How Knowing Your Body Can Help You Have a Better Birth Experience (Guest Post by Felicia)

29 05 2012


Felicia’s kids


The following is a guest post from our friend Felicia, who is a doula. She runs the Facebook page Peaceful Baby Doula Service. She’s had SIX labors.  ~ Elizabeth




Knowing Your Body in General
Having basic knowledge about your body, especially your reproductive system is extremely helpful in aiding you in conceiving, pregnancy, labor, birth, breastfeeding, and postpartum experience. Listening to your body, and the signs that it gives you to communicate what is going on, or what it needs, will help you to have a better birth.

Pregnancy is a very important time and taking the opportunity to get in touch with your body will help the next 42 weeks go by faster, and with ease. Educating yourself about the normal birth process, knowing that all women’s bodies are different (so some women take a longer time to grow a baby), and trusting that your body is NOT faulty are very important things that need to be known in order to have a satisfying birth.

Felicia in labor. Home water birth is achievable for most women. Usually it just requires the right knowledge, planning, and support. At the minimum, it requires being in tune with your body and trusting your instinct.

During the period of trying to conceive, listening and paying attention to your body can make this period shorter and easier. Your body gives signs and you have symptoms of when the optimal time to conceive is. For more information about this, I recommend a really good book by Toni Weschler, Taking Charge Of Your Fertility.

The Cervix
Things like what your cervix is, what it feels like, normal complaints during pregnancy, and abnormal symptoms can all help ensure the future is more appeasing. Since your cervix plays a vital role in the birth of your baby, I find this is a very important aspect of the human body that is overlooked.

Felicia, seen here, is experienced in giving birth in hospitals and at home.

Most women rely on the doctor to tell them if their cervix is open, effaced, etc. — but they really don’t *understand* what this means, other than the day they are meeting baby is near. Most women don’t know that it’s ok to touch their OWN cervix and a doctor really never needs to check (but you can). Some are afraid they can hurt something trying to figure out their body, but since you are the one being touched, the likelihood of you hurting yourself is very minimal.

There is a higher chance of something going wrong with someone else (i.e., a doctor) having his hands in your vagina, because he doesn’t know what hurts, how hard to go, etc.

Knowing When to Ask For Help
Listening to your body can save you, on so many different levels. There are times when laboring women have listened to their bodies, and knowing that something was wrong sought out help-resulting in life-saving help for their selves, and their babies.

The end result: a perfect birth. May you all find yours.

From C to UC in 6 Labors: Guest Post From Felicia

17 04 2012

The following is a guest post from our friend Felicia, who is a doula. She runs the Facebook page Peaceful Baby Doula Service. She’s had SIX labors. Here she takes you through her history with labor so you can see how she came from being a C-section patient to being a determined unassisted birther.   -Elizabeth

I’ve had clients ask, strangers, and family. Everyone wants to know:  how do you get to where having an unassisted birth is comfortable?

I’d have to say the simplest answer is I know, and trust my body. I’m very in tune with the signals my body gives, and what they mean. I know my body inside, and out. Sex education taught in public schools leaves a lot out. I learned that lesson, when I became pregnant, and I learned even more about my body the more I became interested.

At 12 my menstrual cycles began.  Nobody bothered to explain why or how it happened. I was just handed a package of pads and sent on my way.  I became pregnant at 16, and still, I knew hardly anything about my body.  I figured out what my problem was at about nine months pregnant- I had expected EVERYONE ELSE to explain to me what was going on, and went along with what decisions were made for me, instead of doing my own research and educating myself. Eleven days past my due date with a threat from my OB-GYN to induce, I started to research. A little late in the game, eh? I learned more about my body in those 2 days than I had been taught my whole life. I googled “ways to naturally induce” and “what can make you go past your due date”. I learned what to look for on my body to determine what way my baby was positioned in my body.

I had an Occupit Posterior baby, I learned– after researching the spoon like dip in the area under my belly button. I also learned this could cause the body to hold the baby in longer.  Then, I began reading up on signs of labor, what happens during each stage, and what happens to the baby.

I had a successful vaginal birth, in which I stayed home the majority of my labor, and got to the hospital with only minutes to spare. The entire labor only lasted 7 hours. I REALLY wanted a home birth, but living with my mother– a registered nurse– I couldn’t get her to agree, so I wound up at the hospital.

