Birth Photography: The Elephant in the Room

5 09 2016

elephantI’m about to liken birth photography to pornography.

Now if you haven’t already accepted certain basic principles of birth physiology, you’re probably not going to appreciate this post. More details on what those are can be found here, and here.

If you’re still with me, you may be one of those who this is best geared for:  a very specific kind of freebirther, the fringe of the fringe, the most primitive. Hello sister.

I know it seems like I’m once again here to rain on your parades, but as we acknowledge that birth is part of the sexual continuum, and that birth has been hijacked by people who pretend to be helpers who don’t belong there and endanger us, it would behoove us to acknowledge that we are not fully unindoctrinated while we are still allowing outsiders into that sacred, private space out of a fear that we would miss out on something desirable as influenced by current social norms. What we end up really missing out on is a whole lot more.

After all, many people still birth in hospitals partly out of a fear of missing out on some things, certain things they have come to expect. Certain indignations normalized.

A small example:  I remember one of the things I believed I would “miss” was feeling like I was on vacation. Staying in a bed in a room, having food brought to me, being expected to rest, taking a break from the normal routines… That gets easier to break up with when you face that this kind of “vacation” is really a recovery from trauma the likes of which you won’t experience if you stay home and do it yourself. Most of us don’t chop off our arms to get a vacation, either. Well, not if we’re healthy of mind, anyway. Not to mention the fact that you can rest and be waited on at home, too; even though it doesn’t feel like “going away”, your baby belongs at home and your nest is the most appropriate place to nestle.

We’re so used to expecting certain things and having certain norms that we hesitate to part with them or we want to incorporate them into experience, like a tradition. But how many traditions are actually fads? This era holds that birth pictures and video are not to be missed out on, like wedding video and pictures. Only the photographer usually doesn’t stay to capture the wedding night, which birth is honestly much more like. And that’s the (big) difference.

When I say birth is part of the sexual continuum, I’m pointing out something that most natural birthers already acknowledge. That is that the life cycle starts with sex, ideally preceded by two people with excellent chemistry falling in love and having lots of trust (maximum oxytocin overload, pleasurable life, healthy setup for the future). And that is an act that is carried on by two people and two people only. For the act of creation and furthering of the species, this example takes a man and a woman. For them to feel fully secure and give in to the moment and all the beautiful chemical reactions awaiting them, they need to feel privacy.

(Voyeurism is not a part of this chain; it is a socially developed kink. I’m trying to get back to our roots, not away from.)

The people– but I’m going to focus specifically on the woman– need to feel that their guard can be completely let down in order to fully give in to feeling the way they are feeling with each other. That is the only way they can really be free. Part of this primal act being so guarded could be partly due to our instinct to be aware of predators. We would be especially vulnerable to an outside attack in these sensitive moments. It also may have to do with bonding, as anything that would interfere with or leech off of man-to-woman bonding in intercourse threatens the future of the family. The oxytocin in that moment is the seed, spark, foundation of deep trust and sense of love, that promises a strong attachment and furthers the survival and protection of any offspring yet to come. The more solidified and respected that bond, the higher the chances of success for our species on the whole.

(On a spiritual and romantic level, I also feel the privacy is extremely validated, but I will return to focus on the physical to be basic, fundamental, and not digress. I don’t have time to explain my philosophy to you right now, nor do I think everyone might care.)

What naturally follows, if impregnated, is birth. The emergence of the new life from the same portal through which the possibility of life had to enter. And the state of mind of the woman laboring or birthing is similar in that the thinking mind is shut off, giving way to the primitive mind and instinct and body taking over, and that any outsiders to this event are viewed as intruders– which will either hinder her response, endanger it/her, or temporarily stop the process altogether. Birth involves an altered state of consciousness, when allowed to proceed naturally. Birth is perhaps the most vulnerable naturally occurring moment to a human life and we are wired to be aware of the presence of those who do not belong in order to protect ourselves and our young. The same people at the sexual union are the people who are good candidates to be present at the birth. No more, and maybe less. To violate that puts the woman in fight-or-flight mode. There are plenty of references in literature to just how this is harmful to labor and you can read more about it and the Fear Tension Pain Cycle in books like Childbirth Without Fear, and Unassisted Childbirth.

As an aside, Michel Odent has given some great notes on how a man should behave *if* he is invited into the birth space, even if a woman trusts and loves him. Read any of his works and especially Birth and Breastfeeding for more information.

When the primitive, physiological self is allowed to take over for the thinking mind, without fear, in the absence of any intrusion, in sex and in childbirth, the result is ease, satisfaction, proper release of oxytocin for bonding and love and pleasure with whomever the deserving and receiving partner or life mate is, if around. This works for woman to man in intercourse, and man and woman and baby in childbirth, as the culmination of their act of love and the solidifying of the family unit. This was nature’s plan for human longevity, and it’s the brilliance of its design. It is built into us. A strong unit is formed, and strong tribes may form.

A woman needs to be able to tap into that deep place within herself that without societally-based fears and expectations, the likes of which are imposed on all of us regarding birth from a very young age. And she can’t do that as long as you are selling her products. She can’t do that when you’re telling her there is still something modern she will need, something extra and more than what she is that she should want, something she will regret not adding in because other mothers have it and it’s so important, and keep her further and further away from her original design and function. You’re keeping her from her purest and truest self and essence, and if you succeed, she will never know it in this life. Her body is an astounding work of creation, moreso than any camera ever could be. And we hinder that. Because we are delighted by the modern marvel more than the organic miracle. We keep reaching for shiny distractions and no longer respect when it is time to put those away.

