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.