I learned even more about my body during my second birth.   Due to my inability to KNOW my body, and a recommendation by the obstetrician overseeing my birth, I had a Cesarean Section. My baby was persistent Occiput Posterior, and labor had started with my water breaking.I was in labor for over 24 hours, and  I was so tired I think I would have agreed to anything to get it over with. I believe I learned more about my body during my recovery time then I ever wanted to know, which was part of the reason why I ended up in that situation. I learned my body didn’t react well to anesthesia, or any drugs for that matter. I learned exactly how important sleep was to my body (during labor I went 24+ hours with no sleep due to my contractions). I learned there are SO very many nerve endings in your uterus (and how oh so painful it is to have them cut apart). I learned that there were so many consequences to my decision to agree to major surgery– emotional pain, as well as physical.

nerve endings firing

I learned that sometimes when your nerve endings are severed, they don’t grow back-so you experience fewer sensations in places that affect your sex life– for the rest of your life. I AM STILL ANGRY WITH MY DECISION TO AGREE TO A UNNECESSARY CESAREAN, AND FOR MY OB TO SUGGEST IT WITH NO MEDICAL REASON. A woman’s body is an amazing thing; it can tell you so many things if you just listen.

My third labor was really more emotionally enlightening about my body than anything. I learned that if I set my mind to something, my body could be coaxed into anything. Labor really is mind over matter. With Pitocin induced contractions, but my determination to NOT have any ill effects from anesthesia, I had a successful VBAC. I also learned my body does WAY better at controlling the contractions so I could deal with the rushes. You’ll have doctors, nurses and even some women tell you Pitocin induced contractions are just like natural labor— but they are LYING!

My fourth labor I learned the mind is such a powerful thing. I chose a home birth, and had so much stop and go labor that when labor really came, I had no idea I was in “real” labor. I cleaned the house, cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while my husband was sick in bed. I learned exactly how much the mind can block out (I was in active labor, and didn’t realize it until I was 8cm, just 20 minutes before baby came).

My fifth labor I wanted to do alone. I did tons of research on birth, learned how to check my own cervix, I learned about the NFM (Natural Fertility Method), signs that might indicate a need to transfer, what to have in my birth kit, how to monitor ME and the baby. I couldn’t get my husband on board, though-so I reluctantly called the midwife who lived an hour away, and took THREE hours to get there. I labored alone and even though I could have delivered without her there, subconsciously I waited until the midwife got there, and baby was born 5 minutes after she arrived.

My sixth labor I decided that nobody was going to tell me how to labor. I wanted full control of my labor, my pregnancy, and the birth. I decided not to find out the gender of the baby (because I knew it would drive other people bananas not knowing, ha-ha). I did a couple prenatal appointments with an OB/Midwife-alternating due to hyperemesis, but never receiving full prenatal care (I did my own– tested my own urine, took my own blood pressure, monitored the baby, paid attention to my body (keeping track of headaches, what made me sick, checking for swelling) and just paid really close attention to my body in general. I felt so much bigger that pregnancy– and couldn’t figure out why. I had lots of back pain too– way more than regular. I learned so much about my body– [more about] what my cervix was, what it felt like, what position it was in.

At around 39 weeks I finally figured out why I had so much back pain. Something just didn’t feel right, as I checked my cervix and I knew what I was feeling wasn’t a head… our little one was breech! I automatically began reading, and researching about breech birth and also how to attempt to turn my little one. I prepared my husband for what I might need help with if baby was breech and what might happen (so he wouldn’t freak). At just 3 days before I gave birth (already past my due date at 41 weeks and 1 day), my little one decided to turn transverse. I worked on getting her completely turned, using many methods.  I went to bed with a fierce backache, but when I woke, baby had turned in my sleep. I am so glad I had not hired an OB, which would have suggested induction way before any of this took place. MY body knew baby wasn’t in the best position, so it held off to go into labor until AFTER baby decided to turn. My body had been yelling at me the entire pregnancy and once I listened, it responded!

On a side note, don’t EVER let an OB tell you that  a LARGE baby won’t move out of the breech position; my little one was NINE pounds, a whole 2 pounds heavier than any of our other children. She moved, just when SHE was ready, and with a little encouragement.

Closer to Healing: A Guest Post by Siobhan

7 03 2012

Siobhan read my book and I was so moved by what she had to say, that I asked her to do a guest post.


I just wanted to write you a quick note thanking you for your book. I just finished reading it – I know, so late to the party – and I cannot express enough gratitude for what you have given me.

I’ve been struggling for some time with post partum “issues”. I wouldn’t really call it depression…maybe anxiety…I don’t know. I just haven’t been myself since Saoirse was born. I used to be absolutely care free, fearless, and had a good hold over my anxiety. Now, I’m so high strung and anxious – like it’s a struggle to leave my house some days. I’ve never said this to anybody, but it was almost like I was going through some post traumatic stress…but I couldn’t put my finger on why.

