on her back. This can distress the baby, overwork the uterus, and cause detriment to the mother.

Problem: being induced or having other unnatural interventions.
Solution: don’t give in to induction. Drugs can cause hyper-stimulation of the uterus. Forceps and other instruments can cause undue damage to mother and baby; simply laboring naturally on one’s own and in natural positions would eliminate their “need”. Blood loss can be significant with these invasive factors. Any stimulation of labor outside of the baby’s hormonal signaling of readiness to start is usually totally unnecessary. C-sections also increase the risk of PPH.

Problem: doing too much after the birth.
Solution: stay off your feet and get some rest. Spend time nursing your newborn in a cozy bed, darkened room, and have that one on one skin to skin time whenever possible. Skin to skin contact directly after birth is desirable, anyway, for the health of mother and baby (especially if the baby is premature). It is normal, acceptable, and healthy for  the mother and baby to stay in a relaxed and peaceful environment for many weeks after birth. Overextending yourself may not create a hemorrhage but could still result in excessive bleeding, so take care.

Most people will also tell you that how you look after your own health in pregnancy, specifically nutritionally, will have an impact on whether or not you experience post partum hemorrhage. Surely that (so eat healthy), these factors, and many more play a role in what your risk is. By eliminating as much of this static as possible, you increase the probability that your birth will be as peaceful and healthy as possible. Armed with this, you’ll be taking responsibility for your birth and doing the best you can to have the safest outcome for you and baby.

If you fear your bleeding may be a bit excessive after birth, consider consuming some placenta. Swallowing it raw can reduce bleeding greatly and quickly. Avoid rough uterine massage as that can increase pain and bleeding. Things you need to watch for are fever, symptoms of shock, and long, slow, steady excessive bleeds. None of this is to be construed as medical advice. Do your own research and be well.