In some parallel universe somewhere, there is orgasm/conception photography, for the same reasons as we do birth photographs now.

I look at birth video and photography much in the same way I would look at the concept of artistic orgasm photography. I appreciate the interest in capturing a moment. I appreciate the reverence for the look on the woman’s face, the awe in her rawness. And if I were watching someone have actual sex on video, even if “tastefully done”, I would have to admit it is really pushing it in terms of being a form of pornography.

Because… I’m not supposed to be there. This is private. I may be interested, I may be intrigued, but this is not for me to watch. Those are not my moments, those are not my chemicals. I’m an intruder, and this belongs to someone else. This is sacred.

And you can photograph sex and birth all you like, but you will never truly capture the reality of what the moment would look like if you were not there at all.

Imagine if the things people say about birth photography were said about intercourse photography?

“They’re a real pro, you won’t even know they’re there.”

“They silently stay out of the way and blend in with the background.”

“We have a mutual acquaintance that can really vouch for them, so I trust them.”

“The photographer is my sister.”

“You will be so lost in the moment, you will have no awareness that they’re even in the room. And you’ll be so ‘busy’ you won’t even care at that point.”

What about this is not creepy?

I know birth and sex are not perfectly synonymous, but that’s not the point. The point is that the woman is tapped into the same states of being with her body producing some of the same hormones, functions and effects, having the same physiological needs to make the effort a success. You can spoil one just as easily as you can spoil the other, with these wrong attitudes towards the acts.

And if you honestly believe when looking at any birth photos or vids (or ones of sex….) that what you are viewing would be exactly the same without the extra people and the cameras, you’re lying to yourself. Men who watch porn also think they are watching reality. Granted, pornography is often consciously a performance, while being taped in birth becomes more of subconsciously performing. You are not seeing an unhindered woman. The camera will always add the element of observation or performance, however subtle or inconspicuous it seems to the observer/observed. You are not getting the fullest, unbridled, wild, natural person who is free from being studied, judged, or captured. (Even just think about the language… she is “captured” on film. She is subdued, watched, controlled.) The woman will always be aware somewhere in her consciousness of your presence, because her primitive mind is keen and sharp to detect this as a rule, as a defense mechanism innate to her, and it *will* have an impact on her. And that impact is restraint and tension.

Here is the part where someone chimes in, “You don’t know me. Not all women are the same. Everyone has different needs.” Wrong. All women *are* the same. Let’s look at the hierarchy of needs.

Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs

I imagine the resulting photograph keepsakes contribute to the tier entitled “Esteem”.



First we acknowledge that birth is a physiological, physical event. You don’t birth with your personality or your brain, you birth with your body. You are an animal. Then let’s address that the primal body is the one tasked with giving birth as it does instinctively, when not held back or restrained. Then let’s observe that stimulation of the thinking mind, or neocortex, keeps one from dropping deep into primal brain activity, and that the neocortex is stimulated by having company. In this we must admit that the presence of others serves functionally to restrain the primal woman, keeping her in the worst state of consciousness for an easy birth.

Now tell me you deny this and that you’re built differently from other women.

“But humans are social animals! I am a very social person!”

Your baby whom you are giving birth to is a person. This is an interaction between you and they. And sometimes, your partner, if invited to the birth space. These are all people.

What more in the way of social do you require?

You may be a social butterfly, but please note this is a psychological trait and not a primal one. Your primal self is the one giving birth, the one you need to honor, the one for whom all obstacles must get out of the way. If you glance again at the hierarchy of needs, you will note that physiology and safety are first, they are the foundation, and they are of utmost importance. Love and belonging to which I’ll assume the psychological wish to be surrounded by people owes itself, is secondary to those things. (Ironically, if you honor the physiological foundation first, you will find a deepening and intensifying of love due to all the oxytocin shared in earnest between you.)

Our physiology as women is the same. Our needs for safety as laboring mammals are the same: quiet, darkness, solitude, warmth. You can’t claim a psychological preference supersedes these. It is akin to saying, “But I really like the water!” to explain that you can be submerged and don’t need to breathe. You are not superhuman, your body is not made differently. We have basic needs. We need to breathe, we need to eat, we need to sleep, we need to not be obstructed or injured. Once those basic needs are covered, then we are able to move up to other less pressing wants, frequently formed by the thinking mind and not the primal one, such as being social.

If a woman’s psychological urges are so strong that she must obey those first, due to trauma, conditioning, or lack of awareness of the severity of these issues on our bodies, she will choose to be surrounded at birth. This is why I advise anyone trying to freebirth to conquer your psychological issues before birth, and ideally, before pregnancy.

I excuse these the same way I excuse elective Cesareans. Our trauma and where we are at in dealing with it will determine which choices we feel ready to make. For that I have sympathy, but with strong preference to trying to get women helped before their inclinations lead to more physical harm. In short, we all work with what we’ve got.

Your rational mind wants to be in control and will always find a way, always find fear and excuses. You cannot bargain with instinct, though. Instinct will be there whether you like it or not and you will not be able to rationalize with it. I recommend getting out of its way.

And not denying it.

To me birth vids and photography are like the big, voyeuristic, creepy, pervy, obstructing, restraining, intrusive elephant in the room. And elephants are apparently midwives, so that’s fitting.

When most natural birthers are looking at birth photos and vids and picking on things like,

“Oh, that baby is wearing a hat! Poor thing!”

“Look, they cut the cord right away.”

“OMG, how many hands are on that mama? And take off those gloves!”

Or even positive things like,

“Oh look, daddy caught!”

“What a fierce, strong mama in that birth pool.”

“I love your faces! You did it!”

“This is what birth is supposed to look like.”

No it’s not. You weren’t supposed to be there. You are getting a happy, joyous, or victorious fragment of her at best. You are viewing a fraction of her depth and what she would normally be capable of. And yes, even that fraction is beautiful to us, but our pleasure through her is ill-gained and of no importance. What she really deserved matters more. So I wince, like some of you wince and feel triggered when you see unnecessary Cesarean photos.

What repeats in my mind while even agreeing with their comments is, “have you noticed yet there was a camera/photographer there?” How much better might it have been for the mother and her baby if they weren’t some kind of show on display for us? As nice as it may be to have keepsake photos your baby’s delivery, might you be cheating yourselves when it comes to feeling something much more pure and unfiltered? Something potentially pain-free, non-injurious, untraumatized, and even ecstatic? Do you want to be one of those women who says immediately after, “I want to do it again”?

Another way birth is like sex.

The continuum of life, of sex, wants us to be rewarded. Our brains are supposed to feel good about these activities because this supports continuation of the species. Birth, like sex, is not “supposed” to be painful and we should stop promoting that it inherently is. Our pain is frequently connected to fear and control. We and our process and how we perceive it has been controlled and ideas fed to us and we are ruled and overcome by fear. I can only assume that, removing all this, our births would be mostly pleasurable. We will never know because even modern empowered women do not live in a vacuum. All of us are overcoming hostile influences. I want us to keep breaking away from these conventions so that one day our daughters might know this answer.

“And what about you, Elizabeth? Are you so perfect? You didn’t want photos and videos of your births?”

No, I fucked up, too. That’s why I’m here. My whole story is one of fucking it up, then getting it right, and then getting it a little bit more right, some more. If I can keep you from doing what I did and having to learn the hard way, that’s my dream.

My first birth in the hospital I videotaped and there were pictures. All kinds of people were in the room, strange men saw my ass, I vomited on people and cried. Bright lights and hooked up to machines, opiates and vaginal trauma… and I’m sure the recordings were negligible in influence after all that. But I’ve got it on record.

Birth 2 was too traumatic to have any recording devices out. I spent part of it in an ambulance, hoping to lose consciousness. Strange men saw my ass again.

My third birth when I was way more awakened, I went solo. I attempted to record video because I didn’t yet know any better, and the device failed to record, but it still acted as an “observing eye”. I was photographed in early labor which I suppose isn’t that bad while contractions are light. (In the sex analogy, this might be being photographed in a kiss.) I wanted to be alone through most of labor and only allowed pictures after the baby emerged in the pool. (Yes, I do think after-birth pictures in limitation are okay, and in the sex analogy, may be akin to an after-orgasm photo. Risque, a peek into something private, but still discrete. The body has done the hardest work after the moment of birth but you still want to be mindful not to disturb the mother in the third stage because she is still affected by needless interference and chatter.) This was an amazing birth and I do not doubt it could have been even more amazing without mechanical watching eyes. But the picture of me lifting my son out of the water of the birth pool and having achieved this triumph myself is one of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen and may be my favorite picture of all time. You can see it on the back of my book, In Search of the Perfect Birth.

Birth 4 I knew better and we attempted no recording device and saved pictures for after baby was born. I cherish these because for the first time ever, the reveal of the sex was a complete shock and surprise (literally the opposite of what I thought I knew), and this moment and reaction was caught in a photo. Up until the pushing, this was also my absolute easiest and most manageable birth yet. Dark, solitude, warmth, relative quiet… it was downright blissful during most of it.

I wish you all the same successes and even beyond. We’re all waking up from the trappings of this machine.





The Importance of Excluding Onlookers From Freebirths

13 12 2013

If you’re going to be of service to women and want to be taken seriously, having a well-rounded education is important. There are many things you’ll want to know before you can safely feel adequate to provide “care”. One important thing to know on laboring women is, when it comes to witnessing their homebirth, UC (unassisted childbirth) is not a spectator sport.

ImageEven if you allege to be hands off, the problem of the observer is one hopefully known to all UCers and would-be UCers. It is one of the reasons (maybe even a main reason) why many women decide on freebirth at all. One of my favorite writers on natural birth, Michel Odent, talks frequently of the mammalian needs in birth. Of our four basic needs, privacy is one of them. Without it, the mother senses danger and this complicates the labor.

‘To give birth to her baby, the mother needs privacy. She needs to feel unobserved.” –Birth and Breastfeeding, Michel Odent. Any doula, midwife, or doctor should read this book. 

You can read more here: Do Not Disturb: The Importance of Privacy in Labor, Judith A. Lothian, RN, PhD, LCCE, FACCE, The Journal of Perinatal Education- Advancing Normal Birth, from the US National Library of Medicine- National Institutes of Health (PubMed Central). Sidenote: This link also discusses the fetal ejection reflex, for the interested.

Now some may argue that it is possible to give a woman a feeling (or an illusion) of privacy and still have onlookers or caregivers. I will not debate that at this time, but I will state that if one is trying to observe a birth to determine their own readiness to venture into the fields of midwifery and the like, this learning experience is a detriment to the mother.

“There is no privacy without a feeling of security.” –Birth and Breastfeeding, Odent.

Anything you bring into the birthing space, the mother can sense. Any fears, hesitations, reservations, doubts, lack of confidence, lack of understanding of anything, lack of skill, lack of intuition, she spots like a dog smells fear. She taps into her primal state and the neocortex (rational, human, intellectual thought) attempts to disengage. If she has the awareness in any aspect of her consciousness that you are here to test yourself, this can generate feelings of insecurity in the mother. This is particularly true if you are not in an intimate relationship with her. Feelings of insecurity and lack of privacy will, again, complicate labor.

“Most women who understand what is going on are keen observers not only of their own actions, but of the reactions of those about them to every fresh event or incident. I have laid stress upon the sensitiveness of the mind of a parturient woman; if you wish to deceive them, you will fail.”

Confidence rests upon the knowledge of perfect preparation.”

“During labor, women spot doubt in a doctor’s mind as quickly as a kestrel sees a rat in the stubble… However good an actor or however suave a humbug, confidence has no counterfeit.” – these quotes from Childbirth Without Fear, Grantly Dick-Read.

The woman in labor, sensing any lack or fear on the part of anyone present, is hormonally receptive to those suggestions. This initiates the Fear-Tension-Pain cycle. Labor becomes hard or even dangerous for woman and child.

It is more important that we honor and respect the birthing space of the laboring woman and her most basic, primal needs as a mammal than to use her as a test subject for our own reassurance and education.

There are other ways we will be able to give ourselves a proper education on birth and physiology in order to ascertain in what capacity we may be of assistance to birthing women. Like the saying goes, “reading is fundamental”. I urge people to read, read, read, and learn everything they possibly can about true physiological, natural birth and the actual needs of a birthing woman in labor.

Privacy is one very basic and simple method of providing safety in the birth space of a well-prepared woman. We live in a culture, though, where the most basic methods of prevention are overlooked in favor of the most technical hands-on repairs we can put our logical minds to. But, what if we could avoid those dilemmas?

For example– Instead of relying on knowledge of which massage, drug, or herb will treat a post partum hemorrhage, what about understanding the seemingly invisible causes? The brain-body connection has a lot to do with our most commonly feared childbirth complications, and yet our culture does precious little to recognize and avoid creating the issues to begin with. We must look to the interconnectedness of our systems, hormonal responses to environment and stimuli, etc. If we were to know the birth process from an unhindered, natural, physiological perspective, know the stages of labor through all non-intrusive signs, and respect the mother’s primal birth space needs, our shopping lists and interference levels would dramatically decrease. Healthy, normal births would be the result.

I have noticed that there are many UCers or those researching UC are preoccupied with the fix-it methods, though. They read almost exclusively midwifery and obstetrics texts (if they read at all), they focus on which tools or drugs or herbs can be used in a pinch to solve a dilemma or crisis. In the process, we are neglecting the very root of why freebirth is so important– the undisturbed aspect of birth only it can provide. When we more fully grasp what is primal and physiological, our tools and medicines become more and more useless and unnecessary. This is  such a worthy goal! To lose sight of that and to attempt to mimic health care professionals in all regards in many ways defeats the purpose. We aren’t trying to take over their work, we are trying to transcend their methods.

In other words… If I wanted a medical approach to my care, I would hire a medical professional. But, I digress. Because I associate onlooking with interference, I have touched upon the issue of hands-on as relating to eyes-on. Getting back on track–

For anyone questioning if they could handle the pressure of attending births for a living, I would strongly advise they find their confidence elsewhere than at a woman’s freebirth. I would suggest educating oneself to the utmost of one’s abilities, reading books like the ones quoted here (as opposed to a lot of the more mainstream, feel-good, interference-happy “natural birth” literature). I would recommend reading things which are very pro-unassisted childbirth, where lack of attendants is understood and encouraged on a scientific level, because this will provide technical and biological knowledge and a foundation for what makes this birth safe. That is knowledge that would become confidence-instilling for anyone of the right composition to attend women.

Even starting as a trusted doula for attended births of people you are personally close with (at home or in hospital) can give one an idea of their own abilities. Anything… anything to avoid adding hindrance to what could otherwise be an undisturbed birth. This would be one of the gravest insults to natural birth and the natural birthing woman. The needs of a woman in birth are more important than any education we hope to glean from their experience for our own gain.

In order to properly care for a woman, we must first be able to put her needs above our own wants. Anyone unwilling to do that already has the answer to their own question– they are not prepared to attend her. Let us not behave the way that doctors have which caused us to leave the hospital environment in the first place.

“Every woman is different, and so are her needs in childbirth,” you might say. Yes and no. Psychologically every woman is different. The complex thought processes that make up our personalities and make us especially human varies. On the primal level, however, all of our needs are the same.

We are all mammals, we have built-in instincts designed to protect ourselves and the species. We do not deny our other needs as “individual”– whether a woman needs food, water, oxygen, sleep, and shelter is not up for debate based on her individuality. We all require these things as our physiology dictates. As mammals, we have physiological and hormonal reactions to childbirth events and our environment– even over the subtlest of things– that may go unrecognized or misunderstood to the untrained eye. Since it is the primal nature which gives birth, not who we are psychologically, it is the primal which we should be careful to honor!

What a woman chooses is her right, but it sometimes becomes a battle of what she is willing to partake in on the psychological level versus her most primitive instincts. I would not want to battle with the instincts, personally. You cannot reason with them.

So, even if a woman planning a homebirth or freebirth is gracious enough to invite someone to her birth as an observer or onlooker, this does not mean it will not in some way have a negative impact on her birth. A woman would be unfair to herself to promise someone that she would be comfortable with their presence (and it would be unfair for the onlooker to accept, with that knowledge). The primal need for privacy and the intuition of the laboring woman will strongly overtake most conscious psychological desires she has to be sharing, educational, brave, outgoing, or accommodating. Even a peaceful, knowledgeable, and experienced freebirther may find such an invitation to be a naive and inhibiting undertaking in hindsight. Whether it becomes merely a nuisance or precipitates a crisis, the would-be birth attendant must ask themselves, “is it worth it?”

Anyone considering UC for themselves should likewise acknowledge and honor their deepest needs in childbirth and respect the science of the process. This is the way you give yourself the best, safest chance at the healthiest birth.





A Perfect Birth! Freebirth After Previous Induction & Epidural (Guest Post: Birth Story)

6 12 2013

The following is a guest post from a first-time UC-er (unassisted childbirth). She has had one previous birth, with medical assistance (epidural and induction). She was joined by her supportive husband and older daughter. Names* have been changed.

Sorry for lack of times in the story. it was all too quick for me to check the clock. The whole thing was only 3 hours.

I woke up around 4:30 am Saturday morning having some stomach pain. This was not an unusual occurrence as I have been waking up in the middle of the night like that for weeks. Usually once I emptied my bladder I felt better. My husband heard me get up and asked if I was ok. I said I don’t know. He said are you in labor? I said if I am then this won’t take long because there wasn’t much breaks between the pain at all.

I went to the bathroom and closed myself up in their alone. I was trying to figure out if I was in labor or what was going on. I felt like I had a stomach virus, I was on the toilet with diarrhea 3 or 4 times. The pains didn’t come in measurable waves at that moment. My husband says he knew I was in labor lol. So I started to try and clean up the bathroom a bit. If it was labor I wanted to be able to birth in a clean bathroom lol. So I threw a load of laundry in, cleaned the toilet and lastly cleaned the bathtub. All this was quite difficult to do because i had to stop and breath through the contractions. The contractions were now coming in definite waves and there wasn’t much time in between. It went too quick to actually time it. I would say maybe two min a part. I filled the bathtub. My husband kept checking on me and I said I was fine.

I asked him to bring the laptop in and put on a CD my friend Rowan* gave me at my Blessingway. I had previously listened to it about a week prior and I liked the sound. It was beautiful and meditative. He put the music on for me, and lit some candles. He only came in the bathroom and spoke to me between contractions. I liked that he gave me my space. I didn’t need him there I could get in the zone better by myself and he picked up on that. He told me to call him if I need him.

He said he was going to run up to 711 and buy eggs and bacon, lol. Him and Sloan* were hungry, haha. She woke up and was very excited. I asked him to buy me two coconut waters when he came back I was in the bathtub laboring. He brought in my drink.

The contractions were intense, but in my head I never referred to them as “pain” and I never let fear creep into my zone. I just listened to my body and moved around with whatever position felt natural. I was mostly hands and knees. At the point that I got in the bathtub is when I switched from concentrated breathing through the contractions ( which is what I did though out the bathroom cleaning and prepping ) at that point I started moaning through. I honestly didn’t think I would moan like that but it really did help. I remember other friends telling me to try and keep the moaning at a low octave , so I did …

My back started hurting so I drained some of the water and turned the shower on instead to let the water run down my back: it felt nice. But standing was so intense. I just told myself the gravity would help and to just do it. Once it became too much to continue standing I let the bathtub fill up again and got back down. I have a standard tub so it was small but the water still felt good. The water started to get cold so I hopped out of the tub it was hard to move from place to place.

I asked Tony* to get me the birthing ball. I leaned on that for a bit, I was on my knees leaning over the ball. I rocked back and forth moaning. The rocking was good. All I can say is contractions were intense and yes I guess painful, but I kept thinking back to my induction, where there was no break in between the pain, there was no peak, it just felt like my body was being torn in half. So compared to that this was nice. Yes i got the epidural eventually but I still remember being confined to the bed and the machines and the pain. I liked how I could tell that the peak was reached and the sensations started to decrease from there. The breaks in between even tho short were heaven and made it bearable.

At this point I told Tony to get the bed ready. So he made the bed. Protecting underneath with plastic. Sloan helped move my drinks in there, I would have to haul ass to the bedroom. My house is tiny but there was so little time in between contractions. So once one was done, I got up and went to the bed. My lovely husband had more candles lit the bedroom cleaned up and ready and my music. I got up on my bed, hands and knees and this is where it got bad. I think transition. My back hurt a lot so Tony massaged it for a while, he also put massage oil and peppermint oil on it. This felt good during contractions. Sloan fetched the heating pad and we used that on my back too. Sloanie was so much help she got towels and stuff too. I started to whimper and whine and drop a few f bombs. And then apologized. Tony laughed.

I was talking to myself and told myself to get it together. Tried to keep deep growling moans, thought that was better then me starting to Cry. I begged my body for a break, because I wasn’t getting much of a break any longer. Tony ran and got the large pads we got to lay under me. I told him I didn’t know if I should push or what. I was afraid of pushing too soon because I know that can cause a cervical lip, but Tony said I think your pretty close babe, try to push. I still didn’t quite feel an urge, but it hurt so bad that I didn’t know what else to do. At this point I started saying “it hurts, it hurts” LoL. ” I’m crazy for wanting to do this!” Then I just started pushing. And then my water my broke. That was kinda my confirmation of like ok it’s time. So I began pushing and holy hell it hurt. I was definitely screaming.

I knew I had to push harder but I knew I was going to poop lol. Tony was like its ok, he had those pads under me, he was very encouraging, and told me I was doing great and to go ahead and push. I would say a few pushes and she was down there. I started to feel the ring of fire. And Tony and Sloan screamed they could see her head. I was like yeah, I know!!!! Haha. I was scared to push her out it hurt so bad. So she went back in a little, and then I pushed a little , I did this a few times. I told myself that it was good to do it that way anyways I wouldn’t tear. Finally I got the balls to push her head out.

Tony didn’t see a cord. I had to wait for the next wave to come because it felt I was going to need to really try to get the body out. So I waited for a wave, took a deep breath and pushed with all my might and the rest of her body came out. Tony picked her up and handed me her through my legs, he said its a girl!!

She was perfectly pink , let out a cry and starting breathing right away, so I was not worried. We just were looking at her and admiring her in front of us.

Tony asked about the placenta and I said I wanted to try right away, I gave a good push and out it came. Inspected. Looked whole. Sloanie got warm towels from dryer, Tony sterilized the scissors and string. When the cord was done pulsing , we tied and I cut. I tried to breastfeed right away but she wouldn’t, so I went to go clean myself up. I didn’t bleed a lot on the bed. But into the bathroom, throughout my shower and after I kept bleeding, thin red blood.

I was starting to worry even tho I didn’t feel faint or weird, I took two doses of anti hemorrhage tincture my lovely friend Miette* made me, then I made my way back in to be with my girl. Tony cleaned up the mess real quick as I gazed at our little girl. Beata Fayruz Fikru* was born at 7:20 am. Unfortunately the scale I got keeps giving me different readings but she averaged 9 lbs. still haven’t bothered to measure her length lol.

It was literally a perfect birth, exactly how I imagined it. Tony worked perfectly together with me. I was so worried that I should have him do more reading or tell him how to be there for me but ultimately I knew that we knew each other well enough, I knew he would be great. I love him so much. He never doubted me or had any fear from the moment I mentioned unassisted. His faith in me carries me through always

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To learn more about the following subjects that were involved in this birth story, please see the following links! -Elizabeth

Pushing and Knowing When/If/How to Push

Pushing For First Time Moms, by Gloria Lemay, Midwife Thinking
Birth is better left alone and pushing should be at the mother’s cues.

Don’t Push the River, It Flows by Itself, by Laura Shanley (an excerpt from her classic book Unassisted Childbirth), Peaceful Parenting
It is more a matter of “allowing” it to happen rather than “making” it happen.

Pushing: leave it to the experts, Midwife Thinking
A birthing woman is the expert regarding when and how she pushes.

Cervical Lips (Pushing With/Against)

Pushing: leave it to the experts, Midwife Thinking
The most common reason for telling a women not to push is that her cervix is not fully dilated.

The Anterior Cervical Lip: how to ruin a perfectly good birth, Midwife Thinking
Telling women to push or not to push is cultural, it is not based on physiology or research… It does not require management and is best left undetected.”

What You Don’t Know About Your Cervix Can Ruin Your Birth, Birthologie
Not everyone dilates to 10 cm when their body is ready to expel the baby, and you dilate in an ellipse, not a circle.

At some point in labour almost every woman will have an anterior lip (meaning the top of the cervix isn’t completely dilated) because this is the last part of the cervix to be pulled up over the baby’s head.”





Make Memories & Make it Count

13 03 2013

As I approach the two year anniversary of my UC, thoughts turn to the future child we intend to have.


Parents of multiple children– have you ever felt like you really wanted to make sure you were making the most out of these times in your life, before they pass you by?

We have three children already, and we will probably have one more. And you know, it’s funny… looking back on three different pregnancies and three different births, even three different parenting experiences– all really different and unique in their own ways– we have experienced so much diversity in the way things have gone. And I’m so grateful for that! The richness of experience gives me the understanding of a little bit of everything. It helps me know what works best for me, and in a way, truly live.

So, here is a list of things I’ve never done that I’m wondering whether they’d be worth it to experience next time, since this will be possibly my last chance. Some of them I’m almost sure to do, and others are really iffy, but worth considering.

  1. Not take a pregnancy test (just know naturally that I am growing a baby inside me).
  2. Have an unassisted pregnancy (none of the unnecessary prodding or testing, except probably a mid-pregnancy ultrasound to watch for any conditions which may require medical intervention). Just have a stress-free pregnancy where I look after myself and enjoy the ride.
  3. Not announce my pregnancy to anyone. Just let people discover when I’ve got a baby.
  4. Take pregnancy announcement photos with a professional photographer.
  5. Get my pregnant belly painted, and/or get henna.
  6. Not have any kind of shower or blessing; maybe have a celebration party instead (before or after birth)
  7. Get people to donate frozen meals for after birth instead of making a registry or wish list for me and baby.
  8. Finally baby-wear!

    found at Healthy Mama Info

    I’d really like to try an Ergo Baby Carrier.

  9. Get Hypnobabies and see if it really works to eliminate pain in labor.
  10. Join a due date club.
  11. Blog through my whole pregnancy and birth, and open up, be myself and more personal. Let the readers/fans take the journey with me.
  12. Form a special due date club just for people “due” around the same time I am, for readers/followers of ISOTPB. Give presents, exchange birth beads for birth necklaces, etc.
  13. Be much more physically active during pregnancy.
  14. Really not find out the sex this time (and not accidentally observe it during ultrasound).
  15. Be open with most people about my intentions to birth unassisted before it actually happens.
  16. Not set up a crib this time around. Last time we hardly used it.
  17. Share my pregnancy journey with private birth support groups that I trust.
  18. Get adorable newborn photos with a professional photographer. You know, the kind with props and owl hats, that look like they belong in magazines.
  19. Announce my pregnancy right away, to everyone.
  20. Let everyone in on the name right away (rather than keeping it a secret until birth).
  21. Give everyone a fake baby name the whole pregnancy. >:)

Those are just a few of the things off the top of my head that I have thought about. But here’s the thing– when you’ve had a few kids, and you know that time in your life could be drawing to a close, you have to make it count. These are the memories we will look back on when we’re old with so much fondness, and I want to make sure that I’ve done everything that I really want to do in these departments before that chapter closes.

This is an exciting and thoughtful time, full of possibility and planning.  🙂





A Peaceful Birth For Christmas

29 11 2012

Would you like to give the gift of comfortable birth freedom this holiday season? Now you can. Of all charitable donations you could possibly make, this one might be the most personal and hit closest to home.

Give Birth Freedom for Christmas, Click here

Maria is expecting right around Christmas Day, and just like the Virgin Mary, she is looking for a room for the night. Also like the Virgin Mary, Maria gives birth unassisted. She is not a first time mother and is experienced. She just needs our help to make it happen.

Maria will be staying at a hotel (in the USA). We will not be disclosing specifics to protect Maria and to protect her birth from interference. Her hotel will have a fridge and will cost over $100 a night. She will need at least one night, but if we raise any extra $, it will go towards Maria having more time at the hotel for rest or in case of longer labor. Maria’s hotel will be 2 minutes from the nearest hospital in case of need. She has a local back up OB with privileges at all the local hospitals.

Why the Need?
She does not live alone. Maria had to move into her current home after Hurricane Sandy. Maria’s living environment includes individuals who are non-supportive of the homebirth she seeks, and any attempts to do so would result in interference.

What We Need (Needed: Donations & Volunteers)
One Hotel Room for at least one day (monetary donations; plus tax; we also factor in the fees they charge for us to accept funds in this fundraiser)
Bonus: Extra days in the hotel (monetary donations)
Bonus: food dehydrator (donations of product or $– please contact us if you‘d like to gift the item; these cost around $130; plus shipping costs)
One Treasurer: an additional person with access to the fund who volunteers to make themselves available to myself and Maria when she needs us for the birth. Must be on-call, and must either provide Maria & I her phone # for text or call at any time of day or night, promising to be try to always be reachable. Alternatively, must be reachable by Facebook and constantly accessible by us (preferably via phone app, with immediate and reliable notification abilities). Please e-mail info@theperfectbirth.com to inquire about helping.

Maria’s baby at 15 weeks

How the Money Will Be Used
Once we have enough for the room, it will sit in the fund until needed. Any additional after that will go towards a food dehydrator, which Maria will use for treating the placenta. The money allotted for this will be used to immediately purchase and ship one to her so she will have it on hand when needed. Any additional after that will go towards extra nights in the hotel.

Myself and one other Treasurer (needed, see above) will be contacted by Maria when she is starting labor and ready to check in. Either of us will then immediately book the room for her.

She’s already at 36 weeks, so please make your donations today in case the baby comes early!

Click Here to donate to birth freedom for Christmas, now. Thank you and have a wonderful, warm, comfortable, loved-filled season.

The fine print:  Maria has stated and it is on record that she is solely responsible for this birth. She has in writing removed all liability or responsibility from myself and anyone else donating or participating in this fundraiser.





Back to School Sale, Whole Month September

12 09 2012

Back to School Sale    The Entire Month of September

  • All Baby Blankets, Buy One Get One Free
  • All US Shipping Free
  • Each book purchase comes with Free Emergency Childbirth printout copy
  • All orders over $50 come with Free surprise gift

The Perfect Birth        www.theperfectbirth.com





Giving Birth During Natural Disasters

27 08 2012

The Tropical Storm Isaac path that people are eying today brings to mind an issue most of us don’t think much about: giving birth during a natural disaster. Specifically, of course, I am thinking of events which cause isolation (such as tropical storms or hurricanes) and cut you off from modern convenience. Thinking back to events like Hurricane Katrina, I am sure giving birth during something as arduous as that could feel like giving birth in a war-torn third world country, and probably would contribute to a huge dose of physical and psychological trauma for a new mother. With a little careful planning and forethought, however, it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you had to give birth by yourself, with limited resources, and no access to medical care, could you do it? Better yet, would you be calm enough to not experience the worst day of your life? This is another example of why it truly pays to be prepared for an unassisted birth.

Hurricane Charley in Florida created a situation where a hospital lost power, and thus the ability to enact their typical interventions on laboring patients. The results, to the surprise of the nurses on staff, were better and healthier births. Story as recalled in the book Pushed, by Jennifer Block.

A lot of people talk about the irresponsibility of freebirth (birth without a medical attendant) like it is the height of stupidity, but they easily sympathize with women who accidentally found themselves birthing unassisted. Why is that? You can’t blame a mother who wanted to get medical care and could not, right? Wrong. You could. Now before anyone accuses me of more blame-the-victim mentality, I am not at all accusing mothers who’ve been in that situation of being reckless. After all, it could have easily been me in my younger years. What I am saying, though, is there is a heavy value to the Boy Scout motto “be prepared”. A woman who has an intentional and prepared UC is most certainly not more reckless than a woman who was caught off guard and accidentally gives birth by herself frantically. That makes no sense, so it’s time for us to take responsibility and arm ourselves with knowledge so that we can be as capable as possible.

Women who accidentally UC (have unassisted childbirth) find themselves usually at least a little panicked. There is usually at least some sense of frenzy. And of course, during a labor, being calm and making rational decisions and letting birth flow smoothly is far preferable to and more advantageous than fear-based chaos. The person who is cool and collected and knows how to handle themselves is better equipped to have a healthy birth in the absence of pros (hurricane or no hurricane).

So, what would you do if you had to give birth during a hurricane or tropical storm?

Some people say that storms cause a rise in births. Other natural events associated with the start of labor include full moons.

First, let us hopefully assume you have a stable shelter, or have found stable shelter. And let us hopefully assume you are disease-free and free of certain very difficult medical conditions. Let’s assume that you are, for most intents and purposes, safe and healthy and that your baby is as well.

Next, remain calm. Do not panic. It would greatly help you if you had read Emergency Childbirth: A Manual beforehand. Answers to specific questions about how to handle different birth scenarios can be found there. Click that link and print it out and you can have it. It’s free. This store is great, by the way, but this freebie is an excellent resource for sure. It’s supposed to be so easy a child could understand it. In fact, I’m going to read it with my children as part of their education. If you hadn’t read it beforehand, having it ON hand can still help– the book has quick jump-to points that summarize almost every birth scenario and how to carefully handle it until help arrives. Good for refreshing your birth partner in the moment if something unexpected occurs.

If you can control it, be in a dwelling that has plenty of fresh, clean water. I live in Florida so the Hurricane Isaac path was on my radar, but I still stock up anyway on canned food and bottled water. You do not have to be a Floridian to have a safety net like this. Water will be essential for keeping hydrated and for cleanliness. If you can safely create a flame, you’ll be able to boil water for any sterilization purposes you may require. Even during a tropical storm, labor can be quite hot, especially in the summer in a humid climate and without AC or power to your shelter. Have water to keep damp washcloths on hand and make the situation more bearable.

A pregnant woman after a storm in Haiti.

For people who have wells and septic, remember that power outages could be lack of access to running water and toilet use. Do what you have to do. Labor will not last forever so if you have to soil things such as a toilet that cannot flush or even a bath tub, go for it and try not to dwell on it. It’s temporary and can be dealt with afterward. So, attempt to designate an area or areas for easy and hygienic bathroom use and then put it out of your mind. Letting troubling thoughts bother you during labor will not make anything easier. It won’t give you a running toilet, running water, or make the power come back on, and it won’t bring an ambulance through flooded streets or a doctor to your doorstep.

In case of threat of tornadoes and hopefully being in a stable dwelling, allow the mother to labor in a central location in the shelter away from windows. For many buildings this will be a hallway or a bathroom. Try to give her space and privacy as this will ease the birth process for her. Be within earshot and discreetly check in frequently. Keep others from intruding in her birth space.

Survival should not be limited to people who believe in UC and freebirth, and for that reason, removing fear in UC and freebirth is essential.

People often ask about birth supplies and what you need for a homebirth. The truth is, birth just happens. Even with the bare minimum, even in the middle of a storm, even without permission or handy supplies or a perfectly clean environment, you will more than likely just give birth. Therefore, do not let a lack of a medical bag scare you. Making birth as comfortable and safe as possible doesn’t have to be a major hardship.

I recommend having on hand plenty of buckets (various uses), clean towels (not immaculate, not pretty, not perfect, just CLEAN), a knife or scissors (out of children’s reach), and a lighter or 3 with plenty of lighter fluid. Blankets for the mother and newborn are also very important. Please have a few flashlights with extra batteries. Have a fully charged cell phone or two on hand (take care of that before power loss) in case you actually get reception if and when needed. Preserve the power by not using phones unless completely necessary. You may find it useful to have the disposable Lysol disinfectant wipes for surfaces type of product on hand. Not a usual natural parenting recommendation, and I understand that.

These things may make life easier, but life will happen without them. Remember that keeping mother safe and healthy by adhering to natural birth physiology needs will be crucial for the newborn’s survival. If you do not have infant formula on hand nor running water or available water to mix it with, the newborn will need their mother to nurse.

You don’t not need to wait for a storm, hurricane, blizzard, or natural disaster to leave you feeling stranded and helpless to start wondering how to properly manage a solo birth. Eliminate the threat of birth taking you by surprise in any set of circumstances by understanding birth physiology, read more, panic less, and make it out alive.