For the most part, I’ve worked through it, but I’ve been stuck for about a month. I’m the type of person who needs to know WHY I feel the way I do in order to completely heal. That was the issue. I didn’t know why I was feeling this way. I thought I had the perfect birth (or as close to it as I could ever really have), Saoirse is happy and healthy… really what more could I ask for? For the longest time, I thought it was because I didn’t achieve my breast feeding goals. I felt like a failure as a mother…a woman. I felt like my body betrayed me. There were times reading your book, I had to put it down and sob – not cry – ugly cry sob. It was all falling into place.

I originally wanted a home birth, but my OB didn’t do those and I was too ignorant to look for someone who did. I went into labor naturally and ended up with the practice’s midwife the day of Saoirse’s birth. I have to say most of my labor was pretty easy and I was free to move about as I pleased. I spent most of the night doing laps around the maternity ward. Then some time just before dawn they did a blood pressure check and it was “a little high” so I had to stay confined to the bed. They wouldn’t tell me what the number was. My blood pressure was a “a little high” my entire pregnancy and it never concerned my doctor. I think they didn’t tell me because they knew I would have called bull shit.

That’s when my labor started to actually hurt. I asked for some drugs – not an epidural – but the IV stuff. The nurse proceeded to mock me and tell me to just get the epidural and to stop being a “scaredy cat.” I’m covered in tattoos and donate blood regularly, I’m not afraid of needles. I do not like the idea of a needle going into my spine – it’s a spine thing, not a needle thing. When I asked for time to think about it, she then told me not to worry about any pain management because they were going to send me home because my contractions weren’t registering on the monitor. I ended up not getting anything.

Finally around 8am, my midwife came, checked me (I was 6cm at this point) and broke my water – without my knowing or permission. I could have sworn she said “Oh your water broke” but my husband says he saw her do it. It did speed up my labor and she let me get up and walk around which made things bearable again. About a half hour before Saoirse was born I got into the shower. The hot water must have really relaxed me because I thought she was going to slide out then and there. I had my husband go get the nurse – my body was telling me it was time. She was ready. My body was ready. She was coming. The nurse came and checked me and said I was only 9cm, so I couldn’t push yet. My body was pushing on its own. I had no control. So, the nurse pretty much stood there arguing with me for 10 minutes about it. Finally, I told her I would deliver the baby myself with or without them.

She got my midwife and she checked me AGAIN and even though I was still only 9cm, she said I could push. If I had to be on my back, the most comfortable way for me was with my neck back, back arched, kind of lifting my butt off the bed. Of course this didn’t fly, and a nurse held me down while she insisted my husband do the same. Luckily, Saoirse was out in 4 pushes. They placed her on my belly and I just looked at her. I didn’t cry. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t count her fingers or toes. I didn’t feel anything. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I physically felt like I could run a marathon at that point. I just went though the motions of latching her, all in a daze. My husband was crying. My sister was crying. I wanted to cry. I just couldn’t.

Why wasn’t I feeling that bond? Why wasn’t I lovey dovey? Why did I feel like I needed to scoop her up and run for my life? Why could I have run for my life at that point? It all makes sense to me now. I was totally in fight or flight. It didn’t end there. It went on for my entire hospital stay. I didn’t sleep for 2 days – maybe a half hour here and there – but for the most part I was awake. Breast feeding only lasted 2 months for me. I think it all goes back to pretty much being in the state of fight or flight for weeks after Saoirse’s birth.

My husband and I are very private people – hyper guarded. We don’t get along with our families – they’re toxic people. Of course they came out of the wood work and made it all about themselves and wouldn’t leave us alone. I think I was so concerned with guarding her from these awful people – adrenaline always pumping – the oxytocin never flowed. I never made enough milk for her. It wasn’t until all these people faded back into their holes that I was able to look at her with amazement and cry tears of joy. So much precious time was stolen from me by these personal space invaders – the nurses up to my toxic relatives. It all makes so much sense to me now.

I’m not at the end of my healing journey, but I’m back on track all thanks to you. The next time I have a child it will be in my home and no one will need to know about it until I’m ready. I have to be honest with you though – if I were to give birth tomorrow or even a year from now I don’t know if I could do it without a midwife. I don’t trust my body. I know now it wasn’t my body that betrayed me. It was trying to protect me…regardless I don’t have the same faith in it as I used to. I think my journey will end when my trust is restored. I’m not sure how I’m going to get back to that place. I’m sure it’s going to require a leap of faith. A leap I’m a little closer to taking because of your book.

So, what was suppose to be a quick note of thanks has turned into a disjointed babble fest. Sorry for that. I guess I just wanted you to know how much your experiences meant to me. You’ve given me a wonderful gift. I’m infinitely grateful.

Siobhan and Saoirse

Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart,